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  1. #1
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default Winning the War in Afghanistan

    Winning the War in Afghanistan

    This paper offers a plan for victory that builds on classic COIN--the oil spot or ink spot strategy--customized to address the unique challenges of the Afghan area of operations (AO).
    I agree with the ink spot strategy. Make sense if you have enough troops and enough resources, and another 10-15 years.

    EG, if the UK is serious about Helmand, it needs to deploy a Division of about 3 Brigades. The need is for about 16-20,000 men plus the attendant support. ... so 24 Apaches makes more sense than 6-8.

    The Taliban can be defeated, but their just isn't the Political will to commit the resources necessary to do it. That's the problem. There isn't even the political will to try and close the boarder with Pakistan.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    First thing we need to do is determine what is "victory" for the US in this country in terms of our national interests (i.e. "victory" for the Afghans may be a very different thing, and good on them for that. We just don't need to confuse their victory for our victory and actually put our self at risk of a strategic setback because we pushed for the wrong end zone down at the operational level).

    This then needs to be balanced in the larger global context of what the U.S. wants to redefine its role as in this new, post-Cold War, post-Bushesque GWOT, globalized world. This will give us the context to know how much to ask of our allies, to better understand who are allies and enemies really are these days (applying old logic to that analysis is leading us to dangerous conclusions IMHO), and what reasonable schemes of engagement are for any given state balanced within the much broader context of how they impact the U.S.'s endeavors around the region and the world.

    To simply debate COIN tactics (or more accurately, how the US and coalition forces support the host nation's COIN) against one particular insurgent group in one particular state is something we need to let the commander's on the ground sort out. What the Generals and the Policy wanks need to do is get out of our tactical commander's lanes and start doing the hard work of sorting out the big picture in their own. Afterall, that's what they get paid to do.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I think anyone who uses the word 'victory' with respect to

    a COIN or Stability Operation is either deluded or not thinking clearly. Lacking a scorched earth, there will be no victory. Since we are not going to play G.Khan, the best that can be hoped for is an acceptable outcome. I have seen no evidence the US has yet determined what such an out come might be in its view. There is even less evidence that there is a consensus in Afghanistan that can provide an Afghan view of what such an out come might be.

    As Eden has said several times, I suspect the Afghan view is a loose, sort of Federal national government that can preclude foreign interference and control the war lord factor -- other than , it will leave people alone.

    That doesn't accord well with western thought.

    Bob's World says:
    This then needs to be balanced in the larger global context of what the U.S. wants to redefine its role as in this new, post-Cold War, post-Bushesque GWOT, globalized world.
    Two thoughts -- it's a Post Clinton-Bushesque world. One led to the other as sure as day leads to night.

    Secondly, good plan -- however, given that this is the USA, my bet is that (a) It will not happen in the sense you wish; (b) the sheer number of players that will wade in on what that role might be will preclude any except a poor compromise solution being proffered; (c) as soon as that new role is determined by said poor compromise, there will be a concerted and successful effort, domestically and internationally to change it.
    ...This will give us the context to know how much to ask of our allies, to better understand who are allies and enemies really are these days (applying old logic to that analysis is leading us to dangerous conclusions IMHO)...
    Ask and ye will not receive -- other than from a very few and that will be reduced in supply and come with caveats. We have no allies, other than temporary accommodations. I'm unsure why people cannot accept and understand that. Our size, wealth, global power projection capability and selfishness all conspire to insure we can be respected (but are not now to the extent possible and desirable due to misuse of our power and flawed domestic choices) but we are not going to be liked, not at all. Nor are we going to have any allies other than those who see their own temporary advantage in allying with us. They will be fickle. OTOH, we have a slew of enemies and are likely to have more.

    None of that is meant to be gloomy; it's cool. Been that way in the world ever since I first went overseas in 1947; hasn't changed much in the intervening years and is unlikely to change in the future -- until we go into real and major decline. Then the Jackals and Hyenas will appear, the latter laughing...
    ... What the Generals and the Policy wanks need to do is get out of our tactical commander's lanes and start doing the hard work of sorting out the big picture in their own. Afterall, that's what they get paid to do.
    True, hopefully the will not waste time trying to develop a national strategy for a nation with a short attention span.

