It is Saturday, the 9th of April here in the sunny paradise of Afghanistan and both Kandahar and Kabul are in UN declared “White City” status as the locals braced for another round of anti-American protests in response to the Koran burning in Florida. I’m in Kandahar where all is quiet after Thursday’s spectacular attack on an ANP compound. Once again the Taliban used an ambulance bomb to get through police and ISAF cordons, then detonated it inside the incident scene. I’m guessing they’ll pull that trick about 10 more times before the good guys catch on. The Taliban still suck at fighting, but they are getting pretty slick with the tactical planning.
We aren’t too worried about protests in the South – a look at last week’s stats from Sami the Finn at Indicium Consulting shows why:
When the poppy harvest is coming in all other activity around the poppy belt grinds to a halt. Prices are at an all time high after last years crop failures and Opium sap harvesters will keep 1 man (4.5 kilos) for every 6 they milk out of the poppy bulbs. A man sells (at current prices) for around US $6000, That is a ton of money in these parts, however gathering up that much wet opium takes the average team two weeks of backbreaking, dawn to dusk effort. We generally experience 50 to 60% absenteeism during the poppy harvest; all of which is excused by letters from local doctors attesting to “the necessity for said worker to be absent without leave”. I offered 20 bucks to the first guy who comes up with a written excuse blaming Wisconsin Teachers Union Flu and we’ll see what the guys come up with when they straggle back in. At least our absentee workers were earning money for their families and not demanding fellow citizens surrender even more of their income to support worthless public workers unions.
With most of the international press trying to figure out what in the hell us crazy Americans are up to in Africa confusion is once again rearing its ugly head in reporting about Afghanistan. Are things going well, or are they going down the tubes? Is a resurgent al Qaeda a problem, or, (as I have long maintained) is this never going to be happen again in Afghanistan? Is the President of the United States really an inexperienced, doctrinaire, ignoramus, or is he rope-a-doping the whole world by pretending to be incompetent, all the while hatching a wickedly genius plan to bring Americans a healthy economy coupled to a foreign policy which is easily understood and explained?
Allow me to answers my questions in reverse order: Our POTUS is not rope-a-doping anyone – even Oprah is not voting for him again. His crisis management performance is typical for a man who has been promoted for reasons other than experience, or the content of his character. This is the lesson that cannot be learned in America, because it remains fashionable among our cultural and business elite to emphatically believe affirmative action is a good thing. They want to believe that diversity makes us stronger when everyone who has to deal with “diversity” knows the only way it makes anything stronger is when diverse peoples meet the same standards and compete on a level playing field. Diversity in general, and liberalism specifically, will not remain in fashion when the unsustainable level of debt we are holding comes due, but for now our betters can continue to use the power and prestige of America in support of their moral vanity.
In the Eastern portion of Afghanistan, our attempt at strategery is, for some darn reason, turning out exactly like it did when the Soviets tried the same thing 25 years ago. We have withdrawn from most of Kunar Province because the military geniuses in Kabul have decided that our presence in the isolated valleys was a provocation. Those Hillbillies don’t want anyone in their mountains don’t you know so we decided to pull out of both the Korengal and Pech valleys, but unbelievably the villains thought our withdraw was their victory. Commanders who are victorious against the Americans seem to attract attention, money, recruits, and (this is new) al Qaeda training camps. Who would have guessed that????????
This report in the Wall Street Journal was a nasty surprise to those of us paying attention. But not to worry the next day the MSM was spinning a counter story which consisted of this statement: “Petraeus also said he did not agree with reports that al-Qaida was making a comeback in Afghanistan”. Well, that’s that I guess! The WSJ story was written by Mathew Rosenberg, and I can attest that Matt gets outside the security bubble to dig up his own facts. I gave Matt a ride from Jalalabad to Kabul a few years ago and was impressed mainly because, he had great stories and didn’t bitch about my driving. If Rosenberg is reporting there is a resurgent al Qaeda infesting Afghanistan, then I’m admitting I have been wrong in previous posts about the possibility of this happening. General Petraeus can say what he wants but we all know he doesn’t know because he has no human intelligence capacity. That is the price he must pay for having unlimited funds with which to build little islands of America all over the country, isolating most of the forces completely from the Afghans.
