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Thread: Afghanistan: What's Our Definition of Victory?

  1. #61
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    Default But, the Pakis ...

    are acting in someone's best interest - their own, as perceived by them.

    (from Reed)
    The big confusing question for me regarding A-stan is Pakistan and India. I want to say support Pakistan and coordinate with them in destroying Taliban and AQ elements in Pakistan. My support for this is eroded by the constant actions on Pakistan's part that suggest they are not working in anybodies best interests.
    1. The AQ, AQ-linked groups and AQ-leaning groups (you could put the Taliban here) are useful to Pakistan in giving the Indians a rough time in Kashmir - and apparently in Bombay, as well.

    2. Astan is a huge Paki problem unless it is controlled by a Power acceptable to the Pakis - the Taliban fit that bill.

    3. The Pakis are afraid of major powers coming into Astan - Russians for a couple of centuries, now US; and, nightmare to them, India taking control of the old Northern Alliance area.

    4. The Pashtuns are considered (and have been) Paki allies - hard to deal with allies, it's true.

    5. If we (US) were in Pakistan and not in Astan, with their consent, their and the Pashtuns' attitude (including some Taliban) might be different - as it was when the Russians occupied Astan.

    I've something of a pro-India bias, but I believe the above is a fair summary of the Pakistanis' problem.
    Last edited by jmm99; 12-06-2008 at 05:42 AM.

  2. #62
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ron Humphrey View Post
    On the Iran thing-

    A race car driver wants to win the race so he does everything he can to make his car the fastest, then for good measure he tampers with the opponents car.

    HE wins

    The rest of the story-

    half way through the race the opponents car breaks down, and in doing so runs into the car next to him. This causes the opponent to spin into the wall where he is then run into by twenty other cars. He survives but three others in the pile up don't, one of which was the younger brother of the driver who won.

    And the first car that was hit by the opponents vehicle was run off the racetrack over the barrier into the pit crew areas where 4 are injured and the father of our winner was crushed .

    Long story short, you may get what you want but more often than not you probably won't like what you got.

    Sounds like EBO

  3. #63
    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Post Therein lies the problem

    Quote Originally Posted by slapout9 View Post
    Sounds like EBO
    With political definitions of Effects
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

  4. #64
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    At first it was about the US pumping opium into Iran to destabilize the regime. Now it seems to be a relativistic philosophical argument about something completely removed from the reality of Afghanistan or Iran. Since this is a thread about Afghanistan, I'm not really interested in discussing political theories.
    The Iran thing was one part. The second part was/is exploiting a trade IOT to enfranchise a segment of the population and use their resources to develop the country's infrastructure with the further aim of consolidating, in the long term, the government by granting them a stake in that system. I entered the "philosophical" portion of the argument because others addressed those assumptions and inferences underlying the proposal; i.e. the ethical/legal/moral aspects of (specifically) using opium to undermine the stability of a hostile state.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  5. #65
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    Default Maybe a baby step

    Headline looks good until you get to the actual agreement - to set up committees.

    Afghanistan, Pakistan to fight al-Qaida together
    Afghanistan and Pakistan to create joint strategy in their battle against al-Qaida
    MURAD SEZER
    AP News
    Dec 05, 2008 12:40 EST

    The leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed they need to fight terrorism together in Turkish-sponsored talks Friday aimed at reducing tensions over militant attacks along the countries' lawless border.

    "We're decided to draw a joint strategy to fight al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations" Afghan President Hamid Karzai said after meeting Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, in Istanbul.

    Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of failing to take action against Taliban militants based in the tribal region along the border and even colluding with them.

    "Both countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan are affected seriously by terrorism," Karzai said.

    Turkish President Abdullah Gul said the three countries have agreed to set up committees to cooperate in politics, economics, military cooperation as well as security to build confidence.
    ....
    In 2007, Karzai met with Musharraf in the Turkish capital, Ankara, and the two declared their intent to cooperate against the Taliban.
    http://wiredispatch.com/news/?id=478073

    Nice to see Turkey lending its good offices.

    The shift from 2007 "against the Taliban" to 2008 "against al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations" may imply a shift in policy expressed in diplo-speak.

