The generals rolled him, as they rolled Obama …


Before an audience of troops ordered into attendance, DJT gave us his decision on policy in Afghanistan:

1.  "There will be no blank check."  Since the applicability of this statement was not made clear, I will take it to mean that there will be limits as to how many military resources will be "invested" in Afghanistan, how much US taxpayers' money is spent there for however long it (victory) takes.  Nevertheless, no numbers were provided for possible troop end strengths or expenditures.

2.  "Decisions about future policy will be based on events on the ground, not on schedules decided in Washington."  This means that there will be no oversight over the commander in Afghanistan except by Mattis and McMaster, the apparent authors of this policy.  This is an abandonment of the American policy of civilian control of the military.  The last time we did this was in WW2 in the European theater.  In the Pacific the rivalry betwee MacArthur and the Navy made oversight by FDR a possibility. 

3.  We will fight until victory is achieved, victory being defined as a secure position for the elected government and an absence of terrorist plots against the US being "hatched" in Afghanistan.

4.  We will not "nation build," but will maintain the aforesaid government in power.  This presumably will cost a lot more money.

5.   "As the prime minister of Afghanistan has promised, we are going to participate in economic development to help defray the cost of this war to us."  Text of Speech.   As is well known I am not sympathetic to economic explanations of history but this has a name, "colonialism."

6.  Pakistan is defined by Trump in this speech as a major haven and sponsor of terrorism in Afghanistan.  IMO this is correct.  DJT says that pressure will be applied to correct this.

7.  India is summoned in the speech to help us achieve "victory" in Afghanistan and in helping us control Pakistan's adverse behavior.  India and Pakistan are enemies and both are nuclear armed.  Pakistan, as I have written elsewhere, can range the eastern Mediterranean with its mobile ballistic missiles when positioned in western Baluchistan.

8. All restrictions will be removed from the actions of military commanders in the field.

9.  It was repeatedly said in the speech that we must struggle on to victory to justify the losses we have suffered thus far.  This is sentimental nonsense.  Such reasoning completely ignores the principle of necessary acceptance of "sunk costs" that should be obvious to a businessman.


IMO this speech was written in McMaster's national security policy shop.  It is filled with mutually conflicting and sentimental items the foolishness of which are compounded by very imperfect understandings of the peoples of the region.  The conditions for "victory" are unattainable.  There will always be insurgent movements in Afghanistan, movements that threaten the country's stability and there will alway be jihadis hatching plots in Afghanistan againt the US.  

Therefore, this is a recipe for unending colonial stye war waged by the US in South Asia.  

What would a wise policy be?  You tell me.  pl

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130 Responses to The generals rolled him, as they rolled Obama …

  1. bks says:

    It’s the same speech HRC would have given, except she would have given it six months earlier.

  2. jeff roby says:

    One point struck me. Maybe the one sentence that Trump wrote himself. About a possible legitimization of “elements” of the Taliban, and a political settlement. Whaddya think? Same old same old, or an escape clause?

  3. eakens says:

    Change their national language to English for them, and make gender neutral bathrooms mandatory.

  4. The Beaver says:

    This morning:
    SECDEF Mattis in Baghdad says he will borrow “a lot” from strategy in Iraq for Afghanistan. Adds he has not yet decided on number of troops.

  5. Peter AU says:

    Nation building as Trump called it was the hedgemon invading, occupying, setting up leadership who’s loyalty could be bought, then pulling out. Rather than pulling out, this resulted in the hegemon having to permanently occupy the country to keep the puppet regime in power and loyal, all at cost to the hegemon.
    Trump, if he ever had any had notions of pulling out of Afghanistan, was blocked by the generals. Bannon stated plainly that the economic rise of China was the greatest threat to the US. I believe this is also Trump’s view. China has interest in Afghanistan as part of its silk road initiative. China is also building an economic corridor through Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.
    This is why Pakistan and India feature so heavily in Trump’s speech.
    Trump is moving from so called nation building to straight out colonialism as part of a larger strategy to slow down or block the economic rise of China.
    To reduce the cost of long term occupation of Afghanistan for the US, tried and true methods of empire will be used. US companies to extract resources or whatever other profits can be made in the country, and military garrisons to protect them. Any uprisings by the natives put down by the tried and true method of wiping out a village or two. These conveniently will all be terrorists.
    China is awake to what is happening.
    “”Pakistan was on the front line in the struggle against terrorism and had made great sacrifices and important contributions in the fight against terrorism,” Hua Chunying, Spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.
    “We believe that the international community should fully recognize Pakistan is anti — terrorism,” Hua Chunying said.”

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    The political problem is that no foreseeable American president will be willing to withdraw from an Afghanistan from which a future terrorist attack will emanate. That eliminates the most obvious wise policy.
    The second best is to change from a strategy of counter-insurgency to one of counter-terrorism. That would require a long-term military presence, presumably with a reduced mission.
    IMO the real sunk cost here is the Afghan government. The romantic notion that we will see a non-corrupt, competent Afghan government willing and able to defend its own borders in something other than geological time will need to be abandoned.

  7. Bandolero says:

    I think Trump’s strategy for Afghanistan will succeed.
    The main point for me is that he takes on Pakistan, thereby pushing Pakistan closer to China, and simultanously inviting all nations to make common cause with the US in fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, and that without any bad mouthing reference to Iran, Russia and China.
    The endgame I see in Pakistan making a regional deal with their SCO allies Russia and China over Afghanistan sponsored by Iran and blessed by Trump. That deal then extends to some portions of Taliban, who will get in exchange some say in government as a national or regional movement against foreign occupation. Afghanistan is then in the steady hands of the SCO and Iran, and Trump can declare victory over terrorism and pull all US troops out of Afghanistan.
    Enemies of Iran and Russia in the US and elsewhere will cry foul – just as they are upset with Iran benefitting from defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq now – but that won’t matter anymore.

  8. Peter AU says:

    It is ironic that Trump is making the first move in changing the hegemon into a good old fashioned empire in the country that is known as the graveyard of empires.

  9. Swami says:

    7. India is summoned in the speech to help us achieve “victory” in Afghanistan and in helping us control Pakistan’s adverse behavior.
    This part of the speech indicates a dramatic shift in US policy with respect to India and Pakistan. Hitherto the US has been much more restrained. As you point out there’s no love lost between the two countries, and many believe that Pakistan’s support of the Taliban is in part a result of India’s good relations with Afghanistan.
    I’m sure there are people in both countries who would like to see India try to control Pakistan’s “adverse behavior”, if only because they can profit from it. The only thing that would make this situation worse is if Trump offers to help negotiate a Kashmir settlement.
    Popcorn time!

  10. Will.2718 says:

    You can’t solve Afghanistan w/o solving Pakistan. This requires solving Kashmir. Though Kashmir is predominantly Muslim half of it wound up in India. The Paks say let the people decide. The Indians say we are secular so Muslims and Hindus co-exist. If all Kashmir was in Pakistan, then it would be in an Islamic State under Sharia law and a mass exodus of the Kafir. Another wrinkle now is the growth of Hindu extreme nationlism. Thus the Paks resort to terrorism against India. And India uses leverage in Afghanistan against Pakistan.
    It is a checkmated insoluble situation. Thinking outside of the box? An independent sovereign neutral consensual government in Kashmir like Belgium?

  11. Larry Kart says:

    Sadly for all of us, you’ve hit the bullseye once more.
    In a similar vein, a friend sent this to me last night:
    ‘Basically, it’s the kind of speech one would deliver to a Foreign Legion and could never get away with to an army of draftees: fight on without end, no strategy except not to lose, no metrics that might be questioned.
    ‘Unfortunately, the “enemy” lives in Afghanistan and we don’t. I also noted Trump’s “you’ll return to a united America” promise (good luck with that) and his criticism of previous administrations (who followed the same strategy he’s advocating).’

