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davidbfpo
11-16-2009, 07:46 PM
As always Steve Coll is worth reading and in this article lays out four situations:
What would be the consequences of a second Islamic Emirate? My scenarios here are intended analytically, as a first-draft straw-man forecast: The Nineties Afghan Civil War on Steroids; Momentum for a Taliban Revolution in Pakistan; Increased Islamist Violence Against India, Increasing the Likelihood of Indo-Pakistani War and Increased Al Qaeda Ambitions Against Britain and the United States.

From:http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2009/11/what-if-we-fail-in-afghanistan.html#entry-more

I have scanned previous threads, but cannot readily find one that has looked at futurology.

omarali50
11-16-2009, 11:28 PM
I wrote this rambling post in reply to something else, but it seems more relevant here..

We can take the very reasonable view that some responses to terrorism (Afghan war, Iraq war? not sure if that even counts as a "response to terrorism", but whatever) have actually led to even more terrorism and that these are not the best responses. Maybe we should be removing "root causes" (Israel? Oil?). Maybe we should be arresting people and bringing them to court and dealing with nations that harbor such criminals by imposing X or Y UN backed sanctions. Still, its hard to see how you can get out of Afghanistan, after having gone in, without that being a major defeat with serious consequences (not to have gone in at all may have been a good idea, but that toothpaste has long since been pushed out of the tube).

Afghanistan is a god-forsaken cross roads with little appeal, but there IS a strategic reason for making Afghanistan work and that reason is Pakistan. Pakistan is the center of the loosely networked Islamist fanatics that have launched major terrorist operations in many different parts of the world. The most spectacular being the 9-11 attack. Pakistan is practically the only way a worldwide jihadist effort can ever be something bigger than a particularly bothersome irritant. IF defeat in Afghanistan leads to jihadi-sponsoring Pakistan, then its a serious matter.

One reason for confusion on this issue that I have noticed is that some people are saying "pakistan is an ally now, so that job is done, why bother about afghanistan". Well, if this were totally true, then definitely, leave afghanistan to the afghans. The country is just Somalia X 3 with better organized contestants (northern alliance and taliban being the main ones) and if the world can live with Somalia (not sure about that, but lets assume we can) then the world can live with the taliban and northern alliance fighting on in afghanistan. In any case, its a headache for regional powers, not for the US and Europe. But is that statement about Pakistan really true and is it permanently true?

I think it is not. I think the Pakistani army still has a lot of people who think they can use the taliban to project power westwards and the jihadis as proxies against India and if they gain the upper hand, then Pakistan will be jihad central, not just locally, but with distant consequences. IF the US and NATO leave without securing Afghanistan (and I have said before that securing is a very loose term with very flexible meaning, but NOT infinitely flexible) then the Pakistani army is likely to revert to its Jihadist position. Not overnight, not even as part of some clever plan, but just as the path of least resistance.

I also think there is a real salafist terrorist movement in the world that will be emboldened by an American defeat in Afghanistan. But I personally dont think THAT justifies hundreds of billions in money and thousands of casualties. Because I dont think they are that big a threat IF the Pakistani and Saudi states were both determined to stay away from these people. They would then be little more than Baader-Meinhof and company. OK, substantially more than Baader Meinhoff, mainly because so many of them have already been trained and organized into cells and because salafi Islam is a bigger movement than radical Marxism ever was, but I still think that in the bigger scheme of things these kind of movements have no future. NO country is as penetrated by Salafi ideology as Saudi Arabia, yet when push comes to shove, the Saudi state can and does act against them. Not just recently, but as long ago as 1930 (battle of Sibillia).

Pakistan is not as well organized a state as modern Saudi Arabia, but even in Pakistan these people will eventually lose IF the state is determined to act against them. IF the Pakistani army sees that going back to the good old days of using taliban and jihadi proxies are not really an option anymore, then there will be an almightly mess in Pakistan for a few years, but I have no doubt about who would win. The state would win. The real reason there is any doubt is because the jihadist factions of the army can still convince their fellow officers to keep some "good taliban" and "good jihadis" in reserve for the day when America leaves (and Obama's prolonged decision dance has not helped in this matter).

I am not saying the US HAS to stay. Its possible that there is some strategy that allows leaving Afghanistan while making sure Pakistan does not backtrack. But that will have to be specifically planned and cannot be taken as a given just because "now they are our allies". IF that can be done...IF things are so arranged that leaving afghanistan does not lead to triumphant victory celebrations in Pakistan, then by all means, leave. Can that be done?

Btw, I dont think offering the Pak army "help with resolving issues with India" is as brilliant an idea as its sometimes projeted. India can help or hinder this process to some extent, but it is not the crucial link. If the nexus with the salafists is broken (as it can be, if America is smart about it) then Pakistan and India can manage affairs without war and terrorism and that will be enough. No more is needed in the medium term. Trade and other links will change the equation over time. No grand deal has to be made in the interim and putting one on the table just gives the jihadi element in the Pak army another chance to push their agenda and delay things.

sorry for repetitions and disorganized thoughts. this was written in between real work. Got to run..

William F. Owen
11-17-2009, 06:03 AM
Sorry, but the Strategic dissonance here - subject in general - is overflowing the bucket of sh*t.

a.) How does any Western Nation actually benefit from being in A'Stan? Let's say to prevent safe havens for AQ.

b.) What about Somalia. Great safe haven for AQ, as is the tribal area of Pakistan. If we want to stop Poppy Production, why has it increased?

c.) There is NOTHING we need in A'Stan. If A'Stan is actually important then the US should be deploying 50,000 more troops and the UK another 11,000. Basically all NATO nations should be prepared to commit 20-30% of their available ground forces and the US should fund and support that effort.

I see no shame in the US and NATO saying "We'll give up, because without an effective Afghan Government, we are simply not prepared to pay the cost."

This leaves the exam question of why the US and NATO could not defeat a 2nd/3rd rate Irregular force, with no ATGMs or MANPADS.

Bill Moore
11-17-2009, 06:56 AM
Posted by omarali50
I also think there is a real Salafist terrorist movement in the world that will be emboldened by an American defeat in Afghanistan.

I think this is undeniable, but perhaps only in the short run. Over time the extremists will probably prove incapable of governing, and then their victory will turn into a political defeat that can be exploited.

WILF questions:


a.) How does any Western Nation actually benefit from being in A'Stan? Let's say to prevent safe havens for AQ.

Many Western countries clearly agree there are reasons to send their forces to Afghanistanfor security interests (local, regionally and globally) for certain and possibly economic interests (Pakistan stability) that again effect the West's security.


b.) What about Somalia. Great safe haven for AQ, as is the tribal area of Pakistan. If we want to stop poppy production, why has it increased?

These are two separate questions, and yes eventually Somalia's role as a safe haven will need to be addressed, but it will be easier to do so if we're successful in Afghanistan in first. We don't need to do both simultaneously.

The poppy production isn't the reason we went into A-stan, and while it is not irrelevant, it doesn't define victory against the Taliban and AQ.


c.) There is NOTHING we need in A'Stan. If A'Stan is actually important then the US should be deploying 50,000 more troops and the UK another 11,000. Basically all NATO nations should be prepared to commit 20-30% of their available ground forces and the US should fund and support that effort.

We may not need anything in A-stan, but the enemy does, and that means it is important to us. It is in our interests to deny him that.


I see no shame in the US and NATO saying "We'll give up, because without an effective Afghan Government, we are simply not prepared to pay the cost."

There would be no shame at all if we had not already stated we wouldn't leave until we stabilized the region. Leaving = a credibility gap.


This leaves the exam question of why the US and NATO could not defeat a 2nd/3rd rate Irregular force, with no ATGMs or MANPADS.

Because we didn't employ the full might of our military, we tried a several different approaches that were all under-resourced.

omarali50
11-17-2009, 04:01 PM
The issue is not Afghanistan. By itself, its just a bigger and more dangerous Somalia, not a threat to world peace. The issues are:

1. what happens to the salafist insurgency if NATO suffers a defeat. Does it get bigger, etc.

2. What happens to Pakistan (which is clearly a different matter, unlike Somalia and Afghanistan, its a country connected to the world, with some tech capabilities and actual nuclear weapons and a large diaspora and so on).

