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Old 11-10-2011   #1101
davidbfpo
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Smile Imperial reminder

There is a 2011 thread 'End of Empires: who and what was responsible? (post WW2)', which has gone over the issues of imperial demise:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=13335

Ray,

You may enjoy that thread, especially after reading your last couple of posts on Indian feelings towards the "old country".
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Old 11-10-2011   #1102
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JMM

He was the original -either you are with us or against us man!

We had just emerged from many years of suppression - Islamic and British and we wanted no more!
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Old 11-10-2011   #1103
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There is a 2011 thread 'End of Empires: who and what was responsible? (post WW2)', which has gone over the issues of imperial demise:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ad.php?t=13335

Ray,

You may enjoy that thread, especially after reading your last couple of posts on Indian feelings towards the "old country".
Thanks.

I just had a quick look.

Too many heavyweights around and so it will require time lest they misunderstand what I am saying as some are doing already!
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Old 11-10-2011   #1104
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Bob:

You are rapidly becoming my hero.
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US AID does development, and as an institution they (not surprisingly) tend to see effectiveness and development as paths to stability.

US State does governance, and not surprisingly, they tend to see democracy and rule of law as paths to stability.

US Defense does security, and not surprisingly, they tend to see reduction of threats and clearing of secure space as the path to stability.

"3D" proponents typically say "no, you must do all of these in concert, and they one achieves stability."

All of this scratches at the obvious symptoms of the problem, and may well create some temporary window of stability, and may even facilitate over long hard effort actual progress to be made in a very indirect, "even a blind squirrel finds a nut" kind of way.

But at some point the West will need to set the lessons of "how to sustain a colony" aside as the basis for COIN doctrine and look instead to "why colonized people revolt and how to avoid creating, or if created, best repair such conditions."
The core problem is the failed "Failed State" construct that has been undermining our efforts in these places for years.

If only the plumber can fix the toilet, the divorce will not happen.

These are real people in these places who, like Ken suggested, have their own way of doing things.

We are a foreign power, and always viewed as such, whether for good or bad.

We overwhelm domestic government and its legitimate connections, whether intentionally or inadvertently, by our presence, force and wealth.

The entity and theory that is lacking is one that can understand and influence relevant changes in the areas that legitimately concern us---whether by force (at times) or more subtly.

Our current approaches have been less than effective, and a new theory of effective non-US engagement has yet to emerge---probably drowned out by the bureaucratic dominance of the debate by the parties that have been mis-assigned to the tasks, and lack any effective tools and theories.

The legitimate debates are place and people specific, and there are no one size fits all external models.

It is just hard.
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Old 11-11-2011   #1105
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Default What he is saying ...

has much materiality to this thread - Finding Petraeusism in Naglandia (heavily annotated with 58 footnotes); and subtitled "The U.S. Military’s Hyper-American “Can-do” Spirit and Utopian Ideals Found in Afghanistan". The subtitle pins too much blame on the military. It could be reduced to "The Hyper-American “Can-do” Spirit and Utopian Ideals Found in Afghanistan".

The author's (Anon's) BLUF:

Quote:
We can’t turn Afghanistan into a progressive European-like society. We shouldn’t build an exact replica of our own Army for them, and we shouldn’t attempt to establish a Western-style police force. We definitely don’t need to be fighting their insurgents for them. Let’s train some of their army and police as the local conditions merit for a few years, and that’s all. We can concentrate the rest of our power in that region towards Pakistan, knowing that we’ll have to play a little dirty, build up our intelligence capabilities and grow some more diplomats. And we can still be “population-centric”, but let us redefine that to mean that we understand the people better, not that we are attempting to protect them from something they might not wish to be protected from even if some of them sometimes say they want to be. Surely we must be as unconventionally savvy in our thinking and dealings with people in an unconventional environment as we talk about needing to be in a tactical manner. In other words, instead of trying to get everyone to enjoy cookies and milk while watching Leave it to Beaver, let’s play some poker.
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Old 11-11-2011   #1106
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The only thing worse than the current Northern Alliance government or the previous Taliban government to the future stability of Afghanistan would be to force upon them some highly Westernized concept of governance and expect it to work.

The Taliban government was in synch with a portion of the populace, so had stability with them, but was out of synch with an equally large portion of the populace is so significant of a way that that portion felt compelled to fight for change. It was a stalemate.

