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Thread: Winning the War in Afghanistan

  1. #561
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Now if we could persaude and "rent" enough Afghans to get agreement on excluding hostiles, even counterin them - then I could see the merit in such a strategic approach.

    Made me think, thanks Slap.
    Much closer to what he has in mind. He also did a lot of work on the Pak-India problem and that is the real problem.

  2. #562
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default The key to this is to work with the populace's leaders

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Slap,

    I liked - at first - the last paragraph in Warden's piece:

    Then on reflection is there an Afghan government capable to stop a foriegn roup, now or in the likely, traditional future we can glimpse? No. Verification would be easy. No, not convinced and in the future as hostile groups learnt more difficult. Clearly our ability now to "fix" is poor and done remotely as I think is envisaged even less reliable. The tactics used, well what strategic targets exist in the Afghanistan foreseen? Not many I venture, unless the heroin is collected to be bombed.

    Now if we could persaude and "rent" enough Afghans to get agreement on excluding hostiles, even counterin them - then I could see the merit in such a strategic approach.

    Made me think, thanks Slap.
    and not the government. There is a difference.
    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)

  3. #563
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    and not the government. There is a difference.
    I agree with you on this.......the Government is the problem

  4. #564
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    To clarify, we must work with the government, but the leaders with the most influence in the outer areas likely posses less formal authority and more enduring influence. Ask me again in couple months though, as I am shipping out next weekend to Kandahar.
    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)

  5. #565
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Background reading

    Two items from FP, a montage of Karzai's cronies:
    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...arzais_cronies

    Useful if you mix in those circles.

    Secondly a review piece by Paul Pillar 'Afghanistan Is Not Making Americans Safer. Will ramping up the war in Afghanistan embolden domestic terrorists? Which ends with:
    The indirect effects of anger and resentment are inherently more difficult to gauge or even to perceive than the direct effects of military action in seizing or securing territory or in killing individual operatives. But this does not mean they are less important in affecting terrorist threats. They are the main reason that in my judgment, expansion and extension of the counterinsurgency in Afghanistan is more likely to increase than to decrease the probability that Americans inside the United States will fall victim to terrorism in the years ahead.
    See:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/article...safer?page=0,0
    davidbfpo

  6. #566
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    To clarify, we must work with the government, but the leaders with the most influence in the outer areas likely posses less formal authority and more enduring influence. Ask me again in couple months though, as I am shipping out next weekend to Kandahar.
    Sounds like a movie.........Billy Jack goes to Afghanistan

  7. #567
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    Default Hi Bob,

    Stay safe in the Rockpile.

    Regards,

    Mike

  8. #568
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Sleepwalking

    A historian writes:http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/al...hanistan.thtml

    Summary opener:
    John C. Hulsman says that Americaís declining status will ultimately doom its Afghan campaign. Obama must learn from Britain how best to manage the decline of an empire.
    and ends with:
    This is not to say that America will not remain, for a long time and by a long way, the most powerful nation on earth. However, nothing is inevitable. If America can finally realise that it cannot do everything in the world and all at once, paradoxically its power is likely to prove far more enduring and useful for global stability than if it fritters it away, believing itself to remain in a position of pre-eminence that has passed it by. President Obama could do with some more time spent thinking about how the last great power coped with decline.
    Before anyone thinks the author is a cheeky "Limey" advising his "cousins", he's an American:http://www.john-hulsman.com/
    davidbfpo

  9. #569
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Working with the Tribes

    Once again an on the ground viewpoint, which updates the recent Steve Pressfield and Jim Gant advocacy of working with the tribes:
    http://freerangeinternational.com/blog/?p=2394

    Both cited one tribal leader Ajmal Zaizi, who now is assessed by the local US Army as an AOG i.e enemy:
    Thus a western educated, populist style leader who has been on the run from the Taliban, who lost his father to the Taliban, who has driven out the Taliban, established good order and discipline in his strategic valley and even reached across the border into Pakistan to strike up alliances with the hard pressed Shia tribes located in the Parrots Beak area (didn’t know there were Shia there did you? me either but I know how important that is and also how much those people need friends like us) is now considered by the U.S. Army to be an AOG leader. AOG means “Armed Opposition Group” which means Ajmal is now lumped in with the Taliban and drug barons.
    Oh yes, cites the presence of ANP & ABP as a retrograde step.

