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Old 07-30-2008   #1
jkm_101_fso
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Default Afghanistan troop surge could backfire, experts warn

Can our AFG vets lend any credibility to this?

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Deploying additional forces could backfire, however, if the United States and its allies don't devise a coherent strategy to defeat the Taliban insurgency, strengthen the Afghan government, bolster the country's economy and deprive Islamic militants of their safe haven in neighboring Pakistan.

The calls for reinforcing the U.S.-led military coalition come amid the worst violence since the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, with the 7-year-old ''forgotten war'' in May and June claiming more U.S. dead than Iraq for the first time.

More foreign troops, however, would do little more than turn more war-weary Afghans against U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai if they are not part of a broader and more effective counterinsurgency strategy, some experts and U.S. officials warned.

"There is not one strategy with one person in charge,'' said a U.S. defense official, who requested anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly. "If we had asked the Taliban to draw an organizational chart for allied forces in Afghanistan, they would have drawn this one."

As a result, U.S. and NATO troop have had to cede areas to the insurgents or turn over newly reclaimed territory to poorly trained, ill-equipped and illiterate police who often flee when attacked, are in cahoots with the militants or abuse the local population.

''You win every battle but lose the war because you can't hold any ground,'' said John McCreary, a former senior intelligence analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The U.S.-led coalition is also desperately short of soldiers who can mentor Afghan National Police units. An estimated 3,500 more advisors are needed to live and work with newly trained police units.

Another looming requirement is for more experienced U.S. combat troops to deal with what U.S. commanders think may be an influx of foreign militants who might have otherwise gone to Iraq.
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/world/story/619363.html
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Old 07-30-2008   #2
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Default Duh

From the article --
"Deploying additional forces could backfire, however, if the United States and its allies don't devise a coherent strategy to defeat the Taliban insurgency, strengthen the Afghan government, bolster the country's economy and deprive Islamic militants of their safe haven in neighboring Pakistan."

Spent a tour as an advisor at the ministerial level.

Deploying forces without a strategy "could" backfire -- how 'bout WILL backfire. Killing Taliban cannot solve the problems of Afghanistan. Think I ought to get paid for that deep insight.

Sorry for the rant. Yes, the solution has to be holistic. We need to do better. A better wrap up of the challenges is at CSIS by Tony Cordesman.
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Old 07-30-2008   #3
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Default Holistic approach should include more troops

Clearly an increased international effort that uses all instruments of national power is in order for Afghanistan. And reading political tea leaves, I would suggest the increased effort is in the works. The effort cannot be divorced from increased resouces of all types. Thus, leaders working in Afghanistan need more capability which can be provided in part by more Soldiers, Airmen and Marines from our country and others. Speaking from experience, many operations (if not most) are being run on a shoestring. I too am wary of the idea that the "surge" that worked in Iraq should easily work in Afghanistan. However, a "surge" at this point would merely add forces that are sorely needed for a baseline effort.
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Old 07-30-2008   #4
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Think I ought to get paid for that deep insight.
Paid to think? You work at Leavenworth. Back on your head...
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Old 07-30-2008   #5
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Originally Posted by DaveDoyle View Post
Clearly an increased international effort that uses all instruments of national power is in order for Afghanistan. And reading political tea leaves, I would suggest the increased effort is in the works. The effort cannot be divorced from increased resouces of all types. Thus, leaders working in Afghanistan need more capability which can be provided in part by more Soldiers, Airmen and Marines from our country and others. Speaking from experience, many operations (if not most) are being run on a shoestring. I too am wary of the idea that the "surge" that worked in Iraq should easily work in Afghanistan. However, a "surge" at this point would merely add forces that are sorely needed for a baseline effort.
Amen. Afghanistan has one-third the number of troops that are currently in Iraq - if you count all nations, some of which are doing very little to contribute to success. And they were short of everything from UAVs to artillery to helicopters. To give you some idea of the scale, when I was there in 06-07, there was the rough equivalent of an MP battalion, several infantry companies, and some SF trying to interdict the Afghan-Pakistani border. This incredibly rugged border, if placed in the United States, would stretch from Chicago to somewhere near Memphis.

