Obama’s Vietnam Plus? – FB Ali

Y170330674195894 We are fortunate to have received this short essay by Brigadier FB Ali on the subject of the kind of strategy that the US should adopt in Afghanistan.

I particularly share the author's conviction that the insurrection in Afhganistan is not simply a contest between the Taliban, and Al-Qaida on the one hand and the forces of democratic modernization and centralization on the other.  The war is much more complex a phenomenon than that.

Will a large increase in American resources prove a panacea for Afghanistan or is something more subtle and more suited to Afghanistan what is needed?


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32 Responses to Obama’s Vietnam Plus? – FB Ali

  1. Is there a unified set of rules of engagement for US and allied troops in Afghanistan? Are they available publicly?

  2. steve says:

    At least the German commander of the peacekeeping forces said the order was illegal and he would not follow it.

  3. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Brigadier Ali has presented us a clear and realistic appreciation of the situation and policy options.
    US policy, IMO, needs to:
    1. Do whatever we can to prevent Pakistan from becoming Balkanized. This would trigger shock waves throughout the region and spill into India thereby destabilizing profoundly South Asia.
    2. Recognize that there is limited room for US action in Afghanistan. Perhaps Kabul and the Valley there could be secured and some serious economic development activity could then take place thereby bettering conditions for the people in that limited area. This might have a demonstration effect on outlying regions dominated by the warlords we are not going to “conquer” by military means.
    3. Work with Iran on Afghanistan and regional issues. Given the strategic road India has built in western Afghanistan, a link for US etal. could be established from Chabahar in Iran to the road. Thus a short supply route to Afghanistan unlike this Georgia-Azerbaijan-Central Asia route.
    4. Work with Russia on Afghanistan and regional issues.
    5. Work with China on Afghanistan and regional issues.
    6. Work with India on Afghanistan and regional issues and try to promote reduction of tensions and better relations between India and Pakistan and regional economic integration rather than confrontation.

  4. Mad Dogs says:

    One of the most troubling aspects, and apparently least amenable to change, of US foreign policy for the last half dozen decades, is the dominance of “The Military” as the preeminent source and mechanism for “fixing” foreign policiy thingees.
    Whether one believes General Petraeus is the font of all COIN wisdom or just another more “politically-wise” general on the move, one cannot but believe that again “The Military” is driving the Afghanistan bus.
    This is most true when the miliary is already invested in a particular foreign policy arena as is the case in Afghanistan (and as was the case in Vietnam).
    No matter how hard one tries to “think outside the box”, one’s occupation tends to center one’s views around what one knows.
    Whether, as FB Ali writes, it is COIN or more bombing to make the rubble bounce higher, our Afghanistan foreign policy is and will be driven by the biggest player in the game; a predominant military mindset.
    Is the Department of State an equal player in our Afghanistan foreign policy? Not so you’d notice.
    Is the Intelligence Community an equal player in our Afghanistan foreign policy? Not so you’d notice.
    Are NGOs, and heck, even “Community Organizers” an equal player in our Afghanistan foreign policy? Not so you’d notice.
    When one has a fire, you call the Fire Department.
    When one has a crime, you call the Police Department.
    When the US has a foreign policy crisis, the US seems only to call on “The Military”.
    Even if other experts are allowed to weigh in with their expertise, the 800 pound gorilla dominates.
    While I hope the Obama Administration can somehow move beyond dependence on a military-dominated foreign policy, sadly, I think we’re in for more of the same.

  5. barrisj says:

