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Thread: How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad

    Good run down on the evolution (de-evolution) of OEF. Most interesting is the section on GEN McNeil's C2 chart--which personnaly sounds just like a UN "Force Commander."

    Tom

    How a ‘Good War’ in Afghanistan Went Bad By DAVID ROHDE and DAVID E. SANGER
    Published: August 12, 2007
    A year after the Taliban fell to an American-led coalition, a group of NATO ambassadors landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, to survey what appeared to be a triumph — a fresh start for a country ripped apart by years of war with the Soviets and brutal repression by religious extremists.

    With a senior American diplomat, R. Nicholas Burns, leading the way, they thundered around the country in Black Hawk helicopters, with little fear for their safety. They strolled quiet streets in Kandahar and sipped tea with tribal leaders. At a briefing from the United States Central Command, they were told that the Taliban were now a “spent force.”

    “Some of us were saying, ‘Not so fast,’ ” Mr. Burns, now the under secretary of state for political affairs, recalled. “A number of us assumed that the Taliban was too enmeshed in Afghan society to just disappear as a political and military force.”

    But that skepticism never took hold in Washington. Assessments by the Central Intelligence Agency circulating at the same time reported that the Taliban were so decimated they no longer posed a threat, according to two senior intelligence officials who reviewed the reports. The American sense of victory was so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan were packing their guns and preparing for the next war, in Iraq.

    Those sweeping miscalculations were part of a pattern of assessments and decisions that helped send what many in the American military call “the good war” off course.
    As I mentioned above, of particular note:

    In July 2006, NATO formally took responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan. To Americans and Europeans, NATO is the vaunted alliance that won the cold war. To Afghans it is little more than a strange, new acronym. And NATO and the Americans are divided over strategy.

    The disagreement is evident on the wall of the office of Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the commander of the 35,000 NATO forces in Afghanistan, where he keeps a chart that is a sea of yellow and red blocks. Each block shows the restrictions that national governments have placed on their forces under his command. Red blocks represent tasks a country will not do, like hunting Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Yellow blocks indicate missions they are willing to consider after asking their capitals for approval.

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    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    You would think that if anyone could sort out the ISAF command role, General MacNeill would be the guy. He should be able to sort out the forest from the trees since he got his undergrad degree in Forestry. But then maybe I'm just prejudiced since he and I are alumni of the same school.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Not So Blind As Those Who Can See

    Aye Tom ?

    Nope, Mr. Secretary of Defense, there are no Dragons in Afghanistan

    Wouldn't be the first time we discovered the beltway was cruisin' around with blinders on.

    The American sense of victory was so robust that the top C.I.A. specialists and elite Special Forces units who had helped liberate Afghanistan were packing their guns and preparing for the next war, in Iraq.
    Strange to be on the business end of a firearm..kinda changes your point of view..so to speak.

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    Default My favorite quotes from the article

    “We’re simply in a world of limited resources, and those resources are in Iraq,” the former official added. “Anyone who tells you differently is blowing smoke.”

    100% correct...this was evident in late 2002 (less than one year into the war) when they pulled elite SOF out of the country to prepare for war in Iraq. The main effort has remained Iraq ever since and now we've opened a second operational base from which these crazies can train and practice their jihadi skills in killing Americans...

    A senior White House official said in a recent interview that in retrospect, putting different countries in charge of different operations was a mistake. “We piecemealed it,” he said. “One of the problems is when everybody has a piece, everybody’s piece is made third and fourth priority. Nobody’s piece is first priority. Stuff didn’t get done.”

    Sad reflection of how most of our senior military commanders didn't sound off that unity of effort and unity of command are absolutely necessary for successful military operations. Every soldier wearing a set of ACUs knows that someone has to be in charge and there has to be a common understanding of the mission and objectives to be accomplished for a mission to be successful. This so-called international coalition has no common view of the battlespace. Talk to a Brit, an Aussie, a Canook, or a Dutchman and you will get a different answer from each of them as to what is the priority is in Afghanistan....

    “Colleagues in Washington at various levels did not recognize that there was the problem of sanctuary and that this was important,” Mr. Khalilzad said.