3. What happens to Saudi Arabia.

Of course, we can still go back and debate why the US invaded Afghanistan in the first place? IF it was to "deny alqaeda a safe haven" then they did not do a great job, since the salafists just moved to Pakistan, where they have continued to plot and gather recruits and so on. If they are not a huge threat now, why were they a huge threat then? IF it was to show the salafists what happens when you mess with the big chief, then that lesson is not going to be learned when they actually defeat the great satan. If it was to send a message to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (both of whom had more to do with the salafist network than poor Afghanistan) then again the issue seems to have grown muddled over time. IF it was to blow some steam and make the rubble bounce so that New York firemen would feel better, then does the feelgood feeling last after the choppers take off from the roof with Karzai hanging from a rope ladder?

But I agree, maybe time to admit mistakes and leave. As mildly leftist American liberal, I would be totally OK with that, except that I am from Pakistan and have a not-so-secret vested interest in avoiding the mayhem that I think will follow a US defeat. I dont even have a high opinion of the US ability to meddle in that area ("our man musharraf") but I am thinking "lesser of two evils" and I am not even sure of that anymore.

Anyway, what do you think will happen if the US admits a mistake and leaves? How will the withdrawal be handled? who will be left behind? What will happen to them? Will Pakistan and India start a proxy war in Afghanistan? Will the Saudis get bogged down in Yemen or will they double down by paying the ISI to blow up stuff in Iran and get into deeper trouble all around? Does the region need a supervisor? and who might that be?

slapout9
11-17-2009, 04:24 PM
Anyway, what do you think will happen if the US admits a mistake and leaves? How will the withdrawal be handled? who will be left behind? What will happen to them? Will Pakistan and India start a proxy war in Afghanistan? Will the Saudis get bogged down in Yemen or will they double down by paying the ISI to blow up stuff in Iran and get into deeper trouble all around? Does the region need a supervisor? and who might that be?

Leaving A'stan dosen't mean we have to leave the area. Maybe there is some merit to General Kruluk's plan to go with offshore balancing.

omarali50
11-17-2009, 05:50 PM
How would the US get there from here? Do Afghans who got taken in by talk of "this time we will stay" be given green cards and brought to live in Wisconsin with the Hmong? What will be US policy when the taliban start stringing up the stragglers from lamp poles? Will the US somehow prevent Pakistan (and India) from restarting their proxy war in Afghanistan? Will the US continue to bomb "afpak" after having pulled out? from which bases? on what grounds?
What was the point of the whole exercise?
Will there be any price to pay in terms of credibility and does it even matter?

Just asking. There may well be excellent answers to all of those questions and those may not be the right questions either.

tequila
11-17-2009, 06:51 PM
a.) How does any Western Nation actually benefit from being in A'Stan? Let's say to prevent safe havens for AQ.

Denial of an Islamist al-Qaeda victory, for one. The overall stability of Pakistan, for another.


b.) What about Somalia. Great safe haven for AQ, as is the tribal area of Pakistan. If we want to stop Poppy Production, why has it increased?

Southern Somalia is a haven for certain elements of AQ but not AQ central, the IO high command which has extensive and longstanding ties in the tribal regions. The tribal areas of Pakistan are far more threatening because of those longstanding ties, but defeat in Afghanistan is related to the tribal areas in that they would severely aggravate the problems of Pakistan.


c.) There is NOTHING we need in A'Stan. If A'Stan is actually important then the US should be deploying 50,000 more troops and the UK another 11,000. Basically all NATO nations should be prepared to commit 20-30% of their available ground forces and the US should fund and support that effort.

I would argue otherwise, but simply because the NATO nations disagree about this and the level of effort required doesn't mean that A'stan should be abandoned.


I see no shame in the US and NATO saying "We'll give up, because without an effective Afghan Government, we are simply not prepared to pay the cost."

I don't know about shame, but the spectacle of a NATO retreat and abandonment of Afghanistan would be a significant IO boost to al-Qaeda which would translate into increased fundraising, recruitment, and political will to al-Qaeda and its associated movements. It would also significantly destabilize Pakistan.

There are times when a timely withdrawal can deflate a localized insurgency, as occurred when the Soviet withdrawal led to a prolonged period of reduced recruitment and infighting amongst the mujahidin. However, when one of the primary beneficiaries of a U.S. withdrawal is represented by al-Qaeda, a transnational group dedicated to attacking the U.S. and its allies in a way that none of the mujahidin groups were dedicated to attacking the Soviet bloc, I'd argue that withdrawal under fire would result in a definite negative to U.S. national security even given the savings in treasure and lives.


This leaves the exam question of why the US and NATO could not defeat a 2nd/3rd rate Irregular force, with no ATGMs or MANPADS.

Because the US and NATO could not permanently destroy with the resources on hand insurgent forces protected by large areas of ungoverned space, a safe and robust rear area, and a cowed/supportive Pashtun and Nuristani population.

slapout9
11-17-2009, 07:17 PM
How would the US get there from here? Do Afghans who got taken in by talk of "this time we will stay" be given green cards and brought to live in Wisconsin with the Hmong? What will be US policy when the taliban start stringing up the stragglers from lamp poles? Will the US somehow prevent Pakistan (and India) from restarting their proxy war in Afghanistan? Will the US continue to bomb "afpak" after having pulled out? from which bases? on what grounds?
What was the point of the whole exercise?
Will there be any price to pay in terms of credibility and does it even matter?

Just asking. There may well be excellent answers to all of those questions and those may not be the right questions either.

I agree with your questions. But if we stay how do we handle the Karzed(spelling) government which was pretty much elected by fraud and appears to be run by nothing but gangsters and drug dealers. Maybe we should hire Pakistan to invade with a regular Army and just turn it into one big country:wry:

jmm99
11-17-2009, 07:21 PM
is but a single paragraph in his email to George Will (snip):

962

It definitely requires limited boots on the ground in Astan. It could, for example, be linked with the tribal engagement concept advanced by MAJ Jim Gant. His article is linked here (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=87050&postcount=15).

IIRC, COL Bob Jones stated that direct action (even if our only force projection in Astan) would still require "significant" US forces. He didn't state any specific numbers (which would probably be classified anyway).

omarali50
11-17-2009, 08:21 PM
OK, hunter killer teams in the border region. Where do they sleep? After all, its not an uninhabited "border region". There are people living there, what if those people start hunting the hunter killers?

"Drones and Airpower (need to be close)". Where? based in bagram while the taliban rule in kabul? or do the airbase security guys also defend Kabul against the taliban? Again, what is to stop the taliban from looking up Dien Bin Phu on google and attacking these airbases? How are they resupplied? And with the rest of the country an almighty mess, how long before Congress and the American people (not to speak of "the Guardian") start complaining that this "footprint" is costly and is causing too many TV teams to go around filiming executions in Kandahar and better to leave the whole sorry place to the savages and so on...(in PC language, of course, I paraphrase).

What is to stop the Pakistani army from jacking up their prices and performing less and less? If NATO could not invade and hold Afghanistan, they are hardly in a position to threaten Pakistan.

And when the mujahideen, fresh from victory over the infidels in Afghanistan, again attack India and India attacks Pakistan and the whole place goes up in flames, what do the hunter-killers do?

So many questions, so little time.
The "Krulak plan" is no plan at all. It would have been better not to go in. But there is no way to pull back now and disguise the disaster as a victory, without actually obtaining some kind of victory. "lipstick on a pig" and all that...There are no good options. But this plan does not even sound like an option.

jmm99
11-17-2009, 08:56 PM
which tells how to establish a secure tribal base point (http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/wp-content/themes/stevenpressfield/one_tribe_at_a_time.pdf).

In 1962 in Vietnam's Central Highlands, approximately a half-dozen SF ODAs (with some military and civilian air assets) managed to secure over 200 villages (a region of several hundred square miles - lots of space for small airfields) and were running 30K+ of CIDG militia. Was done then; and could be done today.

As to Bagram and the rest of the old Northern Alliance region, the Pashtun-based Taliban would have problems in repeating their 1996-2001 sweeps. To overcome the indigenous forces (and the "Northern Alliance" part of the ANA, its largest ethnic component), the Taliban would have to concentrate forces and then would be exposed to conventional firepower.

I don't see the military problems you see.