    At this point, President Obama is manifestly not a creature of the generals, unlike his woeful predecessor, and apart from a standing commitment to endorse Predator/Hellfire strikes in FATA, has no other oar in the water re: Afghanistan. Gates, Petraeus, Mullen, et al can eventually serve a useful role for Obama, that of giving him cover when he (inevitably) opts for a strictly “political solution” (which will bear NO similarity to that obtaining in Iraq, and in fact may well admit of “terrorist” participation). The notion of military escalation to “tip the balance” is nonsensical on its face, as OEF is into its 8th year (and counting), with the situation having WORSTENED over that time-frame, despite stepped-up Nato/Isaf/US military efforts – and concomitant civilian casualties, and how yet another incremental increase in US combat troop strength is expected to “turn the corner” on defeating “the insurgency” is simply untenable. The more the occupation forces dig in – indeed, expand their poorly-discriminating battlefield tactics – the greater the alienation of the people. And if what passes for a “central government” is increasingly seen as one installed, paid for, and protected by the West by force-of-arms, regardless of how many “purple fingers” participate in a “democratic” vote, what hope is there for that belaboured and bloodied country to avoid some form of occupation and low-level warfare for years to come? Whatever the objectives sought by Rumsfeld, Cheney/Bush, et al in late 2001 has now been transmuted into a regional problem, demanding regional solutions, and whether sorting this can be best achieved by a UNSC-convened peace conference, or by a concert of regional actors (SCO, India, Pak., EU) is left for diplomatic negotiations. Afghanistan can only be an enormous albatross about the neck of Obama if he yields to the “give us 30000 more troops and 2 Friedmans and we’ll beat them” pleas sent up by the generals. Because as sure as God made green apples, this catastrophe will be an issue in the 2012 campaign, as well it should be.

  6. Keith says:

    The author does a very nice job of presenting clear Pakistani and Pashtun perspective on how to proceed.
    How would the non-Pashtun 58% of the Afghan population feel about these comments and the proposed solutions?

  7. John Howley says:

    I detect a real sense of urgency in this commentary.
    The current situation is very unstable and and shifting rapidly.
    The question seems to be whether doubling US combat troop strength will push the situation towards or away from stability.

  8. Jose says:

    Politically, Obama needs a surge in Afghanistan as a cover to withdraw from Iraq and negotiate with Iran.
    If not, the Neocons and the military industrial complex will paint what ever political solution occurs as a failure or worse as a capitulation to the terrorist.
    IMHO, I agree with Brigadier FB Ali and his excellent analysis of the situation, the longer we stay, the worse things will get.
    Eventually, the Pakistani government will be forced to meet the demands of it’s people and resit our attacks our attacks to maintain credibility.
    Then what?
    Great info on the Iranian port, sort of need it right about now…lol
    From what I remember of General Craddock, a quote from Col. Lang’s Intelligence: The Human Factor:
    “Their focus in life is on things not people.”

  9. Will says:

    Obama is reliving the past. Dubya took his eye off the ball, relocated troops from Afghan to Irak, & allowed UBL to escape Tora Bora.
    But the tall Arab is out of the barn now. Bringing those troops back to Afghanistan is not going to change anything now! There was not a single Afghani on any of those airplanes on 9.11. Pakistan has the communication and transportation facilities for that kind of planning. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was from Baluchistan.
    Per the Bridgadier’s analysis, we cannot let this irritant continue and lose Pakistan, for that is the ultimate prize- the stability of Pakistan.
    Obama, though he is heads and shoulders above Bush, has already shown bad judgment by ruling out talking to Hamas (b/c they are not a head of a state, so he said) now he is boxing himself in again, or so it seems.

  10. Babak Makkinejad says:

    In regards to Chechens and the war there:
    1. Chechens speak Russian fluently and are comfortable in the secular aspects of Russian Culture.
    2. The area was never considered by Russia to be an alien land – it was part of the Russian Federation and its inhabitants have had all the rights and priviledges of other Russian citizens.
    3. Having been part of Russia for 200 years, they were not fighting an alien force. For it is much more difficult for an alien force to conquer people with whom it has not had historical interaction than it is otherwise.
    I am led to conclude that the case of Chechen War is not replicable to Afghanistan (more like the case of Sikhs and Khalistan).

