A good plan for Afghanistan…

Tawhid And more importantly, for the United States.

I have been holding my breath to to see what the White House and CENTCOM strategy reviews would produce with regard to Afghanistan in particular.  In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I was consulted in a very small way on one of these.  It was agreed at the time that I would not mention this until policy was announced.

There have been two basic possibilities for US policy in Afghanistan:

– One choice might have been to commit to a full blown, multi-decade nation building COIN war that would have "sucked up" trillions of dollars in money that we could ill afford to leave littering the heights of Central Asia.  All the "old Afghanistan hands" whom I know insist that the country known as Afghanistan does have a seat in the UN and an embassy in Washington but that those two "data points" mark the closest approach to "nationhood" in the political science sense of the word that can be detected.  The creation of "Afghanistan, the Country" would have been dear to neocon hearts (and the idea still is).  That goal would have involved de-racination of Afghanistan to such a degree that it would become a very Westernized country.  The costs would be enormous.  The assumption in this (peddled by the neocons) is that a drained swamp does not breed alligators.  The "swamp" in this case is the matrix of traditional lifeways.  Those lifeways are despised and feared by the neocons.  Why?  Work it out.

– The other possibility in policy was that the US would spend a reasonable, but not excessive amount of money helping the Afghans in the development of physical and governmental infrastructure, would assist in enlarging Afghan security forces and improving their training in an effort scheduled to end in 2011 and most importantly would concentrate on energized and mobilizing native Afghan and Pakistani forces against their enemies and ours, the takfiri jihadis centered on the Al-Qa'ida group.  The idea being to disrupt and disorganize our real enemies enough to keep them off balance and unable to plan significant attacks against the West and most importantly the United States.  This intelligence and special operations task is small scale compared to neocon dreams and it is likely to be with us for a long time.

This latter option appears to be the one selected and if that is true, I support it.  This is a rational plan, proportionate to the problem rather than some silly idea centered on the "end of civilization."  pl

BTW.  The cognoscenti point out to me a serious US problem in Pakistan/Afghanistan.  That is a badly divided command structure.  Something should be done about that.

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51 Responses to A good plan for Afghanistan…

  1. b says:

    a reasonable, but not excessive amount of money helping the Afghans
    According to WaPo, $3.2 billion per month or $53,300 per U,S. soldier there – double the cost per boot on the ground than in Iraq.
    “Got some change …”
    That will help the Afghans. Sure – it will help them fight invaders like they always did.
    There soon will be war fatigue in the U.S. again.
    The U.S. strategic purpose behind this is to fight a Chinese proxy, Pakistan. That was the purpose of the war on Vietnam too.
    The result will not be much different in my estimate.

  2. So I guess just playing the tribes or religions off against each other would not be kosher or effective! We still want all to win in a geographic space where probably no one can “Win.” Is this just really a buying time strategy? Hoping for the best (of what?)?

  3. batondor says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful and timely synthesis. I’m not quite as comfortable with this first cut at a new strategy for Afghanistan because it’s unclear whether it’s COIN in CT clothing or the reverse…
    … but then again, there was no easy option (other than something more radical than anything imaginable) and I have considerable confidence in your judgement on this matter.
    On the other hand, I don’t understand your last point: is the divided command structure a characteristic of the Western forces or is it a reflection of the divisions between Afghani and Pakistani commands?

  4. Andy says:

    Maybe I’m missing something, but so far the plan doesn’t look like a significant departure what’s been in play for the last year or two. The basic policy objective remains essentially the same according to the white paper released on the new strategy (pdf file):

    Therefore, the core goal of the U.S. must be to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its
    safe havens in Pakistan, and to prevent their return to Pakistan or Afghanistan.

