Afghanistan (2010 and later)


Something from Nothing
U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan
by Nir Rosen
Boston Review, January/February 2010

[An excerpt:]

More than a specific code of action, COIN is about priorities.
In a population-centric counterinsurgency campaign,
the chief priority is protecting the population, not killing the enemy.
The idea is to
win over the people with security and services attentive to local needs,
thereby depriving insurgents of popular support,
dividing them from the people, and
eventually affording an opportunity to kill or “reconcile” them.

In a near-fanatical fight for influence,
proponents of COIN spent much of the past decade
exhorting the U.S. military and government
to embrace the strategy in the global war on terrorism.
COIN shaped the “Surge” in Iraq in 2007,
and its alleged success in reducing violence earned its military proponents a dominant role in strategic thinking.
COIN’s biggest proponent is General David Petraeus,
who is credited with designing the Surge
and now oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as head of Central Command.
Petraeus coauthored the latest edition of
The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual,
a seminal book in the COIN community.
The Field Manual cites
the view of “General Chang Ting-chen of Mao Zedong’s central committee . . .
that revolutionary war was
80 percent political action and only 20 percent military.”
According to the Field Manual,
“such an assertion is arguable
and certainly depends on the insurgency’s stage of development;
it does, however, capture the fact that
political factors have primacy in COIN” (emphasis added).


One circumstantial difference is that
while General Petraeus conducted his Iraq review
with people who knew the country well,
McChrystal, a “hunter-killer” whose background in counterterrorism worried some supporters of COIN,
called in
advisors already committed to a population-centric COIN strategy.

The team of “experts” who advised McChrystal on his August report—
only one was expert on Afghanistan—
included many celebrity pundits from both sides of the political divide in Washington,

including Frederick Kagan, Stephen Biddle, Anthony Cordesman,
and Michael O’Hanlon.
[A key question is:
Exactly who selected McChrystal’s advisors?]

It was a savvy move, sure to help win political support in Congress,
but it had little to do with realities on the ground.

More fundamentally,
COIN helped to control violence in Iraq because sectarian bloodshed—
which changed the conflict from an anti-occupation struggle to a civil war,
displaced millions, and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands—
was already exhausting itself when the Surge started in 2007.
The Sunnis were willing to cooperate with the Americans
because the Sunnis knew they had been defeated by the time the “Sunni Awakening” began in Anbar Province in September 2006;
the victorious Shias were divided, and militias degenerated into gangsterism.
In comparison with al Qaeda in Iraq and Shia gangs,
the Americans looked good.
They could step into the void without escalating the conflict,
even as casualties rose temporarily.
Moreover, with more than two-thirds of Iraqis in cities,
the U.S. efforts could focus on large urban centers,
especially Baghdad, the epicenter of the civil war.

In Afghanistan, there is no comparable exhaustion of the population,
more than two-thirds of which lives in hard-to-reach rural areas.
In addition, population protection—the core of COIN—
is more complicated in Afghanistan.
The Taliban only attack Afghan civilians
who collaborate with the Americans and their puppet government or
who are suspected of violating
the extremely harsh interpretation of Islamic law that many Afghans accept.
And unlike in Iraq,
where innocent civilians were targeted only by predatory militias,
civilians in Afghanistan are as likely to be targeted by their “own” government
as by paramilitary groups.
Afghanistan has not fallen into civil war—
although tension between Pashtuns and Tajiks is increasing—
so the United States cannot be its savior.
You can’t build walls around thousands of remote Afghan villages;
you can’t punish the entire Pashtun population,
the largest group in the country,
the way the minority Sunnis of Iraq were punished.


McChrystal’s report correctly portrays the Afghan police as ineffective,
but does not show how adding more of them, even with additional training,
would solve the problem.
“If I take drug dealers and gangbangers from the streets of D.C.
to an eight-week program
and then put them back in the same environment,
can we expect it to change their activities?”
one skeptical COIN expert working on Afghanistan asked me.
The expert,
whose government employment bars him from making public comments, added,
“If the corrupt force is the problem, why put twice as many police out there?”


Experts On Afghanistan Doubt Survey On Foreign Occupation:
Results Are Impossible

by Ryan Grim
Huffington Post, 2010-01-13

A new survey of the Afghan people
is being touted as evidence that hearts and minds
may, in fact, be warming to the U.S.’s military presence,
which is heading into its ninth year.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, generally a critic of the continuation of the war,
heralded the survey as hopeful news on Tuesday night.

But can it be taken seriously?

In a word, no,
say people who have worked extensively on the ground in Afghanistan.

HuffPost interviewed
Prakhar Sharma, head of research at
the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) in Kabul,
who has done a large amount of public-opinion research work in Afghanistan,
where he is based;
Matthew Hoh, a foreign service officer who resigned last September
in protest of the administration’s Afghan policy;
Anand Gopal, a Wall Street Journal reporter
who has traveled widely in Afghanistan; and
Christian Parenti, a reporter with The Nation
who travels frequently to Afghanistan
and was the field producer of the Afghanistan-based documentary The Fixer.

Four of the five [??] say that
reliable survey results in Afghanistan are impossible
for several obvious reasons, and some not so obvious.
The obvious ones first:
The Taliban controls large swaths of the country
and the war has made much of the country unsafe to travel through.
The Taliban doesn’t do surveys,
so anybody approached by somebody with a clipboard knows that
the person either represents foreign troops, the central government
or a private company associated with one or both.

Then there are the not-so-immediately obvious reasons:
Afghanistan is a highly patriarchal society,
meaning that getting a woman’s true opinion is extremely hard.
Sharma said that his research teams have never been able to get even close to
the 50-50 male/female split that the ABC survey claims.

Getting a man’s honest opinion is no simple task, either, he said,
because the responses are calculated
to protect and benefit the respondent’s family and village.
“The Afghans know it when they see
sudden changes in development assistance, changes in government officers,
police tashkils/numbers [the Tashkils are the national police],
more/less operations immediately after the polls.
It is difficult to pretend to them that the polls do not matter.
Their responses are therefore calculated,” he said.

Those with experience in Afghanistan
were skeptical that the surveyors actually went where they said they did.
“If you look at it,
the polling was conducted in built-up areas,
in urban areas where we have our bases
and where the Afghan government has a presence,
primarily off the major highways,”
said Hoh.
“So through the South and West of the country,
primarily it was done right along Highway 1
where the government has control and where we have control.
Off those areas, we don’t have control.”

Feld [see para. 13] said that his company didn’t target safe areas.
“The villages are actually randomly selected.
There’s no convenience selection.
If it’s on the top of a mountain, that’s where we’d go,” he said.
“Our guys would walk into a village and we ask questions.”

Hoh said he simply doesn’t buy it, both
because the areas are impenetrable and
because the answers make no sense.
“I just don’t really believe that,
because what I saw in both the East and the South of the country...
where all the fighting’s really going on,
this doesn’t jive with, it doesn’t agree with
what you get when you go out and meet with local villagers.
When you go out to these valleys and meet with folks,
it doesn’t square that they see a central government as a force for good,”
said Hoh.
“I just don’t think it’s possible to get accurate polling in a war zone like that,
particularly one that’s been at war for 30 years,
where the government has been oppressive and they can’t trust it,
whether it’s been the communists, the Taliban or the Karzai government.”

Kabul, Parenti noted,
has been trying to put down its rural surroundings for decades,
and for just as long, the rural areas have fought back.
Many urban Afghans, he said, may indeed support the escalation
to the extent that it increases Kabul’s power over its surroundings.
In the countryside, though, the reverse would be true.
Finding that they all of a sudden support the central government
doesn’t ring realistic to him, Parenti said,
and he doesn’t believe that the researchers got to the relevant areas.
“Kabul headed East or South and even to the West a bit, it’s very dangerous,”
he said.
“They wouldn’t even go into an area that they didn’t have control over.
Huge parts would be no-go for people associated with the government.”
(Disclosure note:I’ve done foreign reporting from Bolivia and Iraq with Parenti.)

Karl Feld, research manager for Virginia-based D3 Systems,
whose Afghan subsidiary was hired by ABC News, the BBC and ARD
to conduct the survey,
said that his interviewers were not seen as associated with the government
because they are Afghans.
“Interviewing teams all live in the area they work in.
They’re not viewed as outsiders,” he said.

Sharma said it’s nowhere near that simple.
“Yes, the interview teams
are usually supposed to be recruited from districts where they belong,
to minimize the suspicion,
but that does not mean that
you could do surveys in Khas Uruzgan or Zurmat or Panjwai
or get a perfect gender balance.
As far as I can tell, we were not able to survey certain provinces at all for months in 2008 because of insecurity.
The locals (they were from the same district) refused to be seen as holding questionnaires in their hands and talking to people to ‘elicit’ their responses.
It was way too risky.
Things have not improved in the South.
They have, in fact deteriorated in most of the South and the Southeast
during the last one year,” he said.

Gopal and the others said that
Afghan respondents try to figure out what the interviewer wants.
“They almost always tell the surveyor what he wants to hear.
[That’s what I would have expected from these Afghan polls.]
Moreover, people generally understand that the Taliban do not do surveys,
so any surveyor is seen as representing the government.
In many parts of Afghanistan,
where they almost never see people from outside their district,
people coming and asking them political questions
gives the impression that they are representatives of the government or foreign forces (and they often are),”
wrote Gopal.
“I’ve seen this first hand when I accompanied surveyors in the field
a couple of years ago.”

The interviews were conducted December 11 to 23,
and reached 1,534 Afghan adults, the survey claims.
Sharma said he has worked directly with the D3 subsidiary
and found them to be the best qualified survey contractor
among an unimpressive field.
But even with that outfit they found “data falsified for insecure provinces
(90 respondents in Ghazni had identical responses
to all governance related questions, for instance),”
Sharma wrote in an e-mail.