  11. curious says:

    I Tend to think afghanistan is very messy, but not hopeless yet. Even if in reality it is a balkanized corrupt narco warlordistan.
    1. Majority of instability in afghanistan are really peasants mix with ex soviet era guerilla and whatever Pakistani ISI was brewing. Bin Laden/Al Qaeda was the peak of organized force. So we are not going to see taliban gaining sophisticated weapons and training unless somebody supply them. Their main weapon are machine gun, rpg and small land mine. (Compare this for eg to chechnya, dagestan, tamil, IRA, etc) In other word, taliban is not going to suddenly morph into infantry brigade unless somebody supply and train them. Creating functioning central government should be possible to counter the chaos.
    They are closer to highly skilled peasant guerilla that sometimes can organize when brilliant leader show up.
    2. if one look at entire afghanistan, the instability is mainly in the south/pashtun/Pakistan border FATA.
    Even in the west and northeast that experience the worst battle during 20 yrs war are relatively calm. Border with Iran are surprisingly normal compared to other area.
    So clearly, all this has more to do with FATA and entire afghanistan perse. Why is that specifically? The detail answer should guide afghanistan policy.
    3. US policy so far in Afghanistan and Pakistan are mono dimensional and downright pathetic. It’s total clown show. Diplomacy, trade policy, military solution, and afghanistan rebuilding programs are not in sync. Not to mention filled with corruption.
    My homemade 5 minutes receipt:
    -Domestically, somebody has to decide what we want in Pakistan. “kicking ass” is too simplistic. Afghanistan needs more coherent and comprehensive policy than “chasing terrorists”. (Mind you, thus far, without comprehensive policy, everything turns into wild goose chase and more of the same. After 8 yrs and billions of dollar. Had they create coherent policy from the beginning, half the current problem in afghanistan would have been solved.)
    – international diplomacy
    (gotta work with Russia, Iran, Pakistan, China. Obviously each country have unique relationship problem and challenge. Time to get real. Talk, cooperation, and pragmatic approach with big central asian power are cheaper and waste less resource. Russia, China, Iran are not going to let state department plays the old cold war game. (proof: SCO, supply route)
    -Pakistan and FATA. This is serious long term socio political problem that fuel afghanistan/Pakistan instability. It’s complex, but has to be fixed.
    -Then turn into Afghanistan domestic development.
    (agriculture, rudimentary infrastructure, functioning government, development/agriculture banks, road, market/supply chain/basic commerce, elementary education, technical and high education, police & afghanistan army, ..etc etc.)
    building basic functioning afghanistan central government is cheaper in the long run than keep neglecting this side of necessity.
    – Afghanistan the narco state. This partly what fuel taliban. blowing up few jungle opium lab or sprying herbicide are not a real solution. Afghanistan needs real agriculture and commerce policy. (really, it’s tedious, but not hard to do.) villages need work and viable livelihood. Need basic commerce, access to urban market, transportation of product, etc, etc…
    -Chasing terrorists. This should be under “how to separate” the general population from the hardcore terrorists and guerillias. Won’t happen overnight, but doable, specially with functioning central government. stopping weapon supply, eliminating RPG and landmines sale and production are a must.
    -start developing from urban centers, and the rest of country will follow 5-10 yrs later.
    -develop alternative cultural center to rival FATA. ( the young must have alternative path.)
    again, building simple technical college and rival religious centers are far cheaper than keep bombing FATA area. gotta give the new generation alternative choice than what has been done.
    …military operation alone is not enough. Mono dimensional approach will cost too much in the long run and fundamentally changes nothing.
    Afghanistan doesn’t need super fancy solution. It’s all about basic and practical civil society building. Once real functioning government start rolling, they can take care of the rest by themselves. This will takes decades, but cheaper than endless military operation.

  12. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    1. “WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has picked Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, a former top military commander in Afghanistan, to be the next United States ambassador to Kabul, an administration official said Thursday.”
    2. Prof. Vali Nasr to be senior advisor to Holbrooke.
    “The National Iranian American Council welcomes Iranian-American Professor Vali Nasr’s appointment as senior advisor to special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, which he has confirmed to Foreign Policy magazine, and we congratulate Dr. Nasr on his upcoming role in the Obama administration. Throughout his campaign, election and transition, President Obama made clear his intention to bring change to the way government operates; for those who long to see greater Iranian-American participation at the highest levels of our government, the news of Dr. Nasr’s appointment is truly change we can believe in.”
    3. So what about the agent of the Jewish Agency, Dennis the Menace? Will he now go back to planning for the future of world Jewry and related “Diaspora management” for the JA?