The political problem is that drawing back into the old Northern Alliance region and establishing "tribal engagement strong points" per Jim Gant in the border regions, would result in a renewed Astan civil war. That is Steve Coll's concern in the article cited by David (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2009/11/what-if-we-fail-in-afghanistan.html#entry-more), along with some other scenarios which seem speculative to me.

slapout9
11-17-2009, 08:59 PM
Omaral50, what would you try and do. You are General over everyone for the next 30 minutes.

MikeF
11-17-2009, 09:25 PM
which tells how to establish a secure tribal base point (http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/wp-content/themes/stevenpressfield/one_tribe_at_a_time.pdf).

In 1962 in Vietnam's Central Highlands, approximately a half-dozen SF ODAs (with some military and civilian air assets) managed to secure over 200 villages (a region of several hundred square miles - lots of space for small airfields) and were running 30K+ of CIDG militia. Was done then; and could be done today.

As to Bagram and the rest of the old Northern Alliance region, the Pashtun-based Taliban would have problems in repeating their 1996-2001 sweeps. To overcome the indigenous forces (and the "Northern Alliance" part of the ANA, its largest ethnic component), the Taliban would have to concentrate forces and then would be exposed to conventional firepower.

I don't see the military problems you see.

The political problem is that drawing back into the old Northern Alliance region and establishing "tribal engagement strong points" per Jim Gant in the border regions, would result in a renewed Astan civil war. That is Steve Coll's concern in the article cited by David (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2009/11/what-if-we-fail-in-afghanistan.html#entry-more), along with some other scenarios which seem speculative to me.

Steve Coll's article is impressive, but he misses one assumption- victory has nothing to do with the US or the coalition. It is all about the Afghani's. The solution is simple.

-Let Jim Gant, Mohammad Yunnis, and Greg Mortenson teach, assist, and advise the people to secure themselves, educate their children, and start new businesses.

-Let guys like me conduct UW into the ungoverned spaces to disrupt and destroy the irreconciliables.

omarali50
11-17-2009, 11:48 PM
Omaral50, what would you try and do. You are General over everyone for the next 30 minutes.

I am a waffling liberal playing amateur blogger, I would make a very bad general. But I will play along; But then I want to be president, not general..:D

1. I would get General A, ambassador B and special rep C in one room and figure out if they can work together or not. If not, I would make changes in A, B or C as needed. Once I know what team I am going to work with, I would tell them I am not planning to be remembered as the guy who lost this war. And I have a cunning plan (Yes, I have a plan, not A, B or C...they get to fill it out, but its my plan. I have heard 244 background briefings and by now, I have a plan). This is followed by some whispering into rolled newspapers while the shower runs in the background. General A cannot believe what a ruthless SOB I really am. Ambassador B thinks he always knew I was a cold blooded shark. Rep C keeps his thoughts to himself.

2. The next day I get to talk to a bigger group, generals, assorted bull####ters and some people from the CIA, half of whom dont know it yet but are about to be fired.

3. And oh yes, I also speak directly to that tough looking woman who is ambassador in Pakistan. She is pleasantly surprised to learn that I am not only a cold blooded vulcan, I know a lot more about the natives than Charlie Wilson knew about Texas.

4. Public speculation about this or that course of action continues for the next few weeks, but well connected hacks are already writing that El Presidente is not waffling, he has a cunning plan. Others think he is waffling. A few trusted hacks are used to actually encourage certain republicans and FOX news anchors to really really go out on a limb and say all kinds of stupid things about the cowardly president. Maybe I have a mean streak...

5. Behind the scenes, we have already got some new people and machines in place. On December 6th (a day my hindu astrologers regard as specially auspicious) the turkey gets a surprise. Lady ambassador and special rep C spend the toughest day of their lives holding hands with Kiyani and making sure no one in the Pak army tries to be a hero when the 77 drones attack the same night. Next morning, I announce the 34000 troops going to Afghanistan. I also make it a point to thank Pakistan for their immense cooperation during last night's unprecedented drone offensive. In fact, some journalists are already reporting (from "unnamed sources") that Kiyani and Shuja Pasha collected 47 million dollars as bounty last night.

6. Meanwhile, Karzai and ambassador B are holding a press conference about the new unity govt in Kabul. Ashraf Ghani has a big role. Every European country gets to send money for teachers and roads. More money for Universities and colleges in the big cities. Special arrangements for direct funding of local govt in the provinces. Lots of money for building up the army and the police. More roads. Some warlords coming to the swearing in are unfortunately killed in a taliban ambush, may they rest in peace. "reconcilable taliban" are invited to join the unity govt. And so on. I cannot tell you everything can I?

7. Everybody hates America.

Btw, a few years down the road, it all goes to hell anyway. But by then I have been re-elected and several liberal hawks have offered to have sex with me in any position i desire.
How does that sound?

Fuchs
11-18-2009, 01:37 AM
Every discussion about a post-withdrawal Afghanistan that I've seen so far worked on a questionable set of assumptions.

One assumption is that the Taliban would win the Civil War (the real conflict there, the one which merely got set aside temporarily by foreign intervention).
This assumption is very questionable if not outright nonsense in regard to the majority non-Pashtun Northern regions. They would not be overrun again - the Russians would prevent that, if no-one else (yes, not only the West has an interest in the containment of Islamic fundamentalists). The Taliban are numerically weak, after all - and even a domino effect in Pashtun settlements with many new fighters (w)could be countered with Northern and foreign resources.


So a reasonable scenario would be that the Taliban take over the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan and establish their rule there.

The next questionable, but usually used, assumption is that the Taliban with a foothold in AFG would intensify the Pakistani stability problems.
This assumption fails my plausibility check.
What would most likely happen? They would need many thousands of loyal men to exercise control (and hold the Tajiks, Uzbeks... in check). I expect in the short and medium term (up to about 4 years) that there would be a net Taliban personnel resources transfer from Pakistan to Afghanistan that's actually greater than today. A Southern Afghanistan under Taliban rule might actually reduce the pressure on Pakistan.
Their jihad recruitment would certainly be in quite a peril if they had little or no infidels in Afghanistan to point at.


Then there's the assumption that the enemy is stupid and unable to learn or anticipate. In other words: The Taliban would be very aggressive and outward-looking once in power. And they would harbour AQ again (in AFG).

That tale reminds me of the Domino theory, and we all know how overblown that one was. AQ's leadership would have little incentive to go to Afghanistan; it would only provoke another fall of the Taliban due to a renewed invasion (or more support to contra-Taliban forces).
AQ doesn't need Afghanistan anyway. That's a fact proven by the last years.
The dangerous AQ cells are in countries where we could easily call for action of indigenous security forces if we had enough info on that cell.


Then there's the prestige and pride thing.
Well, this happens. There's no real way out once you embarrassed yourself. Covering it up doesn't improve the situation.
Besides; prestige is 99% illusion anyway. The same goes for pride. We have enough opportunities to bolster our pride and reputation; Afghanistan is a worst possible choice for that and honestly, suffering a scratch there wouldn't even be dramatic enough to keep the TV guys attentive for more than a month.


A strange argument (usually coming from Americans) is the "we must not give up our indigenous allies" thing. There's apparently some '75 Saigon syndrome at work or such.
Seriously; disappointment is part of warfare. #### happens. They knew what could happen and they can fight for their own well-being themselves. Besides; the West fought for (and paid) them - they never fought for us, but at most for themselves. I don't see what claims they could have against us.


A withdrawal step by step coupled with subsidies for indigenous contra-Taliban forces is exactly what we need. And we should let the Russians participate in that strategy. It's their (CIS) backyard.

It would be reasonable to stay in the country with a four-digit liaison force. We don't need to train indigenous forces. The can fight themselves, no worse than the Taliban. The key quality is troop morale/leadership, not marksmanship or soldier-like appearance.
The Uzbeks/Tajiks whatever can fight the Taliban with equal quality troops; it just takes a few months for raising those warbands and a bit money to equip and maintain them.


So I look forward to a withdrawal. A complete one for the Europeans and a 90-95% one for the Americans who have more interest in the conflict and more experience in cooperation with indigenous militias.

MikeF
11-18-2009, 02:44 AM
We should ask the following for every foreign policy decision,

"What are you doing to help yourself, your brother, and your neighbor?"

If they can't answer the question, then they don't deserve our help. That reasoning extends from A'stan to Pakistan to Iraq to Salinas.