The survey claims to use
a “Kish-Grid” approach [cf.] to select individuals for questioning.
Sharma is skeptical.
“I have personally spoken with
regional coordinators who would manage field teams
and they used to laugh at ‘Kish-Grid’ approach
because it is simply not feasible in Afghanistan,” said Sharma.

The survey takers said that they ran into only marginal security issues:
“Of the 101 districts initially drawn in the sample,
11 were inaccessible for security reasons
and were randomly replaced with other districts in the same province;
a 12th was inaccessible because a road washed out, and likewise was replaced.
At the settlement level, 21 of the 194 sampling points
were replaced for various accessibility reasons,
a customary number of settlement-level replacements.”

Sharma and others who’ve traveled throughout Afghanistan
said that it is simply implausible that
researchers could get to 90 percent of the areas they sought.
Feld insists that they did.

What’s more likely, the critics said, is that
the interviewers spoke to people they already knew.

Gopal explains why that would be.
“The way the surveys work is by
recruiting, say, 34 people for the 34 provinces,” he writes.
“Each of these people are then tasked with
finding participants for the survey in their province.
In rural Afghanistan, with geographical, logistical and security concerns,
these people can’t very well go door to door.
Moreover, they can’t randomly select phone numbers here
because there are no area codes like in the States
(so that you can ensure an even distribution geographic distribution)
and only major urban areas have good network coverage.
Therefore the surveyors usually find participants
by polling their friends and family.
This means that you don’t have a random sample,
and the results of the survey
depend entirely on the political outlook of [the] person in charge.
Since the surveyors are often educated people
who live in urban areas and have ties to the government
(in most provincial urban centers,
almost every educated person--and there’s not many--
have family members working for the government,
because that’s the only job available to them.),
there’s a heavy pro-government and pro-coalition bias in the surveys.”

U.S. aid workers find few trained Afghan partners
By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post, 2010-01-20

“We’re trying to create a centralized government
where there’s no history of it,”

said Lindy Cameron,
the British head of the multinational provincial reconstruction team in Helmand.

Petraeus Gets It Wrong
by Robert Dreyfuss
Nation Blog, 2010-01-22

It leads one to suspect that
if Petraeus, McChrystal, and Co. are ever going to leave Afghanistan,
they’ll have to be dragged out kicking and screaming.


U.S. Envoy’s Cables Show Worries on Afghan Plans
New York Times, 2010-01-26


The United States ambassador in Kabul warned his superiors here in November
that President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan
“is not an adequate strategic partner” and
“continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden,”
according to a classified cable that offers a much bleaker accounting
of the risks of sending additional American troops to Afghanistan
than was previously known.


The Meaning of the Eikenberry Cables
by David Bromwich
The Huffington Post, 2010-01-26

Afghan Tribe, Vowing to Fight Taliban, to Get U.S. Aid in Return
New York Times, 2010-01-28

A Look at America’s New Hope: The Afghan Tribes
New York Times Week in Review, 2010-01-31

This features an excellent graphic:
Five Rungs of the Traditional Afghan Tribal System.

Diplomacy in Afghanistan? Not Until US Identifies Why It’s There
by William Pfaff
antiwar.com, 2010-02-10

From Good War to Bad Social Engineering
by Doug Bandow
Chronicles, March 2010

Afghan Leader Is Seen to Flout Influence of U.S.
New York Times, 2010-03-30

How Americans are propagandized about Afghanistan
By Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2010-04-05

What is clear -- yet again -- is

how completely misinformed and propagandized
Americans continue to be
by the American media,
which constantly ”reports” on crucial events in Afghanistan
by doing nothing more than
mindlessly and unquestioningly
passing along U.S. government claims
as though they are fact.

[Note how the dead women were falsely claimed to have been killed
in an “honor killing.”
One should wonder how many of the slurs against Muslim men
are equally false.

In the media’s defense, it is hard to see how they can fact-check
all the accounts of killings in a war-zone.
I think the primary responsibility in this situation
is clearly with the government, not the media.

This really does bring back echoes of Vietnam,
when the military often felt, correctly,
that many reporters were viscerally anti-war,
and were just looking for stories of American atrocities,
while down-playing those committed by the Vietcong.

As to our current military in the war zones,
it is surely true that sometimes mistakes will be made,
and fear of punishment may lead to cover-ups.
It is impossible to fight a war perfectly.

The only solution, in my opinion, is to defend America,
not in the far-away and imperfectly understood regions of southwest Asia,
but by adopting a more moral and more easily defensible policy
towards the Palestinians.
Bin Laden and many of those who have committed terroristic acts against America
have said that that is the prime cause of their antagonism towards America;
it is long past time to take those statements seriously and act accordingly.]

U.S. Now Trying Softer Approach Toward Karzai
New York Times, 2010-04-10

Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, threatens to block Nato offensive
By Stephen Grey in Kandahar
Sunday Times (UK), 2010-04-11

The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai,
has cast doubt over Nato’s planned summer offensive against the Taliban in the southern province of Kandahar,
as more than 10,000 American troops pour in for the fight.

Karzai threatened to delay or even cancel the operation —
one of the biggest of the nine-year war —
after being confronted in Kandahar by
who said it would bring strife, not security,

to his home province.

Visiting last week to rally support for the offensive,
the president was instead overwhelmed by
a barrage of complaints about corruption and misrule.
As he was heckled at a shura of 1,500 tribal leaders and elders,
he appeared to offer them a veto over military action.
“Are you happy or unhappy for the operation to be carried out?”
he asked.

The elders shouted back: “We are not happy.”

“Then until the time you say you are happy, the operation will not happen,”
Karzai replied.

General Stanley McChrystal, the Nato commander, who was sitting behind him,
looked distinctly apprehensive.
The remarks have compounded US anger and bewilderment with Karzai....

U.S. Report on Afghan War Finds Few Gains in 6 Months
New York Times, 2010-04-30

In 92 districts assessed for
their support of the Afghan government or their antagonism to it,
not one supported the government,
although the population was neutral in 44 districts.
The number of districts sympathetic to the insurgency or supportive of it
increased to 48 in March 2010 from 33 in December 2009.

Afghanistan: Whose war?
By Doug Bandow
Daily Caller, 2010-05-14


The Afghan government exists, and it is not without talent.
Some ministers are well-thought of, but
honest officials find it hard to survive politically—and sometimes literally.
Few Afghans, other than those dependent on government money,
have much good to say about the ruling elite,
led by President Hamid Karzai.

Indeed, Kabul is in some sense the ultimate vampire city.
For instance, the Afghan government does far more taking than providing.
People speak of political, economic, and drug “mafias,”
the most of important of which are headed by the Karzai family.


One disillusioned consultant suggested to me that

Westerners should imagine how they would feel
if someone from afar showed up to
change their leaders, replace their traditions,
and reconstruct their social mores.

Then the same people funded “development” projects
designed for rather than by residents,
all the while arresting and killing locals,
based on undisclosed and unreviewable “intelligence.”
Finally, the nominally Afghan government which showed up in the invaders’ wake to rule them was pervasively incompetent, corrupt, and threatening.

Afghans deserve far better.


Perhaps the greatest failing of the campaign in Afghanistan is
the inability to foster anything approaching a serious local partner in Kabul.
only Afghans can create a system
that survives an allied military withdrawal.

Virtually no one believes the Karzai government could stand on its own:
the only disagreement is over
how long he could hang on and what likely would follow.

This is after more than eight years of war.
World War II lasted only six years. World War I ran four years.
So did the Civil War.
There is little to suggest that U.S. officials have finally gotten it right.
If not, how many more lives and how much money
is Washington prepared to toss into the Afghan black hole?

[According to The WarBitch (Hillary Clinton),
the answer is infinity.]

Afghanistan is one of the world’s great tragedies.
Decades of war have ravaged this once peaceful land.
The landscape is still beautiful,
yet much of it is poisoned by wars presen
and haunted by the remains of wars past.

Brutal fundamentalism has replaced liberal tolerance in cities like Kabul
Local self-government today is achieved only at the point of a gun.
National self-government remains only a theory.
Ambitious Afghans try to emigrate.
Wealthy Afghans send their families abroad.
Despite it all, many educated and humane Afghans stay,
risking their lives fighting for a better life for their fellow countrymen.

To want to help them do so reflects the best of impulses.
To believe that one can do it for them reflects the worst of illusions.

America has achieved its objectives in Afghanistan:
al-Qaeda has been dispersed, the Taliban has been punished,
an anti-terrorism message has been sent.
But Washington’s broader attempt at nation-building
has been far less successful [Surprise!],
despite the expenditure of nearly 1,000 American lives more than $220 billion.
For all this, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
calls the situation in Afghanistan “deteriorating.”

There is no better time than the present for Washington to learn humility.
The U.S. cannot impose
liberty, prosperity, democracy, and stability on Afghanistan.
The Obama administration should focus on protecting Americans from terrorism
while leaving nation-building in Afghanistan to the Afghan people.

End Game in Afghanistan
by F. B. Ali
Sic Semper Tyrannis, 2010-05-24

The players involved in the conflict in Afghanistan have all concluded that
neither side can achieve a military victory
and that it will end in some other way,
probably through a negotiated solution.
Since each of them has different goals,
this end game is likely to be both confusing and complicated.


Is Afghanistan really the next El Dorado?
by Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2010-06-14

Afghan Bling!
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2010-06-16

There's gold in them thar hills!

What Price Afghanistan?
by Patrick J. Buchanan
Antiwar.com, 2010-06-18

What’s Second Prize?
New York Times Op-Ed, 2010-06-23


My bottom line:
The president can bring Ulysses S. Grant back from the dead to run the Afghan war.
But when you can’t answer the simplest questions,
it is a sign that you’re somewhere you don’t want to be and
your only real choices are
lose early, lose late, lose big or lose small.