    Pressfield's blog:http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/ and Gant's article:
    http://blog.stevenpressfield.com/wp-..._at_a_time.pdf
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-22-2009 at 04:15 PM. Reason: Add links
    davidbfpo

  10. #570
    Council Member M Payson's Avatar
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    Default Afghanistan war photography, courtesy of the Taliban

    Here's the September issue of "In Fight" magazine, glossy compilation of photographs from the front put together by some element of the Taliban. October's issue is also available. Not sure if it's posted elsewhere on SWJ. I came upon it via Bill Roggio's reference to "Jalaluddin Haqqani on suicide bombings in Afghanistan," which led to Jihadica's "New Interview with Jalaluddin Haqqani," which led to...Nawa-i Afghan Jihad, Urdu Internet Magazine. Etc.

    All make for interesting, if sobering, viewing.

  11. #571
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    Winning a War in Afghanistan is nothing more than winning a ticket to an on-going conflict---unless something else happens.

    Look at it from a basic economic/geographic standpoint. The core problem came in 1947 when the latest "carve-up" of this area was finalized based on a post-Durand change of circumstances.

    In 1900, all these places were essentially under one dominant operating principal---colonial British empire. Did it really matter, for example, that Baluchistan was the port and harbor to Afghanistan's south as long as all were part of the same basic structure?

    The essential Persian/Pashtun influence cycles affecting Afghanistan also didn't matter much as long as Iran was under US/British control.

    Two big things happened after 1947. Pakistan and Afghanistan were separate countries. Pakistan experienced a huge mass migration as the Indus/Hindu culture fled to India, and the Muslim Indians fled to Pakistan.

    Now, no matter what happens, there are three big unsurmountable issues: (1.) Afghanistan is the last big frontier (ungoverned space) in South Asia; (2.) It is surrounded geographically captured by Pakistan (Balochistan/ Gwadar); (3.) The importance of its hard-scrabble unexploited natural resources, due to external demand/markets, and internal/external population pressures, is driving the "bidding war" for this as-yet-unresolved real estate.

    Stability lies in three alternate paths: (1.) Afghans united under great external pressure and massive investment strategies carefully played out (not likely, but possible with potentially divisive Indian or Chinese partnerships); (2.) Pakistan gains control either de facto or dejure; or, (3.) it stays on tenuous and unstable life support (conflict) while US/British/Euro interests continue to struggle against obvious challenges they are neither politically or economically able to meet and conquer (the warlords and tribes, divide and conquer approach).

    Of course there are several major political/demographic/geographic fault lines (Urban vs. Rural, North vs. South, Pashtun Belt (Pashtunistan)) that impact fine grained solutions and interim steps. These are, I believe, arguments at the margins, and not the big picture.

    Real sustainable strategy (Winning) lies somewhere in the above three paths.

    If I was looking for big partners other than Pakistan for which US/British/Euro interests could be safest (least threatened), I would meet with India first and China second.

    Who did President Obama meet with lately before any announcements? China and India.

    Who, of the neighbors, is pouring the most into Afghan reconstruction? India, and China.

    It will be interesting to see what the next roll of the dice produces.

    Comments and criticism are actively invited.

    Steve

  12. #572
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Smoke, reality and power

    Steve asked for responses to:
    If I was looking for big partners other than Pakistan for which US/British/Euro interests could be safest (least threatened), I would meet with India first and China second.

    Who did President Obama meet with lately before any announcements? China and India.

    Who, of the neighbors, is pouring the most into Afghan reconstruction? India, and China.

    It will be interesting to see what the next roll of the dice produces.
    What better way of at worst diplomatically snubbing Pakistan than hosting in such a manner the Indian PM's visit to Washington D.C.? Taken in isolation this appears to be blatant power politics, then remember Pakistan's closest ally is China; albeit one that is not currently giving much for free. All very curious and is there a shared interest? Can China influence Pakistani policy on Afghanistan, my recollection is that the influence is very low profile now.

    Whatever happens the USA cannot be seen - domestically - that it is in Afghanistan to help China and India.

    Did I not see that Iran and India were holding talks or exercises recently?

    Now where is Saudi Arabia and to a lesser the Gulf states - who have the cash?