Mike

jmm99
11-18-2009, 03:03 AM
Inked in 2005 and renewed in 2008, I'm attaching a .pdf file of the 2005 US-Afghan joint strategic partnership declaration. Besides this, a number of other agreements exist (status of forces, Bagram lease, etc.) which I haven't tracked down to urls.

Thought all might want to read this part of the "D" in DIME. The flavor is that of US support for a strong, centralized Astan government - which I think is nuts in light of Astan's history and politics.

omarali50
11-18-2009, 03:25 AM
Not that it matters to anyone else, but I have identified the reason my assumptions about post-withdrawal scenarios are more pessimistic than those of serious thinkers like Fuchs: We have very different assumptions about what (if anything) the Pakistani army WANTS to do (not necessarily what they WILL do). Fuchs seems to assume that the "pakistan stability problem" is a problem of how many taliban are coming in to fight the Pak army. I am assuming that the Pak army and the taliban will no longer be on opposite sides once the American pressure is off. My assumption is anecdotal and may be the paranoia of a Pakistani leftist with longstanding grouses about the army, but there you have it...

slapout9
11-18-2009, 03:33 AM
I am a waffling liberal playing amateur blogger, I would make a very bad general. But I will play along; But then I want to be president, not general..:D

1. I would get General A, ambassador B and special rep C in one room and figure out if they can work together or not. If not, I would make changes in A, B or C as needed. Once I know what team I am going to work with, I would tell them I am not planning to be remembered as the guy who lost this war. And I have a cunning plan (Yes, I have a plan, not A, B or C...they get to fill it out, but its my plan. I have heard 244 background briefings and by now, I have a plan). This is followed by some whispering into rolled newspapers while the shower runs in the background. General A cannot believe what a ruthless SOB I really am. Ambassador B thinks he always knew I was a cold blooded shark. Rep C keeps his thoughts to himself.

2. The next day I get to talk to a bigger group, generals, assorted bull####ters and some people from the CIA, half of whom dont know it yet but are about to be fired.

3. And oh yes, I also speak directly to that tough looking woman who is ambassador in Pakistan. She is pleasantly surprised to learn that I am not only a cold blooded vulcan, I know a lot more about the natives than Charlie Wilson knew about Texas.

4. Public speculation about this or that course of action continues for the next few weeks, but well connected hacks are already writing that El Presidente is not waffling, he has a cunning plan. Others think he is waffling. A few trusted hacks are used to actually encourage certain republicans and FOX news anchors to really really go out on a limb and say all kinds of stupid things about the cowardly president. Maybe I have a mean streak...

5. Behind the scenes, we have already got some new people and machines in place. On December 6th (a day my hindu astrologers regard as specially auspicious) the turkey gets a surprise. Lady ambassador and special rep C spend the toughest day of their lives holding hands with Kiyani and making sure no one in the Pak army tries to be a hero when the 77 drones attack the same night. Next morning, I announce the 34000 troops going to Afghanistan. I also make it a point to thank Pakistan for their immense cooperation during last night's unprecedented drone offensive. In fact, some journalists are already reporting (from "unnamed sources") that Kiyani and Shuja Pasha collected 47 million dollars as bounty last night.

6. Meanwhile, Karzai and ambassador B are holding a press conference about the new unity govt in Kabul. Ashraf Ghani has a big role. Every European country gets to send money for teachers and roads. More money for Universities and colleges in the big cities. Special arrangements for direct funding of local govt in the provinces. Lots of money for building up the army and the police. More roads. Some warlords coming to the swearing in are unfortunately killed in a taliban ambush, may they rest in peace. "reconcilable taliban" are invited to join the unity govt. And so on. I cannot tell you everything can I?

7. Everybody hates America.

Btw, a few years down the road, it all goes to hell anyway. But by then I have been re-elected and several liberal hawks have offered to have sex with me in any position i desire.
How does that sound?


Hang in there based upon your plan and desires you probably will get to be Prseident;)

Bill Moore
11-18-2009, 03:55 AM
Posted by MikeF,

Steve Coll's article is impressive, but he misses one assumption- victory has nothing to do with the US or the coalition. It is all about the Afghani's. The solution is simple.

Mike I know where you're coming from, but I disagree and believe this is the essence of the FID versus occupation debate. We didn't go into Iraq or Afghanistan to help the locals achieve their objectives, but to achieve ours.

I realize the character and objectives of conflict can change over time, but "our" victory is directly related to our objectives. The Afghan people are probably an essential means to achieving that victory with the current strategy, and "ideally" it would be a win-win situation for both of us.

IMO we can't invade a country after they attack us with the objective of destroying AQ, and then claim that victory is simply up to the Afghan people, not us. If we can't achieve our objectives through the Afghan people, then we need to consider other means and strategies.

MikeF
11-18-2009, 04:23 AM
Posted by MikeF,


Mike I know where you're coming from, but I disagree and believe this is the essence of the FID versus occupation debate. We didn't go into Iraq or Afghanistan to help the locals achieve their objectives, but to achieve ours.

I realize the character and objectives of conflict can change over time, but "our" victory is directly related to our objectives. The Afghan people are probably an essential means to achieving that victory with the current strategy, and "ideally" it would be a win-win situation for both of us.

IMO we can't invade a country after they attack us with the objective of destroying AQ, and then claim that victory is simply up to the Afghan people, not us. If we can't achieve our objectives through the Afghan people, then we need to consider other means and strategies.

Bill, don't take me too seriously. I've been trying to test out my hypothesis for the SWJ writing contest. You'll see the whole product soon. I wanted to see others reaction. Here's a part of my thoughts- Difference in giving away money and providing loans.

Right now, with Cerp funds, we flood the AO w/ money. This is ridiculous. Think about if I occupied your neighborhood and town and started handing out money. Yes, you'd be grateful, but it would give you no incentive to act.

On the other hand, we're all slaves to the bank. When a bank gives us a loan for a small business, home, or car, we make sure we work hard to pay it off every month.

This is one example of citizenship in our own society that we do not enforce in current pop-COIN theory. Instead, we assume that by having an election that the pixie dust floods over the land and everything is kosher.

William F. Owen
11-18-2009, 05:47 AM
Denial of an Islamist al-Qaeda victory, for one. The overall stability of Pakistan, for another.
So a Taliban regime in Kabul threatens Pakistan? OK, if we take that as a given, why does no one ever say it? - and how do we know?

I would argue otherwise, but simply because the NATO nations disagree about this and the level of effort required doesn't mean that A'stan should be abandoned.
I do not think A'Stan should be abandoned either, IF we commit the level of resources, that say it is vital to national security interests of the West. If the reason for staying is just pride and risking broken promises, that's not good enough. The US has broken many, many promises before and it's hurt it very little.

It would also significantly destabilize Pakistan.
Really? I remember folks saying a withdrawal from Vietnam would de-stabilise Thailand and Malaysia. That was simply not true.

Because the US and NATO could not permanently destroy with the resources on hand insurgent forces protected by large areas of ungoverned space, a safe and robust rear area, and a cowed/supportive Pashtun and Nuristani population.
Hmmm... seems there is a lesson there. So essentially, if the US and NATO do not commit the resources, there can be no solution, and there is only a mostly military solution in that inflicting massive harm in the insurgency is required.

Gentleman. I am not suggesting a VN style cut and run, but the obvious requirement is a vast increase in resources. That is only justified IF A'Stan is vital. That case being made, the discussion can sensibly move onto the how and why of defeating a poorly equipped and trained irregular force.

William F. Owen
11-18-2009, 05:51 AM
One assumption is that the Taliban would win the Civil War (the real conflict there, the one which merely got set aside temporarily by foreign intervention).
This assumption is very questionable if not outright nonsense in regard to the majority non-Pashtun Northern regions. T
The next questionable, but usually used, assumption is that the Taliban with a foothold in AFG would intensify the Pakistani stability problems.
This assumption fails my plausibility check.
Then there's the assumption that the enemy is stupid and unable to learn or anticipate. In other words: The Taliban would be very aggressive and outward-looking once in power. And they would harbour AQ again (in AFG).
That tale reminds me of the Domino theory, and we all know how overblown that one was. AQ's leadership would have little incentive to go to Afghanistan; it would only provoke another fall of the Taliban due to a renewed invasion (or more support to contra-Taliban forces).
AQ doesn't need Afghanistan anyway. That's a fact proven by the last years.
The dangerous AQ cells are in countries where we could easily call for action of indigenous security forces if we had enough info on that cell.