Jake Tapper Interviews CIA Director Leon Panetta
ABC News This Week, 2010-06-27

CIA Director Leon Panetta:

Are we making progress?
We are making progress.
It's harder, it's slower than I think
anyone anticipated.

[The fact is that Michael Scheuer, once of the CIA,
has been valiantly trying to give America and Americans
an accurate picture of what was and did occur in Afghanistan.
For a small sample of a very large oeuvre, see this,
and this summary by Scheuer published in 2008.

Mr. Scheuer’s words on this subject
have been all but ignored by our ruling political elite, and much of the media elite.
In particular, when have you seen his thoughts on Afghanistan
appearing on the Washington Post op-ed page?
Instead we get the thoughts of
Robert Kagan, Charles Krauthammer, Henry Kissinger and David Ignatius,
of all of whom it may be said that,
whatever their knowledge about other areas is,
of the situation in Afghanistan and Sunni militants
their knowledge is a fraction of that of Scheuer’s.
If you don’t believe me,
examine the historical record on who made the most accurate predictions.
So why do they appear on the WaPo op-ed page
and not Michael Scheuer?
I can’t prove it definitively, but all the evidence sure points to the fact that
his claim that the U.S./Israel relationship
is one of the key reasons why so many Muslims have attacked the U.S. and U.S. forces
is as popular with the media as the views of Helen Thomas.
And we all know what happened to her.]


How many Al Qaida do you think are in Afghanistan?

I think the estimate on the number of Al Qaida is actually relatively small.
I think at most, we're looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less.
It's in that vicinity.
There's no question that the main location of Al Qaida
is in tribal areas of Pakistan.


What does winning in Afghanistan look like?

Winning in Afghanistan is
having a country that is stable enough to ensure that
there is no safe haven for Al Qaida
or for a militant Taliban that welcomes Al Qaida.
That’s really the measure of success for the United States.
Our purpose, our whole mission there is to make sure that
Al Qaida never finds another safe haven from which to attack this country.
That’s the fundamental goal of why the United States is there.
And the measure of success for us is do you have an Afghanistan
that is stable enough to make sure that never happens.


“The New York Times” reported this week that
Pakistani officials say they can deliver
the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, an ally of Al Qaida,
who runs a major part of the insurgency into Afghanistan
into a power sharing arrangement.
In addition,
Afghan officials say the Pakistanis are pushing various other proxies
with Pakistani General Kayani personally offering
to broker a deal with the Taliban leadership.
Do you believe Pakistan will be able to push
the Haqqani network into peace negotiations?

You know,
I read all the same stories, we get intelligence along those lines,
but the bottom line is that
we really have not seen any firm intelligence
that there’s a real interest among
the Taliban, the militant allies of Al Qaida, Al Qaida itself,
the Haqqanis, TTP, other militant groups.

We have seen no evidence that they
are truly interested in reconciliation,
where they would surrender their arms,
where they would denounce Al Qaida,
where they would really try to become part of that society.

We’ve seen no evidence of that and very frankly,
my view is that with regards to reconciliation,
unless they’re convinced that the United States is going to win
and that they’re going to be defeated,
I think it’s very difficult to proceed with
a reconciliation that’s going to be meaningful.

A de facto partition for Afghanistan
By Robert D. Blackwill
Politico.com, 2010-07-07

The Obama administration’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan
seems headed for failure.
Given the alternatives,
de facto partition of Afghanistan
is the best policy option
available to the United States and its allies.

After the administration’s December Afghanistan review,

the U.S. polity should stop talking about
timelines and exit strategies

and accept that
the Taliban will inevitably control
most of its historic stronghold in the Pashtun south.

But Washington could ensure that north and west Afghanistan
do not succumb to jihadi extremism,
using U.S. air power and special forces along with
the Afghan army and like-minded nations.

Enthusiasts for the administration’s counterinsurgency strategy, or COIN,
are likely to reject this way forward in Afghanistan.
They will rightly point out
the many complexities in implementing de facto partition.

De facto partition is clearly not the best outcome one can imagine
for the United States in Afghanistan.
But it is now the best outcome that Washington can achieve
consistent with vital national interests and U.S. domestic politics.


54 Percent Want Afghan Exit
but Petraeus Could Nix Peace Talks with Terror Naming
by Robert Naiman
Huffington Post, 2010-07-15

The majority of Americans want the Obama Administration
to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan,
CBS News reports.
54% think the U.S. should set a timetable
for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan,
with 41% opposed.
Among Democrats, 73% think the U.S. should set a timetable, with 21% opposed;
among independents, 54% support a withdrawal timetable, with 40% opposed;
among Republicans, 32% support a withdrawal timetable, with 66% opposed.

Two weeks ago today, Members of the House of Representatives
were polled on a similar proposition,
when the House voted on an amendment introduced by
Rep. Jim McGovern [D-MA], Rep. David Obey [D-WI], and Rep. Walter Jones [R-NC]
that would have required the President to establish a timetable
for the redeployment of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan.
That amendment failed, with
153 Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, voting yes, and
98 Democrats voting no; while
9 Republicans voted yes and
162 Republicans voted no.
So in the McGovern-Obey-Jones “poll,”
Democrats in the House were 60%-38% in favor of a withdrawal timetable,
while House Republicans were 91%-5% against.

If Democratic and Republican voters in the CBS poll
had been allowed to stand in for Democrats and Republicans in the House
two weeks ago (ignoring independents, also pro-timetable),
the McGovern amendment would have passed 243-171,
with 186 Democrats and 57 Republicans voting yes, and
54 Democrats and 117 Republicans voting no.

The gap between 162 yes votes and 243 yes votes
is a measure of the gap between the House and public opinion - 81 votes.
For a majority of the House to demand a timetable for withdrawal
would not require eliminating that entire gap, but only about half of it.
It is likely that public support for a withdrawal timetable will increase,
as the war drags on and more Americans are killed
without any noticeable change in the situation on the ground -
and as the federal government continues to fail
to boost the economy and reduce unemployment.
But even compared to the state of public opinion today,
it would only require the House
to cut its failure to represent public opinion in half
in order to muster a majority for a withdrawal timetable.
And as the fall Congressional elections approach,
it is likely that the House will move in the direction of public opinion.

But some people in the Administration are pushing in the wrong direction,
lobbying for steps
that would not only undermine establishing a timetable for withdrawal,
but would undermine the “serious drawdown”
which we were promised would begin in the summer of 2011.

General David Petraeus is pushing to have the Haqqani network,
a key component of the Afghan Taliban,
designated by the State Department as a terrorist group,
“a move that could complicate
an eventual Afghan political settlement with the Taliban
and aggravate political tensions in the region,”

the New York Times reports.

This move would directly undermine the policy
in support of negotiations with the Afghan Taliban
that the Administration has claimed that it is pursuing.
Newsweek reported on July 4:
Washington is eager to make [talks with senior Taliban leaders] happen -
perhaps more eager than most Americans realize.
“There was a major policy shift
that went completely unreported in the last three months,”
a senior administration official tells Newsweek...
“We’re going to support Afghan-led reconciliation [with the Taliban].”
U.S. officials have quietly dropped
the Bush administration’s resistance to talks with senior Taliban
and are doing whatever they can
to help Karzai open talks with the insurgents,
although they still say any Taliban willing to negotiate must
renounce violence,
reject Al Qaeda, and
accept the Afghan Constitution.
(Some observers predict that those preconditions
may eventually be fudged into goals.)

A State Department designation of the Haqqani network as “terrorist”
would totally contradict
the claim that we are supporting “Afghan-led reconciliation,”
because if reconciliation is “Afghan-led,”
then the Afghans get to decide who they will parley with.
It’s one thing to say that
the U.S. is going to have a say in any eventual agreement --
of course it will, a big say.
It’s another thing to say that
meaningful Afghan government talks with a key component of the Afghan Taliban
are off the table,
which is the implication that many would draw and try to enforce
as a result of
a State Department designation of the Haqqani network as a terror group.

Such a designation would be hard to undo politically:
look at what a political ordeal it has been
to try to remove former Taliban officials from the United Nations blacklist,
even people who have clearly reconciled with the Afghan government
and are clearly not involved in any kind of terrorism.


[I]t’s hard to imagine that by July 2011,
there is going to be any kind of stability in Afghanistan
or meaningful political framework for resolution
without dealing with the Haqqani network,
and it’s hard to imagine that
efforts to confront the Haqqani network militarily
are going to make any significant difference by July 2011.
So, a State Department designation of the Haqqani network as “terrorist”
would constitute a “backdoor escalation”:
it would deepen the confrontation,
in a way that would make it more difficult politically
to carry out a significant drawdown beginning in July 2011.
Any State Department move to make such a designation
should therefore be preceded by as much debate in Washington
as any effort to explicitly throw away the promised July 2011 drawdown
would be,
because undermining the July 2011 “serious drawdown”
is a likely impact of such a move.

In targeting Taliban stronghold, U.S. depends on Afghans' reluctant support
By Karin Brulliard
Washington Post, 2010-07-16

[Nothing special about this article;
it just points out how some of the Afghans retain loyalty to the Taliban,
for whatever reason.]

Minority leaders leaving Karzai's side over leader's overtures to insurgents
By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post, 2010-07-23

[This is an outrageously one-sided propaganda piece,
presenting the view of a prominent Tajik leader, Amarullah Saleh, in Afghanistan
who is unhappy about Karzai’s attempts to share power with the Taliban.
The Post devotes much of the article to the statements of Mr. Saleh.
They do not present much of a balancing point of view, in particular,
pointing out all the negative consequences which would flow, and have flown,
from avoiding power-sharing with the Taliban.

(By the way, Mr. Saleh is mentioned several times in Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars,
which reveals that he was intelligence advisor to the Northern Alliance leader Masood,
who spent most of the 1990s fighting against the Taliban.)

