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Thread: NYT: U.S. to Protect Populous Afghan Areas, Officials Say

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    Registered User CitadelSix's Avatar
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    Default NYT: U.S. to Protect Populous Afghan Areas, Officials Say

    From the NYT webpage
    WASHINGTON — President Obama’s advisers are focusing on a strategy for Afghanistan aimed at protecting about 10 top population centers, administration officials said Tuesday, describing an approach that would stop short of an all-out assault on the Taliban while still seeking to nurture long-term stability.

    Mr. Obama has yet to make a decision and has other options available to him, but as officials described it, the debate is no longer over whether to send more troops, but how many more will be needed. The question of how much of the country should fall under the direct protection of American and NATO forces will be central to deciding how many troops will be sent.

    At the moment, the administration is looking at protecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters, officials said. The first of any new troops sent to Afghanistan would be assigned to Kandahar, the Taliban’s spiritual capital, seen as a center of gravity in pushing back insurgent advances.
    So it sounds like we may be leaning toward a policy that only reinforces one of the central concerns mentioned in Matthew Hoh's resignation letter. Namely, that this war has...
    ..."violently and savagely pitted the urban, secular, educated and modern of Afghanistan against the rural, religious, illiterate and traditional. It is this latter group that composes and supports the Pashtun insurgency."
    Our students at SAMS, who have been looking at the problem closely over the last 10 months, in coordination with planners on the ground, have seen the same problem and came to essentially the same conclusions that the McChrystal report came to. Were their own ideas to be implemented, the strategy would focus on winning in the villages by focusing development and building good governance at the local level in order to rebalance the role of local / tribal leadership with that of the central government.

    One can argue whether we should continue there at all, but if we are to continue, we need to ensure that understanding of the situation on the ground as it exists on the ground drives the strategy.

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    CitadelSix:

    With due deference to the weaknesses of Russia's "retreat to the cities," if well executed, I could feel pretty comfortable that we are moving to a definable and doable mission.

    Steve

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Afghanistan cities and anything else?

    CitadelSix,

    Welcome aboard and another current thread discusses the rural -v- urban population in Afghanistan: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8797

    I am wary of a strategy that reduces even further the Allied role in rural areas and seems to be a return to the Soviet option. Cities and main roads, with frequent expeditions and raids into the rural 'Chaos Country'.

    What did your studies conclude about Allied and Afghan government in the non-Pashtun areas? A cities first strategy needs to be balanced with retaining those areas, just look at recent events around Kunduz (with a Pathan minority).

    What about those areas where we have tried to intervene, from a UK perspective Helmand Province, can we pullback to campaign in more important areas? The eastern mountain valleys e.g. Korengal now appear to be a "valley too far".

    All from a faraway "armchair".

    davidbfpo
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-28-2009 at 08:24 PM. Reason: add link

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Our students at SAMS, who have been looking at the problem closely over the last 10 months, in coordination with planners on the ground, have seen the same problem and came to essentially the same conclusions that the McChrystal report came to. Were their own ideas to be implemented, the strategy would focus on winning in the villages by focusing development and building good governance at the local level in order to rebalance the role of local / tribal leadership with that of the central government.
    But the question remains, even if we plus up by 40k in additional to the 60k already there, is that enough to sustain a village-centric strategy?

    Can we build good governance at the local village level if we can't even get it in the cities? Shouldn't we try to build some capacity where the GiROA at least can recruit officials?

    I totally agree that we cannot just abandon the villages to Predators and Taliban, but if we can't at least secure Kandahar, what good is it to plant Marines in a few dozen Helmand villages?

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    We didn't give a @#$% about the villages before 9/11. Long as they don't attack America from there, I don't see why we should care about them now.

    The trick is to make sure AQ doesn't slip back in. But even if you occupy the villages, Astan is so vast and sparsely populated, you still have to figure out a way to make sure AQ doesn't use Astan as a base. Instead of top 10 cites, make it the top 100. What do we get for our increased investment and longer supply lines that can never be secured?
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 10-28-2009 at 10:08 PM.
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    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Default Some questions to CitadelSix

    Based on this:

    from CitSix
    Were their [Our students at SAMS] own ideas to be implemented, the strategy would focus on winning in the villages by focusing development and building good governance at the local level in order to rebalance the role of local / tribal leadership with that of the central government.
    1. What does their model of local governance look like ?

    2. What does their model of the local justice system look like (judges, prosecutors and police in the criminal sector; judges and "juries" - shuras & jirgas - in the civil sector) ?