    Here are the objectives to support the policy:

    • Disrupting terrorist networks in Afghanistan and especially Pakistan to degrade any ability they have to plan and launch international terrorist attacks.
    • Promoting a more capable, accountable, and effective government in Afghanistan that serves the Afghan people and can eventually function, especially regarding internal security, with limited international support.
    • Developing increasingly self-reliant Afghan security forces that can lead the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism fight with reduced U.S. assistance.
    • Assisting efforts to enhance civilian control and stable constitutional government in Pakistan and a vibrant economy that provides opportunity for the people of Pakistan.
    • Involving the international community to actively assist in addressing these objectives for Afghanistan and Pakistan, with an important leadership role for the UN.

    It seems to me they’ve reduced the emphasis on democracy promotion and increased emphasis on Pakistan, but the game plan remains largely the same. If this is a large departure, what am I missing?

  5. Mad Dogs says:

    My initial reaction has been that the Obama Administration, and specifically President Obama himself, punted.
    As in: “I’m real busy and have my hands full trying to deal with the cratering US and World economy, so you US foreign policy and military folks can have some leash (17,000 more troops for COIN, another 4,300 for Afghan Army training and some more shekels for Pakistan). Let me know in a couple of years how things work out…unless I’m still too busy trying to deal with the cratering US and World economy.”
    The basic premise reminds me of a young girl who is “only a little bit pregnant…no big deal” and doesn’t have the basic foresight to see things 9 months down the road.
    It also reminds me of these prescient words written almost 40 years ago (writing about the era circa early 1963 or thereabouts) in regards to another administration’s naivete:
    From pages 178-179:

    …Thus one of the lessons civilians who thought they could run small wars with great control was that to harness the military, you had to harness them completely; that once in, even partially, everything began to work in their favor. Once activated, even in a small way at first, they would soon dominate the play. Their particular power on the Hill and with hawkish journalists, their stronger hold on patriotic-machismo arguments (in decision making they proposed the manhood positions, their opponents the softer, or sissy, positions), their particular certitude, made them far more powerful players than the men raising doubts. The illusion would always be of civilian control; the reality would be of a relentlessly growing military domination of policy, intelligence, aims, objectives and means, with the civilians, the very ones who thought they could control the military (and who were often in private quite contemptuous of the military mind), conceding step by step, without even knowing they were losing…

    From page 209:

    …What the President was learning, and learning to his displeasure (once again, the Bay of Pigs had been lesson one), was something that his successor Lyndon Johnson would also find out the hard way: that the capacity to control policy involving the military is greatest before the policy is initiated, but once started, no matter how small the initial step, a policy has a life and a thrust of its own, it is an organic thing. More, its thrust and its drive may not be in any way akin to the desires of the President who initiated it. There is always the drive for more, more force, more tactics, wider latitudes of force…

    From page 212:

    …In government it is always easier to go forward with a program that does not work than to stop it altogether and admit failure…

    These were words written about 40 years ago by David Halberstam in his book “The Best and The Brightest”.

  6. Patrick Lang says:

    You have to learn to read between the lines. Most of that verbiage is just that. The essential part of the president’s statement had to do with what will not be done, what was not mentioned.
    What’s in the troops reinforcement list so far? 17,000 and a 4,000 man Stryker brigade to be deployed south of the Hindu Kush with a dual mission as trainers. Chicken feed. Sorry, boys and girls. No offense meant. On the civilian side – some agriculture advisers, some governmtal function advisers…
    What is not there is an open ended commitment of any kind.
    Don’t be gullible. The statement and the words are meant to mean anything to anyone, and they have been taken that way by many.
    We will be out of there with most of our force by the next presidential election. pl

  7. Patrick Lang says:

    Those who are deeply uneasy about President Obama’s strategy should be comforted that the childlike Christopher Matthews shares your opinion. pl

  8. Mad Dogs says:

    Pat wrote: “What is not there is an open ended commitment of any kind.”
    That meets my definition of “a little bit pregnant…no big deal”.
    And Pat wrote: “We will be out of there with most of our force by the next presidential election. pl”
    Hah! Would that be after declaring “victory”, “mission accomplished” or “none of the above”?
    I would love to believe your prediction is correct, but I can’t see the US political optics and mechanics supporting it.
    The Republicans would like nothing better than to campaign in 2012 on a “Obama – Cut and run” strategy, and I don’t see the likelihood of achieving “success” in that period of time.
    Barring some miraculous and secret US strategy for dealing with Pakistan that we know nothing about, the safe haven for takfiri jihadis that is Pakistan seems likely to grow rather than dissipate.
    I’ve not seen you so optimistic with regard to battles and war, so what are we missing?