An American who is particularly and provably knowledgeable about these matters
is Michael Scheuer,
who, for example, devoted much of Chapter Two of Imperial Hubris
to tracing the ethnic fault lines in Afghanistan
(note especially sections 2.4 and 2.5, and Scheuer’s Pillar I),
in particular,
how America’s empowering of the “Panjiri Mafia”,
of which Mr. Saleh is representative,
led directly to many, if not most,
of the problems that have befallen America in Afghanistan.

At least some people have been concerned that
the Karzai government has been too Tajik-dominated:
see 2009-11-29-Porter-Afghan-army-ethnic-composition-Tajik.

It is an instance of extreme journalistic irresponsibility
that the Post features Partlow’s story so prominently, centered above the fold,
without balancing it with the view of Mr. Scheuer
or an equivalent expert capable of countering Mr. Saleh’s claims.
My guess is that this is due, not only to the aversion of the MSMfor anyone who dares to questions America’s slavish devotion to Israel, as Scheuer certainly has,
but also an attempt by the Post in particular and the MSM more generally
to queer any real attempt
to bring the blood-letting in Afghanistan to a speedy conclusion
by power-sharing with the Taliban.
The MSM, like Congress, is more than happy
to continue indefinitely the American/Muslim war,
for the benefit of our Jewish masters.

Here are some excerpts from the article:]

In speeches to small groups in Kabul and across northern Afghanistan
over the past month,
Amarullah Saleh has repeated his belief that
Karzai's push for negotiation with insurgents is a fatal mistake
and a recipe for civil war.

[What does Saleh, and the reporter, think Afghanistan is currently going through?
Of course it is (the functional equivalent of) a civil war.]

He says Karzai's chosen policy endangers
the fitful progress of the past nine years
in areas such as democracy and women's rights.

"If I don't raise my voice we are headed towards a crisis,"
he told a gathering of college students in Kabul.

[Worse than the current situation?
Yes, if you are a Tajik.
Probably not if you are a Pashtun.]


NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Ambassador Mark Sedwill,
cautioned recently that
“any political reconciliation process has to be
genuinely national and genuinely inclusive.
Otherwise we’re simply storing up
the next set of problems that will break out.
And in this country when problems break out,
they tend to lead to violence.”

[What does this moron think is currently happening in Afghanistan?!!]


Some [Afghan minority leaders] are concerned that
a deal between Karzai and the Taliban
could spawn the sort of civil war that existed in Afghanistan
prior to the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.


Are Our Goals in Afghanistan ‘Fairly Modest’?
by Malou Innocent
Cate Institute 2010-08-02

In an interview that aired yesterday on CBS’s Early Show,
President Obama said his objective for Afghanistan is “fairly modest.”

On its face, the mission seems modest enough:
“don’t allow terrorists to operate from this region;
don’t allow them to create big training camps
and to plan attacks against the US homeland with impunity.”
In reality, such a policy is not modest in the least.
A commitment to never allow terrorists to resurface not only serves as
a convenient rationale to prolong the mission but also as
an open-ended justification to intervene anywhere in the world without hesitation.

Moreover, the president claims that
strengthening the capacity of a sovereign Afghan government
will enhance America’s security, but
the basis of this correlation is never explicitly clarified.
It’s also unclear how
promoting “a more capable, accountable and effective” Afghan government;
cracking down on the cultivation of illegal narcotics;
providing economic assistance to a Pakistani government
that supports the very insurgents our soldiers are fighting;
and enforcing Western rule of law
is “fairly modest.”
To imagine that we can create a functioning economy
and bring major improvements to state institutions
through some “government in a box,” social-engineering laboratory
underscores the ignorance and arrogance of our government planners.

If indeed our goal is
to monitor terrorists and prevent the creation of big training camps,
rather than propping up a failed state,
U.S. leaders should scale-down to a narrower counterterrorism mission
that can assemble quickly and strike effectively and cheaply at “real” enemies.

Lately, it has become popular to endorse peace talks with the Taliban.
After nearly a decade at war,
any face-saving way out sounds intuitively appealing.
But this policy prescription is not the panacea that it is made out be.
Indeed, such a power-sharing deal may open a Pandora’s box.

For the U.S. and NATO,
the red line to their nation-building endeavor
is the Afghan constitution.

Not only is this document
the foundation of Afghanistan’s democratic political institutions
(wobbly and imperfect as they may be),
but it also enshrines the legal and political rights of the Afghan people
we ostensibly seek to protect.
For the U.S. and NATO to scale down its presence in Afghanistan–
and because there is no assurance that
the Taliban will adhere to these new political and social conditions–
peace talks implicitly demand a third-party
with the wherewithal to enforce the terms of any power-sharing agreement.
Enter: a prolonged U.S.-NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

Unless the Taliban acquiesce to the norms introduced since the 2001 invasion,
there is little to stop them from committing actions
in flagrant violation of any shared agreement.
In this respect, peace talks with the senior Taliban leadership
must commit the residual presence of U.S. troops
long after our official date of withdrawal.

In short, no agreement, law, treaty, or contract is self-reinforcing.

unless the United States is prepared
to enforce the conditions of a power-sharing agreement,
it should renounce its commitment
to spread the legal rights articulated in the Afghan constitution.

Please, ditch the commitment to the constitution.
Let the Afghans work out their political system for themselves:
loya jorga or whatever.
Just focus on making sure that whatever polity results in Afghanistan,
it is on firm notice that
no further attacks from Afghanistan towards the United States will be tolerated.
That is the only line that is worth enforcing.]

Oh! What a Lovely Afghan War
by James Jackson
Taki Magazine, 2010-08-02

A more useless and unnecessary thing
than an expedition into this country
could not be imagined…

These are words lifted from the diary of
Brigadier-General Henry Brooke [d. Aug. 1880]
who, in April 1880,
took command of the British garrison in Kandahar
[the 2nd Infantry Brigade, Kandahar Field Force]
just as the Second Afghan Revolt ignited.
He was to have a torrid time of it,
and his diary contains
many a salutary and revealing truth....

Gone is the messianic and democratizing zeal of Bush and Blair.
In its place is the weary recognition that
the Taliban has the time, the will, the manpower and the advantage.
The enemy have got it right and we consistently have got it badly wrong.
There are few opportunities left in that benighted land.
Our problem. Our fault. Our failure.


In one of his last diary entries, Henry Brooke wrote:
“Still so many foolish things have been and are continually done
in connection with our campaigns in Afghanistan,
the present moves after all may achieve nothing.”

[“Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose”]

Saving Women and Preventing Genocide:
The Real Reasons We’re in Afghanistan Now

by Bretigne Shaffer
LewRockwell.com, 2010-08-10


“Five years after the fall of the Taliban,
and the liberation of women hailed by Laura Bush and Cherie Blair,
thanks to the US and British invasion,”
wrote The Independent’s Kim Sengupta in November of 2006,
“such has been the alarming rise in suicide
that a conference was held on the problem in the Afghan capital
just a few days ago.”

The US military has made life worse for women in Afghanistan, not better. [Cf.]
Is it possible that
a US exit will result in their lives becoming even worse than they are now,
as Bret Stephens and Time magazine fear?
Of course it is possible.
But what is certain is that
the occupation has had a harmful effect on
the lives of the vast majority of Afghan civilians –

not a positive one as the promoters of war as a vehicle for social change assert.
Also indisputable is that
the Taliban has grown in strength since the occupation began,
and it only continues to do so.
This should come as no surprise
to anyone who has looked closely at the motives for terrorism.
Even US intelligence agencies have acknowledged that
the US occupation of Iraq has strengthened Islamic fundamentalism and
“...made the overall terrorism problem worse.”

To call for even more certain death and destruction
as a defense against imagined, possible worse bloodshed
reveals a curious kind of moral reasoning.
For let’s not forget what it is
that Time magazine (despite its protestations to the contrary)
and Stephens are defending:
The indiscriminate killing of innocent men, women and children,
in the pursuit of what they believe to be some greater good.



Afghanistan is not a devastated nation because
its people “have a 1200 AD mentality.”
It is devastated because
it has been invaded and occupied by hostile foreign powers for years.
Anyone who truly cares about the welfare of the Afghan people
would do well to remember this fact
before proposing more of what has caused that country’s problems
as their solution.

U.S. Military Seeks Slower Pace to Wrap Up Afghan Role
New York Times, 2010-08-12

American military officials are building a case
to minimize the planned withdrawal of some troops from Afghanistan
starting next summer,
in an effort to counter
growing pressure on President Obama from inside his own party
to begin winding the war down quickly.

There Can Be No ‘Graceful Exit’
by William Pfaff
Antiwar.com, 2010-08-18

Afghanistan as Obama’s War:
What was the President Thinking?

by Doug Bandow
National Interest, 2010-08-19

For what are people dying in Afghanistan?

America’s original mission was obvious:
capture or kill al Qaeda operatives and
punish the Taliban regime for hosting the terrorists who struck America.
Those ends were rapidly achieved.
Today al Qaeda is largely absent from Afghanistan.
the Taliban, as well as other governments around the world, know that
the U.S. will oust regimes that back anti-American terrorists.

Would al Qaeda return to a Taliban-dominated Afghanistan?
Not if Mullah Omar and his colleagues
don’t want to be defenestrated a second time.
Anyway, terrorists are not dependent on
whether Hamid Karzai, the Taliban, or someone else
ends up ascendant in Kabul.
They have proved to be fully capable of operating elsewhere.

Unfortunately, U.S. policy has shifted to nation-building [q.v.;
in Wikipedia a more apt term seems to be state-building].
Obviously, it would be nice to create
a stable, competent, liberal, and pro-Western national government in Kabul.
On my recent trip to Afghanistan
I met a number of activists who hope to establish just such a political order.
[You might find a few more if you visit the editorial boards of the NYT and WP :-) ]

But the belief that Washington can do so—
at least at reasonable cost in reasonable time—
appears to be the tragic triumph of hope over experience....

