War in Afghanistan

A must read post on the state of Afghanistan in the Australian. Not the kind of media coverage you would see in the US sadly.

Does this sound familiar?:

“Coalition forces are winning every battle but losing the war,” a private security consultant told me. “You can go out and kill Taliban all day long. You kill 20,000 – and there’s another 20,000 that will follow them.”


The senior ISAF commander who briefed me there last week was forthright. The conflict, as it’s being fought, cannot be won. He cites two reasons: the safe haven enjoyed by the militants and their al-Qa’ida sponsors in neighbouring Pakistan; and the rampant corruption in Afghanistan itself. “We can reduce the physical insurgency and hand over to Afghanistan,” the commander says. “It is containable, but while those two things remain, it’s not solvable. The insurgents will never beat us. We can contain it, but we can’t solve it.”

He says the best they can hope for is to “reduce it to a stalemate favourable to our side”.

And the Iraq parallels get even more destructively eerie.

1)There is not one insurgency in Afghanistan:

Another factor in the war’s intransigence is the complex nature of the insurgency. This is neither a foreign-based terrorist movement as the Afghan Government likes to claim – “garbage”, says the commander – nor a simple “Taliban insurgency”. Instead, it is “a number of parallel insurgencies”.

The players include the so-called “southern Taliban” led by Mullah Mohammed Omar, who ruled the country from 1996 to 2001; and the “northern Taliban”, led by Beitullah Mahsud, suspected of masterminding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Mehsud is reported to have an army of 20,000 men, including countless would-be suicide bombers, at his disposal in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (a misnomer, as they are clearly out of Islamabad’s control.)

This group is closely affiliated with the network of warlord Jalalludin Haqqani, based in the eastern city of Khowst. Another player is the wily mujahed, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a 30-year veteran of the jihad, whose shelling of Kabul during the civil war of the early 1990s left the city in ruins. Hekmatyar has aligned himself with the Taliban, in an example of the murky and ever-shifting alliances that dominate the country’s political landscape.

Supporting all of them is al-Qa’ida, which, thanks to the sanctuary provided in Pakistan, has been able to successfully re-locate its headquarters after the destruction of its bases in Afghanistan. As the ISAF commander explains it, al-Qa’ida now operates as a “facilitating network”, providing money, ideology, training, recruits and weaponry to its allies.

2)Suicide bombings and road side IEDs/guerrilla insurgency is the tactic of choice rather than straight up fighting (those techniques actually learned via the guerrilla laboratory of Iraq).

3)The NATO forces are even more bunkered down than the US in Iraq pre the surge. They have therefore relied on aerial bombings, which has killed scores of Afghan innocent civilians, turning the popular street level view of NATO as going from liberator to occupier.

Now the outlines of a President Obama (as looks much more likely each day, my best guess now is 60% odds and rising) are becoming clearer. With even the PM of Iraq (h/t Newshoggers) sounding like Barack, here’s a prediction.

In a strange twist of fate, Obama has his own surge in Afghanistan (which he has long said he wants to do). Guess who is now CENTCOM Commander with emphasis on Afghanistan? You guessed it David Petraeus. Obama has Petraeus unleash his vaunted COIN counter-insurgency strategy, teaching it to NATO, to similar effect to Iraq. Who knows what happens with Pakistan as Obama seems wise enough to realize the Pakistanis are full of s–t and always have been and no “democratic” government or Dictator-lite like Musharraf is going to go after the Taliban, the tribal regions. Do we? I have no clue.

[I assume in this prediction that if the US goes in, NATO is going to follow (or at least not get in the way).]

However, bracketing the Pakistan question for a sec, as in Iraq, the central fundamental issue remains: no government. Hopefully as in Iraq, NATO can break the code on IEDs (now killing 80% of NATO troops in Afghanistan, higher casualty figures total and much higher per soldier than in Iraq) and like in post-surge Iraq reduce the number killed/wounded through these style of attacks.

But as in Iraq this will only further fragment the insurgencies (evidence here) which will work at cross-purposes to the stated goal of a unified central government. The primary difference I see however is that the Pashtun (unlike al-Qaeda in Iraq) have become the standard bearers of Pashtun resistance. The Sunni Flip/Pay off only worked in Iraq because AQI had started slaying tribal leaders and their families. Not sure this will work quite the same with the Taliban–unless they overplay their hand which is always possible I suppose.

The political issue–i.e. the only issue–will remain outstanding and then Obama may be forced with his own John McCain like moment (circa his second run for the president in 2012) of whether he pivots to a withdraw position from Afghanistan or doubles down on his own surge. If he does the latter (doubles down), BO could then have someone run to his left in 2012 (now I’m on a roll) and run the Obama script from ’08 on the Obama cum McCain 2012 version.

Obama, however, has let it be known that his primary purpose in Afghanistan and Iraq has been to eliminate al-Qaeda and leave secondarily about as best a situation as can be expected in the countries. So he’s not locked himself into the “victory” delusion mindset of the current Bushian McCainian Republicans.

Right now Obama has the center and left (and sane right) with the idea that Iraq was a failure strategically (however well fought militarily). As Iraq pull down begins and is mostly finished about halfway or 2/3 into his first term, I wonder if a new chorus will begin applying the same logic to Afghanistan?