  12. In short, GTFO.
    First cease all but purely defensive operations against the Taliban, Haqqani Network and others whose interests do not extend outside the region. Continue targeting IS and others who plot to strike outside the region. Make it clear to all those in the region that we are doing this.
    Let the people and governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan figure it out. If China and Russia think they have answers, wish them luck and get out of their way. Hell, share intelligence with them. The only question is how vigorously we want to go after IS in the region and what forces, if any, we maintain in the region to address this limited region.

  13. I dunno why Trump did not simply ask McMaster to explain how military orders are drafted.
    Draft one ordering the following:
    To: Joint Chiefs of Staff
    From: POTUS
    Hand over ceremony scheduled for 1600 Kabul time 25 Aug 2017
    Action Items:
    1. You will organize a changing of the guard ceremony at Kabul Airport commencing 1600 hrs 25 August 2017, for the purpose of handing all security responsibilities for Afghanistan to the local government.
    2. At this ceremony you will declare “Mission Accomplished”
    3. At this ceremony you will symbolically lower the stars and stripes while the national flag of afghanistan is raised.
    4. At this ceremony Commander US forces(Afghanistan) will give a speech extolling the achievements of US – Afghan forces in the country
    5. At this ceremony the president of Afghanistan will give a speech thanking the US for it’s efforts
    6. At this ceremony the OIC of Afghan Security forces will give a speech vowing to protect the country going forward.
    7. This ceremony will have lots of bands playing martial music
    8. This ceremony will be televised worldwide.
    9. At the end of this ceremony all US forces will board aircraft and fly home via intermediate stops as required.
    10. All US equipment will be handed over to the OIC of Afghan Security Forces upon departure of US forces, without exception.

  14. robt willmann says:

    Listening to the radio while driving as Trump was giving the speech, I realized that I have heard this music before. It sounded as if it was written by the Bush jr. and Obama administrations, and neocons. Ignorance is not bliss. Trump sure was easy to fool.
    What was of special concern was the approach to Pakistan, which will include the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA)–

  15. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Yes, you are likely correct in that judgment, as it would have been ghostwritten by the same cabal of NeoCons as was this speech by President Trump. Hopefully, the steadfastness of these commitments are going to be determined by the results, results coldly-assessed, and after only a short interval of time has elapsed. Please, no more six month “Friedman Units”, Mr. President.

  16. Swami says:

    Thinking outside of the box? An independent sovereign neutral consensual government in Kashmir like Belgium?
    Yes, brought about by dancing unicorns dressed in pink tutus.

  17. Clueless Joe says:

    Unless I’m seriously mistaken, Pakistan won’t give up on Afghanistan, because they know India always hoped to use it as a threat to Pakistan’s rear in case of an India-Pakistan major war, just like China hoped to use Pakistan as a threat to India’s rear in case of an India-China major war. As long as it goes like this, Pakistan will be fearful and will consider Afghanistan of strategic importance, possibly giving them some degree of strategic depth. So, at this point, you don’t just solve Afghanistan by solving key issues between Pakistan and India, but you’d probably also need to solve key issues lying between India and China. Though, of course, this opens up all new kind of troubles and issues for the rest of the world, because you don’t really want to pave the way for an India-China alliance. Though maybe one could try to involve China who will fund and make buddy with both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and things will quiet down? Whatever, critics of current US involvement seem alas accurate to me; it hasn’t enough leverage to achieve its goals, and it thankfully won’t dare to go full Genghis Khan to “pacify” the locals by turning the country into a desert.
    Or I’m just out of my depth and rambling nonsense, which is always a possibility.

  18. FB Ali says:

    Good solution, well put.
    I agree with it, and the many other commenters who said GTFO!

  19. DianaLC says:

    I am happy I have no sons or daughters of military age. But as things have been going, my very young grandchildren may be old enought before all this craziness is over.

  20. The Porkchop Express says:

    GTFO is the most succinct and reasonable advice for OEF !

  21. raven says:

    nd it’s one, two, three what are we fightin for,
    don’t ask me I don’t give a damn, next stop Afghanistan. . .

  22. Dr.Puck says:

    Leaving forever is an idea.
    It seems to me speaking of “winning” being the second-to-none goal would better fit a situation concrete (or binary,) enough to offer little wins worth trumpeting and a war-ending win worth celebrating. Afghanistan offers not much of either, in my inexpert opinion. The conservative tribes have absorbed the blows of outsiders for centuries.
    See the tagged thread, begun here.

  23. sid_finster says:

    This is straight out of the neocon playbook, but neocons didn’t force Trump to make this speech. He did that on his own and it’s his baby, now.
    Lord, how long must this go on before people finally admit that the Kool Aid they’ve been drinking tastes funny?

  24. jonst says:

    Eakens, leave them pamphlets, and links to podcasts, to achieve such ends. Maybe sign them up for a facebook account. And send them Uber and fusion food recipes. And toast bars. Lots of toast bars!

  25. jonst says:

    Get out. Admit defeat. Wish them all well. Keep an eye on how India, China, Russia, and them Paks themselves like living with a Taliban (repentant or not) ‘State’. Arm warlords, if you must.

  26. dilbert dogbert says:

    Could the plan be to keep the Mayor of Kabul in office till the 2018 elections are over? Depending on election results, there will be a “Double Down” or a declaration of “Victory” and a “Bring the Boys Home”,

  27. Jony Kanuck says:

    A fantasy I’ve been entertaining for a few years:
    Under leadership of USA a regional security conference is struck; Russia, India, Iran, China & Pakistan. The point is to design a ‘security framework’ & ‘Marshall Plan’. All ‘kafir’troops leave. Russia, India & Pakistan will supply Sunni muslim police & military police. Elections are planned. Numerous development projects are announced, all coming from muslim countries & bankrolled by USA. My point being that if a critical mass of Afganis are working, in fact the economy could be made to boom, & there are no kafir soldiers blowing things up, security becomes a minor issue.
    Pakistan would need a carrot & stick approach because the issue in Pakistan is territorial as much as security. The carrot is probably grounding the drones. Pakistan has to be a player for this to work.
    Would it work? Probably; surrounding countries have genuine security concerns & Afganis would rather work than make ied’s. It would be expensive but not as expensive as an equally fantastic military solution. It would be a hard sell in Washington though.
    Maybe if the US govt sponsored a remake of ‘the Man Who Would Be King’ & if the ‘realdonaldtrump’ started tweeting Kipling every morning!

  28. Oilman2 says:

    We did a GTFO in Vietnam, so that is certainly not without precedent. It is what we should have done long ago. Now we are busily binding the word “victory” into policy, when we cannot even point a finger at and name an enemy. Such is the “war on terror”…
    It will be most interesting in the coming years, as the debt we have accrued continues to mount and congress delivers no solutions (none are available), to see exactly how long it will take for our military expenditures to actually stop growing. It seems to be the only thing growing in our country, and this isn’t good for us or the rest of the planet. Interesting to me is that 3X more private military personnel will be employed (not deployed).
    It looks like our oligarchs are beginning to hire their own armies at the expense of the rest of us. That’s a hell of a business model…

  29. ann says:

    Afghanistan has no economy. Except, maybe, poppies. When wheat went to $8.00 a bushel a few years ago, they ripped up their poppies to plant wheat. What if, I know, I’m a dreamer, what if we guaranteed the price of wheat for a few years. Purchased their crops.

  30. turcopolier says:

    We abandoned VN when the Congress passed a law forbidding any further help for them pl

  31. iowa steve says:

    Obama 2009: As your commander in chief, I owe you a mission that is clearly defined.”
    Trump 2017: “From now on, victory will have a clear definition.”
    Obama 2009: The days of providing a blank check are over.”
    Trump 2017: “Our commitment is not unlimited and our support is not a blank check.”
    Obama 2009: “We must deny Al Qaeda a safe haven.”
    Trump 2017: “We must stop the resurgence of safe havens that enable terrorists to threaten America.”
    Obama 2009: “We have no interest in occupying your country.”
    Trump 2017: “We are not nation-building again.”
    I agree with the poster above who advocated a counter-terrorism approach rather than a counter-insurgency mission. I believe that in the past, Colonel, you had also advocated something along those lines as well. After 16 years, I would think the US would have enough intelligence resources in Afghanistan to make a go of that.