    This lack of recognition still goes un-noticed and un-addressed...

    The disagreement is evident on the wall of the office of Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the commander of the 35,000 NATO forces in Afghanistan, where he keeps a chart that is a sea of yellow and red blocks. Each block shows the restrictions that national governments have placed on their forces under his command. Red blocks represent tasks a country will not do, like hunting Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Yellow blocks indicate missions they are willing to consider after asking their capitals for approval.

    Definitely comes into play for our forces operating in the southern provinces when you're trying to get ISAF support and they tell you it's outside their ROE... Sounds like we forgot the lessons of Srebrenica when the Dutch Commander was begging for UN air support against the Serbs, now it appears the Dutch are playing the same games when it comes to the U.S. forces operating in their sector...lack of long term memory doesn't only afflict the U.S. military...

    “These are the fundamentals of counterinsurgency, and somehow we forgot them or never learned them,” he added. He noted that “the United States has 11 carrier battle groups, but we still don’t have expeditionary nonmilitary forces of the kind you need to win this sort of war.”

    Yeah, this isn't new either....journals and studies were written about this following Vietnam. I am cynical and believe we are incapable of successful counter-insurgency in the modern age, especially if it takes longer than a year or so.

    “Symbolically, it’s more the epicenter of terrorism than Iraq,” he said. “If we don’t succeed in Afghanistan, you’re sending a very clear message to the terrorist organizations that the U.S., the U.N. and the 37 countries with troops on the ground can be defeated.”

    Roger that....and they're getting the message loud and clear...

    PT

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Of course, had we stayed in Afghanistan, all the folks

    we're now fighting in Iraq were primed to come and would be in Afghanistan now instead of in Iraq and, to a much lesser extent, Afghanistan...

    Aside from the fact that we can cover two (or, really, even more, simultaneous) theaters and they cannot, personally, I'd rather fight in Iraq. They'd prefer Afghanistan. Opinions can vary on who's the smart guy.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    we're now fighting in Iraq were primed to come and would be in Afghanistan now instead of in Iraq and, to a much lesser extent, Afghanistan...

    Aside from the fact that we can cover two (or, really, even more, simultaneous) theaters and they cannot, personally, I'd rather fight in Iraq. They'd prefer Afghanistan. Opinions can vary on who's the smart guy.
    I highly doubt that the Iraqi Sunnis or the Mahdi Army would have headed over to Afghanistan to fight us there. Indeed, most of the Arab volunteers would not have been nearly as motivated to go to Afghanistan, a primitive backwater where the native population is neither welcoming nor speaks Arabic. A larger invasion force in Afghanistan might have seen a correspondingly larger increase in Pakistani and Central Asian radicalization, perhaps.

    Also given the strains on the Army and USMC simply in occupying Iraq, I don't really think we can cover two or more theaters --- at least not for much longer.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Don't bet on it. While the Mahdi Army almost

    certainly would not have, a slew of Sunnis would be there. AQ is now fragmented by trying to cover both theaters has a harder time doing that than we do -- I didn't say, BTW, that it was easy for us; I said we were better able to do it then were they.

    As to the Arab volunteers, there were enough of them there, unpopular or not, backwater or no, before we arrived. I suspect quite a few more would have made the trek had we not offered a far easier and more hospitable locale for them to get to and -- more importantly, us to find them.

    I agree that a larger force of Ferenghi in Afghanistan would have attracted more Islamists and given Pakistan even greater problems than it now has. Thus the relative wisdom of a second theater even if it was poorly done and badly timed.

    As for the strains on the Army and Marines, it's there no question -- but other than the strain on marriages which has uncertain effects, the troops are holding up okay. They aren't broken regardless of the General's testimonies and leaks; those folks see themselves as stewards of the institutions and they're trying to take care of the troops -- that's what they're supposed to do. The troops, OTOH, gripe and complain and they sure don't enjoy back to back tours -- but they can do it. We're not in trouble on that score yet or the recruiting and reenlistment rates wouldn't be where they are.