The wild card of course in all this is the country nestled between Iraq and Afghanistan, i.e. Iran. Obama realizes that you can’t be fighting 3 wars (or 2 1/2 I guess as Iran wouldn’t be a land invasion) simultaneously. As Thomas Barnett has always said, Iran has always had a veto in Iraq. And they as well as Sistani now appear to be cashing that in.

If things with Iran get “kinetic” then all bets are off as the board is completely re-altered and then we might be headed for a political terrorist singularity beyond anyone’s ken.


The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://indistinctunion.wordpress.com/2008/07/09/war-in-afghanistan/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Afghanistan just need a massive surge like Iraq but bigger.
    If America sent 25,000 to 35,000 troops & Britain sent 10,000 to 15,000 & all the other countries sent 15,000 more, there would be up to a extra 65,000 more troops, along with the other 60,000 troops there now, that would mean they could have up to 125,000 troops in Afghanistan and with a good plan they could win the war fast.
    Its good all the Taliban are now changing tactics, by moving in with the people dressing in woman close, living with the Afghanistan and coming out of there caves, it’s a good time for a plan like this….
    A lot of the Taliban come from Pakistan and so on, so now when they sent all them troops, they should go door to door every door and ask them there first name and last name and where 2 of there family members live and there full names, then take a photo of him and show them and say what is his full name, and where does he live.
    Then they should say where did you last live and what is the address, then take a photo of him to that address and show a photo and say who is he.
    After that lock them up unto they check it out, if he did not lie he gets out, if not goes to jail.
    When they do this, they would turn and cut off all phone lines.
    Just think about it, if you where a terrorist and troops come to a house and just had a look then said whats your full name first, what do you think he would say….he would lie.
    As they go to each house, they will ask them all in different rooms, and say who is that and what’s his name as well.
    Then they would do 1 massive city at a time, have hand held computer ready to hold photos, and would have say, 30,000 troops going door to door asking there names, and 20,000 checking up on it right away.
    As they do this they would of blocked off the hole city, so no one can leave, then as they ask there name and so on they will make the full proof id cards like they do in Iraq and put there address & photo & fingerprints, on a new system like in Iraq.
    Then they would have the hole city blocked off a cufyou in place for 3 days, saying everyone must be home, then would go door to door do all that, & make the id cards, then check up on.
    They after 4 to 1 week checking up on what they said along with the city blocked of so no one can leave they would stat at a point with 40,000 troops and would walk every inch inside the city asking for everyone’s id cards, and checking of on what they said, if they lied they go to jail, if they no that they lied and after now what they are doing, they can not leave the city anyway, they start at a point, then walk the hole city, making everyone show there id cards, if they don’t have one they go to jail, all they have to do is run there fingerprints in the new system with the new scanning screens like in Iraq, and take a photo of him and run that throw they system to see who he is, and why he throw the id card away, then lock him up.
    After they do all that a lock up 10 of thousands terrorist, now new terrorist can come into the city with out a id card, and they can not make any because they are full proof,, the hard drive with all the records of people will be at a American base where only hi generals can access the system, and the troops after making the id cards get small hand help screens that can scan there fingerprints and can bring up there photo as well, but can not add names to the system just like the id card system in Iraq,, how do I no this, have a guess..
    After all that and all the city’s have be done like that, they will take the fight to the caves and tunnels and dead land like this.

    They would camp out in the meddle of Afghanistan everywhere, 1,000 different divisions at different spots, & would set up inferred cameras & senses 3 km all the way around them, then they would have massive air support on stand by, so bomb planes, then they would wayt to they seen the terrorist or the sences went off and woul just call the plane to drop bomb on them,,, that’s because the cameras are 3 km away, so the terrorist would not be able to run that fast to get to them or they would not even no they where there, but the bomber planes could drop bombs on them before they could get to the camping spot.
    This way it’s a win win for us.

    Then going cave to cave they would bring Sound Weapon, Infrasonic Weapon, Ultrasonic Weapon, Sonic Bullets, Non-lethal Weapon,
    It sends out a sound that you can not bear, the troops with it could shot them when they could not fire back.
    They would use them along with remote controlled mars rovers, like the one’s, used in Iraq. But the new one’s with guns on them.
    They would then send the mars rover in the cave 1 km a head of them, then they would walk into the cave with the sound weapon in case they get into a gun fight, they would kill them all and would start at a point and do every cave over the next 1 to3 years.
    If they got into a massive gun fight in the caves, they would pull back and would have with them, massive bottles of carbon dioxide, and would use massive pumps and pump it into the caves to kill them all. this way its not going damaging the beatify caves that will be a tourist site after the war, but killing all the terrorist inside the caves.

    With the Pakistan / Afghanistan border, they would plant inferred cameras and senses all along the borders, and if a sensor went off, a drone or a jet fighter would go and have a look as well as letting troops no where it went off.

  2. haaaaaaaaaa

  3. s,

    umm….sorry i’ve been away didn’t respond. I read and then re-read your comment like about 5/6 times, and I can’t really understand what you’re getting at. Serious or not?

    have a good one.


  4. […] as I theorized a few days ago, I thought Obama might start to get questioning of his Afghanistan policy for his left.  A kind of […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: