August 10, 2009

"How many people do you bring in before the Afghans say, 'You're acting like the Russians'?"

"That's the big debate going on in the headquarters right now."

UPDATE: Did all the nuance make it into the WSJ article?

21 comments:

Bissage said...

This unrest is temporary. The Taliban will fall in line once we pay for their universal health care.

traditionalguy said...

Good point being made here is that the Obama mandated Afghan Plan is the Russian's plan. We all know what happened to the Russians using the plan to become targets in an undefensable area of single access/supply roads in between mountains hiding a world class roadside bomb industry. The Russians got beat bad using that plan. Now why does a new plan like that become absolutely necessary for the American military under it's new Commander in Chief who is quickly trippling American soldiers as sitting ducks in the Afghan mountains as fast as he can remove them from their valuable role guarding Iraq and its oil a very strategic position??? Is Obama just to dumb to know any better???

LarsPorsena said...

Help is on the way. The crack ACORN and SEIU paramilitary are temporarily busy tamping down domestic opposition in the state of Missouri. As soon as the 'health care crisis' is averted they will be free to redeploy to Helmand province.

chickenlittle said...

Why am I not surprised that Obama has all the strategery of a Soviet?

John Lynch said...

This is a problem. Afghanistan is much worse off than Iraq ever was.

Before Saddam Hussein, Iraq was a functioning country with good prospects. After wars with Iran and the US, it was a shambles. Saddam Hussein can be said to be the most important historical figure of the last 30 years. Without him, three wars would not have been fought, no Al Qeada getting angry about US troops in Saudi Arabia, no invasion of Iraq, etc.

Iraq could be a working country again. It has natural and human resources. Most people can read, there's a national army, and there's a somewhat functional government. And the oil, of course.

Long term, Iraq has prospects to at least be as functional as Egypt. That's a very low bar, but it's so much higher than Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has never been a functioning country. It's never had much contact with the modern world, and is even worse off than South Vietnam. We're trying to bring modernity to the worst part of central Asia. You have to go to the Congo to find anyplace worse off.

It's also a really big, really barren place. That means lots of infantry patrolling large amounts of territory. We don't have nearly enough men to do it. The Russians kept about 115,000 there and couldn't do it. They old Russian army wasn't nearly as capable, but the problem of manpower is still there.

Iraq now has something like half a million men in the armed forces and police. That's what really won the war in 2007- the arrival of enough Iraqis to secure the areas liberated by the US Army and Marine offensives in Diyala and around Baghdad. With the Awakening movement as a really big assist, the Iraqi government finally had enough force to put down the rebellion. The Iraqi government was also able to defeat the Shia extremists in Baghdad and Basrah.

Afghanistan has a similar population over a larger area, but without nearly as many Afghans to secure it. The Afghan army is too small to protect the country. It needs to get a lot bigger, quickly, or this isn't going to work.

We cannot secure Afghanistan with the number of troops available to us. In Iraq it only worked because there were eventually enough Iraqis willing to do it (including the Sunni tribes that switched sides.) How are we going to do that in Afghanistan?

The Drill SGT said...

I agree with John that Afghanistan is not a country. It is a collection of competing tribes. Our problem is that the biggest tribe (aka Pashtuns), is the home of the Taliban.

We are not going to win and turn the place into a governable country.

The best approach is that of the British. (e.g. the Roman approach). Play the barbarian tribes off against each other and be prepared to conduct punitive expeditions (e.g. what we did in 2002) when the tribes get out of line.

In todays world, Predators are your friend.

Kansas City said...

John Lynch is probably correct about an urgent need for more Afghan troops.

I was amazed at the WSJ headline, "Taliban Now Winning," which really was not supported by the facts in the story. I seem to remeber that the WSJ news page has a liberal bent, but this is so extreme that it is hard to undersand.