  13. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Anent Afghanistan (Bactria), one wonders what maps and visualizations will be presented to President Obama by the Alexander wannabes, military and civilian, inside the Beltway?
    Has President Obama ever gone hiking in the US Rockies, for example. Hawaii and Chicago are great places but…
    Will President Obama be given nice little reassuring flat ones, dolled up with SECRET or something stamped on them?
    How about some real world imagery?
    The 3D views of Kabul Valley are instructive, IMO.

  14. Will says:

    you may find the following interesting. tradeoffs- morale vs. logistics, accuracy vs. ease of cleaning, logistics vs. survivability?
    army-times-afghan national-army- swaps-ak47s-for-m16s-pickups-for-humvees/

  15. Ron says:

    Afghanistan is not a state but “A State Of Mind”. While FB Ali’s article is insightful he focuses far to less on what is the real problem which he identify’s in part. Pakistan is the only real solution to the problem in
    Afghanistan. He talks of a weak federal center but that was surely not the case when the Taliban drove Dostum into exile and Masoud into a tiny sliver of the country he was about to lose control of. Unless Pakistan is able to exert control of
    its own terrotory there will be no defeat of the Taliban

  16. Duncan Kinder says:

    If the United States should attempt to be brutal, then the rest of the Muslim world would respond negatively.
    Obama could look forward to episodes such as the recent spat between Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and Israeli President Shimon Peres at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
    Of course any solution to the Pashtun problem would require strong action within Pakistan – with all the attending risks and uncertainties.

  17. Arun says:

    Assessment from London (The Times) and Moscow (not sure of the source) is that the Taliban are feasting at the NATO table – an enormous amount of pilfering and payoff is happening simply because of where the supply lines are.
    I don’t see how you beat an enemy that you’re nourishing. It also seems clear that you are simply feeding the Taliban more if you deploy more troops without solving the logistics problem.
    The only other really workable route to Afghanistan is through Iran. But that means the US and Iran must not only be much friendlier, but also have common goals in Afghanistan.
    Any Iran-US friendship will require a Israel-Palestine settlement. Then there is the nculear issue.
    As Obama stated in his Al-Arabiya interview, it is all inter-related. The key to peace is a grand bargain. In a sense, as fundamental as what happened after the World Wars.
    OK – what should be the common goal in Afghanistan? I think it is an Afghanistan with a stable government that will clamp down on any trans-national terrorists who may be there.
    Now, everyone talks in terms of NATO armies and the Afghan army, but I think what we really need is highly professional Afghan police – more civilian than military force. What is lacking in Afghanistan is law and order; the Taliban have some appeal because they impose a crude version of order.
    Finally, Pakistan – I don’t want to say too much here, but I think Pakistan will right itself if (a) its over-clever generals can’t play the US by virtue of US dependency on routes through Pakistan and (b) some measure of peace is restored in Afghanistan.
    In a sense, the region started falling apart when the US-Iran relationship was destroyed with the overthrow of the Shah. It is time to restore that relationship.
    Iran, not Afghanistan/Pakistan, is the logical route for energy exports from Central Asia. The importance of the Caucacus will decline and entanglements like that with Georgia can be avoided.
    Nixon went to China. Obama needs to do something similar (in terms of change of mind-set) w.r.t. Iran.

  18. Mike Martin, Yorktown, VA says:

    A little concerned re the provenance of this very interesting epistle. Does anyone know who Brigadier Ali is? In what country’s military does he serve? Where and when was this written and for what audience?
    That said, and assuming this is the real deal, a couple of thoughts:
    – Karzai = Diem?
    – Will Obama succumb to our wretched tendency to hubris and order further escalations?
    – Are there US major generals seeking a third star, LTGs seeking a fourth by rounding out their resumes w/ a combat command?
    – Re the last, does a bear shit in the woods? But are the generals’ career worth the cost to this country?
    – All those poppies, a la the Golden Triangle. Is there any evidence of GIs getting involved w/ heroin, hashish, etc?

