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Thread: What Is Our Strategic Endstate in Afghanistan?

  1. #41
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I wouldn't bet the farm on either of those ideas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Render View Post
    If the Taliban/Al-Q, (or the Pakistani government), succeed in closing the Pakistani-Afghan border crossings, then the war, at least as far as Coalition forces within Afghanistan are concerned, is over.

    If the Pakistani military actually does fire on US/NATO forces, then the war expands into a new theatre.
    My son has two tours there, the first in OEF 2 (2002); the Pakistanis were sporadically but fairly regularly firing on US troops then, were still doing that when he went back for OEF 4 and are doing it today.

  2. #42
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    The key to any strategy or endstate, in my opinion, is that it has to be feasible.

    I don't think the following are feasible:

    "A legitimate government" What does a legitimate government look like in a land that hasn't seen one since the early 1970's? And don't describe it from an American point of view, describe it from an Afghan point of view.

    "Adequate security forces" - What's the definition of adequate? The entire country, plus the FATA is ungoverned. Karzai's span of control is measured in kilometers.

    "an economic system not reliant upon narcotic production" - please identify legitimate options in a country with 85% illiteracy, few natural resources and literally no infrastructure. And then identify the length and costs of rehabilitating and educating the Afghan people and then implementing the plan.

    "Stable enough to resist adventurist actions of its neighbors" - see above. How long, how much will it cost, and what is the definition of stability? Three armored corps with T72's, BMP-2's and 2S3's? An Air Force with more than three help pilots and a maintenance system that can sustain jet engines?

    Time and money are political issues, and will drive the endstate and the strategy.

    If we had unlimited time and money, you could really attack the issues of why Afghanistan is a mess. They would be:
    1. reducing illiteracy and widening education. a 30 year process at minimum
    2. with that, you can start limited infrastucture improvements, and then as more educated Afghans come into the workforce, start to teach them how to build and maintain infrastructure
    3. With a more educated populace, Imam Hussain at the mosque can be countered and defeated within the propaganda and IO realm.
    4. At home, any talk of quick or decisive action would be squelched. The loss of credibility from the political level to the individual voter level can almost never be rebuilt (see, no new taxes, mission accomplished, what is the definition of "is")

    The political endstate is unacheviable because there is no short term relief for Afghanistan. With the amount of money and patience required, we can make it state #51 because that's about the only way it's going to happen.



    Quote Originally Posted by Hacksaw View Post
    Entropy

    .

    and if in fact AQ is the center piece of describing those conditions, then I think the following is broad enough to allow individual initiative and account for changing conditions, as well as guide priorities/logical lines of operation...

    A legitimate government - one recognized as such by its citizens

    Adequate security forces - to preclud ungoverned areas that could host terrorist staging activities

    an economic system not reliant upon narcotic production

    Stable enough to resist adventurist actions of its neighbors

    "In other words, doesn't have to smell like roses, but it can't smell like a pile of $hit either"

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  3. #43
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    Default An endstate means what?

    Quotes are by Hacksaw

    You propose these vague ideas as viable endstates that are supposed to give clarity to the military?

    - A legitimate government - one recognized as such by its citizens
    The military doesn't achieve this, at best they can contribute to it (and they can distract from it). If legitimate only means recognized by the locals, then we may not like what that looks like. I think this one is pretty lame.

    - Adequate security forces - to preclud ungoverned areas that could host terrorist staging activities
    You specified a capability, but the capability without the political will and finances to use it means nothing.

    - an economic system not reliant upon narcotic production
    Why? What does this have to do with the war on terrorism? Yea, you can make loose ties, but is this a military end state for the war on terror?

    - Stable enough to resist adventurist actions of its neighbors
    What does this mean? If that was an endstate given to me that could be interpreted a lot of ways, and once stable will it stay that way once we leave?

    The problem is you defined several strategic level nice to have objectives that have little to do with the original purpose for going to war. Most of proposed endstates bullets are political and economic in nature, not military.