    We can do a lot more than we are now doing and fortunately, most of the world's Defense Ministries know that even if most Americans do not.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    certainly would not have, a slew of Sunnis would be there. AQ is now fragmented by trying to cover both theaters has a harder time doing that than we do -- I didn't say, BTW, that it was easy for us; I said we were better able to do it then were they.
    Iraqi Sunnis? Doubtful. Also I don't think much of the "fragmentation" theory that posits that there is a finite number of AQ operatives who all take orders from bin Laden. AQI runs an AQ franchise, but it didn't exist before the Iraq War and would never have come into existence with Saddam in charge. Sure, some Arabs would have slogged to Afghanistan, but hardly in the numbers that blow themselves up in Baghdad every day. I think you seriously underestimate the consequences of an invasion and occupation of a central Arab state like Iraq. Afghanistan simply did not generate the outrage in the Muslim world that Iraq did --- unless you are of the type that thinks that our actions have no effect on the level of radicalization in the Muslim world.

    I agree that a larger force of Ferenghi in Afghanistan would have attracted more Islamists and given Pakistan even greater problems than it now has. Thus the relative wisdom of a second theater even if it was poorly done and badly timed.
    Or perhaps not, if our efforts in Afghanistan had been executed more competently. A larger footprint could have crushed AQ and the Taliban before they made their escape across the border, and a larger occupation force might have been able to execute a more effective state-building process in Afghanistan and quelled any Taliban resurgence, thus tamping down the overall process of radicalization in South Asia. We also could have had resources far better placed to assist during the disastrous Kashmir earthquake in 2005 that did so much to discredit the military in many Pakistanis' eyes while boosting the Islamists' cred, as the latter were much more effective in distirbuting relief and saving lives with far fewer resources.

    As for the strains on the Army and Marines, it's there no question -- but other than the strain on marriages which has uncertain effects, the troops are holding up okay. They aren't broken regardless of the General's testimonies and leaks; those folks see themselves as stewards of the institutions and they're trying to take care of the troops -- that's what they're supposed to do. The troops, OTOH, gripe and complain and they sure don't enjoy back to back tours -- but they can do it. We're not in trouble on that score yet or the recruiting and reenlistment rates wouldn't be where they are.
    Reup bonuses are at the highest they have ever been, we are now taking felons and dropouts and 40-year-old E1s, and more young officers are leaving now than ever before. I won't even touch the gaping holes in the NG and Reserves, but I saw a rather disturbing example of this my last drill weekend from a bunch of guys who just got back from Falluja. Suffice to say that it was not a pretty scene.

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    Ken,

    I have to agree with Tequila on all points, especially the military readiness piece. It is an ugly situation at the boots level. Re-enlistment bonuses are almost expected if you want to get another three to four years out of a soldier. I should know because I took one and had they not dangled money in front of me I was destined to retire.

    Also, I don't want debate the merits of the Iraq War but the initial selling point was weapons of mass destruction were going to be used againt the United States if we didn't take Saddam out. The marketing strategy of "fighting them there instead of here" campaign didn't start until after an insurgency was finally declared by General Abizaid about 14 months post-invasion. I have spent the greater part of three plus years in and out of Afghanistan and I am convinced we have too little force structure to do the job right. The threat from Al Qaeda that spawned the 9/11 attacks against us didn't originate in Iraq. We were better off with Saddam contained and keeping a lid on the ethnic fighting between the three groups then opening up the sh*t storm that followed in his wake. The only threat from the Middle East that can be traced to 9/11 were the Saudi's who flew the planes into the WTC towers.

    The attacks of 9/11 orginated in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and they will continue...from 7/7 to Madrid they were planned and approved by AQ leaders in the FATA. There was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until AFTER the fall of Saddam. What little bit of support he did provide was a balancing act to piss us off and keep his neighbors worried, but to say he was going to put Iraq on the same level as Afghanistan pre-9/11 is absurd. He was not about to bring that kind of party to his country...not too mention the attraction for Arab volunteers to fight infidels in Iraq was much greater AFTER we invaded then prior to...the reporting I saw indicated a decline in Arab volunteers to Afghanistan following October 2001 when we started bombing the Taliban. Many of the reports were Arab fighters being used as fodder by their Taliban hosts to hold the line while they slipped across the border to Pakistan and others will say the Arabs were the only ones brave enough...either way, the numbers coming to fight decreased considerably. It wasn't until we occupied a country within the Middle East that our enemy's rhetoric began to ring true. It was apparent to any Al Jazeera watching Sunni Arab that we did want to rule the Middle East and eradicate Islam because why else would we would have invaded Iraq?

