Afghanistan (to 2010)


Taliban Explains Buddha Demolition
New York Times, 2001-03-19

Taliban's Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say
New York Times, 2001-05-20

How America can wreak vengeance
by John Keegan
Daily Telegraph (UK), 2001-09-14

[This article primarily gives general advice on
how America might respond to the terrorist strike on 9/11.
Paragraphs 11 through 13, however, do focus on Afghanistan.
Note also Keegan’s 2001-09-20 article
If America decides to take on the Afghans, this is how to do it”]

If America decides to take on the Afghans,
this is how to do it

by John Keegan
Daily Telegraph (UK), 2001-09-20

[Note also Keegan’s 2001-09-14 article
How America can wreak vengeance”]

THE newspapers are full of portentous warnings of the dangers
that lie in store for
any western power foolish enough to cross Afghan frontiers.
Columnists recall
the 1842 massacre of the East India Company’s army

or the Soviet army’s humiliation at the end of
its occupation of the country between 1979 and 1988.

The story is not one of unrelieved failure.
Some interventions have been successful,
while there are usually easily discernible explanations for why others failed.
Efforts to occupy and rule usually ended in disaster.
But straightforward punitive expeditions,
for limited objectives or to bring about a change in Afghan government policy,
were successful on more than one occasion.

The key to successful Frontier campaigning was, and is,
to hold the high ground.
Any advance at one of Afghanistan’s innumerable valleys
was always accompanied by
posting a string of pickets along the heights.
It was easy enough to get a picket - a handful of armed troops -
on to the ridges.
The trick was to get them down unscathed.
Many techniques were devised.
Below the crest of a narrow ridge,
the enemy waiting to attack the retreating picket were necessarily few in number.
So soldiers were trained
not only to run headlong down 45-degree slopes
but to reverse course in mid-stride and take by surprise
those intending to achieve surprise themselves.

Tactics, however, do not win wars.
The success achieved by Indian and British troops in the last days of the Raj
depended on
avoidance of general war
and of policies designed to change society or government in Afghanistan.

The Raj accepted that Afghanistan was
unstable, fractious and ultimately ungovernable
and thought merely to check its mountain warriors’
irrepressible love of raiding and fighting.

Russia, in 1979, made the mistake the East India Company had in 1839.
It tried to impose a government in Kabul.
Putting its own man in place was easy enough.
Keeping him there proved the difficulty.
Rebellion broke out and many towns in which Soviet troops had been stationed
came under siege from freedom fighters.
The Soviet army defined four aims for itself:
lift the sieges;
drive the freedom fighters out of the fertile valleys into the mountains;
hold a zone around the Khyber Pass through which
the freedom fighters were supplied from Pakistan; and
eliminate the freedom fighters in the mountains.

Over 100,000 Soviet troops were deployed,
in static garrisons and mobile forces.
The mobile troops moved in helicopters, supported by gunships.
They were quickly successful in lifting the sieges.
When, however, they took the war to the enemy,
both in the Khyber Pass zone and the mountains,
the inherent superiority of the freedom fighters as mountain warriors told.
There were constant, costly ambushes.
By 1984, most territory outside the towns had passed from Soviet control
and Russian casualties had mounted to 15,000.

The Russians persisted,
but a Vietnam-style war weariness set in among the conscripts,
who were terrified of falling into Afghan hands,
and after 1986 Russian air superiority was eroded by
the supply of surface-to-air missiles to the freedom fighters
by the United States.
By 1988, the Russians had decided to leave and soon did so, on negotiated terms.
The terms did not hold
and the country fell into the hands of the freedom fighters’ leaders.
Their brutal behaviour laid the basis for the conquest by the Taliban,
supported by the Pakistan army.

The pattern to Afghanistan’s foreign and domestic wars
seems to go as follows.
Foreign interventions aimed at dominance founder on
the belligerence of the population,
who abandon internecine conflict to combine against invaders,
and on the country’s severe terrain.
In the absence of foreign interference, however,
Afghans fall easily into fighting each other, often seeking outside help,
which provokes intervention, thus restarting the cycle.
Limited campaigns of penetration, aimed simply at inflicting punishment,
can succeed,
as long as the punitive forces remain mobile,
keep control of the high ground and are skilful at tactical disengagement.

Is this analysis any help to the Americans?
It certainly warns against any plan
to station large ground forces inside the country,
even supposing they could gain access - the crucial factor.
Even though Pakistan has declared itself a supporter of America’s war,
there are strong arguments against using Pakistani territory as a base.
It is densely populated by 150 million people, practically all of them Muslim.
The government depends on the army, which is around 30 per cent Islamic.
Pakistan’s help is welcome, indeed essential,
but its territory is unwelcoming.

More promising as a base area is ex-Soviet central Asia,
much of it subject to Moscow’s authority.
The populations are small and the leaders anti-Islamic.
Several states have large military facilities,
constructed by the old Soviet Union for its Afghan war.
As America may, and should, plan to mount only punitive attacks,
central Asia promises to be the best basing area available.

What the product of punitive attacks might be defies prediction.
As one of President Bush’s closest advisers
is reported to have asked recently:
“What can we do to Afghanistan
that Afghanistan hasn’t already done to itself?”
Always poor and backward,
it has been reduced by civil and foreign war to a wasteland.
The best that can be hoped of military action
is to regenerate division between its many tribes and factions,
which may yield terrorist hostages to American wrath,
and to frighten the Taliban leaders.
There is no tradition of Islamic extremism in the country
of the sort endemic in the Arab lands.
Afghans, though doughty warriors, are also pragmatists.
They like fighting but are prepared to live to fight another day
if the odds are stacked against them.
The trick America must achieve is to stack the odds in its favour.

U.S. Finds Itself Lacking Experts on Afghanistan
New York Times, 2001-10-11

As the United States takes up a war against terrorism
that will demand human intelligence as much as smart bombs,
it faces a nationwide shortage of Americans
with deep knowledge of the languages and cultures
of Afghanistan and the surrounding region,
academic and national security experts say.

No American university, for example,
offers regular courses in Pashto,
the language of the Taliban,
and the closest most come to teaching Dari,
another common language in Afghanistan,
is Farsi, which is actually the language of neighboring Iran,
said Robert Slater,
director of the National Security Education Program.

The handful of academic centers across the country
geared to educating Americans
about the cultures of Central and South Asia
produce but a trickle of specialists.

Michele Flournoy,
a researcher at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here, said:
“For the intelligence community, for the policy community,
for the State Department, the Department of Defense,
the National Security Council --
for all that requires regional specialists --
the recruiting ground is drying up.
You're losing some potential depth there.”

The slender ranks of intelligence officers
familiar with the languages and cultures where the conflict is unfolding
will most likely make American intelligence
more reliant on foreign intelligence services
and slow its ability to develop sources and evaluate information,
current and former intelligence officials said.

“One could collect through human, technical or open-source means
reams of material,” said one senior intelligence official,
“but unless you have the people to exploit it, you can't do anything with it.”

The official acknowledged that the problem had been longstanding
and that it forced intelligence services
to channel the few agents with linguistic and cultural expertise
to the most pressing, inescapable needs,
like interviewing foreign sources who speak no English.

Law enforcement and the intelligence agencies use hired linguists
to translate documents, recordings and other data into English.
The military and intelligence services
also run separate language training programs
and are searching for teachers of Pashto.

The 19 men suspected of hijacking the planes
involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on American targets
faced the relatively easy task
of melting into America's relatively open, diverse society.
American intelligence agents face the much more formidable task
of penetrating the opaque societies of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan,
where access frequently comes with blood ties.
That is why, experts say, the need for specialized knowledge
is that much more crucial, security experts said.

“How to build personal relationships,
how to infiltrate terrorist organizations,
all that takes a sophistication and an organization
that we haven't developed in this country,”
said Richard D. Brecht,
director of the National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland
and author of “Language and National Security in the 21st Century.” [.doc]

Dr. Brecht noted that
much of the expertise that does exist in the intelligence community
is from former Russian hands,
with backgrounds oriented more toward Russian language and politics
than toward the cultural landscapes
of places like Afghanistan, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan specifically.

The senior intelligence official said,
“Having a native-level Pashto speaker is only the starting point.”

The other hurdles to penetrating Afghanistan?

“No official U.S. presence, very little unofficial presence,
a severely hostile and conflict-prone environment,”
the official said.
“It's a very, very tough nut to crack.”

The deficiencies have been most obvious on the linguistic front,
with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other intelligence agencies
issuing urgent appeals on the Internet
for citizens fluent in Arabic and other languages.
But even before the Sept. 11 attacks,
former intelligence officials were raising questions about
the strength of the United States' counterterrorism programs in the Middle East,
as well as in Afghanistan.

Writing in the July-August issue of The Atlantic,
Reuel Marc Gerecht,
who worked on the Middle East for nine years at the Central Intelligence Agency,
called the American counterterrorism program
in the Middle East and surrounding countries
“a myth” and said
it had failed to penetrate the ranks of Osama bin Laden's followers.

The National Commission on Terrorism,
a blue-ribbon panel convened by Congress,
reported in June 2000 that United States intelligence agencies
had developed a desk-bound, “risk-averse culture.”

The official added that
in an era of government downsizing and multiplying threats,
United States intelligence agencies increasingly turn to
a cadre of regional specialists at universities and elsewhere
that can be called upon for help on short notice.

Through the National Security Education Program,
Washington has trained 72 American students in Arabic,
to varying degrees of proficiency,
with each studying or working in a Middle Eastern country.
It has trained no more than four students in Farsi,
one undergraduate in Uzbek and none in Pashto,
Mr. Slater said.

“If it sounds like these are problems,” Mr. Slater said, “they are.”


Crack in the Foundation
by Lieutenant Colonel H.R. McMaster
Army War College Center for Strategic Leadership Student Issue Paper
November 2003

[This extract from (internal) pages 64–66 of the above report
deals with problems encountered during Operation Anaconda in March 2002.
Emphasis is added.]

Perhaps the most direct test of technology’s ability to lift the fog of war
would come during Operation Anaconda in March 2002.
US intelligence detected
another concentration of Taliban forces in the Shah-i-Kot valley.
US commanders deliberately planned an attack that would include
two American infantry battalions
reinforced with Afghan and other allied troops.
It would be the largest combat operation of the war in Afghanistan.

Intelligence preparation for the operation spanned two weeks.
The US focused
every available surveillance and target acquisition capability
satellite imagery,
unmanned aerial vehicles, and
communications and signal intelligence assets
on the ten by ten-kilometer box that defined the battleground.
Every landing zone for the aerial insertions
received the attention of four unmanned aerial vehicle flyovers.

Enemy countermeasures to US sensors were effective and
the fight during Operation Anaconda was characterized by
a very high degree of uncertainty.
On March 2,
infantry air assaulted almost directly on top of undetected enemy positions.
Soldiers came under immediate fire
from small arms, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and machineguns
as their helicopters landed.
Battalion and brigade command posts were pinned down
and commanders fought alongside their men.
Apache helicopters responding to provide direct fire support
were hit and rendered inoperable.
The planned second lift of soldiers had to be cancelled.
Some units were pinned down by enemy fire during the first night of the battle
and through the next day;
they, including many of the wounded,
could not be extracted until the following night.
The unit had deployed with no artillery
under the assumption that
surveillance combined with precision fires from the air would be adequate.

Even the most precise bombs proved ineffective
against small, elusive groups of enemy infantry
so soldiers relied heavily on small mortars.
As the fight developed over the next ten days,
it became apparent that over half of the enemy positions
and at least three hundred fifty al Qaeda fighters
had gone undetected.

The enemy’s reaction to the attack was also unexpected.
American commanders had expected al Qaeda forces
to withdraw upon contact with the superior allied force
rather than defend as they did from fortified positions.
As Sergeant Major Frank Grippe observed
with a considerable degree of understatement,
“The picture the intel painted was just a little bit different
than the actual events happening on the ground
by numbers of al Qaeda and the type of position they had set up and so forth.”

A combination of
small unit skill, soldier initiative, and determined leadership
permitted American forces to
shake off the effects of tactical surprise,
defeat al Qaeda attacks on the landing zones,
then mount an offensive.
Their ability to reduce the enemy positions depended heavily on
Special Forces directed precision air power,
but especially the integration of air power with ground maneuver.
The battle that ensued demonstrated clearly
the tremendous capability of precision strikes,
but also revealed some of its limitations.
American aircraft heavily bombed al Qaeda positions on Objective Ginger
for over one week,
but the enemy was still able to fire on infantry
as the Americans closed on their positions.

The experience of Operation Anaconda revealed that geography,
when combined with an enemy’s determination to avoid detection
creates a high degree of uncertainty in battle.
Al Qaeda applied countermeasures to
surveillance and precision munitions capabilities learned
during previous engagements.
As Stephen Biddle concluded:
How could such things happen in an era of
persistent reconnaissance drones,
airborne radars,
satellite surveillance,
thermal imaging, and
hypersensitive electronic eavesdropping equipment?
The answer is that
the earth’s surface remains an extremely complex environment
with an abundance of natural and manmade cover and concealment available
for those militaries capable of exploiting it.


Losing Ground in Afghanistan
New York Times Editorial, 2006-07-23

Things are not going well in Afghanistan,
the original front in the war on terrorism.

American and NATO casualties are rising
in some of the deadliest fighting since 2001.
The Taliban are enjoying a resurgence in presence and power,
especially in their traditional southern and eastern strongholds.
And with civilian casualties mounting
and economic reconstruction in many areas stalled by inadequate security,
the American-backed government is in danger of losing
the battle for Afghan hearts and minds.
If this battle is lost,
there can be no lasting military success
against the Taliban and their Qaeda allies.

There is still a chance to turn things around.
The first step must be enhanced security,
so that foreign and local civilians can carry out reconstruction projects.
That will require a large and long-term foreign military presence,
with a large American component.
Unfortunately, Washington is headed in a different direction.
With the Army overstretched in Iraq and Congressional elections coming up,
the Pentagon is moving
to prematurely reduce already inadequate American troop strength.

The plan is for European and Canadian NATO forces to step in
and provide security for civilian teams in southern and eastern Afghanistan
while the remaining Americans concentrate on fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
This is a new variant of the Bush administration’s misbegotten theory that
Americans should be war-fighters and leave nation-building to others.

There are two big problems with this.
First, in violent situations like that in southern Afghanistan,
NATO can assure security only if America, its leading member,
provides reconnaissance, transport and combat support.
Second, the idea that American troops are there
not to bring security to Afghans
but to hunt down the Taliban —
and too bad if Afghan civilians are caught in the cross-fire —
is a disastrous approach to counterinsurgency warfare.
It has not worked in Iraq and it is not working in Afghanistan.

In the end, international military efforts can only buy time
to build an Afghanistan its own people will fight to defend
after Western troops leave.
In addition to foreign aid,
that will require improved performance
by the government of President Hamid Karzai,
which has been plagued by corruption
and hobbled by the alliances it has made with local warlords
to extend its authority beyond Kabul.

In particular, the Karzai government has not made much of a dent
in Afghanistan’s hugely profitable drug trafficking operations.
Corruption and governmental feckless are only partly to blame.
This is an area in which Afghanistan’s multiple problems
have begun to feed off one another.
A lack of credit and security has left farmers
few economic alternatives to opium.
[Compare the success the Taliban had at this task]
Drug revenues feed corruption
and make the warlords who run many of the trafficking rings
more powerful.
They, in turn, use their additional money and influence
to recruit more fighters and expand into new areas,
promoting wider instability.

Building a stable Afghanistan
that can stand up to the Taliban once Western soldiers leave
is going to take many years, many billions of dollars and more foreign troops
for longer than most Western governments are now prepared to contemplate.
[Notice that the New York Times accepts without question
that the goal it just enunciated is feasible, let alone practical.]

Yet signs of fatigue with the Afghan mission
are already beginning to appear in Western capitals, including Washington.
These must be resisted.

Washington made the mistake of premature disengagement once before,
after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal.
That opened the door to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Sept. 11.
If America now means to be serious about combating international terrorism,
it cannot make the same mistake twice.

Losing Afghanistan
New York Times Editorial, 2006-08-24

Reclaiming Afghanistan from the Taliban
remains a crucial element in America’s global struggle against terrorism.
So it should be setting off alarm bells in Washington that
Afghans are becoming disenchanted
with the performance of the country’s pro-American president, Hamid Karzai.

