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Thread: Are We Losing Afghanistan Again? - OP-ED

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    Contributor 1980s's Avatar
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    Are We Losing Afghanistan Again? - OP-ED

    Are We Losing Afghanistan Again?
    By THOMAS JOSCELYN and BILL ROGGIO
    OCT. 21, 2015

    “ALLAH has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat,” Mullah Muhammad Omar, the first head of the Taliban, once said, “so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.” When his colleagues admitted this summer that Mullah Omar had died, Al Qaeda and affiliated groups around the globe remembered those words — victory is a divine certainty — in their eulogies. And in Afghanistan today, though the majority of Afghans still do not identify with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, Mullah Omar’s bold defiance in the face of a superpower is beginning to look prescient.

    Since early September, the Taliban have swept through Afghanistan’s north, seizing numerous districts and even, briefly, the provincial capital Kunduz. The United Nations has determined that the Taliban threat to approximately half of the country’s 398 districts is either “high” or “extreme.” Indeed, by our count, more than 30 districts are already under Taliban control. And the insurgents are currently threatening provincial capitals in both northern and southern Afghanistan.

    Confronted with this grim reality, President Obama has decided to keep 9,800 American troops in the country through much of 2016 and 5,500 thereafter. The president was right to change course, but it is difficult to see how much of a difference this small force can make. The United States troops currently in Afghanistan have not been able to thwart the Taliban’s advance. They were able to help push them out of Kunduz, but only after the Taliban’s two-week reign of terror. This suggests that additional troops are needed, not fewer.

    When justifying his decision last week, the president explained that American troops would “remain engaged in two narrow but critical missions — training Afghan forces, and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of Al Qaeda.” He added, “We’ve always known that we had to maintain a counterterrorism operation in that region in order to tamp down any re-emergence of active Al Qaeda networks.”

    But the president has not explained the full scope of what is at stake. Al Qaeda has already re-emerged. Just two days before the president’s statement, the military announced that it led raids against two Qaeda training camps in the south, one of which was an astonishing 30 square miles in size. The operation lasted several days, and involved 63 airstrikes and more than 200 ground troops, including both Americans and Afghan commandos.

    “We struck a major Al Qaeda sanctuary in the center of the Taliban’s historic heartland,” Brig. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, a military spokesman, said. General Shoffner described it as “one of the largest joint ground-assault operations we have ever conducted in Afghanistan.” Other significant Qaeda facilities are already being identified in local press reporting.

    Recently, Hossam Abdul Raouf, a chief lieutenant of the Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, confirmed in an audio message that Qaeda’s senior leadership has relocated out of northern Pakistan — no secret to the military and the C.I.A., which have been hunting senior Qaeda figures in Afghanistan and elsewhere throughout the year.

    The Taliban are not hiding their continuing alliance with Al Qaeda. In August, Mr. Zawahri pledged his allegiance to Mullah Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. Within hours, Mullah Mansour publicly accepted the “esteemed” Mr. Zawahri’s oath of fealty. And Qaeda members are integrated into the Taliban’s chain of command. In fact, foreign fighters affiliated with Al Qaeda played a significant role in the Taliban-led assault on Kunduz.

    The United States made many mistakes in the 9/11 wars. After routing the Taliban and Al Qaeda in late 2001, President George W. Bush did not dedicate the resources necessary to finish the fight. President Obama was right in December 2009 to announce a surge of forces in Afghanistan, but it was short-lived. Al Qaeda is not nearly as “decimated” in South Asia as Mr. Obama has claimed.

    We don’t think 5,500 troops is enough. No one is calling for a full-scale occupation of the country. But a force of as many as 20,000 to 25,000 would far better support our local Afghan allies, helping them defend multiple provincial capitals at the same time and fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their strongholds.

    While many believe that Al Qaeda is solely focused on attacking the West, it has devoted most of its efforts to waging insurgencies. This is the key to understanding how it has been able to regenerate repeatedly over the past 14 years. Al Qaeda draws would-be terrorists from the larger pool of paramilitary forces fighting to restore the Taliban to power in Afghanistan or to build radical nation-states elsewhere. Therefore, the mission of the United States is bigger than the one Mr. Obama envisions. Drones and select counterterrorism raids are not enough to end the threat.

    Al Qaeda and like-minded groups were founded on the myth that the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan because of the mujahedeen’s faith in Allah alone. This helped spawn a generation of new wars and terrorist attacks, most of which have targeted Muslims. Should the Afghans suffer additional territorial losses, Mullah Omar’s words will appear prophetic. And a new myth, one that will feed the Taliban’s and Al Qaeda’s violence for years to come, will be born.

    Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio are senior fellows at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the editors of The Long War Journal.

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    Official Thread Jacker Senior Contributor gunnut's Avatar
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    Whoa whoa whoa....let's not be hasty here. What do you mean "we?" That's like a democrat saying "we ended slavery."
    "Only Nixon can go to China." -- Old Vulcan proverb.