  19. curious says:

    My question on American foreign policy for Iran is this: how can it possibly be in the US interest to have Bibi as Prime Minister of israel, given that he is quite likely to bomb Iran?
    Posted by: castellio | 30 January 2009 at 11:24 AM
    I can’t think of any way for Israel to be able to bomb Iran without US permission.
    Israel airwave is tick with radar and satellite. Any of their fighter jet activities will be known within minutes, if not in advance due to various preparation. This on top of having to fly over various airspace for hours before reaching Iran.
    They can try ballistic or cruise missiles, but all of them are un-tested in battle. They will have to compensate for various inaccuracies.
    The best option for Israel, load missiles on unmarked ship, then launch the attack. But again, there is no report how accurate Israel short range missile is. (or if they have guidance capability to do it from ship.)
    last: classic special operation. But I doubt the Iranian is foolish enough to let anybody getting close to their nuclear facilities.
    nuclear Iran is a reality. My wild guess, at this moment, Iran has the complete set of technology and material to create nuke. But they are not strategically meaningful yet. So they better keep it hush.
    The next logical step for Iran would be developing credible conventional force (enough to make everybody think twice starting a war with Iran.) This way, Iran doesn’t even need to announce they have nuclear unless it is absolutely necessary. (When Israel announce theirs, or if Israel mating nuke with ballistic missile on public)
    But Israel won’t do that unless it’s their last choice, because then they will trigger nuclear race in the region.
    Egypt, Saudi, Libya,Syria will turn nuke overnight.
    so in the end, the question of Israel vs. Iran would be back to “cold war” arm race. Israel and Iran will have to keep the others bombing ability in check.
    Iran has Russian, Chinese tech, and bigger population and industrial base.
    Israel has US freebies supply.
    Frankly, if there is any grand strategy for Iran, it would be to make sure Israel is in very expensive multi decades arms race and trade war. Their economy is very imbalance
    Military expenditure list
    Nominal GDP list

  20. Saeed Malik says:

    Obama’s Vietnam Plus.
    I am in total agreement with Brig Ali’s views on the subject of Afghanistan. However there are two issues I want to emphasise,which normally get overlooked when discussing Afghanistan, and both have to do with the Pakistani side of things.These are as follows:
    1.In any analysis,what weightage should be given to the “willingness to fight” factor regarding a force involved in such operations? I cannot say what Pakistani Generals and other senior officers tell their American counterparts, but of the ones I have talked to, and there are many,I have not met ONE who has any enthusiasm for this war, and similar is the case with all the junior officers and men I have talked to. Their reasons for this attitude are many e.g they dont want to kill their own people;they dont have the requisite training and equipment for this type of war;some think it is India that stands to benefit more,if the Taliban are defeated;but by far,most do not believe this is their war–they believe this is a part of the US war against the Muslims,and they readily cite Iraq,Lebanon, and Gaza[in the last two they assume US complicity with Israel]as proofs of this, and they also strongly suspect US British and Indian hand in the anti-Pakistan insurgency in Baluchistan,in fact they quote their own intelligence reports in support of this last arguement.
    It was my suspicion that whatever their reasoning against this war in FATA,at the bottom must surely lie the fact that it is no longer very fashionable to die for one’s country with the enthusiasm of old.But I was disabused of this notion, as soon as some units were earmarked to be moved to the eastern border post-Mumbai emergency. All such units were quite happy about the prospects of fighting yet another war against India!
    2.The second factor which is under the radar in all the analyses that I have read, is regarding the quality of current governance in Pakistan, as also the state of corruption in high places,and how these will impact the war effort.My own take on the situation is that never in our existence, has governance been so lamentably poor, and corruption so blatant. This is saying a lot for a country which has rarely seen anything but corruption and poor governance.
    When we view these two aspects together i.e an unwilling army fighting an unpopular war, prodded on by a thorougly unscruplous and venal clutch of men who are robbing a desperately poor country blind,it will have to be the utterly stupid or the most incorrigibly optimistic,that could possibly see any light at the end of this dreary tunnel.
    But the danger does not end here. I shudder to think of the day when the first of the enlisted men refuses the direct order of a superior in the prosecution of this war, and this goes the rounds in the rest of the army. What will happen then? This will not just be the begining of the unravelling of the Pakistan Army, but also of the state as well.The answer then, is, to bring this war to an end through dialogue with the Taliban, and to immediately start rebuilding Afghanistan, but this effort should begin with Pakistan, which should form the “firm base” of this rebuilding operation.
    Saeed Malik