  32. BrotherJoe says:

    Brother Peter,
    Your view of the China factor in the Afghanistan equation is intriguing. I hope others will comment.

  33. Bandolero says:

    You said:
    “A fantasy I’ve been entertaining for a few years: Under leadership of USA a regional security conference is struck; Russia, India, Iran, China & Pakistan. The point is to design a ‘security framework’ & ‘Marshall Plan’.”
    I don’t understand why such a regional security conference should be struck “under leadership” of USA. I think it’s much more promising if such a security conference is led by a regional power like Russia.
    I mean just like this one at the end of 2016:
    Russia, Pakistan, China warn of increased Islamic State threat in Afghanistan
    And then a follow-up like this one in February 2017, this time also with Afghanistan, Iran and India:
    Russia Bars U.S. From Afghanistan Peace Conference…
    And of course, a wider 11 nations conference would be good, to deepen regional results, just like this one:
    US snubs 11-state Afghanistan peace conference, says Russia trying to ‘assert influence’
    Yes, Pakistan was not happy that the US as it’s main ally was not present, but I don’t think it was all too harmful to get results.
    In the end it’s anyway the regional countries that must make a solution a success. And, of course, if talk is about security in the region, then a regional security organization should rund the process. Luckily, with the SCO such a regional security organisation exists, and it got quite capable in recent years.

  34. b says:

    “The main point for me is that he takes on Pakistan …”
    Through which country runs the sole supply line for U.S. troops in Afghanistan?

  35. b says:

    The issue of Kashmir is not ideological or religious.
    Kashmir and its glaciers of the Himalaya are the source of the freshwater that runs downs the Indus. It is Pakistan’s sole freshwater lifeline. India diverting that water from its (occupied) part of Kashmir to Indian proper is a deadly threat to Pakistan. It needs to secure Kashmir to survive.

  36. Oilman2 says:

    I remember. My point was that we did a GTFO quite effectively, and in a much more heated war.
    Ann hits the nail on the head – opium is the only export. Why do we need to be there? What Afghan terrorist plot has injured Americans? And we are trying to rope all the neighbors into this rodeo too – right into the graveyard of empires.
    From the cheap seats, it seems that Meyssan’s hypothesis is the only one making sense of US policy and military activities.

  37. turcopolier says:

    Iowa Steve.
    Yes. When Obama was debating his options in 2008 I advocated a US force in Afghanistan of not more than 20,000 centered in Bagram Base with the two purposes of conducting counter-terrorism operation (raids) theoughout the country with a Clandestine HUMINT search for terrorists across the country and keeping Kabul mor eor less in friendlt hands. I lost that argument and the COIN surge occurred, I still think that woiud have been possible at that time but much time has passed. the Taliban and other jihadis are much stronger now and I think the present policy announced last night is so open ended that there will inevitably be crreping escalation of mission and resources unless Trump finally decides to sack the lot of the generals who oushed him into this policy. pl

  38. Bill Herschel says:

    Afghanistan on the map looks like the crossroads between Iran and China. What is more, Afghanistan, whatever it is between, is Iran’s principal Eastern neighbor.
    All of which brings us back to the quote above: “SECDEF Mattis in Baghdad says he will borrow “a lot” from strategy in Iraq for Afghanistan.”
    This is all about Iran. I suspect that Trump knows it is all about Iran and believes it is all about Iran.
    Trump: “As I outlined in my speech in Saudi Arabia three months ago, America and our partners are committed to stripping terrorists of their territory, cutting off their funding and exposing the false allure of their evil ideology.”
    The key question for the history of the United States and humanity is what happens with North Korea. What do the generals want to do there? What does our partner Saudi Arabia want us to do in Korea?

  39. Dr. K. says:

    Maybe the congress we have now should do the same. There is no other alternative

  40. SmoothieX12 says:

    Russia think they have answers
    7 years ago General Gromov and Rogozin appealed to the US to stay in Afghanistan and finish the deal.
    Recently things changed and there were calls from the very political (and military) Russian top for the US to wrap it up. I don’t think Russia has answers to Afghanistan but it sure as hell better have ones for CIS countries bordering that land. I know the discussion was ongoing actively since ODKB meeting in 2013 when it was assessed that US will not meet political objectives in Afghanistan.

  41. Mac says:

    A wise policy?
    In spite all of our resources and firepower, geography enables Afghanistan’s neighbors to play spoiler, should they elect to do so…
    At least with respect to one of those neighbors, after the JCPOA, new horizons were possible, nay, hoped for…a return to the cooperative environment found in Bonn circa 2001/2002 would certainly be a wise policy.
    As main spoiler, a wise policy must address the role of Pakistan. In doing so, addressing Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan implicates Pakistan’s relationship with the Saudis. A wise policy that ab initio publicly recognizes this fact is key.
    That’s how I would start….

  42. Get out. The war is unwinnable. To win you must conquer their culture, ideology, and most important their religion. Never gonna happen. It would take generations of massive investments along with massive killing. Beyond stupid. The killing alone will ensure in their eyes the moral high-ground therefore their religious beliefs are true and the predominant Western beliefs are of the devil. Good luck on convincing their primitive culture that the invaders God is the good one and their God is the bad one. We need the investment here and their culture doesn’t want it. As for the argument that we can’t allow this piss poor country to become a land of terrorists who threaten the Homeland. Give me a break.

  43. Bandolero says:

    I know that Pakistan is the only supply line for U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That’s why I find Trump’s step to take on Pakistan so important. And his “invitation” to India to invest more in Afghanistan – for which Nikki Haley said the US had to pressure India – gives a sense to Pakistan said unlike the Presidents before, Trump may really mean it. That pushes Pakistan in the arms of China and a regional solution in development by the SCO. And, of course, since India’s only way to Afghanistan is the Iranian Chabahar port, it indirectly also means Trump invited Iran to do more in Afghanistan.
    I know that the neocons praise Trump for his strategy speeach, but look who else praises Trump, quote begin:
    “While Trump’s speech was widely criticized in Pakistan by politicians of all parties, it was welcomed by Afghanistan’s shared leadership of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
    Abdullah told a news conference the U.S. strategy marks a unique opportunity to ultimately achieve peaceful objectives in the region.
    “The regional aspect of this strategy is very clear. It shows that the problem was very well identified,” he said, referring to Trump’s singling out of Pakistan.”
    Quote End, Source:
    Abdullah Abdullah is from all what I know on very good terms with Iran and the older SCO countries. And I think what Trump announced on Afghanistan seems to be very helpful for the SCO.
    But I don’t think Pakistan will really close the US supply line. Well, and if Pakistan really closes the supply line for US troops? Than Trump would have either to go via Russia, China or Iran. So what? Anyway Afghanistan is surrounded by the SCO. Or Trump makes Bannon and his people happy and pulls out. And then, it would not be Trump’s fault, that he hasn’t won in Afghanistan.

  44. VietnamVet says:

    Great analysis.
    To my mind there are two options, stay forever or get out. Staying will be impossible if Pakistan closes the door or if American citizens rebel at the costs financially and in blood. If history is any guide, this is a replay of the Great Game. Right now the Atlantic Empire is not wining and starting to lose Syria and Iraq to Russia + Iran. Sooner or later Central Europe, under Berlin’s guidance, will split off and come to an agreement with Russia and China. That is where the resources and money are. No matter what the Globalist Neocons profess, sane rulers will back away from World War III. They will be incinerated along with everyone else. Hopefully deadly mistakes will be avoided and healthcare provided for everyone so that it is old age that gets us in the end.

