Losing Hearts and Minds

Ben Arnoldy at the Christen Science Monitor penned an excellent tale on reconstruction efforts going pear shaped and the consequences resulting from such folly. The report was original, focused and resulted from Ben going to the remote Badakshan Province for a couple of weeks to get the details correct.  This article is  the perfect book end to last weeks Toronto Star piece on Panjwayi  Tim and Ghost Team because it highlights the futility of traditional US AID standard operating procedures. Ben sums up the point of his article with these opening paragraphs:

On paper, the multi-pronged project revitalized a backward Afghan province, weaning it off poppy cultivation and winning Afghan hearts and minds.

However, a Monitor investigation reveals that even in spite of a few modest gains, the Afghans here were left angered over project failures, secrecy, and wasted funds.

“Now the people are hating American companies like PADCO because many times they brought millions of dollars, but didn’t do anything,” says Syed Abdul Basir Husseini, the electricity chief for Badakhshan Province. “All Badakhshanis know that it was $60 million [that America] spent,” he says, adding that they see little evidence of it.

The story of what went wrong exposes serious weaknesses in the third pillar of America’s “clear, hold, build” Afghan strategy. Among them: big-spending hastiness, unrealistic deadlines, high development staff turnover, planning divorced from ground realities, and ever-present security risks in this war-torn nation.

“In Vietnam, they were measuring success of operations in the numbers that are killed. In Afghanistan, it is how many schools you are building and how much money you spent. This is better, but as wrong,” says Lorenzo Delesgues, director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, in Kabul. “What you need to measure is what is the impact of what you’ve done.”

I’ve talked about this so many times before that I’m sick of it so time to try something new; it’s time for a story board.

Wednesday 25 July the second "hundred year" flood in less than a year hit Jalalabad following a morning of torrential rain. This is the main road heading towards the airport.
Wednesday 25 July the second “hundred year” flood in less than a year hit Jalalabad following a morning of torrential rain. This is the main road heading towards the airport.

 

The Sarracha bridge - the new Afghan design was not passable but the ribbon bridge installed by the American PRT stood up much better than the stone bridge last year.
The Sarracha bridge – the new Afghan design was not passable but the ribbon bridge installed by the American PRT stood up much better than the stone bridge last year.

 

A modern compound like ours has no problem handling heavy rains
A modern compound like ours has no problem handling heavy rains

 

The avergae Afghan family compound has no grass or driveways so heavy rains are a real problem for them.
The average Afghan family compound has no grass or driveways so heavy rains are a real problem for them.

 

Just like last year the flood caused extensive damage and a few deaths in the villages on the east end of town. Capt A from Ghost Team, The Professor from the American NGO CHF (International) and I teamed up to try and find the source of the flooding and what could be done about it.
Just like last year the flood caused extensive damage and a few deaths in the villages on the east end of town. The next day Capt A from Ghost Team, The Professor from an American NGO and I teamed up to try and find the source of the flooding and what could be done about it.

 

Less than two hours after the monsoon started this village was under 3 meters of swiftly moving water
Less than two hours after the monsoon started this village was under 3 meters of swiftly moving water

 

Crop and road damage about 1 kilometer outside the village
Crop and road damage about 1 kilometer outside the village

 

We heard the familar sound of an IED going off and saw the signature of a fuel tanker attack near FOB Fenty.
We heard the familiar sound of an IED going off and saw the signature of a fuel tanker attack near FOB Fenty.

 

We pushed on - that's The Professor from CHF being escorted by local kids from the village
We pushed on – that’s The Professor being escorted by local kids from the village

 

The villans had hit one of the tankers sitting outside FOB Fenty with a limpet mine.
The villains had hit one of the tankers sitting outside FOB Fenty with a limpet mine.

 

All the fuel tankers traveling the Jalalabad truck by-pass now put their A-drivers on the top to thwart motorcyle mounted limpet mine bombers.
All the fuel tankers traveling the Jalalabad truck by-pass now put their A-drivers on the top to thwart motorcycle mounted limpet mine bombers.

 

These guys lack a sense of style - they're missing a chance to jock up with cool old fashioned weapons like pikes or swords for repelling motorcycle mounted knuckleheads.
These guys lack a sense of style – they’re missing a chance to jock up with cool old fashioned weapons like pikes or swords for repelling motorcycle mounted knuckleheads.

 

The problem - to the left and right is the main water canal for the municipal government. There are three points in the east of the city where the canal goes underground to alloe flash flood drainage. It is clear that there needs to be levees built to control the water which funnels through these chokepoints to cause so much devestation down stream
The problem – to the left and right is the main water canal for the municipal government. There are three points in the east of the city where the canal goes underground to allow flash flood drainage; this is one of them.  It is clear that there needs to be levees built to control the water funneling through these choke-points.

 

Local kids playing in a pool created by the flood waters
Local kids playing in a pool created by the flood waters

 

DSC_0583

As I’m writing this post I’m watching the Afghan Security Face chat room explode with information on a firefight and rioting in Kabul. The story is already on the wire – apparently a armored SUV hit a local car on the main road to the airport causing several fatalities, a crowd gathered, shots were fired and the vehicle drove back into the entrance to the US Embassy which was only a few hundred yards away. After that a firefight erupted, and unknown number of people were killed, and currently crowds are stoning any cars they suspect contain foreigners or ISAF military.  What can one say about a self inflicted wound of such severity?General rioting in the most heavily controlled area of Kabul can rapidly spread to other cities putting the lives of internationals who are out and about in grave danger. If there are any more incidents like the one unfolding in Kabul it’s going to get damn hard to stay outside the wire.

50 Replies to “Losing Hearts and Minds”

  1. Babatim, great information! I enjoy reading your posts and wish you luck in what you are trying to accomplish. You speak of the PRT in Nangarhar… do you ever come into contact with them? Also, there is an ADT Agri-business Development Team in J-Bad… do you ever come into contact with them? What is your opinion of the ADT and what do you suggest they do to make a better impact? Thanks again! Stay safe.

