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Thread: Afghanistan's Drug Problem

  1. #201
    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    your friendly Afghan poppy growers are killing more US kids (90% of 2,000 annual heroin deaths in the US) than Taliban bombs and bullets.
    Guess we ought to be serving warrants on the major distillers for those 75k deaths caused annually by alcohol.

    Poppy growing is an issue and a problem, but to blame the growers for the deaths at the other end of the supply chain seems to overlook a whole lot of involvement by people who are at least as culpable, or more so. Blowing that out of proportion is not a way to arrive at effective policy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Guess we ought to be serving warrants on the major distillers for those 75k deaths caused annually by alcohol.

    Poppy growing is an issue and a problem, but to blame the growers for the deaths at the other end of the supply chain seems to overlook a whole lot of involvement by people who are at least as culpable, or more so. Blowing that out of proportion is not a way to arrive at effective policy.
    Oh boy...

    ... forget it

  3. #203
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Guess we ought to be serving warrants on the major distillers for those 75k deaths caused annually by alcohol.

    Poppy growing is an issue and a problem, but to blame the growers for the deaths at the other end of the supply chain seems to overlook a whole lot of involvement by people who are at least as culpable, or more so. Blowing that out of proportion is not a way to arrive at effective policy.
    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Oh boy...

    ... forget it
    Why forget it? You are making a claim that is, basically, indefensible unless you are willing to extend it to other "causes" of death in the US. Would you make the same claim against the use of force in securing oil fields even though there are 40,000+ deaths per year due to car accidents in the US?

    Let's go back to another component of your argument that you made earlier:

    My position is that it is not with the restrictions placed on the US and Brit armies in Afghanistan. Rules of engagement and (horrifyingly) increasingly attitudes of officers (some displayed around here) which are more suited to work with the Peacecorps than with an army at war.

    Then inexplicably the US have appeared to forgotten the simple lesson they learned in Vietnam - where a segment of their Viet Cong enemy were 'farmers by day, soldiers by night'. (If they have not forgotten then they have no #*!# idea how to deal with that)

    This comes back to the need - IMHO - to use proxies who can fight by the same lack of rules as the Taliban. Use of such tactics or methods would not be possible for use by US or Brit forces. (Nor would - most likely - the US Congress allow such proxies to kill in the name of the US)
    .

    First off, the socio-technical context of Afghanistan is quite different from that of Vietnam. I truly doubt that the "lessons" have been forgotten. Instead, I would argue that the "solutions" have been rendered impossible - and don't forget that the US lost Vietnam. Even if we draw on the lessons of Malasia, which could be argued as a limited "win", those solutions are still impossible in the current socio-technical regime.

    Two points here:
    1. Force levels
    2. International law


    ISAF does not, and is unlikely ever to have, sufficient force levels to actually monitor down to the village level. That was why this silliness with VSO was created. Second, international law precludes using overt proxies to commit actions that are chargable as war crimes. Look at the Canadian experience with handing over detainees to the Afghan government and where that left the CF.

    Cheers,

    Marc
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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Why forget it? You are making a claim that is, basically, indefensible unless you are willing to extend it to other "causes" of death in the US. Would you make the same claim against the use of force in securing oil fields even though there are 40,000+ deaths per year due to car accidents in the US?
    No, that's no better than a high school level argument. So I need to be careful because I don't know how old you are.

    For those with a greater grasp of the situation it would be clear that while the incidence of road traffic accident deaths/alcohol related deaths/deaths from smoking are (or should be) a major cause for concern back in the US the US and Brit politicians and their military general staff have the ability and the means to take action to significantly reduce the 90% of the heroin production in the world coming out of Afghanistan. Not to do so is criminal negligence.

    The simple question must be asked why the US government (under both Bush and Obama) have chosen to cosy up to an obviously corrupt and democratically illegitimate regime ... together with scum of the earth druglords and warlords who infest the country.

    I appreciate there is no simple answer to this question so the standard response is either silence or the cute (but somewhat childish) stuff I am dealing with now.

    First off, the socio-technical context of Afghanistan is quite different from that of Vietnam. I truly doubt that the "lessons" have been forgotten. Instead, I would argue that the "solutions" have been rendered impossible - and don't forget that the US lost Vietnam. Even if we draw on the lessons of Malasia, which could be argued as a limited "win", those solutions are still impossible in the current socio-technical regime.

    Two points here:
    1. Force levels
    2. International law


    ISAF does not, and is unlikely ever to have, sufficient force levels to actually monitor down to the village level. That was why this silliness with VSO was created. Second, international law precludes using overt proxies to commit actions that are chargable as war crimes. Look at the Canadian experience with handing over detainees to the Afghan government and where that left the CF.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    You see this is what happens when civilians make the leap of arrogance in deluding themselves that they understand all about wars and how best to approach specific problems.

    First off, I repeat, the error was made to turn the rout of the Taliban into a nation building exercise. George Bush has a lot to answer for in this regard.

    Now while troops are there they should at least attempt to the job they are there for (if they know what it is, that is). It is not a simple case of troop numbers it is more how the troops are used. (Hint: go read up how the Romans managed to 'control' an empire with relatively few troops)

    If the problem with the Taliban was that they harboured AQ and then refused to hand OBL and others over to the US (thus providing a much needed pretext - and target - for the the US to strike out post 9/11) then on the positive side were their attempts to curb poppy production in Afghanistan.

    Yes one understands that if the US were to go after the druglords and poppy production (in addition to the Taliban) it would mean that they would be at war with just about everyone in Afghanistan with their only (temporary) friends being those with pockets full from the indiscriminate and poorly controlled distribution of US aid money.

