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Thread: Ten myths about Afghanistan

  1. #1
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Ten myths about Afghanistan

    Hat tip to Circling the Lion's Den blogsite.

    In 1988, the Soviet army left Afghanistan after a concerted campaign by the western-backed mujahideen. But since then, many enduring myths have grown up about the war-torn country. In his new book, Jonathan Steele sorts the fact from the fiction and to a list of the myths:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011...ut-afghanistan

    1. Afghans have always beaten foreign armies, from Alexander the Great to modern times.
    2. The Soviet invasion led to a civil war and western aid for the Afghan resistance
    3. The USSR suffered a massive military defeat in Afghanistan at the hands of the mujahideen
    4. The CIA's supply of Stinger missiles to the mujahideen forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan
    5. After the Soviets withdrew, the west walked away
    6. The mujahideen overthrew Kabul's regime and won a major victory over Moscow
    7. The Taliban invited Osama bin Laden to use Afghanistan as a safe haven
    8. The Taliban were by far the worst government Afghanistan has ever had
    9. The Taliban are uniquely harsh oppressors of Afghan women
    10. The Taliban have little popular support
    Some surprises within!
    davidbfpo

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    Good article.

    Back to basics. In olden days, Bactria was fabulously wealthy and important.

    Lapis lazuli was important for rich empires far away, and only came from Afghanistan.

    Control of the silk road was a huge value in itself. Camels and traders had to sleep safely between legs on the trip, and the caravanserais (truck stops and hotels) were, of themselves, intrinsically valuable.

    Plenty of reasons why, in olden days, the territory of Afghanistan was important, valuable, and WAS controlled/partnered/brokered with by its neighbors.

    Blue stones are pretty worthless until you trade them with someone else for other good stuff (food).

    Silk Road economics and relevance collapsed through climate changes and the European maritime commerce period, when interest and control shifted southward.

    Much of the "Big Game" issues, which came long after the value proposition had expired, were for reasons of their own, and not intrinsically valuable to anyone.

    It is no surprise that, in recent centuries, none of the "Bog game" players was seriously interested in committing the resources to hold this place for sustainable reasons.

    The World always changes, as do the merits for any campaign.

    If the merits are fleeting, the campaign will be.

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    Council Member G Martin's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing that. If we questioned our assumptions more we might have already incorporated many- if not most- of the implications of these myths into our planning. I submit we have not- and that has hurt us tremendously.
    Last edited by G Martin; 01-02-2012 at 10:50 PM.
    "One of the serious problems in planning against American doctrine is
    that the Americans do not read their manuals nor do they feel any
    obligations to follow their doctrine."
    - Soviet LT

    "One of the advantages in planning against the American doctrine is
    that the American planners not only read their manuals, but feel a
    strong anti-intellectual obligation to follow them no matter what."
    - sarcastic ISAF planner

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Parallel frontlines: ten years of Soviet and American occupation compared

    A comparative article that IMO sits well here, although I will cross refer on the Soviets in Afg thread and is sub-titled:
    On 7 October 2001, American-British air raids and Special Forces spearheaded an invasion of Afghanistan that resulted in the removal of the Taliban regime and the country’s occupation by the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf). Ten years later, Bruno De Cordier ponders to what extent this episode bears any similarity to the decade-long Soviet occupation of the country.
    It ends with:
    In a way, both projects were to some degree sincere and well-meant. Yet both were roughly confronted with the limits of voluntarism, especially as what they wanted to build has and had little social base in the country. As one Afghan parliamentarian from Ghazni told me, “they both relied too long on the wrong Afghans, the sort of people that they wanted everyone to be and not those that are our real society.”
    Link:opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/bruno-de-cordier/parallel-frontlines-ten-years-of-soviet-and-american-occupation-compar
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    A comparative article that IMO sits well here, although I will cross refer on the Soviets in Afg thread and is sub-titled:

    It ends with:

    Link:opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/bruno-de-cordier/parallel-frontlines-ten-years-of-soviet-and-american-occupation-compar
    David, you might also be interested in this one

    This official describes the Pro Soviet politicians in Afghanistan as “a bunch of quislings who require 100,000 troops to protect them
    Why Carter Renewed Plan for Afghanistan transition

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A bunch of quislings?

    MikeF,

    It is a long time since I was reading on the pre-Soviet era in Afghanistan. My recollection is that in the cities there was a significant support for change, not necessarily Communist or pro-Soviet and following Afghan tradition very factional. IIRC 'Flag' and 'Parcham' were their names.