I largely concur with the above. Good points, and well made.

tequila
11-18-2009, 05:35 PM
Every discussion about a post-withdrawal Afghanistan that I've seen so far worked on a questionable set of assumptions.

One assumption is that the Taliban would win the Civil War (the real conflict there, the one which merely got set aside temporarily by foreign intervention).

This assumption is very questionable if not outright nonsense in regard to the majority non-Pashtun Northern regions. They would not be overrun again - the Russians would prevent that, if no-one else (yes, not only the West has an interest in the containment of Islamic fundamentalists). The Taliban are numerically weak, after all - and even a domino effect in Pashtun settlements with many new fighters (w)could be countered with Northern and foreign resources.

Quite a few assumptions in your own argument.

You presume that our withdrawal would not be interpreted as Western abandonment of Afghanistan. If we withdraw under fire, I wonder how it could be perceived otherwise. This will signal to our current allies that we do not believe their cause to be worth supporting or winnable.

The Taliban will gain enormous strength in the south and east as any and all of our allies there flip in order to avoid retribution. You assume that Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras are irretrievably anti-Pashtun and anti-Taliban. Since we are abandoning the Afghan government and people to associated warlords and local power brokers, why do you think these warlords will not make their own backroom deals to survive under a Taliban regime, especially since they are do not represent unified forces while the Taliban does? We saw much of this when the Taliban swept to victory the first time.

Also, the assertions of the wonders of Russian and foreign support do not strike me as reassuring or particularly useful. The Russians, Indians, etc. supported the Northern Alliance, and that did not prevent the NA from being defeated over and over and penned into the Panjshir. Without the unifying figure and military ability of Massoud, I doubt what remains of the NA today could put up much real resistance.


So a reasonable scenario would be that the Taliban take over the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan and establish their rule there.

What on earth makes you believe the Taliban would accept a splintered Afghanistan?


The next questionable, but usually used, assumption is that the Taliban with a foothold in AFG would intensify the Pakistani stability problems. This assumption fails my plausibility check.

What would most likely happen? They would need many thousands of loyal men to exercise control (and hold the Tajiks, Uzbeks... in check). I expect in the short and medium term (up to about 4 years) that there would be a net Taliban personnel resources transfer from Pakistan to Afghanistan that's actually greater than today. A Southern Afghanistan under Taliban rule might actually reduce the pressure on Pakistan.

In what world does handing over a massive safe area and recruiting base to your enemy improve your chances?

A Talibanized south and east Afghanistan creates the exact problem for the Pakistani Army in its fight against the TTP as the FATA poses for us now. It guarantees that the TTP will never be militarily defeated and indeed will be able to return over and over again to contest the FATA and, more worryingly, launch waves of suicide bombers into Pakistani cities.

A far more likely reading of Pakistani Army behavior is that it will recognize the impossible strategic situation and instead flip to appeasement of the TTP and the Taliban. Since we will have proven again to the Pakistani Army that we do not view South Asia as important enough to fight for, what incentive does the PA have to partner with us to fight extremism? Rather go back to the old reliable of using extremism to battle one's own internal enemies (India, Baluch separatists, uppity civilian politicians). In order to do this, the Army will likely launch another coup, since Zardari and the PPP are devoted enemies of the TTP, and continue the Pakistani state down its slow death spiral.


Then there's the assumption that the enemy is stupid and unable to learn or anticipate. In other words: The Taliban would be very aggressive and outward-looking once in power. And they would harbour AQ again (in AFG).

That tale reminds me of the Domino theory, and we all know how overblown that one was. AQ's leadership would have little incentive to go to Afghanistan; it would only provoke another fall of the Taliban due to a renewed invasion (or more support to contra-Taliban forces).

No, the assumption is that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are two Islamist movements linked by similar worldviews and deep and durable personal connections in a part of the world where those relationships matter. Bin Laden married Mullah Omar's daughter and has sworn personal loyalty to him. For all the blather about a split, who do you think is hosting AQ right now in the FATA and Baluchistan?


A withdrawal step by step coupled with subsidies for indigenous contra-Taliban forces is exactly what we need. And we should let the Russians participate in that strategy. It's their (CIS) backyard.

It would be reasonable to stay in the country with a four-digit liaison force. We don't need to train indigenous forces. The can fight themselves, no worse than the Taliban. The key quality is troop morale/leadership, not marksmanship or soldier-like appearance.
The Uzbeks/Tajiks whatever can fight the Taliban with equal quality troops; it just takes a few months for raising those warbands and a bit money to equip and maintain them.

Wow, so easy to raise and maintain a warband in Afghanistan. Money solves all problems, don't you know?

I think instead that organizations fight wars and the Taliban represents a new sort of organization in Afghanistan --- a religiously based unified movement with a centralized command that is flexible enough to make local alliances but subordinates all under its own direction. It destroyed or absorbed dozens of competing factions in the 1990s and can do so again, including Uzbek and Tajik factions.

I also don't know why you would think it would be so easy to magic up the will for another invasion having withdrawn for cost reasons the first time. It'd take another 9/11-style attack to create the political capital for that.

Fuchs
11-18-2009, 06:43 PM
Quite a few assumptions in your own argument.

You presume that our withdrawal would not be interpreted as Western abandonment of Afghanistan. If we withdraw under fire, I wonder how it could be perceived otherwise. This will signal to our current allies that we do not believe their cause to be worth supporting or winnable.

And I consider that signal as weak if not irrelevant. That's the real assumption on my part. Some nations tend to believe that what they do is always important, while it's not. The vital interests of the non-Pashtun people in Northern Afghanistan would not be changed by whatever signals fizzle around.

The Taliban will gain enormous strength in the south and east as any and all of our allies there flip in order to avoid retribution. You assume that Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras are irretrievably anti-Pashtun and anti-Taliban. Since we are abandoning the Afghan government and people to associated warlords and local power brokers, why do you think these warlords will not make their own backroom deals to survive under a Taliban regime, especially since they are do not represent unified forces while the Taliban does?

Because "we" are merely some players in the game, just like the Taliban are merely a few players in the game. There are enough interests involved to subsidy Northern efforts and to prevent a total victory of the Taliban - without a single Western pair of boots in Afghanistan.
Those in power in the North would lose everything (that isn't in foreign countries yet or portable) if they lost to the Taliban, so they will be willing to keep them at bay.

We saw much of this when the Taliban swept to victory the first time.

...when pretty much nobody cared.
We also saw the same mechanics when the Taliban fell for the first time. A second time would not be much more difficult (yet much cheaper than occupation).

Also, the assertions of the wonders of Russian and foreign support do not strike me as reassuring or particularly useful. The Russians, Indians, etc. supported the Northern Alliance, and that did not prevent the NA from being defeated over and over and penned into the Panjshir.

Their support was flimsy in comparison to what is to be expected in the future.

Without the unifying figure and military ability of Massoud, I doubt what remains of the NA today could put up much real resistance.

Men are replaceable. Someone will rise to the job - or the job will be done decentrally. It's not really important as long as they don't infight too much.


What on earth makes you believe the Taliban would accept a splintered Afghanistan?

What on earth makes you believe that the Taliban are the only ones with a say in this?

In what world does handing over a massive safe area and recruiting base to your enemy improve your chances?

In what world isn't Southern Afghanistan a Taliban recruiting base yet? And who says that it would be any more safe then than now?
They would need to come out of the underground to rule that place, exposing themselves.

A Talibanized south and east Afghanistan creates the exact problem for the Pakistani Army in its fight against the TTP as the FATA poses for us now. It guarantees that the TTP will never be militarily defeated and indeed will be able to return over and over again to contest the FATA and, more worryingly, launch waves of suicide bombers into Pakistani cities.

An undefeatable power has yet to be invented, and I'm helluva sure it won't look like the Taliban.
Besides; the supply of suicide bombers depends on recruiting, not on recruit potential once you have a recruiting base of hundreds of thousands of people with that fertility/mortality rate as they have in Pakistan today.

A far more likely reading of Pakistani Army behavior is that it will recognize the impossible strategic situation and instead flip to appeasement of the TTP and the Taliban. Since we will have proven again to the Pakistani Army that we do not view South Asia as important enough to fight for, what incentive does the PA have to partner with us to fight extremism?

