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Thread: An Open Letter to President Obama

  1. #21
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    One huge obstacle to clear thinking on insurgency is the inflated status we impose upon ideology. We did the same thing in regards to Communism. We did the same thing in regards to Catholics vs. Protestants in N. Ireland (and for the entire several hundred years of European reformation).

    Ideology is a Critical Requirement for any successful insurgency, but it is a tool. A smart insurgent picks the very best tool, and as the job changes, he changes tools as well. There are very few movements in history that are purely ideological. Christianity in its beginning perhaps (which the Romans and Jew alike refused to believe, so they logically attacked it like the insurgency they assumed it must be).

    Any government in Afghanistan will be infused with Islamic ideas and principles. That is really not a concern any more than the Christian ideas and principles infused in the US government are a problem. It is what it is. Forced compromise can work. New forms of government can be developed and work. This is the story of America, and America is the example that revolutionaries from around the world and every culture have looked to since the 1780s.

    It's only since we got into the "control of others" business ourselves that we have had a problem with this. I have a paper here on SWJ I published a few years back on this:

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/jou...p/46-jones.pdf
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  2. #22
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    Dayuhan:

    Right. It ain't pretty, nice, or safe.

    Expect mass resettlements/exoduses, and many civilian casualties short of serious and grizzly negotiations that get to the heart of converting public issues to a stable public process. (I doubt that process would be grounded in elections).

  3. #23
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    As I have followed the posts there is much with which I am in broad agreement but inevitably there are some points with which I would take issue and some that are key and I would like to highlight.

    Carl asks the question ‘how do we make them do it?’ [Post #10] – referring to agreeing to a negotiated solution. The ‘them’ refers to the government prior to our invasion of Afghanistan and the government we anointed. The ‘we’ would be the US & friends and other interested parties are Pakistan, China and India. The most important interested party, for whom any solution should be principally tailored, will not be represented but is correctly identified by Carl in “The tragic thing about this is the wishes of the long suffering Afghan civilian don't matter much”

    I still maintain a sustainable solution should be bottom up, based on a mix of traditional and Islamic structures with which the silent majority (AKA ‘long suffering civilians’) can identify.

    I don’t have any real problems with Bob in [#11]. He correctly identifies the US foreign policy Achilles heal - a failure to apply, or understand, the ‘veil of ignorance’ test. I do not know if this is a manifestation of ‘exceptionalism’ or just a failure to appreciate irony.

    Tequila’s post [#12] I have problems with. The Taliban may be a convenient label for one side of ‘them’, and Karzai for the other, but I do not believe they are as doctrinally united as you think. I suspect most of those fighting are principally interested in ending the occupation. As in pre-awakening Iraq local Muslims joined up with AQ to fight a common enemy but at heart they wanted a return to their traditional Islam/Tribal fusion. If I understand Steve [#17] correctly he is warning us that imposition of radical foreign governance structures, that run counter to the traditional way of doing things, is an uphill battle which we will not win. They will be subverted by the people and replaced with something more comfortable and familiar. If negotiation could provide a path to total withdrawal of coalition forces the Taliban hard-core would want to fight on but most would view it as mission accomplished and want to go home. Tequila also posits that as they are winning why negotiate but I do not think they will win, in the sense of a return to full control, anymore than the coalition - fighting for Karzai - will. What we have is an Orwellian ‘perpetual war’ with each side having their own territory plus an area of fluctuating control/influence. Tequila also thinks that the Taliban and Pakistan have a financial disincentive in a negotiated peace but it is Karzai’s side of the equation that I think really benefits from the gravy train – plus of course very powerful vested interests in the US. Pakistan is falling apart because its government backed the US against the instincts of its people. There are certainly big financial beneficiaries but the country as a whole is much worse off since the invasion. The government aiding the US has caused horrendous internal divisions and created a new domestic terrorism. It is very much in Pakistan’s interest to find a stable solution as long as it does not result in an Indian proxy. Like wise for China but in their case the proxy can not be Indian or American.

