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Thread: A ‘Surge’ for Afghanistan.

  1. #21
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    Default Light vs Heavy

    When we attacked the Taliban in Afghanistan, it is true that US forces consisted mainly of SF and airpower. However, they worked hand-in-hand with the Northern Alliance and several other like groupings. The indigenous forces provided the conventional troops required to force the Taliban to mass so that we could hammer them with airpower. Once the Taliban figured out that they were in a no-win situation, they rapidly collapsed. In Iraq, there were no indigenous armies on the ground to provide security for the SF and force the enemy to present himself as a target. We had to provide that army.

    Even if we could have crushed the Iraqis with a slightly pumped up version of Afghanistan, you still need troops to occupy the country. Those who say we did not need to occupy the country miss the point of the war in the first place: not just to topple Saddam, but to create a democratic outpost in the Middle East. Furthermore, our failure to follow up our victory in Afghanistan - due to lack of resources and troops on the ground - foreshadowed our lack of vision in Iraq. It just took longer for those particular fowl to come home to roost.

    Just proof that preparing for the last war is not the sole perogative of conventional thinkers.

  2. #22
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    SF was suppsed to have been supported by the Iraqi Army similar to the Northern Alliance. Downing and Several people thought that many Iraqi generals could be convinced to turn and overthrow Saddam with SF/Airpower support. Which in hindsight sounds really good but at the time may have seemed very questionable. However just recently 60 minutes did and interview of the FBI agent incharge of Saddam's interrogation. He had apparently already given orders for the Iraqi Army to stall the invasion for 2 weeks and then convert to a guerrilla campaign. How believable Saddam was is subject to opinion but that is what the FBI recorded him as saying during their interview.

  3. #23
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Saddam almost certainly planned to do just that.

    He even told us so -- and we were all too dumb to pick up on it. He announced he was going to arm everyone, let all the prisoners out of the jails, many things. he told us what he was going to do and we in our stupid arrogance ignored him. He gave those two Russian Generals medals just before the invasion and I remember thinking "Boy, they didn't do you any favors, why a medal?" After a week I woke up and realized why -- they told him he'd never beat the US conventionally; let 'em in, go to ground and they'll leave. We got suckered (again).

    I doubt that Downings plan would have worked, I think the fear was too pervasive and the bulk of the Iraqi Generals were loyal enough that none would have turned. Langley also espoused that idea and IIRC, there was really only one Div Cdr that flipped. Langley also thought they had a couple of insiders turned as agents. Apparently not.

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    Default Squaring the circle

    There is no necessary contradiction between Mike Vickers' quite sensible long-term approach to Afghanistan - of course, a decisive outcome can only be achieved by the Afghans themselves - and the need for a short-term plus-up of forces in the south, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar. The 2009 and 2010 (per the current calendar) elections in Afghanistan are important points of deflection. Current conditions would not allow those elections to be held safely in the south (remember that the polling must be verified by the UN to be seen as legitimate). The British and Canadian contingents who are doing all the hard fighting in the south would welcome additional capabilities and numbers they simply don't have; the government in Kabul also sees this as a crucial time and would welcome an additional US commitment (and there's not really any other force available and even a US "surge" would be limited by strains on the force).

    While I now work at AEI, I was also once was the editor of Army Times (and was lucky enough to have hired Sean Naylor in the first place), so my suspicion is that Sean wrote the story to make the conflict seem greater than it probably really is. Remember, Vickers' speech did not mention the AEI work and sounds to me like the kind of approach that he's long advocated. I also think it's likely that Mike understands that in the course of "building partnership capacity" in Afghanistan there may be moments where a more direct helping hand is required; the need to conduct successful elections - and to begin to set the conditions for that now - seems like one of those moments.

    The esteemed readers of this journal should have a more sophisticated understanding of the way Us policy is made and ought to be wary of conspiracy theories - it's the bureaucratic equivalent of Okham's Razor: never explain by conspiracy what you can explain as confusion or incompetence.