Honestly, I've yet to see a Pakistani source that gives a damn about the U.S.. They only give a damn about your money, not about your policies. It's not the child that looks attentively at the big brother and whether he thinks something is important or cool or not.
The Pakistani Army is a bureaucracy in egoistic mode. They have barely lost (official) political control. Taliban still don't seem to be highly rated as a problem there, which explains their modest morale in facing them. Why should they do it anyway, if foreigners are working on their problem?


Rather go back to the old reliable of using extremism to battle one's own internal enemies (India, Baluch separatists, uppity civilian politicians). In order to do this, the Army will likely launch another coup, since Zardari and the PPP are devoted enemies of the TTP, and continue the Pakistani state down its slow death spiral.

...as if OEF-A would have a significant (and advantageous) influence on internal Pakistani politics.

No, the assumption is that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are two Islamist movements linked by similar worldviews and deep and durable personal connections in a part of the world where those relationships matter. Bin Laden married Mullah Omar's daughter and has sworn personal loyalty to him. For all the blather about a split, who do you think is hosting AQ right now in the FATA and Baluchistan?

That's quite irrelevant to the question of Afghanistan.
AQ has men with brains. They KNOW that a return to pre-01 status in Afghanistan would provoke a new fall of the Taliban. A return is needless, unimportant (because said AQ people already have their safe haven and would find a new one anyway - and if not, a movement can survive by replacing old heads) and it would be utterly stupid.
AQ has greatly harmed the Taliban once - you think they're stupid enough to repeat the same mistake?


Wow, so easy to raise and maintain a warband in Afghanistan. Money solves all problems, don't you know?

Indeed, it's a matter of weeks. Transportation is the greatest delayer.

I think instead that organizations fight wars and the Taliban represents a new sort of organization in Afghanistan --- a religiously based unified movement with a centralized command that is flexible enough to make local alliances but subordinates all under its own direction.

According to my information both "unified" and "centralized command" are 95% wrong and "religiously based" should be understood quite loosely.

It destroyed or absorbed dozens of competing factions in the 1990s and can do so again, including Uzbek and Tajik factions.

...just like the NA did in 2001/2002 and just like it has been done since at least Alexander the Great's invasion (more likely since the Persian invasion that preceded Alexander's rampage). So what?

I also don't know why you would think it would be so easy to magic up the will for another invasion having withdrawn for cost reasons the first time. It'd take another 9/11-style attack to create the political capital for that.

The costs of one year occupation exceeds most likely the costs of another invasion both in treasure and (Western) blood.

I'm a democratically-minded person. If there's not enough political will to do something in a democracy, then it's a legitimate inactivity. To prevent that they get into a choice situation is not democratically minded imho. It signals distrust in the democratic system instead.


Another 9/11 would likely cost much less than two more years of OEF-A anyway. That saying with the other cheek is at times a smart one.

tequila
11-18-2009, 08:27 PM
And I consider that signal as weak if not irrelevant. That's the real assumption on my part. Some nations tend to believe that what they do is always important, while it's not. The vital interests of the non-Pashtun people in Northern Afghanistan would not be changed by whatever signals fizzle around.


Really. Just like the fortunes of the Montagnards of South Vietnam were unaffected by U.S. withdrawal in Vietnam? Please.


Because "we" are merely some players in the game, just like the Taliban are merely a few players in the game. There are enough interests involved to subsidy Northern efforts and to prevent a total victory of the Taliban - without a single Western pair of boots in Afghanistan.[/


Assertion without evidence. Why should the Russians care overmuch about the Taliban in control or not, since in your estimation the Taliban would never, ever host any anti-Western Islamist forces. Oh no, they've learned their lesson.


Those in power in the North would lose everything (that isn't in foreign countries yet or portable) if they lost to the Taliban, so they will be willing to keep them at bay.

Or they would just lose because they are a disunited pack of self-interested warlords who no longer have a charismatic leader like Massoud to bind them together, and they weren't even that unified even then. Where were Dostum, Hekmatyar, and Ismail Khan before 9/11? Right, their forces had been comprehensively defeated and they had fled the country. Or they could just come over to the Taliban side, like Abdul Malik.


...when pretty much nobody cared.

That didn't work out so well for the U.S., did it?


We also saw the same mechanics when the Taliban fell for the first time. A second time would not be much more difficult (yet much cheaper than occupation).

Right, because the Taliban would never learn or adjust to make their regime more permanent.


Their support was flimsy in comparison to what is to be expected in the future.

Again, any evidence of this? Or just wishful thinking?


Men are replaceable. Someone will rise to the job - or the job will be done decentrally. It's not really important as long as they don't infight too much.

Or they infight a lot, since Massoud was critical to holding the NA together, and lose the war, as they were going to do before 9/11 even with Massoud.


What on earth makes you believe that the Taliban are the only ones with a say in this?

They aren't, but they are the ones with the momentum and the strongest military and political structure behind them, which would be remarkably strengthened by a forced NATO withdrawal.


In what world isn't Southern Afghanistan a Taliban recruiting base yet? And who says that it would be any more safe then than now?
They would need to come out of the underground to rule that place, exposing themselves.

I'm referring to a safe rear area for the TTP in their war against Pakistan.


An undefeatable power has yet to be invented, and I'm helluva sure it won't look like the Taliban.
Besides; the supply of suicide bombers depends on recruiting, not on recruit potential once you have a recruiting base of hundreds of thousands of people with that fertility/mortality rate as they have in Pakistan today.

You tell me how the Pakistani Army defeats the TTP if the TTP has all of south and east Afghanistan to run to and recruit from. If the U.S. has severe problems doing so even with its army of UAVs, the Pakistani Army has even less of a chance. Any ideas besides hand-waving dismissal?

As for the supply of suicide bombers --- the TTP doesn't seem to have a problem recruiting them from desperate/brainwashed/coerced youths and foreigners in the FATA. Why would they have any problems in southern Afghanistan, especially once we give over the area to them completely so they are free to educate and propagandize and kidnap as they wish?


Honestly, I've yet to see a Pakistani source that gives a damn about the U.S.. They only give a damn about your money, not about your policies. It's not the child that looks attentively at the big brother and whether he thinks something is important or cool or not.

The Pakistani Army is a bureaucracy in egoistic mode. They have barely lost (official) political control. Taliban still don't seem to be highly rated as a problem there, which explains their modest morale in facing them. Why should they do it anyway, if foreigners are working on their problem?


I can't even figure out what you're trying to say here. So yes, you agree the Pak Army would stop fighting the Taliban and instead appease and support them absent U.S. pressure? Or you actually think they would fight them more? Are you at all familiar with the Pakistani Army's use of Islamic extremism in the past?


...as if OEF-A would have a significant (and advantageous) influence on internal Pakistani politics.

It absolutely had a massive influence on internal Pakistani politics. First it spurred Musharraf to completely flip Pakistan's posture towards Afghanistan. The TTP would not exist today without the presence and mentoring of the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda, which were drive into Pakistan by OEF-A. American influences on Musharraf related to the conduct of the Pakistani Army in the tribal areas was overwhelmingly responsible for the return of Benazir Bhutto and civilian rule in Pakistan.


That's quite irrelevant to the question of Afghanistan.


Really. The relationship of AQ and the Afghan Taliban has no bearing on Afghanistan at all. Is that your assertion?


AQ has greatly harmed the Taliban once - you think they're stupid enough to repeat the same mistake?

I think once they have the measure of the West and its lack of stomach for a costly fight, they will feel (quite rightly) that they have little to fear from a return of Western troops.


According to my information both "unified" and "centralized command" are 95% wrong and "religiously based" should be understood quite loosely.

We're just going to have to disagree vehemently here.


...just like the NA did in 2001/2002 and just like it has been done since at least Alexander the Great's invasion (more likely since the Persian invasion that preceded Alexander's rampage). So what?

So they can take over again. And no, I don't think they're going to be as unprepared for Western counterstrikes this time.



Another 9/11 would likely cost much less than two more years of OEF-A anyway. That saying with the other cheek is at times a smart one.

Maybe for Germany. I live in New York.

Also, as far as the economic costs, you are remarkably wrong.

