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Thread: Winning the War in Afghanistan

  1. #521
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    Default Yup, especially as to ...

    this:

    from BW
    ... AND the public perception of the importance of this particular AOR in the context of the global mission-set and US interests as a whole.
    Since 9/11, the political side of our ledger has been operating in non-stop crisis mode (with different pages flipping in and out depending on political posturing).

    It still amazes me that there was no in-depth contingency plan to handle AQ in Astan - and that one had to be developed on the run immediately after 9/11. That was a problem caused by the political side of the ledger, not the military side (IMO).

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member S-2's Avatar
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    Default A.q.

    Nice comments gents but why are you talking about A.Q. in Afghanistan if that's the target and mission?

    The number of A.Q. operatives and senior commanders we've caught or killed there is decidedly small.

    They're not there. Why should they be? Place is crawling with ISAF, jets, and drones

    Pretty expensive and mis-directed C.T. mission for a bunch of targets elsewhere. Pretty botched and mis-managed COIN mission if nation-building's the intent.

    Trillion dollar mission?

    Can we just write each afghan a cheque for $2000 and call it a day? Figure that'll save us $400B, a lot of afghan and ISAF lives, and we can go ahuntin' for ol' A.Q elsewhere.

    Think I saw OBL in Portland, Oregon on Halloween eve. Sure looked like him anyway. Zawahiri too.

    Couple of hotties with 'em too. Man, do they know how to party!
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

  3. #523
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    Default

    S-2. You may be on the right track.

    The other day, I attended a conference where Gilles Dorronsoro, Micheal Semple, and Joanne Nathan, three non-US Afghan specialists, gave their views on Afghanistan.

    They spent a lot of time on details about different Taliban Commanders in different areas that they have met with.

    After a while, an audience member asked: "Why haven't you mentioned Al-Qaeda?"

    The response, led by Semple, was that Al-Qaeda isn't relevant to Afghanistan. It is just always brought up by the Americans to keep US public attention on this war far-far-away.

    Like you, they are of the opinion that Al-Qaeda are in Pakistan now, and not a significant issue in the current "civil war."

    They argue that the Taliban only has nominal support in Afghanistan, especially since some Pashtuns are unwilling to support them. Maybe 20% support on a national level.

    Instead, they are trying to "masquerade" as opponents of foreign intervention---hoping there is greater support for them on that basis than as just another minority in contention in a civil war. Thus, in part, Dorronsorro argues to pull out of Pashtun areas to limit the strength of that message, while bolstering national power projection capabilities (the Army).

    Steve

  4. #524
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    Default AQ in Pakistan,

    but US forces based in Astan to attack AQ in Pstan is what I glean from this:

    from BW
    Even in a "countering AQ UW" approach, Afghanistan remains important, and it would have a Deter mission on Insurgencies in those two countries (AF/PAK), Disrupt on the UW Network nodes that are critical to AQ's support of those insurgencies; and an appropriately tailored Defeat of AQ senior leadership (done in a fashion so as not to actually increase their support and effectiveness in other regions of the globe, or to destabilize the fragile governments of Afg or Pak further than they currently are.) This would still require a significant number of US troops ....
    The Pakistani Army (and the ISI more so) have an aversion to non-Muslim forces setting foot in Pakistani territory. See this post on The Quranic Concept of War, by Brigadier S. K. Malik of the Pakistani Army (originally published in Pakistan in 1979).

    On Fareed Zakaria's GPS today, former President Pervez Musharraf made it clear that US forces based in Pstan to attack AQ in Pstan was an unacceptable option.

    The alternative is not to attack AQ in Pstan with US forces. You may support that alternative.

  5. #525
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    Default Steve The Planner Reply

    I appreciate that you offer your views or, at least a personal summary of other views, instead of some article devoid of personally attached commentary/context.