    The balance of your comment is quite silly.

    First I challenge you or anyone to establish how much currently serving officers and NCOs actually understand about the 'lessons' from Vietnam or other insurgencies. Just as if you did the same with Brits about the 'lessons' out of Malaysia and Kenya I suggest it will be sure to be an eye opener.

    My alternative was that they (given the self imposed RoE) they have no idea how to deal with the Taliban.

    You need to define how you see 'win' in this circumstance. Of course you seem to believe you have already considered that all the solutions have been rendered impossible. Now if you had qualified that with the words: "politically and legally acceptable to the US and European countries" you may be onto something. This is an important point.

    Those of us who have actually fought a counterinsurgency war quickly come to realise that our inability to descend to the levels of depraved barbarity against the civilian population that the insurgents invariably do means effectively our best hope is for a negotiated settlement.

    This applies to those who had some human restraint and in the absence of laws some conscience.

    This does not of course apply to the likes of Robert Mugabe and his North Korean trained 5th Brigade who through butchering civilians in quantities of tens of thousands effectively poisoned the water (the people) in which the Ndebele 'dissidents' (the fish) moved (swam). That solution worked - and I did say (go read what I wrote) using proxies would be problematic in any circumstances but obviously impossible if a 'gukurahundi' solution was considered.

    Then move onto Sri Lanka. After years of pussy-footing around with the Tamil Tigers finally figured it out (with a little help from the Chinese).

    Now look at Syria.

    So yes there is international law for those who bother with it. The Russians, Chinese and those nations under their tutelage don't give a damn.

    In fact the Taliban have become so adept at exploiting the weaknesses in ISAF military capacity that they taken themselves out of the iron-age to giant killer status as they give ISAF the run around.

    The problem is that the more clueless 'academics' start to voice uninformed opinion on matters of warfare the greater the chances are that the politicians may just listen to them with further catastrophic consequences.

    More people should read Edward Luttwak as a balance to the current nonsense been peddled around.

  5. #205
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Post 183 onwards to here have been relocated here from a long running thread on Human Terrain Teams (HTT), some may appear out of context so have a peek at their former place:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...t=4093&page=41
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    No, that's no better than a high school level argument. So I need to be careful because I don't know how old you are.
    Try logic instead of ad hominen attacks.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    For those with a greater grasp of the situation it would be clear that while the incidence of road traffic accident deaths/alcohol related deaths/deaths from smoking are (or should be) a major cause for concern back in the US the US and Brit politicians and their military general staff have the ability and the means to take action to significantly reduce the 90% of the heroin production in the world coming out of Afghanistan. Not to do so is criminal negligence.
    No, it is not "criminal negligence" as you state. It may be irresponsible, but it is not criminal, and it just highlights why your claim is ridiculous. Would you argue that since US and Brit politicians have the ability and means to reduce deaths by car accident, and they do, that they are criminally negligent in not doing so? If you would, then I have to wonder what criminal code you are referring to.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    You see this is what happens when civilians make the leap of arrogance in deluding themselves that they understand all about wars and how best to approach specific problems.

    First off, I repeat, the error was made to turn the rout of the Taliban into a nation building exercise. George Bush has a lot to answer for in this regard.
    Well, I never said that it wasn't an error .

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Now while troops are there they should at least attempt to the job they are there for (if they know what it is, that is). It is not a simple case of troop numbers it is more how the troops are used. (Hint: go read up how the Romans managed to 'control' an empire with relatively few troops)
    I am quite familiar with how the Romans managed their empire both militarily and politically. I am also well aware that it is not a simple matter of numbers; although there are minimum numbers necessary to do what you suggested, and those numbers where not available in Afghanistan.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    If the problem with the Taliban was that they harboured AQ and then refused to hand OBL and others over to the US (thus providing a much needed pretext - and target - for the the US to strike out post 9/11) then on the positive side were their attempts to curb poppy production in Afghanistan.

    Yes one understands that if the US were to go after the druglords and poppy production (in addition to the Taliban) it would mean that they would be at war with just about everyone in Afghanistan with their only (temporary) friends being those with pockets full from the indiscriminate and poorly controlled distribution of US aid money.

    The balance of your comment is quite silly.
    I will certainly grant you that the US rationale for being in Afghanistan has changed over the years. Also, since the US has adopted the somewhat irrational goal of stating that their strategic rationale is to deny facilities to AQ etc. as their current rationale, there are some quite serious problems, many of which are exacerbated by US domestic politics.

    And why do you say that the balance of my comment is silly? Is it because you know what you know and facts have nothing to do with it?

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    First I challenge you or anyone to establish how much currently serving officers and NCOs actually understand about the 'lessons' from Vietnam or other insurgencies. Just as if you did the same with Brits about the 'lessons' out of Malaysia and Kenya I suggest it will be sure to be an eye opener.

    My alternative was that they (given the self imposed RoE) they have no idea how to deal with the Taliban.
    Try reading something about logic and look up the Rule of the Excluded Third. I have probably read more AARs, from the Brits, Americans and Canadians than most people, and it is quite obvious that the actual amount of lessons learned from Vietnam, etc., is fairly low. That said, that same apparent ignorance needs to be put into a domestic political context where 'strategies" are often defined and imposed by politicians who have no concept of military operations and don't care about anything beyond the next election. Who do you think imposes the RoE's on the troops?