The democratically elected Karzai government
is a big improvement over any of its recent predecessors.
But it has not brought security, economic revival or effective governance
to most of the country.
[Aside from that little unpleasantness, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?]
That has left it vulnerable to complaints about blatant corruption,
the pervasive power of warlords and drug lords,
and escalating military pressure from a revived and resupplied Taliban.

Nearly five years after American military forces help topple
a Taliban government
that provided sanctuary and training camps to Osama bin Laden,
there is no victory in the war for Afghanistan,
due in significant measure to the Bush administration’s
reckless haste to move on to Iraq
and shortsighted stinting on economic reconstruction.

The Taliban, operating from cross-border sanctuaries in Pakistan,
has exploited Washington’s strategic blunders
and Mr. Karzai’s disappointing performance
to rebuild its political and military strength,
particularly in the southern region
where it first began its drive to power more than a decade ago.
Daily battles now rage across five southern provinces.
Civilian and military casualties are rising sharply,
including those among the NATO forces
that have recently moved into these areas.

Mr. Karzai cannot deliver security and redevelopment
without sustained and effective international help.
But he should be doing a lot more
to curb the corruption of his political allies and appointees.

Their ostentatious greed has widened the gap,
and sharpened political antagonisms,
between the favored few and the desperately poor majority
in one of the world’s least developed countries.
Such venality is a gift to austere Taliban recruiters.

So is the notorious corruption of the police and judges,
which makes it impossible for people to win redress of simple grievances.
Frustration with the courts is again driving people
to look to the swift and brutal punishments
that have always been a Taliban specialty.
Mr. Karzai did himself no favors
by appointing a warlord and organized-crime figure
as Kabul’s police chief earlier this year.

Americans are coming to see the war in Iraq
as something apart from the war against 9/11-style terrorism —
and a distraction from it.
The war in Afghanistan has always been an essential part of that larger struggle.
That makes it a war that America simply cannot afford to lose.

In Tribal Pakistan, an Uneasy Quiet
Pact Fails to Deter Backing for Taliban
By Pamela Constable
Washington Post, 2006-09-28

Afghanistan war is ‘cuckoo’, says Blair's favourite general
By Ned Temko and Mark Townsend
The Guardian, 2006-10-29

‘Anyone who thought this was going to be a picnic in Afghanistan -
anyone who had read any history,
anyone who knew the Afghans,
or had seen the terrain,
anyone who had thought about the Taliban resurgence,
anyone who understood what was going on
across the border in Baluchistan and Waziristan
[should have known] -
to launch the British army in with the numbers there are,
while we're still going on in Iraq
is cuckoo,’
[General] Guthrie said.


Guthrie voiced concern that
ministers, civil servants and even some in the military
were assuming that
‘Afghanistan and Iraq
are something we’re going to muddle through for another couple of years
and then we’ll be able to go back’ to a period of relative calm.
‘I don’t see that happening.
I think we’re in an extremely volatile, dangerous world,’ he said.
‘It’s no good governments saying we’re going to keep out of these things.
They don’t always have the luxury of choice.
The type of crisis is actually quite difficult to forecast.
But sure enough, we are going to have crises.
There is absolutely no reason to suppose
that the world is going to settle down in the foreseeable future.
We’re not going to be allowed
to graze in Elysian fields with the sun on our backs.’

UN chief: Nato cannot defeat Taliban by force
Official says alliance failing in Afghanistan
as Blair admits Iraq is a ‘disaster’

By Declan Walsh in Kabul and Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian, 2006-11-18

Nato “cannot win” the fight against the Taliban alone
and will have to train Afghan forces to do the job,
the UN’s top official in the country warned yesterday.


Discarding An Afghan Opportunity
By Selig S. Harrison
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2007-01-30

[This 2007 op-ed by a former South Asia bureau chief of the Post
is in pretty much total agreement with the analyses and forecasts
made by Michael Scheuer three years earlier in Chapter Two of his Imperial Hubris
(see above for some of them).

Here is an excerpt from the Harrison article.]

For three centuries the Afghan state has been just barely a state,
and ethnic and tribal communities paid obeisance to Kabul
only if it accorded them autonomy.
The communist regime installed by Moscow in 1978
aroused bitter opposition by attempting to centralize overnight.
Now the U.S.-backed Karzai government is making a similar mistake
by rushing to create a centralized regime instead of
keying the process to the gradual development of a national economic infrastructure.

The central government has a critical role to play in combating the Taliban,
but primarily through more effective economic assistance,
with less accompanying corruption,
not through military intervention that bypasses the tribal structure.
The fledgling national police and army
have a role in areas where tribal leaders want their help.
But they are tainted in the eyes of many Pashtuns
by their identification with a Kabul regime
dominated by non-Pashtun ethnic rivals.

In 2001 the United States lined up with the Tajik ethnic minority,
whose small military force, the Northern Alliance,
helped dislodge the Pashtun-based Taliban
and has subsequently dominated the Karzai government.
Tajik generals and their proxies still control the army
as well as key secret police and intelligence agencies hated by the Pashtuns.
Karzai, a Pashtun, has attempted to soften Tajik domination
with Pashtun appointments to top security jobs,
but the real power remains in the hands of a U.S.-backed Tajik clique.

The Taliban is effectively exploiting Pashtun dissatisfaction with Kabul,
recruiting many of its fighters
from disaffected tribes in the Ghilzai branch of the Pashtuns,
who resent the favoritism Karzai has shown to higher-status tribes
such as his own Durranis.
Mullah Omar, the key Taliban leader, is a Ghilzai.

But there are two other important reasons for the Taliban's growing strength:
the support it is getting from Pakistan and
Pashtun anger over the civilian casualties
resulting from the indiscriminate use of U.S. air power.

An Afghan Policy Built on Pipe Dreams
New York Times Op-Ed, 2007-03-03

The international community’s policy in Afghanistan
is based on the claim that
Afghans are willing partners in the creation of a liberal democratic state.
Senator John McCain finished a recent speech on Afghanistan by saying,
“Billions of people around the world now embrace
the ideals of political, economic and social liberty, conceived in the West,
as their own.”

In Afghanistan in January, Tony Blair thanked Afghans by saying
“we’re all in this together”
and placing them in
“the group of people who want to live in peace and harmony with each other,
whatever your race or your background or your religion.”

Such language is inaccurate, misleading and dangerous.

Afghans, like Americans, do not want to be abducted and tortured.
They want a say in who governs them, and they want to feed their families.

reducing their needs to broad concepts like
“human rights,” “democracy” and “development”
is unhelpful.

For many Afghans, sharia law is central.
Others welcome
freedom from torture, but not free media or freedom of religion;
majority rule, but not minority rights;
full employment, but not free-market reforms.
“Warlords” retain considerable power.
Millions believe that alcohol should be forbidden and apostates killed,
that women should be allowed in public only in burqas.
Many Pusthu clearly prefer the Taliban to foreign troops.


senior officials with long experience with Afghanistan
often deny this reality.

They insist that
Taliban fighters have next to no local support
and are purely Pakistani agents.

The U.N. argues that
“warlords” have little power and that
the tribal areas can rapidly be brought under central control.
The British defense secretary predicted last summer that
British troops in Helmand Province

could return “without a bullet fired.”
[To see how true that 2006 prediction turned out to be,
see this Wikipedia article on the Helmand province campaign.]

Afghan cabinet ministers insist that
narcotics growth and corruption can be ended and
the economy can wean itself off foreign aid
in five years.
None of this is true.
And most of them half-know it.

It is not only politicians who misrepresent the facts.
Nonprofit groups endorse
the fashionable jargon of state-building and civil society,
partly to win grants.
Military officers are reluctant to admit their mission is impossible.
Journalists were initially surprisingly optimistic
about transforming Afghanistan.
No one wants to seem to endorse
a status quo dominated by the Taliban and drugs.
Humankind cannot bear very much reality, particularly in Afghanistan.

Does it matter?
Most people see our misrepresentations as
an unappealing but necessary part of international politics.
The problem is that we act on the basis of our own lies.
British soldiers were killed
because they were not prepared for the Helmand insurgency.
In the same province,
the coalition recommended a Western-friendly technocrat as governor;
he was so isolated and threatened he could barely leave his office.
Hundreds of millions of dollars invested in anticorruption efforts,
and the police and the counternarcotics ministry,
has been wasted on Afghans with no interest in our missions.
Other programs are perceived as a threat to local culture
and have bred anger and resentment.

Still others have raised expectations we cannot fulfill,
betraying our friends.
I experienced this in Iraq,
where I encouraged two friends to start gender and civil society programs;
we were unable to protect them, and both were killed.
Even when we fail,
instead of recognizing the errors of the initial assessment and the mission,
we blame problems in implementation and repeat false and illogical claims
in order to acquire more money and troops.

The time has come to be honest about
the limits of our power and the Afghan reality.
This is not to counsel despair.
There is no fighting in the streets of Kabul,
the Hazara in the center of the country are more secure and prosperous
than at almost any time in their history,
and the economy grew last year by 18 percent.
These are major achievements.
With luck and the right kind of international support,
Afghanistan can become more humane, prosperous and stable.

But progress will be slow.
Real change can come only from within,
and we have less power in Afghanistan than we claim.
We must speak truthfully about this situation.
Our lies betray Afghans and ultimately ourselves.
And the cost in lives, opportunities and reputation is unbearable.

The Other War
Afghanistan – worse than Iraq

by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2007-03-09

When Less Is Best
New York Times Op-Ed, 2007-03-20

[Emphasis is added.]

Why are we in Afghanistan?
Vice President Cheney talks terror, Britain focuses on narcotics.
The European Union talks ‘state-building,’ others gender.
On a different day, the positions seem interchangeable.
Five years ago, we had a clear goal.
Now we seem to be pursuing a bundle of objectives,
from counterinsurgency to democratization and development,
which are presented as uniform
but which are in fact logically distinct and sometimes contradictory.

Finance officers in Kabul and shepherds in Kandahar want to know
what we did with the $10 billion we spent in the last four years.
So do any number of commentators on Afghan TV and radio.
And when Helmand villagers
see soldiers from countries thousands of miles away
carrying guns and claiming to be only building schools,
they don’t believe them.

I have noticed that many Afghans now simply assume
we are engaged in a grand conspiracy.
Nothing else in their minds can explain
the surreal gap between our language and performance.
The United States needs to be honest about
what it wants from Afghanistan and
what it can achieve.

We should remember that we came first
to protect ourselves against terrorist attack.
Afghans can understand this and help.
But counterterrorism is not the same as counterinsurgency.
Counterterrorism requires good intelligence and Special Forces operations,
of the sort the U.S. was doing in 2002 and 2003.
Recently, however,
NATO has become involved in a much wider counterinsurgency campaign,
involving tens of thousands of troops.
The objective now is to wrest rural areas from Taliban forces.

many of the people we are fighting have no fixed political manifesto.
Almost none have links to Al Qaeda
or an interest in attacking U.S. soil.

We will never have the troop numbers to hold these areas,
and we are creating unnecessary enemies.
A more considered approach to tribal communities
would give us better intelligence on our real enemies.
It is clear that we do not have
the resources, the stomach, or the long-term commitment
for a 20-year counterinsurgency campaign.
And the Afghan Army is not going to take over this mission.

Our second priority should be
to not lose the support of the disillusioned population
in the central and western part of the country.
We have spent billions on programs
that have alleviated extreme poverty and supported governance
but have not caught the imagination of Afghans.
Afghans are bored with foreign consultants and conferences and are saying,
“Bring back the Russians: at least they built dams and roads.”
To win them over we should focus on large, highly visible infrastructure
to which Afghans will be able to point in 50 years --
just as they point to the great dam built by the United States in the 1960s.
The garbage is still seven feet deep and buildings are collapsing in Kabul.
We can deal with these things and leave a permanent symbol of generosity.

Once we are clear about our own interests,
we can think more clearly about the third priority, which is
to improve Afghan lives through development projects.
There are excellent models, from U.N. Habitat
to the Aga Khan network, which has
restored historic buildings, run rural health projects,
and established a five-star hotel and Afghanistan’s mobile telephone network.
The soap business
that the American Sarah Chayes has developed with Afghan women
has been more successful than larger and wealthier business associations.
Such projects should be separated from our defense and political objectives.

Sometimes it is better for us to do less.
Dutch forces in the province of Uruzgan have found that, when left alone,
the Taliban alienate communities by living parasitically,
lecturing puritanically and failing to deliver.
But when the British tried to aggressively dominate the South last summer,
they alienated a dangerous proportion of the local population
and had to withdraw.
Pacifying the tribal areas is a task for Afghans, working with Pakistan and Iran.
It will involve moving from the overcentralized state
and developing formal but flexible relationships with councils
in all their varied village forms.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that
we squandered an opportunity in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003,
being distracted by Iraq and not bringing enough troops or resources.
But my experience in Afghanistan has led me to believe that
the original strategy of limiting our role was correct.

What We Can Do
New York Times Op-Ed, 2007-03-26


We must acknowledge the limits of our power and knowledge
in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere
and concentrate on what is achievable.
The question is not
“What ought we to do?”
“What can we do?”

This is rarely discussed.
When I ask politicians whether we can defeat the Taliban,
they reply that we “have to” defeat the Taliban.
If I ask whether we can actually do any good by staying in Iraq,
they reply that we have “a moral obligation” to the Iraqi people.


By emphasizing moral necessity, politicians can
justify almost any risk, uncertainty or sacrifice
and make compromise seem cowardly and criticism treasonous.

When I suggest recognition of Moktada al-Sadr or negotiation with the Taliban,
I am described as an appeaser.
But these moral judgments are fragile,
and they increasingly cloak despair, paralysis and preparation for flight.

We are learning, painfully, that
many of the problems in Iraq or Afghanistan --
from violence and state failure to treatment of women --
are deeply embedded in
local beliefs, political structures and traumatic histories.
Iraqis and Afghans
do not want their country controlled by foreigners and non-Muslims.
A powerful and effective minority is trying to kill us.
The majority is at best lukewarm:
they may dislike Sadrists or the Taliban,
but they prefer them to us.

We are also now aware how little we can comprehend.
Our officials are on short tours,
lack linguistic or cultural training,
live in barracks behind high blast walls and
encounter the local population through angry petitions or sudden ambushes.
We will never acquire
the subtle sense of values, beliefs and history
needed to create lasting changes,
still less as we once intended,
to lead a political, social and economic revolution.

Paul Bremer, then the top American administrator in Iraq,
told us in October 2003 that
we had six months to computerize the Baghdad stock exchange,
privatize state-owned enterprises and reform the university curriculum.
Now he would be grateful for stability.
The American and British people have sensed that
their grand objectives are unachievable,
and since no one is offering any practical alternative,
they are lapsing into cynicism and opposition.

Meanwhile the paralyzed leaders, afraid of their impotence,
flit from troop increases to flight, from engagement to isolation.
We must prevent this by acknowledging our limits,
while recognizing that
although we are less powerful and informed than we claimed,
we are more powerful and informed than we fear.

A year ago, for example, I felt it would be almost impossible to
help re-establish ceramics, woodwork and calligraphy
and restore part of the old city of Kabul.
I worried that Afghans were uninterested, the standards too low,
the prices too high,
the government apathetic and international demand nonexistent.
But I found great Afghan energy, courage and skill
and received imaginative and generous support from the U.S. government.
Unexpected markets emerged; the Afghan administration helped;
men and women found new pride and incomes.
There are many much better established and more successful projects than this
all over Afghanistan.

My experience suggests that
we can continue to protect our soil from terrorist attack,
we can undertake projects that prevent more people from becoming disaffected,
and we can even do some good.
In short, we will be able to do more, not less, than we are now.
But working with what is possible requires humility and
the courage to compromise.

We will have to
focus on projects that Iraqis and Afghans demand;
prioritize and set aside moral perfectionism;
work with people of whom we don’t approve;
and choose among lesser evils.
We will have to be patient.
We should aim to stop illegal opium growth
and change the way that Iraqis or Afghans treat their women.
But we will not achieve this in the next three years.
We may never be able to build a democratic state
in Iraq or southern Afghanistan.
Trying to do so through a presence based on foreign troops
creates insurgency and resentment
and can only end in failure.

“You are saying,” the politician replies,
“that we ought to sit back and do nothing.”
On the contrary I believe we can do a great deal.
But ought implies can.
We have no moral obligation to do what we cannot do.