  2. I’ve always expected the collapse of the mission to start with rioting in Kabul and not a grand Taliban offensive in the rural areas. Kabul is the key terrain and widespread disorder targeting foreign offices especially if combined with inter-communal fighting would put far more pressure on the west than combat in the south or east.

  3. Please tell me the extended unicycle leaning up against the wall in your modern compound is not your emergency exfil.

    WHEELIES!,
    R

  4. “Losing Hearts…” I think based on these past, recent posts of yours, that perhaps you have stepped back and taken a longer, more broad type of view of what’s what in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

    Walk back in time, say 40 years, to America’s cities where Johnson pushed his “Urban Renewal” policies while playing with others’ lives in Viet Nam. Visit those “ghettos” where millions of taxpayer dollars were spent. Transformative? Monies well spent? How’s that American debt? Credit cards and those who use them…

    Cost benefit ratio applied gives us what? Girls who threw away their bras, the idea of marriage, of the need to have men in their lives? Do your own thing (a generation where narcissism has gone rampant, perhaps?)

    So, Afghanistan morphed from destroying/capturing Bin Laden et al., and those who supported such efforts into “COIN” or would you prefer “nation building” in a land where all historical efforts seemed to have failed.

    It’s still a land of “walls” is it not? Even after centuries of others trying to work their “special brand of magic” so to speak.

    Are there readers of this blog who remember what “Hack” had to say about these wars prior to his death?

    Whose dreams are we playing with using others’ monies and blood and guts? Yea, our kids, our brothers and sisters, perhaps parents with this “new Army” made up of reserves, etc.

    Have we feminized our government, our military, our very way of life in many respects? Doubt this comment? Insert a “John Wayne” solution for make believe…”I am the one you’ve been waiting for” just as I throw out that first pitch wearing those nice dungarees!

    Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, General Casey (diversity leader supreme) along with Justice Sotomayer have your back, Bro! Hear those whispers of “revolutionary talk” now coming forth, making their way into our daily lives?

    I am not interested in “climate change” saving the “whales” nor “Snooki” but am interested in using our resources wisely and actively allowing the American dream to flourish for those wishing to work within our Constitution.

    Obama-Mao and his gang of six are killing us from within. Watch how they now wish to assault the Constitution via abolishing the “electoral collage” as a first attack to create “central planning” for we Americans.

    Bring home our troops so that they may choose to fight the real fight that is on our shores; within the heartland of America, perhaps at the borders of Mexico, certainly in the halls of Congress with a CENTCOM at our White House.

    Let the Afghans keep using their right hands to eat food, their left hands to bundle the heroin. We can visit with them again, even a century from now, where I suspect the first comment will be “little seems to have changed” will it not?

    America is under assault within: The real war is here, the important war is here…we have “traitors” within our midst!

    If one doesn’t know his enemy, then he will be defeated by that enemy! Ask those Afghans who deserted the American bases where they were being trained and are alleged to have fled to Canada…just like some Americans did those 40 years ago!

    Triage exists for valid reasons. Apply this thinking to our realities, American realities, not Afghan realities!

  5. I wonder when the we will realize that we (America) don’t not have the capability of winning a counter insurgency style conflict in a far away land when we don’t bring 1)overwhelming force 2) overwhelming financial aid 3) national commitment and resolve to see the mission through. It is painfully obvious that we are lacking in all 3 critical areas. We are simply going through the motions at this stage. In other words, this one’s all over but the die’n.

    1. Sorry about the poor grammar of the above comment. I apparently did not conduct a thorough proofread. In any event, I think my sentiment comes through. We either need to get into this thing ‘whole hog’ or we need to pull the pin and come home. Right now we are half-stepping it at every turn.

  6. Folks don’t get yourselves down over American casualty figures, rioting in the capital, rampant and never ending corruption within the Afghan government, or the ever present apathy across the Afghan military. Former Pres GW faced the same issues going into 2007 just a mere three years ago. The Fall of 2010 will look very similar, but never fear GEN Dave P. is here and we will succeed! I predict within 10 months we will hear lots about how the Afghans are taking the lead militarily, how the government is fighting corruption, and if things really work how the south has been pacified

    GEN Dave P. is already being reported in the open source arena that he wants to increase village Afghan defense forces or at least his disciple Dave Kilcullen is telling the press that is the strategy. Of course, I could have more confidence in Dave P. if he wasn’t surrounded by the likes of Kilcullen, Nagl, and the other COIN gang members who made themselves exclusive experts on modern warfare in the inner circles of the defense industry (department included).these same individuals who charge thousands of dollars to lecture at a conference or other eventlet me digress but the community defense initiative or pay your foes not to shoot at you campaign was a big hit in western Iraq. The Sons of Awakening as they were called were meant to exploit the rift between AQI and the Sunni’s who wanted their piece of the post-Saddam Iraq. Well fast forward to today and you have nothing but sectarian violence along with a resurging AQI. We may not have had a major Al Qaeda presence in the Middle East before now, but thanks to Operation Iraqi Freedom and now this thing called Operation New Dawn we have a great area of instability in Iraq for AQI to re-establish itself. Civil war looms on the horizon for Iraq as Kurds bide their time, Shia’s continue to consolidate power, and the Sunni’s fight AQI, themselves, and the Shia’s. I sure am glad the surge things worked so well for us in 2007-2008. I have no doubt Dave P. will bring us the same success in Afghanistan through the same local defense force strategy, training and equipping Afghan forces (by, through, and with) plus the reforms in government demanded by Hillary and Barack not even one year ago when Karazai stole the election.