    Of course there is no endstate to political and economic evolution, so that isn't realistic. We mold and remold our government and economic policies continuously to adapt to a changing world, as do other governments. Getting back to Afghanistan, the military can be used to help set conditions that allow other elements our national power, and most importantly host nation elements of national power, to implement their policies. One of those conditions is the defeat of the Taliban, yet that isn't even mentioned in your strategic endstate? Defeat can take many forms from physical, to mobilizing the population against them to political reconciliation. Presumably the military is there is to address a security problem, yet only one of your proposed bullets even addressed the military. What you addressed should perhaps be include in the Ambassador's goals for the country, what he or she wants to help the Afghani government with. They are endstates for the military, and they are not helpful to us.

    An end state provides the word picture for the commander's intent... It gives ultimate purpose and direction to all activity -- or should. If we are unable or unwilling to pose an end state for fear that we will need to adjust that end state should conditions change, than shame on us and everyone who put someone in harm's way. Stealing a phrase from another recent thread -- Fuzzy or Fraud, I go with Fraud!!!
    I thought this at one time, it was part of the Vietnam syndrome, yet in hindsight it has very little to do with reality. I can't think of too many historical examples where an endstate contributed too much at the strategic level of war, and that is what we're talking about here. Policies may be enduring, but an endstate assumes that reality freezes in time, which of course is false. Conditions change every day, the entire nature of the war can change, along with our strategic interests (China's intervention into the Korean War). Using endstates may be a point of weakness in our doctrine we need to reassess. It is nothing more than an attempt to find a clean break away point in a not so clean world. In some limited situations it applies, but in very few.

    Wilf are you out there??? If COIN/IW is war, and war is war, exactly how do you conduct it without an idea on how it ends????
    It doesn't have to end. The Brits fought in Northern Ireland for how long? How long has the Italian police been battling the mafia? In irregular warfare you are not focused on defeating a state, so the picture remains blurry. Look at it like crime, can a police force in any town say they reached their endstate? All crime has ceased, we're all going home to become farmers now?

    The military stays as long as necessary to enable policy, and elected officials will tell us when we're done (it isn't an ideal way to wage a war, but it is our way), and it may have more to do with politics on the homefront than it does in the location we're fighting (Vietnam, Somalia). Instead of endstates we can develop militarily achievable phases and objectives in support of policy objectives, but an endstate will remain a moving target. Is it still useful? Perhaps, but only as long as we don't take it too seriously. I think we're getting back to one of our major strategic planning shortfalls and that is the inability to "effectively" integrate the interagency. Although we're better (much better) than we were in recent years past, can State effectively clarify what conditions they need the military to establish to facilitate the pursuit of a particular policy? It tends to work at the local level when you have the right personalties in place, but I haven't seen any doctrine that enables the interagency (Treasury, State, Intelligence Community, Defense) to do this. Most of it is none via a hand shake downrange.

    If the arguement is we started without an idea of how it ends in either IZ or AFG - agreed. If we think we ought to continue to muddle along until an idea of how it ends emerges - you be on the wrong side of that discussion
    Are we muddling? We (the military) are if we're focused on drugs, economics, etc. unless that ties in directly with defeating our foes and securing the populace. I'm tired, so I'll clean this response up this weekend, but contrary to your allegation, opposing endstates is counter to popular opinion, so I don't think it is group think. So I wanted to counter punch before I went to bed, I'm not scared of your 2X4.

    What seems to be missing from your proposed strategic endstates are two things. First the defeat (broadly defined) of the enemy, and second the translation from strategic to viable operational level military objectives.
    Last edited by Bill Moore; 09-17-2008 at 04:20 PM. Reason: minor tweeks and some additions

  4. #44
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Wilf - What kind of mumbo-jumbo is that?!?!?! Come on! You're the person always asking "so what?"

    What Hacksaw is articulating is the need for a Commander's Intent for Afghanistan - something to focus all operations against. He is asking what that should look like?
    Which Commander are you asking about? There seems to be an assumption that the Afghan people (many and diverse) the Afghan Government, and US administration ( about to change) are all in agreement. Regardless this leaves the actual military commanders with a job to do.

    "What is OUR strategic End State In Afghanistan" - so let's assume US Govt.

    My point is that I do not know what a good "strategic end state for US is." Even if I did, I doubt it is very realistic, right now. I doubt Barak Obama agrees with John McCain or Hamid Karzai. So what to do?