  21. Patrick Lang says:

    Clifford K.
    I do not think there is any chance of Pakistan being ‘Balkanized’ so long as its army remains intact (though border areas can become problems, as FATA is now). I also do not think that any political resolution can be achieved with the Pashtun insurgency unless it is predicated on a withdrawal of foreign troops. The US should look to achieve its security interests in Afghanistan through regional arrangements, as you have suggested, and by maintaining the ability to project military power there, if necessary.
    For the non-Pashtun ethnic groups and assorted warlords, the world would become a more dangerous place after such an agreement; they have become quite comfortable under the benevolent protection of ISAF. In the short term they can find reassurance through a US declaration that it will not allow the Taliban to again take over the country. In the longer term they will probably make suitable arrangements with neighbouring countries.
    Ron and Duncan K.
    Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Let Pakistan control its territory, clean up the bad guys, seal the border – and the war is won. Trouble is, it can’t be done. The US has spent several years bribing and bullying Pakistan to do just that, and it hasn’t happened. In its attempt to placate the US, the actions Pakistan has taken (and is taking) in FATA have caused serious strains within the country. Rest assured, if Pakistan becomes unstable, it would be a far bigger headache for the US than Afghanistan ever was or could be.
    If the US wages full-scale war on the Pashtuns, I suspect the blowback will be a little stronger than spats in Davos.
    FB Ali

  22. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I think it was the French that gave the nuclear technology to Israel; but I may be wrong.
    In regards to your statement “Egypt, Saudi, Libya,Syria will turn nuke overnight” I think only Egypt and Algeria (not on your list) have any remote chance of so doing technologically. But, Egypt has severe political & financial constrains on her freedom of action in this area due to her (current) close alignment with US & EU.
    The best option for Israel, in my judgement, is to create and ratify a consititution that defines her borders and the particular form of religious government.
    By that I mean that Israeli leaders have to create an amlgam of the principles of Judaism and Judaic Law and that of Representative Government.
    The definition of the borders and internal political stability are essential for peace.
    And these activities does not require engagement of US, EU, Russia, and others.

  23. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Iranian leaders (as well as Russian, Chinese and Indian leaders but to a much lesser extent) are concerned about the collapse of the central government in Afghanistan. They do not want to go back to 1990s.
    They will help as much as they can but only when the war between the United States and Iran is terminated. You wrote: “Any Iran-US friendship will require a Israel-Palestine settlement.” Iran & US can never be friends but they cannot afford to be enemies either. Israel-Palestine is irrelevant to this issue – peace between US & Iran is the essential.
    You also wrote: “…we really need is highly professional Afghan police – more civilian than military force”. I agree with this statement. You need something like the gendarmerie force.
    I also want to observe here that Germans were doing an splendid job of training the Afghan police (through translators) to do police work in Hamburg. God forbid that US & EU take up the Iranian offer of training the Afghan police in their native language and in a closely related cultural millieu!
    For now, US is insisting in keeping Afghanistan as her sand box and clealry she is not winning. We will hav to see what Mr. Obama’s administration will alter this course.

  24. Duncan Kinder says:

    If the US wages full-scale war on the Pashtuns, I suspect the blowback will be a little stronger than spats in Davos.
    So do I – I was merely citing concrete, timely evidence to support my thesis.
    However, I would not trivialize a public incident between heads of government – especially when Turkey is a NATO ally.

  25. dove says:

    There is a simply reason why US is forced to focus on Afghanistan – Al Qaeda Nuke. As long as there was some control in Pak, US could be patient. Now Taliban is just 80 miles from Islamabad!!. All other issues pale in significance to this. Integrity of Pakistan can only be saved by themselves. No one else can go and make them run their country properly or prevent balkanization by force. The only thing US can and has to do is to be very very close and ready if it looks like Islamabad will fall to the Taliban. As per the author, it is clear that Paki army won’t fight Taliban even if US gives arms, training and money. Where does it leave the US ? The only option is to fight Taliban directly. I think what the author says is same as what the US knows about Pakistani army, which is why US is doing now what it has to.