So - absolutely right we are strategically bankrupt in Afghanistan; it certainly would make sense to have a plan for using any additional forces we send over there. But there is no conceivable plan that would work given the current troop levels. We need both a plan and the troops.
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Old 07-30-2008   #6
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We need both a plan and the troops.
Yes and the plan must eliminate - or at least severely curtail - sanctuary in Pakistan. One of the keys to defeating insurgencies is to remove their ability to control their loss rate and you can't do that if they can hide in Pakistan.
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Old 07-30-2008   #7
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perhaps with Gen Petraeus taking over as the head of CENTCOM there will start to be a broader plan for how to deal with the resurgent terrorists similar to his actions as head of the 101st and commander of Multi-National forces
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Old 07-30-2008   #8
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No plan for Afghanistan will work without unity of command: so forget NATO, start pushing its command structure into the margins (preferably into Kabul and its environs, and tell the UN to move over and make room there); and give exclusive control of all US and willing non-US forces (there won't be many, so at least there might be a minimum of friction in that regard) to a single U.S. command with authority for all of Afghanistan. But stick with NATO and the present command structure, and everything that follows is throwing good after bad.
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Old 07-31-2008   #9
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The problem, IMO, is a lack of coherent and achievable strategic goals in Afghanistan borne of a fundamental misunderstanding of the region.

Let's assume for a minute the Afghan government becomes relatively enduring and stable and that a large, capable and mostly self-sufficient National Army is created. At that point, Afghanistan will be the rough equivalent of where Pakistan is today. And just like Pakistan, it will be incapable of controlling large swaths of its own territory. And getting to that point (stable government, national Army) is a long way off if it happens at all.
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Old 07-31-2008   #10
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Default Keep things in perspective

Of course we need a coherent strategy. As for the other subject, increasing troop levels (for which I have argued for half a year at my place) and killing Taliban will fix the problems with the Taliban.

I am not so worried about the overall problems with Afghanistan. We cannot construct an electrical grid there when our own bridges are collapsing and our infrastructure needs tending to.

Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries on earth, and 90% Muslim, but without any of the religious radicalism. Poverty doesn't create religious radicalism. That's just a myth.

I am all for trying to bring stability to Afghanistan and spending the resources to do so, but there is a limit to what we are able to accomplish there. Besides, we could spend until we ourselves were broke, and without ending the religious extremism, all we will have created will be rich religious extremists.

Last edited by Danny; 07-31-2008 at 03:15 AM. Reason: Posted without completing ...
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Old 07-31-2008   #11
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Of course we need a coherent strategy. As for the other subject, increasing troop levels (for which I have argued for half a year at my place) and killing Taliban will fix the problems with the Taliban.

I am not so worried about the overall problems with Afghanistan. We cannot construct an electrical grid there when our own bridges are collapsing and our infrastructure needs tending to.

Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries on earth, and 90% Muslim, but without any of the religious radicalism. Poverty doesn't create religious radicalism. That's just a myth.

I am all for trying to bring stability to Afghanistan and spending the resources to do so, but there is a limit to what we are able to accomplish there. Besides, we could spend until we ourselves were broke, and without ending the religious extremism, all we will have created will be rich religious extremists.
The only national identity the Afghans have is as Muslims. Afghans on different sides of the same mountain may have zero relationship and feel no obligation toward Afghanistan as a nation (hence, no motivation to support a national government via its fighting forces). Any strategy with a prospect of success will have to include the Mullahs, Islamic scholars and mosque preachers. [Monograph attached].

"This work argues that engaging Afghanistan’s indigenous religious leadership—mullahs and Islamic scholars—is critical to winning the battle of ideas within local populations of the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) theater."
Attached Files
File Type: doc Engaging Afghanistan -- The Mullah Connection[1][1].doc (189.0 KB, 2866 views)
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Old 07-31-2008   #12
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Question Although there is validity to the approach

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The only national identity the Afghans have is as Muslims. Afghans on different sides of the same mountain may have zero relationship and feel no obligation toward Afghanistan as a nation (hence, no motivation to support a national government via its fighting forces). Any strategy with a prospect of success will have to include the Mullahs, Islamic scholars and mosque preachers. [Monograph attached].

"This work argues that engaging Afghanistan’s indigenous religious leadership—mullahs and Islamic scholars—is critical to winning the battle of ideas within local populations of the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) theater."
Some of the things I've been reading from the regions history lately tells me that in this particular area that might not actually be the best way to go?