Finally, I am often surprised at how many intelligent people treat Muslims as morons. Now, it is that the U.S. will be seen by Afghans as acting like the Russians. Previously, it was how Muslim were enraged by our action in Iraq. It assumes that Muslims are too stupid to see what is obvious -- we are sacrificing our lives and money to help them -- free Iraq from Sadaam, free and protect Afghanistan from the Taliban, like as we previously liberated Kuwait and protected Saudi Arabia and protected Muslems in Bosnia [?]. Why do people think Muslems are too ignorant to see this?

Hoosier Daddy said...

The best approach is that of the British.

Actually the better way would be the Ripley/Corporal Hicks approach.

Take off, nuke the site from orbit.

ricpic said...

Afghanistan is the back of beyond. What are we doing there? Who can deliver another 9/11 to America? The Saudis; the Iranians; the Paki government if it is seized by the Taliban or other radical Islamists. Would any of them dare nuke an American city knowing the vaporization of Mecca and Medina would follow immediately? Not in my opinion. That should be our policy vis-a-vis the arab-muslim world: communicating a clear resolve to destroy their holy cities should they try another 9/11. Not endless wars of attrition sapping our non-existent treasure and taking the lives of our soldiers.
Once our muslim president is gone maybe such resolve could be conveyed to his brethren.

Kansas City said...

The nuke Mecca threat approach is probably something that feels better than it would actually work in practice. Bin Laden basically was a renegade Muslim. If another renegade succeeds in 9/11 II, then we nuke Mecca? It seems that would set up up for a 1,000 years of conflict with Muslims.

The Drill SGT said...

Hoosier Daddy said...
The best approach is that of the British.

Actually the better way would be the Ripley/Corporal Hicks approach.

Take off, nuke the site from orbit.


reminds me of a racist joke from Vietnam.

"How do we end the war?

- Load all the Vietnamese on boats.
- asphalt the country,
- Go back and sink all the boats"

Steven said...

Mecca's physical characteristics aren't important enough to make nuking it a good threat. All a bombing power could really arrange is to unite all Islam against it for sacrilege.

It might be theoretically possible to destroy Islam, however, by poisoning the area around Mecca sufficiently that it would be impossible for humans to make the hajj and live. The theological argument would be that Allah would not allow adherence to one of the Five Pillars of Islam to become actually impossible . . . unless Islam were false. (The closest-to-feasible method of doing so would be to dump huge quantities of actinides over Mecca and a wide area around it.)

However, it seems unlikely to work. You'd probably just wind up with four-pillar Islam, much like the last 1,900 years have had Judaism without Temple sacrifices.

Cedarford said...

Not surprising the "Nuke Mecca!" Zionazis are still going strong. Even as the Neocons have become about as discredited as the John Birchers or American Communist Party - their dumb minions are still stuck with dumb 2002 era chants..

You don't throw nukes areound for a repeat of the minor military attack 8 years ago that killed under 3,000 people. (Less than what the Soviets lost in an average day in a REAL war.)

For a few REAL NUKES set off in the West or Asia...with countries we have an Actual Defense Treaty with...You may have Mecca set up as a warning after you vaporize 10s of millions of other Islamoids in other places..another round of Muslim WMD may indeed jeopardize Mecca in a 2nd round of couterstrikes.

But outside that extremis of true nuclear war, talk of starting a unilateral war with nukes and hitting targets of great cultural and religious significance to 1.5 billion people is sophormoric and stupid.

Hoosier Daddy said...

reminds me of a racist joke from Vietnam.

Good lord I thought the byline from the movie Aliens kinda tipped my hand that I wasn't serious.

Cedarford said...

With respect to Afghanistan, I think we have become better educated ....no more silly, vapid 1st Ladies talking about how we "freed women of their burquas and gave the noble freedom-lovers of Afghanistan their freedom and democracy."

The present mess is the Democrats saying that Iraq was the "unimportant war" despite Iraq's critical geostrategic position and oil supple -- because it was a "distraction" as Black Messiah said about 1,000 times - from "bringing bin Laden to Justice".