    Tom Donnelly

  5. #25
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Hi, Squirrel

    Quote Originally Posted by AEI Squirrel View Post
    There is no necessary contradiction between Mike Vickers' quite sensible long-term approach to Afghanistan - of course, a decisive outcome can only be achieved by the Afghans themselves - and the need for a short-term plus-up of forces in the south, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar.
    Didn't say there was, my point was only that AEI, like most other tanks, has ideas that may or may not have merit. My perception of AEI is that they get some right and some wrong but that they generally have an agenda. That agenda may or may not coincide with that of the Prez -- or mine . It also may accord priorities in a different order than some. Is a sustained effort in Afghanistan going to be enhanced by a short term surge that will exacerbate the stretching of the force? AEI thinks yea, I think nay.
    The 2009 and 2010 (per the current calendar) elections in Afghanistan are important points of deflection. Current conditions would not allow those elections to be held safely in the south (remember that the polling must be verified by the UN to be seen as legitimate).
    I can remember that the polling must be verified by the UN in the eyes of some to be seen as legitimate...
    The British and Canadian contingents who are doing all the hard fighting in the south would welcome additional capabilities and numbers they simply don't have
    Not all, most. I'm sure they would appreciate more help. Most commanders will ask for more troops at the slightest provocation -- or with no provocation
    the government in Kabul also sees this as a crucial time and would welcome an additional US commitment (and there's not really any other force available and even a US "surge" would be limited by strains on the force).[
    Yep. To both points.
    While I now work at AEI, I was also once was the editor of Army Times (and was lucky enough to have hired Sean Naylor in the first place)...
    And be assured, we won't hold that against you. We all have some things in pour past...
    Remember, Vickers' speech did not mention the AEI work and sounds to me like the kind of approach that he's long advocated. I also think it's likely that Mike understands that in the course of "building partnership capacity" in Afghanistan there may be moments where a more direct helping hand is required; the need to conduct successful elections - and to begin to set the conditions for that now - seems like one of those moments.
    Probably true.
    The esteemed readers of this journal should have a more sophisticated understanding of the way Us policy is made and ought to be wary of conspiracy theories - it's the bureaucratic equivalent of Okham's Razor: never explain by conspiracy what you can explain as confusion or incompetence.
    I'm certainly not esteemed but I can assure you I discard conspiracy theories for the almost certain problems of incompetence or, more common, extreme bureaucratic stupidity.

    I just think the surge idea(s) and 'more boots on the ground' mentality are incorrect. These things take time and overstretching the force will not appreciably speed them up, ergo, it's sort of wasted effort. Your 'surge' in Iraq may speed things up slightly but that's about all it'll do. Afghanistan, OTOH, is not amenable to a speed up. Different strokes, as they say.

    The real problem is which boots are where and doing what, not how many there are.

    It should be noted that, in some respects anyway, we're getting better and smarter about that everyday...

  6. #26
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    The strategic purpose of the Iraq surge - well, one of them - was to slow things down: namely, the rush to withdrawal in response to the events of 2006. To win in the long run, it helps not to be defeated in the short run. Likewise, the failure to hold legitimate elections (and while I'm not fan of the UN, that's the standard, if for no other reason that it was the standard in 2004; to walk back on that would itself be a problem) in 2009 will be very bad news, though probably not as immediately disastrous as what we faced in Iraq last year. Historical footnote: the AEI Afghanistan surge is really for one brigade, based on force generation realities. Ideally, you might want three, but you do really need something in Kandahar and Helmand.

  7. #27
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default The strategic?

    Quote Originally Posted by AEI Squirrel View Post
    The strategic purpose of the Iraq surge - well, one of them - was to slow things down: namely, the rush to withdrawal in response to the events of 2006. To win in the long run, it helps not to be defeated in the short run.
    Or the politically desirable?

    I acknowledge it was the latter among other things. It had and has no bearing on the former in the military or geo-strategic sense. And, yes, I realize that domestic politics have a part to play -- I would simply suggest that their importance is often overstated. W. wasn't going anywhere and no way Congress could've forced the issue. Well, they could've but, more accurately, they wouldn't have...
    Likewise, the failure to hold legitimate elections (and while I'm not fan of the UN, that's the standard, if for no other reason that it was the standard in 2004; to walk back on that would itself be a problem) in 2009 will be very bad news, though probably not as immediately disastrous as what we faced in Iraq last year.
    I undersand the relevance of a UN imprimatur in the eyes of many. My suspicion is that G.W. Bush is not particularly concerned with that -- nor am I. I again recognize the political sensibilities involved but question the actual political necessity (particularly when it's bounced against the military desirability).
    Historical footnote: the AEI Afghanistan surge is really for one brigade, based on force generation realities. Ideally, you might want three, but you do really need something in Kandahar and Helmand.
    I'd read that. Since I have reservations about one, you can imagine my reaction to three .

    Perhaps surprisingly, I do not disagree with you that Kanadahar and Helmand are problematic at this time. I strongly agree something should be done about that. We simply differ on what to do about it. The reason for the problem, of course, is the bad guys realize those two nations are a far easier target for turning public opinion toward withdrawal than are we and are thus concentrating their affection on them. Aside from the rather interesting fact the opposition has revealed a glaring weakness in that acknowledgment, I think there's another message in that. I'd also suggest there are some good things in the combined action arena going on for NATO and us in both areas and that indications are someone in country has had the same thoughts as I have about missions, structure and locations.

    In the geo strategic arena, as you know, the issue is balancing domestic versus international politics versus military capability. Three legged stools are notoriously easy to tip, particularly if you over stress one leg.