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Folks, closing the Afghan-Pakistan Border is like trying to count the sands in front on one condo at Gulf Shores, Alabama from the back steps used to access the beach down to the every changing waterline.

    Border is too vast and rugged for a conventional closing.

    However, using satellites and infra red technology we can bomb the hell out of much of the border but that takes a lot of resources to do.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by George L. Singleton View Post
    Border is too vast and rugged for a conventional closing.

    However, using satellites and infra red technology we can bomb the hell out of much of the border but that takes a lot of resources to do.
    I'm not a technophile, but GSR, LOROPS and UGS can certainly make huge strides in making sure that a significantly more of the traffic is interdicted. Making the border difficult for the bad guys is not a tall order.... given the resources.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    The "border" is not now, nor ever was the issue. In fact the current line drawn on Western maps is no more than that; simply a line drawn by westerners for westerners. It helps us feel that there is order in the world and that our western concepts of state sovereignty codifed at Westphalia hold equal sway everywhere.

    To focus on making this border mean more than that is to virtually ensure defeat by creating a task too large to accomplish that even if somehow accomplished serves solely to drive a wedge through the heart of the very populace who's support the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan need to attain some degree of stability.

    We need a new model, the old one won't work here.

    Perhaps a broad "Pashto zone" that encompasses their traditional tribal homeland as a "border" instead of a thin line so comforting to us?

    Dual citizenship for all within, and governed with a system rooted in their historic tribalism?

    What about the Taliban you ask? Those guys work for the government of Pakistan, I suspect they will drop their papers and quit that arrangement if given a better option.

    What about AQ you ask? I suspect if we made the PNG of AQ as the condition precedent for such an arrangement they would be out on their little Arab backsides within a week. Sanctuary lies within a poorly governed populace, take away the poor governance and the sanctuary goes with it.

    Regradless of what bold new COA is adobted, to simply work harder and faster at the old one won't do the trick, it'll just wear us out sooner.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    I pretty much agree with Ken's comments.

    On the border, we can probably do a better job of interdiction, but one complicating factor is that a lot of people besides insurgents use the border. Some are insurgents, some are smugglers, some are doing legitimate trade, some are visiting family, etc. Even if it were possible "closing" the border is going to have some significant negative effects. Sorting legitimate border crossings from insurgent use is going to be difficult given the terrain and all the other complicating factors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    First thing we need to do is determine what is "victory" for the US in this country in terms of our national interests (i.e. "victory" for the Afghans may be a very different thing, and good on them for that. We just don't need to confuse their victory for our victory and actually put our self at risk of a strategic setback because we pushed for the wrong end zone down at the operational level).
    I hear that phrase ("we need to define 'victory'") or variants of it a lot, along with the caveat that victory for the US may not coincide with the host population's idea of the preferred end state. I maybe wrong here, but I thought it clear from the outset that drying up Af-Pak of the people, means and/or will to source terrorist attacks against the West was the Coalition's overriding objective. I've never seen a survey indicating that Western electorates really gave a rat's behind about anything else. Even if there the aspirations of the host populations--shifting they may be--mismatched with all other concerns eminating from our great centers of strategic thought, doesn't achieving that one goal mean...well...the Coalition wins?
    Last edited by Presley Cannady; 06-11-2009 at 03:25 AM.
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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Update and talking to the Taliban

    What is going on? A short BBC News clip, note interview with ex-Taliban Amabassador to Pakistan at the end, commenting on talking to the Taliban: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8119110.stm

    Apologies for those who cannot view.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Border situation summary

    A review of the provinces on either side of the Durand Line (no video clips) and a useful summary: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7601748.stm

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Reflections on the war

    A long (73 mins) sound only interview of the ex-CIA Station Chief in Kabul, thirty years ago, which is interesting and not listened yet to fully: http://www.electricpolitics.com/podc...or_bazaar.html

    A summary appears in this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/graham..._b_201355.html

    Note he is multi-lingual (a point that has appeared here before) and has visited Pakistan more recently with RAND (no details).