  45. turcopolier says:

    Perhaps you have forgotten that the last time Pakistan closed the ground LOC a new LOC was opened from Russia through Central Asia. In such a case the present tension with Russia might be overcome. pl

  46. Babak Makkinejad says:

    SCO is a political zero and absolutely irrelevant.
    If LOC is closed by Pakistan, Russia is the only other alternative.
    Iran will not help the United States, under any circumstance short of the aliens landing in Saravan, nor render any assistance; least of all under a Trump presidency.
    China is too far and the roads only exist on maps.
    US is being led by 3 military men – there is no diplomacy involved in any of this; which means that the “War” component of “US Policy” is the only part of it that now exists.

  47. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I agree.

  48. Babak Makkinejad says:

    US cannot “address” Pakistan; US is playing a game of diplomatic juggling trying to maintain stability by balancing China, India, and Pakistan in the area South of the Himalayas.
    US needs Pakistan and there are limits that she could go against Pakistan, lest she shatter and disintegrate.
    A study by US War College predicts the breakup of Afghanistan into two pieces by 2019 (roughly along the lines of the Seljuk Boundary).
    The Trio of Iran-Russia-China can try to maintain order there among the Seljuk Muslims while Pakistan can go on playing her strategic games in the Pashthunistan.
    At that time, US can walk away claiming that the country to which it was committed no longer exists.

  49. Babak Makkinejad says:

    If Trump thinks Afghanistan is all about Iran, he would be severely mistaken.

  50. Keith Harbaugh says:


  51. Fellow Traveler says:

    Bannon was right, it’s over.
    As for the policy, I think it was as much Kelly. He has a right to be sentimental having lost a son there. When he gave his SOCOM departure briefing to the press, he was asked what Gold Star families needed. He said they didn’t ask for much, but “the one thing they would ask, is that the cause for which their son or daughter fell be carried through to a successful end – whatever that means. As opposed to this is getting too costly or too much of a pain-in-the-ass…”
    (around the 39 minute mark)
    Is El-Sisi holding out on a permit for a Trump Tower in Cairo?
    “The United States has decided to deny Egypt $95.7 million in aid and to delay a further $195 million because of its failure to make progress on respecting human rights and democratic norms,”

  52. Lemur says:

    At least the methods of empire presume a certain order rather than the utter chaos the ideology of ‘nation building’ engenders.
    If the Washington borg won’t let America pull out of useless wars (as both Trump and Obama wanted to do in Afghanistan), then the electorate should be reimbursed.
    As we head into a multi-polar world, neo-colonialism will intensify as Great Powers compete for resources, trade routes, markets, and geopolitical strategic ground.

  53. sid_finster says:

    Bandolero: correct me if I am wrong, but it ain’t that easy to reroute supply lines for something so logistics dependent as a US expeditionary force, especially when going through potentially hostile third world countries.

  54. Bandolero says:

    I remember that well. I think seeing a chance to overcome the tensions would be an overstatement, but I could well imagine some kind of deal like Putin helps Trump securing an LOC to Afghanistan to advance stability with the aim of a regional longterm solution there, and Trump helps Putin to secure compliance of the Kiev government with the Minsk agreement.

  55. Lemur says:

    The European Great powers (mostly) used to win colonial wars. Britain controlled a vast empire with around 100,000 regular troops. Simply put, positively controlling the territory of a different people requires absolute ruthlessness. You can’t make people love you with guns, but you can make them fear you. The whole notion of ‘nation building’ and ‘exporting democracy’ derives from a fanciful concept of what guns are for (killing people).
    Therefore, in practice liberal nation building projects boil down to justifying killing people so they can vote. This ensures neither hearts and minds are won (you’re killing people), nor positive control established (you’re not killing enough people).

  56. bks says:

    Note to moderator: Up in #23 I must have failed to close the italics. Everything after it is in italics. My apologies.

  57. turcopolier says:

    The European colonials tended to use ethnic differences and loyalty directed toward themselves as tols against large ethnic majorities. We have done the opposite. we have tried to “iron out” cultural differences to produce utopian man. Th is a big differnce in practice. Actual GBs like me , TTG and Jim Gant have been punished for identifying with useful minorities. pl

  58. turcopolier says:

    I meant something useful and limited as you describe. pl

  59. turcopolier says:

    “Easy” has nothing to do with it. You do it when you must as we did once before. pl

  60. turcopolier says:

    Who left the italics on? pl

  61. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The English Rule was considered Legitimate by many of the Colonial peoples. That was why the Raj had less than 10000 Englishmen at any given time.
    The Legitimate Authority does not exist in Afghanistan and US cannot create it.

  62. bluetonga says:

    Obviously, the Pentagon and other influent actors inside the Beltway do not wish to leave Afghanistan to its own fate. Russian senator Klintsevich has argued that the US never meant to leave the place anyway (RT) since it sits rigth between Russia, China and Iran and offers a very strategic position for “quick action” (whatever that is supposed to be).
    An emerging “united” Eurasia being the obvious actual challenger to the de facto American political, economic and military supremacy over the planet, I think that the argument makes sense and should not be ruled out too easily. If the political and economical entente between countries such as China, Russia and many other -stans persists and flourishes (through entities such as the SCO or the BRICS), then it may well achieve the decline of American influence on the economic and political world scene, ruining the Monopoly scheme played by US oligarchs behind the Washington scene.
    In this regard, I am wondering about the request for India to get involved. Could it amount to an attempt to drive further the wedge between India and China and bring the former back to the Western sphere of influence, possibly dislocate the fabric of the BRICS? This may sound far-fetched or too conspirationnist, yet it would make sense in a global strategy for maintaining world supremacy and preventing the rise of solid contenders. Of course, all of this not for the American citizens’ best interests but rather for the greater profit of a lurking cast of voracious corporations and oligarchs.

  63. Bandolero says:

    I don’t think that the SCO “is a political zero and absolutely irrelevant” – just the opposite.
    With Chinese financial tools – belt and road, AIIB, etc – the SCO got quite huge financial muscles. And with Russian military tools – currently on public display in Syria – the SCO has also proven to have considerable military clout and expertise in fighting and winning against extremists.

  64. RangerRay says:

    In the wake of Trump’s speech, I thought I’d throw in my two cents. I was very pleased to hear that we are now going to focus on killing terrorists and not on nation building. The latter, IMHO, is a futile effort considering the cultural environment. The Greeks, the Brits, and the Sovs all failed at this project and we seem to now be learning from this long history. I had the privilege of being the chair of the IC Working Group on Afghanistan when Najibullah was deposed. The members of the Working Group were generally very happy with that outcome, some to the point of near ecstasy. One of the latter members forecast the Afghans soon sitting around the campfire virtually singing “kumbaya” together. To try and put things in perspective, I asked the group to identify the national sport of Afghanistan. One of them immediately named buzhashi, at which point I rested my case.

  65. TV says:

    What the US should have done in 2002 – after pacifying the Taliban but NOT getting UBL (BIG failure):
    Maintain a small recon force on the ground, satellite surveillance and lots of drones.
    Tell the Afghans:
    “Go ahead and live in the 12th century but if we detect a threat, we will be back and kill lots of you.”
    As for Pakistan, we have the power of the purse and it should have been used back then to squeeze them, but we had/have all those “experts” who know best (mainly about their own careers).
    Now we’re in year 16 and it looks like the “experts” are still throwing away our blood and treasure.
    Drain the swamp.