    HOWEVER, if you conduct operations to ensure that Afghan civilians are not suffering or being killed/starved and are generally safe,(conduct an activity) then you should be helping the creation of a better outcome (objective).
    Will it lead to the defeat of the Taliban? I don't know.
    Will it make Afghanisatn a functioing democracy? I doubt it.
    Will it wipe out the drugs trade? Probably not.

    Making the population safe is an activity, not an end state, because if you stop doing it, the end state goes away. To assume you can predict the end state, or that your actions create it, is like saving a child from a fire in the belief that he will someday cure cancer.
    Last edited by William F. Owen; 09-17-2008 at 09:32 AM.
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  5. #45
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ski View Post
    The key to any strategy or endstate, in my opinion, is that it has to be feasible.

    I don't think the following are feasible:

    "A legitimate government" What does a legitimate government look like in a land that hasn't seen one since the early 1970's? And don't describe it from an American point of view, describe it from an Afghan point of view.

    "Adequate security forces" - What's the definition of adequate? The entire country, plus the FATA is ungoverned. Karzai's span of control is measured in kilometers.

    "an economic system not reliant upon narcotic production" - please identify legitimate options in a country with 85% illiteracy, few natural resources and literally no infrastructure. And then identify the length and costs of rehabilitating and educating the Afghan people and then implementing the plan.

    "Stable enough to resist adventurist actions of its neighbors" - see above. How long, how much will it cost, and what is the definition of stability? Three armored corps with T72's, BMP-2's and 2S3's? An Air Force with more than three help pilots and a maintenance system that can sustain jet engines?

    Time and money are political issues, and will drive the endstate and the strategy.

    If we had unlimited time and money, you could really attack the issues of why Afghanistan is a mess.
    In post 7 of this thread, I thought I raised the issue of feasibility for the points Hacksaw posted. (Please remember he acknowledged he was only the messenger--not his vision of an endstate.) Looks like Ski has pretty much the same concerns.

    However, the culmination of Ski's quotation brings up a very different point--whether Afghanistan is a "mess." That answer depends very much on one's frame of reference.

    America has this habit of showing up in various places around the world and trying to force its values and way of life on other folks. Is it any wonder that those other folks don't like us? One great piece of instruction I received growing up was that the worst kind of advice was unasked for advice. Is that not what America is giving out in places across the globe?

    An appropriate end state for American/NATO intervention in Afghanistan?
    Provide an environment that allows the natives of the region constrained by the country's current borders to exercise self-determination.

    This solution does address the real problem, however: that the folks who may want self-determination are not constrained by those borders. Just like the Kurds, they live in a region that overlaps several countries.

    A second problem lies with deciding how to define the groups that may be self-determining. Should the "bright line" be drawn based on clan, tribe, principle language spoken, religious sect (e.g Shi'a vs Sunni), higher-level religion( e.g. Islam vs Jainism), number of spouses one thinks it is appropriate to have, form of acceptable legal code, etc ad nauseum.

    "Golly Mr. Wizard, that sure is hard problem. Think science can solve it for us?" (Channeling for Jimmy the neighbor kid)
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  6. #46
    Council Member Hacksaw's Avatar
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    Default Don't even know how to title this....

    Ken/Bill, not sure how I gave the impression that the proposed end state conditions were military only. Clearly, military forces can not achieve all those or any of those by itself. I suppose I assumed (we all know what assumptions make of 'u' and 'me') since we were addressing "Strategic End State" that we were talking a more holistic perspective. However, that doesn't mean that contributing to the realiziation of those conditions aren't at least partially (or primarily) a function of military activity. I would hardly call the use of an end state (a description of conditions that achieve commander's vision) to achieve some degree of unity of purpose/action as dogmatic. Rather, I'd call it a useful principle of organizing the activity of a disparate group actors towards any common goal - military, whole of government, commercial - don't care. Without something similar we are left with a series of "locally" optimized activities that may very well work to counter purposes of the larger aim.

    Ski/Bill,
    Granted the conditions I described as being offered are rather broad and may lack some specificity, of course that's the nature of defining conditions for multiple agencies and nations...