  26. I’m just shooting from the hip and letting the ideas meander, but I do not think Afghanistan will be another Vietnam:
    1. There are no powerful states supporting any insurgents in Afghanistan. The Soviet Union, Red China (until late 1960s) and North Korea all supported the North Vietnamese diplomatically and militarily.
    2. Don’t underestimate our ability to carry on military operations indefinitely. Vietnam was one “operation” within the context of the entire Cold War. We still had a vast military presence in Europe, Korea, and Japan to maintain as well as here at home.
    Looking at our war in Vietnam from a purely strategic viewpoint, which requires ignoring the human costs of the conflict, what did we lose? That’s very dangerous thinking in my book because I never, ever remove the human cost of any conflict from my personal evaluation of whether or not our wars are won or lost, since that trumps all other “metrics” as far as I’m concerned.I guess I’m just an old softy compared to the neocons. But that’s just my viewpoint. For the average American today, though, exactly what ramifications are there for the failure of us to meet our strategic goals in Vietnam? There are probably some residual affects – there always are – but have we as an entire nation suffered?
    Of course, the same question can be applied to many nations who supposedly lost their wars. Look at Germany and Japan today. As the generations pass, the consequences of failure diminish. This is very dangerous thinking, though.
    In the short term (a couple of decades), we have the power to carry on military operations in Afghanistan indefinitely. Especially if we move our forces from Iraq. We can slowly sap the insurgents of their will to fight. But we need lots of carrots along with the stick.
    Money is the universal language – even more so than love and music. We need to have a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan while we slowly pick away at the insurgency. Use the HTTs to determine the best way culturally to get money and projects flowing based on the local customs, and hopefully cut down on corruption. Pinpoint the projects at the local level rather than some top-down national program.
    Or, is there a way to exploit the corruption to our own advantage? We must always remember that most governments on this planet are more corrupt than our own, and that’s just how they work regardless of our viewpoints.
    This comment is too long.
    Here endeth the rambling incoherence.

  27. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Cold War Zoomie:
    You asked: “but have we as an entire nation suffered?”.
    Yes, indeed.
    The severe social problems of the United States today (war between the Mastes of the Universe and everyone else who has to earn a living, the war bween generations, the war among races, the war between sexes, widespread deterioration of manners, decline of social truat) may be traced back to the period of war in Vietnam – in my opinion. The war almost totally destroyed the New Deal and its progressive ideas that the United States could no longer afford. It frayed the relation between the governed and the government. It caused the collapse of the Bretton Woods agreements that directly contributed to the ecnomic issues of today. It gave rise to extremist political agenda from the Left and the Right with the middle disappearing. I do not think that any one has fully assessed the negative impact of that War on the American pysche and society – it is too painful for Americans to contemplate what has been lost between 1950 to 1970.
    As for Marshall plan for Afghanistan – US cannot afford it and there is no mechanisms in place to disburse it locally.

  28. curious says:

    Kyrgyzstan closing US base key to Afghan conflict
    A U.S. military official in Afghanistan called President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s statement “political positioning” and denied the U.S. presence at the Manas airbase would end anytime soon.
    Ending U.S. access would have potentially far-reaching consequences for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan, where the United States is preparing to deploy an additional 15,000 troops to shut down the Taliban and al-Qaida.
    It would also signal a significant victory for Moscow in its efforts to squeeze the United States out of Central Asia, home to substantial oil and gas reserves and seen by Russia as part of its strategic sphere of influence.
    Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev spoke on a visit to Moscow minutes after Russia announced it was providing the poor Central Asian nation with billions of dollars in aid.
    The Kyrgyz government “has made the decision on ending the term for the American base on the territory of Kyrgyzstan and this decision will be announced tomorrow or the day after,” Bakiyev said in televised comments.