How the ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad
New York Times, 2007-08-12

A year after the Taliban fell to an American-led coalition [2002?],
a group of NATO ambassadors landed in Kabul, Afghanistan,
to survey what appeared to be a triumph —
a fresh start for a country ripped apart by years of war with the Soviets
and brutal repression by religious extremists.

With a senior American diplomat, R. Nicholas Burns, leading the way,
they thundered around the country in Black Hawk helicopters,
with little fear for their safety.
They strolled quiet streets in Kandahar and sipped tea with tribal leaders.
At a briefing from the United States Central Command,
they were told that the Taliban were now a “spent force.”

“Some of us were saying, ‘Not so fast,’ ”
Mr. Burns, now the under secretary of state for political affairs, recalled.
“A number of us assumed that the Taliban was too enmeshed in Afghan society
to just disappear as a political and military force.”

But that skepticism never took hold in Washington.
Assessments by the Central Intelligence Agency circulating at the same time
reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat,
according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports.
The American sense of victory was so robust that
the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units
who had helped liberate Afghanistan
were packing their guns and preparing for the next war, in Iraq.

Those sweeping miscalculations
were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions
that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war”
off course.

[Some remarks:
  1. The views on Afghanistan of the sacked CIA analyst Michael Scheuer
    were much more accurate than those of
    those people still in favor with the elite.
  2. If there is anyone left Washington today
    who cares more about the interests of American
    than pleasing the Zionists and feminism
    who predominate in the decision-making and opinion-leading classes,
    would it not be a good idea to take a second look at
    exactly why Scheuer was forced out of the CIA,
    given that his (documented) views on Afghanistan seem,
    despite not being what those elites wanted to hear,
    to have had the advantage (to some)
    of having predicted the future accurately?
  3. Why does the NYT article
    fail to cite those well-publicized view of Scheuer?
    My theory, without proof, for the answer to that question is that,
    because Scheuer dares to question
    much of the elite’s orthodox views on foreign policy,
    the WP and NYT bend over backward to deny him
    the credibility that he would gain
    if they were to cite him as an expert
    (except, of course, when he can be used to attack the Tenet memoirs).

How can this bloody failure be regarded as a good war?
The western occupation of Afghanistan
has brought neither peace nor development -
and it fuels the terror threat

by Seumas Milne
Guardian (UK), 2007-08-23

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Enthusiasts for the catastrophe that is the Iraq war
may be hard to come by these days,
but Afghanistan is another matter.
The invasion and occupation that opened George Bush’s war on terror
are still championed by powerful voices in the occupying states as -
in the words of the New York Times this week -
the good war” that can still be won.
While speculation intensifies about British withdrawal from Basra,
there’s no such talk about a retreat from Kabul or Kandahar.
On the contrary,
the plan is to increase British troop numbers from the current 7,000,
and ministers, commanders and officials
have been hammering home the message all summer that
Britain is in Afghanistan,
as the foreign secretary, David Miliband, insisted,
for the long haul.

“We should be thinking in terms of decades,”
the British ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, declared;
Brigadier John Lorimer, British commander in Helmand province, thought
the military occupation might last more than Northern Ireland’s 38 years;
and the defence secretary, Des Browne, last week confirmed that
the government had made a “long-term commitment” to stay in Afghanistan
to prevent it reverting to a terrorist training ground.
Even allowing for the Brown government’s need for political cover
if it is indeed to run down its forces in Iraq,
that all amounts to
a pretty clear policy of indefinite occupation -
one on which it has not thought necessary to consult the British people,
let alone the Afghans.


Britain is now fighting its fourth war in Afghanistan in 170 years,
and might have learned by now that
you cannot impose a government from outside
against a people’s will.

Earlier this summer
the Afghan senate called for a date to be set for
the withdrawal of foreign troops and negotiations with the Taliban,

as did the Pakistani foreign minister, Khurshid Kasuri, this month.
There will be no peace or stability in Afghanistan while foreign troops remain, and
a wider settlement will surely have to include the Taliban
and regional powers such as Iran and Pakistan.

Unfortunately, politics [Whose politics? Who is doing the dictating?]
dictates that
a great deal more blood is likely to be shed on both sides
before that comes to be accepted.


Military Death Toll Rises in Afghanistan
New York Times, 2008-07-02

[An excerpt:]

The growing concern expressed by American commanders is fueled by
intelligence reports about an increasingly complex enemy.
The Pentagon report, released last week,
describes the potential for “two distinct insurgencies in Afghanistan”:
a Taliban-led insurgency based in the southern city of Kandahar, and
a confederation of militant groups in eastern Afghanistan
that occasionally find refuge in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The “shared goals” of the two insurgencies, the report said,
  1. the expulsion of all foreign military forces from Afghanistan
    [Pillar I],
  2. the elimination of external government influence in their respective areas
    [Pillar IV], and
  3. the imposition of a religiously conservative, Pashtun-led government
    [Pillars VI and VII].”

[Note that these three issues are among
“The Seven Pillars of Truth about Afganistan”
published by Michael Scheuer back in 2004.
Too bad all the media’s “experts” didn’t do nearly as well
at predicting the future.
But then they haven’t been called “anti-Semitic”, as Scheuer has.
When the people who can predict the future the best
are all labeled as “anti-Semites”
then you know America is in deep, deep trouble.]

As Crime Increases in Kabul,
So Does Nostalgia for Taliban

By Pamela Constable
Washington Post, 2008-09-25

[An excerpt.]

While Taliban insurgents stage increasing attacks in the Afghan countryside,
equally fast-expanding violent crime --
kidnappings, carjackings, drug-related killings and highway robberies --
is plaguing the capital of 5 million
and the vital truck and bus routes that connect the country’s major cities.

It is making some Afghans nostalgic for
the low-crime days before 2001,
when the Taliban sternly ruled most of the country.

Today’s problem, which experts say is intertwined with
widespread official corruption,
opium trafficking and
the get-rich-quick boom of postwar aid and reconstruction,
is threatening to destroy public confidence
in the government of President Hamid Karzai
and drive away what little investment
the desperately poor country is attracting.

NATO Aims at Afghans Whose Drugs Aid Militants
New York Times, 2008-10-02

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

[I]n Anbar Province,
a western region of Iraq that was a base of the Sunni-led insurgency,
American military officers were able to persuade tribal leaders
to support the coalition fight against insurgents.

[These reporters do not mention the fact that
the al-Qaeda-in-Iraq insurgents practiced
exceptionally brutal (and counter-productive) tactics.]

“The difference in Afghanistan is that
there needs to be an Afghan-led effort to engage the tribes,”
General McKiernan said.

In Afghanistan,
there “is a degree of complexity in the tribal system
which is much greater than what I found in Iraq years ago,”
he added.
“And I also find that
of the over 400 major tribal networks inside of Afghanistan,
they have been largely, as I said earlier,
traumatized by over 30 years of war,
so a lot of that traditional tribal structure has broken down.”

[There is a certain faction within the American elite which explicitly opposes tribalism.
I (definitely not part of the American elite) do not share that knee-jerk antipathy.
The desire of part of the American elite
to organize the world according to principles that it defines
seems both the ultimate example of hubris as well as
a folly on the level of that suggested by King Canute.]

Afghan ‘Dictator’ Proposed in Leaked Cable
New York Times, 2008-10-04

[An excerpt; paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]


A coded French diplomatic cable leaked to a French newspaper
quotes the British ambassador in Afghanistan as
predicting that
the NATO-led military campaign against the Taliban will fail.

That was not all.
The best solution for the country, the ambassador said,
would be installing an “acceptable dictator,”
according to the newspaper.


“The current situation is bad,
the security situation is getting worse,
so is corruption,
and the government has lost all trust,”

the British envoy, Sherard Cowper-Coles, was quoted as saying
by the author of the cable, François Fitou,
the French deputy ambassador to Kabul.

The two-page cable —
which was sent to the Élysée Palace and the French Foreign Ministry on Sept. 2,
and was leaked to the investigative and satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaîné,
which printed excerpts in its Wednesday issue —
said that
the NATO-led military presence
was making it harder to stabilize the country.


“The presence of the coalition, in particular its military presence, is
part of the problem, not part of its solution,”
Sir Sherard was quoted as saying.
“Foreign forces are the lifeline of
a regime that would rapidly collapse without them.
As such,
they slow down and complicate
a possible emergence from the crisis.”


Within 5 to 10 years,
the only “realistic” way to unite Afghanistan would be
for it to be “governed by an acceptable dictator,”

the cable said, adding,
“We should think of preparing our public opinion” for such an outcome.

Sir Sherard, as quoted, was critical of both American presidential candidates,
who have vowed, if elected,
to substantially increase American military support for Afghanistan
to fight the Taliban.

In the short run,
“It is the American presidential candidates who must be dissuaded
from getting further bogged down in Afghanistan,”
he is quoted as saying.



War in Afghanistan 'cannot be won', British commander warns

The war in Afghanistan cannot be won,
Britain's most senior military commander in the country has warned.

By Caroline Gammell
The Telegraph (UK), 2008-10-05

{Its full text; emphasis is added.]

Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said the British public
should not expect “a decisive military victory”
and that he believed
groups of insurgents would still be at large after troops left.

He said it was time to “lower our expectations” and
focus on reducing the conflict to a level
which could be managed by the Afghan army.

Brig Carleton-Smith, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade
which has just completed its second tour of Afghanistan,
talking to the Taliban could be an important part of that process.

He insisted his forces had “taken the sting out of the Taliban for 2008”
as winter and the colder weather approached.

But he told a Sunday newspaper:
“We’re not going to win this war.
It’s about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency
that’s not a strategic threat
and can be managed by the Afghan army.

“We may well leave with there still being
a low but steady ebb of rural insurgency...
I don’t think we should expect when we go,
there won’t be roaming bands of armed men in this part of the world.
“That would be unrealistic.”

Brig Carleton-Smith said the aim was to move towards
a non-violent means of resolving the conflict.
“We want to change the nature of the debate
from one where disputes are settled through the barrel of a gun
to one where it is done through negotiations,”
he said.
“If the Taliban were prepared to sit on the other side of the table
and talk about a political settlement,
then that’s precisely the sort of progress
that concludes insurgencies like this.”
“That shouldn’t make people uncomfortable.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman defended the brigadier’s comments
and said the aim was to provide a secure infrastructure
for the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army.

“We have always said there is no military solution in Afghanistan.
Insurgencies are ultimately solved at the political level,
not by military means alone,”
the spokesman said.

[Do GOP leaders agree with that?
Chants of “USA” are hardly a refutation.
And demands for American “victory”
do not seem to have the slightest anticipation of
the forces an attempt at military victory might unleash in the Muslim world,
something Michael Scheuer has been warning us about since at least 2004.]

“We fully support President Karzai’s efforts
to bring disaffected Afghans into society’s mainstream
with his proviso that they renounce violence
and accept Afghanistan’s constitution.”

[Frankly, I feel even these suggestions may be unrealistic and asking for too much.
As Michael Scheuer has been telling us [note esp. p-6 and p-7] since at least 2004,
we have bet on a losing team.
Time to try and make the best deal we can
with those who seem able to unify, pacify,
and eliminate opium-poppy-growing, drug-dealing,
crime and corruption from Afghanistan,
even if the Feminist Majority finds them anathema.

How much more
  • money do we have to squander,
  • lives to waste, and
  • anti-Americanism to engender
to make American women happy
in their Global War on Patriarchal Men (the GWoPM)?


French army chief agrees Afghanistan 'cannot be won'

France's military chief, General Jean-Louis Georgelin,
has echoed suggestions by a senior British military officer
that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won.

by Henry Samuel
The Telegraph (UK), 2008-10-09

{Its beginning.]

Mr Georgelin said that
he interpreted British Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith’s comments over the weekend as
“saying that one cannot win this war militarily,
that there is no military solution to the Afghan crisis
and I totally share this feeling”.

“The strategy of Nato,
as it has been redefined in Bucharest (at the start of April)
does not say anything else,”
said Mr Georgelin in a French television interview.

U.S. Study Is Said to Warn of Crisis in Afghanistan
New York Times, 2008-10-09

[Its beginning.]


A draft report by American intelligence agencies concludes that
Afghanistan is in a “downward spiral”
and casts serious doubt on the ability of the Afghan government
to stem the rise in the Taliban’s influence there,
according to American officials familiar with the document.

The classified report finds that
the breakdown in central authority in Afghanistan has been accelerated by
rampant corruption within the government of President Hamid Karzai
and by
an increase in violence by militants
who have launched increasingly sophisticated attacks from havens in Pakistan.

The report, a nearly completed version of a National Intelligence Estimate,
is set to be finished after the November elections
and will be the most comprehensive American assessment in years
on the situation in Afghanistan.
Its conclusions represent
a harsh verdict on decision-making in the Bush administration,
which in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
made Afghanistan the central focus of a global campaign against terrorism.

Beyond the cross-border attacks launched by militants in neighboring Pakistan,
the intelligence report asserts that many of Afghanistan’s most vexing problems
are of the country’s own making,
the officials said.


Grim Forecast for Afghanistan
New York Times, 2008-10-10

[Its beginning.]


With security and economic conditions in Afghanistan already in dire straits,
the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday that
the situation there would probably only worsen next year.

“The trends across the board are not going in the right direction,”
the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters.
“And I would anticipate next year would be a tougher year.”


An Old Afghanistan Hand Offers Lessons of the Past
New York Times, 2008-10-20

[This is rather interesting, so here it is in its entirety;
as usual, paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.
Many of his thoughts duplicate what Michael Scheuer noted back in 2004
in his “Hey, Did Anyone Know the Red Army Lost a War in Afghanistan?”.]

KABUL, Afghanistan —

It is one of a flow of disarming asides
that Russia’s ambassador to Kabul deploys
while warning of the grim prospects that he says
will doom the American enterprise in Afghanistan
if the United States fails to learn from
mistakes made during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s.

“I know quite a lot about the past,” the ambassador, Zamir N. Kabulov,
said in polished English with a broad smile
during an interview in Kabul one morning last week.
“But almost nothing about the future.”

In fact, it is precisely because of a belief that
the Soviet past may hold lessons for the American future
that a talk with Mr. Kabulov is valued by many Western diplomats here.
That is a perception
that has drawn at least one NATO general to the Russian Embassy
in Mr. Kabulov’s years as ambassador,
though the officer involved, not an American,
showed no sign of having been influenced by what he heard,
Mr. Kabulov said.

“They listen, but they do not hear,” he said with another wry smile.

“Their attitude is, ‘The past is the past,’
and that they know more than I do.”
Perhaps, too, he said,
“they think what I have to say is just part of a philosophy of revenge,”
a diplomatic turning of the tables by
a government in Moscow that is embittered by the Soviet failure here
and eager for the United States to suffer a similar fate.

Mr. Kabulov, 54, is no ordinary ambassador,
having served as a K.G.B. agent in Kabul —
and eventually as the K.G.B. resident, Moscow’s top spy —
in the 1980s and 1990s,
during and after the nine-year Soviet military occupation.
He also worked as an adviser to the United Nations’ peacekeeping envoy during
the turbulent period in the mid-1990s that led to the Taliban’s seizing power.

Now he is back as Moscow’s top man, suave and engaging,
happy to talk of a time when the old Soviet Embassy compound
was the command center for an invasion that ended in disaster
and speeded the collapse of the great power that undertook it.

The compound, ransacked during the warlord turmoil of the mid-1990s
and given over for a decade to refugees who squatted amid the rubble,
is spanking new again, with fresh marble and sparkling chandeliers,
as well as a memorial commemorating the 13,500 Soviet troops who died here.

Nearly 20 years after Soviet troops withdrew in humiliation, in February 1989,
Mr. Kabulov has become a gloomy oracle,
warning that the fate that overtook the Russians here
may be relived by the Americans and their coalition partners.

“They’ve already repeated all of our mistakes,”
he said, speaking of what the United States has done — and failed to do —
since the Taliban were toppled from power in November 2001
and American troops began moving into old Soviet bases
like the one at Bagram, north of Kabul.

“Now, they’re making mistakes of their own,
ones for which we do not own the copyright.”

The list of American failures comes quickly.
Like the Soviets, Mr. Kabulov said,

the Americans “underestimated the resistance,”
thinking that
because they swept into Kabul easily,
the occupation would be untroubled.

“Because we deployed very easily into the major cities,
we didn’t give much thought to what was happening in the countryside,”

where the stirrings of opposition that grew into a full-fledged insurgency began,
he said.