Even if the U.S. and its allies have developed an improved military strategy,
the Afghans have no political solution.
And Western aid often is more hindrance than help.
Indeed, much financial assistance seems to disappear into
the gaudily decorated “poppy palaces” that fill Afghanistan’s capital
rather than reach the many people in desperate need on the streets beyond.

There’s little practical difference between
the neoconservative war-initiators under George W. Bush and
the liberal war-expanders under Barack Obama.
Which is why the American death toll in Afghanistan will continue to climb.

President Obama, like many of his predecessors, is a victim of hubris.
He appears to genuinely believe in social engineering abroad.
Unfortunately, we will all pay the price of his folly in Afghanistan.
Having made the Afghan war his own,
it now will be his responsibility
if more Americans die in vain.

Petraeus' dubious strategy in Afghanistan
By Christopher Layne
Chicago Tribune, 2010-08-23


COIN misdiagnoses the root cause of
America’s Middle Eastern difficulties.

The U.S. is the target of Islamic terrorists because of
its regional policies like support for corrupt regimes,
its one-sided stance on the Israeli/Palestinian problem,
its heavy politico-military presence,
and the fact that the U.S. appears to many in the Middle East
to be the imperial successor in the region
to the French and British who once dominated it.

As Andrew Mack ... pointed out in a classic article 35 years ago,
there is a good reason that big states lose small wars:
The forces of national and religious identity are stronger than
the will of outside powers —
powers that, inevitably one day will go home.

On its own terms, COIN is a problematic policy.
Even more worryingly,
it sets exactly the wrong grand strategic priorities for the United States.
In an ironic coincidence,
the same morning leading newspapers carried reports of Gen. Petraeus’ remarks,
another headline announced that China has overtaken Japan
as the world’s second largest economic power
and is on track to overtake the U.S. by 2030
indeed perhaps as soon as 2020, according to many leading experts).
In the early 21st century,
East Asia is becoming the world’s geopolitical and economic fulcrum,
and it is U.S. air and naval power
that will be needed to meet the emerging challenge from China.
That is where America’s long-term grand strategic interests lie —-
not in fighting futile Eurasian land wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

Top Karzai aide says U.S. must alter its strategy
By David Nakamura and Joshua Partlow
Washington Post, 2010-08-29


Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff said Saturday that
he is not sure the government is “on a path to success”
in securing the country against the Taliban
and that it could fail altogether
if the United States does not significantly alter its strategy
in fighting the nine-year-old war.

In a rare extended interview, Mohammad Umer Daudzai,
who usually plays a behind-the-scenes role at the presidential palace,
said he was speaking out because media reports of worsening U.S.-Afghan relations are “taking up a lot of our time”
and have had a damaging effect on the fight against a growing insurgency.


While stressing that
the Karzai government is committed to a significant NATO troop presence,
Daudzai called on the international forces
to stop invasive night raids on residents’ homes
and to distance their soldiers from “the daily life of the people,”
a sharp divergence from Gen. David H. Petraeus’s strategy

of having soldiers embedded in communities.
The coalition policies
have undermined Karzai’s authority and Afghan sovereignty, Daudzai said,
and led to “blame games” between the two sides.

In a meeting with Petraeus last week,
Daudzai said that he was blunt with the U.S. military commander.

“I said,
‘General Petraeus,
winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans
is not the job of a soldier.
That’s the job of an Afghan,’ ”
Daudzai said.

Daudzai described Karzai as “concerned” and committed
to changing the U.S. approach to the war.

“He’s putting those conditions there, that if we do not review,
then we will be on the path toward losing,” he said.
“We need to review our strategy, our code of conduct,
so that Afghans believe that this is a sovereign state
and President Karzai is the ultimate decision maker in this country...

We are in the last stage, the last chance of winning this war.
So we cannot afford to spend a lot of time on
accusations and counter-accusations.”

US Aims to Pare Back Expectations in Afghanistan
by Jason Ditz
Antiwar.com, 2010-09-12

Nine Years In: What Is the Goal, Anyhow?

Differing Narratives
By Col. (Ret.) W. Patrick Lang
security.nationaljournal.com, 2010-12-13

In addition to what has been said here by my freinds,
I would mention my perception that the US view,
and to some extent the coalition view, of the struggle for Afghanistan
is quite different from that of the local actors,
both within and without the country.
This was also true in Iraq.

For the American forces and government
the war is about the eradication of
anti-American and anti-coalition entities and tendencies
that could once again provide a base for terrorist attacks abroad.
In pursuit of that set of goals,
programs are in place to destroy Islamic extremist groups
and to make Afghanistan into a model of transformation
from oriental traditionalism in all its social and political forms
to a hybrid modernism that functions according to
the ideals of western liberalism.
A part of that vision requires the abandonment of the oriental cultural expectation that
the possession of political power naturally leads to
acquisition of personal and family wealth.
This western aspiration in government is sacred to western self image
no matter how much the aspiration may be imperfect in the West itself.
A general acceptance of the notion of Afghanistan as a “nation state”
on the model of the conceptions of western political science as a disipline
is also an expectation of the coalition and the United States.
To foster and enforce that idea, massive security forces are in preparation
no matter what the costs or the difficulties.

This narrative of events and “facts” differs from that of the inhabitants of the country.
In their reality Afghanistan is a place where half a dozen different “nations” live,
each with its own language and cultural norms,
separated by widely differing terrain and vast distances and aligned loosely by adherence to the many forms of the Islamic faith and law. Unifying physical and governmental infrastructure is minimal and there are places in the eastern regions where the idea of kinship with those who live in the next valley is alien, much less kinship or bonds with a distant and unknown government in Kabul.

To further complicate matters Pakistan and India are fighting a proxy war in Afghanistan. These two successor states are most of what was British India. They divided on the basis of Muslim nationalism and have been enemies ever since. Kashmir is the great prize in this struggle but Pakistan believes that Indian power behind the scenes in Kabul would constitute a threat to its existence. President Karzai’s clique is believed in Islamabad to be an instrument of Indian power. To defeat and block the growth of such Indian power Pakistan supports mujahid groups who contest the growth of Karzai’s (and Kabul’s) “reach” across the country.

These varying narratives are probably mutually exclusive,


U.S. is losing a savvy leader in Afghan war efforts
By Greg Jaffe
Washington Post, 2011-04-20

No U.S. general has spent more time in Afghanistan than Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez.

He is the primary author of the U.S.-Afghan war plan, a 600-plus-page classified document that is a catalogue of the lessons he has taken from three years of fighting the war. He can rattle off from memory the number of Afghan bureaucrats manning a lonely outpost in Zhari district. “Four months ago, we had one district governor and a bad police chief,” he said. “Now there are 13 people and a good police chief.”

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan, calls him the “best combat leader I have ever known.”

But Rodriguez will not be leading the war in Afghanistan anytime soon. This summer he will be returning home to the United States to take over U.S. Army Forces Command, a four-star job in the Army’s vast stateside bureaucracy.
The decision to bypass Rodriguez for the top job reflects
a determination among senior Pentagon officials

[Now who would those be?
SecDef Gates, certainly, and almost as certainly, ADM Mullen,
neither of whom has ever served a day in ground combat.
Gates was AF intelligence, Mullen Navy supply and personnel.
Talk about REMFs!
But they are the ones making the life-and-death decisions.

As to the substance,
generals as salesmen rather than warfighters, motivators, and leaders.
How pathetic our feminist/Zionist dominated Washington culture is.]

that the war needs a commander who can make the case for the increasingly unpopular conflict to Congress, the news media and skeptics in the White House.

In Washington, Rodriguez is seen as a savvy fighter but a so-so salesman.


Times poll finds a souring mood among troops
By Andrew Tilghman
Army Times, 2011-09-15

Troops less sure of success in war,
disillusioned with military quality of life


“A lot of [the Afghan security forces] are just kind of like,
‘Well, we’ll fight with you here today and if tomorrow you all leave,
then we’ll just fight for the next guy who comes along,’ ”

said a 33-year-old Army captain who deployed to Afghanistan in 2009
and worked as a mentor to Afghan security forces.

Gen. Allen Disavows 2014:
US Going to Stay in Afghanistan ‘For a Long Time’

Insists ‘The Plan Is to Win’
by Jason Ditz
Antiwar.com, 2011-10-03

Why Did the United States Invade Afghanistan?
by Tim Kelly
www.fff.org, 2011-10-12

Surveying the evidence, it is clear
the Bush administration did not even come close to
exhausting its diplomatic options in the fall of 2001 and that
some other route could have been chosen to respond to the 9/11 attacks.


Afghanistan’s Soldiers Step Up Killings of Allied Forces
New York Times, 2012-01-20

In Afghan War, Officer Becomes a Whistle-Blower
New York Times, 2012-02-06

Fantasy and reality in Afghanistan
By Fareed Zakaria
fareedzakaria.com, 2012-03-01

[A]ssuming that every Afghan got a cell phone
and could travel on great highways, here is what would not change:
The Afghan national government
does not have the support of a large segment of its population,
the Pashtuns.

The national army is regarded as an army of Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras -
the old Northern Alliance that battled the Pashtuns throughout the 1990s.
And, simply put,
Afghanistan's economy cannot support a large national government with a huge army.
(The budget for Afghan security forces today is around $12 billion
paid for by the US of course.
That is eight times the amount of the government's annual revenue.)

As America has discovered in countless places over the past five decades,
there are problems with this nation-building approach.
First, it is extremely difficult to modernize a country in a few years.
Second, even if this were possible,
the fundamental characteristics of that society -
its ethnicity, religion, and national and geopolitical orientation -
persist despite modernization.