  66. Kooshy says:

    Colonel Lang, thank you for usual sensible realist analysis of new Afpak military plan. I do agree that with this new announced strategy, nothing will change or can be changed. But IMO, at least in President’ address there were couple of new positive points. One was that India now is considered to be a player with interests, second the usual devils (Iran, China, Russia) were not demonized. And lastly Pakistan was named as inspiring, helping, supporting the Taliban and was put on notice. IMO the Asian devils plus India, meaning Iran, Russia, China, India and Pakistan as well as Afghan Government, none want the Americans to leave Afghanistan, the reason is, everybody except Pakistan is getting a free fighting force against Taliban which non likes. Pakistan and Afghan Government are also getting paid handsomely, which is more important than the security issue. None of these countries specially Iran, Russia and China are worried about permanent American bases near their borders, that is, because they believe they can easily control the supply line for the American bases in Afghanistan. I have heard the fuel for American bases, is Iranian fuel sold through Afghan middlemen, since it is safer and cheaper to get fuel from Iran than trucing from Indian ocean ports through Pakistan. India and Iran, as well as Russia and China all support current Afghan Government, and are helping and building Afghanistan’ infrastructure. That is not the case for Pakistan, KSA, and Israel, each for her own reasons.

  67. FB Ali says:

    MK Bhadrakumar, in a recent blogpost (Aug 20), says that the US is transforming its war in Afghanistan into a proxy war against Iran, using the IS/Daesh. In this it is being supported by elements of the Afghan military command.
    Thia issue is being taken seriously by Russia and Iran.

  68. Bandolero says:

    I have a hypothetic question: if you were in Trump’s shoes and you would want to leave Afghanistan, how would you do that?
    Would you:
    1st) Simply order all US forces to get home in the next six weeks or months or whatever time, thereby risking to get pics like in Saigon, chaos to quickly spread in Afghanistan and new terrorist safe havens to establish itself?
    2nd) Hand over the current duties of the US & NATO forces in landlocked Afghanistan to the most capable neighboring regional powers, ie China, Russia, Iran & Pakistan, thereby securing a sense of order & keep a good chance to prevent total chaos in Afghanistan?
    If you’ld decide for the 2nd option, an additional question: how would you sell that decision to the US public? Would you:
    a) Go live on US TV and announce that the US lost the geostrategic war in Afghanistan and therefore you’re going to hand over Afghanistan to the valued US friends China, Russia, Iran & Pakistan?
    b) Announce something like the only US interest in Afghanistan is that terrorists do not rule or find safe havens there and victory for the US means a regional solution for the conflict?
    Given the political climate in the US, if I were in Trump’s shoes and wanted the US to get out of Afghanistan, I’ld likely try to go with a speech like he made it. How would you do it?
    PS: Food for thought: CNN (fake news, I know) had a couple of weeks ago a piece on Afghanistan, which I find interesting if I subtract the usual anti-Iranian and anti-Russian spin there. Quote begin:
    The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government … One splinter group of Taliban near Herat say they obtained the guns after defeating a mainstream rival group of Taliban. … In one video the Herat group are seen brandishing the guns, which they said were taken from the mainstream Taliban, led by Mullah Haibatullah, after that group attacked them. Eighteen of their rivals were killed in the attack and six were captured, they said. …
    Quote end. Source:
    So, according to CNN, the current picture in Afghanistan is that Taliban with weapons supplied by the Russian government currently fight and kill in Afghanistan Taliban with weapons supplied by other sources.
    I find this remarkable. And I question myself: maybe Taliban fighting with weapons supplied by Russia are more likely to agree to a Russian or Chinese sponsored Afghan peace agreement than Taliban fighting with weapons from other sources? I would not wonder if it were so.

  69. Kooshy says:

    Americans are told we must pay with blood and the money to keep our afghan foothold, while atlanticist American military is happy thinking they have got themselves an strategic point in middle of 4 nuclear powers and an ancient power for what purpose? only they know. One should ask them, supposedly you do have a strategic base, in middle of this 5 countries ,what can you do with it? what is it’s use?

  70. Cortes says:

    Another interesting piece. Thanks so much.
    I found the following linked article, by an Indian former diplomat, intriguing, especially in the reference to Bannon’s departure:

  71. Oilman2 says:

    Colonel –
    Outside of Grenada, when have we not enjoyed mission creep in the last 50 years? I get the feeling that forward plans, if they do not include mission creep budget ‘fat’, are not approved.
    I’m also curious about your feelings regarding mercenaries and putting control of them in theater command hands.

  72. Greco says:

    On the face things, I think you’re estimations are correct, Colonel.
    However, how much should we take at face value? What if he and the three amigos are cooking up a substantial withdrawal several months to a year from now until the conditions are right? It may not pan out that way, but that could be the intention here if things play out as they hope, i.e., they establish conditions that either eliminate or effectively contain the overriding national security threat posed by jihadist terror enclaves.
    Tillerson’s comments today seem to have hinted at that:
    “I think the president was clear, this entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you. So at some point, we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way bring this to an end.”
    (emphasis added)

  73. Huckleberry says:

    After establishing air re-suppliable base for drone-ops with a 10km dead zone around it:
    1. Flame poppy fields
    2. Drone strike all unpermitted gatherings of Afghans of 20 individuals or more
    3. Repeat

  74. Peter AU says:

    US LOC through Russia?
    The Ukraine situation is stable and I cannot see the US pulling out of Ukraine. Although Trump may be willing congress will not.
    And then there is this
    “According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, in at least three provinces in the north of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan an unidentified aircraft was spotted dropping boxes for Daesh militants. Kabulov noted that the issue was raised by Russian diplomats at a UN Security Council meeting.”

  75. TonyL says:

    sid_finster @24,
    It is sad. Besides the fact that DJT is unfit to be POTUS, is there any compaign promise that he has fulfilled? It is time to say definitely that he has conned a lot of people into believing he would conduct the foreign policy anything different from a neoliberal such as Hillary Clinton.
    Given what we’ve seen how DJT deals with the North Korean issue, I would even say we are in worse foreign policy shape than when Bush Jr. was in office.

  76. ISL says:

    pardon me, Bandolero, but why do you assume those nations have an interest in peace in Afghanistan, or that Afghanistani’s have an interest in a peace that maintains the status quo of winners and losers?
    Or that any of the countries in the region have an interest in the US not being in a war that bleeds our economy? Why do you assume the US has an interest in peace either? Why do you assume the US wants the Silk Road to succeed? Have you seen any evidence of a reversal of Brzenski?
    Other than GTFO (which removes the US from the equation), I see a confluence of interests against the US’s interests.
    I would add, maintain intel assets in country and return periodically hit any group that gets too far out of line. Or better, hire other Afghani’s to do the smashing. But cut out the drone war.

  77. turcopolier says:

    I am not in favor of hiring a security company’s private army. IMO they are uncontrollable as we found in Iraq when the PSD’s of State Department started killing people at will, pl

  78. turcopolier says:

    I know of no evidence that DJT and the 3 Amigos have any plan such as that. pl

  79. turcopolier says:

    FB Ali
    I have rummaged around in the US government for years seeking evidence that the US Government created, assists or coordinates its actions with IS. I have found none. AQ linked groups? Yes. Under the influence of neocons like McCain and L. Graham some AQ affiliated groups were supported but NOT IS. There was s rumor a week back that the US had bombed the Tiger Forces at al Kadir in support of an IS attack. I checked on tihs with sources with good access and such an attack never happened. pl

  80. paul says:

    @ Dave Schuler.
    but we don’t need to be there for counter terrorism.
    there is no cell hiding out in some village plotting attacks against america.
    we are there to fight an insurgency that will eventually replace the current government with one that will not accept any American presence.

  81. blowback says:

    I think one of the reasons that Flynn got canned was because of a public statement he made earlier that the Obama government willfuly turned a blind eye to the activities of certain allies intent on “establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in Eastern Syria, ….., in order to isolate the Syrian regime.” In the eyes of the Washington Borg that would be a mortal sin, far wrse than turning a blind eye to the growth of ISIS.
    The 2012 DIA report obtained by Judicial Watch under FOIA.
    Further analysis:
    About Michael T. Flynn interview on Al Jazeera:

  82. Kooshy says:

    Is not too difficult for Iranians to arm the shia and Tajiks in Afghanistan and create HA or PMU they have done that before, Northern Alliance. IMO, Iran will not directly enter any war with it’s neighbours unless attacked inside her borders.