    3. How does that model interface with the national government (at district, province and national levels) ?

    4. How does that model interface with local and regional "power people" (warlords in UnkindSpeak) ?

    5. Is this an "all or nothing" model (all being Astan's some 40,000 villages), or would a more modest approach be taken ? If the latter, what portions of Astan would be the better choices for implementation ? See this post in another thread for links to some possibly relevant maps.

    6. Who would implement the local governance model (e.g., military, civilian; e.g., US, Astanis - in what mix in this laudable political effort) ?

    Regards

    Mike

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    Default Good CSIS Conference

    Just came back from a really good conference from some of the best of the DC world.

    Schieffer Series: A Discussion of U.S. Policy in Afghanistan

    http://csis.org/event/schieffer-seri...cy-afghanistan

    Bob Schieffer (former CBS Anchor) moderated Bob Woodward, Kim Dozier, Anthony Cordesman, and Mariam Nawabi, and Afghan/American Broadcaster.

    Woodward and Dozier explained a lot of what they can glean from the President's deliberations. Most of what has been heard here, but with more background, details and play-by-play.

    Next, they got into background issues. Mr. Woodward was just back from Afghanistan and talked about the need for more police, if we are fighting a civil insurgency and domestic attacks. According to him, the number of police are declining while the need is growing. He also talked about the US past process of nine years, one year at a time.

    Ms. Nawabi talked about the background Afghan perspective, and the need for long-term development/capacity assistance. They need a relationship.

    All talked about the lack of effective Central government, and against that backdrop, what needs to happen on the civilian side.

    Universal criticism for the civilian effort as ineffective. Prof Cordesman does a roundhouses the problems at the end of the presentation: need to start from scratch with the civilian side.

    Ms. Dozier talked about the military audience response to the President's speech about taking his time before putting them in harm's way. She said the cheers that interrupted the speech were, for many, unexpected, but indicates that the military would rather he get it right than get it fast.

    Prof. Cordesman's roundhouse on the need to start from scratch with the civilian effort comes at the very end. Insightful for those who are interested in the non-kinetic side of things.

    Worth a listen if you want to get the DC perspective from some serious and studious insiders.

    Steve

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    Council Member S-2's Avatar
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    Default Demographics

    I've looked at the demographics a bit and if you add the sum total of Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Lashkar Gal, Herat, Konduz, and Mazur-I-Sharif, secure them (but for shabnamah) you will have have ceded to the taliban a vast in-country sanctuary along with most of the population of Afghanistan (and they AREN'T in the above cities) and made vulnerable the LOCs connecting these cities.

    Time to withdraw. We can't get there from here while saddled with allies whose objectives and operational tempos/methods aren't in full accord, NGOs and our own dysfunctional civilian side completely out of alignment, and an afghan government and army who we underwrite to achieve next to nothing. In eight years they've not affirmed the social contract between themselves and the afghan people. That's being TOO KIND in any case. They still won't in another eight.

    Reverse it? Don't kid yourselves. Train that army and you'll have a well-armed, well-trained bunch of brigands and hooligans six months after we leave.

    None of you will like this but pull out en toto now. Cancel all aid to the GoA and GoP. Embargo all purchases of Pakistani goods and services and ENCOURAGE the full take-over of Afghanistan by the afghan taliban and their A.Q. cronies.

    We in the west will be attacked, as sure as the sun rises in the east, by A.Q. More to the point, the afghan taliban and A.Q. will turn their tender ministrations upon Pakistan once the conquest of Afghanistan is complete.

    The P.A. will 1.) finally fight full-throttle for the lands they freely aborgated in late 2001-2002 and win, 2.) fight and lose, or 3.) cut a deal that embraces a new and more firmly-grounded irhabist vision for Pakistan.

    NOW return and exercise what it is we actually do quite well- the professional application of violence on a massive state scale to neuter their nukes. Do it right and they don't get a shot off at India. Do it wrong and they do where upon India finishes what we've began-the dismemberment of an utterly disfunctional Pakistani state.

    Then permit the KSA and the UAE to clean up the mess...or not as THEY see fit. Not our job.

    If anything has been learned in the last eight years it is that we are utterly incapable of nation building-not in Iraq and not in Afghanistan. Meanwhile we've conditioned the Pakistani gov't to believe it is OUR responsibility to underwrite their defense while their vaunted strike corps sits picking its noses on their eastern Punjabi border with India while knowing FULL WELL that India possesses NO irridentist ambitions within Pakistan.

