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Thread: Vietnam 1963 and Afghanistan 2010

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Vietnam 1963 and Afghanistan 2010

    Interesting commentary. (H/T Dave Maxwell)

    Outside View: Vietnam 1963 and Afghanistan 2010
    Published: Feb. 11, 2010 at 12:44 PM
    By LAWRENCE SELLIN, UPI Outside View Commentator


    HELSINKI, Finland, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- According to a strategic assessment of security operations in Afghanistan prepared by U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey (Ret.) on Dec 9, 2009, the Taliban believe they are winning.

    Additionally, the Afghan people do not know whether the current government or the Taliban will prevail. The population, particularly the majority Pashtuns, are hedging their bets. Most Afghans are dismayed by the injustice and corruption of the central government, in particular, the Afghan National Police, McCaffrey said.

    Such observations follow closely those of U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his Aug. 30, 2009, report: "Many indicators suggest the overall situation is deteriorating. We face not only a resilient and growing insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among Afghans -- in both their government -- and the international community -- that undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents. Further, a perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents."

    The National Intelligence Estimate 53-63 "Prospects in South Vietnam" submitted by the director of Central Intelligence and dated April 17, 1963, contains the following paragraph:

    "South Vietnam was and remains highly vulnerable to rural terrorism and guerrilla warfare. Its people have no tradition of loyalty to a government in Saigon. The Vietnamese peasant has always accommodated himself to whatever force was the best able to protect or to punish him -- or offer him a vision, however illusionary, of a better life. The 'government' meant the local officials with whom he was in contact, many of whom tended to be ineffective and often venal. Various forms of minor corruption and petty bureaucratic tyranny have long been rife in the provinces and the offenders were seldom disciplined by their superiors. Most peasants are primarily interested in peace and do not care who wins the military victories. Security is significant to the peasant largely in terms of how it affects him personally."

    According to McCaffrey's report, the Taliban are politically rejected by nearly the entire non-Pashtun population and command support of only 6 percent even among their brother Pashtuns. Nevertheless, the Taliban are believed to have organized shadow governments in 33 of 34 Afghan provinces under the umbrella of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan....
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 02-15-2010 at 01:07 PM.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    This article doesn't offer much in terms of alternatives...

    This, I believe is a very accurate statement:

    "Additionally, the Afghan people do not know whether the current government or the Taliban will prevail. The population, particularly the majority Pashtuns, are hedging their bets. Most Afghans are dismayed by the injustice and corruption of the central government, in particular, the Afghan National Police, McCaffrey said."

    This however, while true, is also rediculous. It is like saying that "The Confederacy, unlike the Union, has developed a much better understanding of the people living in the south." Well no kidding. The Taliban aren't from Mars, they are FROM the tribes and villages of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    "In contrast to the United States, the Taliban have gained a better understanding of Afghan tribes, the relationships among tribes and their bases of local authority and legitimacy. The Taliban have succeeded both by undermining and leveraging Afghan tribal structures and grievances."


    I missed the part where a smarter, alternative concept for moving forward was offered...
    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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    Hmmm. I wonder how well the author understands Afghanistan. People well acquainted with Afghan culture were coming out of the woodwork to smack down Gant's piece on tribes, yet this article claims that the "Taliban have succeeded both by undermining and leveraging Afghan tribal structures and grievances." It this accurate?

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I read it right after it was posted.

    Read it again after dinner. Just read it a third time.

    What's his point? If this it:
    "...McCaffrey noted that "this will inevitably become a 3-to-10 year strategy to build a viable Afghan state with their own security force that can allow us to withdraw. It may well cost us an additional $300 billion and we are likely to suffer thousands more U.S. casualties." "
    Is that supposed to be news?