CRS report on economic effects of 9/11. (http://digital.library.unt.edu/govdocs/crs/permalink/meta-crs-7725:1)

CRS on OEF/OIF costs (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf).

And of course another 9/11 would likely result in another invasion. But I'm sure that invasion would be very cheap, no worries, so let's just pretend that will be costless.

Fuchs
11-18-2009, 09:40 PM
(From Tequila) Really. Just like the fortunes of the Montagnards of South Vietnam were unaffected by U.S. withdrawal in Vietnam? Please.

Their vital interests didn't change either - they were violated. I was referring to vital interest in regard to their motivational value, not in regard to how well things are going.


Because "we" are merely some players in the game, just like the Taliban are merely a few players in the game. There are enough interests involved to subsidy Northern efforts and to prevent a total victory of the Taliban - without a single Western pair of boots in Afghanistan.[/


Assertion without evidence. Why should the Russians care overmuch about the Taliban in control or not, since in your estimation the Taliban would never, ever host any anti-Western Islamist forces. Oh no, they've learned their lesson.

The Russians did a lot against Islamist incursions and insurgencies since the early 90's. The Chechen War was the posterchild that's well-known in the West, but in fact much more improtant in regard to Taliban was the effort of Russian troops in the neighbouring CIS states who as 'peacekeepers' were effective at containing Islamist incursions to the North afaik.
The Taliban success (pushing the NATO the edge) was their slip, and since Putin is a smart & rational guy he likely won't allow the Taliban to regain control of territory neighbouring CIS countries.
Even if he did (maybe to be more needed by those Central Asian CIS governments), he would spent quite some effort on the affair.
GWB jumped in and took much of the Burden from Putin - and Putin was smart enough to limit his efforts to supplying (the Russians still supplied much material to the NA for the reconquista).
I bet he'd take over a major share of the burden of containing the Taliban if no-one else did it for him. It would be his path to increased influence over those too independent Central Asian CIS countries.


Or they would just lose because they are a disunited pack of self-interested warlords who no longer have a charismatic leader like Massoud to bind them together, and they weren't even that unified even then. Where were Dostum, Hekmatyar, and Ismail Khan before 9/11? Right, their forces had been comprehensively defeated and they had fled the country. Or they could just come over to the Taliban side, like Abdul Malik.


Exchange a few names and you can apply this to the Taliban as well.
It's been proven that foreign meddling in Afghan affairs can turn the tide - and the only significant foreign support for the Taliban is a little bit cooperation with ISA, some Arab money, some Muslim propaganda and an homeopathic influx of foreign (wannabe) fighters.



Right, because the Taliban would never learn or adjust to make their regime more permanent.

Ah, I see a pattern. You consider the Taliban as learning organization if it leads to an argument in your favour and they're just the continuation of the 90's if any change would be disadvantageous to your opinion.
In fact, I doubt that the Taliban could be create a much more stable government than before. Such a change isn't as easy as the decision to keep an aggressive stance or not. Besides; if they could increase their stability; why not their fors as well? They share the same experiences.


Again, any evidence of this? Or just wishful thinking?

The 'burden of proof' rhetoric trick has yet to impress me.
I'll only accept a burden of proof if you can generate evidence to the contrary.

Or they infight a lot, since Massoud was critical to holding the NA together, and lose the war, as they were going to do before 9/11 even with Massoud.

A ceteris paribus analysis that ignores 99% of all changes over the course of eight years? I'm not impressed. Besides; I already gave my statement about the NA leadership topic.

They aren't, but they are the ones with the momentum and the strongest military and political structure behind them, which would be remarkably strengthened by a forced NATO withdrawal.

I admit they're pesky stingers while they operate in the underground, but I don't see an impressive military or political structure at all.

I'm referring to a safe rear area for the TTP in their war against Pakistan.

Who says Southern Afghanistan would be safe for AQ?
To answer your answer with my original text:
"... who says that it would be any more safe then than now?
They would need to come out of the underground to rule that place, exposing themselves."

You tell me how the Pakistani Army defeats the TTP if the TTP has all of south and east Afghanistan to run to and recruit from. If the U.S. has severe problems doing so even with its army of UAVs, the Pakistani Army has even less of a chance. Any ideas besides hand-waving dismissal?

Funny, Any ideas how the U.S. would be supposed to defeat the Taliban while they have equivalent territories outside of U.S.ground forces reach to rest on?
Seriously; a war needs to be justified. It IS NOT NECESSARY TO JUSTIFY PEACE OR LESS WARFARE.
You did no less than to question the justification for OEF-A.

As for the supply of suicide bombers --- the TTP doesn't seem to have a problem recruiting them from desperate/brainwashed/coerced youths and foreigners in the FATA. Why would they have any problems in southern Afghanistan, especially once we give over the area to them completely so they are free to educate and propagandize and kidnap as they wish?

OK, that's enough.
Do you argue for the argument's sake or because you dislike me or what?

You just demolished your own argument that overt access to Southern Afghanistan recruits would improve their suicide bomber recruitment by saying that they already have easy recruitment in FATA.
That's not just inconsistent - you're doing my job in this discussion.

I can't even figure out what you're trying to say here. So yes, you agree the Pak Army would stop fighting the Taliban and instead appease and support them absent U.S. pressure? Or you actually think they would fight them more? Are you at all familiar with the Pakistani Army's use of Islamic extremism in the past?

I say you look at Pakistan too much through the CT crusader lens.
We get rarely news about what's happening in Pakistan if it's not related to the Taliban. It's different for the Pakistanis. Terror or not - their priorities and threat perceptions are still very different.
There's even a poll from this year telling that the Pakistanis consider the U.S. a greater threat to Pakistan than the Taliban or even the Indians.

The Pakistanis know how to live with those tribes in those backwardish mountain regions. Their autonomy was tolerated. It was quite unspectacular.

They won't fall in despair just because the U.S. pulls away by 95 or even 100%. They might even consider it as an improvement - their greatest concern would likely be the loss of subsidies.


It absolutely had a massive influence on internal Pakistani politics. First it spurred Musharraf to completely flip Pakistan's posture towards Afghanistan. The TTP would not exist today without the presence and mentoring of the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda, which were drive into Pakistan by OEF-A. American influences on Musharraf related to the conduct of the Pakistani Army in the tribal areas was overwhelmingly responsible for the return of Benazir Bhutto and civilian rule in Pakistan.

Billions of U.S. $ had the influence of motivating the Pakistanis to give a show.
Musharrafs rule wasn't stable by nature's law - in fact, he might even have lost power earlier without Western interest in the region. He spent Western billions to stabilize the state apparatus and bolster the army's loyalty, after all.
OEF-A is not very influential in Pakistan in any advantageous way in my opinion.


Really. The relationship of AQ and the Afghan Taliban has no bearing on Afghanistan at all. Is that your assertion?

My assertion is that it's irrelevant. China and Cuba have communist governments, but neither China nor Cuba think about a repetition of the Cuba Crisis. The ideological alignment is irrelevant in that question.
Terrorist organizations can cooperate with states and other terrorist organizations without any ideological, religious or whatever alignment. The IRA cooperated with PLO.
Meanwhile, PLO and other Palestinian terrorists were at odds and the IRA wasn't exactly allied with Ireland.
You read too much into their relation. If anything, a close relation means that one keeps harm from the other - and AQ would harm the Taliban if it moved unnecessarily into a Taliban-controlled Southern Afghanistan.

.

Fuchs
11-18-2009, 09:41 PM
Also, as far as the economic costs, you are remarkably wrong.

CRS report on economic effects of 9/11. (http://digital.library.unt.edu/govdocs/crs/permalink/meta-crs-7725:1)

CRS on OEF/OIF costs (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL33110.pdf).

And of course another 9/11 would likely result in another invasion. But I'm sure that invasion would be very cheap, no worries, so let's just pretend that will be costless.

And another invasion would be cheaper than an occupation.
Your link does not tell what you assert it does.

Let's use the numbers for your link (I recall very different ones):


9/11 plus uninsured losses: USD 34.5billion approx.

Combatting Terrorism in the U.S.: USD 52 Bn.
This cost is to be considered as sunk cost in regard to a future 9/11.
Another strike would not add another 53 Bn. 5 or 10 maybe - and that addition would either be a mistake on part of the U.S. or not investing that sum even without another hit would be a mistake. Either way; even the addition of CT funds would not be a cost of another hit, but of the general threat. This sum is therefore irrelevant for the cost comparison here.