    They argue that the Taliban only has nominal support in Afghanistan, especially since some Pashtuns are unwilling to support them. Maybe 20% support on a national level.
    Yup, if the ABC/BBC/ARD poll from last February is any indication. Most of that 20%, btw (and oddly), belongs to foreign irhabists-not the taliban. Taliban support is creeping up-all the way from about 4% to 7-8% range. They've no traction to speak of. Further of those taliban, probably only 20% or so are committed ideologues for their movement. The rest are a mish-mash of disaffected and revenge-motivated souls, unemployed, and those whom are criminally-inclined.

    Yet we know that a.) the marines, for instance, have had a profound impact in the Nawa area and, b.) the taliban are telling the Nawa locals (whom are asking our marines if it's true) that we'll be shortly leaving. BG Nicholson, himself, has wondered at the possible tenuousness of our presence.

    Thus, in part, Dorronsorro argues to pull out of Pashtun areas to limit the strength of that message, while bolstering national power projection capabilities (the Army).
    What a roller-coaster we've put those people (and our own) upon. Can you or Dorronsorro contrast those thoughts against our massive infrastructure buildup that's currently taking place along with our troop expansion.

    Seems the momentum to expand our effort is far out in front of Dorronsorro's comments. He's behind the eight-ball and waaaay late. Hate to vietnamize my comments but we're building a veritable Cam Ranh Bay in Kandahar for ourselves and eventually an army that's nowhere close to even the ARVN that we left behind.

    Finally-

    ...there is greater support for them on that basis than as just another minority in contention in a civil war.
    Well. There IT is. Somebody finally said it.

    You've read about our helicopters transporting taliban to the north as fed by PRESS TV (Iran) to the willfully gullible afghans, correct? You've therefore seen the duplicitous reactions of both Karzai and Abdullah. Both agree publically with this sickening assertion-for differing reasons. Karzai clearly promotes such to deflect attention away from his terminally corrupt regime. Abdullah agrees with this contention but does so to separate himself from Karzai on a matter that affects his base of support in the north where, supposedly, these insurgents are being transported.

    The factions, it would seem, have lined up and are ready to go. Further, I can't imagine Karzai suggesting as much if he thought his support from America hinged on more lucid and rational perspectives from his office.

    I have to personally face facts, though. As much as I see the U.N./ISAF/U.S. presence in Afghanistan as utterly pointless for a variety of reasons (IMHO, all sound), the larger momentum is that our withdrawal from this fiasco isn't happening anytime soon. Instead, our escalation is widening.

    Others will withdraw, of course. With each ISAF soldier whom departs without an ISAF replacement, that soldier's place will be absorbed by us. Obama's ratcheting of troops at whatever size he ultimately selects will be offset by these soldiers departure.

    Net? Less than we publically sell now which STILL isn't what our ground force commander has projected as a baseline minimum (40,000 minimally with 80,000 his preferred troop augmentation).

    Y'all at SWJ are SMEs of the first order. You see the individual trees really well and have all the buzz words and catch phrases down. You are collectively well-paid for such.

    Who's seeing the forest, though? Further, who cares to see it? Our NCA? They seem to be relying on the likes of folks at the Jamestown Foundation, AEI, CSIS, CNAS, IISS and SWJ to provide the supporting analysis leading to that mythical light at the end of the tunnel.

    I've watched SWJ's nat'l relevance grow in the three years plus I've been a member. I fear, as much as anything, that the membership here and those aforementioned think-tanks are convinced that we've boxed ourselves into no other recourse but to keep on keepin' on.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

  6. #526
    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default

    The SWJ is well paid? Man, where's my check?

    Dorronsoro is a genuine expert on Afghanistan, but I'm afraid of his prescription for the country. Every time I've heard him speak, he is prescribing, in essence, the division of the country --- reinforce in the north and the cities, protect non-Pashtun areas, and essentially concede that Pashtun areas are beyond help.

    He also insists that the "McChrystal strategy just died in Helmand." I think that statement's more than a bit premature.