  83. plantman says:

    PL: “What would a wise policy be?”
    How about regionalizing our efforts at peace?
    Get Afghanistan’s neighbors more deeply involved in ending the conflict.
    Once we decide that we need to withdraw and our strategic aims cannot be achieved, we need to find a face-saving way out.
    Russia could be very helpful here. My understanding is that they have a open channel of communication with Taliban leaders. Let’s fob this one off on some other country why we reduce our commitment on the ground.
    I’ve never understood why we are so hostile towards the Taliban when we allow the equally-brutal warlords to rule vast swathes of the country.

  84. To Whom it May Concern,
    The American objective driving our several strategies over the course of this 16 year old campaign has always been to prevent Afghanistan from launching, or being used to launch, terrorist operations against the United States and her allies.
    I should like to point out that Afghanistan is not required and could be one of the worst places in the world for organizing, coordinating, recruiting, and financing such operations. The Arabian Peninsula, the countries of North Africa, and the cities of western Europe are much better in terms of access to communications, money, recruits, and transportation. The attack on September 11th, 2001, despite all the pronouncements to the contrary, was not “launched” from Afghanistan. It was, in large measure organized, trained for, and paid for in the United States, by way of Saudi Arabia and Europe. The ideological impetus and some of the planning originated with OBL and his cohorts, but that could just as well been done from elsewhere.
    My conclusion, and I’d be interested in comments to the contrary, is that the 16 year war has been a waste.

  85. LeaNder says:

    I have rummaged around in the US government for years seeking evidence that the US Government created, assists or coordinates its actions with IS. I have found none.
    Did he? Or are you reading him that way only? Could one read Trump’s statements, without checking, that Obama indirectly created ISIS by leaving Iraq that way too? I wondered at the time.
    Strictly I wonder about the genesis of the topic. Why not as related to the genesis of ISIS via the hyped up, it definitively felt that way, Al-Zarqawi?
    rather superficial check on the comments. But given recent decades a little hesitant about Bandolero’s optimist comments. Not that I wouldn’t like to be an optimist, and not that I cannot grasp something along the lines of “you broke it, you own it” as far as the US and Afghanistan is concerned, verus TTG’s get the fuck out.
    As military/political science and related issues nitwit: Could a pure counter-terrorism strategy have worked post 9/11? And how? And why exactly didn’t it happen. No one realized that some “tribes” terrorist might be other’s “freedom fighters”? How much did the context change since then?
    Further nitwit questions: to what extend did US reactions intensify the problem without solving it? To what extend did it create the WOT for decades to come it declared?
    As other’s here I almost instinctively felt the urge to challenge Bandolero optimism via Trump’s campaign promises concerning Iran. They were purely populist theater given the established US context or had a deeper meaning? Remember: The ultimate sponsor of terrorism after all.
    that said: Would RangerRay be so kind to give the more curious nitwits among us some further insight? Filling up our mental lacunae. For instance about this:
    Personal reminiscences are always appreciated.

  86. turcopolier says:

    LeaNder You misunderstand me. IMO it is true that we caused the existence of IS by invading Iraq and then failing to pacify the country after a massicve CT campaign in which we weakened the non-jihadi rebel forces. That is quite different from deliberately creating IS and using it as an instrument of US state power as I believe FB suggested. pl

  87. Castellio says:

    And what is that supposed to accomplish?

  88. sid_finster says:

    @turcopolier: except Russia was much friendlier then.

  89. turcopolier says:

    I have discussed that DIA document several times and given my opinion, as the former head of intelligence production at DIA for the ME, that this is a document received from a foreign liaison service by a DAO. Everything about the format and content tell me that. DIA by virtue of its charter would not comment on US policy. If Flynn chose to use that foreign liaison as a tool in an argument over policy, that is understandable but that would be the kind of thing that got him fired. Derek Harvey, then an SES at DIA may have had something to do with that decision to use the foreign document that way. When I was there one of my SES coleagues very nearly caused a Director of DIA to be fired by causing him to take an unreasonable position over Glaznost. pl

  90. turcopolier says:

    Not really, WE were more friendly to Russia then. Nevertheless, cooperation takes place every day in Syria. pl

  91. DH says:

    From a Realpolitik viewpoint, keeping in the middle of things, throwing a soft wrench into the Silk Road project, ongoing negotiating with Russia-Iran-China, extracting rare earth metals from Afgh, and ceasing idiotic nation building seems expedient. Over many, many years, as we all get cozy, I can foresee Afghans slowly absorbed into the modern age.
    “If you can make one heap of all your winnings,
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
    And never breathe a word about your loss…”

  92. turcopolier says:

    You don’t know that a plot is not being hatched in a village. The 9/11 plot was “hatched” that way and then prepared for execution in Europe. pl

  93. Stephanie says:

    Dreher is mistaken. Everybody who voted for Trump hoping that he would reduce the US military’s involvement in foreign wars was made a fool as soon as he or she cast that ballot. Trump was never against any foreign war before the war actually started, he has no use for diplomacy, and he stated that he was going to let the generals have their heads. There’s more, but you get the picture. All this was evident while the election was still in progress.

  94. Castellio says:

    Off topic on this thread, but related to current US – Russian relations. Taken from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
    “The United States has sent its first shipment of anthracite coal to Ukraine from the U.S. port of Baltimore under a deal designed to increase Ukraine’s energy security.
    Pennsylvania-based XCoal Energy and Resources signed a contract with Ukrainian state energy company Centerenergo on July 31 to provide 700,000 tons of anthracite coal in the next few months.
    The deal followed talks between Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration in June. The first shipment of 62,000 tons is expected to arrive in Odesa’s Yuzhnyy port in three weeks, Voice of America reported.
    At a launching ceremony in Baltimore on August 22, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Valeriy Chalyy emphasized the importance of the deal for Ukraine’s energy security. […]
    Exports to Ukraine are part of Trump’s plan to turn the United States into an energy-exporting superpower, putting it in direct conflict with Russia in Eastern Europe, where Moscow is currently the dominant energy supplier. […]”
    For Eastern European states such as Lithuania and Poland, which are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, Trump has offered to ship liquefied natural gas (LNG) by tanker. This week, Lithuania is expected to receive a first tanker delivery of LNG from the United States.”

  95. FourthAndLong says:

    Agree. Thought so for some time now, but after last nights rantings with threats to shut down the US Government, he is clearly deranged IMO. Crazier than Mussolini, and quite similarly grandiose. No one’s interests in mind other than his own and his easily threatened self image. A threat to the United States. And everything on the planet.
    Concrete thinking ever on display. No abstract reasoning. Belligerence his default setting. Along with outright lies and demagogic sloganeering.

  96. FB Ali says:

    Col Lang,
    I fully accept your statement that you found no evidence of the US government creating or supporting IS. However, that would not rule out some local US commander turning a blind eye to Afghan military command elements supporting IS in an anti-Iran operation.
    The facts are that the US enemy in Afghanistan is the Taliban. It is fighting the Taliban by supporting the Afghan government and local anti-Taliban warlords. The IS is also fighting the Taliban. It is not at all inconceivable that some local US commanders would believe that the US war aims are furthered by occasionally (and secretly) assisting the IS against the Taliban (or Iran, another enemy of the US).
    Much has been written in the comments on this thread and others recently on Pakistan’s policies and actions in Afghanistan. In my view, these are mainly governed by the following:
    – Pakistan will not allow Afghanistan to become an Indian satellite. This is the main reason for its support of the Taliban in Afghanistan, even as it has ruthlessly rooted out the Taliban within Pakistan.
    – Pakistan has switched from the US sphere to the China sphere. Even though it receives significant monetary assistance from the US, its policies are much more responsive to Chinese interests and wishes than those of the US.