Have to dig some more but on the face of it, isn't the indigenous leadership there almost completely intertwined with the very groups we are seeking to overcome, (and in a much more established and well networked way.

Just pondering

Also: can anyone tell me when and who if ever an empire, state organized grouping under statelike pretenses, etc has actually come from within the area we call Afghanistan other than by being asbsored into a larger movement, being enabled(pressed) by an outside entity, or straight up conquered?
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Old 07-31-2008   #13
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Default Hello Ron...

I understand the caution, but we have to ponder some givens...

1. Afghanistan is only about 25% literate. So, how does the National Identity message get conveyed? Answer: the Mosque.
2. Afghanistan's only unifying principle is Islam.
3. Mullahs, religious scholars and preachers have far more credibility than the government of Afghanistan (GoA). We spend most of our efforts seeking to legitimize the GoA in the eyes of the Afghans while marginalizing cleric influence.
4. The enemy knows bullets 1-3 and therefore pusues a vigorous policy of co-opting the Mullahs. D'ya think they know something?
5. Cleric engagement is not the same as supporting a Caliphate, a religious state or a theocracy; it merely acknowledges the most influential leaders among the population in a COIN fight and attempts to leverage their spheres-of-influence.
6. There is no long term solution in Afghanistan that does not include Islam. Most Muslims deplore the abberrant theology of AQ/Taliban; to offer secularism as a solution just strengthens the IO positions of the radicals. The worst nightmare of AQ/Taliban is a vibrant, orthodox Islam championed by the common people.
7. The war against Hirabists is global; support for Afghanistan's more orthodox Sunnis is a strategic blow to their movement.
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Old 07-31-2008   #14
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I was never there and don't intend to change that - but wasn't there some kind of tribal thing and community leaders being relevant?
I remember stories about how Afghan warfare is basically about a show of force to enlist local forces into one's army. That explained pretty well the volatility there.

This "mullah" emphasis seems to overshoot the target a bit. I doubt that the mullahs lead troops.
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Old 07-31-2008   #15
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2. Afghanistan's only unifying principle is Islam.
Given that 20% of the population is non-Sunni (largely Hazari Shi'ites), not entirely. Nor would I assume that Islam--as powerful as it is as a common narrative--is enough to overcome ethno-linguistic and even tribal cleavages. An Islamic identity wasn't sufficient to prevent civil war or sustain a shared sense of national interest and identity after the Soviet withdrawal--indeed, the fighting between self-proclaimed Islamic mujahiddin groups was as bloody as any in Afghanistan's history.

I also think there are some limits to the ability of coalition forces to play a leading role in effectively engaging local religious leaderships.

That being said, I don't doubt the wisdom of engaging local religious leaderships. I see it much more in terms of conflict management and stabilization, however, rather than "unifying" a fractious Afghanistan with a deep-rooted suspicion/aversion to both outsiders and central government control.
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Old 08-01-2008   #16
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I was never there and don't intend to change that - but wasn't there some kind of tribal thing and community leaders being relevant?
I remember stories about how Afghan warfare is basically about a show of force to enlist local forces into one's army. That explained pretty well the volatility there.

This "mullah" emphasis seems to overshoot the target a bit. I doubt that the mullahs lead troops.
You have inadertantly identified our achilles heel. You doubt that Mullahs lead troops.

1. In COIN, tactical success means little without population buy-in. Kill all the insurgents you want - until you get the CoG and the IO pieces right, you'll be playing whack-a-mole and creating more insurgents.
2. Tribal sheikhs will not go against the Mullahs. Period.
3. Many Mullahs are in fact tribal leaders and wield significant power to marshall militia forces.
4. The enemy knows the religious leaders are the #1 sphere of influence and works hard to engage them with anti-CF IO themes.
5. Even Mullahs that do not possess direct militia authority influence everything that goes on in every tribe, neiborhood and village via the Friday afternoon sermon. Failure to grasp the legitimacy, significance and relevance of the Friday Mosque sermon is IO suicide.