    Sorry Steve, more questions than I intended.
    davidbfpo

  13. #573
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Staying in Afghanistan: two views

    From a comment column in The Guardian, taking a different viewpoint on Afghanistan:
    We cannot allow this foul insurgency to triumph. If we scuttle away from Afghanistan we will inflict horror on its people. The wrong people will win: in three years they might not.
    From:http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/200...y-wrong-people

    In a quiet way alongside the newsreel from Wootton Bassett the debate on the UK's role continues, although such comment articles have little impact on the public mood.

    What maybe having an impact is the question 'Did our soldiers die for nothing?'. Most recently mooted by a very brave war widow, Christina Schmid; voice recording:http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/audio/2...l-british-army and the eulogy in full:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/no...l-widow-eulogy

    I cite:
    We now have a duty to not just honour what he stood for but live lives which honour the sacrifice he made. Please do not allow him to die in vain.
    davidbfpo

  14. #574
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    David:

    I suspect the real answer for Afghanistan does not begin to emerge until some kind of successful international meeting occurs to resolve all the issues associated with Pakistan, India, Afghan borders with acceptance by China and Saudi Arabia, and in a manner that does not inflame new issues with Iran.

    Is that a bit like asking for "World Peace," or resultion of the Isreal Palestine issues?

    But, maybe something can aoccur in the interim (as part of focused activities) that lays groundwork for either "the games to begin" or to define the scope of a successful later activity.

    I'm very interested in the India/China issues much more than the "ground appearance" of events in Pakistan. As India's Singh pointed out, the Pakistani military's actions are much more important than the civilian leadership's statements and commitments.

    Pakistan's sole military focus is on India, not Afghanistan, but they play out their focus by consistent efforts to establish pro-Pak governments in Afghanistan. Better instability than an India-friendly government.

    Pakistan, with 180 million, is apipsquek in the neighborhood of Chian and India. Afghanistan and its 23.5 million are a sideshow for all. Doesn't Pakistan have the potential to field an army/militia of at least the total population of Afghanistan? The mouse that roars?

    Happy Thanksgiving.

    Steve

  15. #575
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default New Joint Force Quarterly

    The New JFQ is out and it is about A'stan bunch of good stuff in there. especially General Warner's piece. Link to entire edition is below.


    http://www.ndu.edu/inss/Press/jfq_pages/i56.htm

  16. #576
    Council Member M Payson's Avatar
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    Default Of working with the tribes - and others

    A couple of publications on Afghanistan that speak to working with the tribes - and others, like religious leaders and ex-militants - as the environment really demands. Glad this approach is gaining traction.

    "Religious Actors and Civil Society in Post-2001 Afghanistan" by Kaja Borchegrevink. Published in 2007, it provides an interesting look at how the aid community in Afghanistan didn't (doesn't?) do much more than light, need-driven consultation with religious actors and points the way toward more substantial involvement. I'm having trouble with the link but think it's my browser.

    "The Role of Culture, Islam and Tradition in Community Driven Reconstruction" by Kim Maynard, Ph.D., about an adapted model of the National Solidarity Program in Khost and Logar, Afghanistan in 2003. (Disclaimer: I ran the program when this study was done.) Looks at ways to intensify tribal and religious (and ex-militant) involvement in programming, manage recruitment to maximize local economic impact, etc.

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    Default Jfo

    Slapout9's citation is pretty interesting, but...

    I was relishing the insights which I expected to read in John Nagl's "A Better War in Afghanistan," but all it was was a thorough critique of what went wrong in the past and an earnest plea to not do that again. He also cited Tony Cordesman's assessment for McC that the civ-mil mess is huge.

    Making an ever-growing "oil spot" of Kandahar sounds like a pipedream, especially when, even today, Prov. Council Chief Karzai is watching the assassination attempts on the Governor. Until proven in an actual place in Afghanistan, oil spot is a theory, and not a reality ripe to build on.

    No insights or roadmaps from Nagl.

    2LT Joshua Welle did, I think, a great job in describing efforts at Civil-Mil improvements in some limited sectors, but as a model, they all broke down around the central problems of lack of Afghan central reach, and the multi-national actors.

    I am looking forward to hearing the President's speech, but I suspect it will be more about slogans and concepts.