Insurance: 5%. That's actually poor economics because the extent is obviously far greater than justified by the threat. The keyword to explain these price increases is price rigidity. It requires only basic macroeconomic education to see that this 5% figure is obviously wrong (as long as it's fully attributed to 9/11 as cause).
Besides; it's no macroeconomic cost, but rather a wealth transfer from customers to insurance company shareholders and employees.
Yet, that's not the whole stupidity of that figure: The CRS already counted insurance money as cost on the spending side ($ 34 Bn) - it's therefore obviously wrong to count on the fee side as well.


Macroeconomic effects world-wide $ 300 Bn
Now this is difficult. It's pretty much impossible to really calculate this figure (there's no way how econometrics could get this figure without a look at an alternate universe). It's therefore no doubt merely a guess.
The macroeconomic effects were mostly on tourism iirc.

Afghanistan costs...
Now it's obviously not prudent to count OEF-A costs both under OEF-A and under 9/11 costs in a cost comparison of both.
The political adventure in Afghanistan is furthermore no direct cost, but rather a voluntary reaction's cost. (And additionally increased by poor competence and and poor political guidance.)

Iraq costs:
Iraq was 100% unrelated to 9/11 other than that 9/11 was being exploited by certain politicians to motivate for that war of aggression.
The Iraq war costs are a tax on dumb politics, not 9/11 costs.

Shipping: 1-3% of shipping value for security.
Now that is strange. I could bet that the total transportation cost is about as large.
Even if not; the same argument as for the domestic CT costs applies; these costs would not be added by another 9/11 strike.

Travel & Tourism:
A study gets fishy if it counts costs twice - especially so if it does it more than once.
Insurance in/out and
Travel & Tourism / Macroeconomic

Honestly, if the CRS report figure 1 was in an economic dissertation at a German university - it would likely be rated as a 5 (failure).
I hope that most CRS reports are much better, politicians should really have access to useful info, not such disasters.



So in the end I accept the 34.5 Bn figure as 9/11 cost plus an unknown macroeconomic cost.

So it's 3,000 dead and 34.5 + x Bn vs. two years of OEF-A (and future OEF-A costs are likely higher than earlier ones, even a 2010 estimate isn't reliable).
Time will tell how messy OEF-A becomes. +40k troops would certainly be a huge cost factor.


And just to be clear: There's no choice between a 2nd 9/11 and 2 yrs OEF-A.
OEF-A contributes in my opinion very little to overall CT - if it helps at all.
We just got carried away and went off-topic.

tequila
11-19-2009, 05:34 PM
I bet he'd take over a major share of the burden of containing the Taliban if no-one else did it for him. It would be his path to increased influence over those too independent Central Asian CIS countries.

Iím really amazed that you have so much confidence in the ability of the Russians or anyone else to do this when they failed so spectacularly in the past. I suppose itís obvious weíre working off of very different assumptions here, so let me just say that I am unwilling to bet much on Russian security structure ability.


Exchange a few names and you can apply this to the Taliban as well.

It's been proven that foreign meddling in Afghan affairs can turn the tide - and the only significant foreign support for the Taliban is a little bit cooperation with ISA, some Arab money, some Muslim propaganda and an homeopathic influx of foreign (wannabe) fighters.

Except you really canít, because the Taliban is under major pressure now from the U.S. and has seen no such infighting or defections.


Funny, Any ideas how the U.S. would be supposed to defeat the Taliban while they have equivalent territories outside of U.S.ground forces reach to rest on?

Thatís we need Pakistan on-side with us.


You just demolished your own argument that overt access to Southern Afghanistan recruits would improve their suicide bomber recruitment by saying that they already have easy recruitment in FATA.

Not really sure what youíre talking about. They recruit suicide bombers in the FATA now. If pushed out of the FATA into a Talibanized southern and eastern Afghanistan by Pakistani Army offensives, they could recruit even more than they do now, destabilizing Pakistan even more than they do now.

OTOH, if we stabilized southern and eastern Afghanistan and the Pakistani Army pushed them out of FATA, they would simply be crushed.



The Pakistanis know how to live with those tribes in those backwardish mountain regions. Their autonomy was tolerated. It was quite unspectacular.


That was before OEF-A pushed the Taliban into the tribal regions, which had the effect of creating the TTP which has totally destabilized the traditional tribal structure of the region. This affected Pakistani politics and the governmentís relationship with the tribes as well. Do you acknowledge this, or do you still think OEF-A had no impact on Pakistani politics?


They won't fall in despair just because the U.S. pulls away by 95 or even 100%. They might even consider it as an improvement - their greatest concern would likely be the loss of subsidies.

Do you think it is important to keep Pakistan on-side with the West in the fight against extremism, or do you think a Pakistan which compromised with or even embraced Islamic extremism as a tool of statecraft would be a good thing for the West?



So in the end I accept the 34.5 Bn figure as 9/11 cost plus an unknown macroeconomic cost.

The unknown macroeconomic cost was huge, even if it only caused a 0.01% drop in GDP in the US without any effects on the rest of the world. Hell, even if GDP growth was retarded by 0.01%. Far beyond what 2 years in Afghanistan costs. Not to mention the cost of winding up a foreign involvement, which often has quite substantial one-time costs. I'd imagine it's even costlier when done under fire.

Then there's the cost of human lives, of course, but it's obvious which would be costlier then.

Fuchs
11-19-2009, 06:27 PM
It's actually very difficult to discuss macroeconomic costs of terror fear.
Gladly, they're not really relevant an more because they're mostly fixed costs. They exist anyway, no matter what policy we pursue. This, of course, turns them into mostly irrelevant costs in regard to policy decisions.


You seem to be quite confident that the Taliban could not exist in the underground, without any territory dominated or under control of the Taliban.
I doubt that assumption. In fact, they seem to contradict it every day. Living and working in the underground - in covert mode - is in their repertoire and this questions the utility of pushing them out of territories BECAUSE you don't really push them out; you do so at most temporarily, for they can return covertly.


I am in fact in favor of a VERY different operational idea; and I posted it in the "Winning the War in Afghanistan" thread.
http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=87316&postcount=554

tequila
11-19-2009, 06:45 PM
You seem to be quite confident that the Taliban could not exist in the underground, without any territory dominated or under control of the Taliban.
I doubt that assumption. In fact, they seem to contradict it every day. Living and working in the underground - in covert mode - is in their repertoire and this questions the utility of pushing them out of territories BECAUSE you don't really push them out; you do so at most temporarily, for they can return covertly.

I would argue that a territory where the Taliban return covertly is not actually under control or secure. My definition of secure means, say, a village and surrounding farmlands where the population is actually secured by a combination of activated local villagers, local security forces, and coalition troops or some combination thereof. Where for instance a local police chief or teacher or official cannot be killed in the night or in the marketplace in the daytime, where the Taliban had few or no local recruits, where local people would feel comfortable telling local security forces of outside Taliban forces moving into the village or countryside.

I think the Taliban in large parts of the east and south does not actually operate underground --- they operate quite aboveground and do not have to hide their presence most of the time because the GiROA does not exist on the ground level. Where the local police forces are not supported and cannot compete with Taliban full-time fighters, so they either make deals to survive or flip completely.

Can they operate "underground"? Absolutely, they are doing so now in Kandahar city and Kunduz and some parts of the north, but they also operate quite openly aboveground in large parts of the Pashtun belt.

Fuchs
11-19-2009, 06:53 PM
I draw the line between overt and covert at the question of predictability.

Taliban appearing in one place and parading on a market, sitting down for some sharia courts or whatever are not really overt.
Having a well-known villa for a Taliban governor, a permanent policing presence, permanent (not just 20 minute) checkpoints on roads - that's overt to me.

They're acting overtly if they're easy to find, easy to identify and easy to meet (predictability).


That kind of behaviour pattern would be exactly what we need them to do.
It would solve most of our problems and play into our strengths.

davidbfpo
11-20-2009, 11:24 PM
An update to original article:http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2009/11/more-on-what-if-we-fail-etc.html#comments which is a response to comments on this:
http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2009/11/16/why_afghanistan_matters#comment-90506

Quite a tussle - from within "The Beltway" I expect.