  97. Ante says:

    Afghanistan’s Shia population is small and mostly isolated. There is not possibility for truly sectarian conflict, only survival or extermination. This is about the ideological and physical inertia of incompetent military and civilian leadership.
    COIN, coin rocks and rolls, coin is the champion, we’ll keep on fighting til the end. It took a friend of mine a year plus to get a single well sunk for the village he was supposed to be COINING, he left right afterwards, COIN.
    Now the mission in Afghanistan is, whatever, just do whatever you did before, whatever. Embarrassing

  98. turcopolier says:

    “If your intelligence and infiltration of groups is good, you can stop the plot, find the village and bomb the crap out of it.” Have you ever done anything like that or are you just fantasizing? pl

  99. turcopolier says:

    FB Ali
    IMO it is impossible to “work with” the IS even if you wanted to do so. For a US commander at any level to try to do that would be suicidal in career terms. pl

  100. dilbert dogbert says:

    One of the late night hosts presented a side by side of trump and Obama saying the same things about Afghanistan. Interesting.

  101. mike says:

    FB Ali –
    The attack on the Hazara village and the massacre there was reportedly done by a joint operation of Daesh (ISIS-in-Khorasan) and elements of the Taliban.
    Looks to me like they are cooperating, NOT fighting each other.

  102. dilbert dogbert says:

    Down thread I commented on one of the late night TV hosts running a side by side of trump and Obama saying those. I read from the bottom up rather than top down.

  103. FB Ali says:

    These reports are suspicious. Their source is the Afghan command and the NATO command. They have been denied by the official spokesman of the Taliban. However, if any Taliban did participate in the attack, they were from a ‘renegade’ group. Some extracts from the news reports:
    The Taliban denies it was a joint operation……
    Zabihullah Amani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, told AFP that the local Taliban commander has pledged allegiance to ISIS.
    U.S. and Afghan officials have repeatedly alleged that ISIS and the Taliban have collaborated on terrorist attacks, a claim that both groups have denied.

    The two groups are NOT cooperating.

  104. mike says:

    B Ali –
    Perhaps not a joint op with the main Taliban IEA, but elements. The link you provided states: “The Taliban denies it was a joint operation, saying a group under one of its commanders carried out the attack.”
    I concur with Colonel Lang’s opinion. No way any rogue subordinate US commander could carry that out. Seems to me the insinuations Daesh is US supported seeping out of Afghanistan are either agitprop by the Taliban to cover up their own sub-units complicity, or to be charitable it could be paranoia. The same propaganda was tried in Syria.

  105. dilbert dogbert says:

    The topic is generals. Here is my question about Kelly and McMaster: Have they pledged personal loyalty to the president? Like Comey reportedly was asked to do. Col. Lang and others may have contacts that could enlighten me.

  106. Peter AU says:

    Erdogans oil convoys with ISIS? Putin brought these to the worlds attention apparently after US had been fighting ISIS for a year or more and much noise about cutting ISIS sources of finance. US with it surveilance and intel capabilities did not notice nor track these tankers?
    The US attack on Deir Ezzor when no Russia could not contact anyone on the deconfliction line, A10 pilots that could not see the red of the Syrian flags standing out like dogs balls in the desert nor which way their targets were facing, the surveillance aircraft overhead was not listening in to the coms on the ground?
    Now after the US has been in Afghanistan 16 years, ISIS have set up shop there.
    The US ignoring the oil convoys which supplied finance to ISIS in Syria gives grounds to suspect the US may be turning a blind eye to some state support of ISIS in Afghanistan.
    The Russian ambassador bringing up the subject of helicopters landing in ISIS territory at the UN, probably means Russia thinks there is some validity to the claims from Afghanistan.

  107. Procopius says:

    Did he give any indication of what our goal is? Trump’s speech was utterly incoherent/contradictory on the subject. In fact, the last “goal” I heard expressed (I think by W) was, “To prevent terrorists from using the country as a base to launch terrorist attacks on the homeland.” This, of course, is not a measurable “goal.” Exactly what is it that our troops are accomplishing there now, and why will more of it be better? Oh, and has anyone noticed that opium production has sky-rocketed since 2002?

  108. Procopius says:

    I like your thinking about a possible China/Pakistan/Afghanistan alliance of some kind, but there’s a historical fact most people either choose to ignore of forget about (or never knew about). The Taliban are Pashtun. Back in 1920 or whenever it was done, some British Foreign Office clerk drew a line between India (under the Raj) and Afghanistan approximately through the middle of the territory occupied by the Pashtuns. Thus, now half of them live in Afghanistan, and half live in Pakistan. In Afghanistan they are the largest and most powerful tribe. In Pakistan they have a province of their own. I don’t know much about Pakistan, unfortunately, but people I trust have written that the Pakistanis are “terrified” that if a strong, unified government arises in Afghanistan, their Pashtuns will begin agitating to leave Pakistan and join with their fellow tribesmen in Afghanistan. Therefore ISS, the Pakistani intelligence service, works very hard to make sure that does not happen. Sounds plausible to me, but, as I said, I don’t know nearly as much about Pakistan as I should and would like to.

  109. Bandolero says:

    I closely watch how things develop in Syria. What I see following closely stuff on the ground there is a R6+1 US Win Win.
    Syrians can credibly claim that they successfully fought and managed to get their country back from terror and US president Trump can credibly claim that he managed to destroy ISIS. And Trump seems to keep this successful line, even when pressured by someone as powerful as Netanyahu.
    Trump’s strategy in Afghanistan looks to me very similar to what I see in Syria and Iraq. And it looks to me like a win-win to end this dumb war, too.

  110. turcopolier says:

    I do not see an opportunity for the US to apply the methods applied in Iraq and northern Syria to Afghanistan. IS chose to fight what has been essentially a conventionsl war against superior forces. The Taliban and other jihadis in Afghanistan are altogether a guerrilla force. pl

  111. LeaNder says:

    Castellio, Poland seems to have built a big harbor more recently to welcome US fracking oil to become a central cog in the European energy market, it seems. How did US media cover his first* (am I wrong?) European “touch down” after the ME or the SA and Israel, Poland?

  112. Fred says:

    You mean a personal loyalty oath like Hitler’s? That’s the slander the left has been throwing around anytime the Russia story, the racist story or the misogynist stories loses traction. Perhaps you should go to the source and ask the White House: (202) 456-1111 Don’t ask about Debbie Wasserman-Schutlz’s IT guy though, we wouldn’t want that to get into the news.

  113. Lord Curzon says:

    My understanding is the troops to be sent are there to keep the lid on the situation (the phrase I’ve heard several times is stalemate), it changes the dynamic for the Taliban.
    The generals appear to be going back to a strategy that was originally envisaged of supporting the Afghan government through until 2020, when they will have built their security capability and been professionalised.
    So, if we can maintain a stalemate, it will get the Talibs to the table and talks about a political settlement can begin. The notion that we were simply going to pull out completely was a non-starter – this was the only way it was going to end and a conditions-based approach makes it much more likely it will.
    The singling out of Pakistan is interesting, as their duplicity has been an open secret for years, but if tied together with the unequivocal demand by China earlier in the year for “security” to allow CPEC to prosper, the message to GHQ is clear: Pak’s time of supporting jihadi proxy terrorist networks is over.