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    You need to define how you see 'win' in this circumstance. Of course you seem to believe you have already considered that all the solutions have been rendered impossible. Now if you had qualified that with the words: "politically and legally acceptable to the US and European countries" you may be onto something. This is an important point.
    That was implied, but I probably should have spelled it out.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Those of us who have actually fought a counterinsurgency war quickly come to realise that our inability to descend to the levels of depraved barbarity against the civilian population that the insurgents invariably do means effectively our best hope is for a negotiated settlement.

    This applies to those who had some human restraint and in the absence of laws some conscience.
    Again, go study some basic logic and ask yourself what effect such actions would have on the general population once they were demobbed.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    This does not of course apply to the likes of Robert Mugabe and his North Korean trained 5th Brigade who through butchering civilians in quantities of tens of thousands effectively poisoned the water (the people) in which the Ndebele 'dissidents' (the fish) moved (swam). That solution worked - and I did say (go read what I wrote) using proxies would be problematic in any circumstances but obviously impossible if a 'gukurahundi' solution was considered.
    Mugabe is a psychotic and, in this instance, a red herring.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Then move onto Sri Lanka. After years of pussy-footing around with the Tamil Tigers finally figured it out (with a little help from the Chinese).

    Now look at Syria.
    The Tamil Tigers are an interesting example but, I have to wonder, how appropriate to a discussion of Afghanistan. Are we likely to the the ANA pushing the Taliban into a pocket and annihilating them? Probably not, and ISAF forces are not likely to do so either since a) they are not the government and b) they can't get access to FATA. The Tigers, you'll note, didn't have a safe haven, while the Taliban do.

    As far as Syria is concerned, it appears to be turning into a multi-sided proxy fight. There are potential analogs with Afghanistan, but I would be very careful about them.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    So yes there is international law for those who bother with it. The Russians, Chinese and those nations under their tutelage don't give a damn.
    So what? The US and the Brits do. Deal with what is rather than what you might wish to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    In fact the Taliban have become so adept at exploiting the weaknesses in ISAF military capacity that they taken themselves out of the iron-age to giant killer status as they give ISAF the run around.
    Sigh. Of course, the Soviets were nothing but Bronze Age barbarians. I have many problems with how ISAF has handled their campaign, but the ability to exploit Western weaknesses has been know for a long time, so I wouldn't give the Taliban more than their due.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    The problem is that the more clueless 'academics' start to voice uninformed opinion on matters of warfare the greater the chances are that the politicians may just listen to them with further catastrophic consequences.
    Politicians listen only to themselves and their political advisers. Their choice to "adopt" the views of academics or military people people is undertaken solely on whether or not those people's ideas match the politicians preconceptions. Any competent student of practical politics knows this.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    More people should read Edward Luttwak as a balance to the current nonsense been peddled around.
    And anyone who knows Byzantine history will agree that his "thoughts" on that are singularly uninformed.
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Try logic instead of ad hominen attacks.
    The rate of car accident deaths in the US have nothing to do with the cycle from poppy cultivation in Afghanistan to heroin death in the US and the opportunities for at source eradication.

    I noticed that you deleted the following from my post, I presume to avoid having to attempt an answer. One more time then:

    The simple question must be asked why the US government (under both Bush and Obama) have chosen to cosy up to an obviously corrupt and democratically illegitimate regime ... together with scum of the earth druglords and warlords who infest the country.
    You want to try and answer this? If you don't I'll understand.

    No, it is not "criminal negligence" as you state. It may be irresponsible, but it is not criminal, and it just highlights why your claim is ridiculous.
    LOL.. According to Edward Girardet the book Killing the Cranes, the Bush administration paid 43 million dollar 'eradication' reward payment to the Taliban in 2001 when production was reduced to minimal quantities. Then he lets poppy production blossom after he has run the Taliban out of town.

    So call it interesting/unusual/strange/bizarre/crazy/suspicious/irresponsible/negligent/criminally-negligent/or whatever. Lets settle for 'criminally negligent incompetence' shall we?

    Would you argue that since US and Brit politicians have the ability and means to reduce deaths by car accident, and they do, that they are criminally negligent in not doing so? If you would, then I have to wonder what criminal code you are referring to.
    I asked you nicely to drop the school boy level argument. Your linkage here is ridiculous (your word).

    Criminal as an adjective.

    Well, I never said that it wasn't an error
    Cute answer but did you ever voice an opinion on that somewhere, anywhere?

    I am quite familiar with how the Romans managed their empire both militarily and politically.
    I guess I'll have to take your word for it.

    Well then you may wish to explain how you failed to connect the dots?

    I am also well aware that it is not a simple matter of numbers; although there are minimum numbers necessary to do what you suggested, and those numbers where not available in Afghanistan.
    How would you calculate the numbers required for any of the possible 'solutions' that have been muted?

    I did not suggest anything other than it is more about how the troops are used than the mere numbers deployed in theatre.

    You don't really know much about this stuff do you?

    I will certainly grant you that the US rationale for being in Afghanistan has changed over the years. Also, since the US has adopted the somewhat irrational goal of stating that their strategic rationale is to deny facilities to AQ etc. as their current rationale, there are some quite serious problems, many of which are exacerbated by US domestic politics.
    The politicians (and their advisors from academia) haven't got a clue. It is to the eternal discredit of primarily the US Joint Chiefs (and also the Brit general staff) that the facts and the implications of the political decisions were not brought home forcefully to their political masters.

    And why do you say that the balance of my comment is silly? Is it because you know what you know and facts have nothing to do with it?
    I was being polite. You clearly know nothing about force level calculations and you apply 'law' as it applies to conduct of war but ignore 'law' as it applies to drug production/trafficking/etc. Selective and silly.