    Anyway, it is an ugly mess here in the uniformed services but you won't hear complaints from those who serve they usually do their talking with their feet as they exit the service. Oh yeah, you might want to check out the current Army Times where the Army is "mobilizing" an additional 1,000 recruiters to meet their end of year quota for recruitment which is something like 3,000 off.... Of course, you trust the figures coming from Recruiting Command, right? They would never lie to us, plus unlike the Marines the Army counts someone as a "recruit" just so long as they sign the contract. If they fail to show for MEPS or don't make it through IET it isn't reflected in the numbers so there is some ambiguity factored into the statistics.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Your prerogative.

    I'm long retired but my son is not and he's a long time Grunt who paints a different picture. He and I both acknowledge that the unit in which he served in Afghanistan twice and Iraq once is not typical of the Army but he did and does associate wioth that broader Army. Certainly the money has an effect -- but you and I both know that a huge hunk of change is not going to attract the guy or gal who's totally fed up. FWIW, said son does agree with you that the force structure needs to be slightly larger in Afghanistan -- though he contends that a simple change of ratio in Hq to operating troops would probably be adequate.

    The WMD and 'imminent threat' arguments were a batch of political foolishness and I have little sympathy for anyone who paid any attention to them. Sorry. Regardless, something needed to be done other than turn the other cheek which four previous Presidents since 1979 had been guilty of. As you know, in that part of the world, any attempt at conciliation or compromise is met with mild contempt. Try an ineffective response and that contempt turns to disdain and attracts and attack.

    I did not and do not agree with the methodology or the timing of the Iraq effort but do agree that something beyond Afghanistan was required, that Iraq's centrality to the region, its then generally unacceptable regime and a number of other factors made it an acceptable target; we just could have and should have done it better. Irrelevant, really. We are there and what's happened has happened.

    I think the issue of AQ has warped minds; yeah, they organized and supported a bunch of mostly Saudi misfits and let 'em fly airplanes but the issue is not AQ -- it is Islamist international terrorism. That's a worldwide phenomenon and we are attacking it world wide in an umber of different ways. As you know, Islam does not do an eye for an arm; gotta do an eye for an eye. Afghanistan was an obvious "Arm for an Arm" for the WTC fly-in; it was the message to cease attacks on US soil. Focusing on AQ, JI, Hezbollah or Iran or any nation can lead to a wrong view; international Islamist terrorism is the issue and its dimunition to an acceptable level worldwide is the objective; all the rest is geography and players, minor METT-T stuff.

    Iraq was an unexpected "Eye for an Eye" -- the message there was cease attacks on US interests worldwide. You are of course correct that there was no AQ in Iraq until Zarqawi came in and volunteered to be AQI long after we arrived. That's mostly because instead of flooding Afghanistan with an overlarge US force which would almost certainly have attracted adverse effort and attention on a far larger scale than has thus far occurred there, in a nation where its far harder to fight, and thus reponding to AQ as they desired we responded differently and they got caught short. Had we done better initially, might have worked even better. We didn't and we are where we are.

    And they are where they are in an easy to get to locale and instead of in a less hospitable terrain where most don't speak Arabic...

    I do not disagree with your assessment that Saddam keeping a lid on things may have been better. It also may not have; we don't know. What we both know is that we, the US, have failed miserably at the information war and the bad guys run rings around us on that. That has been and is a definite major flaw.

    I don't pay much attention to Gannet's Army times, thanks anyway. I don't pay much attention to any of the media. With rare exceptions, the majority of the people and organs are IMO marginally competent and very ignorant of things military and of the geopolitical arena. I might believe something if I read it from three or four conflicting and competing sources over a long enough period for some of the initial fuzz and confusion to dissipate.