Why Afghanistan was Obama's biggest mistake
Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2012-03-12

[For whatever its worth, I agree with most of the sentiments in Walt’s piece, except for his assertion that the generals were the key factor in Obama’s decision.
If American influential had wanted a different decision, then the general’s supposed pleas would have easily been overruled.
In fact, the generals may well have couched their recommendations with at least some deference to what would play well with the American power structure.]

War’s suffering falls on Afghan civilians and U.S. soldiers alike
By Sarah Chayes
Washington Post, 2012-04-01


But the worst of this tragedy is that these ordinary people —
U.S. soldiers and Afghan civilians —
are absorbing the cost of

a failing policy
that is increasingly divorced from
the reality it is creating on the ground.
That divorce makes dramas such as the Kandahar massacre almost inevitable.

We are told that Pakistan is a difficult ally with which we have to work.
But how can a country that funds, equips, trains and directs
the very militants our soldiers are fighting
be considered an ally?
Imagine Washington openly financing North Vietnam in 1970.

We’re told that the Afghan government is democratically elected and legitimate.
But what legitimacy can derive from a 2009 presidential election in which the fraud was so egregious — the sale of voter-registration cards such as the ones I bought that March, the ballot box stuffing and the assaults by uniformed police at polling places were so ostentatious — that the actions seemed designed not just to ensure a victory for Hamid Karzai but to send a message to the people that their voices will never count? U.S. officials never grappled with this massive violation of trust.

We’re told that Afghanistan is too poor even to pay for its own army.
What about the estimated $2.5 billion extorted from Afghans in bribes in 2009, not to mention the diverted customs revenue, smuggled natural resources, influence-peddling, and international contract and banking fraud? The U.S. government has explicitly decided not to address this massive corruption. How can we blame Afghans for suspecting our motives?

U.S. soldiers are expected — by military as well as civilian officials —
to make up for these political and diplomatic failings.
The troops’ efforts to improve Afghan forces are called the linchpin of the U.S. strategy.
For another year or so,
soldiers will stay camped out in places such as Zingawat,
holding ground taken from the Taliban.
We are told that any damage done is necessary,
for U.S. soldiers are protecting the population — in other words,
that if they destroyed the village,
it was to save it.

What is the cost of a policy explained in such terms as these —
a policy based in such delusion?
It is no wonder that it drives men mad, Afghans and Americans alike.

Bales will stand trial.
Afghan civilians will pay, too, dying as U.S. forces draw down
and leave a government so rotten with corruption
that many predict its implosion.
[And, as Michael Scheuer has pointed out for over a decade now,
divorced from the conservative view of Islam believed in
by those Afghans who are willing and able to fight.]

But what accountability is there for the leaders, Afghan and American,
whose poor decisions brought about such tragedies?

Pentagon Describes ‘Long-Term and Acute’ Problems in Afghanistan
by John Glaser
Antiwar.com, 2012-05-03

How US Hubris Baited Afghan Trap
By Robert Parry
consortiumnews.com, 2012-05-03

Despite what Official Washington thinks it knows,
the real error on Afghan policy after the Soviets left in 1989
was not the abrupt cutoff of U.S. aid
but nearly the opposite,
continued CIA support for the Islamist mujahedeen
and rejection of peace overtures from Moscow,
writes Robert Parry.

[Well, that's certainly an alternative view! :-)]


[Robert] Gates knew the real history
since he was deputy national security adviser in 1989
when the key decisions were made
to continue covert U.S. aid, not cut it off.

Osama bin Laden's ironic victory
by Douglas Wissing
Washington Examiner, 2012-05-04


U.S. soldiers, development officials and others on the ground in Afghanistan
have told me
the corrupt system is so entrenched that
the only option is to withdraw.
“It’s the perfect war,”
one U.S. intelligence officer sarcastically told me.
“Everyone is making money.”
It’s working out for everyone but the Afghan people,
the U.S. soldiers on the ground and the American public.

Taliban’s new strategy focuses more on high-profile assaults,
less on territory

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post, 2012-09-18

Insurgent leaders, they say, have redoubled a campaign to assassinate key Afghan government and security officials who are likely to play leadership roles in the country once foreign troops depart. And by happenstance or meticulous planning — U.S. military officials are not sure which — the Taliban has managed to kill numerous Western troops by joining the ranks of the Afghan army.

“The Taliban are fighting a political war while the United States and its allies are still fighting a tactical military war,” said Joshua Foust, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who has worked in Afghanistan and is now a fellow with the American Security Project. “We remain focused on terrain. They are focused on attacking the transition process and seizing the narrative of victory.”

The impact of the strategic shift, which has occurred gradually over the past year, has been profound. The high-profile assaults and assassinations have prompted new doubts among Afghans about the ability of their government and security forces to keep the insurgents at bay once NATO’s combat mission ends in 2014. The infiltration of the security forces led the top allied operational commander in Kabul on Monday to order extraordinary new restrictions on joint patrols and other missions, a move that strikes at the heart of the U.S. and NATO strategy to operate in closer partnership with Afghan soldiers.


Insider Attacks in Afghanistan Shape the Late Stages of a War
New York Times, 2013-01-04

[From the front web page:]

Interviews with an Afghan soldier who opened fire on Americans
reveal the rage that officials worry
may disrupt the training mission at the core of the United States’ withdrawal plan.

[And in the article itself:]

[M]any senior coalition and Afghan officials
are now concluding that
after nearly 12 years of war,
the view of foreigners held by many Afghans
has come to mirror
that of the Taliban.
Hope has turned into hatred,
and some will find a reason to act on those feelings.

[Do Laura Bush and her feminist friends have the capability to understand
the significance of that last statement?
I think it is quite clear that they do not.
They are so stuck in their feminist narratives
that they do not have the foggiest notion of the enmity that they, the feminists,
are responsible for causing for America,
and the years of war that will result from the hostilities that have resulted from
their feminist crusade.]

“A great percentage of the insider attacks have the enemy narrative —
the narrative that the infidels have to be driven out —
somewhere inside of them,
but they aren’t directed by the enemy,”

said a senior coalition officer,
who asked not to be identified because of
Afghan and American sensitivities about the attacks.

The result is that,
although the Taliban have successfully infiltrated the security forces before,
they do not always have to.
Soldiers and police officers will instead go to them...

[That America's policies in Af-Pak would only turn much of the population against America
has been totally obvious for years,
and indeed was exactly forecast
in Chapter 2 of Michael Scheuer's 2004 Imperial Hubris, presciently titled
“An Unprepared and Ignorant Lunge to Defeat
(The United States in Afghanistan)”
Why, Washington "elite", do you still treat
the opinions of the Washington Post editorial board on policies towards Af-Pak
with anything other than scorn,
when following the policies that that board has advocated
has turned so many Afghanis, Pakistanis, and Yemenis against America,
while Michael Scheuer, who offered such accurate advice back in 2004,
seems not to have a position of honor in the think tanks and the media?


Because the Washington "elite"
is afraid of the feminists, and indeed of the women,
both in their voting power and in their effect on their personal lives.
Criticizing the feminist ideology is not exactly
the route to success with women in Washington.
(On the electoral issue, see, for example,
the results of the 2012 election
where feminists swung a significant part of the women's vote
by their and the media's narrative of "a war on women.")
I wish we could get some accurate reporting on how much
Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush influenced
the policies of their husbands towards Afghanistan
while they were president.
We do know that fear of Hillary scuttled efforts to bribe the Taliban into giving up Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attack
(This is documented in the 9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 4, Section 4.3, Paragraph 4.3.17. See the link above for the quote.)

But also because
the media has consistently highlighted suppression of women in South Asia,
as opposed to, say, in Africa.]


Bergdahl Was in Unit Known for Its Troubles
New York Times, 2014-06-08

The platoon was, an American military official would assert years later, “raggedy.”

On their tiny, remote base, in a restive sector of eastern Afghanistan at an increasingly violent time of the war, they were known to wear bandannas and cutoff T-shirts. Their crude observation post was inadequately secured, a military review later found. Their first platoon leader, and then their first platoon sergeant, were replaced relatively early in the deployment because of problems.

But the unit — Second Platoon, Blackfoot Company in the First Battalion, 501st Regiment — might well have remained indistinguishable from scores of other Army platoons in Afghanistan had it not been for one salient fact: This was the team from which Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl disappeared on June 30, 2009.

In the years since Sergeant Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban, and even more since his release last week in a contentious prisoner exchange for five Taliban fighters, much has been written suggesting that he was a misfit soldier in something of a misfit platoon that stumbled through its first months in Afghanistan and might have made it too easy for him to walk away, as his fellow soldiers say he did.The platoon was, an American military official would assert years later, “raggedy.”

On their tiny, remote base, in a restive sector of eastern Afghanistan at an increasingly violent time of the war, they were known to wear bandannas and cutoff T-shirts. Their crude observation post was inadequately secured, a military review later found. Their first platoon leader, and then their first platoon sergeant, were replaced relatively early in the deployment because of problems.

But the unit — Second Platoon, Blackfoot Company in the First Battalion, 501st Regiment — might well have remained indistinguishable from scores of other Army platoons in Afghanistan had it not been for one salient fact: This was the team from which Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl disappeared on June 30, 2009.

In the years since Sergeant Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban, and even more since his release last week in a contentious prisoner exchange for five Taliban fighters, much has been written suggesting that he was a misfit soldier in something of a misfit platoon that stumbled through its first months in Afghanistan and might have made it too easy for him to walk away, as his fellow soldiers say he did.

Indeed, an internal Army investigation into the episode concluded that the platoon suffered from lapses in discipline and security in the period before Sergeant Bergdahl — a private first class at the time who was promoted while in captivity — disappeared into Paktika Province, two officials briefed on the report said.