Another classic example of inside the security bubble propaganda versus real outside the wire atmospherics can be found in this April Fools article . Written by James Dobbins, and reprinted by the RAND people for some reason (I am certain protecting their billions in FOB based contracts has nothing to do with it) Mr Dobbins, a DC insider with a vested interest in blowing sunshine up the rectums of other insiders, tells us that “irrational optimism” is the word of the day for your ordinary Afghan. You see, as bad as things are, they have been so much worse over the past 30 years, so, from the perspective of the abused populace, everything is now peachy!
Let me paste in graph from one of the few organizations that actually get out on the ground (with expat led teams) to do their own polling. Check this out:
The pie chart above is based on a report by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS). ICOS is the only policy analysis organization in Afghanistan with expatriate headed assessment teams. They are led by the formidable Norine MacDonald: I ran into them last January while they were in the Helmand Province doing research for this report on the dangers of a draw down in forces this summer.
I don’t think the maneuver units are going anywhere this summer. The United States could easily send half the people deployed in Afghanistan home without diminishing combat power. Simply clear out all the Equal Opportunity Officers, the Sexual Harassment Officers, carrier jammers, the jerks who monitor base gyms to make sure nobody wears a sleeveless shirt and the military policemen who make life on the FOB’s such a drag. You could easily cut the intelligence effort in half because Afghan intel is an echo chamber with endemic circular reporting coupled to sycophantic analysis. And you can close the COIN Academy – setting up a new “innovative” school house is a loser move designed to find the answer to why we can’t gain traction with the Afghan people. The COIN Academy will never answer that question because our ability to do COIN isn’t the problem – the Karzai administration is the problem.
We are spending too much money and blood in Afghanistan while achieving very little besides beating the dog shit out of the Southern Taliban. That is something which the Marines in Helmand and the ISAF units in Kandahar can be proud of but it is not enough. When I look at the train wreck that is the United States economy coupled with the unwillingness of our elected leaders to deal with the mess they made I am reminded (yet again) of the Roman Empire. Contemplate this quote (hat tip Dan Carlin’s Hard Corps History) from historian Michael Crawford who wrote in The Roman Republic:
The dangerous developments of the second century BC were then in large measure the result of growth of the Roman Empire providing the oligarchy with wealth which had to be invested making it easy for them to acquire extra land, providing them with slaves to work it and offering no alternative land elsewhere to those dispossessed. A part time peasant army conquers the Mediterranean and that conquest facilitates its destitution.
The level of debt being generated by our political masters is unsustainable, the amount of spending on the war in Afghanistan is unsustainable, the financial obligations of American states are unsustainable. Yet, our political class continues to demagogue, evade, reward themselves with benefits regular Americans can only dream of, while our military leaders focus on marginal issues like women on submarines or the acceptance of homosexuals (as if they have not always been in the military anyway). Our government leaders focus on everything except the fact we have no money. Our military leaders focus on everything except the fact that we’re losing in Afghanistan. The American people work hard to support their families while sending their children off to fight for a military that is rapidly adopting the liberal cultural mores of the ruling class at the expense of traditional martial virtue. The men and women fighting here and elsewhere will return to a country where only the elite prosper, where the rules for the political class and the working class are different. They are going to fight like lions to support our constitution while the administration shreds that constitution and leaves the common folk destitute.
Holy shit I sound like a commie! Time to pack up the laptop and fly to Dubai where I need to score another visa and probably a beer or three. Maybe a few days of sleeping in a real bed will improve the mood a bit but I doubt it. I see a bad moon rising.