He places that blunder in the context of a wider failure to understand

the “irritative allergy” among Afghans to foreign occupation,
one that
every invading power since the British in the 1840s has come to rue,
and which, Mr. Kabulov said,
grows into a fire if the invaders, especially non-Muslims,
don’t pull out soon.

“One of our mistakes was staying, instead of leaving,” he said.
“After we changed the regime,
we should have handed over and said goodbye.
But we didn’t.
And the Americans haven’t, either.”

Confronted by an elusive insurgency
and unable to maintain a presence in the hinterland because of a lack of troops,
the Soviets, like the Americans,
resorted to an overreliance on heavy weapons, especially airpower,

he said.
The resulting casualties among the civilian population
only worsened the situation.

“We abused human rights, including the use of aggressive bombardment,”
he said.
“Now, it’s the same, absolutely the same.
Some Soviet generals gave instructions to wipe out the villages
where the mujahedeen were entrenched with the civilian population.

Is that what your generals are going to do?”

The son of an Uzbek father and a Tartar mother,
Mr. Kabulov said his family name is a corruption of
an old Arabic term meaning capability.

“But the name’s been my fate,” he said,
running through a career that has given him a front-row seat
at almost every stage of Afghan’s turbulent history for the past 25 years.
In 1995,
negotiating for the release of a Russian air crew forced down by the Taliban,
he became one of very few foreigners to meet Mullah Muhammad Omar,
the one-eyed former mujahedeen fighter who founded and still leads the Taliban.

Rebutting the suggestion that Russia hopes for an American failure here,
Mr. Kabulov noted that Moscow supported the 2001 invasion
as part of an international coalition against terrorism
that was as much a threat to the security of Russia
as to that of the United States.
Russia still has nothing to gain from an American defeat, he said.
“We have always said that
it’s better to fight the mujahedeen in the suburbs of Jalalabad
than in Ashgabat,”
he said, referring to the capital of Turkmenistan, on Russia’s southern border.

“How can they believe that we are so stupid and shortsighted?” he added.
“Our approach is pragmatic.
Why should we be jubilant
at the prospect of the Americans being defeated by
people who will take us on again,
as they did in the 1990s in Chechnya?”

Still, the ambassador spoke with irritation at what he regards as
an American distortion of the Soviet record here,
one that ignores the “modernizing mission” Moscow pursued from the 1950s on,
with billions of rubles spent on
advancing the role of women and
building roads, dams and an industrial infrastructure.
“Where, I ask, are the big American projects to match those?”
he said, and answered his own question.

“I’ll tell you. There aren’t any.”

American generals, he said, have avoided contact with him.
But with Gen. David D. McKiernan, the American commander,
now pushing for a major increase in the 65,000 coalition troops that he commands,
he said

the Americans are replicating another of Moscow’s mistakes:
trying to turn the tide of the war by bringing in more troops.

Soviet troop strength in Afghanistan, he said,
reached its peak in 1987 with a force of about 140,000.

“The more foreign troops you have roaming the country,
the more the irritative allergy toward them is going to be provoked,”

he said.

The solution, he said,
is to shift the fighting as quickly as possible to Afghan troops.
This is something the United States and its partners have already embarked on,
with a decision this summer to double the size of the Afghan Army.
But even that, Mr. Kabulov said, will accomplish little
unless the Americans turn the army into a genuine national force,
with a sense among the troops that they are fighting for their country,
not as “clients” of the Americans,
as Mr. Kabulov believes they see themselves now.

One emblem of the American approach, he says,
is the decision to re-equip the Afghan forces with NATO weaponry.
Mr. Kabulov said this would mean
retraining Afghan soldiers to fight with American M-16 rifles,
in place of the Kalashnikov assault rifles
that have been ubiquitous here for decades.

“Afghans have been very adept at using Kalashnikovs for 30 years,
as we know only too well [!!],
and now you’ll send them to Pakistan to be melted down into scrap?
I ask you, how much sense is there in that?”

Tea With the Taliban?
By David Ignatius
Washington Post, 2008-10-26

[Its beginning.]

As U.S. and European officials ponder
what to do about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan,
they are coming to a perhaps surprising conclusion:
The simplest way to stabilize the country may be
to negotiate a truce with the Taliban fundamentalists
who were driven from power by the United States in 2001.

The question policymakers are pondering, in fact,
isn’t whether to negotiate with the Taliban but when.
There’s a widespread view
among Bush administration officials and U.S. military commanders
that it’s too soon for serious talks,
because any negotiation now would be from a position of weakness.
Some argue for a U.S. troop buildup
and an aggressive military campaign next year
to secure Afghan population centers,
followed by negotiations.

How the worm turns:
A few years ago, it would have been unthinkable that
the United States would consider any rapprochement with
the Taliban militants who gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden
as he planned the devastating attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
But the painful experience of Iraq and Afghanistan
has convinced many U.S. commanders that
if you can take an enemy off the battlefield through negotiations,
that’s better than getting pinned down in protracted combat.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates
made the argument for negotiations with the Taliban bluntly on Oct. 9,
during a meeting in Budapest with NATO allies who are wearying of the conflict.
“There has to be ultimately -- and I’ll underscore ultimately -- reconciliation
as part of a political outcome to this,” Gates told reporters.
“That’s ultimately the exit strategy for all of us.”

Afghan Rebel Positioned for Key Role
U.S. Plans to Check Insurgency Could Require
Negotiations With Veteran Commander

By Candace Rondeaux
Washington Post, 2008-11-05

[Its beginning:]

As U.S. and NATO officials revamp their strategy in Afghanistan,
a renegade Afghan commander could prove central to U.S. plans
to rein in the insurgency through negotiations.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is
a 61-year-old veteran of Afghanistan’s three decades of war
who gained infamy for rocketing his own capital
during a brief stint as prime minister in the 1990s.
More recently,
his supporters have carried out several devastating attacks
on the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

But with casualties among foreign forces at record highs,
and domestic and international confidence in Karzai’s government
at an all-time low,
U.S. and Afghan officials may have little choice
but to grant Hekmatyar a choice seat at the bargaining table.

Obama to Explore New Approach in Afghanistan War
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post, 2008-11-11

[Its beginning:]

The incoming Obama administration
plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan --
including possible talks with Iran --
and looks favorably on
the nascent dialogue between the Afghan government and
“reconcilable” elements of the Taliban,
according to Obama national security advisers.

Talking With the Taliban
New York Times Editorial, 2008-11-21

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

[W]e are deeply skeptical that there is any deal to be cut
with Taliban leaders who gave sanctuary to Al Qaeda before 9/11

would undoubtedly insist on re-imposing their repressive, medieval ways,
including denying education and medical care to women.

We fear that some NATO members may be so eager to withdraw their troops
that they would be willing to trade away the Afghans’ future.
[The egotism and arrogance of the feminist elite is on clear display here.
There are many futures possible for the Afghani people,
beyond the one that the feminists insist upon.]

Or that the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai,
may be far too eager to compromise
in hopes of increasing his re-election chances.
[How about that!
Screw what the Afghani people want.
Force the desires of the American media/political/feminist elite
down their throats,
whatever the Afghani people want.
So much for democracy.
These statements prove that our elite really doesn't want to push democracy,
rather just their PC value system.
Perpetual war for feminism, that's the future the NYT will produce.]

He made aides to Mr. Obama (as well as us) nervous this week with an offer,
since rejected, to draw the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar
into negotiations.

There was real joy in Afghanistan — and around the world —
when America and its Afghan allies defeated the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
[What an arrogant simplification.
Some people in Afghanistan no doubt rejoiced when the Taliban were overthrown.
But some is not all.
Michael Scheuer has studied the Afghani political situation in depth,
and his view of the dominant political forces in Afghanistan is quite different.
But the NYT studiously avoids even acknowledging his wisdom and insights.]

Seven years later, both are back with a vengeance.
[Exactly, aside from the specific year, as Scheuer predicted.
Note the NYT would be caught dead before they would acknoledge his prescience,
because if they did they might have to acknowledge
the rest of his predictions and prescriptions.]

This is the deadliest year for NATO and Afghan forces in Afghanistan since 2001.
The country is on a downward spiral, with
a breakdown in central authority,
rampant corruption,
a booming heroin trade and
increasingly sophisticated attacks by militants
on both sides of the Pakistan border.


Mr. Karzai is also culpable.
His government’s venality and ineptitude
has driven his people back to the extremists....

Afghanistan’s only chance is a long-term American commitment
that also includes
far more economic assistance and support for political development.
America could respect and support the Talibs.
That would be good for national security, but the feminists would have a fit.
Poor Bush might never get another lay.]

Washington also must come up with a better mixture of incentives and pressures
to persuade Pakistan to shut down havens of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Mr. Karzai must cut all ties with corrupt officials
and clean up and strengthen his national police.

Negotiations with tribal leaders and low-level militants
also can be part of that strategy.
Afghan, Saudi and Pakistani officials should keep probing for interlocutors.
For now, the Taliban has all of the momentum.
American and NATO forces will have to
continue their assault on the insurgents through the winter
and make a much greater effort to limit civilian casualties.

Mr. Bush should quickly authorize
the extra 20,000 American troops that his commanders have requested.
The United States and its allies also must ensure that
Afghanistan has the food aid it needs
to compensate for this year’s failed harvest.
Widespread hunger would drive even more civilians to the Taliban.

Guest Columnists Warn Obama About Escalating in Afghanistan
By Greg Mitchell
Editor and Publisher, 2008-11-23

Out of the frying pan into the fire?
In today's New York Times, three columnists --
including a guy named Rumsfeld --
warn that
a "surge" in Afghanistan could last decades and/or
not even be worth it or
make matters worse,
while our economy collapses.

[So who wants us to vanquish the
“radical”/“extremist”/“medieval” Taliban?
My guess (the political class surely knows far better than I)
is that the people pushing the hardest for no compromise with those “radicals”
are the feminists.

In any case, here is an excerpt from Mitchell’s column; emphasis is added.]

Nearly everyone in the media, and on the political stage,
still calls this the “good war.”

[Hey elite: Why the unanimity?]
Obama has even said “we must win” there.
But it’s the same question we have faced in Iraq:
What does he define as “winning”?
How much are we willing to expend (in lives lost and money)
at a time of a severe budget crunch and overstretched military?
Shouldn’t the native forces -- and NATO -- be doing more?
And what about Pakistan?
And so on.

We’ve been fighting there even longer than in Iraq, if that seems possible.
Now do want to jump out of a frying pan into that fire in an open-ended way?

Few voices in the mainstream media – and even in the liberal blogosphere –
have tackled this subject,
partly because of long arguing for the need to fight the “good war”
as opposed to the “bad war.”
But now some very respected commentators –
with impeccable pro-military credentials –
are starting to sound off on the dangers.

Back in August,
I was reduced to quoting Thomas Friedman from a recent New York Times column:
“The main reason we are losing in Afghanistan is
not because there are too few American soldiers,
but because
there are not enough Afghans ready to fight and die
for the kind of government we want....

[“We” being, of course, Americans,
the bulk of whom are affected almost by definition by the opinion-leaders
in the American elite.]

Obama needs to ask himself honestly:
‘Am I for sending more troops to Afghanistan
because I really think we can win there,
because I really think that that will bring an end to terrorism,
or am I just doing it because to get elected in America, post-9/11,
I have to be for winning some war?’ ”

And I reprinted at length comments from Joseph L. Galloway,
the legendary war reporter,
based largely on a recent paper written by Gen. Barry McCaffrey
after his tour of the war zone.
McCaffrey had said
“we can’t shoot our way out of Afghanistan, and
the two or three or more American combat brigades
proposed by the two putative nominees for president
are irrelevant.”

Galloway noted sardonically:
“We can’t afford to fail in Afghanistan, the general says,
but he doesn’t address the question
of whether we can afford to succeed there,

Now the New York Times today presents several cautionary views.
Here are three of them, hardly a group of lefty peaceniks.

[The authors:]

Anthony Cordesman, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
Rory Slaughter, former British Foreign Service officer
Donald Rumsfeld, former secretary of defense

The Libertarian Case against the War in Afghanistan
by David R. Henderson
C2C: Canada's Journal of Ideas, 2008-11-24

Official Calls for Sensitivity to Afghan Demands
New York Times, 2008-12-08

KABUL, Afghanistan — In unusually blunt remarks, the chief of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan warned in an interview this weekend that unless Afghanistan’s international partners conducted their military operations with more care and cultural sensitivity, redoubled their work to minimize civilian casualties and accelerated their reconstruction programs, they risked jeopardizing their efforts to stabilize and rebuild the country.

Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative for Afghanistan, also came to the defense of the country’s embattled president, Hamid Karzai, saying that Mr. Karzai’s harsh public criticism of his foreign allies on both the military and development fronts had been authentic, not to mention an accurate reflection of widespread and growing frustration among Afghans.

Some foreign diplomats have dismissed Mr. Karzai’s recent remarks as a cynical effort to curry favor with Afghan voters during the prelude to national elections, Mr. Eide said.

“Listen to the concerns of the Afghan people, and listen to what President Karzai said,” Mr. Eide said. “I think he reflects a deep and growing concern within the Afghan public about the impact of what we’re doing on the ground.”


Trouble in the Other Middle East
New York Times Op-Ed, 2008-12-08

[An excerpt.]

The Muslim reaction to this Hindu nationalism
has been less anger and violence than simple psychological withdrawal:
into beards, skull caps and burkas in some cases;
self-segregating into Muslim ghettos in others.
The terrorist attacks in Mumbai had a number of aims,
one of which was to set a fuse to this tense intercommunal standoff.
The jihadists not only want to destroy Pakistan,
they want to destroy India as well.
India in their eyes is everything they hate:
Hindu, vibrantly free and democratic,
implicitly and increasingly pro-American, and militarily cozy with Israel.
For Washington, this is no simple matter of defending Pakistan against chaos by moving troops from Iraq to Afghanistan.
It is a whole region we are dealing with.
Thus for the jihadists, the concept of a 9/11-scale attack on India was brilliant.

India’s occupation/rule of Muslim-majority Kashmir
has nothing to do with Muslim hostility?
It is so clear that it is not even the primary reason for the attack?]

The Other Front
By Sarah Chayes
Washington Post, 2008-12-14

[I really don’t have time right now to bring out details in this article,
but basically it seems to be part of the genre of “elite” opinion
which is unable to see any good whatsoever to the Taliban.
My view is this:
The Taliban hosted those who planned 9/11,
and somehow for that must be punished
(some might argue the reliation American has already inflicted upon them is sufficient),
and steps must be taken to ensure that a repeat is not possible.
But beyond that, it is not our place
to tell the Afghanis what form of government is best for them.
They must work that out for themselves.
If the liberal,“progressive”, community considers it “medieval,”
that is not our concern.
It is not our job to drag societies kicking and screaming into “modernity”
against their will,
nor is it very feasible nor, in my view, moral to do so.
No one appointed the United States of America
the enforcer of “modernity”.
(Cf. the remarks of John Quincy Adams.)

I am quite sure what the Afghanis would come up with would disgust
Mavis Leno, the Feminist Majority, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama,
and a sizable number of Washington women who influence policy,
either directly or through their husbands.
But there quite simply is no feasible alternative.
We shall see if women can accept that;
I suspect most men can.]


Afghans Rally in Support of Palestinians
Many Link United States To Israeli Assault in Gaza
By Pamela Constable
Washington Post, 2009-01-06

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Like Muslims in many parts of the world,
Afghans have expressed grief and outrage
at the Israeli military incursion into Gaza,
their emotions stoked by TV coverage.
In the past week,
protests have erupted in spots as remote as Badakhshan,
in the snow-covered Hindu Kush mountains.

Afghans’ reaction to the escalating Middle East conflict, however,
is set apart by their country’s uneasy partnership with the United States,
which has sent tens of thousands of troops to secure Afghanistan
since the overthrow of the extreme Islamist Taliban regime in late 2001
and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars
to help rebuild its devastated economy and institutions.

Over the past two years,
the Afghan populace’s initially welcoming attitude toward U.S. troops
has soured,
in part because
the international coalition forces here
have failed to quell rising criminal and insurgent violence
and in part because of
civilian casualties during bombing raids
and alleged violations of Afghan traditions
by U.S. ground troops in conflict zones.