So he and the Dems have doubled down on their "Good War", which military strategists say will chew us up like it chewed up the Soviets. 4 billion a month, 6-25 dead each month. A couple billion more squandered in "nation-building" goodies to people who basically hate most outsiders and wish them dead unless they marry into the Tribe and are strict Muslims.

And bin Laden and the more dangerous al-Zawahiri are not even in the country.

What would make more sense?

1. We might start by offering the Muslim world an end to the 3 billion sent to Israel,2 billion to Egypt because we make payments to Israel. And an end to US providing military parts to Israel. Until they withdraw all colonists except those in E Jerusalem which will be negotiated. We make it clear that we will still assist Israel if it is invaded, not to do an oil embargo. But the US will also form a consortium to assist the Jews pay for all the land and wealth they stole from 1948-73 from the Palestinians. (minus Jewish losses when Arabs tossed Jews out of Arab countries as a response to the Palestinians being cleansed.

In return, we ask Muslims to sacrifice a bit to help the Palestinians. Recognize Israel, renounce terrorism against civilians, and turn over AQ to ACLU lawyers.

2. If Binnie voluntarily gives himself up, he and all the rest could join in making a mockery of the US civilian justice system, as Moussauoi and Hamdan did.

Even if they are convicted after amy years of the ACLU Jews and ambitious prosecutors milking it for ever cent of money and career-boosting PR they can get...and future book contracts. Binnie, the rest, and even Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (the mastermind) don't have to worry about execution for 15-20 years..not unless they want martyrdom.

3. The only other reason we should care about Afghanistan is the illegal drug industry and the general lawlessness it breeds. It has a similar destabilizing effect in Mexico.
And it also costs the US an estimated 85-115 billion a year in drug related crime, parasitical underclass societies, and loss of tax revenues.
Solution?

Admit we are in bad times and bad times call for extraordinary measures. Seal the Mexican border. Establish legal poppy plantations in India, Columbia, and Laos-Thailand and buy up the whole crop and give it out free or near-free to druggies in the West. (Under monitored administration of drugs by officials and workers offering jobs and training from part of the 85-115 billion in losses saved)
The price crashes, the Taliban and Mexican drug cartels collapse, and crime plummets in America and other countries afflicted with addicts.

John said...

All the Afghans need is some Alinsky-style community organization.

Synova said...

"The nuke Mecca threat approach is probably something that feels better than it would actually work in practice. Bin Laden basically was a renegade Muslim. If another renegade succeeds in 9/11 II, then we nuke Mecca? It seems that would set up up for a 1,000 years of conflict with Muslims."

I think that Bin Laden was counting on us to nuke mecca. Certainly if he was listening to some of the scaremongering about what war mongers the Republicans and Bush were (not *mainstream* at that time but not at all unheard of among the "elite" political analysts in our country) he would be reasonable to think so.

Certainly someone able to give a speech a few years later that included all the best points from Fahrenheit 9-11 was aware of, and made certain he was aware of, who his enemy was and how his enemy thought. As someone else said... why do we assume Muslims are stupid?

But he needed us to nuke mecca in order to motivate the apathetic so that he'd have his Islamic army. But Bush didn't even bomb Afghanistan to something south of the stone age, much less attack mecca. His response was actually excessively measured.

The problems in Afghanistan NOW are the same ones that made it strategically unsuitable to the larger conflict (root causes!) at the beginning of this thing. It might have been the "good" war but it was always the logistically impossible, geopolitically unuseful war.

Not that we can't WIN there. Of course we can. None of the changes made to what we are doing there since Obama was elected seem like good ones though. Certainly there needed to be changes, adjustments for the situation as unique as the country... but we've pushed into places where we are at risk at the same time as changes to the ROE were made, apparently to make us seem cuddly... as if that culture admires cuddly... that seem particularly ill-advised.

I've seen pictures of Afghanistan that are breathtakingly beautiful... vertical, but breathtakingly beautiful. This should be a place with a tourist industry. It's not a bad place for agriculture, though much of it seems best for orchards and they take time. A great many of our garden bulbs originate in Afghanistan.