The Northern alliance government of today is equally in synch with one portion of the populace (though one sees fractures within the Northern Alliance as well...) so has stability with them, but is so out of synch with the still equally large segment of the populace that supported the Taliban government so the fight continues.

(A side lesson the US should learn from this is that it was relatively easy to conduct UW to tip the balance of power and enable the challenging party to prevail with relatively low cost, small numbers, over short time; but that when that new solution is every bit as out of synch with the populace as what it replaced that virtually NO amount of money, troops, or time can force a true stability where the situation is inherently out of balance.

The only true path to stability is for a new government to form that merges and balances the equities of the entire populace. GIRoA has no interest in such compromise, and has no necessity to act so long as we subsidize and protect their failure to do so.

We have two choices.

1. Stay and force such compromise and drive a reconciliation process and the formation of a new constitution that creates the mechanisms of trust required for such a reconciliation to work. (This shifts the impossible task from the military back to the civil aspects of our intervention where it has always belonged);

or

2. We simply recognize that we really have few interests in the region, and even fewer risks of any real threat from the region, and pack up and leave an let a self-determined naturally selected process take its course. (Yes, of course Iran and Pakistan would employ agents to shape events, why would they do otherwise?)

But to simply stay and attempt to force the illogical, the inappropriate and the impossible is not our best course. We have fallen prey to a false perspective of the nature of the problem and the risks due to the flawed context in which we view the situation.

Either solution would have to be tempered to the will and culture of the collective populace, so would not look much like any form of modern Western democracy, and to attempt to make it such only creates new and equally dangerous conditions of instability. This must be a government designed for this complex populace, not one designed for ours. We have no corner on what "right" looks like, and in fact the secret of our success is that we designed a system that the populace could continually tweak or kick the government as necessary to where they wanted it to go. Where we are now is ok for us (though many Americans are ready to give the system another kick or two), but is highly unlikely to be right for anyone else.

We need to change our context for how we view the "problem" of Afghanistan first, and then the rest will follow.
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Old 11-11-2011   #1107
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Posted by Bob's World,

Quote:
(A side lesson the US should learn from this is that it was relatively easy to conduct UW to tip the balance of power and enable the challenging party to prevail with relatively low cost, small numbers, over short time; but that when that new solution is every bit as out of synch with the populace as what it replaced that virtually NO amount of money, troops, or time can force a true stability where the situation is inherently out of balance
.

I disagree that it was UW that overthrew the Taliban, you had two rather conventional armies (who weren't well dressed) with well established battle lines. The fight that ousted the Taliban was largely conventional (a war of movement) enabled by SF and the CIA who integrated know how, $$$, and technology in way that quickly tipped the odds in favor of the NA. The UW campaign started after that, and we weren't the ones doing it, Pakistan was and is.

None the less the jist of your argument is true, which is why real UW just like conventional war must begin with the end in mind, and the plan must support achieving that the political end. Victory on the battlefield is always good, but never sufficient. We had the same problem in Iraq, where were blinded by our battlefield victory euphoria, and then quickly realized that those were only battle victories, not strategic victories. We didn't do much better in Latin America with all the regime changes we facilitated there, but at least we didn't commit conventional troops, which almost always leads to a quagmire, since it is a very hard political decision to pull conventional forces out and accept less than a win.

Of course one would hope that "end state, or desired state" were trying to get to is based on a realistic assessment of the society we're impacting, and that we're not stupid enough to impose a completely foreign system upon them. We should also consider if it is really in our interest to change a regime versus detering specific behaviors (when possible). All water under the bridge now for the current fight, but hopefully we have learned the right lessons for the future.
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Old 11-11-2011   #1108
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It's never too late to kill a bad program, and it's never to late to abandon a failed strategy.

That's a sign that needs to be posted over the main entrance at the Pentagon.
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"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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Old 11-13-2011   #1109
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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
The only true path to stability is for a new government to form that merges and balances the equities of the entire populace. GIRoA has no interest in such compromise, and has no necessity to act so long as we subsidize and protect their failure to do so.
Worth noting that the Taliban also have no interest in compromise. Even if we stop subsidizing and protecting the GIRoA, compromise is unlikely at best: neither side is interested and there's nothing even close to a level of trust that would support compromise.

At this point the interests of the various components of the populace are probably too divergent to merge. It's not a question of finding some magic formula of balance: the parties involved have to reach a point where they see some basis for compromise. That process will involve violence, probably a lot of it. It's true that a path to stability would involve either dissolution into more sustainable parts or the emergence of some more inclusive mechanism, but either would have to emerge through a fair bit of evolution. No way to impose a deus ex machina solution.