    Tim as a former Marine I am shocked that you don’t study or quote GEN Smedley Butler more closely. Although he was discredited by some as becoming soft’ and almost labeled something of a peacenik old Smedley had done his time in combat and earned the right to his opinion. Much like Dave Hackworth, who probably had a questionable motivation in 1971 when he criticized the inner circle, Smedley dared to bite the hand that had fed him for decadesStan McChrystal (who I am on the record for not being a fan) pulled this same stunt and much like Hackworth he did little to change the political decision making in Washington D.C. or the eventual outcome of this particular war. My point remains that war is a money (part and parcel a career) booster for many in and out of uniform, so never underestimate the appeal of fame and fortune for those who stand in front of our inept civilian leaders (Congress).

    The message to draw from my diatribe is we will succeed in Afghanistan the only question will be how do you define success and will the American voters even care? I have been in the States almost nine months now (my longest stint between trips into Afghanistan) and the apathy among Americans about this war couldn’t be lower. If the war makes the news it is only to report an IED attack that killed three or more. Or to declare the deadliest month message but all-in-all most American’s worry about the economy and are tired of hearing about the war and its cost.

    Lastly, if you get the chance to listen to QDRs and other senior military officials discuss the next five years it doesn’t include the war in Afghanistan. The very senior leadership of the Army is worrying about keeping some semblance of budget money in the coffers over the next 48 months. The recent spending package for the war will most likely be one of the last three more of these. One in 2011 and a smaller one in 2012 as our troops withdraw. Tim, your highlighting of the CSM article is nothing new and this latest surge of cash from the government will only be more of the same as mismanaged projects are given millions. My hats off to you for doing the right thing and not jumping on the money maker train, I am sure a guy with your connections and understanding of government budgets could easily draft up a proposal for tens of millions of dollars that would result in a bunch of cash back to you. God knows the big companies are all over this process and there are tons of offers for 12 month gigs across Afghanistan working as an advisor or mentor.

  7. 1. Believe Hackworth’s motivation involved being passed over.
    2. O-6 to O-7 always involves more than a reasonable combat record. World class duck rancher.
    3. Thought it miraculous that McMaster got his star. Direct intervention by GEN P, for sure.
    4. Butler’s rage against the establishment (tho certainly justified) had a lot to do with being passed over for commandant. That was a hard fought political battle -losing had more to do with the death of his highly influential father than any particular merits of either candidate.
    5. By my lights, if the current crowd implements all three legs of the surge strategy used in Iraq, they will succeed if not timed out.
    6. Buying off the local warts and enlisting them in local militias (like Sons of Iraq) will create conditions close enough to success to make the call.
    7. Fusion cells and implementation of FM 3-4 are window dressing.
    8. Commentary on commentary, not your excellent story board.
    9. Take care.
    V/R JWest

  8. “they will succeed if not timed out” (jwest)

    Did not our former “community organizer who did a little blow” give the “bug out” date for July 2011? Is his “top leadership” not running around attempting to “spin” our CIC’s surrender moment?

    Did you not watch ABC, NBC, CBS, and of course that vile FOX Sunday news programs this morning?

    Is it me or did I see Gates, Mullen, et al. put forth a Viet Nam game plan for surrender with heavy attempts to disguise such via mellifluous language all of which was merely circling the wagons while others carried white flags to the bad guys or their friendly reps?

    The game is over boys! Cut’n run is the new definition of “victory” in Afghanistan, hidden in a shallow grave for all to see who can open their eyes and ears! Princeton Patreaus will be given some more medals (if his ‘copter and he are not shot down with a real soldier fired missile!) as he manages the “bug out with honor” (god…I recall that “peace with honor” moment, don’t you?) while Obama-Mao steps up to the television camera for more mistruths, misdirections, and those fabulous lies he so easily puts forth!

    But don’t believe me…believe that person who claimed “I’m The One you’ve been waiting for” along with all his minions!

    PS. I especially liked Chairman Mullen’s attitude while defending his abilities to “win”…he looked so weak as a military leader, slouching before the camera, the narrator…slinking back, eyes askance…this is the person tasked with taking the ball across the goal line! Who is worse; Chairman Mullen or Diversity General Casey?

    God save the Queen and we Americans!

  9. Bilbo – Hope you don’t mind if I qoute something of yours that bears repeating…

    =

    “GEN Dave P. is already being reported in the open source arena that he wants to increase village Afghan defense forces or at least his disciple Dave Kilcullen is telling the press that is the strategy. Of course, I could have more confidence in Dave P. if he wasn’t surrounded by the likes of Kilcullen, Nagl, and the other COIN gang members who made themselves exclusive experts on modern warfare in the inner circles of the defense industry (department included)”

    =

    I’d offer you a manhug for that paragraph alone Bilbo, but man-hobbit hugs don’t look right on film. Settle for a future beer on an unspecified date promise?

    WIMPY
    BURGERS,
    R

  10. 1. They are already waffling on July 2011.
    2. About the only hope the Afghans have.
    3. Did not watch the Sunday morning programs.
    4. Scan heads on the front page and opinion page of the NYT and WAPO on Monday morning and you’ll get any messages from the administration and loyal opposition that are worth receiving.
    5. Gates, Mullen and Casey are pathetic flunkies.
    6. Their recent predecessors, in several cases, worse.
    7. Have little faith in the US military as peace keepers and COIN artistes.
    8. Much faith in the US Dollar.
    9. Spelled out (for folks like myself): we can buy peace far more cheaply and easily than we can compel it at gunpoint.
    10. Our great military strengths lie in areas than are unattractive to people whose bread and butter is political discourse.
    11. Military operations constitute a step beyond discourse.
    12. Civilizing Afghan peasants?
    13. Man hugs??
    V/R JWest

  11. jwest:

    I think you just about summed up a reality shared by many. Let’s see if those “who see what you see” vote this November in ways to change our dynamics in Congress, etc. If not, then this passive aggressive game played by graduates of our law schools will continue until a cliff comes up, wherein they will choose to go back or forward; or a fork in the road appears where active revolution becomes a real, one of two choices/direction.