  29. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    “HANGU: The Talibanisation of Orakzai Agency in the past few months has resulted in a drastic change in the lifestyles of the tribal residents, as the political administration has retreated and is now restricted to functioning in its Hangu district headquarters.
    “Talibanisation has taken strong roots in Orakzai and the region is now run by the Taliban council, which has introduced sharia law,” tribesmen who have moved from Orakzai to escape Taliban-style rule told Daily Times on Tuesday.
    Orakzai, which borders Kurram in the west and Hangu district in the east, provides a means to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to expand its influence to Peshawar through Khyber Agency. The organisation has already made its presence in the region known by attacking truck terminals for Afghanistan-bound supplies for NATO and US forces. Despite government attempts to block their infiltration, the Taliban recently celebrated their “complete control” over the region by inviting a group of journalists to the area in a show of power…”
    On FATA see Wiki for map etc.

  30. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    So just how will Team Obama react to the changing dynamics around Afghanistan? One would hope with realism and an opening to Iran with some disptach, not to mention active diplomacy with regional players such as Russia, India, and China.
    “This is forcing NATO into a major policy shift. NATO’s top military commander in Afghanistan, General John Craddock, admitted that the alliance would not oppose individual member nations making deals with Iran to supply their forces in Afghanistan. To quote Craddock, a four-star American general who is also NATO’s supreme allied commander, “Those would be national decisions. Nations should act in a manner that is consistent with their national interest and with their ability to resupply their forces. I think it is purely up to them.”
    Craddock was transferring rapidly to the operational plane what the alliance’s secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer had said only a week ago that NATO member countries, including the United States, should engage Iran to combat the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    Scheffer wouldn’t have spoken without Washington’s nod. Craddock underscored it. NATO is keen to use the new highway built by the Indian government from central Afghanistan to the Iranian border at Zaranj, which would allow access to Iran’s deep-sea Persian Gulf port at Chabahar. The road is largely unused. The Indians completed work on the highway hardly a fortnight ago.
    NATO is scrambling. It must somehow reduce dependence on Pakistani supply routes, which are currently used for ferrying about 80% of supplies. The irony cannot be lost on onlookers. NATO seeks an Iranian route when Tehran is demanding a US troop pullout from Afghanistan.
    Last Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki remarked that Iran had paid attention to the plans of US President Barack Obama’s administration to withdraw US troops from Iraq and “we believe this should be extended to Afghanistan as well”.
    The irony deepens insofar as a fortnight ago US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in his first congressional testimony in the new administration leveled allegations about increased Iranian “interference” and doublespeak in Afghanistan, and implied that Tehran was fueling the insurgency.”
    The heart of the matter is that the US’s efforts to open supply routes from the north across the Amu Darya have got caught up in the great game in Central Asia. American spokesmen blithely claimed Russia and the Central Asian states were providing supply routes. But the geopolitics do not bear that out.
    Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev dropped a bombshell on Tuesday by demanding the closure of the US military base in Manas, which is used for ferrying supplies for Afghanistan. He said this after talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, during which Moscow pledged to Bishkek that it was writing off $180 million debt and would also provide Kyrgyzstan with a $2 billion soft loan and an outright grant of $150 million.
    NATO’s envoy to Central Asia, Robert Simmons, rushed to Bishkek in a last-ditch attempt to stall the Kyrgyz move, but only to regret the development and admit that NATO’s Afghan operations would be adversely affected. Washington still hopes to salvage the situation, but that involves taking Moscow’s help. ….”

  31. curious says:

    Classic afghanistan problem: logistic. And the clown show continues.
    I give afghanistan less than 3 yrs to turn into pure mess if nothing changes.
    The Taliban don’t play chess
    It is unlikely the Taliban factored Iran’s imminent zwischenzug when they blew up the 30-meter iron bridge in the Khyber Pass 24 kilometers west of Peshawar in northwest Pakistan on Monday, which halted the supplies for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) troops in Afghanistan. But the disruption of traffic once again exposed the vulnerability of the main NATO supply route and focused attention on Tehran.
    This is forcing NATO into a major policy shift. NATO’s top military commander in Afghanistan, General John Craddock, admitted that the alliance would not oppose individual member nations making deals with Iran to supply their forces in Afghanistan. To quote Craddock, a four-star American general who is also NATO’s supreme allied commander, “Those would be national decisions. Nations should act in a manner that is consistent with their national interest and with their ability to resupply their forces. I think it is purely up to them.”

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