Michael's Dispatches

Afghanistan Force Requirements


Published: 22 September 2009

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sean · 12 years ago
    I'm very torn and confused as to how to react to this.

    Ralph Peters makes very convincing, albeit cynical, points that the Afghans as a whole are just fundamentally opposed to what it is we're trying to do.

    And comparisons to Iraq are not viale:

    Geography: fighting in Iraq and fighting in Afghanistan are worlds apart. We more-or-less controlled Iraq with the help of some locals with less than 200K troops. The Soviets held virtually no Afghan territory with over 00K. The mountainous terrain is far more insurgent-friendly than the palm groves, rolling dunes and urban areas of Shia and Sunni-held Iraq.

    Culture: Iraqis were already somewhat fairly modern and aware of Western civilization and it's benefits/draws. Afghans have no clue.

    Infrastructure: Iraqis have Oil to fund their operations. Afghans have nothing. The Iraqis could conceivable prop up a welfare state to keep potential combatants employed. The Afghans have no such option, and certainly nothing that can compete with the offerings of insurgent groups, smuggling, or poppy production.

    Afghanistan is a completely different kettle of fish than Iraq. It is hard to conceive how we can "clear and hold" towns in Afghanistan as we eventually did as a result of "The Surge" in Iraq. We have no Sons of Iraq, and to even the crudest of observers in Afghanistan, US popular support is in the descendent as regards to the Afghanistan conflict. Why on earth put your support behind a nation that is getting ready to leave?

    I've never heard a reasonable counter to why we do not have a funcioning Afghan military/security force after eight years. The reason I hear is: the Afghans themselves are not committed to "Afghanistan", but more to their own individual betterment and to that of their family/tribe. Joining the military/police are simply two ways to get into the extortion business, but with an official seal of NATO/ISAF approval.

    No one has a good answer to this conundrum, and lots of folks whom I trust and respect have very different ideas as to what we should do.

    The generally moral here is: we're f***ed no matter what we do.

    Looking forward to your input on this topic, Mr. Yon.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    dennis · 12 years ago
    what to do.
    most agree to what you said. as i would like to see Afghanistan, stand up on it's own two feet, i don't think this will happen now. i have come to realises the body is brain dead,please pull the plug.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jeff · 12 years ago
    I'm also torn. I've never been on to question our efforts in Afghanistan until now. One hates to walk out of a situation where so much was invested. When do you cut your losses? It's not a science.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    AJM · 12 years ago
    If the number of deaths (civilian and military) resulting from an Afghan occupation equal more than number of potential victims from terrorism out of Afghanistan, then withdrawl seems the obvious answer. Of course no one can see into the future but I'm sure, America especially, has good enough homeland defense to keep terrorism emanating from Afghanistan to a minimum if not zero. Of course it's not really about terrorism emanating from Afghanistan, terrorism flows from Pakistan or is homegrown now. It's about pride and the politics of letting Kabul fall, Saigon style- the predictable message from al Queda telling the world that they were right all along, even if it came from the last AQ with a laptop, would be too much for the US.

    Militarily, we will have to be sly. Keeping the enemy guessing, bluffs, traps, surveillance, we'll have to out- wit them. Getting bogged down in isolated, surrounded FOB's is not the answer- good intelligence, mobility and surprise is needed. A wider range of innovative technologies will also make the difference, not state of the art, long lead procurements but lower tech, speedy solutions to specific needs e.g. D-9 Bulldozers, Light Attack Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft. Those partners who are not willing to make sacrifices for Nato should stick to logistics and funding.

    I'm not sure we have the commitment needed and a lot of precious (for the Afghans/ troops) time has been wasted. The ammount of international support the ANA/ ANP will need going forward is massive and when multi- national forces start to draw down, these forces may well fragment and dissolve, pulled in different directions/ loyalties. I fear we will resort to arming a few 'trusted' war lords to maintain power or power balance and withdraw to neighbouring bases and carriers, maybe this was the only realistic option in the first place which would be sad as I'm sure the Afghan people are more forward looking than we give them credit for.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ross · 12 years ago
    The obvious tendency to compare Afghanistan to Iraq is, as previously observed, both faulty and invalid. As shown in this document, the actual numbers of soldiers fulfilling the counter-insurgency role is massively less than in Iraq (approximately 1/ pre-surge levels), and the area they must cover is larger.