    Of course, there is that one choice of traveling on a road where rational decisions are made after recognizing realities at play that go up against…dare I say: American ideals and founding principles!

    Kerry/Edwards for President…let’s go sailing ladies!

  12. Obama never said a general withdrawal would begin in July 2011. He said that a transition to Afghan control would begin in the areas that would allow it. I doubt any of those would be in predominantly Pastun provinces but no journalist bothered to ask him which places might be candidates. Panjshir, Jowzjan, Balkh and Samangan could go now and not see one US combat formation leave the country.

    1. Mr. Harlen, you know better then that…

      The full transcript of the West Point Surrender Speech is still on line for all to read.

      “After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

      “Now, taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.”

      http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2009/12/obamas-afghan-policy-speech-at.html

      ===

      In 2006 we had around 22,000 US troops in Afghanistan. When President Obama took office in 2009 we had around 32,000 troops in Afghanistan. We know (2010) have well over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, have things gotten any better?

      EPIC
      MISSION
      CREEP,
      R

  13. J Harlan: “Obama never said a general withdrawal would begin in July 2011.”

    What’s your point?

    “He said that a transition to Afghan control would begin…”

    Was there a “fallout” from his remarks on this “winning strategy” of Obama-Mao’s that our country’s citizens might have gathered that might include a picture where a “white flag” is flying next to those soldiers embarking on flights home beginning around July 2011?

    Do you have a “general opinion” as to why journalists present did not ask those questions you thought appropriate?

    Are you of the opinion that this “war” in Afghanistan can in fact be “won” and if so, do you wish to offer your notion of what such a “victory” would consist?

    And finally, do you consider Obama-Mao a good to excellent Commander In Chief? If so, allow those of us who read these comments a much fuller understanding of what we might have not realized.

    Or, are you suggesting that “once again” Obama-Mao will continue the “evil” Bush’s directions/decisions even though he and his people try to cloud such realities (read Gitmo, etc.)? If so, why does he seem to end up having Bush’s direction(s) what seems to be his default choice?

    I’m all eyes. My perspective is limited, always has been. I appreciate others adding to it, improving it, and certainly correcting it when found to be wrong or misdirected, even shortsighted.

    Thank you for considering to respond, and if you do, thank you for presenting as clear an understanding as possible.

  14. Render and RJ: If turning over parts of Afghanistan to Afghan forces is defeat then is victory staying in the country in the current numbers forever victory?

    I’m not an Obama fan but I’m confused over what you think the US should do. Telling Karzai and crew that the US will stay for ever in large numbers is counter-productive. Adopting a CT vs. PC-COIN policy would result in withdrawing thousands of troops. Is that defeat? How about putting 200,000 more US troops in Afghanistan? Is that victory?

    I think as many non-essential support and HQ troops as possible should be sent home now. Karzai should be told that US troops will cease operating in non-Pashtun provinces NLT next summer. Remote Pashtun districts should be left to SOF and the US conventional forces freed up sent home. NATO allies in the north and around Kabul should be encouraged to leave asap. The result will be the “CT” model which will be far more affordable and will push the Afghan government to step up and take charge of it’s own security.

    1. 20,000 maximum, supported entirely by air, could do the job, on the eastern side of the Durand Line. The problem and the solution are both on the western side of the Durand Line (McChrystal knew that), two USMC divisions and SOCOM can handle that.

      The Talib are already running shadow governments in many if not most Afghan provinces (and all of the Pak border regions). ANA/ANP isn’t ready for them and isn’t likely to be so any time soon. NATO is already bugging out. People who step up might very well find themselves and their families exposed on Wikileaks. CT and COIN are tactics and should never have been confused with policy or strategy.

      Landlocked and logistically retarded Afghanistan should never have had more then about 30,000 troops, or the number that can be entirely supplied and moved by US military air assets for any great length of time.

      MARCH
      TO
      THE
      SEA,
      R

      1. Render, your ANSF bashing is getting old. It isn’t the fault of the ANSF and GIRoA that the international community [including ISAF and America] refused to seriously train, advise, equip and fund the ANSF before November, 2009. For most intensive purposes ANSF development began in November, 2009. And it is far too soon to assert that the ANSF are failing.

        ANSF capacity can be sharply boosted if there was an international will [which there hasn’t been to date.]

        To give an idea of how pathetic the international effort to train the ANSF was before November, 2009:
        -Iraqi MoI trains 40 K police at a time. Afghan MoI was training about one thousand police at a time in 2009. That has increased to about 10,300 at a time now, and will increase to 24,000 by March, 2012.
        -As of November, 2009, the ANA planned to train 1,950 NCOs per year [and for short training sessions at that which means the total number of NCOs being trained at any time was about 400.] This was for the entire ANA and AAF [Afghan Air Force.] Even today, the ANA + AAF only train 3,300 NCOs at a time. Including the 600 NCOs that the Turks train at any given time at the Ghazi Military Training Center [GMTC.] The other 2700 NCOs are trained through a British lead process. Many of them for only 4 weeks each. [I kid you not, NTM-A and ANATC doesn’t have the funding to train many ANA NCOs for longer than 4 weeks.]
        -Even now the ANA + AAF only admit 600 cadets per year into 4 year academy [up from 250 per year previously] This process is French, Turkish, Indian and US lead. Every other country is missing in action when it comes to officer training.

        Render, if America, NATO and ISAF don’t want to train the ANSF, do you think America should stop trying to block Indian training of the ANSF? In Russia’s case, the Afghans have refused Russian offers to train ANSF, so perhaps it isn’t fair to blame America for that.

        Do you think Russia and India should be brought into NTM-A in a large way?