    Secondly I recall meeting in Peshawar in the early nineties an Afghan observer who related the story of the local reaction to the first wave of Afghan refugees from the cities, who were professionals, middle class and quite sophisticated - who quickly settled in or moved on, abroad or to other cities. Years later when rural Afghans arrived they were stunned at how different they were, who settled in huge refugee camps around the city.

    I'm not surprised at the US official's remark, but I have my doubts that then the USA had really in depth knowledge of what was happening in Afghanistan. Did the USA not then rely on Pakistan's ISI for much of their information and understanding?

    As the opening post here referred to the 'Quisling' regime managed to stay in power for two if not three years after the Soviets left.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    MikeF,

    It is a long time since I was reading on the pre-Soviet era in Afghanistan. My recollection is that in the cities there was a significant support for change, not necessarily Communist or pro-Soviet and following Afghan tradition very factional. IIRC 'Flag' and 'Parcham' were their names.

    Secondly I recall meeting in Peshawar in the early nineties an Afghan observer who related the story of the local reaction to the first wave of Afghan refugees from the cities, who were professionals, middle class and quite sophisticated - who quickly settled in or moved on, abroad or to other cities. Years later when rural Afghans arrived they were stunned at how different they were, who settled in huge refugee camps around the city.

    I'm not surprised at the US official's remark, but I have my doubts that then the USA had really in depth knowledge of what was happening in Afghanistan. Did the USA not then rely on Pakistan's ISI for much of their information and understanding?

    As the opening post here referred to the 'Quisling' regime managed to stay in power for two if not three years after the Soviets left.
    I don't know. My takeaway is that this particular host nation was unable to protect itself once the intervening/occupying force left.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    I don't know. My takeaway is that this particular host nation was unable to protect itself once the intervening/occupying force left.
    Mike,

    This happens all the time (not every time) when a foreign power intervenes to elevate one side artificially to the top, and then dedicates itself to the preservation of that solution against internal challenges for some time, and then ultimately tires of those duties and leaves that illegitimate regime to its own fate.

    Not unlike planting some species of plant in your yard from a totally different ecosystem. Through hard efforts you can create an artifical environment and keep it alive against the attacks which will naturally arise from the environment you placed it in, but left to its own devices it cannot endure.

    Most of the Northern Alliance that we work with are of the same group the Soviets worked with. I see no reason whey they would be any more sustainable on their own now than they were then.

    The fact that we have been as dedicated to keeping one segment of the populace down and out as we have been to elevating another segment up and in is what doomed our efforts. With a better understanding of Pashtunwali we could have worked a deal with Mullah Omar to get access to AQ without all of this. With a better understanding of Pashtunwali and the nature of the historic agreement between the Pak government and their largely self-governing Pashtun populace we could have conducted some number of precise raids into the Pashtun region of that country to exact revenge on AQ members hiding there with little push back from the Pashtun hosts and little disruption to the nation of Pakistan. Instead we tried to do it all on our terms by our rules IAW our doctrine. No amount of good tactics and hard effort is likely to overcome that contextual reality.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (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)

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    Default Bob- On Ecosystems

    Here's what Waldo said,

    "Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man's condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth. In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition, that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?" Emerson, On Nature

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Myth 11
    (a) Pashtuns are the majority in Afghanistan
    (b) The CSO statistical figure of 42% Pashtun is based in anything besides politico-ethnically motivated lies.
    (c) Afghanistan is a "tribal" country
    (d) Pashtuns are the representative face of Afghanistan

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The west's legacy in Afghanistan: so much for so little

    Jonathan Steele, of The Guardian, returns with a short pessimistic column and here are his opening passages:
    This is the year of the big Afghan retreat. By December British and American troops will have left the country after 12 disastrous years. After spending billions of dollars to promote good governance, economic development and women's rights, they will depart from a state that is among the three most corrupt in the world, has rates of infant mortality that match the worst in sub-Saharan Africa and ranks 175th on the UN's chart for gender equality.

    No wonder the gap between official western statements and the views of most Afghans remains huge. Rarely has a foreign occupation created so much misunderstanding between invaders and local people. Afghans welcomed the flight of the Taliban in 2001 but also hoped for punitive action against the other warlords who had terrorised them before the Taliban emerged. Instead, they saw them reinstalled in power and soon become the prime beneficiaries of western largesse.
    Link:http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...ion?CMP=twt_gu
    davidbfpo

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