View Full Version : "Go Deep" - another plan for Afghanistan

10-16-2009, 06:36 PM
Found this (http://turcopolier.typepad.com/files/go-deep-_14-oct-09_.pdf) (PDF) over at Col. Patrick Lang's blog (http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2009/10/in-a-63-page-paper-representing-his-personal-views-but-reflecting-conversations-with-other-officers-who-have-served-in-afg.html). It was written by an Army LTC who works at DIA. It's an interesting alternative and thought-provoking though I have doubts about its viability. It also has some good arguments against both a light "CT" strategy as well as a COIN strategy. An excerpt:

The debate has generally coalesced around two camps, one advocating a “Go Big” strategy involving an aggressive and fully resourced counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign and the other primary recommends a counterterrorist (CT) focus with a lighter footprint. Both have ardent and passionate defenders who claim that failing to follow their prescription will result in strategic catastrophe; neither argument is so obviously right that the President has an easy choice. This report proposes something of a hybrid alternative called “Go Deep” which eschews the so-called “minimalist” option as being too light to accomplish the President’s stated national security objectives and rejects the “maximalist” approach as being so big and intrusive that it would actually work against our intent.

These recommendations are based on my personal experience and observations in Afghanistan, on my own combat experience over a 20 year Army career, interviews with numerous people who have lived in or fought in Afghanistan, and significant research into the history of Afghanistan as well as a study of contemporary events.

10-17-2009, 05:25 AM
On the military front, we have McClatchy (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/77269.html) reporting (all via Anons) that the troop choices offered are 20 K, 40K and 80K.

On the political front, the London Times (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/Afghanistan/article6878676.ece) and Wash Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/10/15/AR2009101502449_pf.html) are both reporting that Karzai will face a run-off election, or form a coalition government, or refuse to accept the findings of fraud.

The waters are indeed roiled.

Steve the Planner
10-17-2009, 04:48 PM

Good stuff, but the gap, as usual, is this huge leap on behalf of military folks, including the LTC, to assume that somebody else has/is/will figure out the civilian piece.

The elephant in the room in Afghanistan has always been the civilian governance piece and the politics surrounding it.

It would be nice, sometime, to see a rigorous military-style analysis, by military folks, of a strategy to address the gov/pol side.

The reason I say that is that the military itself, in conducting assessments and developing responses based on rigorous debate and alternatives analysis, has a remarkable capability to rip something to shreds analytically prior to building a way forward. That approach, at this point, if applied to the civ/pol side (the real elephant) might help to create serious and comprehensive strategies for a civ/pol "way forward" instead of the current mil strategy, of punting the undefined "Go Deep" thing into the civilian court.

On education, sure we can send more kids to our schools, but who is going to teach them? What choice, right now, exists for them after they become educated, and are dropped into so chaotic an environment, other than to become more educated opponents of us and the Afghan gov we protect and defend?

There are seven million Afghan kids in the school pipeline now, with the expectation that one million per year will be graduating over the next several years. There is, at present, no reasonable path for these graduates to pursue in either the legitimate economy or in further education that could help to build a different Afghanistan. The UN calls it a "ticking time bomb." How many are Uzbek/Tajik versus Pashtun?

In its present state, and given the lack of credibility of the Afghan government to its people, and a lack of hope for such future credibility, it is unlikely that any next steps could be effectively delivered by a bunch of happy civilian do-gooders dropped in from outer space. So, how is it going to work?

Use foreign military power to protect the people from internal opposition to bad government in order to build confidence in the bad government in order to create a stable future, without the support of the host government or its people. Is that it?

We are in a new and unprecedented space which, to effect our perhaps tortuously bi-sected strategy, requires some curious but untested "deep" strategy, heavily dependent on military resources and support, to build some form of minimally functional new civilian, or civilian/military structure.

Usually, we start with an "end state" and build a plan towards it. If the end state is a non-threatening (to us) government and reasonably functional economy and civil state, it is probably one built on different factional and regional alignments than those we currently presume.

For separate reasons, I have been pouring over historical maps of the entire region from Jordan to India, looking at all the various political states and structures from BC to today. It is in that context that the Durand line and all these various border pressures and "international" disputes must be viewed.

It is very complicated, and, as Afghanistan, based on our current suggested strategies of building up a strong (but non-Pashtun) Afghan Army to fight a predominantly Pashtun foe across sometimes arbitrary lines, while in the background, the other players (Pakistan/India/China/Iraq/Tajikistan/Uzbekistan) continue to play with the lines, is likely to develop even more defined and determined divisions, I wonder whether "Go Deep" really isn't just a call for the type of regional settlement that can only come from a long and arduous UN Regional Reconciliation process (re:Durand and the other "lines).