But their problems in many ways reflected those of the Pentagon’s strategy writ large across Afghanistan at that moment of the war. The platoon was sent to a remote location with too few troops to seriously confront an increasingly aggressive insurgency, which controlled many villages in the region. The riverbeds they used as roads were often mined with improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.s; simply getting supplies or traveling back to their home operating base could be a nerve-racking ordeal.

American combat fatalities in Afghanistan in 2009, the year the Second Platoon arrived, would double from the year before. By year’s end, President Obama would tear up the military strategy that had spread American troops thin across the rugged country and order a major surge of troops.

As they settled into their wartime routines in the spring of 2009, the soldiers of Second Platoon knew that they controlled little more than what they could survey from their outposts, several members of the platoon said. Their heavily armored trucks, known as MRAPs, protected them from the buried explosives they encountered, but the fear those mines instilled was real.

To pass the time on long trips outside the wire, some in the platoon would make wagers on when a roadside-bomb attack might come.


[This is déjà vu from the Vietnam War.
Again, an endless war against a determined enemy,
fighting in his home country against invading American troops.
At least that is how some in Afghanistan view it,
and while some others support the American effort against the Taliban,
evidently not enough to defeat, or even repel, the Taliban insurgency.

This is not World War II, which could be, and was, won by
destroying the armaments (ships, planes, tanks, artillery, etc.) of Germany and Japan,
killing off essentially all of their competent military-age men,
bombing with high explosive, fire-bombs, and atomic bombs their cities and civilian population,
killing many civilians and destroying their cultural centers (such as Dresden),
and cutting off their supplies of vital material such as food and petroleum.
That is what it took to win WWII.
That was the strategy of the allies.

What is the strategy now?
Holding ground, while serving as sitting ducks for the insurgents around?
"Building political institutions" in a civilization different in religion and culture?
(Cf. Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations.)
However possible that may be,
cultural and political change is not the job of the Army.
As to its possibility,
that the Washington Post
has called for the United States to change the Afghan political system
only shows the lack of understanding of reality of its management.
"Political institutions" will not defeat the Taliban.
Only military force combined with the will of the Afghan people could do that.

Those who think that the Afghans, left on their own,
will defeat the Taliban
are the truly mentally ill, in my not so humble opinion.

As to those who think that the United States should try and defeat the Taliban on its own,
in my opinion they are truly evil people,
evil for their throwing away American lives and dollars in an impossible task.
It's that simple.]

The US Government and "Afghan Man." republished 9/27/2014
by Patrick Lang
SST, 2014-09-27

In a Shift, Obama Extends U.S. Role in Afghan Combat
New York Times, 2014-11-22

WASHINGTON — President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.

Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.

In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”

The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.

The internal discussion took place against the backdrop of this year’s collapse of Iraqi security forces in the face of the advance of the Islamic State as well as the mistrust between the Pentagon and the White House that still lingers since Mr. Obama’s 2009 decision to “surge” 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Some of the president’s civilian advisers say that decision was made only because of excessive Pentagon pressure, and some military officials say it was half-baked and made with an eye to domestic politics.

Mr. Obama’s decision, made during a White House meeting in recent weeks with his senior national security advisers, came over the objection of some of his top civilian aides, who argued that American lives should not be put at risk next year in any operations against the Taliban — and that they should have only a narrow counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda.

But the military pushed back, and generals both at the Pentagon and in Afghanistan urged Mr. Obama to define the mission more broadly to allow American troops to attack the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militants if intelligence revealed that the extremists were threatening American forces in the country.

The president’s order under certain circumstances would also authorize American airstrikes to support Afghan military operations in the country and ground troops to occasionally accompany Afghan troops on operations against the Taliban.

“There was a school of thought that wanted the mission to be very limited, focused solely on Al Qaeda,” one American official said.

But, the official said, “the military pretty much got what it wanted.”

On Friday evening, a senior administration official insisted that American forces would not carry out regular patrols or conduct offensive missions against the Taliban next year.

“We will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban,” the official said. “To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to Al Qaeda, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe.”

In effect, Mr. Obama’s decision largely extends much of the current American military role for another year. Mr. Obama and his aides were forced to make a decision because the 13-year old mission, Operation Enduring Freedom, is set to end on Dec. 31.

The matter of the military’s role in Afghanistan in 2015 has “been a really, really contentious issue for a long time, even more contentious than troop numbers,” said Vikram Singh, who worked on Afghanistan policy both at the State Department and the Pentagon during the Obama administration and is now at the Center for American Progress in Washington.

American officials said that while the debate over the nature of the American military’s role beginning in 2015 has lasted for years, two issues in particular have shifted the debate in recent months.

The first is the advance of Islamic State forces across northern Iraq and the collapse of the Iraqi Army, which has led to criticism of Mr. Obama for a military pullout of Iraq that left Iraqi troops ill-prepared to protect their soil.

This has intensified criticism of Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, which Republican and even some Democratic lawmakers have said adheres to an overly compressed timeline that would hamper efforts to train and advise Afghan security forces — potentially leaving them vulnerable to attack from Taliban fighters and other extremists in the meantime.

This new arrangement could blunt some of that criticism, although it is also likely to be criticized by some Democratic lawmakers who will say that Mr. Obama allowed the military to dictate the terms of the endgame in Afghanistan.

The second factor is the transfer of power in Afghanistan to President Ashraf Ghani, who has been far more accepting of an expansive American military mission in his country than his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.

According to a senior Afghan official and a former Afghan official who maintains close ties to his former colleagues, in recent weeks both Mr. Ghani and his new national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, have requested that the United States continue to fight Taliban forces in 2015 — as opposed to being strictly limited to operations against Al Qaeda. Mr. Ghani also recently lifted the limits on American airstrikes and joint raids that Mr. Karzai had put in place, the Afghan officials said.

The new Afghan president has already developed a close working relationship with Gen. John F. Campbell, the allied commander in Afghanistan.

“The difference is night and day,” General Campbell said in an email about the distinction between dealing with Mr. Ghani and Mr. Karzai. “President Ghani has reached out and embraced the international community. We have a strategic opportunity we haven’t had previously with President Karzai.”

American military officials saw the easing of the limits on airstrikes imposed by Mr. Karzai as especially significant, even if the restrictions were not always honored. During the summer, Afghan generals occasionally ignored Mr. Karzai’s directive and requested American air support when their forces encountered trouble.

Now it appears such requests will no longer have to be kept secret.

One senior American military officer said that in light of Mr. Obama’s decision, the Air Force expects to use F-16 fighters, B-1B bombers and Predator and Reaper drones to go after the Taliban in 2015.

“Our plans are to maintain an offensive capability in Afghanistan,” he said.

The officer said he expected the Pentagon to issue an order in the next several weeks detailing the military’s role in Afghanistan in 2015 under Operation Resolute Support, which will become the new name for the Afghanistan war.

The Pentagon plans to take the lead role in advising and training Afghan forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan, with Italy also operating in the east, Germany in the north and Turkey in Kabul.

But by the end of next year, half of the 9,800 American troops would leave Afghanistan. The rest would be consolidated in Kabul and Bagram, and then leave by the end of 2016, allowing Mr. Obama to say he ended the Afghan war before leaving office.

America’s NATO allies are expected to keep about 4,000 troops of their own in Afghanistan in 2015. The allies are expected to follow the American lead in consolidating and withdrawing their troops.

The United States could still have military advisers in Kabul after 2016 who would work out of an office of security cooperation at the United States Embassy. But the administration has not said how large that contingent might be and what its exact mission would be.

And it remains unclear how the continuing chaos in Iraq — and Mr. Obama’s decision to send troo
Rescue America by leaving Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to Mr. Putinps back there — will affect the administration’s plans for an Afghanistan exit.

As the president said in the Rose Garden in May, “I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them.”


Rescue America by leaving Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to Mr. Putin
by Michael Scheuer
non-intervention.com, 2015-10-18

A new Islamic State radio station spreads panic in eastern Afghanistan
by Pamela Constable
Washington Post, 2015-12-23

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — At exactly 6 p.m. across this nervous city and surrounding districts, a clandestine radio broadcast comes to life each night with sounds of clashing swords, drumming hoofbeats and bursts of ­machine-gun fire.

“Caliphate Radio, where hell welcomes the conspirators of infidels,” intones the announcer in the Pashto language. For the next 90 minutes, speakers deliver sermons about Islam, recite Koranic verses in Arabic, threaten death for anyone connected with the “infidel” government and call on young Afghans to join their holy war.

No one is sure where the week-old broadcasts are coming from. Officials say they are attempting to track the radio broadcast facility and silence it, but they suspect it is mounted on a truck, moving among the tribal regions that straddle the nearby border with Pakistan. The program can be heard throughout Nangahar province but not nationally.


The broadcasts of Caliphate Radio have made it clear that the insurgents do not plan to stop until they control Afghanistan. On Friday, before signing off with a stirring, familiar melange of ancient and modern battle sounds, the announcer vowed that “soon our black flags will fly” over the presidential palace in Kabul.

British troops try to help Afghans beat back Taliban offensive
by Pamela Constable
Washington Post, 2015-12-23

Afghan security officials acknowledged that they were struggling to regain control of Sangin, a major opium-poppy-growing district of Helmand that has seesawed between Taliban and government control for years and that was the focus of intensive combat deployments by British forces and then U.S. Marines between 2006 and 2010.

The ongoing battle for Helmand has far greater implications for the future of Afghanistan and the ability of its security forces to defend a weak democracy against a widening array of enemies. A recent report from the Pentagon said that the security situation is “deteriorating” across the country and that another hard year of fighting can be expected.

[Just a year? Why just a year? Is this a prediction that after a "hard year of fighting" the fighting will be over?]