    - A legitimate government - one recognized as such by its citizens... Doesn't the caveat as recognized by its citizens imply that we are talking about from an Afghan perspective. I suppose we would have to ask them that question -- I suppose it means using their mechanisms (such as Loya Jirga) to elect officials and respect how central government relates to regions...

    - Adequate security forces - to preclud ungoverned areas that could host terrorist staging activities... Ski, adequate is defined as function of capability and and intent to... preclude ungoverned areas that host terrorist staging activities (that's pretty explicit). Bill, for our purposes here adequate is a function of force size, enabling capability, funding and will. This is a discussion board, not the CENTCOM plans shop -- I usually don't get too specific for brevity sake.

    - An economic system not reliant upon narcotic production... Ski, that fact that this is a long-term challenge doesn't make it unachievable, but if you don't do this than none of the other conditions are possible. There is an observable trend that highlights a nexus between crime, corruption, and violence (South America, Mexico, Russia, Iraq...) all of which create the conditions fertile for terrorist exploitation. This is tough not undoable, and if you ask whether its necessary - my retort is 9/11...

    - Stable enough to resist adventurist actions of its neighbors... Ski & Bill, again perhaps a shortcoming of discussion board brevity, but let me clarify. They ought to be able to reasonably prevent their neighbors from conducting unwanted and excessive cross-boarder shenanigans/influence. How long, the training wheels come off when we think they are ready to??? Function of political will, yeah - say the same for our southern border.

    Bill, this is where you really lose me...
    (about endstates)
    "I thought this at one time, it was part of the Vietnam syndrome, yet in hindsight it has very little to do with reality. I can't think of too many historical examples where an endstate contributed too much at the strategic level of war, and that is what we're talking about here." -- WWII comes to mind - unconditional surrender (seems that ways and means shifted wildly as conditions changed but ends were fairly fixed)

    "Policies may be enduring, but an endstate assumes that reality freezes in time, which of course is false. Conditions change every day, the entire nature of the war can change, along with our strategic interests (China's intervention into the Korean War). -- End state assumes nothing of the sort, an end state describes conditions that achieve intent, intents invariably change (see OIF) causing a shift in described conditions -- how does this invalidate the principle of using end state to achieve unity of effort??

    "Using endstates may be a point of weakness in our doctrine we need to reassess. It is nothing more than an attempt to find a clean break away point in a not so clean world. In some limited situations it applies, but in very few." I would argue it is you who has self-limited. In Army terms, endstate is a part of the concept of operations -- these change regularly, but you have added the quality of being fixed in time and unchanging. I would hope it endures beyond the first branch in the plan, but the weakness you ascribe is one you've appended yourself.

    Tom & Ken (The Ad Hominem sic) Beat Officers: This was an honest attempt to stay out of that minefield, my apologies if I tiptoed along the edges.

    I will now do something totally unfair -- I will excuse myself from this discussion regardless of the backlash... We will have to agree to disagree.

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  7. #47
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Surely not...