I tend not to focus on ground conditions, but on trends and patterns. Those patterns show continued strengthening and unification in the Tajik and Uzbek North and West, suggest increased connections between Pakistan & China (including the string of pearls naval bases to the South of Afghanistan), and the big picture efforts by India, all playing out against an increasingly disenfranchised and uneducated Pashtun society.

So I am studying what is working, and that is the growing strength in the non-Pashtun areas, including their connection to adjacent and growing areas like Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Absent a "national unity" focus, these trends, of themselves, will create pressure to rearrange borders and destabilize our current concept of the Afghan nation.

Am I wrong to believe that, somewhere down the road, our next chapters in the "big game" might involve protecting these Pashtuns from the ravages of powerful forces on all sides?

10-17-2009, 05:54 PM
Very good report 'Go Deep' and ties many of the comments previously seen here together.

Curiously there is no mention of the logistic access required for the mission, i.e. use of Karachi port and overland transport truck routes. This is one of the weaknesses of any reinforcement, leaving aside the vulnerability to changes in Pakistani co-operation and attacks.

Nor the attitude of ISAF / NATO partners.

One minor quibble the author comments on a long list of the "usual suspects" with active AQ / terrorist groups and includes Oman. That is a puzzling inclusion as I cannot recall a single incident there, even though there is an Anglo-US (and others) "footprint".

I just hope others way above my pay grade read it too.


10-17-2009, 06:02 PM
Enthropy- excellent read.

This piece should be republished as a SWJ article for wider dissimenation.



10-18-2009, 03:48 AM
to the end, where one finds Figure 9. Insurgent concentrations throughout Afghanistan (nice map). It struck me odd that the Soviet Union is located to Astan's North. So, found the source, history-map.com (http://www.history-map.com/picture/000/Afghanistan-insurgent-groups-major.htm), where:

Here for your perusal is an original map of Afghanistan major insurgent groups. It was created in 1985.

Brought back memories of armchair viewing of our successful effort to bait the Bear. Watching Astan in the 80s was much more pleasant than watching Astan during the last few years.

I'm not competent to critique the military proposals (basically, a Kabul-Bagram enclave; intel and direct action; and FID, as I understand it).

As to the civilian side of the ledger, I read some statements expressing future hopes, but little of substance. The LTC got this right (p.13):

The last time there was effective governance in Afghanistan was the rule of King Zahir Shah who ruled from 1933 until deposed in a coup in 1973. During that 40 years the country was loosely ruled from Kabul, but the issues of day-to-day governance were primarily handled by the local tribes and regions. But given the geographical realities of the country and the near absence of a modern communications or transportation system, this arrangement worked very well.

According to one Afghan citizen I spoke to who lived there during the reign of Zahir Shah, there was a strong sense of peace and security. “We didn’t even have to worry about locking our doors at night,” he told me. But after the King was deposed in the near-bloodless coup in 1973 that brought Daoud Khan to power things began to change.

What he doesn't tell us with any substance is how to change STP's elephant back into the Zahir Shah mouse - credits to Dave Kilcullen for the elephant to mouse story.

Which is saying I pretty much agree with STP. Not to say that whatever comes out of the Obama administration huddle will be any better on the civilian effort. The major media attention has been to the 20K, 40K, 80K troop options.

What would you be doing right now if you were one of the two dozen or so "Northern Alliance" warlords ?

Steve the Planner
10-18-2009, 04:22 AM

What would you be doing right now if you were one of the two dozen or so "Northern Alliance" warlords?

Trying to partner, broker, co-opt, outflank, or otherwise come to terms with my "colleagues" in order to lay the groundwork for consolidation of power, and ultimate take-over.


10-18-2009, 06:20 AM
as well as setting up some secure arms caches; and making sure that all the old muhj are still available and have raised a few sons since 1985. You've already mentioned getting in touch with the cousins in the Stans to the North.

Abdul Rashid Dostum (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Rashid_Dostum) is a real piece of work, isn't he ? But, he (and I expect the others) are definitely survivors.

Now, if the decision is to "Go Big", I'd tend to sit on my big, fat or little, skinny posterior and see what develops.



10-18-2009, 03:10 PM
Good catch, JMM, that's a major error. That map was produced by the CIA and shows insurgent groups fighting the Soviets, not us.

10-18-2009, 03:24 PM
Wow. Great article, I commend it to all. Well written and argued.