[Characteristic of practically all of the U.S. media,
this does not give credence to Scheuer’s points about Afghanistan being
“a country of truly conservative Islamic temperament.”
As to whether Scheuer is right,
I think he deserves credit for having been
far more accurate in predicting the course of events in Afghanistan
than any of the people the media touts as “experts” of whom I am aware.
Who, other than Scheuer,
back in 2002 and 2004 predicted that the Taliban would come back?
It is interesting, back in the old, pre-PC days,
people who could accurately predict the future were considered wise.
Now “wisdom” is ascribed to what is best for political correctness.]


the Israeli attack on Gaza,
widely seen here as an act of aggression enabled by the United States,
has become conflated in the minds of some Afghans
with U.S. motives and actions in Afghanistan.

Taliban propaganda and sermons by conservative clerics have contributed to
a notion of the United States as an occupying power
that seeks to subjugate the Muslim world.

[Let me tell you, it’s not just the Muslims who have that notion.
What else does all this talk from the American elite,
ranging from newspaper editorial boards and journals of opinion to Condoleezza Rice,
about their desire to “transform” (their word) the Middle East,
amount to?

It must be understood that their are different parts of “the Muslim world”,
with different values and desires,
and what the United States is doing is
favoring one part over others,
thereby all to often leading to
the subjugation of the unfavored.
What America is doing is deciding who will be subjugated and who will be on top.

Interfering with other people’s politics is a very risky business,
inviting blowback from those whose ox the U.S. has gored.]


U.S. military officials here say one of their major tasks will be
to reverse the growing public perceptions that
U.S. forces practice indiscriminate bombing in civilian areas,
do not respect Muslim traditions such as keeping women hidden from strangers,
are inexplicably losing the war against the Taliban,
and may abandon Afghanistan as they did
after the Soviet military occupation ended in 1989.

Those negative perceptions have strengthened the hand of
conservative religious and political leaders here who mistrust the United States,
and the fresh perception of
U.S. backing for Israel’s attack on Palestinian territory
has further reinforced their arguments.

“When I preach on Fridays, I tell people

we should never attack another country or another religion,
and we should expect others to do the same,”

said Abdul Rauf, the imam at another Kabul mosque,
where new posters saying “Down with Israel and its supporters”
are taped to the gate.
“The Koran says there is only one God, for all people,
and that it is forbidden to kill innocents.

The Americans shout about human rights,
but they are killing human beings.”

[Yes, this is a key point,
one that America’s decision-making elite
seems unable to come to grips with.]

Inexplicable Wealth of Afghan Elite Sows Bitterness
In One of the World's Poorest Nations, Myriad Tales of Official Corruption
By Pamela Constable
Washington Post, 2009-01-12

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Karzai has publicly acknowledged that
corruption plagues all levels of his government,
yet critics say he is either unable or unwilling to stop it.
The new Afghan constitution has numerous provisions requiring officials to
disclose their assets and
perform their duties with financial transparency and accountability,
but they are rarely heeded,
according to a recent study by the
Free and Fair Elections Foundation of Afghanistan.

The public mood of frustration, desperation and disgust
has played into the hands of Taliban insurgents,
who present themselves as an alternative source of justice
and carry out swift physical punishments of thieves or other miscreants
in rural areas under their control.
It was a similar appeal to law and order in the mid-1990s,
when Afghanistan was in the throes of civil war,
that allowed the Taliban militia to quickly achieve power with little bloodshed.

Most Afghans do not favor a return of the Taliban,
especially in cities where their extreme version of Islam
clashed with the lifestyles of the country’s educated classes.
But more and more,
people recall the five years of Taliban rule as
a time of brutal but honest government,
when officials lived modestly and citizens were safe from criminals.

“Nobody loved the Taliban, but what we see now is outrageous.
The leaders are not rebuilding Afghanistan,
they are only lining their pockets,”

said Abdul Nabi, 40, a high school teacher.
“I haven’t been paid in three months.
The other day, a colleague came to me weeping
and asked to borrow money to buy bread.
Who can we blame for this?”

he demanded.
“Where can we turn to change things?”

Calling a Time Out
By George McGovern
Washington Post Outlook, 2009-01-25

[Its beginning.]

As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion?
Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the U.S. military.
To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan
would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire.

True, the United States is the world’s greatest power --
but so was the British Empire a century ago
when it tried to pacify the warlords and tribes of Afghanistan,
only to be forced out after excruciating losses.
For that matter, the Soviet Union was also a superpower
when it poured some 100,000 troops into Afghanistan in 1979.
They limped home, broken and defeated, a decade later,
having helped pave the way for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

With belligerent Afghan warlords sitting atop each mountain glowering at one another,
the one factor that could unite them is
the invasion of their country by a foreign power,
whether British, Russian or American.

From Hospital, Afghans Rebut U.S. Account
New York Times, 2009-01-26

[An excerpt.]

MEHTARLAM, Afghanistan —
The American military declared the nighttime raid this month a success,
saying it killed 32 people, all Taliban insurgents —
the fruit of an emphasis on intelligence-driven use of Special Operations forces.

But the two young men who lay wincing in a hospital ward here
told a different story a few days later,
one backed up by the pro-American provincial governor
and a central government delegation.

They agreed that 13 civilians had been killed and 9 wounded
when American commandos broke down doors and unleashed dogs without warning on Jan. 7 in the hunt for a known insurgent in Masamut, in Laghman Province in eastern Afghanistan.
The residents were so enraged that
they threatened to march on the American military base here.

The conflicting accounts underscore
a dangerous rift that has grown between Afghans
and the United States forces trying to roll back
widening Taliban control of the countryside.

With every case of civilian casualties or mistaken killings,
the anger that Afghans feel toward the government and foreign forces deepens
and makes residents less likely to help American forces,
Afghan officials warn.
American forces are reluctant to share information about future military raids
with local officials,
fearing that it will be passed on to the Taliban.

Added to all that is a complication for American forces here:
many villagers are armed, in the absence of an effective local police force.

Into that increasingly complex environment, the Obama administration
is preparing to send as many as 30,000 more troops this year.
As the plan moves forward,
Afghan officials and some Western coalition partners are voicing concern that
the additional troops will only increase
the levels of violence and civilian casualties,
after a year in which as many as 4,000 Afghan civilians were killed.

The outrage over civilian deaths swelled again over the weekend.
Hundreds of angry villagers demonstrated here in Mehtarlam,
the capital of Laghman Province,
on Sunday after an American raid on a village in the province on Friday night.
The raid killed at least 16 villagers, including 2 women and 3 children,
according to a statement from President Hamid Karzai.

The president condemned the raid,
saying it had not been coordinated with Afghan officials,
and called for such raids to stop.


Villagers of Masamut, and local officials who visited the village afterward,
protested the tactics used in the raid to United States military officials.
The governor also complained that
the raid had been conducted without coordination with Afghan forces
or even with other American forces based in the province.

The raid undermined the government, Mr. Mashal said, and
the tactics violated Afghan customs and whipped up a religious hatred,
which was very damaging for both the government and the international forces.

“The people are angry with us,” he said.
“Unless the international community, and especially military forces,
coordinate with us,
we are not going to win this war,
because to win the war is to win the hearts and minds of the people,
and then you can beat the enemy.”

[As a former Army officer who,
although not serving in combat in Vietnam,
did receive in 1973 the full training given to the platoon leaders who did so serve
(the Infantry Officer Basic Course taught by The Infantry School at Fort Benning),
let me say that I sympathize with both sides here.
Whether in Vietnam or Afghanistan, the dynamic is the same:
the difficulty in telling friend from foe,
the blending of enemy combatants with civilians (e.g.), and
the questionable loyalty of the indigenous forces
who supposedly are on the American side (e.g.).
Once again,
American politicians have put the Army into an almost impossible situation.

I hope somebody has the guts to ask Nancy Pelosi,
who as a lifelong liberal most likely protested, or at least opposed, the Vietnam War,
if she doesn’t think Afghanistan puts the U.S. Army in exactly the same position
and if not, what are the essential differences.]

Afghan war takes a hit
Glasnost sweeps Britain as questions mount over the purpose of the mission
Toronto Sun, 2009-02-01

[Its beginning; emphasis is added.]


Britain’s security minister, Lord West, just dropped a bombshell by declaring
his nation’s military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan
had fuelled global radicalism against Britain and the U.S.

West described as “bollocks” former PM Tony Blair’s claims
the so-called “war on terror” had nothing to do with growing Islamic radicalism.
This comes soon after Britain’s foreign secretary, David Miliband,
called the term “war on terror,” deceptive and damaging.


While glasnost sweeps London, in Washington, it’s deja vu.
President Barack Obama vows to plunge the U.S. ever deeper into
the eight-year-old Afghan conflict begun by former president George W. Bush
by doubling the number of U.S. troops and aircraft there.

Obama’s unfortunate move demonstrates political inexperience.
A change of administration in Washington, and departure of the reviled Bush,
offered an ideal opportunity
for Washington to declare a pause in the Afghan war and reassess its policies.
It also offered an ideal chance
to offer negotiations to the Taliban and its growing number of supporters.


The Afghan war will have to be ended by
a political settlement
that includes the Taliban-led nationalist alliance
that represents over half of Afghanistan’s population.

There simply is no military solution to this grinding conflict
-- as even the secretary general of NATO admits.

Four Keys to Success in Afghanistan
by Fareed Zakaria
Washington Post/Newsweek, 2009-02-02

[The blurb on the Post's web site:]

Female literacy, drug eradication and liberal democracy
are not our primary goals.

Afghan Supplies, Russian Demands
New York Times, 2009-02-04

[His conclusion:]

So how can Mr. Obama reconcile the two goals of
strengthening the American presence in Afghanistan while
curbing Russian expansionism?
The answer is to
rely less on troops,
and more on covert operations like the C.I.A.

Covert operators are far more useful for the actual war that we are fighting
(and they can carry their supplies on their backs).
The primary American interest in Afghanistan, after all, is
preventing terrorist groups from using it as a base
for training and planning major attacks.
Increasing the number of conventional troops will not help with this mission.

What we need in Afghanistan is intelligence,
and special operations forces and air power
that can take advantage of that intelligence.
Fighting terrorists requires
identifying and destroying small, dispersed targets.
We would need far fewer forces for such a mission
than the number that are now deployed.
They would make us much less dependent on supply deliveries,
which would help solve our Russian problem.

Winding down the conventional war while increasing the covert one
will demand a cultural change in Washington.
The Obama administration seems to prefer the conventional route of
putting more troops on the ground.
That would be a feasible strategy if supply lines to Afghanistan were secure.
The loss of that bridge yesterday demonstrates very clearly that they are not.

George Friedman is the chief executive of Stratfor,
a global intelligence company,
and the author of “The Next 100 Years.”

Obama Seeks Narrower Focus in Afghan War
Situation Is Much Worse Than New Administration Realized
and Will Take Time to Address

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post, 2009-02-04

[This is a rather thorough assesment of the situation as Washington sees it
at the start of the Obama administration.
An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Afghan elections are scheduled for summer, but

U.S. officials see few viable alternatives
to the ineffectual president, Hamid Karzai.


The administration has already given a green light to
continuing CIA-operated attacks by unmanned Predator aircraft
against “high-value” al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in western Pakistan.
The Pakistani government has agreed to the strikes,
despite overwhelming public disapproval.
But after the first Obama-authorized Predator attack last week,
Pakistani officials said, Islamabad complained in a private diplomatic note that
U.S. intelligence was bad and that
civilians were the primary casualties.

Officials would not comment on
whether Obama has reissued a covert action “finding,”
signed by President George W. Bush last summer,
that authorized ground raids into Pakistan
by military Special Operations units working with the CIA.
There has been no known ground operation since September, however, and the advisability of such raids is a point of disagreement between Petraeus --
who considers any tactical gain on the ground to be not worth
the strategic risk of a massive popular backlash in Pakistan --
and the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Endgame? What Endgame?
Afghanistan: A war without end
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-02-06

Obama’s Afghan Trap
by Amy Goodman
Truthdig.com, 2009-02-13

Obama and the Great Game
by Patrick J. Buchanan
Antiwar.com, 2009-02-13

Going the Distance
By Seth G. Jones
Washington Post Outlook, 2009-02-15

The war in Afghanistan isn't doomed.
We just need to rethink the insurgency.

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Just last week, an ABC/BBC poll indicated that
only 4 percent of Afghans support a Taliban government.
When asked who posed the biggest danger in the country,
58 percent of respondents said the Taliban.
In addition, nearly 70 percent said that it was “good” or “mostly good”
that U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001.

[That poll and those figures have been frequently cited;
it was reported in a regular news article a few days ago.
But if you think about it for a minute,
it is virtually worthless as an indicator of true opinion.

As we all know, the U.S. is busily bombing and incarcerating
those it believes to be Taliban.
Under those circumstances,
why on earth would any sane Afghan tell this U.S. sponsored poll
that he supports the Taliban?
That is inviting all kinds of trouble.
And why should he believe the poll-taker is not going to report what he says
to the U.S.?
(An analogy:
In the U.S., publicly state that you are racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic.
Watch your career and personal life blossom.)

But the media, in particular, the Post,
and Mr. Jones, a Rand Corporation political scientist,
take this figure at face value, without pointing that out.
Perhaps ignoring points like that is part of the reason
our Afghan policy is in trouble.]

Not Even the Afghans Know How to Fix It
By Edward P. Joseph
Washington Post Outlook, 2009-02-15

Image Problem in Afghanistan
By Pamela Constable
Washington Post, 2009-02-22

Growing Public Hostility to Troops May Hurt U.S. Surge Plans

Tactical Success, Strategic Defeat
Afghan Outrage at U.S. Raid Highlights Challenges Facing New Military Push
By Pamela Constable
Washington Post, 2009-03-02

[An excerpt.]

the U.S.-led night raid in the village of Bagh-i-Soltan was a success.
U.S. military officials said the dead man and an accomplice now in custody
were bombmakers linked to recent insurgent attacks.
They said that they had tracked the men for days
and that one was holding an assault rifle when they shot him.

Strategically, however,
the incident was a disaster.
Its most incriminating version --
colored by villagers’ grief and anger,
possibly twisted by Taliban propaganda and
magnified by the growing influence of independent Afghan TV --
spread far faster than U.S. authorities could even attempt to counter.

[Above I wrote that
“Once again,
American politicians have put the Army into an almost impossible situation.”
This is an example.]

U.S. Halted Some Raids in Afghanistan
New York Times, 2009-03-10

[The import of this article is in its first paragraph:]

The commander of a secretive branch of America’s Special Operations forces
last month ordered a halt to most commando missions in Afghanistan,
reflecting a growing concern that
civilian deaths caused by American firepower
are jeopardizing broader goals there.

As U.S. Weighs Taliban Negotiations, Afghans Are Already Talking
New York Times, 2009-03-11

How to Leave Afghanistan
New York Times Op-Ed, 2009-03-11

In Recruiting an Afghan Militia, U.S. Faces a Test
New York Times, 2009-04-15

MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan —

The ambitious American plan to arm local militias in villages across the country was coming down to a single moment.

The American officers sat on one side of a long wooden table; a group of Afghan elders on the other. The pilot program was up and running, but the area’s big enclave of Pashtuns — the ethnic group most closely identified with the Taliban — had not sent any volunteers. The Pashtuns were worried about Taliban reprisals.

“We agreed to meet today and, I believe, make a decision,” Lt. Col. Kimo Gallahue told the 11 elders. “Time is running out.”

Then he laid down a challenge: “I am so proud to be in the same room with the men who defeated the Soviet Union. Please find the courage to take responsibility for your own security.”

The elders, in their turbans and beards, stared blankly at the Americans across the table.

For two hours, the meeting unfolded, laying bare the torments facing any Afghan Pashtuns who might be contemplating defying the Taliban — and the extraordinary difficulties facing American officers as they try to reverse the course of the war.

The meeting in Maidan Shahr, Wardak Province’s capital, tucked into the mountains about 30 miles southwest of Kabul, concerned one of the most unorthodox projects the Americans have undertaken here since the war began in 2001: to arm, with minimal training, groups of Afghan men to guard their own neighborhoods.


Afghan Women Protest New Law on Home Life
New York Times, 2009-04-16

So Who Were the Advisers
for McChrystal’s 60-Day Afghanistan Review?