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    Contributor ambidex's Avatar
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    Taliban drone footage of VBIED attack on an Afghan Army base in Nawa distric, Helmand



    Is it for real ??

    No Barricades, no security grid for Army base ??

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    Resident Curmudgeon Military Professional Gun Grape's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ambidex View Post
    Taliban drone footage of VBIED attack on an Afghan Army base in Nawa distric, Helmand



    Is it for real ??

    No Barricades, no security grid for Army base ??
    Other videos of the incident identify this as a police HQ. Not Army.

    Still pretty shocking
    Its called Tourist Season. So why can't we shoot them?

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    Contributor ambidex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gun Grape View Post
    Other videos of the incident identify this as a police HQ. Not Army.

    Still pretty shocking
    Thanks,

    This video is shocking to me as well because I can not imagine a medium to small size car can carry an explosive that can take down a complex including surroundings spread in many hectares. Just horrific.

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    Dirty Kiwi Senior Contributor
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    I can't imagine the lack of security that allowed that to happen.
    In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility

    Gottfried Leibniz

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    Military Professional JCT's Avatar
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    Sorry, replying to an oldish thread.

    It is disheartening to read how the Taliban are making inroads into Helmand Province.

    Helmand, the largest of 34 Afghan provinces, has seen the fiercest fighting during the last 15 years of war. Most of the province is under Taliban control, with the government only holding the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, and a few surrounding district centers.

    According to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Taliban control eight of Helmand’s 14 districts.
    I was there in mid-2011 and the Taliban controlled all or most of 3 of the districts - Baghran, Kajaki, and Dishu. Baghran was at the very northern end of the Province and we had never been there. Likewise Dishu was at the very southern end, bordering Pakistan and there was no US presence and very little population-wise. Fighting was heavy in Sangin, but we were steadily pushing the insurgents out. The push into Kajaki was on the horizon and was executed after I left. Now, it's all back under Taliban control. Makes me want to cry.

    The latest:
    The United States has announced it would deploy a new group of about 300 troops to Helmand to help Afghan forces beat back the Taliban during the upcoming spring fighting season.
    For crying out loud, we had an entire MEF there, plus a sizeable Brit and Dutch(? could be mistaken, I've forgotten) contingent and a battalion of Georgians for good measure. 300 troops? That could be a disaster waiting to happen, too small to provide more than the occasional advisor and reliant on the Afghans for security.

    What a waste....go big or go home.

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    Senior Contributor kuku's Avatar
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    In its most recent quarterly report to the U.S. Congress, SIGAR warned that the Afghan government is losing territory to the Taliban and now controls less than 60 percent of the country.
    Pakistan, China and Russia are now starting talks with Taliban about the future of Afghanistan, (under strong protest of the Afghan government), with the Taliban representatives travelling on Pakistani passports (i assume).
    How can the world forget the mess of the late 90s and early 2000s that was done by these same guys calling themselves the Taliban, they need to be chased, and killed, to the last of their successors with their philosophy opposed violently.
    What a waste....go big or go home.
    Yes, If US now goes back home and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda leadership come back and with legitimacy from the new China, Pakistan, Russia combine, and take control of most of Afghanistan, then what was the whole war for? Killing Bin Laden & company?
    cheers

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    Senior Contributor Toby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCT View Post

    What a waste....go big or go home.
    Big like Vietnam?

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    Senior Contributor SteveDaPirate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kuku View Post
    then what was the whole war for? Killing Bin Laden & company?
    Yeah pretty much.

    The US doesn't really have any vital interests in Afghanistan to keep it invested long term. It did have a desire for vengeance after the 9/11 attacks and a need to show that attacks against the US homeland will result in massive retaliation.

    We'd obviously hoped that if we pruned back the Taliban, that the people of Afghanistan would be glad to see them go, and keep them marginalized. Clearly they still have significant support among the populace :/ Still the US's primary objectives were accomplished and I doubt we'll be back in force to have another go at nation building.

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    Senior Contributor SteveDaPirate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toby View Post
    Big like Vietnam?
    Vietnam wasn't lacking in military power, it was lacking well defined political objectives that were effectively communicated to and accepted by the American public.

    For better or worse, the primary US objectives in Afghanistan were centered around punishing the group that had attacked US ships and buildings, killing US citizens. Destroying the group responsible satisfied the US public's desire for vengeance, and hopefully acted as a deterrent to other groups that might have similar ideas.

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    Military Professional JCT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toby View Post
    Big like Vietnam?
    Determine what your objectives are, figure out the forces and timeline necessary to accomplish said objectives (then add 30% to both 'cause you'll always screw up your estimates with a problem this difficult), then provide the national leadership and the public your estimates. Make a decision. I'm not saying go back in big time, but if we do ramp up our deployments to send more men and women in harms way, we ought to have a good reason to do so.