  9. Watcher says:

    The Stryker Brigade is part of the initial 17,000. The 4,000 additional troops should be coming from the 82d with the specified mission of fielding MiTTs/ETTs to support the training of the ASF. The information can be found on the second page. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/26/AR2009032602135_2.html?hpid=topnews
    As a former SBCT member, this deployment will prove a challenge for the brigade. The entire library of knowledge for these brigades is Iraq centric. 5/2 SBCT was in the middle of an Iraq MRE at Fort Irwin when they recieved the change of mission. But the brigades have always been blessed with extremely innovative leaders from the Brigade Commanders on down the line.
    On the strategic level, the policy does a great job of tying together all of the tools of national power and describing the holistic manner in their use, time will tell if we have the resources on hand to support such a strategy. The one weak part I do see is our desire to enable the Aghans to take the lead after we have enabled them. That will be the easy part. I fear that we may be helping Afghanistan build a security force they cannot sustain. Afghanistans average GPD is around 9-10 Billion of which Afghanistan is able to tax about 670 million. Even with very optomistic GDP growth and tax rates, most projections put the gap between Afghanistans total bottom line and its security requirements is about 1 billion dollars.
    If security is to be the base we build fortress Afghanistan, we may have built it on a foundation of sand unless we commit to long term financing of Afghanistan, somewhat in contradiction to other aspects of the white paper and the Presidents remarks today.

  10. Patrick Lang says:

    This is not about being pregnant. We can leave Afghanistan when we choose, just as we are leaving Iraq.
    This not the end of the world. There will be other wars in other places, other idiot presidents like George Bush.
    The dark night of his presidency is over. accept it. pl

  11. J says:

    Did you see Gen McCaffrey’s latest regarding this? McCaffrey pointed out last night on NBC Nightly News that the planned induction of 4,000 more troops by President Obama in Afghanistan this year, with the intent of training the Afghan National Army and the Afghan Police, means “we are going in for long time, we are not coming out.” Many feel that the advice that the Obama crowd is operating on is wrong.
    And it’s like you said ‘This not the end of the world.’ and ‘We can leave Afghanistan when we choose, just as we are leaving Iraq.’ both are true, – but – at what cost in lives and treasure in the end?

  12. J says:

    Do you have any idea what will be the price tag for — ‘The other possibility in policy was that the US would spend a reasonable, but not excessive amount of money’?
    Are we talking in excess of $1 Trillion?

  13. J says:

    My $1 Trillion plus, disregard as that would be the figure if we were ‘in deep’ in Afghanistan, instead of ‘in lite’.

  14. Medicine Man says:

    I’ve been largely satisfied with Obama’s foreign policy decisions so far. I have been satisfied because I wasn’t expecting a sea change in the overall trajectory of US foreign policy. What I was hoping for was a shift to setting objectives and force commitments in a rational fashion, rather than policy being dictated by jingoism or magical thinking. Obama has so far delivered this.

  15. COL,
    We will be out of there with most of our force by the next presidential election.
    That is what I thought I heard underneath all the talking today. I’m glad to hear that you heard that too.
    Now, let’s hope it actually unwinds in a way that keeps us from being sucked back in.
    Based on what I see Russia’s Lavrov doing these days, one has to wonder if the so-called reset button included a tacit admission to get out (or lower our profile) in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence?