    Aside from my son, I've got a few friends and acquaintances here and there so I stay reasonably abreast of the haps. I did not mean to imply that all was rosy, I know better -- but neither is it as bad as many seem to believe.

    You're correct about talking with their feet and the same thing that occurred during Viet Nam is now happening. Captains and SSGs departing in droves because Mama's unhappy. LTs to Majors and E2 to E5 departures because they don't like the job. That's fair. It's not for everyone. Biggest surprise I got when I went in the Marines was that a lot of people didn't really want to be there -- and that was in peacetime, all volunteer??? Later, I went in the Army. Same thing. Then I discovered that a lot of folks got over ten years in, decided they really wnated to do something else but wouldn't retire because the system had trapped 'em and they had too much invested to leave. Bad system but it's the one we've got. Then people go to war and find out that is definitely not their bag. Some people groove on it, some don't.

    Recruiters have been lying since long before I walked into my first one in 1949. All three of my sons got lied to in one form or another in the late 70s to late 80s. The Armed Forces, all of them, have also been lying to Congress, the press and public as long as I can remember so nothing new there. You just have to filter, always have had to. They shouldn't do that, the lying and the tap dancing -- but that's what occurs when protecting the institution gets to be more important than doing the job correctly and as simply as possible with minimum hassle on the smallest number of people.

    I understand where both you and Tequila are coming from, I just happen to respectfully disagree with you on some points.

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    Default Agree to Disagree

    Ken,

    I respect your point of view, but I will never believe our administration was driven to invade Iraq by what you described as "Iraq was an unexpected "Eye for an Eye" -- the message there was cease attacks on US interests worldwide. You are of course correct that there was no AQ in Iraq until Zarqawi came in and volunteered to be AQI long after we arrived. "

    I am not sure I still understand the motivation outside the obvious resources and geography, but if the claim is the invasion of Iraq was necessary to halt attacks against U.S. interests worldwide I am not buying it...sorry. Once upon a time I had respect for Gen.(ret) Colin Powell who wrote numerous documents about the policy of containment (pre-9/11 and based on his personal experiences in an earlier failed COIN in SE Asia), and this policy worked with Iraq. It wasn't fool proof, but it sure as heck beat what we have today. We have simply established another unstable environment where these Islamic radicals can practice their craft. There were a couple of brave souls who were man enough to sack up and tell the likes of Wolfowitz, Pearl, and Rumsfeld that their rosy assesments about post-war Iraq were dangerously wrong and there remained unfinished business in Afghanistan. Of course, in typical beltway fashion they were dismissed and driven out of the Pentagon.

    Anyway, my original point remains the same...the armed services is stretched thin and we're doing more with less - it's ugly. I commend your son for his optimism, and usually the Corps does better in maintaining espirit de corps and morale among thier ranks. However, in the Army there is some serious hits to troop morale. The sense of urgency overseas is lost and replaced with mission creep as people check off yet another rotation in "the box" knowing it is a matter of time before they return. I believe Powell was one of the big advocates of "exit strategy", again from his own experiences in Vietnam where the objectives were unclear and the strategy was ever changing. I get it...counter-insurgency isn't clear cut and isn't easy but we're floundering with trying figure it out. Patience is ending among the populace, and should the economy spiral downward people will start to ask the questions about our $billion/month war budget for both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I agree with your assessment about overweighted staffs versus grunts on the ground, but this has been the trend since the end of WWII and it isn't ending anytime soon. I am sure if we took everyone in uniform in Afghanistan and put them along the AF-PK border with their rifle we could probably effect something but I am not holding my breath.

    PT

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Cool We can do that.

    You're obviously entitled to your opinion. Lacking detailed knowledge and without being flies on the wall in the WH or at Camp David; we're all speculating.