    I think Carl’s defining enemies [#14] has a lot of holes. By this metric we should be bombing the hell out of Saudi Arabia as they are the principal funders of the terrorists we are trying to stop, as well as the spiritual home of the ideology.

    Dayuhan [#16] thinks it is hopeless as it is ‘a winner take all environment’ but I think the parties are more pragmatic than that. It is Karzi who does best out of the status quo, without our intervention he would never have been in a position of power and he and those who have risen, and got rich, with him fare well as long as the money flows into the country and the coalition militaries guard his back. Karzi has the most to lose as everything he has has been given to him by us, if it is not made very clear to him that maintenance of the status quo is not one of the option then negotiations will fail.

    The long and the short of it is the big losers in a negotiated settlement, that is viable in the long term, need to be the US and Karzai. The US has tried to impose an unsustainable system, of which Karzai is the beneficiary, and it needs replacing not with Taliban totalitarianism but a consensus system that harks back to traditional arrangements that accommodate regional, tribal and Islamic sensibilities.
    Last edited by JJackson; 12-17-2010 at 08:13 PM.

  4. #24
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Forced compromise can work. New forms of government can be developed and work. This is the story of America, and America is the example that revolutionaries from around the world and every culture have looked to since the 1780s.

    It's only since we got into the "control of others" business ourselves that we have had a problem with this.
    Forced compromise is control of others, and a forced compromise that the parties involved do not believe fits their interests is not going to last.

    The story of America was that Americans worked out their own compromise and their own system. The compromises weren't forced, or the system imposed, by some foreign deus ex machina.

    New forms of government can develop in Afghanistan, and compromises can emerge. We can't develop the forms of government, and we can't force the compromises. The Afghans can, but it will take a while. Don't expect it to be pretty.

  5. #25
    Council Member Infanteer's Avatar
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    My 2 cents (as I'm now at the same phase as Entrophy).

    A "win" for us is keeping Karzai in power - to be honest, it doesn't really matter if Pasthun women are voting and driving cars around in Helmand or not; to frame victory in this matter is just fooling ourselves.

    The only way Karzai is going to be swept from power is if a 1995-esque push from the south. A NATO Brigade sitting in Kabul can prevent this, sallying forth to smash concentrations of insurgents (a la 2006) when required. If Karzai's government is no longer a Western interest, all we have to do is pull the plug; a lot easier to do when you don't have 100,000 of your own soldier dedicated to constabulary tasks. If Karzai's soldiers and policemen are getting shot and blown up as they drive around certain provinces, it really isn't an issue we should (or can) sort out; the fact that we are trying to by trying to station a crossing guard near every village probably only exacerbates the problem.

    Sure, the British used this policy a few times, but things went sour for them when the crowds got unruly and they had to withdraw - an open airhead can save us from having to go through the Kyber Pass again....

  6. #26
    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Robert C. Jones:

    I am repeating my earlier query, because you still have not responded.

    You say "it's not our call to pick who governs Afghanistan." Does the same go for the Pak Army/ISI? Do they get to pick?

    As far as ideology goes, I disagree for the most part, but especially as it relates to AQ receiving sanctuary from the Taliban and the Pak Army/ISI, which was what my comment was primarily about. AQ is essentially a supplicant. They go to the people who control the ground and say "hide me." Why should they hide AQ? The world doesn't like it much. American airplanes and armies come and shoot the place up, MO has to live far from home etc. So why do they do it? It seems to me they do it because AQ shares an ideological vision with them, an Islamist vision. If AQ said, "we want to strengthen the Chambers of Commerce of the Muslim world and we are willing to die in the effort", I doubt they would have received the sanctuary, given at considerable cost, that they have received. And there is no other place in the world where AQ can go to get that because there is no other place in the world so ideologically favorable.

    What does AQ bring to the Taliban and Pak Army/ISI? I think the first is the cachet of hosting an organization that has demonstrated it can hurt and, maybe more importantly, frighten the west. They get to hang with the guys who have really stuck it to the man.

    Second they can help bring in some money from Gulf donors. Why do those donors donate? They like the ideology espoused by AQ. Some rich whiskey drinking Saudi princelet can feel pious by sending money off to help restore the caliphate. That is what AQ is selling to those guys, an ideological vision.