  7. #527
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    Default tequila Reply

    The SWJ is well paid? Man, where's my check?
    Hmmm...

    I see a need to elaborate.

    O.K.

    I guess I presumed SWJ is a hobby for professionals from related arenas. If sole-sourced from here, that might be a bit of a bummer...

    Thanks.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

  8. #528
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    S-2:

    You hit it right. I presented their views, not mine.

    Dorronsorro may, in fact, be directly or indirectly arguing for partition, or at least, substantial independent regional alignments that beg the "nation" question. Don't know whether, however, that is his "final answer" but only the one that he believes is relevant to the current circumstance. Moreover, I believe that his deeply nuanced understanding of where to withdraw from particularly might not include Pashtun places where we are not in conflict.

    As for Semple, I stand in deep reverence for what he knows, but a little skeptical about his "final answer." He is an Irishman deeply committed to bigger picture stuff, as he sees it, out in the field. How that may or may not relate to US interests is, I think, a jump ball. Especially where US interests may, for example, be fractional to the overall international interests at play there. Who knows what deals are being sketched out between the US and Pakistan? I don;t, but can't see the big picture without it.

    Fortunately, I have the time and access to a lot of the DC think tanks, so it is fun to make this stuff available to our members for review and comment.

    Jump in all you want.

    Steve

  9. #529
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    Default A hope in Helmand?

    A KOW academic has been on the ground in Helmand and has written:
    (Opens with) The news from Afghanistan has been grim. The collapse of the second round of the national elections; Hamid Karzai's government tainted by corruption; and, last week, five British soldiers killed by a rogue Afghan policeman in Nad-e'Ali.....However, on the ground in Afghanistan things look a little more optimistic. I have just spent two weeks in Helmand, talking to dozens of civilian stabilisation advisers and military officers.

    (Ends with)There is much to be done in Helmand, especially in towns such as Sangin and Musa Qala, where the Taliban still threaten security. But on the ground, one can begin to see the green shoots of progress and, in Garmsir, the conditions of stability and Britain's eventual withdrawal.
    From:http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisf...and-us-marines

    davidbfpo

  10. #530
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    Default Is McChrystal Going To Loose.

    He will according to this Article from the new Military Review! he dose not have the right Strategy to win according to this article.

    http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/Military...231_art004.pdf

    Is there any merit to this article?

    Moderator's note post copied to seperate discussion on the MR article: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8975
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-14-2009 at 10:12 PM. Reason: Note added

  11. #531
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    Slap:

    Johnson and Mason are not far off where my lines are crossing, but coming around it from the civilian side.

    So many folks in Iraq were preaching "Democracy" out of a very naive school book version. In Maryland alone, there are 23 counties and the city of Baltimore, and hundreds of individual "towns" and community associations with varying authority. Interwoven into that are hundreds of independent and interagency bodies with special authority, from local school boards to regional transit authorities. It is indeed a complex and locally engaged web of legitimate governing relationships that actually make the tribal, valley-by-valley thing look simplistic.

    Sure, OK, there is a supposedly strong national government, but aside from some often-contested "must do's" (the Consititution), most actions from the top down are driven by carrots and sticks of payola and buy-offs. Else the idea fails to stick.

    In Iraq, for a lot of immutable reasons, the power and rational of national ministries was inherent in the system---the DNA that operated in the background no matter what the US tried to do for reconstruction under a new "provincial" governance model.

    By contrast, Afghanistan is two inherently conflicting fields of public---urban vs. rural, and the rural is tribal/district/sub-district.

    Military and foreign service, on one year assignments, are not going to be able to grasp and engage these rural areas' leaders and formal and informal structures. Instead, any PRT cadre assigned to these areas (more like CORDS than PRTs) need to be something different than, for example, the PRTs deployed in Iraq.

    I never understood the mishmash of Subject Matter Experts assigned down to PRTs in Iraq. Instead, the handful of Senior SMEs, in my opinion, should have been circuit riders to better support less top-heavy, younger, and more aggressively deployed PRTs (more like on an EPRT model as far as flexibility and local reach).