    Try reading something about logic and look up the Rule of the Excluded Third.
    Boy, you are so clever.

    I have probably read more AARs, from the Brits, Americans and Canadians than most people,
    Again I'll have to take your word for it... but tell me, as reading is one thing and comprehension is quite another, what did you actually glean from all that reading?

    ... and it is quite obvious that the actual amount of lessons learned from Vietnam, etc., is fairly low.
    That's what I said... and that is at general staff level and it gets a whole worse when it comes down to those actually deployed on ops in Afghanistan.

    That said, that same apparent ignorance needs to be put into a domestic political context where 'strategies" are often defined and imposed by politicians who have no concept of military operations and don't care about anything beyond the next election. Who do you think imposes the RoE's on the troops?
    Neither do the academic advisors to the politicians know diddly... that is why it is up to the Joint Chiefs to 'explain' what can and can't be done by the military and when to deploy the Peace Corps instead. (It has become clear that when needed the Joint Chiefs do not have the moral courage to stand up for the men of the military and place their careers and pensions ahead of the good of the military - the US system sucks).

    That was implied, but I probably should have spelled it out.
    Again I'll have to take your word for it won't I.

    Again, go study some basic logic and ask yourself what effect such actions would have on the general population once they were demobbed.
    Ok... obviously you didn't understand. So one more time then, I said:

    Those of us who have actually fought a counterinsurgency war quickly come to realise that our inability to descend to the levels of depraved barbarity against the civilian population that the insurgents invariably do means effectively our best hope is for a negotiated settlement.

    This applies to those who had some human restraint and in the absence of laws some conscience.
    Now let me help you here (as one who has actually been at the sharp end).

    Using the examples I listed it is actually quite simple to defeat an insurgency if a state is prepared to adopt the methods of (most) insurgents and use methods against the population which out-terrorise the insurgents.

    Could ISAF use such methods to 'win the hearts and minds' of the population? Of course not. How do you think the Taliban reduced poppy cultivation by 2001? Kind words and crop replacement programs? No, the gave the population the gypsies warning and the population knew to take it seriously. What threat could ISAF make that would be taken seriously?

    [split into two due to length of posting restrictions]

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    Continued as part two:

    Quote Originally Posted by marct View Post
    Mugabe is a psychotic and, in this instance, a red herring.
    OK, so you don't know about Gukurahundi. Mugabe ended an insurgency by making the population turn against the insurgents out of a justifiable fear for their own lives. Relevant, in that it was a repeat from successful COIN methods of successful empires of the past. But then you say you know all about Roman history yet seem to have missed this simple fact?

    The Tamil Tigers are an interesting example but, I have to wonder, how appropriate to a discussion of Afghanistan.
    I guess like I'm wondering how car accident rates in the US are appropriate to drug production originating in Afghanistan? (Sorry, couldn't resist that but in so doing lowered myself to your high school debating level.)

    Are we likely to the the ANA pushing the Taliban into a pocket and annihilating them? Probably not, and ISAF forces are not likely to do so either since a) they are not the government and b) they can't get access to FATA. The Tigers, you'll note, didn't have a safe haven, while the Taliban do.
    You are either trying to be cute or you quite frankly don't have a clue.

    You missed the key 'change' at policy level when "Rajapaksa promised his troops that the war would end only with the LTTE’s elimination and Prabhakaran’s capture or death." So the nation aim changed from peace talks to military victory. Now having said that you should be able to follow the dots from there. Oh yes, and the self righteous West is still wailing and gnashing its teeth over the war crimes and human rights abuses but as far as Sri Lanka is concerned the the 26 odd year war is over and they are safe in the lovingly protective arms of China.

    So what is the ISAF aim in Afghanistan (the current one that is)? Are they wanting to win (still waiting for your definition of 'win') or are have they admitted defeat and trying to slide out with the minimum of fuss?

    As far as Syria is concerned, it appears to be turning into a multi-sided proxy fight. There are potential analogs with Afghanistan, but I would be very careful about them.
    You miss the point again (I mean its three strikes and you are out).

    But I'll continue for this post. Hint: what did daddy do in 1982? Has that aqnd the support of Russia and China got anything to do with the current approach? Is he handing out soccer balls and pencils or is he intent to crush the insurgency?

    So what? The US and the Brits do. Deal with what is rather than what you might wish to be.
    So what? You ask 'so what?'

    What that means is that the US and the Brits should not get into conflicts they can't win.

    I quote Colin Powell from his autobiography ‘My American Journey’, “Many of my generation of Vietnam-era officers vowed that when our turn came to call the shots, we would not quietly acquiesce in half-hearted warfare for half-baked reasons that the American people could not understand.

    Get the idea?

    Sigh.
    LOL... you poor long suffering dear.

    Of course, the Soviets were nothing but Bronze Age barbarians. I have many problems with how ISAF has handled their campaign, but the ability to exploit Western weaknesses has been know for a long time, so I wouldn't give the Taliban more than their due.
    You need to give them their due that they have the initiative, they are well funded from local sources (including the US tax-payer) and their use IEDs (and ISAFs inability to effectively counter them) is in reality a war winner.

    Politicians listen only to themselves and their political advisers. Their choice to "adopt" the views of academics or military people people is undertaken solely on whether or not those people's ideas match the politicians preconceptions. Any competent student of practical politics knows this.
    Obviously. They surround themselves with their coterie and disregard the rest. I say again it is up to the Joint Chiefs to show moral courage and stand up to the politicians when necessary - even at the cost of their careers.

    And anyone who knows Byzantine history will agree that his "thoughts" on that are singularly uninformed.
    ...and you be one of them... lol.