        I would argue that the ANA and ANCOP has done rather well under the circumstances. Can you demonstrate that more than 1 or 2 of the 20 ANCOP combat battalions don’t perform well? What are your criticisms of 203rd ANA Corps [3 brigades], 3-111 heavy brigade [reflagged old 3-201 heavy brigade], 1-209, 3-215, 1-205, the 8 commando combat bns, 4 ANASF A-Teams?

        Have any Corps other than 201st ANA lost a company sized engagement with the Taliban? How many platoon sized engagements have been lost by any ANA Corps other than 201 Corps this year?

        I guess you could mention the civilian casualty event in August, 2008, in RC-West where close air support was used for 14 hours to help the ANSF. The ANSF won the engagement. However, the outcome might have been otherwise if not for the air strikes. The incident caused more civilian casualties than all but two other incidents since 2001.

  15. J Harlan: “…push the Afghan government to step up and take charge of it’s own security.”

    Do you really think the present Afghan government will ever “step up” in any direction? Or it this just a hollow, foggy picture your mind has created or a policy/wish sold to you in order to justify “bugging out” while our white flags are being unfurled for the Taliban to see prior to American troops embarking on planes, etc.?

    Obama-Mao specializes in creating “fairy dust” for others to be charmed and enchanted by…

    Besides, I asked for your definition of victory, which I noticed you bypassed via asking others questions.

    I have stated in other recent posts what I thought should be and should have been our strategies in this area, Afghanistan.

    Would you want to wear a “Special Forces” uniform to wander in “remote Pashtun districts” hunting bad guys with a CIC who can only get shouts and applause from veterans by claiming new orders for PTSD claimants while in his private office he directs the “bug out” in Iraq, next up Afghanistan as he ponders what magical words he will use some months hence; taking credit via “keeping my promise” all the while shielding his negative voting record/positions years past to support our troops in harm’s way?

    I note you don’t define your picture of “victory” rather you paint on ongoing “CT” program…until just what takes place or not takes place?

    With your game plan, if I were Taliban or Al Queda, I would get my people ready to bypass you dumb Americans left to train those “oh so willing native Afghan sons!” (that is, those who haven’t come to America for training and fled to Canada!) and circle ’round to Kabul and other major cities to kill off what might remain as national government personnel all the while we wave “bye bye” to your troops flying overhead while your great leader, Obama-Mao claims a victorious retreat using language so sweet and so…sincere!

    I think I’m jaded from all of this wasted blood and treasure by those who would never don the American military uniform but would in less than a second send others to die for them and their dreams.

    You don’t belong to that group, do you?

    1. RJ, the Taliban pose an existential threat to Russia and India. Do you really think they won’t substantially train the ANSF if ISAF refuses to do so?

      The ANSF might lose in the South and parts of the East, but would continue to hold most of the country.

  16. anan”

    Perhaps you are of the opinion that if and when we Americans leave, and if we are the last of the coalition members to leave (oh god…don’t you know this transparent picture is just more misdirection by our presently elected officials, who really have no idea how to win a war or what would constitute a true and viable victory? Recall our Emperor Obama-Mao dissing the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri…hear the ghosts of those thousands upon thousands of souls killed fighting in the Pacific, from all sides over such disrespect and absolute ignorance!) this created “vacuum” will be filled by others, a few of which you have suggested.

    Who cares, and who should care? Why should America care? Another “existential” threat, reality or something else that only a college professor would come up with to shield his fear of donning that US military uniform and walking the walk? Dominoes anyone?

    From your picture drawn, the game continues in Afghanistan, just with different faces from different lands attempting to do what? Stop the “evil” forces from gaining an upper hand? Which Afghan hand do you want, the right for eating, or the left for wiping? Tell me how “modern” man can help…the less privileged? I know, this dumbwad, 13th century true believer holds a cell phone in his left hand while his right hand presses a few numbers, during which he shouts “Allah Akbar” and an IED explodes somewhere close by, sending soldiers out on COIN diving for safety.

    Do you intend to bring that young girl with no nose who is pictured on an American national–dying magazine, here, to the US, for reconstructive and free surgery?

    Sorry, all our operating tables are presently filled with abandoned pets and wildlife from the Gulf of Mexico…don’t you watch American television?

    Here’s an idea, perhaps worth pondering: Bring our troops home. Next up, reinstate a draft. Wait a few years, then see who wants to go to war with third rate countries and spend years trying to “win” a “victory” while stealing monies never earned, nor able to repay…which will become the true seeds for another “world war” perhaps.

    We can’t even get our own National Guard troops to the Arizona border on time (they’re in “process” don’t you know!), but the leaders of a drug cartel can put out the word to “kill” our number one Sheriff who “takes no prisoners” in America. Meanwhile, our CIC…Emperor Obama-Mao does nothing, absolutely nothing but offer up “fairy dust” while Sarah Palin joins the chorus saying he has no “cajones” whatsoever.

    Next time you fly look around our airports: Who won this battle of freedom? Maybe this is why the heroin trade from Afghanistan is still growing and expanding!

    I don’t want to play your game in Afghanistan, never did, never will!

    Perhaps you are a “true believer” who knows that with just the right “tools” we can do “something” worthwhile in Afghanistan.

    Just don’t ask my sons to work with you and your buds, trying to be “all you can be” or something else catchy!

    I don’t like seeing the young kids in my VA hospital busted up from these “half-assed” decisions on “playing” war!

  17. I don’t think there can be victory- we’ve already spent too much for that term to have meaning. The goal should be to cut the costs as quickly as domestic politics allow. We’ve given our Afghans billions in arms, cash and training and I suspect they’ve been dogging it because NATO forces are available. It doesn’t really matter if they are or not. If so then we can leave and they can take over, if not then it’s a lost cause. In any event we should go and the summer of 2011 is not quick enough to begin. We can still use air strikes to take them out when they bunch up…we can just lose all of the nonsense about “rebuilding” Afghanistan which is expensive and has been ineffectual.

