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Are We Losing Afghanistan Again? - OP-ED

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Toby View Post
    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!
    The US usually feels compelled to step in once zealots become plentiful enough to slaughter the locals in job lots. Part of the issue with playing "global police" is that you're expected to do something about these things even if it's not your problem. The US took a lot of heat for not intervening to put a stop to events in Darfur that left 300,000 dead.

    Apparently it was determined that limited US involvement could disrupt ISIS's ability to effectively organize and cause trouble outside their local sandbox. Still, I personally I think the US should have walked away after making sure Assad kept his WMD on a leash. Let the Russians spend the next decade playing whack-a-mole with jihadis in Syria while we help Iraq keep things to a dull roar on their side of the border.

    Better yet, invest heavily into batteries, renewables, and nuclear so we can leave the ME to their own devices.

    I suspect that the refugee crisis from Syria is a drop in the bucket compared to what is coming. Between a waning world reliance on oil and climate change in the coming decades, the countries in the Middle East and North Africa that rely on oil for their entire economy are fucked. Their populations are already far beyond what they can feed with domestic food production. Hundreds of millions of people will be forced into a mass exodus to avoid starvation as ME government revenues become insufficient to import enough food and prices shoot up.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
      The US usually feels compelled to step in once zealots become plentiful enough to slaughter the locals in job lots. Part of the issue with playing "global police" is that you're expected to do something about these things even if it's not your problem. The US took a lot of heat for not intervening to put a stop to events in Darfur that left 300,000 dead.

      Apparently it was determined that limited US involvement could disrupt ISIS's ability to effectively organize and cause trouble outside their local sandbox. Still, I personally I think the US should have walked away after making sure Assad kept his WMD on a leash. Let the Russians spend the next decade playing whack-a-mole with jihadis in Syria while we help Iraq keep things to a dull roar on their side of the border.

      Better yet, invest heavily into batteries, renewables, and nuclear so we can leave the ME to their own devices.

      I suspect that the refugee crisis from Syria is a drop in the bucket compared to what is coming. Between a waning world reliance on oil and climate change in the coming decades, the countries in the Middle East and North Africa that rely on oil for their entire economy are fucked. Their populations are already far beyond what they can feed with domestic food production. Hundreds of millions of people will be forced into a mass exodus to avoid starvation as ME government revenues become insufficient to import enough food and prices shoot up.
      We 're reaping our own distortions is what I'm getting at...WE drew the map after the 1st world war..creating fake states and denying peoples like the Kurds their own homeland...giving us todays mess. The day we leave that region will be a blessing for both us and them ....And like you say a world that no longer needs fossil fuels from a deeply sectarian region has got to be just that bit better for everybody

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Toby View Post
        We 're reaping our own distortions is what I'm getting at...WE drew the map after the 1st world war..creating fake states and denying peoples like the Kurds their own homeland...giving us todays mess. The day we leave that region will be a blessing for both us and them ....And like you say a world that no longer needs fossil fuels from a deeply sectarian region has got to be just that bit better for everybody
        We have drawn a bunch of lines in the sand without much thought for the people (tribes) actually living there. For this topic, the Durand Line comes to mind, an artificial boundary placed to protect India. The colonial boundaries drawn in Africa continue to haunt that continent today.

        Back to the topic: Our first abandonment of Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal led to a power vacuum, the rise of the Warlords and then to the Taliban takeover. After we knocked them out of power in 2001/2002, we did not resource the pacification/nation building sufficiently and the Taliban (plus others) took up arms in a significant way in 2006. If we completely pull out now, what are the effects? I do not think that the level of effort we are putting into Afghanistan is sufficient to prop up the Afghan government. I do not think that the US (or other Western powers) has the appetite for a large scale intervention to reverse the Taliban gains. A RAND study on insurgencies, How Insurgencies End, is a fascinating look at the end stages of both successful and failed insurgencies. In short, successful insurgencies tend to end quickly as the target government collapses. Failed insurgencies can drag on for a decade or more. So the question is, which end of the spectrum is Afghanistan on? Personally, I would not want to be part of a long term services contract in Afghanistan right now.
        Last edited by JCT; 13 Mar 17,, 21:58. Reason: Fixed grammar

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        • #19
          Originally posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
          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.
          I think western forces have done much more than what people give them credit for. They have done very good amount of nation building, they sent the Taliban and AQ to Pakistan and used this space to create a government in Afghanistan, which is much stronger than what was left after the soviets left. I noticed that there have been visits by Afghan arms of governance to India (amongst several nations) for training varying from military, agriculture, administrative services, public engineering departments, education to even advanced sciences, literature, fine arts and archaeology. These are all very proud people who represent Afghanistan they don't seem like undecided or unsure in their resolve to defend it from Pakistan and Taliban.