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default The Taliban's Winning Strategy

    CEIP: The Taliban's Winning Strategy by Gilles Dorronsoro. H/T to the invaluable Registan.

    The Talibanís clear strategy and increasingly coherent organization have put the International Coalition on the defensive, marginalized the local Afghan government, and given the Taliban control of southern and eastern Afghanistan. Rather than concentrating limited troops in the South and East where the Taliban are firmly entrenched, the International Coalition should prioritize regions where the Taliban are still weak but making alarming progress: in the North and around Kabul.

    Far from a loose assortment of local groups, the Taliban are nationally organized, with coherent leadership and a sophisticated propaganda operation. The Coalition, on the other hand, lacks clear direction, largely due to its underestimation of the Taliban. Following a month-long trip through Afghanistan, Gilles Dorronsoro assesses the insurgency and proposes a strategy for the coalition based on a comprehensive understanding of the Talibanís capabilities and goals.

    Key points:

    The Taliban have built a parallel government in areas they control to fulfill two basic needs: justice and security. An almost nonexistent local government and the populationís distrust of the international coalition allowed the Taliban to expand their influence.

    Focusing resources in the South and East, where the insurgency is strongest, is risky, especially since the Afghan army is not ready to replace U.S. forces there.

    The Taliban have opened a front in the northern provinces, having consolidated their grip on the South and East. If the International Coalition does not counter this thrust, the insurgency will spread throughout Afghanistan within two to three years and the coalition will not be able to bear the financial and human costs of fighting.

    The insurgency cannot be defeated while the Taliban retain a safe haven in Pakistan. The Taliban can conduct hit-and-run attacks from their refuge in Pakistan, and the North remains open to infiltration.

    The United States must pressure Pakistan to take action against the Talibanís central command in Quetta. The current offensive in Pakistan is aimed at Pakistani Taliban and does not indicate a major shift in Pakistani policy toward Afghanistan.
    Dorronsoro's book is required reading for Afghanistan. An excellent primer.

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    Default Afghanistan's imperfect democracy

    National Post
    8/20/09

    We wish Afghanistan's society were more like our own. We wish that there weren't so much corruption, that the domestic military and police were more competent and professional, that death sentences were no longer issued for Muslims who convert to other faiths and that laws permitting wife-beating weren't passed.

    Then again, if Afghanistan already were a stable, humane and modern democracy, there would have been no need for our troops to deploy there in the first place.
    (snip)

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default I concur, and it is a damn shame!

    The Taliban can be defeated, but their just isn't the Political will to commit the resources necessary to do it. That's the problem. There isn't even the political will to try and close the boarder with Pakistan.
    The British experience in Malayia did not happen in a few years.

    We are up against essentially a non-existant society in Afghanistan, weaker even than the original US Articles of Confederation that governed while the US Revolutionary War dragged on due to lack of the strongest support needed but not then possible from the original Congress in Philadelphia.

    I still think a return to the monarchy for Afghainsitan, with tribal jiirgas working under same is more likely to work...although a modified weak Parliamentary system able to veto or check and balance a King might work, too?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Small point

    My original remark
    Some people don't want their own "truths" disturbed, locally I'd say the supposed inevitability of Indian-Pakistani conflict is a bigger problem.
    Omerali's part response
    David, You are buying into the supposed "eternal india pakistan conflict" too easily. Which probably means you get your Pakistan from Pakistani army mess halls. The "eternal conflict" is used by the army to have its way within Pakistan.
    I do not buy into the 'eternal conflict', a conflict that has been used by both countries for too long and has changed recently for the better. Pakistan does not need to spend so much on its military, largely for conventional warfare and not COIN etc. Yes, the Pakistani Army then claims more than the budget, but to decide on national security issues. Never been to a Pakistani Army mess hall, I have spoken to two Pakistani officers briefly on the subject, most of my viewpoint comes from reading and listening. One concern I have, shared by many here, is how effective is the Pakistani national response? Secondly, what is the true extent of Islamist power within the Army and ISI?

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-26-2009 at 09:03 AM.