    This is a condition of utter B.S. Count me as a deeply disillusioned neo-conservative who saw our window of opportunity close about as quickly as it opened and it's been all downhill from there leaving me now firmly in the neo-isolationist camp.

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

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    S-2:

    Just because you are right doesn't mean it is going to happen.

    So much of this stuff seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with circumstances on the ground (at least in Afghanistan).

    In the back of my mind in the "moving to the cities" option, whether implemented or threatened, was to put the marker down to say the US is not there as a national babysitter, or to build a "dream nation" in the far-far-away future.

    Cities is an obvious interim phased pull-back to get US troops off the line while sending a clear signal to the Afghan administration and people that it is time for tough decisions and engagement on their part. No?

    Isn't opening the door to a possible Taliban return the same as opening the door to a Najibullah-like experience for the current administration?

    Is that a good or bad outcome?

    One scenario suggests some bad actors would just stay until the last minute to soak up what they can before a fall, then, it's off to Dubai or Switzerland.

    Another might be that, once a US vacuum were threatened, any number of other actors might step in, for good or bad, but certainly to change the game. No?

    I am forever scanning for news stories on China, with its string of pearls of ports, and India pulling out the stops on Afghan reconstruction. Obviously, the Big Game is not just about Pakistan, nor one between the old Anglo-Russian players. I'll bet the scenario builders have their work cut out for them.

    Even under your scenario, regardless of its logic, how do they safely disengage other than by multiple steps over some months/years?

    I guess the question is: How?

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    Council Member S-2's Avatar
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    Default Steve The Planner Reply

    We share the same first name.

    "Just because you are right doesn't mean it is going to happen."
    Afghanistan isn't the problem. It isn't even the issue. We treat-very, very badly btw, the symptom which is Afghanistan.

    "how do they safely disengage other than by multiple steps over some months/years?"
    Which is it-months or years? If months, then proceed to disengage, safely or otherwise. It won't get better by your tacit admission that we are, indeed, brer rabbit stuck in the tar pit.

    Get out and allow events to accelerate to their natural state whereupon we've a viable set of targets that match objectives. Praying quietly to ourselves that just a few more dollars and a bit more patience will treat the symptom much less the cause is utter foolishness and simply feeds the think-tanks in D.C. with more fodder to toss their magic dust about.

    The results are there to see. The data's in. We've fcuked this up royally and it was premised badly from the get-go.

    Trust me that you'll be happier knowing that whatever money is spent down the road won't include down the drain with it...

    Thanks.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-30-2009 at 05:45 PM. Reason: use quote marks and not bold.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Sir,

    I endorsed the city option on the blog here. Also see discussion here. I think the conditions are different from the USSR example, and while informative, there are enough changes to the operational environment to make it feasable.

    The real question at the operational level comes as to where the most benefit can be gained with limited resources - and that is where the population is. I also have come to believe that there is little we can gain (in the short term) by self-fixing in the mountains with small amounts of troops unable to either secure the population effectively or patrol enough to create security.

    I follow the line of reasoning McCuen used in The Art of Counterguerrila Warfare - don't let the insurgents co-opt your base of support in the major cities while you chase insurgents in the bush to little effect - that's playing into his hands.

    As a second note welcome - there's a sizeable contingent of us at Fort Leavenworth, and we do get-togethers occasionally. PM me if you want to link up in the CGSC food court sometime.

    Niel
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    Default Cav Guy Reply

    "The real question at the operational level comes as to where the most benefit can be gained with limited resources - and that is where the population is."
    That's just not true. Add up the populations of those towns you intend to occupy to interminable and useless purpose and compare it to the C.I.A.'s latest and downsized estimate of the overall population. You'll find that the great majority of afghans will be somewhere other than those towns. Damn near guarantee it.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-30-2009 at 05:46 PM. Reason: Replace bold with quote marks. PM to author.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by S-2 View Post
    "The real question at the operational level comes as to where the most benefit can be gained with limited resources - and that is where the population is."

    That's just not true. Add up the populations of those towns you intend to occupy to interminable and useless purpose and compare it to the C.I.A.'s latest and downsized estimate of the overall population. You'll find that the great majority of afghans will be somewhere other than those towns. Damn near guarantee it.
    I didn't say it was the majority - and we don't have the forces for a decentralized strategy in every goatherder village in RC-S/RC-E. So what is your alternative?