    PS: wonderful logical fallacy that, got a name for it?

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    The simple question must be asked why the US government (under both Bush and Obama) have chosen to cosy up to an obviously corrupt and democratically illegitimate regime ... together with scum of the earth druglords and warlords who infest the country.
    What options have they got? The US doesn't have the capacity to create a non-corrupt democratically legitimate regime in Afghanistan. Short of letting the Taliban have the place or the non-option of taking over and running it as a colony, what else would you have them do?

    Personally, I don't think the US should ever have gotten involved in prolonged occupation, installing governments, or attempts at "nation-building", but it's a little late for that.

    The rate of car accident deaths in the US have nothing to do with the cycle from poppy cultivation in Afghanistan to heroin death in the US and the opportunities for at source eradication.
    The key word here is "cycle". The question is what point of that cycle is the most efficient and economical target for intervention. Given the cost of military intervention in Afghanistan, I'd suggest that we'd be better off attacking the cycle where it's actually under our control, and we can do it with our own government, rather than having to either work though a completely dysfunctional government elsewhere.

    US drug policy has for years been based on the utterly boneheaded notion that supply creates demand, that the people who buy drugs are innocent victims who need to be helped and the people who sell them are the evil ones who must be punished. That policy has left demand unchecked and has constrained supply just enough to make the business incredibly profitable. Of course as long as the demand and the profit are there, somebody somewhere will produce the stuff. The basic force driving the business is not supply, but demand. Trying to blame Mexican cartels (we're already being told we have to "do COIN" in Mexico) or Afghan growers for a problem that starts within our own borders is utterly counterproductive: until the US gets serious about addressing demand, any "solution" will be stopgap at best.
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 04-07-2012 at 07:30 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    What options have they got? The US doesn't have the capacity to create a non-corrupt democratically legitimate regime in Afghanistan. Short of letting the Taliban have the place or the non-option of taking over and running it as a colony, what else would you have them do?

    Personally, I don't think the US should ever have gotten involved in prolonged occupation, installing governments, or attempts at "nation-building", but it's a little late for that.
    Second point first. Yes we appear to agree that the switch to nation building was a major error in judgement.

    IMHO there were two Afghan related incidents along the timeline which would have/should have prompted a US/NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    * when it was realized that the Karzai regime irredeemably corrupt.

    * when the second? election was obviously rigged.

    It was time to withdraw recognition of the Karzai regime (as they should do for all non-democratic countries) and downgrade their diplomatic contact (there is a term for this I am in too much of a hurry to look up)

    In concert with that a strategic withdrawal (or a better word; extraction) of troops would take place. The Karzai regime was never worth the lives and limbs of US or any ISAF servicemen.

    The key word here is "cycle". The question is what point of that cycle is the most efficient and economical target for intervention. Given the cost of military intervention in Afghanistan, I'd suggest that we'd be better off attacking the cycle where it's actually under our control, and we can do it with our own government, rather than having to either work though a completely dysfunctional government elsewhere.
    And obviously one such point (but obviously not the only one) is where you have 100,000 troops and the crop in the field. That's a no brainer.

    That said one understands soldiers have to prioritize their tasks and focus one one enemy at a time. As per Mark Moyer in his paper ‘The Third Way of COIN: Defeating the Taliban in Sangin’ on 3/5 Marines approach in Sangin in 2010:

    The Marines decided that they had too many enemies already to engage in large-scale counternarcotics activities. Much of the population depended on the opium industry for its livelihood, and could be expected to cling to insurgency more strongly if that livelihood were at stake. Counternarcotics could wait until the government had enough personnel and adequate security to undertake robust counternarcotics measures.
    Sadly the situation in Sangin has never reached that of 'adequate security' for 'robust counternarcotics measures' to be undertaken (even if the will was there).

    US drug policy has for years been based on the utterly boneheaded notion that supply creates demand, that the people who buy drugs are innocent victims who need to be helped and the people who sell them are the evil ones who must be punished. That policy has left demand unchecked and has constrained supply just enough to make the business incredibly profitable. Of course as long as the demand and the profit are there, somebody somewhere will produce the stuff. The basic force driving the business is not supply, but demand. Trying to blame Mexican cartels (we're already being told we have to "do COIN" in Mexico) or Afghan growers for a problem that starts within our own borders is utterly counterproductive: until the US gets serious about addressing demand, any "solution" will be stopgap at best.
    Sounds good but you miss the obvious link between availability and use. Anyway as drugs in the states is a trillion dollar industry you don't really believe that corruption in that regard has not reached the highest levels of politics/government/law enforcement do you?
    Last edited by JMA; 04-08-2012 at 10:09 AM.

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    Default ...another reason to leave

    Afghans, US sign deal on night raids

    Night raids are the only thing that's really working militarily.

    Since when are night operations classed as 'special operations' or 'unconventional'? Has it got to that level?

    Is Gen Allen off his rocker?

    ... in fact after the the Bales shootings when Karzai demanded that ISAF forces pull back to the large bases they should have done so.
    Last edited by JMA; 04-08-2012 at 08:02 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Second point first. Yes we appear to agree that the switch to nation building was a major error in judgement.

    IMHO there were two Afghan related incidents along the timeline which would have/should have prompted a US/NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan.

    * when it was realized that the Karzai regime irredeemably corrupt.