  6. #66
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    So the only thing I'll say is that a US attempt to destabilize Iran with heroin is a terrible idea, even if it were an honorable course of action (which it isn't). It's questionable the attempt would do much, if anything, to the Iranian regime, while the downsides an negative consequences are both severe and quite likely. So it doesn't even pass a simple cost/benefit test. No amount of theorizing will change that.
    You say you are not interested in a "philosphical" argument, yet you claim the proposal is "[dishonorable]", which is a morally subjective judgment. While I'm inclined to agree with that judgment on the basis of my own personal beliefs, I am compelled to address it as it is a component of the proposal's acceptability/validity, even if you're not interested in discussing philosophy. Is it honorable? No, by most standards of judgement. Is that relevant? That's the argument.

    Anyway, as for it being a "terrible" idea -- perhaps it is. But that depends on the purpose in question, what assumptions being made about its effects, and what consequences we're willing to accept/predict. It's very clear that the idea is driven by an entirely different purpose than what most other posters have; which goes all the way back to the original post asking questions about "our" definition of "victory".
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  7. #67
    Council Member AmericanPride's Avatar
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    As for Ron's analogy, which I appreciate and is very clear in its meaning, it is making the fundamental assumption that personal relations (specifically blood relations) are comparable in some capacity to power relations. The last 60 years of the Middle East, IMO, demonstrate that even blood relations on a personal level are subordinate to the driving interests of states and their elites (as far as said elites are concerned, and I use "states" loosely when applied to the ME and Central Asia). The al-Assad family of Syria has been particularly adept at that game, I think. Same with the Saudis, and to a lesser degree Mubarak and even Saddam. When any of those leaders, or any other, make a decision to say, for example, exile or alienate a family or tribe member, I think we make the mistake of referring to said relation as familial or tribal rather than political (i.e. measured by power). Anyway, my point is that all of us, rightly or wrongly, are making significant assumptions pertaining to morality, "honor", ethics, etc and how that effects our mission and goals. And I would posit that our collective assumptions are not in sync with the assumptions made by those in living in the region (specifically those in the power-broking business).
    Last edited by AmericanPride; 12-06-2008 at 06:04 AM.
    When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles. - Louis Veuillot

  8. #68
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default The horse still lives...

    Quote Originally Posted by AmericanPride View Post
    Is it honorable? No, by most standards of judgement. Is that relevant? That's the argument.
    A bigger question remains; is the proposal feasible. I submit the answer is no as several have pointed out.
    ...It's very clear that the idea is driven by an entirely different purpose than what most other posters have; which goes all the way back to the original post asking questions about "our" definition of "victory".
    So? Does the fact that is driven by a desire to have an academic exercise make it a viable suggestion? I think not.
    ... The al-Assad family of Syria has been particularly adept at that game, I think. Same with the Saudis, and to a lesser degree Mubarak and even Saddam. When any of those leaders, or any other, make a decision to say, for example, exile or alienate a family or tribe member, I think we make the mistake of referring to said relation as familial or tribal rather than political (i.e. measured by power). Anyway, my point is that all of us, rightly or wrongly, are making significant assumptions pertaining to morality, "honor", ethics, etc and how that effects our mission and goals. And I would posit that our collective assumptions are not in sync with the assumptions made by those in living in the region (specifically those in the power-broking business).
    That is about the only correct statement you've made concerning honor etc. -- and it suffers from one flaw. What they do there and what you can do here are very different things. You are absolutely correct that their perceptions of honor and morality, even of what constitutes a lie differ markedly from ours. The philosophical flaw in your proposal was that you envisioned involving the Congress in your plan; thus you were importing their ethic here and that's what will not work on moral or ethical grounds. You might find a few here and there that would go along with it but most will not and the media would eventually tumble to it and have a field day.

    The larger problem remains that it is impractical with respect to destabilizing Iran due to the problems that would create -- if indeed it did destabilize that nation which I doubt. It is highly unlikely to be successful in 'taking over' either Poppy growing or the smuggling; the amount of money raked off by local players wouldn't generate nearly as much money for reconstruction as you think because the drug business is a really flat pyramid.

    You may of course do what you wish but I think we've bored others enough on this gambit and I'd recommend returning to regularly scheduled programming.

    Academic games are nice I suppose but reality always intrudes...

  9. #69
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    Only ever having been a junior soldier (and a reservist at that, long ago), and never having been on any operational or overseas tours, I am not remotely as familiar or even acquainted with the real-world limitations that Western policies and the troops that try to carry them out encounter, have to overcome, find themselves blindsided by, or simply have to endure.