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We have two choices.

1. Stay and force such compromise and drive a reconciliation process and the formation of a new constitution that creates the mechanisms of trust required for such a reconciliation to work. (This shifts the impossible task from the military back to the civil aspects of our intervention where it has always belonged);
That's a very hypothetical choice, since we have no way to force compromise or reconciliation, and even if we did any compromise or reconciliation that we forced would be artificial and unsustainable. The "impossible task" would remain impossible, and "the civil aspects of our intervention", which are in no position to "force" anything, are no better equipped to do the impossible than the military ones.

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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
or

2. We simply recognize that we really have few interests in the region, and even fewer risks of any real threat from the region, and pack up and leave an let a self-determined naturally selected process take its course. (Yes, of course Iran and Pakistan would employ agents to shape events, why would they do otherwise?)
True enough, though we do have to recognize that the Taliban and their Pakistani backers have to a large extent adopted a global Islamist narrative: they aren't just good nationalists that are being worked. It is very likely that they will end up supporting and protecting people who want to kill Americans. That's not necessarily a reason to stay, just means there's a good chance we'll have to do it all again, hopefully smarter.

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Either solution would have to be tempered to the will and culture of the collective populace
Wouldn't that automatically exclude any attempt to force compromise and reconciliation?

What's a "collective populace"?

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This must be a government designed for this complex populace, not one designed for ours.
Again, the use of "this complex populace" imposes the construct of a singular populace, which is a distortion from the start.

I don't think anyone could possibly "design" a government for anyone else's populaces. I doubt that even the populaces involved could design one at this point. It has to evolve, not to be designed, and that evolutionary process isn't going to be pretty. Best we find ways to stay out of it.
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Old 11-13-2011   #1110
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Posted by Dayuhan,

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True enough, though we do have to recognize that the Taliban and their Pakistani backers have to a large extent adopted a global Islamist narrative: they aren't just good nationalists that are being worked. It is very likely that they will end up supporting and protecting people who want to kill Americans. That's not necessarily a reason to stay, just means there's a good chance we'll have to do it all again, hopefully smarter.
Agree with the jist of your comment, but what exactly will we have to do all over again?

First, we're not leaving, we're downsizing/rightsizing, but I guess you could make the same argument that we said that about Vietnam also.

I still don't think we'll have to occupy the nation again, we may very well have to conduct large scale raids to wipe out terrorist nests if they're stupid enough to consolidate forces. That is a lot cheaper and more effective than trying to change a society, an activity that seems to be generating as much resentment towards us as good will.
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Old 11-13-2011   #1111
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Agree with the jist of your comment, but what exactly will we have to do all over again?

First, we're not leaving, we're downsizing/rightsizing, but I guess you could make the same argument that we said that about Vietnam also.
That was a response to Bob's World's option #2:

Quote:
We simply recognize that we really have few interests in the region, and even fewer risks of any real threat from the region, and pack up and leave an let a self-determined naturally selected process take its course.
I meant to suggest that if we follow that course there's a good chance we'll find ourselves responding to a similar provocation in the future.

I see downsizing/rightsizing as a prelude to leaving: the basic problem of propping up a government that can neither govern nor stand on its own doesn't seem likely to change with downsizing.

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I still don't think we'll have to occupy the nation again, we may very well have to conduct large scale raids to wipe out terrorist nests if they're stupid enough to consolidate forces. That is a lot cheaper and more effective than trying to change a society, an activity that seems to be generating as much resentment towards us as good will.
That's about what I meant by "doing it smarter".
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Old 11-26-2011   #1112
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During a search for the posts on the Dutch role I found this thread: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ighlight=dutch


I have just finished reading those two pages of posts and linked-in articles. Stunning...just plain stunning, when one looks at the proclamations five years ago, and what has transpired since then. I know it's a lot more than just this quote, but reading this takes me way back, to a time when I was just coming off my second Iraq deploy and thinking about my third. Afghanistan was a distant blip on my radar. And then, there it was.

Quote:
NATO's commander here has set a six-month deadline to reverse a Taliban insurgency terrorizing southern Afghanistan or risk alienating Afghans undecided about whom to support.

British army Lt. Gen. David Richards said his troops must prove to Afghans in the south that the fundamentalist Islamic militia won't be able to undermine the democratically elected Afghan government or stop efforts to rebuild the shattered country.