  16. Patrick Lang says:

    There is an ongoing argument in the administration about this. More than that I will not say.
    I think McCaffery is wrong. we will do just enough in Afghanistan to keep it from becoming really dangerous.
    Pakistan is the real problem. pl

  17. J says:

    Concur, Pakistan IS a real sticky wicket. Afghanistan doesn’t have nukes, Pakistan DOES.

  18. greg0 says:

    I agree with Medicine Man’s comment that Obama does seem to have an open mind without obssessing on ideology.
    Thanks, pl, for sharing your thoughts. Seeing an end date to our involvement in the region is appealing. The real problem, as you acknowledge, is events in Pakistan.
    I hope there are more folks interested in security and peace than in unending Jihad or conflict.

  19. batondor says:

    After all this discussion and a more careful review of everything that Obama said in his presentation of the plan as well as that which was said – and not said – by Petraeus and Holbrooke on The NewsHour last night, I am encouraged by the fact that the minimalist objective of CT really does seem to be the goal even if the methods of COIN remain the principle means towards that end…
    … and as such, a thought-experiment comes to mind: What happens “if and when” the combined international effort succeeds in eliminating the “foreign” jihadis from the region by either killing or capturing them or simply by driving them from the scene?
    The emphasis is deliberate, Pat, because I do not think Obama can or will significantly reduce the commitment until a clear conclusion can be drawn on the status of Al Qaeda “central command” (ie, the fates of Bin Laden and Zawahiri), though it certainly is possible that Afghani forces could be taking a bigger role over time…
    … and then, of course, the question will be whether that is “enough” to disengage both militarily and materially more completely.

  20. It would be interesting to not just how much the US is spending on military assistance to India since should the cataclysmic event occur and radical fundamentalist elements gain control of the Pakistan nuclear arsenal the Indians are the only likely allies in dealing with that and they have the problem of being the third largest in a list of nations with Islamic populations after Pakistan and Indonesia. You could argue that a brilliant strategy is being run by the Islamic militants (and I do) first keep Afghanistan as proxy war with the US throught the Taliban, destablize Pakistan, and then destabilize India. Does not this seem to be helpful to Chinese long term ambitions? Okay what is our (US) long term strategy? Where is that written down? PL be curious as to whom you think in or out of US is the leading strategist concerning US interests? Hopefully more than one and does any one listen to them? What evidence do we have that GATES and Clinton have any sense of international political or military strategy? Maybe our strategy is just Luttwak’s “Strategy of the Roman Empire” warmed over! Keep the frontiers quiet!

  21. There soon will be war fatigue in the U.S. again.
    Nope. Afghanistan isn’t even on the RADAR screen. News orgs are more concerned with Obama’s teleprompter than anything else. And there will always be missing white women to fill in the gaps.
    As for the budget, people who have never worked in the behemoth called The Department of Defense really don’t understand the sheer scale of operations we can carry out when we get the machine cranked up to full gear. Millions in DoD are like nickels and dimes to you and me.

  22. Pat Lang,
    I agree with the post and with the plan for Afghanistan it describes. Also, Watcher seems to be on to something in his comment concerning the economic viability of Afghan security forces. Should the assumption that USD 670,000,000 would be the cost of sustaining the forces be correct, then an annual subsidy of that amount would be an absolute bargain. The subsidy would relieve the Afghan economy of the burden, accomplish our strategic objective of denying bases to Al Quaeda, and enable the United States to withdraw most of our forces. The initial step of building the Afghan military seems to be in the works with the president’s policy announcement. The devil, as always will be in the details, mainly, tribal and ethnic rivalries and corruption.
    A subsidy of that size is dwarfed by what we send annually to Israel and would have the virtue of promoting our interests, rather than being useless and, even, detrimental to them.
    Furthermore, and a little off the topic, rapprochement with Iran, based on mutual interests, would be very advantgeous in terms of the balance of power in the region.