    On the strategic cost/benefit of the whole mission, my thoughts mostly align with yours.
    "A Sherman can give you a very nice... edge."- Oddball, Kelly's Heroes
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    Council Member S-2's Avatar
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    Default Cav Guy Reply

    "So what is your alternative?"
    Pardon me but I thought I was clear-get out.

    Accept egg on our face, lick our wounds, and await the emergence of targets not requiring another Armitage moment.

    This, as constituted or any variation on a theme, is a failed enterprise of massive if not epic proportions. All our proposals from a "been there, done that" C.T. campaign up to an "ALL IN" are, in fact, those variations of this failed theme.

    I am here to tell you that you will not unfcuk STATE and the associated U.S. civil agencies anytime in this millenium. Nor shall our allies prove any more capable of altering mid-stream their own business-as-usual approaches. Absolutely won't see tangible results out of the GoA. EVER.

    We could put 1,000,000 troops in there and still find ourselves in-country two decades from now to no result and at great but pointless cost. Worse, we've target-fixation to the point that we'll likely auger in.

    Afghanistan's the wrong target and we need to dis-engage and clear the decks for the correct one.

    I KNEW this would go down badly with you scholar-warrior types. Y'all be looking to earn stars as the next Galula or Thompson and then go to work at CNAS.

    Get back in the business of slinging hardware instead of high falutin' words...
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-30-2009 at 05:47 PM. Reason: Replace bold with quote marks.
    "This aggression will not stand, man!" Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. "The Dude"

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    S-2:

    Isn't Brer Rabbit the only reason we are having these discussions in 2009? Nobody has figured out the solvent to get the tar off?

    Good to hear the "tortured" CIA population figures are finally coming into some kind of an alignment with reality. Just could never figure out the BS of 33 million. I guess it was critical to hyping the importance.

    Nice to hear that somebody is actually trying to add up the civilian implications of the Country as a whole, not just today's battlespace. Might help to understand your position more clearly.

    Steve

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    The solution of "nuke Pakistan" is not a solution, sorry.

    If we stayed in Afghanistan for the next fifty years with 40% of the Army and Marine Corps rotating in and out of there, it wouldn't be as costly as your prescription.

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    S-2:

    Thanks for the cite to the apologetically revised CIA Factbook.

    New estimate: 28,396,000, down from 33 million.

    I guess we now have almost five million less Afghan's to worry about.

    (Oh, the horror of how this might affect all the NGO contracts helping those now-departed five million phantom souls).

    Steve

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    New estimate: 28,396,000, down from 33 million.

    I guess we now have almost five million less Afghan's to worry about.

    (Oh, the horror of how this might affect all the NGO contracts helping those now-departed five million phantom souls).
    Don't worry--they will get a new contract to figure out how we "lost" 5 million and didn't know it

    Tom

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    Tom:

    You are so much wiser than me.

    Of course "the loss" will now be the subject of an aid package. What was I thinking?

    Actually, I can just imagine all the last minute edits that are going on right now for the President's briefs. All the metrics have to change by 17%.

    Steve

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    Default Tequila Reply

    1.) Your solution, whatever it really is, won't wash with our public. The problem there probably isn't the casualties we'll incur. We've been warned to expect as much. It is simply that we've the Thieu/Ky redux at play and the public ain't one bit HIP to that scene again. There's never been a social contract between this malformed GoA and its citizenry and our withdrawal into city cantonments won't offer such either.

    Without a viable host-nation, all else spins into pointless oblivion. Got hope for this next round of elections? I don't.

    2.) "NUKE" doesn't appear in the cards for Iran either but we've got SOMETHING in store if that goes south. Will we know with perfect clarity where Iran is at EXACTLY if and when? I doubt it so Riyadh disappearing will factor into THAT calculus.

    In anycase, our withdrawal doesn't mean that there must be war with Pakistan if you read closely my thoughts. They will be attacked from Afghanistan. That will happen because the day we leave, Karzai will swing just like Najibullah. After that, you can expect a reprise of the 1991-1996 civil war.

    After THAT, you can expect ummahness, salafi/wahabbi/deobandi brotherhood, and a planned name change to the Islamic Emirate of Greater Pakistan.

    Whether the P.A. fights and wins, fights and loses, or cuts an irhabist-inclined deal will determine what follows next. Let it be on PAKISTAN's dime, though, if only to clarify their thinking on this matter. For what else is the world's seventh largest army if not the defense of their country?

    I'm sure we'll be watching with great interest as will Russia, the PRC, and (most of all) India.

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

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