Only 10% of the south's population supports the Taliban, Richards said, citing Afghan government surveys. In an interview, he said 70% won't declare their loyalty until they “see which side will win. They can't wait forever. We've got to show them we will win.”

Nearly five years after a U.S.-led campaign ousted the Taliban government that had sheltered al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Richards' troops have launched “Operation Medusa” in Panjwayi district in Kandahar province. The campaign aims to quell the Taliban's aggressive new offensive. NATO reported that more than 200 Taliban fighters were killed in the first two days of Medusa, which began Saturday.

The fighting also has brought NATO casualties. Monday, two U.S. warplanes mistakenly strafed NATO troops in Panjwayi district. A Canadian soldier was killed, said Maj. Scott Lundy, a NATO spokesman. A British soldier was killed in a suicide bombing in Kabul, the British Defense Ministry said. More than 130 NATO and coalition troops have died this year, the Associated Press reported, more than in all of 2005.

NATO took over responsibility for southern Afghanistan from the United States on July 31. As early as this month, NATO will take over for the U.S.-led multinational coalition in eastern Afghanistan...
This ties in to the recent postings about the grim NIE, and I think we'd all stand to gain something from re-educating ourselves about what was going on during the 2006-2008 window.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-26-2011 at 05:06 PM. Reason: Copied to here and then edited to fit this thread.
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Old 11-26-2011   #1113
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This ties in to the recent postings about the grim NIE, and I think we'd all stand to gain something from re-educating ourselves about what was going on during the 2006-2008 window.
While I am generally negative towards our strategy or lack of one for Afghanistan, there is still a possibility that we'll eventually stumble into something that looks like success over time (assuming we lower our ambitions on what success means). We're not the only ones subject to exhaustion. We're not leaving in 2014, we're just pulling out most of the conventional combat forces, which may allow us be successful (or more accurately allow the Afghans to be successful). We'll still be pumping money in, training Afghan security forces, and special operations will still be putting pressure on the Taliban until we get tired, and since that is affordable option it may last a while.

The Taliban must be confused about all this, at least the senior ones. In the mid 90s we reached out to them. I doubt that we liked them, but they were useful partners to pressure Iran and for suppressing the narcotics trade. And reportedly supported a joint U.S./Saudi venture to develop a pipeline there. I can see why Pakistan feels betrayed, but even they should understand that 9/11 changed everything, but it does seem like we may over conflated the Taliban with Al Qaeda. Providing protection is not the same as supporting transnational terrorist activity. None the less, 10 plus years later everything has changed, and if they weren't a direct enemy before (rather just a friend of our enemy) they definitely are now.

If we live long enough, and get to read a more dispassionate and accurate history of this war decades down the road it may start making sense. I'm not sure there were any particular turning points during our war, I think they happened prior to the war.
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Old 11-26-2011   #1114
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If we live long enough, and get to read a more dispassionate and accurate history of this war decades down the road it may start making sense. I'm not sure there were any particular turning points during our war, I think they happened prior to the war.
I don't think we are going to gain a more accurate appreciation down the road, but rather revisionism, slanted to support politics, ego, and to protect folks' necks.

We gained a more nuanced understanding of Vietnam through the Pentagon Papers and other reams of classified paperwork from the war years. The history is more delicate and fragile nowadays. The number of operation orders, emails, and briefings hanging out on classified servers is mind-boggling, and chunks of it get lost every day. Blow an external teradrive or two, and three years and five unit rotations are gone like so many candles blown out.

Some serious questions need to be asked though, about what could have been if NATO wasn't forced to slug it out pretty much on its own for so long, and we had simply committed the forces earlier, or said to hell with troop ceilings, or had a totally different approach once Karzai's aims came into focus.

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Old 11-28-2011   #1115
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Originally Posted by jcustis View Post
During a search for the posts on the Dutch role I found this thread: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ighlight=dutch


I have just finished reading those two pages of posts and linked-in articles. Stunning...just plain stunning, when one looks at the proclamations five years ago, and what has transpired since then. I know it's a lot more than just this quote, but reading this takes me way back, to a time when I was just coming off my second Iraq deploy and thinking about my third. Afghanistan was a distant blip on my radar. And then, there it was.