  8. #28
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    Link for those interested on various plans that were pending the Iraq invasion. Look towards the bottom of link and you will desert storm lite,Downing/Afghan plan, etc. http://www.globalsecurity.org/milita...aq-options.htm

  9. #29
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    Senlis Council, 18 Feb 08: US Policy in Afghanistan: Senlis Council Recommendations
    I. Security recommendations

    Recommendation I: The US should actively participate in and help form a “NATO-Plus” force: more ground troops, caveat-free and an active involvement of the military in humanitarian aid and development delivery.

    Recommendation II: Increase support for Pakistan’s security forces through training and limited US special forces’ operations.

    Recommendation III: Help the Afghan Government establish Neighborhood Security Groups
    Details of the above recommendations and additional recommendations for Counternarcotics and Development are at the link.

  10. #30
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    Default Back to a point from "Eden"

    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post

    Bottom line is that if our goal is to turn Afghanistan into Switzerland the reinforcements wouldn't be enough. If our goal is simply to keep Afghanistan relatively terrorist-free, what we have their now is sufficient.
    I can't agree with this statement. What we have in the way of troop numbers (combat, combat support and combat service support) is NOT sufficient to keep Afghanistan relatively terrorist free. The troops there now are fighting to buy time for the Afghans, but the terrorists are the ones accelerating the struggle.

    Our troops are operating at increased risk based on the slim margins that are currently accepted as the norm in Afghanistan. Lack of aviation assets for direct action missions, logistics, and medevac operations put our operations regularly at higher level of risk. Even PRT missions, and "humanitarian" efforts have to deal with this critical constraint.

    Factor that with the size of the operating environment that our troops deal with and you can see that more Marines would be a good thing. In many cases platoons at combat outposts have enough personnel to conduct their own force protection mission and only periodic engagement with the villages and rural areas surrounding them. That's no way to build a rapport or collect intelligence, or assist Afghan security efforts.

    A coordinated plan with MORE troops will make a difference - maybe not a Switzerland, but some place less inclined to support and produce terrorists with a global reach.

  11. #31
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    1. That the greatest threat to Afghanistan is the Taliban. The Taliban is a spent strategic force. In a few localities they retain their traditional support, but they have lost whatever nationwide appeal they may have once had. In many cases, they have become mere criminals, selling protection or working for the local drug lord. No, the longer-term threat to nation-building are the narcotic kings, regional power brokers, and semi-criminal entrepreneurs who have traditionally run affairs in the area. The only reason they have not vigorously opposed the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan is due to the sheer ineffectiveness of some of our allies. Relatively heavy fighting is largely restricted to the southern and eastern portions of the country not because it is a hotbed of Taliban support, but because those are the only areas where the Brits, Canadians, and Americans are making life difficult for those Afghans pursuing their traditional livelihoods: smuggling, extortion, and pissing in the river upstream from your neighbor. Elsewhere, bad guys are happy to accept western largesse so long as NATO doesn't actually interfere with them.
    Is Afghanistan more akin to Columbia right now, in your mind Eden?

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    Default Columbia East?

    I think that there are some superficial resemblances to Columbia, in that you have a synergistic relationship between an insurgency and criminals - the one enabling the other, the other returning the favor. But I would say it is more like the Columbia of twenty years ago, when there was less blurring of the lines between insurgent and drug criminal.

    The other difference is that the insurgents in Afghanistan (I am grossly oversimplifying here, but stay with me) have international support, and a steady stream of foreign volunteers, plus a secure sanctuary over the border in Pakistan. Hmmm, agains, it does sound like Columbia, but 20-30 years ago.

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveDoyle View Post
    I can't agree with this statement. What we have in the way of troop numbers (combat, combat support and combat service support) is NOT sufficient to keep Afghanistan relatively terrorist free. The troops there now are fighting to buy time for the Afghans, but the terrorists are the ones accelerating the struggle.

    Our troops are operating at increased risk based on the slim margins that are currently accepted as the norm in Afghanistan. Lack of aviation assets for direct action missions, logistics, and medevac operations put our operations regularly at higher level of risk. Even PRT missions, and "humanitarian" efforts have to deal with this critical constraint.

    Factor that with the size of the operating environment that our troops deal with and you can see that more Marines would be a good thing. In many cases platoons at combat outposts have enough personnel to conduct their own force protection mission and only periodic engagement with the villages and rural areas surrounding them. That's no way to build a rapport or collect intelligence, or assist Afghan security efforts.

    A coordinated plan with MORE troops will make a difference - maybe not a Switzerland, but some place less inclined to support and produce terrorists with a global reach.
    Two posts almost 9 months apart--situations change. What may have been true in 11/07 may now be OBE. Or, it could be that we (to include ISAF) still have sufficient forces in the AOR and are just not using them in an optimal fashion to accomplish the assigned mission(s).
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. — Sydney J. Harris

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