    It would be far easier for me, for example, as a Senior Planning SME, to mini-train and coordinate programs and resources down to an engaged DRT System than to waste mine and their time and resources doing so for a few small villages.

    What I took away from Johnson and Mason, as an organizational matter, is that a cadre of minimally cross-trained, but highly supported, DRTs, probably military for some time to come, would provide the best penetration/connections to the Pashtun (and other) rural villages---all as the necessary backstop to prevent Taliban encirclement of those urbanites.

    Somewhere in the middle, you try to bridge gaps, whether by diplomacy or other means.

    Is that about right?

    Steve

    Moderator's note post copied to seperate discussion on the MR article: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8975
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-14-2009 at 10:12 PM. Reason: Updated

  12. #532
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    Default Ps-

    PS- That's why I love disaggregated mapping and demographics. Get down to the DNA of a system, and you can start to understand and plan it.

    The funny part about Iraq is that there were formal maps down to the district and sub-district levels which few people understood, older formal maps that many people and institutions (particularly the ministries) still followed, and other "facts on the ground" thematic maps, or zone of influence maps---resulting from how things "real are" , or how, through shifting power structures, influence or relocation---that showed how things are now on many levels.

    Before long, they started to look like the kind of complex, disputing and interlocking layers of formal and informal governance that one actually finds in the US---but with translation to a language and culture that is, at times, microscopic, complex, and highly nuanced.

    I'm gradually figuring some pieces of the puzzle out (at least, just in my lane).

    Steve

  13. #533
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    Default Johnson and Mason article

    I'll leave aside the accuracy of their recollections of Vietnam. They point out the near-FUBAR state of the political effort in Astan. Their DRT concept seems a level too high. If Vietnam is any lesson, it is that security and political action must be solid at the village level. There are roughly 40,000 villages in Astan. That is the magnitude of the political action problem. No solution within our capabilities has been presented by anyone I've read.

    Moderator's note post copied to seperate discussion on the MR article: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8975
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-14-2009 at 10:13 PM. Reason: Updated

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    Default jmm99 Reply

    There are roughly 40,000 villages in Astan. That is the magnitude of the political action problem. No solution within our capabilities has been presented by anyone I've read.
    At least those 80,000-100,000 troops will be securing the really important places...

    ...you know, where the hotels, beds, and airports are so our politicians, generals, and scholars can get in and out, a decent meal, and a good night's sleep.

    So with my trusty pocket calculator I got 4,937,400 for the top 50 cities in Afghanistan per this link.

    So that leaves 24M or so floating around. The cities ran from 2.36M to 1,500.

    Guess we don't need 2,000 troops to defend 1500 people though their security should be ASSURED with that many. Sadly, even at 100,000 troops we'd have, what, maybe 10,000 or so trigger-pullers?

    I see a lot of empty space surrendered and a lot of people that we won't be protecting even if we doubled the city pop. data I have and cut the total pop. by a third.

    Can we fudge some numbers so this population protection thingy doesn't look so whack?
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

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    Default They are your numbers.

    So, feel free to fudge away.

    A more relevant set of numbers would be the number of Afghani soldiers and police, with honesty and integrity, who are willing to go and live in the villages to provide security for the number of local villagers, who are willing to stick out their necks and provide local governance.

    Does anyone have that set of metrics ?

  16. #536
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    jmm:

    As long as the Afghan troops/police sent are going to fit the area---to many stories about the potential conflict of sending urban Uzbek troops to rural Pashtun areas.

    S-2:

    Something tells me that our move to "safe" cities might not go un-noticed by the Taliban, so what was safe before might be a little more challenging than before. How much easier it is to blend into and destabilize an urban area than a rural one.

    Steve

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    Default Steve The Planner Reply

    How much easier it is to blend into and destabilize an urban area than a rural one.
    Impossible...