    JJackson:

    A couple of observations. Pakistan is indeed falling apart but I think, and this has been covered often in other places on SWJ, that is because of what the powerful in Pakistan have done, not because of what they have pretended to help us do. A lot of those powerful are individually much better off financially because of what is going on. I believe that is what they are primarily interested in, not their country.

    I think you might be underestimating the importance of the Taliban & company's "hard core". That group can be very powerful, especially since it will be aided, as much or more than before I think, by the Pak Army/ISI who will most likely view anything other than Taliban & company as an "Indian proxy."

    My statement may well be full of holes but consider this. The Saudi gov nor those of any of the Gulf states allow AQ to openly operate on their territory. If they are there they have to hide well. That is not the case in Talibania or Pakistan. AQ has sanctuary there. They aren't hunted by the police. That is an important difference. Is the funding probelm? Yep, it is and will be. I don't know how to solve it. The Saudi's are a bit of a conundrum for us.

    The big losers in a negotiated settlement would also be the Uzbeck, Tajiks, Hazaras and Pashtuns who like neither Taliban & company nor the Pak Army/ISI. They would probably object which gets us back to what Steve the Planner and Dayuhan say.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

  7. #27
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    Default So why do they do it?

    Carl asks within his post why AQ find sanctuary, with the Taliban and in the FATA (parts of). Plus with the ISI / Pakistani Army.

    From my reading, not extensive, there are a host of reasons for the Taliban and FATA tribal decisions.

    Culture, Pashtunwali (with its own thread) and contemporary history are the bedrock. A militant and new edition of Islam gaining ground, helped by murder etc (notably in the FATA). Lack of any development - yes, Bob's governance viewpoint, a point conceded after 9/11 by the Pakistani Army, at a London briefing by a retired senior officer.

    We have discussed why the Pakistani Army / ISI assist too. Add to the previous cocktail a strategic viewpoint - Indian encirclement notably and a dangerous error of judgement that the 'militants' could be controlled.

    Not all is gloomy. Do not forget the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, after 9/11 did consider expelling AQ / putting them before an Islamic court etc.
    davidbfpo

  8. #28
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Afghanistan: time to face reality

    There are a couple of threads this could drop into, but this seems the best.

    Ranj Alaaldin argues that only the drastic curtailment of Nato ambitions in Afghanistan, and some unpalatable choices, will secure any semblance of stability in the country.
    Which ends with:
    In short, any strategy in Afghanistan must revolve around what is viable and sustainable. Propping up Karzai is not the ideal choice to take but it is perhaps the only realistic option amidst what is a complex political, security and geopolitical environment.
    Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensec...utm_campaign=0
    davidbfpo

  9. #29
    Council Member S-2's Avatar
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    Default Negotiate? With Whom?

    Negotiation is a non-starter. There is no incentive for the taliban to do so. Worse, there is no unified element with which to negotiate. It seems apparent that the core leadership elements for HQN, Quetta Shura and Hizb-i-Gulbuddin only loosely control their combatant commanders and have tenuous ties with one another. Dog chases tail in a no-win scenario.

    The vital nat'l interest for each NATO entity remains the nearly accomplished by 2002 task of dismembering Al Qaeda. Nothing more nor less. Everything else falls into the sub-heading of nat'l interests...but certainly not vital.

    Our issue remains how best to quarantine Afghanistan yet continue our central mission of destroying Al Qaeda and their affiliates wherever found while permitting Pakistan its notional victory (which will almost certainly implode in their faces).

    There will be no complete taliban takeover nor Pakistani "victory" in any case. Even should we depart posthaste, there are numerous countries in the region who've vital nat'l interests include not seeing a taliban-dominated Afghanistan. Iran, Russia, CAR, and India all have roles to play here that supercede America and NATO. They should be given free hand to do so as they see fit.

    That will more than offset any Pakistani sponsoring of an afghan taliban takeover while permitting NATO (particularly America) to retain the ways and means to pursue our strategic ends-Al Qaeda.

    Thanks.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

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