  23. JohnH says:

    I was encouraged to read that Obama recognized the need to state an objective for the mission. But then I was VERY disappointed to read that the objective is “disrupting terrorists networks.” This is just more BS. Since when does occupying a nation disrupt terrorist networks? (Ask Israel about the occupations of Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank.) Occupations spawn terrorism, what Ronald Regan called “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan.
    It’s time for Obama to come clean about the US’ real ambitions in Afghanistan and promote an open debate about America’s strategic interests there and whether they are worth spending vast sums of taxpayer money.

  24. charlottemom says:

    Color me childlike in my trepidation of Obama’s plan. First, plan being packaged as nation-building. Has nation building been tried and if so, ever worked in Afghan.? It seems like a costly and timely endeavor.
    Second – how successfully is the US unwinding its positions in Iraq? Are they really unwinding much or still formulating the plan to unwind?
    Third, US is taking another helping of Mideast onto its plate, without digesting how our Iraqi incursion and its impact their military, gov.
    Just hope US doesn’t run out of money or run into unintended consequences as it seems the stakes are getting higher and citizen fatigue waning.
    BTW – saw WTimes reporting that Biden wanted limited US involvement, but that Holbrook, HClinton and Paetrus argued and won for more expansive US role. True? So who was in favor of larger role you outlined — or was that a strawman the Obama admin put up?

  25. Leanderthal says:

    Here’s an article which I didn’t want to see.
    The military/industrial complex will have its war for years to come. We will maintain large numbers of troop in the Middle East, ostensibly to provide a presence which will make the bad guys think twice before attacking anyone. I’d like to think that would also include Israel, but I suspect the hard liners, the Likudniks in that country, are a powerful force behind the plan which Obama has announced.
    The foray into Afghanistan in 2002 made sense. It was an attempt to defeat the Taliban, which actually was accomplished we’re told. Now they’re back and the terrorists have their safe haven again. So I guess this is necessary, but I can’t help but think that somehow those who make huge money off of wars are celebrating right now.
    Update: See David Brooks’ column title The Winnable War as an example of the war propaganda machine in action. He tries to make it sound like he was open minded when he began his trip to Afghanistan, but it would be a naive view. He was being fed the propaganda he expected, and dutifully has endorsed the surge there. He was a smart choice to send since, though he generally spouts the Conservative view, because he does so in a less militaristic way than staunch Neocons like Kristol and Krauthammer. And Brooks has a large following as a columnist for the Times, and as a panelist for The New Hour.
    And here’s today’s Times editorial on the topic. No surprise there.
    Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper

  26. Leanderthal says:

    Here’s Pat Langs’ entry, he a retired Army Colonel with lots of Middle East experience, and not a fan of the Neocons.
    His endorsement of the plan is reassuring.
    Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper

  27. WOW! Now the poster and commenters on this blog are trying to rely on what was NOT said to give them hope.
    Great transparency. I would argue that the US does not cut and run when you look at the totality of our post WWII military deployments, wars, police actions, whatever. But clearly manhood is always the underlying issue as to policy. This continues to make no sense. Cannot anyone articulate what the totality of our south Asian policy should look like using the spectrum from armed force to soft power to whatever? PL just tell us what you think should be done in plain English or whatever language you choose? This is your chance to make policy even if just for your faithful readers.