By Spencer Ackerman
The Washington Independent, 2009-07-30

[Stephen] Biddle ... clarifies that
it wasn’t so much that they advised the review.
A group of about a dozen civilian experts, mostly from Washington think tanks,
were the review.
When Defense Secretary Bob Gates asked McChrystal to send him
an assessment of the war’s fortunes
and the resources necessary to turn it around,
the civilian experts were flown to Baghdad [???]
to conduct the “overall assessment,”
Biddle said.
Officers from the USFOR-A headed “subtopic” groups
of “particular interest to Gen. McChrystal
like civilian-casualty minimization, strategic communication and so forth.”
But the band of (mostly) Beltway think-tankers were the review.

So here’s the list of attendees:

  1. Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security
  2. Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies
  3. Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations
  4. Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute
  5. Kimberly Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War
  6. Jeremy Shapiro of Brookings
  7. Terry Kelly of the Rand Corporation
  8. Catherine Dale of the Congressional Research Service
  9. Etienne Dumont Etienne de Durand of Paris’
    Institut Francais des Relations Internationales
    My sincerest apologies to Mr. Durand, who is not a Parisian church.
    Thanks to Josh Foust for catching my error.]
  10. Whitney Kassel from the Office of the Secretary of Defense
  11. Luis Peral of the European Union’s Institute for Strategic Studies
  12. Air Force Lt. Col Aaron Prupas from U.S. Central Command

Biddle said that there were some “fireworks” between attendees,
which is to be expected from
a dozen wonks holed up in Kabul for about a month
(there was a week of “extensive travel”)
to debate weighty issues about the war.
He evaded the questions of whether the group reached consensus —
and, indeed, what conclusions people embraced.
McChrystal will sign off, or not,
on their recommendations by Aug. 15 and deliver them to Gates.
As for what Biddle assessed, I’ll write about that in the next post.

A friend of mine advises me to be more explicit about this.

Notice how very very few of these experts
are primarily Afghanistan experts.

[I particularly note the absence of Michael Scheuer.
Perhaps he knows too much about Afghanistan,
and therefore his opinion is not wanted.
On the other hand, having the name Kagan evidently doesn’t hurt.]

I’m not familiar with everyone on this list, particularly the Europeans,
but this is a group of security experts, many of them quite excellent ones.
No one here, to the best of my knowledge, primarily studies Afghanistan.
If counterinsurgency [theory] holds local knowledge as a core principle,
it’s worth asking why that perspective is underrepresented on the review.

Lunch with the FT: Rory Stewart
By Emily Stokes
Financial Times, 2009-07-31


Since arriving at Harvard in June last year [2008],
he [Rory Stewart] has been consultant to
several members of Barack Obama’s administration, including Hillary Clinton,
and is a member of Richard Holbrooke’s
special committee for Afghanistan and Pakistan policy.
“I do a lot of work with policymakers, but how much effect am I having?”
he asks.

“It’s like they’re coming in and saying to you,
‘I’m going to drive my car off a cliff.
Should I or should I not wear a seatbelt?’

And you say,
‘I don’t think you should drive your car off the cliff.’
And they say,
‘No, no, that bit’s already been decided –
the question is whether to wear a seatbelt.’

And you say,
‘Well, you might as well wear a seatbelt.’
And then they say,
‘We’ve consulted with policy expert Rory Stewart and he says ...’


In Afghanistan, a Time to Debate and Decide
By Karl W. Eikenberry
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2009-08-03

The writer is the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
He has served five years in the country in civilian and military capacities,
including as commander of international forces from 2005 to 2007.

[The next to last paragraph; emphasis is added.]

On Aug. 20, Afghan men and women will travel great distances --
in some cases, unfortunately, under threat of attack --
to make their voices heard.
In the final weeks of this election season,
the Afghan people deserve to know the platforms and implementation plans
of each candidate.
And so do we.
The stakes are high and the opportunity great for all of us.
The Afghan people and international community
must be positioned to move quickly in partnership
immediately after the inauguration of Afghanistan’s next president.
We have no time to lose as we work together
to deliver
peace, justice, economic opportunity and regional understanding.

[“Peace, justice, economic opportunity and regional understanding”
are all laudable goals,
but is it really possible for foreign forces to deliver them?
Peace can only be achieved by eliminating armed opposition.
Is that possible?
Justice is subjective, meaning different things to different cultures.
Regional understanding,
if by that is meant comity with neighboring states and ethnic groups,
would again seem to be impossible for external forces to deliver.

Is this not more utopian, pie-in-the-sky dreaming from our “elite”?]

Time to Get Out of Afghanistan
By George F. Will
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2009-08-31

"Waist Deep in the Big Muddy"
by Stephen M. Walt
ForeignPolicy.com, 2009-08-31

Obama faces unrest from the Right and Left on Afghan war escaltion
By: Julie Mason
Washington Examiner, 2009-09-01

[Here is the part I want to examine.
The topic under discussion is a possible expansion of the Afghan War by Obama.]

Scott Payne, a national security expert at Third Way,
a liberal Washington think tank,
said the administration knows it has to do a better sales job.

“The president is going to say, and I think he’s right, that
you don’t make foreign policy decisions based on polling,”
Payne said.
“That said, they are clearly cognizant of it and getting out in front of it.”

[Some comments:
First, have you noticed how many of the think tanks in Washington,
whether they are supposedly liberal or conservative,
have supported both the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan?
Why are left-wing think tanks supporting these wars?

Second, that statement
“you don’t make foreign policy decisions based on polling,”
with regard to expanding the Afghan War,
is one, in numerous variations, that we will hear many times in the future
from the opinion-leading “elite.”
But what it fails to recognize is that
what the U.S. has been conducting in both Iraq and Afghanistan
is not merely “foreign policy”
but rather hot, fiercely fought, and interminable
The Constitution specifically made fighting a war a more difficult step to take
than just any old “foreign policy” consideration.
And whether you want to make the constitutional argument or just a pragmatic one,
surely the decision to go to war should require more than
just the evident, but most unfortunate, consensus on the part of the elite

(like the ever Mideast-war-loving Graham/Weymouth family)
on the need to fight a war.]

The looming political war over Afghanistan
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2009-09-03

The Limits Of Force
Iraq and Afghanistan Aren't Ours to Win or Lose
By Chuck Hagel
Washington Post, 2009-09-03

Afghanistan for Dummies
by Ray McGovern
Antiwar.com, 2009-09-03

I’m going to ask for my money back.
I’ve seen this Afghanistan movie before.
The first time, Vietnam was in the title.


[General] McChrystal is preparing to tell President Barack Obama that
thousands of more troops are needed to achieve the U.S. objective —
whatever that happens to be.

As in Vietnam,
uncertainty about objectives and how to measure success
persist in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan Abyss
New York Times Op-Ed, 2009-09-06


Many Pashtuns I’ve interviewed
are appalled by
the Taliban’s periodic brutality and think they are too extreme;
they think they’re a little nuts.
But these Pashtuns also admire
the Taliban’s personal honesty and religious piety,

a contrast to the corruption of
so many officials around President Hamid Karzai.

Some Taliban are hard-core ideologues,
but many join the fight
because friends or elders suggest it,
because they are avenging the deaths of relatives in previous fighting,
because it’s a way to earn money, or
because they want to expel the infidels from their land —
particularly because the foreigners haven’t brought
the roads, bridges and irrigation projects that had been anticipated.


if a bunch of foreign Muslim troops in turbans
showed up in my hometown in rural Oregon,
searching our homes without bringing any obvious benefit,
then we might all take to the hills with our deer rifles as well.


McChrystal’s Conundrum
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-09-23

Let's Beat the Extremists Like We Beat the Soviets
By Andrew J. Bacevich
Washington Post Outlook, 2009-09-27

America’s long war, which began on Oct. 7, 2001, when U.S. bombs and missiles started falling on Afghanistan, has become the longest in this country’s history. The eighth anniversary of the conflict beckons, with no end in sight.

The counterinsurgency campaign proposed in Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s strategic assessment will prolong the war for an additional five or 10 years. The war’s most ardent proponents insist that President Obama has no choice: It’s either fight on or invite another 9/11.

Fortunately, there is an alternative to a global counterinsurgency campaign. Instead of fighting an endless hot war in a vain effort to eliminate the jihadist threat, the United States should wage a cold war to keep the threat at bay. Such a strategy worked before. It can work again.

At the dawn of what the Bush administration came to call the Long War,
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told U.S. military personnel:
“We have two choices.
Either we change the way we live,
or we must change the way they live.
We choose the latter.”
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the work of changing the way they live has turned out to be difficult, costly and problematic. After years of exertions, $1 trillion expended and more than 5,000 American troops lost, U.S. forces have yet to win a decisive victory. The high-tech American way of war developed during the 1990s (once celebrated in phrases such as “shock and awe” and “speed kills”) stands thoroughly discredited.


Changing the way they live --
where “they” are the people of the Islamic world --
qualifies as mission impossible.

The Long War is a losing proposition;
it will break the bank and break the force.

Devising a new course requires accurately identifying the problem, which is not “terrorism” and, despite Washington’s current obsession with the place, is certainly not Afghanistan. The essential problem is a dispute about God’s relationship to politics. The proposition that the two occupy separate spheres finds particular favor among the democracies of the liberal, developed West. The proposition that God permeates politics finds particular favor in the Islamic world.

This conviction, which is almost entirely ignored in McChrystal’s report, defines the essence of the way they live in Iraq, Afghanistan and a host of other countries throughout the Middle East.

At its root, this is an argument about what it means to be modern. Power, no matter how imaginatively or ruthlessly wielded, cannot provide a solution. The opposing positions are irreconcilable.

In confronting this conflict,
the goal of U.S. national security strategy ought to be limited but specific:
to insulate Americans from the fallout.
Rather than setting out to clear, hold and build
thousands of tiny, primitive villages scattered across the Afghan countryside,
such a strategy should emphasize three principles:
decapitate, contain and compete.
An approach based on these principles cannot guarantee perpetual peace.
But it is likely to be more effective, affordable and sustainable
than a strategy based on open-ended war.

The war we’re fighting can become
plausible, sustainable and even morally defensible.

It just has to go from hot to cold.

What's the Right Strategy for Afghanistan?
Washington Post, 2009-09-27

The Post asked foreign policy experts whether President Obama should
maintain a focus on protecting the population and rebuilding the country,
or on striking terrorists.
Below are contributions from
Jane Harman, Kurt Volker, Gilles Dorronsoro, John Nagl,
Ronald E. Neumann, Meghan O’Sullivan and Carl M. Levin.

Scott Horton Interviews Medea Benjamin
Antiwar.com, 2009-10-08

Here Scott Horton interviews
the Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin after her recent trip to Afghanistan.
Both an MP3 audio and a transcript are available from that web page.

In terms of content,
both Horton and Benjamin are staunchly anti-war,
but it is interesting to hear them hash out the options.

Code Pink’s position [which in my opinion is unobtainable] is that
they want for the fighting to stop
but for Afghan women to be empowered.
(A semi-official Code Pink statement is claimed to be here.)

As an example, Benjamin said (emphasis is added):
“part of an exit strategy has to be peace talks,
that women are at the table, and
they have to figure out how people who have
joined the Taliban out of economic desperation and
joined the Taliban out of revenge
because their loved ones have been killed by foreign forces,
how they can be brought back into their villages and live productive lives.”

“They have to figure out”!
But what if they can’t, or don’t want to?

Another excerpt (emphasis is added):

Yeah, in the case of Iraq I think it was a little bit different.
It was absolutely clear our troops should never been there beginning and
you didn’t have a Taliban like government…

Yeah, but I mean Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri escaped eight years ago.
They haven’t been in Afghanistan for eight years.

Benjamin: But you do have the Taliban in Afghanistan and you have…

Horton: Yeah, but what did the Taliban ever do?

Benjamin: Well the Taliban…

Horton: To us.

Benjamin: Huh?

Horton: What did they ever do to the United States?


Well see, if your perspective is just from the United States.
My perspective is also
from what they did to the women of Afghanistan.

But if your perspective is truly from the United States,
what people say is that if we allow the Taliban to take over Afghanistan
then that will be a safe haven for Al Qaeda.

Benjamin’s final statement:
“... what we say is
we want a responsible pulling out of U.S. troops and
we certainly are against what McChrystal is calling for.
We’re against sending in more troops,
we’re against troops being visibly present in the villages
because we think their presence is more of a threat to people there
and puts them at risk.
And we want our troops to pull out.
We just want to do it in a way
that is not going to lead to a Taliban takeover
that will put women back inside the home.”

Questions for Medea:
Precisely what way will accomplish that final objective?
And what if there is none?
Then do you have a position, or do you abstain?

I think those are reasonable questions for Ms. Benjamin,
although I could understand it if she finds no palatable answer to them.

Afghanistan: Will Obama Listen to the Women?
by Jodie Evans
CommonDreams.org, 2009-10-08

[This is an article by CodePink co-founder Jodie Evans.
It contains at its end a letter, actually a petition,
from women to Presient Obama.
Here is the letter, together with my reaction, for whatever it is worth.]

A Letter to President Obama

The delegation that went to Afghanistan
to sound out Afghan women on what they wanted from the United States
returned with an open letter to President Obama:

President Obama:

We, the women of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and the United States,
implore you to
refrain from sending more United States military forces to Afghanistan.

[I agree.
But what about the international forces already there?]

Sending more military forces will only increase the violence
and will do further harm to women and children.
Instead, the funds should be redirected to
improving the health, education and welfare of the Afghan people.

[I agree, but why only the concern for women and children?]

We encourage you to work quickly for a political solution in Afghanistan
that will lead to a reconciliation process
in which women will fully participate
and a withdrawal of foreign military forces.

[What if the conjunction of those two objectives cannot be agreed upon?
Then what?]

Civilian Goals Largely Unmet in Afghanistan
New York Times, 2009-10-12


Even as President Obama leads an intense debate over
whether to send more troops to Afghanistan,
administration officials say
the United States is falling far short of his goals to
fight the country’s endemic corruption,
create a functioning government and legal system and
train a police force currently riddled with incompetence.

Interviews with senior administration and military officials
and recent reports assessing Afghanistan’s progress
show that
nearly seven months after Mr. Obama announced a stepped-up civilian effort
to bolster his deployment of 17,000 additional American troops,
many civil institutions are deteriorating as much as the country’s security.

Afghanistan is now so dangerous, administration officials said,
that many aid workers cannot travel outside the capital, Kabul,
to advise farmers on crops,
a key part of Mr. Obama’s announcement in March
that he was deploying hundreds of additional civilians to work in the country.
The judiciary is so weak that
Afghans increasingly turn to a shadow Taliban court system
because, a senior military official said,
“a lot of the rural people see the Taliban justice as at least something.”

[Why on earth is there the slightest reason to believe that
the U.S. can achieve the goals put forth by its leaders
for achieving in Afghanistan?
Whether believing that housing price could never fall
or believing that the Afghanis will embrace
any government designed by Washington’s “experts”,
there seems to be a rather remarkable record in Washington of late
of pursuing policies destined to fail.

Compromise with the Taliban seems to be the only reasonable answer,
combined with steps to distance the U.S. from
Israel’s record of aggression against the Palestinians (cf.).]

Why are we still in Afghanistan?
By Gene Lyons
Salon.com, 2009-10-21

The country poses no threat to the U.S.,
but the war costs lives, drains the treasury and makes enemies

High Cost, Low Odds
By Stephen M. Walt
The Nation, 2009-10-21

Deciding what to do in Afghanistan requires a hard-nosed assessment of
the costs of the war,
the alleged benefits of victory
and the likelihood of success.

We know the price will be high....

And we are not close to winning....

America's odds of winning this war are slim....

pulling US troops out of Afghanistan will not make Al Qaeda stronger.
If the Taliban regain power,
they may conclude it is too risky to let Osama bin Laden return.
But even if they did,
a backward and landlocked country like Afghanistan
is a poor location from which to attack the United States,
which is why the 9/11 plot was conducted out of Hamburg, Germany.
If Al Qaeda’s founders have to hide somewhere,
better in Afghanistan than anywhere else.

And hide they will, because Afghanistan won’t be a safe haven.
Bin Laden could operate somewhat freely there before 9/11,
because the United States wasn’t going after him all-out.
Those days are long gone.
The Taliban will not be able to protect him from
US commandos, cruise missiles and armed drones.
He and his henchmen will always have to stay in hiding,
which is why even an outright Taliban victory
will not enhance their position very much.