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    The Taliban can be defeated, but their just isn't the Political will to commit the resources necessary to do it. That's the problem. There isn't even the political will to try and close the boarder with Pakistan.
    There are some things that no amount of "political will" can accomplish.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    My original remark

    One concern I have, shared by many here, is how effective is the Pakistani national response? Secondly, what is the true extent of Islamist power within the Army and ISI?

    davidbfpo
    David, I run an email discussion group called Asiapeace. We have 650 or so members, mostly Indian and Pakistani, mostly journalists and academics. A lot of our discussions would be of interest to you (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/asiapeace/). Anyway, to answer your questions:
    Pakistan's "national" response is likely to be a bit confused. For a very long time, the army has been dominant in domestic politics. GHQ makes and breaks political parties, manipulated elections, set up a parallel system of monitoring via intelligence agencies that was not accountable to any civilian authority. But they dont have (and did not have) perfect control. There was always resistance from various political groups. But they managed to keep "national security" as their own preserve for a long time. Their version of "national interest" was not questioned (and questioners faced very real consequences) and most politicians (mostly corrupt, and interested in bread and butter issues like pols all over the world) tended to avoid getting tangled up in that area. The army's own vision came out of their academies and NDC (or so they thought) but was actually heavily influenced (almost completely controlled, some would say) by the jihadi faction of the army. This jihadi faction had a clearer view of what they wanted and were able to use people like Pervez Musharraf and all the other so-called "secular" officers because they (the jihadis) used terms like "strategic depth" and "national security parameters" and "Indian threat assessment" and other such bull#### and the low intellectual level of the army high command meant they never figured out what this policy would lead to. As a result, the relatively small jihadi faction was able to pursue an almost insane policy of training and arming half a million jihadis in full view without anyone every asking them what would happen when this vast jihadi army got to work..I am summing up a long story very briefly but will be happy to elaborate in future discussions. Anyway, GHQ has sort of figured out that some readjustment is needed, but its a work in progress, nowhere near done. Civil society is well beyond GHQ in rethinking these policies, but still has less power than the army does. Islamists (who were always in a minority but able to use the army to make up for that) are still around but even they are not clear about what end is up anymore. Some of them are clearly scared of the jihadis they have nurtured for so long. So, long answer and incomplete, but "national response" is still a bit confused, but is moving away from the jihadis and is beginning to question the army's role in this mess. At the same time, this is the army we have, so some people are willing to cut them a lot of slack if they start to fight at least some of the jihadis. Personally, I think that someone has to keep a very close eye on the army otherwise its going to just kill some random poor sods and keep the hardcore intact for future use in Kashmir and Afghanistan and we will be back to square one. Their mouthpieces like "paknationalists.com" are still distinguishing good jihadis and bad ones and promoting an anti-indian hysteria that will allow the army to maintain its position in society. Unless this is some sort of very sophisticated psyops operation by the CIA (I doubt it) this propaganda does not suggest that they have changed their ways too much...
    got to run, but more later..

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    The UK can barely maintain 8,900. Don't look for any more they are not resourced to do it.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Doing enough thanks

    Bigduke,

    Yes, the UK commitment of around 9k troops is unlikely to grow much. The commitment, ostensibly one brigade is in fact really two brigades and accounts for 10% of the entire regular UK Army (my estimate). There are a number of reservists called up, as individuals not units IIRC and of course both the Royal Navy (includes Royal Marines) and Royal Air Force are there too.

    I suspect comparison figures are available for European NATO contributors. Is the US commitment to Afghanistan and Iraq of a similar proportion?

    Apart from the apparent inability of the UK military to generate additional resources there is the far wider political and public unease with the role. Add in our economic slide too.

    Have a look at this critical UK-based blogsite for more: http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com/

    Note the main contributor now says we should not be there.

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-28-2009 at 10:06 PM.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Subjects to Citizens

    A Canadian think tank paper 'Afghanistanís Alternatives for Peace, Governance and Development: Transforming Subjects to Citizens & Rulers to Civil Servants', by what appears to be an Afghan scholar in exile in the USA: http://www.cigionline.org/sites/defa...0Paper%202.pdf

    Yet to read fully, but as the civil aspects are getting more prominence worth a peek.

    davidbfpo

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