    The opinion I stated are mine, started forming in January of 2002 when Bush made the statement to a CNN reporter (IIRC) outside the Ranch in Crawford that "regime change in Iraq is a goal of my administration." As things developed over the summer and as MTMC statrted activating the Capes and the other ships, it sort of gelled. As the kid told me in June of that year "He's going to rearrange the map of the ME." Nothing I've seen or heard since then has given me much cause to change my mind on the broad parameters. I know a lot of folks, many agree with me, many do not -- and that's okay.

    I did not say that invading Iraq was necessary. In fact, I effectively said had it been up to me, I wouldn't have done it that way. I did say and do very strongly believe that something need to be done beyond Afghanistan. Haven't been there but I have been all over the ME to include every nation except Israel and Yemen. Any westerner who thinks he's expert on the ME is deluding himself but there are certain trends and traits that occur too often not to be embedded behavior (and I'll note that Afghans are not in the ME and are generally different in many aspects). We had absorbed Islamist probes for over 20 years and done nothing or done a few ineffectual counters that did more harm than good. A stronger response was, IMO, imperative.

    We may have screwed it up but at least we did something and in the ME that counts, big time. If we stick 'til the Iraqi guvmint asks us to leave we will have done the world a lot of good at some cost to us and little to the rest of the world. Par for the course. I long figured it would take five years, that'll be next summer and I anticipate a drawdown in Iraq with a slight plus up in the 'Stan. In any event, as I said, the problem is that we're there and how it plays out is yet to be seen.

    I'm not a Powell fan, his 'doctrine' -- actually, Cap Weinberger's doctrine -- was and is flawed and unsustainable in a non 'Cold War' world. That very artificial period of human history left a number of bad legacies...

    I never agreed with that idea and I pushed against our institutional neglect of CI/IW/ID doctrine and training until I hung up my war suit and then for 18 more years as a Civliian employee continued to beat that drum. Unsuccessfully, obviously. To back off from it in the late 70s made sense. By the late 80s it made no sense. Yet both the Corps and, particularly, the Army paid little more than lip service to it. That was bad; after 1991, it became IMO, inexcusable

    I'd also suggest that more people should've stood up to Fido Feith, Wolfotwits and Rumsfeld but that as they say is another story.

    We can sure agree on your last two paragraphs; for the next to last, we'll just have to wait and see. As a minor point, the kid and I have had numerous conversations on a number of topics and, with respect to who serves and why, his attitude ("I don't have PTSD, I give PTSD") is possibly genetic but we acknowledge certainly is not held by all who serve though perhaps for the tip of the spear types it should be; there are ways of doing more with less and they involve selection and training as opposed to trying to fight the war one wants to fight instead of the war one has to fight -- among other things. A good well trained light infantry battalion is capable of doing a lot more than is suspected by too many in high places.

    That is not a knock on the Troops -- they're all doing great in spite of the handicaps imposed by a business as usual mentality among too many (thankfully, not all) senior people. They deserve a better shot than they're getting.

    For the last paragraph, you're obviously correct but we can both dream.

    Thanks, BTW, for your service.

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    Default U.S. Notes Limited Progress in Afghan War

    U.S. Notes Limited Progress in Afghan War
    Strategic Goals Unmet, White House Concludes
    By Karen DeYoung
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, November 25, 2007; Page A01

    A White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan has concluded that wide-ranging strategic goals that the Bush administration set for 2007 have not been met, even as U.S. and NATO forces have scored significant combat successes against resurgent Taliban fighters, according to U.S. officials.

    The evaluation this month by the National Security Council followed an in-depth review in late 2006 that laid out a series of projected improvements for this year, including progress in security, governance and the economy. But the latest assessment concluded that only "the kinetic piece" -- individual battles against Taliban fighters -- has shown substantial progress, while improvements in the other areas continue to lag, a senior administration official said.

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    Default ~of Green and Gold

    Both the DOW and NASDAQ have shown dramatic increases since the setback of 9/11, some say phenomenal, but the point is that our two front war is not in any way disturbing or disrupting the economic combines that drive the planet. The myth of depleted treasure is like the myth of WMD ready to be deployed against our troops at the time of the invasion - it makes a good moral and political message but is unfounded. Had there been a budget surplus at the start of the wars, the tactics and logistics would have remained the same for the most part. The interchange of generals and politicians we see so much of comes from this economic freedom and is not borne out of necessity and that IMO takes the angst out of our current situation. We win economically any time we engage, in the long view, and in the short and more practical view, Ken White drives the point home that national attrition is more ghost than grave given the stability and steady rate of enlistment/volunteerism.