In short,
US victory in Afghanistan won’t put an end to Al Qaeda,
and getting out won’t make it more dangerous.
And if the outcome in Afghanistan has little effect on the threat Al Qaeda poses,
there is little reason to squander more American blood and treasure there.

Obama’s decision should be easy, given that
the costs of the war are rising,
the benefits are few and
the odds of success are small.
If he explains that calculus to the American people
and says it is time to leave,
most of them will agree.

U.S. forces struggle with Washington’s perceptions and reality in Afghanistan
By Dianna Cahn
Stars and Stripes, 2009-10-23

[An excerpt.]

“The rules of engagement here have been very frustrating,”
said Capt. Tammy Lanning.
As the intelligence officer [S-2]
for the 4th Battalion, 25th Artillery Regiment
of the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade operating in Wardak,
she must fight a daily battle to keep detained bombing suspects
from being released back onto the streets.

“Guys back in Washington need to get, I think,
a better operational understanding, [of] what goes on here,” she said.
“To separate the enemy from the population to make progress
will take a really long time,
and the administration really needs to understand that.
Even more than in Iraq,
to get to the point
where they … they can build a government — which they can’t do now —
[and] get rid of corruption,
is going to take years.”

If the U.S. is not in this fight for the long haul, she added,
“you may as well not waste the effort and not kill any more soldiers.”

[Questions she avoided posing were
whether the objective she outlined is even possible,
and even more
whether it can be achieved by a government propped up by American troops.]

U.S. Policy in Afghanistan:
Basic Questions -- Strategic Choices

The Rand Center for Middle East Public Policy Symposium, 2009-10-29

Kipling Haunts Obama’s Afghan War
by Ray McGovern
Antiwar.com, 2009-10-31

Just one question to Rand:
Where was Michael Scheuer?
Does his being one of the few to accurately predict future events in Afghanistan
preclude him from being asked for his perspective now?
Or is it his (accurate) opinions about the U.S./Israeli relation that bans him?

Too Big to Fail?
by Tom Engelhardt
Antiwar.com, 2009-11-02

Tossing the COIN in Afghanistan
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-11-04

Prospect of More U.S. Troops Worries Afghan Public
New York Times, 2009-11-07

CHARIKAR, Afghanistan —

As Americans, including President Obama’s top advisers,
tensely debate whether to send more American troops to Afghanistan,
Afghans themselves are having a similar discussion and
voicing serious doubts.

In bazaars and university corridors across the country,

eight years of war have left people exhausted and impatient.
They are increasingly skeptical that the Taliban can be defeated.
Nearly everyone agrees that
the Afghan government must negotiate with the insurgents.
If more American forces do arrive, many here say,
they should come to train Afghans to take over the fight,
so the foreigners can leave.

“What have the Americans done in eight years?”
asked Abdullah Wasay, 60, a pharmacist in Charikar,
a market town about 25 miles north of Kabul,
expressing a view typical of many here.
“Americans are saying that with their planes
they can see an egg 18 kilometers away,
so why can’t they see the Taliban?”

Such sentiments were repeated in conversation after conversation
with more than 30 Afghans in Kabul and nearby rural areas
and with local officials in outlying provinces.
The comments point to
the difficulties that American and Afghan officials face
if they choose to add more foreign troops.


If the foreign forces are not seen so by Afghans already,
they are on the cusp of being regarded as occupiers,

with little to show people for their extended presence,
fueling wild conspiracies about why they remain here.

The feeling is particularly acute in the Pashtun south,
but it is spreading to other parts of the country.
More American troops could tip the balance of opinion,
particularly if they increase civilian casualties
and prompt even more Taliban attacks.


The grass-roots view among Afghans
is at odds with those of top Afghan officials,
as well as many American military commanders,
who strongly endorse a full-blown counterinsurgency strategy,
including a large troop increase.


The mood on the street is darker and more wary.
Mr. Wasay and several friends visiting his pharmacy were discussing
the Taliban’s killing of a police chief in a rural part of the province.
The rumor was that
Taliban fighters had severed his head and delivered it to his son,
according to one of Mr. Wasay’s friends.

True or not, the anecdote was part of a growing mythology of Taliban power
and a general perception that
neither the Afghan government nor American troops were protecting Afghans.

Daily life continues to be so precarious for many people interviewed,
especially those outside Kabul,
they have come to believe that
the United States must want the fighting to go on.

“In the first days of the war,
the Americans defeated the Taliban in just a few days,”
said Mohammed Shefi,
a graduate student in the pharmacy school at Kabul University.
“Now they have more than 60,000 forces and they cannot defeat them.”

Alex Thier, an analyst at the United States Institute of Peace,
who has spent years working in Afghanistan,
said the country’s mood was shifting.
“What’s changed fairly recently was
the confidence of the population as to whether we can actually achieve the job,
even with more resources,” he said.


[I believe the same problem occurred in Vietnam,
even with 500,000 American troops.]

Afghanistan’s Sham Army
By Chris Hedges
Truthdig.com, 2009-11-09

[An excerpt:]

American military advisers who work with the Afghan National Army, or ANA,
speak of
poorly trained and unmotivated Afghan soldiers
who have little stomach for military discipline and even less for fighting.

They describe many ANA units as being filled with
brigands who terrorize local populations,
exacting payments and engaging in intimidation, rape and theft.
They contend that the ANA is riddled with Taliban sympathizers.
And when there are
combined American and Afghan operations against the Taliban insurgents,
ANA soldiers are fickle and unreliable combatants, the U.S. advisers say.

American military commanders in Afghanistan,
rather than pump out statistics about enemy body counts,
measure progress by the swelling size of the ANA.
The bigger the ANA, the better we are supposedly doing.
The pressure on trainers to increase the numbers of the ANA
means that
training and vetting of incoming Afghan recruits
is nearly nonexistent.

[These are anonymous sources,
with all the unreliability that implies.
Also, I personally have no personal contact whatsoever with
either Afghanistan or the current U.S. Army.
Nonetheless, based on my general understanding of the situation,
based on reading and some familiarity with the conservative male mind,
what Hedges just described is exactly what I would expect to be the case,
and in fact have predicted at various points in this blog.

As to the “vetting” of Afghan recruits, there are at least two problems with that.
At one level, I think it is wildly improbable that we have sufficient, accurate sources within the Afghan society to be able to accurately do such vetting.
But at a more basic level,
I would predict that the rosy pictures American media often paints about how
the typical Afghan loves American intervention and hates the Taliban
(e.g. see paragraphs -5 and -4 here)
are in fact showing attitudes very untypical of
those Afghans who are willing and able to actually fight.
I am sure that, when a poll is taken, say, of the female Afghan medical doctors,
you will get overwhelmingly PC attitudes.
But again, those are atypical of the people willing and able to take up arms.

Now for the conclusion of Hedges's article:]

The problem in Afghanistan is not ultimately a military problem.
It is a political and social problem.
The real threat to stability in Afghanistan is not the Taliban,
but widespread hunger and food shortages, crippling poverty, rape, corruption
and a staggering rate of unemployment
that mounts as foreign companies
take jobs away from the local workers and businesses.
The corruption and abuse by the Karzai government and the ANA,
along with the presence of foreign contractors,
are the central impediments to peace.
The more we empower these forces, the worse the war will become.
The plan to escalate the number of American soldiers and Marines,
and to swell the ranks of the Afghan National Army,
will not or defeat or pacify the Taliban.

“What good are a quarter-million well-trained Afghan troops
to a nation slipping into famine?”
[a U.S. Army first lieutenant who was deployed last year
and who asked not to be identified by name] asked.
“What purpose does a strong military serve
with a corrupt and inept government in place?
What hope do we have for peace if the best jobs for the Afghans involve
working for the military?
What is the point of getting rid of the Taliban
if it means killing civilians with airstrikes
and supporting a government of misogynist warlords and criminals?

“We as Americans do not help the Afghans
by sending in more troops, by increasing military spending,
by adding chaos to disorder,”
he said.
“What little help we do provide is only useful in the short term
and is clearly unsustainable in the face of our own economic crisis.
In the end, no one benefits from this war, not America, not Afghans.
Only the CEOs and executive officers of war-profiteering corporations
find satisfactory returns on their investments.”

[You know, I was once an Army first lieutenant myself
(MI, in the old USASA in the 1970s, if it matters).
Let my suggest to this 1LT that,
while he surely possesses unique knowledge about
the situation on the ground in Afghanistan
(or in theater, as we used to say),
that his opinion on who in America is benefiting from this war
ignores some political realities,
and the key centers of American media and political power.

As I have said many times in the past,
and as is backed up by voluminous documentation,
many Jews are rabidly (that word seems appropriate here)
eager to keep America at war with conservative Muslims
for as far as the eye can see in the future.
If he wants documentation or examples for that,
see the primarily Jewish discussion
of what Norman Podhoretz dubbed “World War IV”.

Perhaps even more important (surely broader based)
to keeping the West versus Taliban war in Afghanistan going
is the loathing American feminists, and their many stooges in positions of influence,
have for what the 1LT called the Taliban’s misogyny.

Of course, Chris Hedges is a classic lefty, describing himself as a socialist,
so he may be transforming the Army officer's views somewhat
to conform to his [Hedges's] left-wing, corporate-centric view.]

Fighting talk
by Richard North
defenseoftherealm.blogspot.com, 2009-11-10

[This is cited in the Telegraph article “Why we will lose in Afghanistan”.

This is a really great summary of some history
extraordinarily significant to decisions that must be made about Afghanistan.
I can’t resist observing how this information has, to the best of my knowledge,
not exactly been emphasized by the Washington Post,
nor by those providing “analysis” as to
the likelihood of success of the various alternatives.
I further can’t resist observing that, in my personal experience,
the local “elite” is far more interested in political correctness
than in anything resembling quality of thought
(hello, Lola: “You! Do research!!
There are lots of women looking for jobs in reserch.”).
By the way, it has been hinted to me that
the local “elite” may make a “consider the source” argument against me.
If so, that would support my point exactly.
Political correctness trumps ability in determining your station in life.]

As the Afghan conflict continues to exert its bloody effect,
we have been exploring further the prospects of success
of what is fashionably called a "counterinsurgency" campaign,
in which the target is the people,
the aim being to protect the people from the insurgents
and to convince them to support the government.

Although we have already looked at
some of the historical background to the conflict,
it seems that

its roots stem
not from recent history
but from events spanning the last 300 years.

From those events, one learns, the main antagonists – the Pashtuns -
are not insurgents in the classic sense.
They are a separatist movement,
seeking to restore the boundaries of their ancient territory,
the modern name for which is Pashtunistan,
encompassing areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Our problem is that we have not fully understood that, traditionally,
the very term Afghan is used to describe the Pashtun,
who have a recognisable identity going back as far as 330 BC, if not before.
The polyglot ethnic mix which encompasses the modern Afghanistan
is a geographical construct rather than a nation.

Within that, though,
is another separate and hugely important (and largely unrecognised) dynamic –
the rivalry between the Pashtuns themselves,
centred around the two main tribal groups, the Durranis and the Ghilzai.

The modern history of Afghanistan is largely an account of
the battle for power between two great dynasties,

with the story effectively starting in 1709 and continuing to the present day.

For some time before 1709, most of what is now known as Afghanistan
was occupied by the Persians and it was the chief of the Ghilzai Pashtuns -
a man by the name of Mirwais Khan Hotak
with his followers, who rose against them in Kandahar City in 1709,
to establish the Hotaki dynasty.
This successful uprising established the basis of the modern Afghanistan
and, briefly, controlled part of Persia itself.

The Hotaki Ghilzai dynasty, however, was replaced by Ahmad Shah Durrani,
who founded a rival regime, the Durrani dynasty.
This established a tension between the two groups which exists to this day.

What then followed is equally significant.
At the time, the capital of a Pashtun-dominated Afghanistan was Kandahar.
After the death of Ahmad Shah in 1773,
he was succeeded by his son Timur Shar, a weak and inept ruler.
Unable to govern effectively,
and opposed by the fractious Ghilzai Pashtuns,
in 1775, he moved his seat of government north to Kabul
in an attempt
to enlist the support of the Tajiks and other northern ethnic groups,
better to control his own people.

This then sets the scene for another dynamic which resonates to this day.
The traditional capital of Afghanistan is Kandahar, not Kabul.
To the Ghilzai, in particular,
rule from Kabul is forever associated with a Durrani ruler,
using "foreigners" to impose his will.

And, in what is almost a repeat of history, we have
Hamid Khazai, a Durrani president, ensconced in Kabul,
supported by an Afghan Army composed mainly of Tajiks.

To complete the historical parallel,
the fighters in the Taleban "insurgency" are primarily Ghilzai tribesmen -
led by Mullah Omah, a Hotaki Ghilzai.

Then, as now, Ahmad Shah failed to impose his will over the whole of Afghanistan
and, by 1818, his successors controlled little more than
Kabul and the surrounding territory within a 100-mile radius.
By 1836,
the Kandahar region and the Ghilzai heartlands were virtually autonomous.

What then appeared to change the course of history,
apparently setting Afghanistan on course to becoming a modern state,
was the emergence of another strong man.
This was Dost Mohammad Khan, yet another Durrani Pashtun
who, after the deposition of the then current ruler, Mahmud Shah Durrani -
who had taken the throne in 1809 –
had been “awarded” first Ghazni and then Kabul in 1826.
He went on to defeat his rival in a battle under the walls of Kandahar in 1834, making him the effective ruler of Afghanistan.

By then, the British had appeared on the scene,
with their own colonial ambitions,
anxious to thwart Russian ambitions and protect the borders of the English Raj.
Initial overtures to Dost Mohammad soured,
and when he moved to entertain a relationship with Russia,
this triggered the First Anglo-Afghan War.

In 1838, British forces occupied Kabul
to depose Dost Mohammad and make him prisoner.
However, while the retreat from Kabul
and the destruction of the expedition in 1842
is part of the current mythology,
on which the legend is built
that no Western army can ever subdue Afghanistan,
this was by no means the end of the war.

Later in 1842, the British actually launched a punitive expedition.
Entering Afghanistan by the Khyber pass,
an “army of retribution” under General Pollock marched on Kabul,
joined there by 6,000 men from Kandahar
destroying the famous covered bazaar of Kabul on 9 October.
Three days later, the English withdrew from Afghanistan.

It was that which actually put an end to the war,
leaving the UK victorious and the dominant power in the region
but one temporarily resolved
not to interfere in the internal politics of Afghanistan.

Dost Moḥammad was released and received in triumph at Kabul.
He re-established his authority but,
in 1846 he renewed his policy of hostility to the British
and assumed an expansionist policy encroaching on British Indian territory.
Three years later, though, after a series of defeats,
he abandoned this policy, returning to Afghanistan
where he devoted his energies
to extending his control over the whole of this land.

To do so, in 1855, through the Treaty of Peshawar,
he concluded an alliance with the British government,
each proclaimed respect for each side’s territorial integrity,
and pledged both sides as friends of each other’s friends
and enemies of each other’s enemies.
By 1862, with the aid of the British – including generous subsidies -
Dost Moḥammad had defeated a Persian army and had taken Kandahar,
dying a year later shortly after capturing Herat.
However, unity there was not.
The Ghilzai refused to accept Durrani rule
and control over the central mountain regions
and the east was at best intermittent.

In historical context, this sets up another “folk” memory.
Then, as now, we see the British, as a colonial power,
supporting a Kabul-based Durrani ruler,
attempting to exert control over unwilling Ghazi tribesmen.

This, of course, is by no means the end of the story –
which has many more twists and turns, which we will explore in a later post.
But, when we view the course of the current conflict,
the historical parallels are absolute.
Dealing with primitive and largely illiterate tribesmen,
isolated from the rest of the world,
their oral history is as fresh with each new telling as it ever was.

Whatever our grand aspirations, our intentions
and our broader strategic objectives,
the Ghilzai Pashtuns are reliving their own history.
It should thus come as no surprise that

when earnest young coalition officers solemnly tell tribal elders
that they are from “the government” – i.e., Kabul – representing
a Durrani president supported by Tajik soldiers,
the “hearts and minds” message rather gets lost in translation.

It was Reagan, though, who is remembered for his famous quote:
“The most terrifying words in the English language are:
I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
But the Ghilzai were there before him.
And, to them,
“I’m from the government and I’m here to help” is not “terrifying”.
It’s fighting talk.