    The complexity of actually managing, let alone, improving or substantively changing, a community, culture or nation is, of itself, a herculean challenge. To do so in the actual international, political, economic, cultural, and physical landscape is a challenge upon challenges.

    It would be nice to have a meaningful discussion, once the resources and time line are set by the President and Congress, of what could realistically be achieved with those, and then build a plan around accomplishing that.

    Was it Buzz Lightyear who said: "To Tuesday and beyond....!"

    Steve

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    Default I also have been waiting for Tuesday,

    but in the meantime, I've been mulling a passage from FMI 3-24.2, Tactics in Counterinsurgency (p.16):

    1-18. Commanders must be prepared to operate within a broad range of political structures. The Host Nationís form of government may range from a despotic dictatorship to a struggling democracy. Commanders at all levels, including platoon leaders and company commanders, need to recognize the importance of establishing and reinforcing the HN as the lead authority for all operations. This reinforces the legitimacy of the HN government.
    I'm not picking on this particular interim work, since the concept is all over the place. I've had some difficulty getting my arms around the questions I want to frame. The focus deals with the political effort side of the ledger.

    I've put my off the top of my noodle comments in quotes to separate them from the questions.

    1. If we posit that the political effort is the greater part of "best practices COIN", who (military or civilian) performs that effort ?

    Since our civilian capabilities in this area have been allowed to atrophy (making the British Empire a bad metaphor, since they generally had competent civil administrations in place), the military seems the choice by default - at least in the present Astan case.
    2. If the military is tasked with the political effort (essentially presenting the HN government as a better choice), who determines what political efforts should be made and whether they are likely to succeed ?

    The knee-jerk response is that our political leadership should make those decisions because they are, well, "political". But, the political leadership does not have to execute those decisions - as we are positing, the military has that task.
    3. If the military has the role to determine what political efforts should be made and whether they are likely to succeed, is the military competent to make them ?

    We have a military which is non-political. Is this similar to asking a convent of truly celebate nuns to run a brothel ? I dunno; maybe or maybe not - I'm hung up on that one. Somehow, I'd like to put Karl Rove and David Axelrod in a sound-proof room and require them to come up with a consensus as to whether a political effort in Astan (that is within our capabilities) is viable.
    And, yes, COL Jones, the concept of us supporting a "despotic dictatorship" - and sending our troops to be killed or maimed for that dictator, sticks in my craw big time.

    Regards to all

    Mike

  19. #579
    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    We'll see what the President lays out for us here in a couple days; then do our best to get it done. The "how" of it is far more important than the "what," so my personal goal is to try to make the "how" as good as possible, and not agonize over the what. I should be boots on the ground in a few days and look forward to the opportunity to play a small role.
    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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    jmm:

    The problem, as with Iraq post-conflict, is not that the military isn't, in theory, competent to manage the civilian country.

    It is the practice where everything false apart. Ultimate;y it looks like Joe Stalin running everything, not by incompetence, but by lack of the routine market, political and feedback structures essential to making anything complex work. The biggest feedback structure missing is the one of typical constraints.

    Ultimately, commanders felt compelled to work with "friendly" shieks, and to do things that either looked good to the shieks, or sounded good to an American.

    The reason the number and type of schools exist in a society are often because that is all that could be worked out and sustained.

    The reason, in Iraq, that many services were handled at the national ministerial levels was, in part, because the problem (like watershed management or oil production/distribution) was not something locals could handle (for a number of reasons). And the minimal level of local services/governance resulted from the lack of locally-generated revenues to support anything bigger, more-complex.

    We tried to build local provincial structures which are quite simply unsustainable, at least as to service provision. Ultimately, Iraq was, and will be based on a national structure (where the money is) with a petition structure of one form or another from the local levels. This structure is not much different than the Ottoman days. Morer might doistributed down at different times, or "better," but the structure and dynamics remains the same.

    When we try to break these places out of these systems, or act, based on our relative lack of constraints, they go along while we are there, but everybody knows it won't work after.

    Even on this site, you read something suggesting how "we" change the tribes, or create a new relationship and dynamics between local, district, province and national, and most of us understand that that approach is not really going to work for long.

    We hope, instead, that it will stick long enough for us to leave. That's what "expeditions" and "expeditionary forces" do.

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