  28. Got A Watch says:

    If Obama knows less about military affairs than he know about economics, which seems likely, I predict failure.
    From his performance in economics so far, I believe he is ‘challenged’, to put it kindly. If I weren’t being kind, I could summarize his economic ‘Plan’ as “No Bankster Left behind” or “Profits to Wall St. , Losses to Taxpayers”.
    As Watcher ably pointed out, the whole notion of this “Plan” is unsustainable in the long run, Afghanistan can’t afford to run the kind of armed forces with capabilities needed to accomplish the stated mission.
    So the moment the USA pulls out, or stops massively subsidizing the “Afghan Government”, it will fall or relapse into it’s usual status of ‘The Mayoralty of Downtown Kabul’, as it has been accurately described before.
    The idea that tribesmen in remote regions want to be “protected” by Afghan Army units run from Kabul is ludicrous to me.
    The same thing will happen as is now going on in Iraq – the Sunni ‘Awakening Councils’ are not being paid by the Shiite Government, once the USA stops doling out the cash. Substitute ‘tribes’ and ‘Afghan Government’ there, throw in religious differences and ancient feuds, and you get a strategy that seems unworkable without US or NATO troops and funds present in large numbers.
    Time will tell. At least Obama opted for the less expensive option of the ones he was presented with. Probably with one eye on the future of exploding budget deficits and falling tax revenues. The military-industrial complex is running out of spending room, an economic fact regardless of wishful thinking. America will have to pull back on size and scope, regardless of clueless neo-cons cheerleading. The Defense budget may be the last to be cut, but it will have to be cut hugely, soon, the American economy simply cannot support previous levels of spending.
    I would have argued for total withdrawal of conventional forces. The Al-Qaida elements to be kept in check by airstikes and Special Forces Ops, surveillance, and good old-fashioned HUMINT infiltration. Period.
    The Afghans to govern themselves as they see fit, they will work it out, or not, over time, in their own way. That’s the only thing sustainable in the long run.

  29. Cloned Poster says:

    It would seem Obama is going for the software option here, ie. cash, for tribal leaders, rather than hardware option, cash for the Military Industrial Complex.
    TARP in Afghanistan. But Euros and Rubbles?

  30. Patrick Lang says:

    Try thinking of this nnd many other things as a movie. Stop thinking of events as “stills.” Obama’s pronouncement yeterday is one frame in the film. pl

  31. FB Ali says:

    If I understand the Colonel aright, what he is saying is that the real Obama plan beneath all the verbiage (“The statement and the words are meant to mean anything to anyone”) is:
    · Use the beefed up US-NATO forces to prevent a collapse in Afghanistan while the Afghan army and police are built up to take over that function in a couple of years, allowing the US and NATO to then pull out most of their troops (“We will be out of there with most of our force by the next presidential election”).
    · Use intelligence and Special Forces to “disrupt and disorganize our real enemies enough to keep them off balance and unable to plan significant attacks”.
    · “Buy” the Pakistanis to make a real effort to clean up their tribal territory.
    · Hope all this disrupts and weakens al-Qaeda and associates sufficiently to prevent them from mounting any serious attacks on the West in the foreseeable future.
    That may well be Obama’s intent in the compromise plan that he has adopted (see today’s NYT). The danger with minimal, compromise plans cloaked in expansive language is that the various players (such as the US military, Pakistanis, Afghans) take the “verbiage” to mean what they would like it to mean, and act on that basis ‒ and then react appropriately when they discover their error.
    The fundamental flaw in this plan is that it wrongly identifies the main potential threat to the USA from that region. That is not al-Qaeda but a Pakistan under the control of fundamentalists. This error can have disastrous consequences because, in pursuing the minor threat, the US could bring into being the major one.
    This strategy also suffers from some other serious conceptual flaws:
    · It assumes that Pakistan is a reasonably functional state, when in reality it is a seriously dysfunctional polity.
    · It assumes that Afghanistan is a unitary country, when it has never really been one, nor is one now (except in name).
    · It assumes that Pakistanis and Afghans see the world through the same prism as do Americans, and that their interests are the same as those of the US. (It is dangerous to take at face value the protestations of one’s clients).
    · It fails to realize that Pakistanis and Afghans, however grateful and friendly to the US, will not subordinate their national interests to the US’s (a lesson obviously not learned from Iraq).
    · It bases the US-NATO exit strategy on a military solution instead of a political one.
    · It lumps together the Taliban and other Pashtun insurgents with al-Qaeda as “terrorists” (this term has done much to confuse and befuddle US policy in the last decade).
    Above all, the crafting of this strategy indicates no comprehension of the impact on the Muslim peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan of US policies in the Middle East, and how this colours their basic attitudes towards the US and its actions in that region. This is the large elephant in the policy chambers of the US that no one will acknowledge, or even look at.
    It is ironic that a big sigh of relief has gone up at the Obama administration having abandoned the old policy of ‘nation-building’, just when that is exactly what needs to be done in respect of Pakistan! Not the kind of stupid project the neo-cons dreamed up for Iraq, but more a putting together of the broken, rusted and misaligned parts of a once-functioning machine. Pakistanis can, and must, do most of the heavy lifting involved, and they will make the country work once it is mended; what they need is some help to get the process started, and some of the vested roadblocks to be pushed aside. The US is well positioned to do that. It would be a tragedy if, instead of attending to this task that is so vital to its national security, the US spent the next few years wandering around the barren hills and valleys of Afghanistan, scattering its blood and treasure over this wasteland.