  18. J Harlan, victory is what happened in Iraq. Capable motivated ISF killed the enemies of Iraq [Al Qaeda, Baa3thists and foreigners] and brought violence down about 95% from the peak. The ISF are widely percieved as the strong horse in the middle east, and the neighbors are scared about what the Iraqis will do to them if they start organizing attacks against the Gov of Iraq [GoI] and ISF again, like they did 2003-2007. The GoI and ISF defeated 15 countries in 2008, as many Iraqis would proudly tell you.

    Victory happens in Afghanistan when the ANA inflicts a lot of pain on the Taliban/AQ syndicate, and God forbid maybe their foreign backers.

    The Taliban and Al Qaeda are trying to capture much of Pakistan and Afghanistan. The “prize” are the Pakistani nukes and other Pakistani Army armaments. If they get them, they will almost certainly use them in terrorist attacks against:
    1) Shiite population centers
    2) Russia
    3) Europe
    4) India
    5) North America

    If you are okay with nuclear weapons going off in population centers, then by all means cut off international grants to Afghanistan, and training/advising/funding/equipping to the Taliban.

    The ANA hates the Taliban Al Qaeda nexus. So I say we help the ANA fight them. The effort to build up the ANSF began in November, 2009, so give them a break.

    In the 1973 under the Afghan king, the ANA had about 200 thousand soldiers with a target of 250 thousand. This was during a time of peace and prosperity with no Al Qaeda and Taliban and a far smaller population. That was the minimum of what Afghanistan needed then as a deterrence against their historic enemy Pakistan, and to ensure that the Soviets and Iranians didn’t mess with them.

    Today the ANA + AAF need a minimum of 300 K, and ANP need a minimum of 170 K. That is if the international community wants to give the ANSF and Afghan people a fighting chance in their war for their freedom from the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

    The fact is that the international community, UN, ISAF [including America] has done jack to train ANA officers and NCOs. Is it any surprise that the biggest cause of anti American and anti ISAF sentiment in Afghanistan is the widely held conspiracy theory that we are secretly backing the Taliban against them? More than 85% of Afghans oppose the Taliban, more than 80% of Afghans strongly oppose the Taliban. Afghans ask why the Taliban pays their soldiers more than the ANA pays Afghan soldiers. They also ask why the Taliban has so many good officers and foreign embedded combat advisers while no comparable effort is being conducted to train ANSF officers.

    Harlan, how long do you think the Taliban would hold out if they didn’t have backing of a powerful component of the Pakistani civil war and substantial funding from the Gulf?

    By all means transition responsibilities to the ANSF, but please start training ANSF officers and NCOs first. Maybe actually pay for an Afghan Air Force. Hell the Soviets paid for a real Afghan Air Force [AAF] in the 1980s. Why is ISAF refusing to fund the AAF now?

  19. You just don’t get it bro. Your stats look really cool though. Probably make a wicked PowerPoint!

  20. Iraq was a victory? Since the point was to install a pro-US government in order to menace the Iranians I’d say it so far has been a defeat. Certainly the US has gained nothing even close to the resources and good will expended. Spin it all you want but $ 1 trillion and 4,000 dead to install a Shia government wasn’t the goal.

    All the US has managed to do is to largely destroy the society of the most “modernized” Arab country in the Middle East and set the stage for round two of the civil war that has been on a pause. The 500 or so Iraqis killed in July is bad news for anyone who thought the ethnic battles were over.

    BTW the drop in violence in Iraq was due to the completion of the ethnic cleansing of most Baghdad neighborhoods by the Iraqi Security Forces. The surge had nothing to do with it…there were simply far fewer Sunnis left for the police to kidnap and murder.

  21. anan:

    Finally, your back-up argument:

    “If you are okay with nuclear weapons going off in population centers, then by all means cut off international grants to Afghanistan, and training/advising/funding/equipping to the Taliban.”

    Here’s a counter plan to your dream scenario: We elect a president and vast members of Congress who have “cajones” as Americans. Bad guys get lucky, find/steal, or are given a nuclear bomb.

    Bad guys explode this bomb inside America or within our friend’s lands (read Israel if for no other reason than this would fit for an easy counter argument offering up even more foggy air, etc.)

    The result: Thousands die, total destruction over a wide area, lands uninhabitable for generations.

    America does what?

    Let’s see…we now have leaders with “cajones” so my hunch is that we “wipe off the face of this earth” those who did the deed…el pronto, before they can get any other bullies lined up to defend their little asses (read Emperor Obama-Mao’s present pals, the Russians, the North Koreans, the Chinese, the Cubans, the Venezuelans, some interspersed African nations, and of course those Iranians and my favorites, the Palestinians).

    We will “John Wayne” them while you and your pals are watching reruns of the hit movie “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” for the umpteenth time.

    As tears for your pals are shed…for days on end, remember that after most great wars those who remain begin having lots of babies, even ones that may be radiated, following the laws of nature. Memorials will be erected, many tears shed for years to come.

    Oh, and if these bag guys have some big bad ass bullies already lined up: We whisper to said big bullies “watch this before you decide to play nasty with us!” If your not sure how this takes place, watch Godfather Part II when Miss Fonda gets out of Sonny’s bastard son’s bed for reference and “how to” information.

    This is the part of life history that Emperor Obama-Mao and his knee pad pals forgot to learn as they roamed the safe streets of Chicago offering “community organizing and special services” instead of becoming a part of the active American military machine marching into real combat…into the fires of hell!

    Your war is one where lawyers lead/order others, not warriors who seek to make an end of the current conflict, as quick and so very nasty as it may be…that’s why we still have nuclear weapons in our arsenal. Rusty knife or nuclear bomb…dead is dead!

    As to that argument of “thousands will die” I suggest you bone up on your classical reading where you might learn of real slaughter of real people for many centuries.

    Till such time, enjoy bedtime reading of Eric Hoffer’s “The Ordeal of Change” for insights you might not have considered.