The Fifty-Year War
By Jonathan Schell
The Nation, 2009-11-11


This is just a brief note.
We are hearing a lot right now about
how Obama is listening to arguments
between the Pentagon and his White House staff
as to what the U.S. strategy should be towards Afghanistan.
But what seems to be missing from the debate is
an assessment from the CIA as to
how successful any of the proposed options are likely to be.

Is there a NIE on Afghanistan and
its likely response to the possible U.S. strategies?
If not, why not?

In 3 Tacks for Afghan War, a Game of Trade-Offs
New York Times, 2009-11-23

[A] primer,
culled from the diverse views of administration officials and military analysts,
on the military utility of some of the force options before the president
to bolster the 68,000 American troops already in Afghanistan.

[The only point I want to make about this examination of alternatives
concerns who the outside “experts” were
that Bumiller selected to comment on those alternatives.
They were Kimberly Kagan and Michael O’Hanlon.
Both are outspoken advocates of America’s wars,
with no track record of pointing out
the downsides of the war-mongering that they favor.
Neither is by any stretch of the imagination
an expert on the indigenous situation in Afghanistan.

There is nothing wrong with their point of view being represented,
but surely the other side should be there as well.
In particular, let me point out yet again the refusal of out “elite” media
to invite the views of Michael Scheuer on American strategy in Afghanistan,
and the likely outcomes of the alternatives discussed,
despite the fact that in 2002 and 2004 he published books
which were strikingly accurate
in their predictions of future events in Afghanistan.
(Note, e.g., googling Scheuer at nytimes.com and using their search engine.)

To America’s media/political “elite”, clearly,
being accurate in your predictions is of less importance
than supporting the outcome they desire.
Why confuse Americans with the views of
someone who has been accurate in the past?]

We can't buy peace in Afghanistan
by Seumas Milne
Guardian (UK), 2009-11-23

The classic colonial practice of doling out cash to insurgents
is even less likely to be effective in Afghanistan
than it was in Iraq

[For Michael Scheuer’s 2004 take on this,
see his “Pillar III: Afghans Cannot Be Bought”.]

The Kagan/McChrystal Strategy
by Patrick Lang
Sic Semper Tyrannis, 2009-11-27

[An excerpt.]

CORDS [cf. Phoenix Program],
the COIN operation in Vietnam
had 10,000 people involved in doing
exactly what the Kagans suggest will be necessary.

[I wonder how much the people so many Washingtonians rely on for their advice,
the Washington Post editorial board,
know or care about such things (the explicit comparisons to Vietnam).
What do Hiatt, Diehl, Marcus, Armao know about that? — Cf.]

How many people do we have in Afghanistan today
doing this sort of advisory work in all the aspects of Afghan governnance?
How many will we recruit, train, pay, sustain, replace?
In the CORDS effort the families of the advisers
were moved to nearby third countries like the Phillippines or Thailand
in order to be able to commit the advisers “in country” for several years.
Are we going to do that?

The third sentence says that
we must be prepared to use whatever means necessary
to “compel” Afghan government to be
what the Kagans believe would suffice to insure “legitimacy.”
What will we do if they fail to obey us?


There are a lot of village and towns in Afghanistan,
even if one only considers Pushtun villages.
The active army is stretched pretty thin.
The suicide and attempted suicide rate is becoming a serious matter.
People with families can not be pushed emotionally beyond
a certain level of alienation from home and hearth.
Perhaps it was not such a good idea to build the force around
middle class married soldiers.

Tajik Grip on Afghan Army Signals New Ethnic War
by Gareth Porter
Antiwar.com, 2009-11-29

Contrary to the official portrayal of the Afghan National Army (ANA)
as ethnically balanced,
the latest data from U.S. sources reveal that
the Tajik minority now accounts for far more of its troops
than the Pashtuns, the country’s largest ethnic group.

The massive shift in the ethnic composition of ANA troops in recent years
is leading to another civil war
between the Pashtuns and a Tajik-led anti-Pashtun ethnic coalition
similar to the one that followed the fall of the Soviet-supported regime in 1992,
according to some observers.

Tajik domination of the ANA feeds Pashtun resentment
over the control of the country’s security institutions by their ethnic rivals,
Tajiks increasingly regard the Pashtun population
as aligned with the Taliban.

The leadership of the army has been primarily Tajik
since the ANA was organized in 2002,
and Tajiks have been over-represented in the officer corps from the beginning.

[Chris Mason, a member of the Afghanistan Inter-agency Operations Group
from 2003 to 2005]
views the process by which
the ANA is coming to be seen as an increasingly Tajik institution
as making

a civil war between the Pashtuns
and the Tajiks and other ethnic minorities
virtually inevitable.

“I believe the elements of a civil war are in play,” Mason told IPS.

Mason said
the refusal of Pashtuns in the south and east to join the ANA
is part of a “self-reinforcing spiral.”
The more Dari, the language spoken by Tajiks,
becomes the de facto language of the ANA, said Mason,
the more Pashtuns will see it as an alien institution.


[Matthew Hoh, the senior U.S. civilian in Zabul
until he submitted his resignation in September in protest against the war]
a civil war between the Pashtuns
and a Tajik-led alliance of ethnic groups
has already begun

but could get much worse.
“It is already bad now,” he said, but unless U.S. policy changes,
“we could see a return of the civil war of the 1990s.”

A troop surge can only magnify the crime against Afghanistan
by Malalai Joya [a female Afghan politician]
Guardian (UK), 2009-11-30

If Barack Obama heralds an escalation of the war,
he will betray his own message of hope and deepen my people's pain

Obama's exceedingly familiar justifications for escalation
By Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2009-12-01

2009-12-01: Obama’s Escalation Speech

The New Way Forward - The President's Address
speech by President Barack Obama
www.whitehouse.gov, 2009-12-01
[The transcript alone.]

[The speech itself; the items below are commentary and reaction.]

The Afghanistan Parenthesis
by David Bromwich
Huffington Post, 2009-12-02

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Omitted is the fact that
Afghanistan is not our country.
Admittedly, this is a truth that comes hard to Americans.
“The very idea of the fabrication of a new government,” wrote Edmund Burke,
“is enough to fill us with disgust and horror.”
But David Brooks disagrees: “aside from killing bad guys,”
he wrote in the spring,
American troops are
“also trying to figure out how to reweave Afghan society.”
By what right do we engage in
the reweaving and refabrication
of a society that has thrown out conquerors for thousands of years?

[The Washington Post asserts it’s a moral issue.]
The effect of the self-conceit can only be
to unite the society in hostility against us.
For America to look on the native resistance to an occupying army
as proof of terrorism
will surely increase the obduracy of the resistance itself,
and serve to recruit more terrorists.

Obama’s Exit Strategy
by Patrick J. Buchanan
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-02

Fool Me Twice
by Philip Giraldi
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-02

The commendably missing element from Obama's speech
By Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2009-12-02


Obama did not even mention -- let alone hype --
the issue of women's rights in Afghanistan....

[Just because Obama didn’t mention women’s rights in his speech
doesn’t mean that his decision
wasn’t heavily influenced by the demands of feminists.
all Presidential decisions are at least influenced, if not categorically determined, by
the desire to keep the Washington Post reasonably happy.
It is clear that, if the Post is really pissed at someone important,
it can find ways to harm that person’s political career. (E.g. Bush-41, John Murtha)
The Post’s editorial page has made clear that
feminizing Afghanistan is a priority to it.
For that reason (along with perhaps some others) one may be sure that
the Post would oppose any president who lets them down in that regard.]

The generals won - everything
by Patrick Lang
Sic Semper Tyrannis, 2009-12-02

McChrystal gave a briefing in the aftermath of the night’s entertainment
in which he said that
the program was going to be all COIN all the way
and that
the job would take four or five years at least.


The situation continues to be dominated by
the phony “world war” atmosphere that has been generated
on the basis of the “existential threat”
posed by the onrushing juggernaut
of the world wide threat of the re-establishment of a CALIPHATE!!!
(That was irony.)
In fact, the actual annoying threat of the takfiri jihadis
should be dealt with on the basis of
police, intelligence and and SOF efforts.


This has become a self-licking ice cream cone.
War without end, amen.

Obama’s War Speech: An Unconvincing Flop
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-02

Instant analysis of Obama's speech
by Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2009-12-02

Obama’s War: The Reaction
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-04

The neocons and the war liberals are on board

Afghanistan: No More the Good War
By John J. Mearsheimer
Newsweek, 2009-12-05

[The end of Mearsheimer’s opinion piece:]

[N]o policy can stave off defeat in Afghanistan.
Even with more troops and better tactics,
the U.S. military cannot decisively defeat the Taliban,

it is a shadowy guerrilla force
that can always melt away and come back to fight another day.
The local population will not side with Karzai or the United States much longer, because they know Karzai is a loser and NATO—unlike the Taliban—
will eventually leave.

Even if the U.S. military does pacify Afghanistan, moreover,
Al Qaeda will still have its sanctuary next door in Pakistan.
And Washington will face the same problem it did before 9/11;
after all,
those attacks could just as easily have been planned from Pakistan.

The only viable strategy for Afghanistan is thus
the one President Obama will not seriously contemplate:
acknowledge defeat and pull out completely.

Yet that’s precisely what Washington should do,
while making it clear that

it will leave the Taliban alone if it keeps Al Qaeda out.
If the Taliban refuses,
Predator drones should be sufficient to keep the jihadis at bay—
or take them out.

The real key to preventing another 9/11, however,
is for the United States to work closely with other governments
to monitor Al Qaeda and round up terrorists before they strike.
[I think also it will be necessary to abandon our total support for all actions by Israel.]
Timely intelligence and sound police work
are the main reasons that
there has not been another attack on the U.S. homeland.

[A point all those Dem scuzoids with all their
cheap shots against and second-guessing of the CIA
clearly fail to recognize.]

The war in Afghanistan has done little to make Americans safer at home,
and prolonging it won’t either.
It’s been a bad war from the start and will be to the bitter end.

[By the way, note yet again that
the accuracy of
Michael Scheuer’s 2002, 2004 and 2008 predictions about the Afghan situation
is only exceeded by
the extent to which the Washington Post op-ed page
refused and refuses to invite him to contribute his views.]

George F. Kennan on the Escalation in Afghanistan
quoted by David Bromwich
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-09

The Afghan ‘Experiment’
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2009-12-11

When all else fails, mobilize the social scientists!

[Also discussion of Obama’s Nobel Peace [!] Prize speech.]

More grounds for doubt about Afghanistan
by Stephen M. Walt
walt.foreignpolicy.com, 2009-12-16

[The following is an item from Philip Giraldi’s “DeepBackground” column
for the February 2010 The American Conserative.
According to the print version of that issue,
it went to press on 2009-12-17,
therefore I used that date in the header line;
however the first time I saw the issue, and the item, was on 2010-01-15.
The boldfacing of the lead is from the original; all other emphasis is added.]

Intelligence reports did not play any role
in President Obama’s decision
to increase dramatically levels of troops in Afghanistan

they did not support the premise that
30,000 more soldiers would make any difference.

Both CIA and State Department intelligence said that
the Taliban had exploited domestic issues
to increase its presence in Afghanistan,
expanding from half of the country’s provinces to over 80 percent,
including areas dominated by ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks
previously considered secure.
Several detailed reports
about top-level corruption involving senior members of the government,
as well as Karzai family members,
were dismissed by the White House as “unhelpful.”
According to analysts who observed the deliberative process,
the decision to surge was actually made several months ago,
though there was considerable debate over
exactly how to use the new soldiers and
how to package the move for the American public to minimize political fallout.
The timing of the announcement was initially delayed
to permit Afghanistan to have a successful presidential election
and then delayed again
so as not to interfere with passage of a healthcare plan.

Obama, tell me how this ends: Is Afghanistan just a new war of attrition?
By Andrew J. Bacevich
New York Daily News, 2009-12-23


How pacifying Afghanistan
will bring us closer to the figurative Berlin or Tokyo
that defines our ultimate objective is unclear.
True, the 9/11 plot was hatched in Afghanistan,
and we want to prevent any recurrence of that event.
It’s also true that Dallas
was the site of our last presidential assassination.
Yet no one thinks that
posting Secret Service agents in the Texas School Book Depository
holds the key to keeping our current President safe.

Then there is the Af-Pak argument -
that U.S. military action in Afghanistan is necessary to
ensuring the stability of nuclear-armed Pakistan.
Selling Pakistanis on the logic of this argument poses a challenge, however,
given that
the eight-year Western military presence in Afghanistan corresponds to
an eight-year period during which
Pakistan has edged steadily closer to internal collapse.

[The classic argument here is: Which is cause and which is effect?
My opinion: Most of the anti-US actions in the Muslim world
are indeed driven by US actions, not intrinsic hatred of the US. E.g.]


Twenty-first century American military officers
speak the language of 20th century social reformers,
sounding less like George Patton
and more like Jane Addams.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan,
has declared his intention to remedy
“the weakness of \[Afghan political\] institutions,
the unpunished abuse of power by corrupt officials and powerbrokers,
a widespread sense of political disenfranchisement and
a longstanding lack of economic opportunity.”

Undertaken in Louisiana or Illinois, this would qualify as an ambitious agenda.
In Afghanistan, it qualifies as a tall order indeed.

[Bacevich is being euphemistic here.
It would be more accurate to call it “impossible.”]

But assume the best: If McChrystal replicates in Afghanistan
the success that Petraeus achieved in Iraq -
ignore, please, the government ministries imploding in Baghdad -
where does that leave us?

To sustain public support, a protracted war needs a persuasive narrative.
[How about a realistic, achievable, and widely-supported mission?]
Americans after Dec. 7, 1941, didn’t know when their war would end.
But they took comfort in knowing where and how it was going to end:
with enemy armies destroyed and enemy capitals occupied.

[Those are specific, physically measurable and determinable criteria,
capable of being satisfied by the means historically avoailable to military forces
(namely, blowing up or otherwise destroying
anything which stands in the way of achieving that objective).

I am astounded that Army General McChrystal, along with much of the opining elite,
speaks willingly about goals in Afghanistan
which are clearly beyond the power of the U.S. Army,
or any (non-Muslim) occupying army,
to achieve by the means available to it.]

Americans today haven’t a clue when, where or how their war will end.
The Long War, as the Pentagon aptly calls it, has no coherent narrative.
When it comes to defining victory,
U.S. political and military leaders are flying blind.

the default strategy for wars that lack a plausible victory narrative
is attrition.

When you don’t know how to win, you try to outlast your opponent,
hoping he’ll run out of troops, money and will before you do.
Think World War I, but also Vietnam.

The revival of counterinsurgency doctrine,
celebrated as evidence of enlightened military practice,
commits America to a postmodern version of attrition.
Rather than wearing the enemy down, we’ll build contested countries up,
while expending hundreds of billions of dollars (borrowed from abroad)
and hundreds of soldiers’ lives (sent from home).

How does this end? The verdict is already written:
The Long War ends not in victory but in exhaustion and insolvency,
when the United States runs out of troops and out of money.

Civilian, military planners have different views on new approach to Afghanistan
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post, 2009-12-26

[Colonel Patrick Lang offers the following comments on this article.]

It appears that the Afghan policy war is not over.
Chandrasekaran is a good reporter but not good enough to get this unaided.
Sooo, someone(s) at the NSC briefed him so that
the message would be delivered to the “other team”
that their behavior is being watched closely and
that the NSC team is prepared to use the public media as a weapon if need be.

The reporter then went to the Defense Department
where he was told their side of the story.
Secretary Gates appears to have become the leader of the pentagon faction.

Petraeus is interestingly absent from this nearly open struggle.
He will wait to see what the outcome may be.

A major confrontation over policy and presidential authority is coming.
The policy review scheduled for July 2010 may well precipitate it.


Elite U.S. Force Expanding Hunt in Afghanistan
New York Times, 2009-12-27

China Willing to Spend Big on Afghan Commerce
New York Times, 2009-12-30

[This is discussed at length by Stephen Walt in
Making the world safe for (Chinese) investment.”
Walt writes:]

While we’ve been running around playing whack-a-mole with the Taliban
and “investing” billions each year in the corrupt Karzai government,”
China has been investing in things that might actually be of some value,
like a big copper mine.

As the article suggest,
it’s not like U.S. troops are “guarding” China’s investments.
Rather, there’s a tacit division of labor going on, where
“American troops have helped make Afghanistan safe for Chinese investment.”

[I guess I’m not sophisticated enough to see a big difference between those.]

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