  32. J says:

    Who are the ‘director’ and the ‘producer’?

  33. Patrick Lang says:

    FB Ali
    Thanks for your reasonable analysis.
    Unfortunately, we Americans are not a “city on a hill.” We are merely the inhabitants of yet another city. We developed delusions about the extent of our ability to help others as opposed to trying to live virtuous lives ourselves. These delusions were always delusions. Now, we, and “the others” will pay the price for that. pl

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    FB Ali:
    You wrote: “help to get the process started, and some of the vested roadblocks to be pushed aside. The US is well positioned to do that.”
    What, in concrete terms, do you suggest the United States do in and for Pakistan?

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Afghanistan was a functioning state for much of the 20th Century.
    The proximate cause of the destruction of Afghan state – in my opinion – was super-power rivalry; just like Cambodia.
    The state was put together again in Cambodia through foreign intervention, first by Vitenam militarily and then by UN. And even there we are not out of the woods yet.
    But Cambodia was a much smaller place with a much smaller population – with a unitary people (Khmre) and fewer meddling neighbours.
    Afghanistan may go by the way of Somalia – with a pieces [areas around Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul] that function and aother parts that do not. The working areas will be non-Pahtun and the on-working will be Pashtun.
    And in an analogous manner to the Somali pirates, we could start seeing raiding parties from these non-functioning areas into the neighbouring states in search of booty, loot, hostages etc.

  36. Abu Sinan says:

    Good post colonel. I was just wondering if the “tawheed” in Arabic (caligrahy at the begining of the post) was picked for any particular reason, or you just like it?
    It is an interesting word and an interesting concept in Islam.

  37. Ael says:

    I see little evidence that the West can distinguish between quelling the ongoing Pashtun rebellion and disrupting terrorists.

  38. jr786 says:

    Is there still Pashtunistan Square in Kabul? Mabye the best solution is to accept geo-cultural imperatives and declare Pashtunistan once and for all – from Kandahar to Chitral/P’hore/Quetta.
    Seems that it is the Pashtuns who are de-stabilizing both Af and Pakistan. Give them their state and set their borders accordingly.

  39. Patrick Lang says:

    Refers to the lack of unity in the US command structure in afghanistan. pl

  40. fnord says:

    “lack of unity in the US command structure in afghanistan”
    Not to mention in NATO and ISAF, and its various partners in reconstruction work mediated through UN. Thats one of the real problems I have with understanding this whole war, why the clearly dysfunctional multiple chains of command have been retained.

  41. FB Ali says:

    Babak Makkinejad
    Pakistan suffers from a number of severe systemic ills. It has some institutions that can initiate and shepherd along the long and difficult process of ameliorating and, hopefully, ultimately curing these ills. The US can urge these institutions to act in this direction, and support their efforts. It can also use its influence to prevent vested interests from blocking or undermining this process of reform.

  42. Babak Makkinejad says:

    FB Ali:
    Thank you for your response.
    How do you propose, in detail, for US to interact with these institutions?
    Are you implying that US has a lot of local leverage inside the Pakistani State that she is not using?
    Could you please at least supply an example of how this could work?