@Rex: COIN is about legitimizing the GoA in THEIR eyes. Build all the roads, hospitals, wells, clinics, schools and military outposts that you want - but whoever defines Islam wins. Our work is not to intercede in the crossfire between Islamic theological poles - but to ascertain, understand and articulate what the religious leaders think is legitimate and support them in our IO. As long as the enemy engages the mosque and we don't, our 'secularizing' influence will be portrayed across Afghanistan (and the greater Islamic world) as a threat to Islam thereby serving as the optimal recruiting tool for more Hirabists and insurgents from Pakistan and other points of origin.
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Old 08-01-2008   #17
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1. In COIN, tactical success means little without population buy-in. Kill all the insurgents you want - until you get the CoG and the IO pieces right, you'll be playing whack-a-mole and creating more insurgents.
2. Tribal sheikhs will not go against the Mullahs. Period.
3. Many Mullahs are in fact tribal leaders and wield significant power to marshall militia forces.
4. The enemy knows the religious leaders are the #1 sphere of influence and works hard to engage them with anti-CF IO themes.
5. Even Mullahs that do not possess direct militia authority influence everything that goes on in every tribe, neiborhood and village via the Friday afternoon sermon. Failure to grasp the legitimacy, significance and relevance of the Friday Mosque sermon in IO suicide.
All totally true not too many years ago. A large number of Mullahs and Imams led fighting bands and all those that did not influence and pushed those that did. I very strongly doubt that's changed other than for the worse.
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... but whoever defines Islam wins... As long as the enemy engages the mosque and we don't, our 'secularizing' influence will be portrayed across Afghanistan (and the greater Islamic world) as a threat to Islam thereby serving as the optimal recruiting tool for more Hirabists and insurgents from Pakistan and other points of origin.
Unfortunately true.
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Old 08-01-2008   #18
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Default There's mullahs and then there's mullahs

It is true that Islam is inextricably intertwined with the fabric of Afghan society, and it is true that mullahs exert great influence as religious leaders. However, keep the following in mind:

1. To speak of 'the mullahs' as if they were some homogenous group with membership cards and annual conventions is misleading. They are as heterogenous as the society they spring from. Some - the minority - are great scholars respected nationwide or within their provinces; most are dreadfully ignorant with horizons bounded by their valley walls. They do not share common goals and are as subject to ethnic, tribal, and local prejudices as anyone else.

2. Some are less motivated by Islam than they are by the prospect of personal or fiduciary gain. Like certain televangelists, they exploit religious feeling for their own ends.

3. They are less important than they used to be. Urban elites - a small but growing and influential group - disparage them as obstacles to development. More importantly, the current generation of fighters is different from the one that drove out the Soviets. Those guys are dead. This generation - and especially the leaders - were raised far from tribal influence in madrassi in Pakistan or recruited from foreign fields. They are far less likely to respect or heed some threadbare mullah in an isolated mud-brick compound and far more likely to derive their sense of self from more pan-Islamic sources.

None of this is to deny the importance or influence of 'the mullahs', but it is a reminder that all politics in Afghanistan is local, and that 'the mullahs' are a product of that society. Moreover, I have difficulty envisioning an IO message that both appeals to the mullahs and forwards our stated goal in Afghanistan - a state where their influence is marginalized. They are not a silver bullet - there are none in Afghanistan.
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Old 08-01-2008   #19
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Default Galloway_McCaffrey on Afghanistan

On Joe Galloway's commentary today:

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Commentary: A top general says more troops aren't the answer in Afghanistan
By Joseph L. Galloway | McClatchy Newspapers
There's military slang that seemingly applies to the situation on the ground in Afghanistan today. The operative acronym is FUBAR - Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition. That first letter doesn't really stand for "Fouled," and the R sometimes stands for Repair.

One of the sharper military analysts I know has just returned from a tour of that sorrowful nation, which has been at war continuously since the Soviet Army invaded it in late 1979.

Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who retired from the U.S. Army with four stars and a chest full of combat medals including two Distinguished Service Crosses, says we can't shoot our way out of Afghanistan, and the two or three or more American combat brigades proposed by the two putative nominees for president are irrelevant.
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Old 08-01-2008   #20
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Default Totally agree...

With all but particularly this:

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... Moreover, I have difficulty envisioning an IO message that both appeals to the mullahs and forwards our stated goal in Afghanistan - a state where their influence is marginalized. They are not a silver bullet - there are none in Afghanistan.
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