    Quote Originally Posted by Hacksaw View Post
    Ken/Bill, not sure how I gave the impression that the proposed end state conditions were military only.
    You didn't, you were specifric in saying it was the gamut from Super CinC to Bn level. If I read Bill right, he agrees with me that while that is desirable, you cannot constrain the national effort to that extent; too many political considerations domestic and international get in the way. IOW, militarily highly desirable, politically generally not possible -- and thus the military has to adapt; civilian control and all that...
    ...I would hardly call the use of an end state (a description of conditions that achieve commander's vision) to achieve some degree of unity of purpose/action as dogmatic.
    I wouldn't either. I would suggest that it approaches the dogmatic to insist on the desired military clarity of effort in the face of historically demonstrated political fallibility and even efforts to avoid just such clarity. Yet again, Korea and Viet Nam are examples of political expedience overruling military considerations.
    Rather, I'd call it a useful principle of organizing the activity of a disparate group actors towards any common goal - military, whole of government, commercial - don't care. Without something similar we are left with a series of "locally" optimized activities that may very well work to counter purposes of the larger aim.
    Agree -- but what is desirable is not always achievable. a number of US Army GOs over a great many years have been forced to operate at less than optimum level in this regard. For example:
    (about endstates) ... WWII comes to mind - unconditional surrender (seems that ways and means shifted wildly as conditions changed but ends were fairly fixed)
    Other than minor incursions by us since WW II, can you name another US military effort where the end state was known, stated and reached?
    ...In Army terms, endstate is a part of the concept of operations -- these change regularly, but you have added the quality of being fixed in time and unchanging. I would hope it endures beyond the first branch in the plan, but the weakness you ascribe is one you've appended yourself.
    I agree -- in Army terms. The problem is that Afghanistan (a great deal more so than is true in Iraq; it's a totally different ball game in almost all respects) is far more than an Army problem, it's even more than a US national problem.
    Tom & Ken (The Ad Hominem sic) Beat Officers: This was an honest attempt to stay out of that minefield, my apologies if I tiptoed along the edges.
    Didn't even come close IMO; you have some excellent points and contributed to what I thought and think was a valid and worthwhile discussion, however:
    I will now do something totally unfair -- I will excuse myself from this discussion regardless of the backlash... We will have to agree to disagree.
    If you must, you must and we can do that hopefully without being disagreeable...

  8. #48
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Link to Colonel Warden's Blog on how to develop possible Endstates (options) for Afghanistan.


    http://strategydevelopment.net/wordpress/

  9. #49
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Interesting. Warden says:

    "This cursory strategic review would suggest that the best course would be to end the war in return for an agreement from the Afghan government not to allow any foreign group to operate against the West from Afghanistan. Verification would be easy and deviance could be addressed with tactics ranging from increased payments to Afghanistan to air operations against strategic targets within the nation."
    I can sort of agree with that.

    I do have two questions though.

    How do we get to the point where there is an effective Afghan government able to make and enforce such a guarantee?

    What strategic targets exist within the nation that will serve even slightly as levers to sway most Afghans?

  10. #50
    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Good thread. I had to go back and re-read it to see the ground the discussion has covered.


    In terms of a strategic endstate - I think it should be about getting something to the point where it supports your interests with an acceptable sustained effort and does not jeopordize other policy objecitves. Now the ends, ways and means available will frame how you go about getting to that point - particualrly when you consider them against the other objectives you are trying to achieve elsewhere (at home or abroad). You can attempt to go outside of them, but there are consequences.That is a big box, I think we want to keep it that way.


    With respect to Afghanistan, there seems to be three motivations at work:

    First, when there is no longer a direct threat like 9/11 that we are concerned about that either currently resides there or is likely to originate from Afghanistan or some area that we can affect by being there, the nature of our foreign policy goals there is likely to change.

    Second, since our involvement there other things have happened that we now consider relevant to our broader objectives. They may have happened anyway, we will never know for sure. But, other interests outside of a direct threat to the United States homeland now seem to be related to how things turn out in Afghanistan, and the areas we associate with it.

    Third, there is the issue of what we accomplish or don't accomplish in that area, and what it means in terms of influence outside of the immediate region.

    I consider what Hacksaw originally posted is what we find acceptable in terms of those things we believe are required to be accomplished in order to get to a strategic endstate we can live with. They are things you can operationalize if you have the means to do so. It does not guarentee you will acieve them because there are conditions that must be addressed, but you can begin to lay them out and create a theory that allows you to consider the environment, and what is feasible. It also does not guarentee the outcome and as such policies must be created which help sustain your interests.

    Best, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 10-23-2008 at 03:51 PM.

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    Default Two very important questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    How do we get to the point where there is an effective Afghan government able to make and enforce such a guarantee?

    What strategic targets exist within the nation that will serve even slightly as levers to sway most Afghans?
    Increasingly, my sense is that the first may be unattainable. Just look next door at Pakistan - with a big Army, nukes and still unable to control large portions of its own territory). How can we expect Afghanistan to achieve what Pakistan cannot?

    As to your second question, there are not many such "strategic targets" since Afghanistan remains a tribal society. There are probably "micro-strategic" targets among the various groups, but Afghanistan as a whole? Hard to identify any at this point.

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