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    "Afghanistan: Regaining Momentum" by Ali A. Jalali in Parameters, Winter 2007:

    Security capacity in Afghanistan is limited, diverse, and fragmented. The Afghan National Army (ANA), currently about 47,000 strong, has achieved significant progress. But it is seen operationally more as an extension of Coalition forces than a national entity. Despite the vehicles, small arms, and other equipment supplied by the United States in the 2005-07 period, the ANA suffers from a lack of firepower, indigenous air support, and the absence of a self sustaining budget. The 82,000-strong Afghan National Police is three years behind its development schedule. Despite some improvement in several urban centers, the police lack the capacity to enforce the rule of law [italics added for empahsis]. At the same time, the challenge of a growing insurgency is driving the police to the front lines of the counterinsurgency. There have been 1,150 police officers killed in the last 18 months alone, more than double ANA losses.14

    and:

    The decline of the security situation in Afghanistan is often attributed to a lack of capacity required to respond to threats from domestic and external sources. Officials and observers cite the slow development of the Afghan security forces (army and police), poor infrastructure, and inadequate numbers of US and NATO forces as reasons for the violence and instability. While all this is relevant, a much greater factor is the absence of strong and unified leadership. This absence combinedwith the lack of a shared vision capable of directing the efforts of all the various actors is a formula for failure.

    The Afghan national security strategy is only found on paper. The operational procedures of various security elements are dissimilar, their rules of engagement varied, and their capabilities uneven. In the absence of any unifying mechanism, operations by these organizations are not only devoid of synergy, they are often working at cross-purposes. For example, when ANA succeeds in securing a conflict-afflicted area the police lack the capacity to hold it. Similarly, government institutions do not have the ability to establish a workable administration or foster reconstruction in secured areas. Meanwhile, the absence of a strategic or operational focus for the various intelligence agencies, their institutional fragmentation, and poor coordination with other security entities hinders the planning and execution required for successful security operations.


    Finally, fighting corruption is a major challenge hindering emergence of Afghanistan as a viable nation-state. According to the annual survey (2007) by the Berlin-based Transparency International, Afghanistan ranks 172 out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index.16 In its effort to counter this corruption Afghanistan will ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption and will adopt related legislation by the end of 2007. Part of these actions requires the establishment of a monitoring mechanism to oversee implementation currently scheduled for completion by the end of 2008. There are no simple and quick answers to the myriad of problems. But making the decisions to fight poverty, offer better salaries to law-enforcement officers and civil servants, depoliticize the appointment of law-enforcement officials, and adopt a zero tolerance policy toward corrupt government officials will all contribute markedly to achieving the nation’s long-term, anticorruption goals.

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    "3-D Soviet Style: A Presentation on Lessons Learned from the Soviet Experience in Afghanistan" by Anton Minkov and Gregory Smolynec, Defence R&D Canada, October, 2007.

    A glorified .ppt, but provides a useful if curt description of how the Soviet war in Afghanistan developed over time. At the top of Page 25, there is a slide on how the Afghan Government was able to pacify Kandahar Province:

    Case Study -Kandahar

    • The "most difficult province" for the regime–Received 1/3 of all mujahidin weapons sent to Afghanistan–Every convoy on the Kandahar-Heart road attacked –Only one school open by 1982–Not a single village with a party organization

    • Nurulhak Olumi, governor 1988-1990–Policy of using kinship ties to seek agreements with the population, building up local forces (militia)–Kandahar city population reaches pre-war levels–Mujahidin activities disappear
    This is a surprisingly informative (but neverthless limited) document, given both its brevity and especially since it was originally in .ppt form.