    ...with an invisible but inpenetrable force field.

    Here's one nice lil' read about the Tupamaro movement.

    Here's a better movie-State Of Siege.

    Battle of Algiers, also, obviously makes for worthy viewing for those disinclined towards lengthy and scholarly written works.

    Honestly though, I don't think that urban versus rural will present any particular difficulties for the taliban until our allies leave and we can begin to replicate our "surge" tactics of COPs inside urban zones ala Iraq. I understand that Kandahar City is effectively "indian country" after dark and not much better in the day.

    That model worked as it seemed to optimize our troop-population ratios in a meaningful 24/7 manner. Short of that, shabnamah will continue ruling the evening.

    Comes down to training the afghans to make this work, it seems, and that seems damned discouraging when we can't even seem to train their president.
    Last edited by S-2; 11-10-2009 at 06:30 AM.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

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    S-2:

    Good read.

    Steve

  19. #539
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Actually I take a different lesson from 'Nam

    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    I'll leave aside the accuracy of their recollections of Vietnam. They point out the near-FUBAR state of the political effort in Astan. Their DRT concept seems a level too high. If Vietnam is any lesson, it is that security and political action must be solid at the village level. There are roughly 40,000 villages in Astan. That is the magnitude of the political action problem. No solution within our capabilities has been presented by anyone I've read.
    The lesson I take is that when a couple of outside actors waging a much larger competition use the populace of some smaller state to wage their contest in a form of pawn warfare don't be so blinded by your own ends that you are oblivious to those of the populace involved.

    We propped up a series of three different ass-hats in Nam because we didn't want the Soviets to go "+1" in the global pawn warfare game that defined much of the Cold War; while the Soviets backed the side seeking freedom from the widely hated scourge of Western Colonialism.

    Today there are a large number of populaces across the Middle East also seeking to get out from under the remnants of Western Colonialism and the governments imposed by the West during the Cold War to assure "friendly" relations and the flow of oil...

    Once again, I believe we have picked the wrong side, and that is a hard hand to play. This is why I strongly recommned that we co-opt the majority of the AQ message and ussurp them as the champions of the populaces of the Middle East in their quest for better governance. Such a move would sweep AQ's feet out from under them and bring the U.S. into line with our national principles.

    But one'll never see this with their nose pressed against Afghanistan; or with their brain obsessed with rhetoric of the ideology AQ employs. Afghanistan is just one of many states in play, and ideologies are like socks, you need them, but you can change them too. Step back and the picture gets clearer.

    Moderator's note post copied to seperate discussion on the MR article: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8975
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-14-2009 at 10:13 PM. Reason: Updated
    Robert C. Jones
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    (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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    Default Hi Bob,

    My comment re: lesson learned in Vietnam applied to the tactical level - and a very basic level, that of the villages and their hamlets.

    Your comment pertains to the strategic level, which is fine since that is what you do for a living. Your comment goes beyond one nation (Astan) and looks to the region (basically Indian Ocean littorals and continental land masses, from say Egypt to Indonesia to include most of the Muslim World).

    Going back 40-50 years, we (US) were looking at containment of two Communist powers (SovComs and ChiComs) in the region of Southeast Asia. The result there was a "win" from our standpoint - Indochina became Communist; but the remainder remained non-Communist - though not a US proxy (ASEAN, etc.). The key was Indonesia which found its third way, not without a great deal of bloodshed.

    Whether that "model" has any application to the Muslim World is another question. Your "friends" in the Kingdom certainly employ much of AQ's message - in truth, AQ has co-opted much of the Kingdom's message and added enhancements to it. Unless I've misunderstood much of what you have written, the Kingdom does not fall within your definition of "good governance".

    What would this Muslim World "Third Way" message look like ? You know me, I like concrete examples.

    Regards

    Mike

    Moderator's note post copied to seperate discussion on the MR article: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8975
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-14-2009 at 10:13 PM. Reason: Updated

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