    But what I don't understand is how we still consider withdrawal from Afghanistan as an option. This isn't about time invested. Nor is it about chest-thumping 9/11 references. The truth of the matter is that, no matter how damaged that country may be, our presence there is an absolute necessity.

    I'd love to see an Afghanistan on it's own two feet. But Afghans will have to want that. And they don't (for the moment). But that's not why we're there. We're there because multiple organizations with the explicitly stated goal of destroying our culture have set up there as a base of operations. They've expanded into Pakistan, and are salivating to get their hands on weapons that would allow them to achieve their goals. And if we pull out of Afghanistan, these organizations will simply take it back and use it as a staging ground once again. Don't forget who we're fighting here--these guys have no intention of stopping simply because we gave them "their country" back.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Paul S. · 12 years ago
    As John Bolton pointed out recently, "what happens to the Taliban in Afghanistan figures importantly in what happens in Pakistan."
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Dudley · 12 years ago
    I just don't see it. The taliban are not some united army. They are fragmented tribes owing no allegiance to Al Qaeda. They are preoccupied with consolidating power in their own sphere. Our departure would remove a focus for their efforts and result in internecine fighting. Consolidate our efforts on the AF-PAK border, push the Pak gov to squeeze AQ while we ensure India does not insert themselves into the equation.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Aaron Bounds · 12 years ago
    Let's do it.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    suzireb · 12 years ago
    With humility and my total respect my opinion is we need to leave. I hate that I have to consider the amount of money our Government will need to "borrow" to fund the fight against the evil of terror, but there is also an evil associated with our Nation being in debt for generations. General George Washington warned against putting our nation in debt beyond even one generation. Not arguing, just saying.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kasmiir · 12 years ago
    If we (the US) don't have the stomach to do the right thing and see through a long term program of nation building, the only real alternative is to back Dostum, Moheqiq, et al on their offers and re-warlordize the country. We should pick a strong warlord for each major tribal group (including the Pashtun), get them together to hammer out regional spheres of influence, and stay involved as the neutral arbitrator operating out of a few bases. Do it under UN auspices if possible, and maintain Karzai or some other puppet in nominal weak central federal government. Let the Europeans go home if they wish. If Taliban will play ball in Afghan part of Pashtunistan, bring them to the table, otherwise support their enemies and ruthlessly suppress Al Qaeda'a attempts at resurgence.

    If we withdraw it will be a bloodbath anyway, so lets at least see to it that we support parties that will support our counterterror and other interests.

    In parallel, negotiate the potential for the potential unification of Pashtunistan with Pakistan provided they put forward a strong Pashtun warlord that will in exchange commit to expunging Al Qaeda with US support. Carefully consider partition discussions with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikstan but be careful not to undermine effective Warlords. Give China the obvious sliver if they want it, and see what concessions the Iranians will give for a piece iof the partition.

    Maybe no one has the patience to build a proper nation in Afghanistan, but we can still act to shape the region, and there are plenty of volunteers quite eager to do the required dirty work. We can easily retain a large enough footprint to look after our counter-terror interests at a far lower cost of blood and treasure. It's not all or nothing, and it's going to be a bloody mess regardless. Abdication is foolish and unnecessary.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Russ · 12 years ago
    1) the document stated that the population of Afghanistan is about 27, 500,000 people. Of that, the vast majority of afghanistan is "stable". Only about -5 million people live in the contested areas and from reading many other blogs, one could surmize that the majority of the people in the contested areas want peace. That means only a very small fraction of the total population is actively against the government and ISAF. But, due to our lack of ability to get off the FOBs and work with the population on a regular basis, we have ceded control to the enemy and even those that support peace have NO CHOICE. Do not confuse an IED blast with a true show of strength.