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    Fighting corruption in Afghanistan is likely to be a hard slog. This is a patronage society where back-scratching and under-the-table recompense are not seen as corruption, but as reasonable ways of ordering society and politics. Moreover, the Afghans are more than capable of producing reams of legislation and then ignoring them. Laws are words on paper and pale in importance to personal relationships and the patron-client relationship.

    Moreover, money and resources which we would consider to belong to the government, the average Afghani politician or military leader considers his source of power and prestige. It was not unusual for a brigadier general to retain authority for issuing fuel or ammunition - I'm talking about having to get his signature on a chit to fill up your truck - to any member of his command. This was not because he wanted to ensure critical resources were not wasted, it's because his power of command was based on him personally being the source of supplies. It's a holdover, really, from the days of the Mujaheddin, where having Stinger missiles helped attract more followers and increased a warlord's prestige. The same holds true in civilian ministries. It was difficult to get them to spend the billions that were pouring into their coffers. Why? Because having money gave one power; issuing funds was empowering others.

    So, we can initiate anti-corruption programs (what else can we do?) but don't bet the farm that they will payoff. After all, it took western Europe centuries to shake loose a similar outlook. I think, in the short run, we'd have been better off helping stand up a central government that reflected Afghan values and traditions, rather than western ones

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    Default Heh. Do the italians know this...

    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    ...
    So, we can initiate anti-corruption programs (what else can we do?) but don't bet the farm that they will payoff. After all, it took western Europe centuries to shake loose a similar outlook...
    On a serious note, I agree -- it'll take at least a couple of generations to even get a fair start at eliminating a centuries old practice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eden
    Fighting corruption in Afghanistan is likely to be a hard slog. This is a patronage society where back-scratching and under-the-table recompense are not seen as corruption, but as reasonable ways of ordering society and politics. Moreover, the Afghans are more than capable of producing reams of legislation and then ignoring them. Laws are words on paper and pale in importance to personal relationships and the patron-client relationship.

    Moreover, money and resources which we would consider to belong to the government, the average Afghani politician or military leader considers his source of power and prestige. It was not unusual for a brigadier general to retain authority for issuing fuel or ammunition - I'm talking about having to get his signature on a chit to fill up your truck - to any member of his command. This was not because he wanted to ensure critical resources were not wasted, it's because his power of command was based on him personally being the source of supplies. It's a holdover, really, from the days of the Mujaheddin, where having Stinger missiles helped attract more followers and increased a warlord's prestige. The same holds true in civilian ministries. It was difficult to get them to spend the billions that were pouring into their coffers. Why? Because having money gave one power; issuing funds was empowering others.

    So, we can initiate anti-corruption programs (what else can we do?) but don't bet the farm that they will payoff. After all, it took western Europe centuries to shake loose a similar outlook. I think, in the short run, we'd have been better off helping stand up a central government that reflected Afghan values and traditions, rather than western ones
    Unlike today's Italy, Afghanistan's patronage society is driven as much by necessity as it is by culture. The hard truth is that nation-wide supply and distribution networks for damn near everything (let alone effective governance) simply do not exist in Afghanistan in the manner in which we take them for granted here in the West. That is a tremendous challenge, and we will not see a solution any time in the near-term. This is where we come down to setting achievable goals that fit in the local context. An anti-corruption program designed to Western standards would cause serious friction and ultimately be ignored (like elements of our counternarcotics efforts), while simultaneously damaging our credibility as advisors and mentors towards a better future.

    A deep look needs to be taken at these patronage networks and the contrasting perceptions of corruption (ours and theirs) in the context of the necessary supply of goods and services. Careful selection should permit a more surgical application of anti-corruption measures to mitigate and reduce truly harmful aspects of the system, while permitting those are currently necessary to continue - while exploiting those networks ourselves for a variety of purposes.

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    23 Jan 08 testimony before the HASC on Assessment of U.S. Strategy and Operations in Afghanistan and the Way Ahead:

    LTG David Barno (Ret), NDU

    (He also submitted his Sep-Oct 07 Military Review article Fighting the Other War: Counterinsurgency Strategy in Afghanistan 2003-2005)

    Amb. Karl F. Inderfurth, GWU

    Barnett Rubin, NYU

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