    * when the second? election was obviously rigged.
    I'd have said even earlier. I think it was predictable, even inevitable, that any government the US installed in Afghanistan was going to fall short of expectations and face widespread opposition. It was predictable, even inevitable, that once US attention turned from "clear" to "hold" - to occupying and protecting territory and preserving a regime - attacks aimed at weakening that hold would begin. Once that starts, the occupier is backed into a position where leaving becomes a defeat, where the people doing the attacking can claim credibly to have driven the occupier out. Once you back into that position, you make a place where you lose by not winning and the enemy wins by not losing, which is not a good place to be, especially when home front political will is lacking, as would inevitably be the case in a country where the US has so few real interests and so little to gain.

    To me the time to leave was before those attacks ever began, before we made that transition to "hold". We didn't need "clear, hold, build", we needed "clear and walk away". Leave while you're still on top, still scary, when nobody can claim to have driven you out, while the mojo is still intact and the message "don't make us come back" carries real weight.

    All that, of course, is just my opinion and water long under the bridge, though there might be a lesson for the future somewhere in there.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    And obviously one such point (but obviously not the only one) is where you have 100,000 troops and the crop in the field. That's a no brainer.
    So you destroy the crop... then what? The users are still there, they want the stuff really badly, and they are willing to pat for it. Reduce supply, and the price goes through the roof. That makes production even more attractive, and makes producers all along the supply chain even more willing to take risks. So you have to do it all over again next year,and the year after, ad infinitum, and while you're doing it people in every other potential poppy-growing area on earth fire up to get a piece of the profit.

    If we've learned anything from decades of trying to suppress coca production in Latin America, it's that as long as the demand is there and the profits are large, somebody will find a way to meet the demand.

    Trying to control the drug problem by focusing only on supply looks to me like wading deeper and deeper into the swamp, and heaping more and more endless responsibilities on the people in the field.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Sounds good but you miss the obvious link between availability and use. Anyway as drugs in the states is a trillion dollar industry you don't really believe that corruption in that regard has not reached the highest levels of politics/government/law enforcement do you?
    This of course is true: fifty years or more of idiotic policy leaves a legacy that is not going to be unraveled quickly or easily. Shouldn't it be easier, though, to unravel our own corruption and our own counterproductive laws and habits than those of Afghanistan, or any number of others? Trying to control our drug problem in Afghanistan, Columbia, Mexico etc has a superficial appeal, in that the most visible impacts, including the worst of the violence, are imposed on people in other places. Ultimately, though, we end up relying on governments that don't share our interests, concerns, or priorities, or else trying to undertake governance functions in other countries on our own, which is the last thing we want to do. At least if we face our own problem on our own soil, we have our own laws to work with, and any resistance is ours to manage. Of course there will be costs and troubles as well, but that's fair enough: it's our problem after all.
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 04-09-2012 at 12:11 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    I'd have said even earlier. I think it was predictable, even inevitable, that any government the US installed in Afghanistan was going to fall short of expectations and face widespread opposition. It was predictable, even inevitable, that once US attention turned from "clear" to "hold" - to occupying and protecting territory and preserving a regime - attacks aimed at weakening that hold would begin. Once that starts, the occupier is backed into a position where leaving becomes a defeat, where the people doing the attacking can claim credibly to have driven the occupier out. Once you back into that position, you make a place where you lose by not winning and the enemy wins by not losing, which is not a good place to be, especially when home front political will is lacking, as would inevitably be the case in a country where the US has so few real interests and so little to gain.

    To me the time to leave was before those attacks ever began, before we made that transition to "hold". We didn't need "clear, hold, build", we needed "clear and walk away". Leave while you're still on top, still scary, when nobody can claim to have driven you out, while the mojo is still intact and the message "don't make us come back" carries real weight.

    All that, of course, is just my opinion and water long under the bridge, though there might be a lesson for the future somewhere in there.
    I don't believe you understand the concept of 'clear, hold, build'.

    (Take a look at FM 3-24, 5-50 to 5-80)
    Last edited by JMA; 04-09-2012 at 09:50 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    So you destroy the crop... then what?
    Then you will have achieved an important victory by effectively cutting off the Taliban from a significant source of funding.

    Then if those who are wringing their hands over the loss of income the farmers will suffer then they can prevail upon the US government to compensate them for their loss of earnings and start programs to assist them to grow alternative crops. (You know what? The US government would probably be dumb enough to shell out a few billion per year over the next few years for just that purpose - if China will lend them the money)

    Of course the warlords/druglords would by now be beside themselves over their loss of future income and are likely to become belligerent... so as this had been anticipated and number of carefully targeted night operations or drone strikes would have been carried out to remove these individuals from the scene.

    The users are still there, they want the stuff really badly, and they are willing to pat for it. Reduce supply, and the price goes through the roof. That makes production even more attractive, and makes producers all along the supply chain even more willing to take risks. So you have to do it all over again next year,and the year after, ad infinitum, and while you're doing it people in every other potential poppy-growing area on earth fire up to get a piece of the profit.

    If we've learned anything from decades of trying to suppress coca production in Latin America, it's that as long as the demand is there and the profits are large, somebody will find a way to meet the demand.

    Trying to control the drug problem by focusing only on supply looks to me like wading deeper and deeper into the swamp, and heaping more and more endless responsibilities on the people in the field.
    OK, there will be some knock on effect on the global market. So in conjunction with the international agencies they would, one supposes, develop contingency plans to mitigate against an upsurge of poppy cultivation in other areas.

    You continue to miss the simple fact that there is an opportunity here to take out 90% of current world opium production.

    There has got to be a reason why this opportunity is not being seized. I will money on it that you won't like the answer when it finally comes out in the wash.