    Thank you for also putting forth your perspective, respectfully. I offer mine–somewhat tainted, with respect in response.

    Remember; if it’s Wednesday night, it’s party time at the White House!

    Bona Fides!

  22. Anan: I asked once before if you were a PR officer for the ANSF but I don’t recall getting an answer. You, of course, are under no obligation to answer but I’m curious because you’d be very good at it.

    The question is why do our Afghans who have received training, modern weapons and billions in funding do so poorly against the Taliban whom they supposedly outnumber? i think that’s the trillion dollar question.

    To my knowledge there are no atomic weapons in Afghanistan. Linking fighting the Taliban with stopping other Islamists from gaining access to a nuclear weapon is a massive stretch. Both the Afg and Pak Taliban are a threat that should be sorted out by local governments but the chance that they could get hold of a nuclear device and could make it work is close to zero.

    If the US felt that there was a danger that Pak nuclear weapons were in danger of falling into the hands of AQ et al it should seize the weapons now or supplant or reinforce Pakistani security until the risk is gone. I presume the US has contingency plans to do so and to flatten a wide area around all Pakistani nuclear facilities.

    The war in Afghanistan is not about US security- in fact it harms it by wasting resources and recruiting Islamists. It is about US domestic politics with a smattering of Euro NATO manuevering. A nasty combination of greed, ego, paranoia, institutional culture and fear of electoral defeat that makes reducing the commitment so difficult. In this Afghanistan is like Viet Nam.

    1. Harlan, see this article:
      http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/08/al_qaeda_brigade_313_website_goes_online.php

      Might clarify later why I think Taliban/AQ syndicate might capture the Pakistani Army arsenal, including nukes.

      “Iraq was a victory?” Yes.

      “Since the point was to install a pro-US government in order to menace the Iranians I’d say it so far has been a defeat.” That was not the goal. Iraq is a free democracy that is getting stronger and more successful through its own efforts and momentum. Notice that Maliki, Allawi, and the Najaf Marjeya are all siding with the green movement against Khamenei and the IRGC Kuds force and might well succeed in toppling them.

      “Certainly the US has gained nothing even close to the resources and good will expended. Spin it all you want but $ 1 trillion and 4,000 dead to install a Shia government wasn’t the goal.” The Iraq was was always primarily about Iraqis, not about Americans. It is a victory from an Iraqi perspective, although a costly one. Many Iraqis will proudly tell you it was a victory, including those who serve in the ISF. Naturally Iraqis underestimate the American contribution to their victory.

      I opposed the war in 2002 and 2003 because I didn’t think it made sense for America to expend so much American blood and treasure to help Iraqis fight Baa3thists and Takfiri extremists. But none the less Iraq proved to be a victory for the ISF, GoI and Iraqi people.

      “All the US has managed to do is to largely destroy the society of the most modernized Arab country in the Middle East and set the stage for round two of the civil war that has been on a pause.” Baa3thist and AQ propaganda.

      “The 500 or so Iraqis killed in July is bad news for anyone who thought the ethnic battles were over.” 500 Iraqis didn’t die in July, Al Qaeda propaganda aside:
      http://www.usf-iraq.com/news/press-releases/corrected-copy-july-2010-casualties-statistics
      A one month surge does not a trend make.

      “BTW the drop in violence in Iraq was due to the completion of the ethnic cleansing of most Baghdad neighborhoods by the Iraqi Security Forces. The surge had nothing to do with itthere were simply far fewer Sunnis left for the police to kidnap and murder.” The ISF were and remain more Sunni Arab than the Iraqi public. Please stop trying to slander them as sectarian [like the Arab “brotherly” neighbors try to do.] The idea that Iraq is ethnically cleansed is grossly exaggerated by the enemies of Iraq.

  23. anan”

    I’m noting a pattern developing here in blog responses. I sense perhaps you might be of an ethnic origin from those areas where America presently has troops, and perhaps also a member of the Islamic faith.

    If these hunches of mine might be close to accurate or dead on, then in reviewing my posts for this article, I might conclude that some, perhaps many of my comments and positions would offend such a person; you in particular.

    Earlier today, in New York City, a governing body charged with certain responsibilities, gave the first primary “go ahead” for the erection of an Islamic center close to the site of the former World Trade Centers, where true believers of the Islamic faith came many years ago to kill and destroy as much structure and as many people as possible.

    Since then, especially here in America, and noted from world press, I have not seen any senior, nor group of senior Islamic religious leaders come forward to say to America and the rest of the world that those who use their religion as a foundation upon which they then justify the efforts to kill as many infidels/Americans as possible is wrong, is outside of the tenets of this faith, beyond the teachings in this religion and are to be condemned by all true believers and those who lead its followers in this “religion of peace” as the former American boxer Ali claimed in that concert right after 9/11.

    I did see on tv this morning a representative from CAIR come forward and try to chastise a former Fire Fighter of the 9/11 attack for his views on this forthcoming attempt to erect an Islamic holy site close to the site where Islamists crashed into the former towers.

    Some say the Catholic Pope during World War II was not forward in condemning Germany’s’ many atrocities. Isn’t there a continuing dispute over the holy city of Jerusalem, in particular specific areas
    for religious worship?

    Does any of this really matter? I note you avoid responding to my positions; my not so subtle challenges to prove yours. Yet you are quick to respond to others who have not posted as “hot emotionally” posts as mine might be perceived. I have perhaps far different perspectives on these conflicts and American interests than perhaps you entertain.

    I remember way back in the 60’s telling friends we should have killed Yassar Arafat when he was just a terrorist blowing up American planes.

    In other words, I suspect I just might be one of your many enemies, at least in the way I think as compared to your thinking. There is common ground for all of this: It only takes those willing to seek it to find it, then protect and nourish it.