          Despite the negative news i think provided this Afghan national feeling succeeds in keeping unity in Kabul and if Afghan government is supported by the western forces, the immediate neighbourhood (Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc.) and the regional neighbourhood (India, maybe also Russia), they will be able to keep the dominance of Pakistan and Taliban limited to the border areas and keep the concentration of the crazy Talibanis and Pakistanis to fighting in this region, instead of proliferating outside. Which may be the best outcome for the western forces (hopefully with a plan to counter any major push by Pakistan).
          cheers

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          • #20
            Originally posted by kuku View Post
            I think western forces have done much more than what people give them credit for. They have done very good amount of nation building, they sent the Taliban and AQ to Pakistan and used this space to create a government in Afghanistan, which is much stronger than what was left after the soviets left. I noticed that there have been visits by Afghan arms of governance to India (amongst several nations) for training varying from military, agriculture, administrative services, public engineering departments, education to even advanced sciences, literature, fine arts and archaeology. These are all very proud people who represent Afghanistan they don't seem like undecided or unsure in their resolve to defend it from Pakistan and Taliban.

            Despite the negative news i think provided this Afghan national feeling succeeds in keeping unity in Kabul and if Afghan government is supported by the western forces, the immediate neighbourhood (Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc.) and the regional neighbourhood (India, maybe also Russia), they will be able to keep the dominance of Pakistan and Taliban limited to the border areas and keep the concentration of the crazy Talibanis and Pakistanis to fighting in this region, instead of proliferating outside. Which may be the best outcome for the western forces (hopefully with a plan to counter any major push by Pakistan).
            The problem is that Afghanistan never has had a central identify as a unified country. With a few historical exceptions, the country usually has had a very weak central government with local warloards running their own fiefs. In addition, the majority of the people look to their tribe and clan before they look to their identify as an Afghan. The Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan only represent ~45% of the population and the Pashtuns themselves are broken up into numerous clans & tribes that do not get along, but they get along better with each other than with the other ethnic groups (of course this is a very broad brush and individuals are always different.) In addition, China and Russia have their own agendas and it may not reflect a united Afghanistan.

            This tribe/clan identify varies in strength with a broad line between rural and urban dwellers. Prior to the deployment, we all studied the Afghan culture and Pashtunwali was one of the subjects. We were also afforded the opportunity to speak with a couple of the local Afghan cultural advisors. Interestingly enough, the one who was from Kabul stated that Pashtunwali was fading away and was not really in effect. The other disagreed; he hailed from a small district in Helmand Province and in the rural areas Pashtunwali was very much practiced by the locals.

            Finally, I think the Afghan government is trying to offset the Pakistani influence by cultivating India. This has to be a supreme annoyance to the Pakistan government, but can be used as an inducement for the Pakistani government to reduce Taliban support from within Pakistan.

            Like most of the world, this area is super complicated and we tend to send people in for (relatively) short rotations, by the time they start to get a glimmer of an understanding of the complexities, its time for them to rotate home. Even when people return, they are often sent back to different areas or have different responsibilities.

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            • #21
              Originally posted by JCT View Post
              The problem is that Afghanistan never has had a central identify as a unified country. With a few historical exceptions, the country usually has had a very weak central government with local warloards running their own fiefs. In addition, the majority of the people look to their tribe and clan before they look to their identify as an Afghan. The Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan only represent ~45% of the population and the Pashtuns themselves are broken up into numerous clans & tribes that do not get along, but they get along better with each other than with the other ethnic groups (of course this is a very broad brush and individuals are always different.) In addition, China and Russia have their own agendas and it may not reflect a united Afghanistan.

              This tribe/clan identify varies in strength with a broad line between rural and urban dwellers. Prior to the deployment, we all studied the Afghan culture and Pashtunwali was one of the subjects. We were also afforded the opportunity to speak with a couple of the local Afghan cultural advisors. Interestingly enough, the one who was from Kabul stated that Pashtunwali was fading away and was not really in effect. The other disagreed; he hailed from a small district in Helmand Province and in the rural areas Pashtunwali was very much practiced by the locals.