    This of course is true: fifty years or more of idiotic policy leaves a legacy that is not going to be unraveled quickly or easily. Shouldn't it be easier, though, to unravel our own corruption and our own counterproductive laws and habits than those of Afghanistan, or any number of others? Trying to control our drug problem in Afghanistan, Columbia, Mexico etc has a superficial appeal, in that the most visible impacts, including the worst of the violence, are imposed on people in other places. Ultimately, though, we end up relying on governments that don't share our interests, concerns, or priorities, or else trying to undertake governance functions in other countries on our own, which is the last thing we want to do. At least if we face our own problem on our own soil, we have our own laws to work with, and any resistance is ours to manage. Of course there will be costs and troubles as well, but that's fair enough: it's our problem after all.
    Well one has to start somewhere and it could be making the most of the opportunity to reduce opium production by 90%... and again in concert with this one would expect a number of contingency plans to be worked out to cater for both expected and possible un-expected consequences.
    Last edited by JMA; 04-09-2012 at 09:53 AM.

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    Default The UK's two-faced stance

    The UK has for a long time been the 'lead' nation in Afghanistan for counter-narcotics and at times this role has been lauded in official statements.

    What is clear from anecdotes from those who served in Helmand - the centre of the opium (heroin) production - destroying large quantities of the paste has not been the operational policy. I have commented upon this is another thread.

    More recently comments have been made in Whitehall-Westminster that indicate counter-narcotics did not feature in the UK decision to act in Helmand.

    It was alleged that in the early years of involvement the UK government "watered down" reports on the extent of cultivation and state collusion in the drugs trade.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    I don't believe you understand the concept of 'clear, hold, build'.

    (Take a look at FM 3-24, 5-50 to 5-80)
    The manual actually illustrates what I'm saying quite well. Of course the manual refers to an operation "executed in a specific, high-priority area experiencing overt insurgent operations", but you could argue that the US sees Afghanistan as a whole in exactly that way, and the progression described in the manual is reflected in the overall US strategy.

    The manual's section on the "clear" side is short and concise. The basic description is this:

    Clear is a tactical mission task that requires the commander to remove all enemy forces and eliminate organized resistance in an assigned area (FM 3-90). The force does this by destroying, capturing, or forcing the withdrawal of insurgent combatants.
    That's a clear objective and it's an objective suited to achievement by armed force. It's a reasonable mission to assign to an army.

    Move on the manual's description of "hold", and suddenly it all goes nebulous. Commanders are told that success depends on "effectively reestablishing a HN government presence at the local level" and "increasing popular support", while at the same time they must control the populace with actions like imposing curfews, limiting travel, setting up pass systems. They are told to "Establish a firm government presence and control over the area and populace" and to "Establish a government political apparatus to replace the insurgent apparatus." They are recommended tasks as diverse as picking up traqsh, digging wells, building schools.

    In short, they are told to exercise governance functions, all the while relying on a hypothetical "host nation government" that may be unable to undertake any of the functions assigned to it, if it exists at all.

    Are those reasonable jobs to hand to an army?

    Seems to me that the moment we assigned the army to perform governance duties, we opened the door to a COIN operation that we never needed to be in, and could have avoided by leaving without trying to govern a "nation" that is fundamentally ungovernable, at least in any way that would be remotely compatible with western political expectations.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Then you will have achieved an important victory by effectively cutting off the Taliban from a significant source of funding.
    Temporarily, that is. Even in a best case scenario you won't cut off the whole crop, and they'll plant a lot more carefully next year... and the year after that you'll be drawing down. And of course the Als will be fed infinite amounts of footage showing Americans blowing up irrigation systems, spraying herbicides on crops, and generally throwing Afghan farmers into penury. Those claims will be believed, true or not, and the beneficiary of that belief will be AQ.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Of course the warlords/druglords would by now be beside themselves over their loss of future income and are likely to become belligerent... so as this had been anticipated and number of carefully targeted night operations or drone strikes would have been carried out to remove these individuals from the scene.
    So instead of fighting the Taliban we'll be fighting the entire Afghan state - nominal government, actual government, and Taliban - ... at a time when we've barely the resources to fight the Taliban.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    OK, there will be some knock on effect on the global market. So in conjunction with the international agencies they would, one supposes, develop contingency plans to mitigate against an upsurge of poppy cultivation in other areas.
    Hasn't worked terribly well in the past... the track record of crop eradication programs is not good.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    You continue to miss the simple fact that there is an opportunity here to take out 90% of current world opium production.
    That's assuming you get all of it, which you won't... and again, the reduction will be temporary. Eradication will get harder every year - they won't stop planting, they'll just hide it more effectively - and full production will resume as soon as we draw down, which is clearly in the cards. You're likely to impose a large new burden and significant additional risk on an already overstretched force to achieve a gain that's temporary at best.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    There has got to be a reason why this opportunity is not being seized. I will money on it that you won't like the answer when it finally comes out in the wash.
    Those in the field apparently believe that seizing that opportunity would raise a hornet's nest that they don't want to deal with. I don't think either of us is in a position to say that this is not the case, or to anticipate what local reaction would be. Opinions from those who are or recently have been in the field in Afghanistan would be good to hear.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    The manual actually illustrates what I'm saying quite well.
    No it doesn't... but I guess you are going to try to apply a little spin to try to convince others with no military background (and yourself) that it does.

    Of course the manual refers to an operation "executed in a specific, high-priority area experiencing overt insurgent operations", ...
    Yes and it means just that.

    ... but you could argue that the US sees Afghanistan as a whole in exactly that way, and the progression described in the manual is reflected in the overall US strategy.
    Nice try... but no. Why not just admit you got it wrong or just slink away to avoid further embarrassment?