  43. FB Ali says:

    Babak Makkinejad
    Yes, the US currently wields a lot of clout with key players in the power centres there. But it has not used it to push for the reforms that are needed. Instead, it has pressed them to act in pursuit of its own war aims in Afghanistan. This has added to the strains that already beset Pakistan.
    A detailed discussion of how the US can help Pakistan is perhaps best left to another occasion.

  44. Medicine Man says:

    I have a question — although I’m not sure if this is place to ask it.
    How much does “war fatigue” effect US war plans nowadays?
    It seems to me that a low intensity war can be run virtually off the public radar, if the casualties are gradual enough. The only “fatigue” that seems to matter is the increasing burden placed on the small-ish percentage of people who actually fight in foreign conflicts, and their friends/families. That and the fatigue of the big money-men who start to lose enthusiasm due to the expenses incurred.
    I wonder about this a great deal. My own country has suffered a lot of casualties relative to the size of our military and yet the subject of the war is not prominent in public discourse.
    To rephrase my question: Is the main kind of fatigue that is relevant to war plans the strain on institutions, military professionals, and the financial system?

  45. Babak Makkinejad says:

    FB Ali:
    Thank you for your response.
    I remain rather unconvinced.
    How can US do anything in regards to the land-owning classes in Pakistan, for example. For, in my opinion, they are an obstacle to any concievable reform in rural Pakistan.
    And how can US help increase the representation of non-Punjabis in the decision making centers of Pakistan?

  46. Ken Roberts says:

    Interesting comments re Obama/US plan announcement, at marvimemon.wordpress.com/category/diary-march-2009 see the March 31st entry.

  47. Arun says:

    “If the Taliban are not defeated, history is a witness that whenever Khyber has been breached, the battle has been fought in Panipat.” – Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, quoted by Khalid Hassan in the Daily Times.
    — Folks may want to look up where Panipat is (and also the battles of Panipat).
    The lesson from history that the Ambassador is bringing to our attention can only mean that if the Taliban prevail in Pakistan, that will lead to a India-Pakistan war. The world should think long and hard about letting that happen.

  48. curious says:

    yargh….. I truly don’t understand how they run things in afghanistan…
    are they invading poland or stabilizng and stopping al qaeda?
    Take these little example:
    Pentagon Prioritizes Pursuit Of Alternative Fuel Sources
    (dude, you ought to bring natural gas liquifier to afghanstan and QUIT flying in fuel. Those humvee and heavy trucks are all running on turbine. Synthetic fuel from natural gas is OK.)
    Militants torch trucks along US-NATO supply line
    The latest attack started around 2 a.m. on the outskirts of the main northwestern city of Peshawar, local police officer Gharibullah Khan told The Associated Press.
    “They fired rockets and used automatic weapons and torched at least eight trailers carrying cement,” he said.
    (CEMENT Factory costs $20million to built. Ship it from Russia on the cheap, or china even. Afghanistan cannot build defense without cement. amazing… Cost of importing cement is 5 times the price of building a cement factory inside afghanistan. jeebus…)
    Bottom line, had they not horsing around 8 years ago, half of current problem would have been solved. (building material, basic defense infrastructure, civilian construction.)
    I imagine, they are going to goof around and spend $100m flying in fuel and cement from Pakistan, thanks to massive corruption.
    Install, the most ruthless organizer and technocrat to manage the civilian side of afghanistan program. Somebody has to stop the incompetence, corruption and Hashish smoking.

  49. Bobo says:

    “There have been two basic possibilities for US policy in Afghanistan”
    Here it is four months later and numerous (in the know) individuals are still talking about the long slog of a full blown CI. Also alot of jibberish about the local Army and Police not being up to snuff which everyone knew back in March. Plus the Taliban tactics are more proficient than what was seen in Iraq.
    Hopefully McChrystal’s report, due shortly, will bring a sense of cohesion to the battle ahead recognizing that a full blown CI is not the direction to go. If it does not then “Hasta Luego” needs to be the policy.
    ps: Glad your coming back, you have been missed and needed.

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