For U.S. and British forces, Sangin is a symbol of grueling, hard-won military victories over the Taliban and of sustained efforts to win over the local populace. British forces were based there for several years and lost a large number of troops; American troops took over in 2009 and launched a major effort to drive out the insurgents and foster local support for the Afghan government.

That success was an important impetus for President Obama’s troop “surge” aimed at ending the war. Now, the Taliban’s fighting capacity appears stronger than at any time in years, Afghan forces are struggling to fend them off, and Sangin is back in the thick of a conflict that could go either way.


The U.S. was supposed to leave Afghanistan by 2017.
Now it might take decades.

By Greg Jaffe and Missy Ryan
Washington Post, 2016-01-26

Top U.S. military commanders, who only a few months ago were planning to pull the last American troops out of Afghanistan by year’s end, are now quietly talking about an American commitment that could keep thousands of troops in the country for decades.

The shift in mind-set, made possible by President Obama’s decision last fall to cancel withdrawal plans, reflects the Afghan government’s vulnerability to continued militant assault and concern that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda continue to build training camps whose effect could be felt far beyond the region, said senior military officials.

The new American outlook marks a striking change for Obama, who campaigned on a promise to bring American troops home and has said repeatedly that he does not support the “idea of endless war.” And it highlights a major shift for the American military, which has spent much of the past decade racing to hit milestones as part of its broader “exit strategy” from Afghanistan and Iraq. These days, that phrase has largely disappeared from the military’s lexicon.

In its place,

there is a broad recognition in the Pentagon that building an effective Afghan army and police force will take a generation’s commitment, including billions of dollars a year in outside funding and constant support from thousands of foreign advisers on the ground.

“What we’ve learned is that you can’t really leave,” said a senior Pentagon official with extensive experience in Afghanistan and Iraq who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions. “The local forces need air support, intelligence and help with logistics. They are not going to be ready in three years or five years. You have to be there for a very long time.”

Senior U.S. commanders have also been surprised by al-Qaeda’s resilience and ability to find a haven in the Afghan countryside, as well as the Taliban’s repeated seizure of large tracts of contested territory.


“No matter what happens in the next couple of years
Afghanistan is going to have wide ungoverned spaces
that violent extremist organizations can take advantage of,”
[Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, a military spokesman in Afghanistan] said.


The U.S. military’s current thinking reflects its painful experience in Iraq, where Iraqi army forces collapsed less than three years after American forces left in 2011.

And it’s echoed in
the arguments made by many Republican and Democratic foreign policy advisers,
looking beyond the Obama presidency,
for a significant long-term American presence.
“This is not a region you want to abandon,” said Michèle Flournoy,
a former Pentagon official who would probably be considered a top candidate for defense secretary in a Hillary Clinton administration.
“So the question is what do we need going forward given our interests?”


"... Now it might take decades." Washpost
by Patrick Lang (Colonel, USA, retired)
turcopolier.typepad.com (his blog), 2016-01-28

[The colonel, for reasons I cannot fathom, bashes
"this group of future-blind careerists" (i.e. U.S. Army generals):]

In Afghanistan these people have relentlessly sought to apply
the recipes bestowed on them by people like Petraeus, Kilcullen et al
to the project of nation building that we have attempted since 2009.
It is a failure. Is that not clear?

[But somehow he fails to tell us what HE would have done,
i.e., how it could be done better.

My opinion: the real problem is that we are there in the first place.
Surely there are better, more cost/effective ways to protect the U.S.
from acts of terrorism
than engaging in a permanent occupation of a region full of people
who most definitely do not want to be so occupied,
and who clearly are more militarily effective than
those "natives" who desire the U.S. presence.]


[Lang continues:]

The generals have "learned" that we cannot leave?

[Actually, that remark was attributed to a "senior Pentagon official".
Normally that refers to a civilian.
But Colonel Lang seems so foolishly intent on bashing the generals
he does not note that.

Of the comments to Colonel Lang's post, these seem to me the best
(all emphasis is added by the author of the current blog):]

Origin said...
Col. A key question is tacit within your post, but not directly addressed.

The WP article says,
"The shift in mind-set,
made possible by President Obama’s decision last fall to cancel withdrawal plans,
reflects the Afghan government’s vulnerability to continued militant assault
and concern that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda continue to build training camps
whose effect could be felt far beyond the region, said senior military officials."

The underlying fundamental assumption in this "decision" is that
the U.S. cannot be protected at home
unless the military continuously acts to insure that
the bad guys will "continue to build training camps whose effect could be felt far beyond the region..."
[I presume Origin means "stop the bad guys from building those training camps, etc."]
On the other hand,
does the continued presence in Afghanistan
just enhance the danger to the US and its interests?

the continued US presence in Afghanistan will not result in a stable Afghanistan
enough of the Afghanis do not want us there and those can never be defeated.

Indeed, leaving might fairly quickly result in a Taliban stabilized Afghanistan.
Though through our western eyes, a Taliban rule seem to be a hellish situation,
it seems clear they have substantial local support.
[No kidding.]
Thus, it is probably an accurate statement that
continued US presence will certainly result in
a continuously destabilized Afghanistan.

would the US interests be better served by
an American presence with continual instability
or be better served by
just leaving and having a Taliban stabilized Afghanistan?

Once the US is gone,
the Taliban might decide to not provoke US to come back
having once experienced the downside of American anger.

I do not have the expertise to answer my question,
perhaps some in the committee can enlighten me on the likely alternate outcomes.

This fundamental question is not being addressed in the MSM: it should be.
28 January 2016 at 02:30 PM

[Sadly, there were no direct responses to those key questions.]

FB Ali said...
What this [the Post article, I presume] means is that
the Taliban will continue to fight on
(there is no AQ there; that reference is just these "commanders" being PC).
Afghanistan will become another Syria or Iraqi Anbar -
the big cities held by the Afghan army,
the countryside around them under the Taliban,
the US bombing like crazy,
US and Afghan SF launching occasional raids,
the Taliban (and IS) launching suicide bombers inside the government towns.

And, of course, everyone involved getting rich -
the US contractors, the Afghans in the US-supported government and army and their hangers-on, the US arms producers, etc.

More ideological fodder for the Islamic State to peddle to increase its ranks.
Its war will also go on and spread.
Increasingly hard right-wing parties will gain strength in the US and Europe,
followed by militarisation of the 'homelands'.
If nothing else, this will ensure that the increasingly impoverished general populace is kept under control.
28 January 2016 at 04:57 PM

Origin said in reply to FB Ali...
FB Ali,

If it continues as promoted, the consequence will be exactly the result Osama designed.
His simple, cheap operation on 9/11 will have succeeded in destroyed the USA.
Such suckers we seem to be?
28 January 2016 at 05:19 PM

mbrenner said...
The mindlessness of our endless engagement in Afghanistan becomes starkly clear when we pose the question:
what is the American objective?
[There is a consensus around at least one objective:
To prevent, to the extent possible, future terrorist attacks on America.
But given agreement on that, the next questions should be:
Is occupying Afghanistan necessary for this?
Is occupying Afghanistan the most cost effective way to accomplish this?]

The Obama people have never given an answer -
other than the Gates' idiocy that "we'll know success when we see it."
Originally, it was to eliminate AQ and to deny it a refugee.
That task is completed (FB Ali is correct: there is no viable AQ structure in Afghanistan).
The ancillary objective was to eliminate the Taliban as a force in Afghan politics
so as to guarantee that the country never again could become an AQ base.
This latter goal obviously in unattainable.
Moreover, even a Taiban government would have no incentive to invite whatever remains of AQ Central back in
since that would result in a return to isolation with no apparent gain.

Above all, the entire question is moot since AQ has morphed into quite a different sort of outfit from what is was in 2001.
It now is a franchise operation.
There are half-a-dozen places where it conceivably do whatever it did in Afghanistan.
Yemen is one example.
There we have devoted ourselves to clearly the way for them to gain a degree of control
they could only have dreamed of before we decided to become handmaidens to the Saudis (and Israelis).
Then, of course, there is ISIL which has largely eclipsed AQ as a long-term terrorist threat.
(So much so, that we are feeding arms to AQ in Syria because we consider them a counterweight to ISIl - among other reasons).
Everyone from Obama on down has declared ISIL our security problem No. 1 -
so why are we wasting resources chasing around Afghanistan
after an enemy that never has attacked a single American outside their own country?
[I presume by "an enemy" he means the Taliban, not AQ.]

How about that for a "debate" question?
28 January 2016 at 05:42 PM

bth said...
Col.,given you knowledge of the present situation in Afghanistan what is the best US policy now?
29 January 2016 at 07:40 AM

turcopolier [i.e., Colonel Lang] said...

we should seek to have China, India, Iran and other such truly interested parties
take charge of this mess as reflective of their actual interests.
Having done that we should reduce our involvement to a minimum level. pl

29 January 2016 at 08:59 AM

Babak Makkinejad said in reply to turcopolier...
I think you have to wait until the prediction of the fracturing of Afghanistan
into a Pashtun/Taliban part and a Non-Pashtun/non-Taliban part
is realized in 2019.

The fracture line, it seems, roughly follows the Old Seljuk Boundary and demarcates a natural border.

Most poppy is produced outside of that boundary.
29 January 2016 at 09:26 AM

bth said in reply to Babak Makkinejad...
Do you think it should be partitioned into two states or do you thin it can hold together?
29 January 2016 at 03:13 PM

Babak Makkinejad said in reply to bth...
I do not think it can hold together.
29 January 2016 at 04:07 PM

bth said in reply to Babak Makkinejad...
So the basic best case is to let Afghanistan separate along natural partition lines
with Pakistan supporting one partition and India, China and Iran supporting the other.
US role would be to disengage and perhaps provide some funding and training over a couple of years.
30 January 2016 at 12:16 PM


Afghanistan - Graveyard of Dreams
by Patrick Lang
SST, 2017-05-15

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