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Are We Losing Afghanistan Again? - OP-ED

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  • snapper
    replied
    +1 to the above.

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  • JCT
    replied
    "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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  • n21
    replied
    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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  • JCT
    replied
    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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  • Toby
    replied
    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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  • JCT
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • kuku
    replied
    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).

    Leave a comment:


  • JCT
    replied
    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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  • Toby
    replied
    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

    Leave a comment:


  • SteveDaPirate
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Toby
    replied
    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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  • SteveDaPirate
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Toby
    replied
    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.
    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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  • JCT
    replied
    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,, 21:09. Reason: Added clarification

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  • SteveDaPirate
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:

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