The problem is time and transportation. We could do a Berlin Airlift but do it *backward*. Fly commercial cargo OUT, as much as we can as fast as it can be loaded.

The farm lobby in the US (as Democrat as unions!) would probably block it... which pisses me off.

Synova said...

The "winning" thing also helps if we had a President willing to use the "V" word.

Bah.

Synova said...

The first step before the doing is always always always imagining the goal.

If we're not attempting Victory because it is an icky, militaristic, term... it not only won't happen... it can't happen.

Tibore said...

Nuke Mecca? No. Even keeping in mind that it's hyperbolic, that suggestion betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of radical militant islamic terrorism as well as 9/11. First of all, remember that the entire series of failures that allowed 9/11 in the first place was based in the inability to properly understand the capabilities and goals of small groups willing to fly under the radar in favor of monitoring and analyzing the larger resourced groups. That resulted in the intrusion of Atta, Hanjour, and all the other students who's simple goal was to hijack and crash a jet from within the US, as opposed to the plots the US did try to defend against, some of which involved a bomb laden jetliner obtained or hijacked and flown in from outside the US, and the resources necessary to commit such an act.

The smaller groups managed to create the damage they did specifically because America was set up to defend against the large threats.

If you want to evaluate "who can deliver another 9/11 to America", then you make a mistake by concentrating on governments. Governments like Saudi Arabia have long realized they've created a monster, which is why they ejected bin Laden a long time ago. Understand that the Saudi government blames Osama for helping set off the Afghan civil war, something directly contradictory to their efforts at the time, and therefore hold him to be an actual traitor. And this long before 9/11. The Saudis are a pain in the ass cooperation-wise, are continually slack at monitoring monetary flow to radical groups, and overshelter those who harbor sympathies for radical militant groups, but they are far more threatened by the existence of al-Qaeda and bin Laden than the US is. Osama merely wants to kill Americans and eject them from Saudi lands at this time, but he wants to overthrow the Saudi government.

Pakistan? That government is certainly no friend of the US, past associations nonwithstanding, but they too are more threatened by graduates of the radical madrassas than the US is. While terrorists like bin Laden have ultimate goals involving grandoise visions of universal Sharia law and a worldwide caliphate, they at this time only consider Westerners targets to kill in order to get out of the way of their first step. Their first step is to conquer local governments, and they consider those local governments targets to subjugate and use as examples of what's contrary to Islam. Focus is initially local; the US is indeed considered a pest because they stand against the propogation of such radicalism, but we're far away. Islamabad and Riyadh are far closer. The point is that those governments - and their civil societies as well - in spite of rightly deserving blame for allowing radical militancy to evolve in the first place, have more to lose than the US does. They're first on the terrorists lists.

So how would bombing Mecca in retaliation to another 9/11 accomplish anything? Don't tell me that a majority Shiite nation like Iran would shed many tears; Shia give lip service to pilgrimages to Mecca, but their numbers demonstrate that the real devotion is towards shrines in Iraq and Iran. I actually think that the Iranian government would welcome such an attack; it would give them a symbol to rally against without being the deep insult it would be to Sunni Muslims. I fully understand that the idea is to threaten to hurt something held dear by the radical islamicists, but those people are so twisted that I can see them, like the Iranian government, actually happy that such an attack occurred. No, if you want to hurt the terrorists, deny them the approval and sanctuary of a sympathetic populace. That's worked in many areas of Iraq, that was working in places in Afghanistan until the Taliban resurged, and that doesn't have the cost of generating several million enemies that were previously neutral or even openly sympathetic to the West. That's the way to do things. Not nuke Mecca. That gesture is all downside with zero upside.

traditionalguy said...

John... The USSR already tried Alinski community organisation on the Pashtouns who just shot them from ambush as they rode thru the valleys on the only roads. The criminally negligent orders for US National Guard Brigades and Marines to make middle class Americans out of these tribes while they are bombing and shoting to death the truck convoys the Americans need to keep going really needs to be exposed for the disaster that is happening for no known goal except to see a costly defeat for the American military.