    Still, Iran questions aside, what strikes me most about the war in Afghanistan, much more so than the war in Iraq, is how from the start, and for years afterwards, so many Western policy-makers and senior military authorities persistently failed to observe or even to recognize the practical limitations they faced or may have had to face when intervening abroad. Or, recognizing them, found themselves having to downplay them or to pretend they didn't exist because it wasn't politically acceptable or possible to do so. Mercifully it has taken only half a decade for this to be recognized, more or less, and for the right people to be elevated to senior policy-making and military command and staff appointments, and who know what they are doing. Hopefully there is now a solid strategy in mind and an achievable end-state in sight for Afghanistan.

    To be sure, as wm stated earlier in the thread, whatever is to be done has to be the right thing, not just the expedient thing - such as in wm's example of having to be willing to suffer casualties instead of risking inflicting civilian casualties through resort to airstrikes - and that in turn has to be tempered by what can be done, not what we would like to do.

    Following wm's example, if it is not possible to dig out insurgents in a given location without having to resort to airstrikes (or whatever additional fire support may be on hand) where civilians are in the way, then other means have to be resorted to. Go after the enemy at another time, in another place, and in a different way, if possible.

    Counterinsurgency is a long process, and having to scrub some tactical operations that run up against such obstacles instead of risking civilian casualties is both the right thing to do, and an approach that seems to offer the "best" possibility of success over the long term. Best not to risk actions that can undo the work of months or even years in a given area with just a single mistake.

    All of the above is obvious enough, I know, and is far clearer to very many of the other members on this board than it is to me.

    sapperfitz82 wrote:

    But what if the end state is not a functioning state? What if the end state is a safe place to kill AQ in, preferably far from our shores and interests?
    Agreed, and no arguments that it is probably the best possible outcome. But also agreed with Ken and others (if I am reading them correctly) that the sort of Imperial Expeditionary mindset that is required to make that really work is not the American (or for that matter, the modern Western) way anymore -though it would seem something like that may still be possible with some difficulty. Little more than two generations ago, it was still perfectly natural for some Western Armies (or Marines) to set out on an annual campaigning season (Brits in the NWFP being the classic example), or to engage in repeated expeditions to the same regions to cut local threats down to size from time to time as they emerged or re-merged. Granted in some cases they also stayed for years or even decades, but normally only in modest numbers.

    None of this is likely to be very palatable to policy-makers scared of the media trumpeting for the umpteenth time how the umpteenth expedition to put down such-and-such local threat reveals a failure of national policy. That such a national policy (and whatever military strategies that arise from it) may well be just fine, and in fact may be the best possible way of dealing with threats that are both persistent and perennial, of course runs headlong into the practical political limitations imposed by a generally uniformed media and often career-oriented policy-makers, amongst others.

    It's interesting that most of the additional U.S. troops going to Afghanistan will apparently be heading to positions in and around Kabul's approaches and environs. I hope it it buys enough time to enable the National Government in Kabul to emerge as the strongest out of all the many players in Afghanistan, and one that is able to establish useful ties, more or less, with at least some of the other more critical players within Afghanistan. And perhaps, trying to get around the above mentioned political limitations on resorting to an Imperial Expeditionary mindset, to also allow for a (modest and discreet) future Western presence or temporary base that is also available to deal with Al-Qaida when and where it pops up in the area.

    If the strategy is for NATO to secure the cities while the ANA and ANP build up their strength, fine enough, but if the Taleban are able to succeed in turning the population, if not exactly in their favour, then at least against NATO and the Government, time may run out before the Afghan Government is able to stand on its own and then take the fight out into the country. It is not entirely clear that the Afghan National Police can be made into anything like an effective paramilitary police force, and the long-term survival of the National Government will depend at least as much upon the success of the National Police as upon the success of the ANA.

    If this is the strategy that is now possible, and the desired end-state is one in which Kabul will be able to at least survive on its own, and hopefully be able to exert some degree(s) of influence in other parts of the country, okay. Not great, but good enough.

  10. #70
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    To set the record straight: On one of these threads some months ago (and in a PM to one of our members some weeks ago in which I stated that 1RCR had a bad experience with a particular US SF officer in 2006), I stated or alluded to the Canadians having suffered battle reverses on Operation MEDUSA in 2006 as a result of a senior US officer (particularly SF) or leaders; I have since been corrected on this matter, and my reading of the sources was negligent and utterly mistaken. I should not have impuned or infringed upon the reputation of any US officer or officers or troops. I am sorry, and offer my sincere apologies.

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