  114. turcopolier says:

    lord curzon
    IMO this is nation building with a different face. The afghan security forces have not been “professioanalized” in 16 years of effort. I see no reason why a few more years will make a difference. These forces are far larger than Afghanistan can support financially until China or someone else fully develops the country’s mineral potential. In a year ot teo the generals will e=want more troops in what is actually a new COIN effort rather than a minimalist CT approach. pl

  115. mike says:

    Peter –
    Call it like it is: The attack on Deir ez-Zor was carried out by US, British, Danish, Australian and US warplanes. The Royal Danish Air Force released a statement saying that two of its F-16’s were involved in the airstrikes and the British released a statement saying that their armed Reaper drones also took part in the operation. The Australian Defence Force released a statement that two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18A were involved in the strike together with a RAAF E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft. Denmark pulled their F16s out of the coalition just three days after that attack, although they still provide support and training functions within Syria and Iraq.
    And the Russians were informed prior to the attack. Unfortunately the Russian hotline was informed that the attack was going be be done 9km south of the Deir Ezzor airfield when they were actually planned to occur 9 km south of Deir Ezzor city, which is approximately 3 to 6 km south of the airfield. That was a massive cock-up on the part of the coalition. On the other hand, the Russians delayed for half an hour in notifying the coalition of the blunder. During that half hour fifteen additional airstrikes took place. Once they did notify the coalition the attacks stopped immediately.

  116. egl says:

    Why do the generals want this? Careerism? Bellicosity? A combat lab?

  117. turcopolier says:

    Not careerism, they are already “there.” stubbornness, rigidity, unwillingness to lose. pl

  118. Harper says:

    First an observation: Afghanistan is America’s longest war, which actually began in June 1979, not after 911. Brzezinski got President Carter to sign a Presidential Finding authorizing covert support for what became the Afghan muhajideen, later morphed into Al Qaeda and Taliban. We solicited help from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and European allies to build the mujahideen force. I recall a late 1980s Senate reception where Michael Ledeen and Richard Perle were escorting around that great freedom fighter Gulbudeen Hekmatyar. Pre-911 we were negotiating with Taliban for the oil transit between CAR and Pakistan ports. We’ve been in a Thirty Years War. So it’s even longer and a worse failure. Russia Insider comments on Afghan heroin explosion is another part of the sordid story.
    Therefore, GTFO but with some thought behind it. SCO is tricky–neither fully functional nor irrelevant. Russia-China relationship is complex, BUT SCO surrounds Afghanistan, and when Iran gets full membership next year, SCO encompasses all the parties who have genuine interests in Afghan stability and peace. If the Trump plan to genuinely develop “major state” diplomacy with Russia and China (and with a US South Asia tilt to better cooperation with India) can proceed, despite the Borg hysterics, then a deal is there to be struck. Easier than JCPOA. No need to spell out the outcome–just get the talks going and make it clear that this is what’s happening. Taliban will look to be part of the deal–the big loser if done the right way–is ISIS and Al Qaeda. Pakistan is part of SCO and the US shift to more pressure on Pakistan is not just welcome. I expected it. Just read Lisa Curtis writings on how to bring Pakistan under control from Heritage and other writings. She is NSC South Asia, ex CIA and State Department. JCPOA is the model, and SCO is a convenient, if imperfect vehicle to use to move more rapidly than the JCPOA process.

  119. Castellio says:

    Harper, are you saying, with Bandolero, that the US government believes it can use the SCO to bring stability to Afghanistan?
    Or are you saying it could think like that, if it wanted to.
    Or something else.
    Just trying to get clarity.

  120. Lurker says:

    Trump is moving from so called nation building to straight out colonialism as part of a larger strategy to slow down or block the economic rise of China. Trump is moving from so called nation building to straight out colonialism as part of a larger strategy to slow down or block the economic rise of China.
    China’s strategy is based on a promise of infrastructure investment seeking mutual economic growth and prosperity (win win ). Meanwhile the hegemon’s strategy is to be a spoiler of the BRI causing chaos and in its path (lose lose). The hegemon can’t compete with China and thus is imposing its will by shear force or bribes (by hook or crook). Who wins hearts and minds in the long run?

  121. Lurker says:

    I don’t claim to have any local insight. But I can put two and two together. For example, it is known that the Northern Alliance is aligned with the US government. The Taliban is or was torching the poppy fields but now after more than a decade of US Military intervention the Poppy production has reportedly skyrocked. It follows that the Northern Alliance is a catch all name for drug lords. The Taliban must be seen as a moralizing force despite the rumoured Pashtun boy sex deviant preferences. [This could be true or anti Pashtun propaganda.]. In this scenario, what are the chances that the US presence would ever be acceptable to those not involved in the most profitable poppy trade?

  122. turcopolier says:

    All comments here are moderated by an actual human. Your two earlier comments had not been posted because I had not gotten around to them, but if you want to leave, adios. pl

  123. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Any organization that contains China, India, and Pakistan would be incapable of coming to a common agreement on anything; even the proverbial shape of the conference room.

  124. Babak Makkinejad says:

    They are all pederasts – a custom older than a millennia. US soldiers have reported hearing cries of young boys being raped in the next room at night – by US Afghan allies.

  125. Lurker says:

    Col, I have always been polite and appreciate your wealth of experience and insight. I must apologize for my outburst. Please forgive my foolishness.

  126. Keith Harbaugh says:

    Anybody have any comments on this?:
    “The Man [Scott Guggenheim] Who Thought He Could Fix Afghanistan”
    by May Jeong
    Politico, 2017-10-27

    Guggenheim is not a household name, but anyone who knows anything about international development, or Ghani, or the makings of the modern Afghan state will have heard of him, or have worked with him, and might be a little surprised that he didn’t have an Afghan passport already. His title is modest—senior adviser—but his imprimatur is on many major government policies that have come out of the Gul Khanna. If Ghani, a former academic whose lifelong passion has been studying how to fix broken countries, is Afghanistan’s development expert in chief, then Guggenheim is his American alter ego—Ghani’s Ghani.

  127. Keith Harbaugh says:

    “The generals rolled him, as they rolled Obama …”
    Colonel, I believe that radically misstates the reasons for Trump’s decision.
    To explain why, let me recall some facts which I believe are indisputable:

    1. The MSM looks for any excuse to criticize Trump.
    2. As an example from the past of how the MSM works,
      recall how the MSM (and the Dems) blamed GWB for the suffering resulting from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
      It was all GWB’s fault!
      And opinion polls showed such blaming had a significant effect on the public’s opinion of GWB.
      (BTW, an interesting comparison is how the MSM
      let BHO off the hook for the Chinese hacking of the OPM, even though
      the line of culpability for that incident led more directly to BHO
      than the Katrina problems did to GWB.)
    3. Let us also note how major parts of the MSM, certainly WaPo,
      have consistently claimed that our continued war in Afghanistan is necessary (so they say) to prevent further terrorist attacks on the U.S.
    4. Let us also note that over the past few years,
      when terrorism has struck the U.S. (the Boston marathon, the Fort Hood shooting, the Santa Barbara shooting, the various knifing attacks accompanied by a shout of “Allahu Akbar”, and so on),
      the MSM has not tried to link this to Afghanistan.

    let us suppose that DJT had made the decision to pull out of Afghanistan,
    and to let forces other than the U.S. military
    determine its future.

    (Which is, BTW, my preferred Afghan policy.)
    Thereafter, just as the MSM laid all the problems of Katrina at the doorstep of GWB,
    they would blame all future incidents of terrorism on Trump, and his decision to pull out of Afghanistan.
    You can easily imagine the words that would flow:
    “Trump didn’t do enough to protect the U.S.”
    And if, by some chance, a major attack was made on the U.S.,
    how easy it would be for them to suggest that our pullout from Afghanistan was a significant factor.
    And just how, Colonel, could Trump protect himself from such attacks?
    Well, anyhow, that’s how I read the current situation and what would happen if Trump had pulled out.
    And I think all that is sufficiently obvious that Trump sees the same thing.
    So he made his decision simply to forestall those problems.
    If that was his reasoning, he could hardly come out and explain it publicly.
    So he said all the things he did, essentially as a cover story.
    And as to WaPo? They surely don’t want to be blamed for all the negative consequences of our remaining in Afghanistan forever.
    So they happily play the blame game, and blame the generals for the decision.
    That’s my theory, anyhow.

  128. turcopolier says:

    Men like BHO and DJT are easy to recruit. All you have to do is appeal to their ego and act worshipful. If you do that they will jump into your arms. pl

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