    The manual's section on the "clear" side is short and concise. The basic description is this:
    Yes I know what it says... after all I drew your attention to that section.

    That's a clear objective and it's an objective suited to achievement by armed force. It's a reasonable mission to assign to an army.
    Do you know the difference between strategic and tactical? You are over your head here man.

    Move on the manual's description of "hold", and suddenly it all goes nebulous. Commanders are told that success depends on "effectively reestablishing a HN government presence at the local level" and "increasing popular support", while at the same time they must control the populace with actions like imposing curfews, limiting travel, setting up pass systems. They are told to "Establish a firm government presence and control over the area and populace" and to "Establish a government political apparatus to replace the insurgent apparatus." They are recommended tasks as diverse as picking up traqsh, digging wells, building schools.

    In short, they are told to exercise governance functions, all the while relying on a hypothetical "host nation government" that may be unable to undertake any of the functions assigned to it, if it exists at all.

    Are those reasonable jobs to hand to an army?

    Seems to me that the moment we assigned the army to perform governance duties, we opened the door to a COIN operation that we never needed to be in, and could have avoided by leaving without trying to govern a "nation" that is fundamentally ungovernable, at least in any way that would be remotely compatible with western political expectations.
    Again you clearly don't seem to understand the subject.

    Perhaps if you want a soundbite then you should take this one - being what the holding force should strive to accomplish:


    �� Protect the population from insurgent intimidation, coercion, and reprisals.
    �� Eliminate insurgent leaders and infrastructure.
    �� Improve essential services where possible.
    �� Reinstate HN government presence.
    You should really avoid the temptation to sound off on a subject about which you clearly have very little background/experience/knowledge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    Temporarily, that is. Even in a best case scenario you won't cut off the whole crop, and they'll plant a lot more carefully next year... and the year after that you'll be drawing down. And of course the Als will be fed infinite amounts of footage showing Americans blowing up irrigation systems, spraying herbicides on crops, and generally throwing Afghan farmers into penury. Those claims will be believed, true or not, and the beneficiary of that belief will be AQ.
    You may believe that the farmers of Helmand (and other areas) have a right to produce poppies (which as become the chief crop since the Soviet invasion of the 80s). You are entitled to that opinion... but your reasoning is not intelligent. So out with it now what is the real reason you oppose the return to the virtually poppy free status quo of the pre-Soviet invasion period?

    Oh yes... and save the AQ scare mongering for a pure USian audience... it does not have the same persuasive effect outside the US. Yes there will be a propaganda campaign started by the druglords and that will have to be countered. I would simply find out what coercion the Taliban used to all but eradicate poppy cultivation in 2001 and suggest to the US's Afghan partners that the same methods be adopted.

    So instead of fighting the Taliban we'll be fighting the entire Afghan state - nominal government, actual government, and Taliban - ... at a time when we've barely the resources to fight the Taliban.
    That's what I said when I commented on the Marines focus on the Taliban when the entered Helmand in 2010. It of course begs the question why the US insists on remaining in Afghanistan rather than diminishes the need to act against 90% of the worlds opium production.

    This quote from Ben Anderson's book 'No Worse Enemy' is apt:

    In July (2011), Ghulam Haider Hamidi, mayor of Kandahar, was killed. He and his daughter had returned to Afghanistan from the USA, believing they could help their homeland. A few months later, his daughter left Afghanistan again, saying it was in ‘360 degrees of chaos’ and she had lost all hope: ‘America came to Afghanistan and aligned itself with the very people who destroyed Afghanistan and who continue to destroy Afghanistan: warlords, drug lords, gun lords.’
    Hasn't worked terribly well in the past... the track record of crop eradication programs is not good.
    US programs you are talking about I believe? Yes it will be important to get another nation to lead on this. The Russians and Iranians are suffering the most from the Afghan opium production so maybe open the door for either/or or both to come in.

    That's assuming you get all of it, which you won't... and again, the reduction will be temporary. Eradication will get harder every year - they won't stop planting, they'll just hide it more effectively - and full production will resume as soon as we draw down, which is clearly in the cards. You're likely to impose a large new burden and significant additional risk on an already overstretched force to achieve a gain that's temporary at best.
    Again I am interested why you to almost want the opium production in Afghanistan to continue. Kind of like the 'hippie' arguments of the 60s. Are you perhaps pro drug legalisation across the board or just supportive of the Afghan poppy growers?

    Those in the field apparently believe that seizing that opportunity would raise a hornet's nest that they don't want to deal with. I don't think either of us is in a position to say that this is not the case, or to anticipate what local reaction would be. Opinions from those who are or recently have been in the field in Afghanistan would be good to hear.
    You remind me of Bertrand Russel's quotation and you will (I guess) be hoping that someone will come up with a contribution to support your position. Holding thumbs for you

    If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way. – Bertrand Russell
    It is of course not that there is no effort against opium production. There is... it is just that the Brit efforts there are just as inept as US efforts elsewhere.

    'Britain's war against Afghan opium production is failing'
    Last edited by JMA; 04-13-2012 at 11:41 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    So out with it now what is the real reason you oppose the return to the virtually poppy free status quo of the pre-Soviet invasion period?
    The destabilizing effect that the increasing traffic of Afghan heroin into China brings.
    “[S]omething in his tone now reminded her of his explanations of asymmetric warfare, a topic in which he had a keen and abiding interest. She remembered him telling her how terrorism was almost exclusively about branding, but only slightly less so about the psychology of lotteries…” - Zero History, William Gibson

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