    2) most people that say this is never going to work and that we should pull out were the same people saying that Iraq was doomed and we should leave as soon as possible. It's always darkest before the dawn.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Sean · 12 years ago

    1. You've really over-simplified the situation in Afghanistan. "Stable" generally means we have no idea what's going on there because there is no ISAF presence anywhere nearby. In all likelihood if the area is of some value, it is probably either in Taliban control or is highly contested, our "control" being we occupy a base or outpost that is under daily attack and harassment. Read Michael's post "Bad Medicine" about the British situation in Sanjin, where it's taken years and we're still in a state of flux, and our "control" consists of trying to keep the main road clear of IEDs, whilst the bad guys have free reign of the area itself.

    2. For reasons I posted earlier, most of us cannot see how we get from where we are now (remember, we've been at this for almost 8 years in Afghanistan now) to the desired end-state of a stable Afghanistan. The surge in Iraq was logistically feasible and our success with "Awakening Councils" and the "Sons of Iraq" leading up to the surge gave us all confidence that it was do-able. There is no Afghan equivalent.

    To succeed in Afghanistan, we are going to to need a LOT more troops, for a very, very long time. Decades. The American people need to commit to that. Commit to having American men and women die in a largely ignored conflict, for a people that have not yet demonstrated a desire or inclination to support our sacrifices.

    I'm quite sure that if you asked the American people if they were willing to triple our commitment in Afghanistan for the next 10-20 years, and have Americans die at a steady rate for most of that period, you will be hard-pressed to find much support. Add in the idea that we have no idea if it is even going to be enough, and support dwindles more.

    Our allies are packing it in. They've been with us for 8 years, and really, we got much more than we probably should have expected from them.

    The Afghan people are not going to commit to helping us take on the Taliban/al Qaeda if they think we're going to soon pull out, or are not going to increase our commitment.

    If you can successfully demonstrate how we get from our current situation to a stable Afghanistan, I'll back you up 100%. But the experts can't really explain how it happens.

    I realize that if we leave Afghanistan that the Taliban takes over the country. Emboldened, they may then take over parts of Pakistan and that we're right back we were on September 10th, 2001. But what else can we do? Tell me. I'd like to know so I can feel optimistic.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Austin · 12 years ago
    One small contirbution to the discussion:

    Afghanistan is NOT without natural resources. Ask any Colorado Resident that has fought there about the similarities in terrain and landscape. What does Colorado have in abundance? What was Colorado's economy originally based on? What is it based on now? Afghanistan is the same.

    Whether you like it or not war usually involves comodities or resources of the disputed territory. The Russians wanted Afghanistan for the same reason any power in the current global economy wants a stable productive nation of Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan is rich with Natural Resources. Comparing it to Iraq who basicly can only provide two (Petroleum and sand) is specious at the least and very misleading. Mountains contain easy access to all sorts of minerals and metals. They contain all sorts of timber resources (which are currently being exploited, not managed). They also contain huge amounts of Natural Gas. The main source of electricty, hydro electric, is not fully tapped in Afghanistan either. the final economic resource the moutnains have is ranching and agriculture. Iraq does not have half the potential Afghanistan does.

    IF Afghanistan, and this is a huge IF, were to modernize it could become a very productive and wealthy member of the global comunity just as Colorado became a weathly and productive State in our Union.

    A Colorado Soldiers Veiw.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Peter Walnut · 12 years ago
    This document gives the game away immediately. It says that security takes priority over development. But it's development, guaranteed by security ,that wins counter insurgencies. They must start together and in step. Development cannot wait on security or it will never start and the war will be lost as hearts and minds are lost when the people see thgat no development is taking place and that they are suffering for no purpose. There is no point in security unless development takes place. There needs to be some rethinking here and a study of previous successful counter insurgencies e.g. Dhofar.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    silkworm · 12 years ago
    Afghanistan: Where Empires come to DIE!!!

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