    What is our objective with this 300 person deployment? Yes, they are providing advisors to the local ANA, but it's also the local gov't and police forces that need help. However most of them are hedging their bets and working both sides. THis is a messy problem and a significant number of the Afghan politicians and power brokers are much more worried about their personal power and wealth than the wellbeing of the country. Through admittedly anecdotal evidence, a good number of them own property outside of Afghanistan. Makes you think that they are planning for the future.
    Last edited by JCT; 06 Mar 17, at 20:09. Reason: Added clarification

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    Senior Contributor Toby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCT View Post
    Determine what your objectives are, figure out the forces and timeline necessary to accomplish said objectives (then add 30% to both 'cause you'll always screw up your estimates with a problem this difficult), then provide the national leadership and the public your estimates. Make a decision. I'm not saying go back in big time, but if we do ramp up our deployments to send more men and women in harms way, we ought to have a good reason to do so.

    What is our objective with this 300 person deployment? Yes, they are providing advisors to the local ANA, but it's also the local gov't and police forces that need help. However most of them are hedging their bets and working both sides. THis is a messy problem and a significant number of the Afghan politicians and power brokers are much more worried about their personal power and wealth than the wellbeing of the country. Through admittedly anecdotal evidence, a good number of them own property outside of Afghanistan. Makes you think that they are planning for the future.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
    Vietnam wasn't lacking in military power, it was lacking well defined political objectives that were effectively communicated to and accepted by the American public.

    For better or worse, the primary US objectives in Afghanistan were centered around punishing the group that had attacked US ships and buildings, killing US citizens. Destroying the group responsible satisfied the US public's desire for vengeance, and hopefully acted as a deterrent to other groups that might have similar ideas.
    You can't fight a low tech war with bomb the shit out of everybody tactics......Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria thankfully not Iran have been screwed up from the beginning and it was us the old colonial powers that have exaggerated an already complex situation into a complete FUBAR situation....Are you seriously telling me that you understand any of these recent wars...Coz I don't. I don't understand why Al Qaeda flew those planes into the twin towers, I don't understand why Bush Invaded Iraq on the back of 9/11 ..None of it makes any sense to any rationally minded person. And then the question arises...is it meant to????? Ever get the feeling you're being fed a line and being lead by the nose, coz I sure as hell do!

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    Senior Contributor SteveDaPirate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toby View Post
    You can't fight a low tech war with bomb the shit out of everybody tactics...
    Depends what your objectives are.

    This tactic is often adopted by the US as a means to support one side of a civil war that's already in progress.

    US airpower is very effective at defeating large organized attacks that might result in friendly local forces being overrun. It's also pretty good at softening up enemy defenses. What it can't do is take and hold ground. The US is typically reliant on friendly locals to do the actual attacking, seizing, and holding of territory when the conflict isn't important enough to US interests to send legions of our own troops.

    Uncontested airpower is effective at ensuring a side of your choosing isn't destroyed. That isn't the same as ensuring that side will win however.

    Any group of people will fight for survival if they come under attack, and with US aircraft helping to defend them, even a group of ragtag riflemen can be extremely hard to dislodge from a position. Convincing that same group of riflemen to risk their lives to go attack the enemy is an entirely different prospect however.

    So if the US's objectives in Syria, for example, are to ensure that neither Assad nor ISIS are allowed to overrun Kurdish territory, the use of airpower (and special forces) is an entirely appropriate tool. If the Kurds want to take additional territory for themselves, airpower can make that task easier. But if the Kurds are content with defending what they have, no amount of bombing will make additional land change hands unless ground forces move forward and take it.

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    Senior Contributor Toby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
    Depends what your objectives are.

    This tactic is often adopted by the US as a means to support one side of a civil war that's already in progress.

    US airpower is very effective at defeating large organized attacks that might result in friendly local forces being overrun. It's also pretty good at softening up enemy defenses. What it can't do is take and hold ground. The US is typically reliant on friendly locals to do the actual attacking, seizing, and holding of territory when the conflict isn't important enough to US interests to send legions of our own troops.

    Uncontested airpower is effective at ensuring a side of your choosing isn't destroyed. That isn't the same as ensuring that side will win however.

    Any group of people will fight for survival if they come under attack, and with US aircraft helping to defend them, even a group of ragtag riflemen can be extremely hard to dislodge from a position. Convincing that same group of riflemen to risk their lives to go attack the enemy is an entirely different prospect however.

    .
    I guess once the situation has been amplified to such a pitch where moronic islamic extremist are growing from trees, US military doctrine can really get into full swing. Well done mission accomplished!

    So if the US's objectives in Syria, for example, are to ensure that neither Assad nor ISIS are allowed to overrun Kurdish territory, the use of airpower (and special forces) is an entirely appropriate tool.
    Agreed

    If the Kurds want to take additional territory for themselves, airpower can make that task easier. But if the Kurds are content with defending what they have, no amount of bombing will make additional land change hands unless ground forces move forward and take it
    I'm all for a Kurdish homeland .....but hey its going to create more instability....Turkey won't wear it for starters, neither will Iran etc

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