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Strikes me as yet another (mostly) useless attempt to compare Afghanistan to Vietnam. I wish these people would find something else to do....
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Hmmm. I wonder how well the author understands Afghanistan. People well acquainted with Afghan culture were coming out of the woodwork to smack down Gant's piece on tribes, yet this article claims that the "Taliban have succeeded both by undermining and leveraging Afghan tribal structures and grievances." It this accurate?
    I think it's accurate, but sometimes it hard to tell because "Tribes" like "Taliban" is often used as an imprecise, generic catch-all term. Tribal structures exist, it's just that they aren't the powerful determinant of individual identity they are elsewhere. They aren't "political units that act collectively" to use the term as academics do.

    It also depends on what specific area one is talking about. Generalizing about Afghanistan (which these reports inevitably do) is bad because there is so much local variability. There are areas in the south and east that did have fairly strong tribal structures as recently as the 1980's, but a combination of factors weakened them considerably. I think the main point the academics make in regard to tribes and the Gant paper is that you can't simply win over a single tribal "chief" or shura and expect tribal loyalty to bring everyone else on board. Even so, familial relationships are still very important in Afghanistan, particularly among Pashtuns.

    Getting back to the specific quote, I think it's accurate because the Taliban do operate based on local conditions. They do try to use tribal identity, where it exists, to their advantage, yet they're also willing to cut off a few heads if the local elder/mullah/whatever doesn't play ball. The overall effect is that tribal structures are weakened, but this is hardly new, nor is it any great insight - which pretty much describes the report as a whole. McCaffrey strikes me as one of those people whose spent the last several years focused exclusively on Iraq and is now jumping in on Afghanistan without really examining how we got here.

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    The Taliban are locals (well, ok, here if you are from 10 miles away you are a foreigner) but people talk of the Taliban as if they are not also men who are born and raised Pashtun members of this society. To be a Talib is a political leaning at the top, and mostly just a "don't like foreigners invading my country and I get paid to kill them" at the bottom. Yes, they understand their own culture.
    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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    Re: comparing VN to Afghan---Sure, you've got to be perceived as the likely winner before the people will bet their lives on you--Isn't that a given in any insurgency?

    In General, strikes me the differences well outweigh the similarities, even on a fundamental trait, viz., the eagerness of a Pushtun to pick up a gun to shoot the foreigners...

    An SWJED post on the reissue of the book prompted a reread of my 1972edition of Race's War Comes to Long An. Usually overlooked is Race's finding that nationalism was not innately prevalent among Long An people at a virulent, politically useful level. Evidence is presented that "the Party" used resentment against the feudal landlords to mobilize the peasantry, and only subsequently inculcated in them the necessary nationalist, anti-imperialist sentiment. Concern with local societal inequities was the motivator, according to Race, with nationalism posing not quite the inexorable, primal force axiomatically arrayed against a foreign presence. Mirrors my own, anecdotal observation of a comparative absence of such xenophobia in the true Southerners, i.e., natives of the greater, cultural Mekong Delta...[Aside: In this, as in other cultural traits, there are significant differences among South, Central and North Vietnamese.]

    Cheers,
    Mike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    here if you are from 10 miles away you are a foreigner
    Given this, I have to wonder whether our emphasis on trying to build centralized government in Afghanistan is appropriate to circumstances.

    I'd be curious to hear about this from people who are more familiar with Afghanistan than I: in general, how do local attitudes toward foreign forces from abroad (generally US) compare to local attitudes toward "foreign" forces from Kabul?

    I ask because in the southern Philippines the general opinion of US forces is much better than that accorded to Philippine military forces, mainly because the latter have a (deserved) reputation for corruption and abusive behavior.

    How does this equation work in Afghanistan? In many US minds areas under the control of Afghan forces are considered locally controlled... but in local eyes, would turning an area over to the ANA merely be replacing one set of foreigners with another, very likely a less disciplined and less efficient group?

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    Default Col Sellin's articles

    If you search "Sellin" on the UPI site www.upi.com, you will get a better understanding of his overall views, some of which you may agree, others not. He is a supporter of Gant-like approaches.

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