              Finally, I think the Afghan government is trying to offset the Pakistani influence by cultivating India. This has to be a supreme annoyance to the Pakistan government, but can be used as an inducement for the Pakistani government to reduce Taliban support from within Pakistan.

              Like most of the world, this area is super complicated and we tend to send people in for (relatively) short rotations, by the time they start to get a glimmer of an understanding of the complexities, its time for them to rotate home. Even when people return, they are often sent back to different areas or have different responsibilities.
              I listened to an opinion that basically went something like.......

              The Taliban were created by the Soviets ....an entire generation of Afghan children lost their parents due to a murderous Soviet strategy. These children then made their way to 'safety' and into Pakistan where they were radicalised by extreme Islamic factions ....The rest we live with to this day.

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              • #22
                Sangin District Falls to Taliban

                Sangin district has now fallen.
                The Taliban captured the strategic district of Sangin in the southern province of Helmand on Thursday, according to local officials. It was the culmination of a years long offensive that took the lives of more combatants than any other fight for territory in Afghanistan.

                While spokesmen for the central government denied claims by the Taliban that the district had fallen to them, some conceded that the insurgents had overrun the district center and government facilities. But local Afghan government and military officials said there was no doubt Sangin had finally fallen to their enemy.

                A spokesman for the American military, Capt. William K. Salvin, played down the development, saying Afghan security forces were still in the district and had merely moved its seat of government. “They repositioned the district center,” he said. “This move to a new district center has been planned for some time.”
                It can be claimed that the Taliban resurgence in 2006 was sparked in Sangin, so not just geographic/tactical significance to this area, which has resulted in a lot of hard fighting in the District. When the US took over Sangin in Sept 2010, as soon as the Marines stepped off the FOB they were in a gun fight. Eventually, the area immediately around the FOB and district center were quiet. By the time I left in 2011 the town of Sangin was generally quiet and the fight had moved into the upper end of the district and into Kajaki.

                Note the quibbling by the spokesperson. Wonder if it is accurate or they are just trying to downplay the damage.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by JCT View Post
                  Finally, I think the Afghan government is trying to offset the Pakistani influence by cultivating India. This has to be a supreme annoyance to the Pakistan government, but can be used as an inducement for the Pakistani government to reduce Taliban support from within Pakistan.
                  Pakistan will never drop support to Taliban. Well, it is not Pakistani government, who anyway decide on Afghan policy. It is the PA and they will not drop support.

                  Taliban & Afghan war groups has given PA what it could never achieve in Jammu & Kashmir. It is on the verge allowing PA to pseudo control an area much bigger than J&K and will allow it to boast that it has defeated two superpowers! Taliban is the best performing divisions of PA and they are cheap as chips.

                  Once US leaves Afghanistan, it can divert these divisions towards the Eastern borders in to Kashmir.

                  If US wants peace in Afghanistan, tell Pakistan to stop adding Taliban or it will invade. India had to mobilise 750k troops and threaten a full scale invasion in 2001-02 forcing PA to reduce infiltration into Kashmir.

                  PA is an army and it only understand force.

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                  • #24
                    "Rumored US Troop Increase in Afghanistan"

                    From the Military Times:
                    WASHINGTON — Reports of a proposed significant increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan brought praise from critics of the drawdown of forces in the region but renewed concerns from Democrats unsure of the president’s strategy for the war.

                    The news comes three months after Gen. John Nicholson Jr.,commander of United States Forces Afghanistan, told lawmakers that he needed additional forces to expand advising and training of Afghan troops and break the “stalemate” with terrorist groups still operating in the region.

                    About 8,500 U.S. troops and another 5,000 troops from foreign allies are still stationed in Afghanistan, even though the official combat mission there ended in 2014.

                    The Washington Post this week reported that senior administration officials are pushing President Donald Trump to effectively return to the combat mission against the Taliban, adding thousands of troops to the fight.

                    Sources told the paper the new plan would also authorize the Pentagon to set its own troop numbers for Afghanistan, instead of following White House recommendations. Pentagon officials would also review the rules of engagement for troops operating there, following a Trump campaign trail promise to give military leaders more autonomy.
                    Interesting. With Gen's Mattis and McMaster in senior leadership positions, it'd be expected that some clear direction and goals will be forthcoming. I'd be very interested to see how they plan on tackling the larger problems, but more interested in hearing the Afghan take on it. What are they doing to tackle the endemic corruption crippling their armed forces and their country? What is being done to tackle the social and economic issues that help the Taliban/ISIS recruit?

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                    • #25
                      +1 to the above.

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