    I don’t think the citizens of Afghanistan are willing to do what is necessary to achieve the kind of picture we in America would like to see. I also think those in Iraq don’t share a similar picture. If you are not sure of this picture, I suggest you read our Declaration of Independence, followed by our Constitution.

    Our dead from fighting foreign wars are buried in many countries that now experience freedom and democracy, while those native citizens have found friendship with we Americans.

    Americans want to be friends with all people; for we are constructed from all people on this planet…we are of you, but you may not be of us! (Nor want to be…)

    If not, then leave us alone and give back those cell phones!

    1. RJ, not ignoring you. Will try to respond to you when time permits.

      Am not a muslim.

      “where true believers of the Islamic faith came many years ago to kill and destroy as much structure and as many people as possible.” Al Qaeda and Taliban linked networks are Takfiris, and a blaspheme on Islam. Most muslims reject and oppose them. Many muslims fear them. AQ and Taliban linked militants have killed over 100 thousand muslims, or more muslims than nonmuslims. The vast majority of nonmuslims killed by AQ/Taliban linked groups are not American.

      “Since then, especially here in America, and noted from world press, I have not seen any senior, nor group of senior Islamic religious leaders come forward to say to America and the rest of the world that those who use their religion as a foundation upon which they then justify the efforts to kill as many infidels/Americans as possible is wrong, is outside of the tenets of this faith, beyond the teachings in this religion and are to be condemned by all true believers and those who lead its followers in this religion of peace as the former American boxer Ali claimed in that concert right after 9/11.” Many many muslim leaders have stated exactly this. Granted, initially after 9/11, Shiites, Sufis, Turks, Indian muslims, Indonesians, Iranians, Malaysians, Azerbaijanis very openly supported America. However, some Sunni Arabs and Sunni Pakistanis celebrated the attack on “Jewdom.” So did the Greeks for some bizarre strange reason. Don’t get the Greeks.

      My understanding is that the cultural center 2 blocks from ground zero will house a multi-faith chapel, and will cater to all muslims including Sufis and Shiites, AQ’s mortal enemies. AQ will burn in anger. Good.

      “Some say the Catholic Pope during World War II was not forward in condemning Germany’s’ many atrocities.” Something I am sure he regretted. 🙁

      “sn’t there a continuing dispute over the holy city of Jerusalem, in particular specific areas for religious worship?” You understand what is happening in Palestine/Israel? If so you are the second person I have met that does; the other being God. 😉

      “I remember way back in the 60’s telling friends we should have killed Yassar Arafat when he was just a terrorist blowing up American planes.” No America shouldn’t have. However, nor should we have tried to block other countries from doing so. Hint. Hint. Usually, we Americans are best off letting others handle our enemy their way. But for God’s sake, we should shut up once in a while, and not criticize others.

      “I suspect I just might be one of your many enemies, at least in the way I think as compared to your thinking.” Not sure this is true. Need to learn more about your way of thinking. 😉

      “I don’t think the citizens of Afghanistan are willing to do what is necessary to achieve the kind of picture we in America would like to see. I also think those in Iraq don’t share a similar picture.” Disagree on both counts. Iraq will always be a middle east, muslim and Iraqi. But it is becoming increasingly democratic, free, plural and successful. These are good things.

      Might address Afghanistan more in other comments.

      “Our dead from fighting foreign wars are buried in many countries that now experience freedom and democracy, while those native citizens have found friendship with we Americans.” True. This seems to be happening in Iraq as well. Suspect the new GoI will soon ask for an extension of American troops [no more than 3 or 4 advisory brigades.]

      “Americans want to be friends with all people; for we are constructed from all people on this planetwe are of you, but you may not be of us! (Nor want to be)” True. Think foreigners are more like America than we Americans often realize.

      “If not, then leave us alone and give back those cell phones!” You mean Chinese cell phones? :LOL:

    1. The flooding here was minor compared to the floods in Pakistan and we’re drying out Dennis,

  24. The Jalalabad bombings actually made it into the Guardian.

    Also thanks for the link to Ann Jones (despite the fact that she might not share your political views). I hadn’t heard of her before, and she adds an interesting perspective.

  25. Apologies for not writing sooner but going through some older posts and had to reply to the comment from anan, “The ISF were and remain more Sunni Arab than the Iraqi public.” Are you referring to Al Anbar or all of Iraq? Please clarify for me because if you are inferring that the majority of the Iraqi security forces (IP and IA) are Sunni then please cite the source of this information…I really want to know where you’re getting this from because I am 100% certain you are incorrect. Thanks to de-Baathification they were summarily driven from the ranks and majority Shia population filled those ranks.

  26. Bilbo,

    About 18% of Iraqis are Sunni Arab. The Iraqi Army was always much more Sunni Arab than this. The IA hasn’t published its ethnic breakdown for some time. However, as of 2007, about half of the IA officer corps, and about 31% of the IA as a whole were Sunni Arab.

    Would you like to touch base offline?

    de-baathification primarily affected the senior and mid grade officer corps rather than the junior officer corps, although many of them were affected too.

    Since you mentioned Al Anbar, did you notice that many 7th IAD in 2006 were Moslawi Sunni Arabs?

    Another question for you Bilbo. In Lord of the Rings, when the fellowship of the ring set out in secret from Rivendel, why didn’t you carry a fake ring and set off with some of Elrond’s elite elf warriors on horse back riding hard to the West. The objective would be to distract Sauran and Saruman and draw an orc/Nazgul invasion force deep into Eriador. Ideally lure them to Bombadil. And together with much larger columns from Cirdan in the West and Elrond in the East smash them.

    Never understood why this didn’t happen.

    It would have meant clearer sailing for the fellowship of the ring to travel east and south.

    1. The only positive development that I can point to is that the locals seemed to have highjacked a truck load of beer and it is now available in the local bazaar. It’s pretty expensive because the Afghans know we can no longer buy it at the ISAF base in Kabul thanks to Gen McChrystal but expensive beer is better than no beer.

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