This ties in to the recent postings about the grim NIE, and I think we'd all stand to gain something from re-educating ourselves about what was going on during the 2006-2008 window.
Welcome to my world. Afghanistan has always been my theater and my cynicism is fueled by the strong sense that Afghanistan policy is just like the movie "Groundhog Day" except we don't get a clean start at each iteration yet we still forget everything we've done before.
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Old 12-02-2011   #1116
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A short comment on KoW blog by a Human Terrain analyst who has been in Helmand Province for the Spring and Summer, which opens with:
Quote:
I spent my spring and summer in southern Helmand conducting research. The population’s prescience was unnerving.

Right or wrong, unfounded or founded, the locals overwhelmingly saw the war with the Taliban as yet to come. The tired and sometimes clumsy argument in London and Washington that the Taliban will pour over the Afghan borders upon NATO withdrawal is alive and well around the town centers, wells, and mosques of Marjah and Garmsir. The locals truly believe that Pakistani Taliban—madrassa students and patient trainees ready to die—will storm across NATO-built highways in civilian trucks wave after wave, undaunted by death.
Which ends with:
Quote:
...NATO should focus precious assets on countering-radicalisation to stave off the effects of impending Taliban expansion. Empower indigenous resiliencies. The ideological Taliban will probably return again strongly. Afghans at every level of society—not just in the security services—must be ready.
Link:http://icsr.info/blog/Counter-Radica...he-War-to-Come

From this faraway armchair I do wonder if the legend or customary dislike of all Pakistanis by Afghans has changed. Secondly, whatever local or national security forces are in place say by 2014 they will carefully observe which "way the wind is blowing" and decide what they will do. Empowering indigenous resiliencies could be very temporary.
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Old 01-13-2012   #1117
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Here is one of the way to win:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVuI4A1ka6U

Sanjit 'Bunker' Roy (born 2 August 1945) is an Indian social activist and educator. In 1972 he founded the Barefoot college in Tilonia, Rajasthan. The Indian non-governmental organization was registered as the Social Work and Research Centre.

Bunker Roy was born in Burnpur Bengal, present-day West Bengal. His father was a mechanical engineer and his mother retired as India's trade commissioner to Russia.

He went to the Doon School from 1956 to 1962 and attended St. Stephen's College, Delhi from 1962 to 1967. Both institutes are the Ivy League of India.

He earned his master's degree in English. He then decided to devote himself to social service, to the shock of his parents.

He has trained Aghan and even African illiterate women to electrify their villages with solar energy and other village help amenities!

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Old 01-13-2012   #1118
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Default The US has no "dishonor" in the failures of Mr. Karzai and his government

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JMM.

The US was never an imperialist power.

In fact, the US supported Indian Independence Movement and showcased it to the extent feasible!

This is known to all Indians, including the rural illiterates!

That is why we feel sorry that there was a man called John Foster Dulles, who soured our admiration for the US.

Thank God, it is history and we are back to admiring the US! We share the agony every time the US falters.

Quit Afghanistan, if you can do nothing about it.

But quit with Honour.

No second Vietnam.

No second superpower defeated by the soldiers of Islam!

This is not a US war. Sure, we were the power that put the Northern Alliance on top of the heap, and yes, sadly we have dedicated ourselves for over a decade to artificially sustain them there. But the failure to evolve and extend governance to those vanquished belongs to the Government of Afghanistan.

Not only has the Government of Afghanistan proven itself to be a complete failure at doing anything other than working to protect their Northern Alliance monopoly, they have made no effort to do so and are rather shameless in that fact. This is an "all or nothing" culture, and currently they are the ones that have it all and are quite happy to have ISAF out holding off the rest of the populace while paying GIRoA Billions for the opportunity to do so.

The US has many reasons to feel stupid for the past 10 years, but no reason to feel "defeated."
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Old 01-19-2012   #1119
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Default Cordesman concludes it'll be a muddle

I found this CSIS analyst's report via the Lowy Institute, it is rather a long read and so I went to the concluding paragraph:
Quote:
In short, the most probable result of result of “transition” will not be what some US policymakers have come to call “Afghan Good Enough” – a stable democratic state -- nor will it be a stable Pakistan. It will be an unstable form of “Afghan Muddle Through,” coupled to an unstable Pakistan still driven largely by its internal problems and tensions with India.
Link:http://csis.org/publication/transiti...w-does-war-end
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Old 01-20-2012   #1120
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Default All of which many predicted...

Ten and more years ago. Surprise, surprise...

(I think Rudyard Kipling sort of predicted it even earlier... )
Ken White is offline   Reply With Quote
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