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27 March 2009


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Here's an article which I didn't want to see.

The military/industrial complex will have its war for years to come. We will maintain large numbers of troop in the Middle East, ostensibly to provide a presence which will make the bad guys think twice before attacking anyone. I'd like to think that would also include Israel, but I suspect the hard liners, the Likudniks in that country, are a powerful force behind the plan which Obama has announced.

The foray into Afghanistan in 2002 made sense. It was an attempt to defeat the Taliban, which actually was accomplished we're told. Now they're back and the terrorists have their safe haven again. So I guess this is necessary, but I can't help but think that somehow those who make huge money off of wars are celebrating right now.

Update: See David Brooks' column title The Winnable War as an example of the war propaganda machine in action. He tries to make it sound like he was open minded when he began his trip to Afghanistan, but it would be a naive view. He was being fed the propaganda he expected, and dutifully has endorsed the surge there. He was a smart choice to send since, though he generally spouts the Conservative view, because he does so in a less militaristic way than staunch Neocons like Kristol and Krauthammer. And Brooks has a large following as a columnist for the Times, and as a panelist for The New Hour.

And here's today's Times editorial on the topic. No surprise there.

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper


Here's Pat Langs' entry, he a retired Army Colonel with lots of Middle East experience, and not a fan of the Neocons.

His endorsement of the plan is reassuring.

Leanderthal, Lighthouse Keeper

William R. Cumming

WOW! Now the poster and commenters on this blog are trying to rely on what was NOT said to give them hope.

Great transparency. I would argue that the US does not cut and run when you look at the totality of our post WWII military deployments, wars, police actions, whatever. But clearly manhood is always the underlying issue as to policy. This continues to make no sense. Cannot anyone articulate what the totality of our south Asian policy should look like using the spectrum from armed force to soft power to whatever? PL just tell us what you think should be done in plain English or whatever language you choose? This is your chance to make policy even if just for your faithful readers.

Got A Watch

If Obama knows less about military affairs than he know about economics, which seems likely, I predict failure.

From his performance in economics so far, I believe he is 'challenged', to put it kindly. If I weren't being kind, I could summarize his economic 'Plan' as "No Bankster Left behind" or "Profits to Wall St. , Losses to Taxpayers".

As Watcher ably pointed out, the whole notion of this "Plan" is unsustainable in the long run, Afghanistan can't afford to run the kind of armed forces with capabilities needed to accomplish the stated mission.

So the moment the USA pulls out, or stops massively subsidizing the "Afghan Government", it will fall or relapse into it's usual status of 'The Mayoralty of Downtown Kabul', as it has been accurately described before.

The idea that tribesmen in remote regions want to be "protected" by Afghan Army units run from Kabul is ludicrous to me.

The same thing will happen as is now going on in Iraq - the Sunni 'Awakening Councils' are not being paid by the Shiite Government, once the USA stops doling out the cash. Substitute 'tribes' and 'Afghan Government' there, throw in religious differences and ancient feuds, and you get a strategy that seems unworkable without US or NATO troops and funds present in large numbers.

Time will tell. At least Obama opted for the less expensive option of the ones he was presented with. Probably with one eye on the future of exploding budget deficits and falling tax revenues. The military-industrial complex is running out of spending room, an economic fact regardless of wishful thinking. America will have to pull back on size and scope, regardless of clueless neo-cons cheerleading. The Defense budget may be the last to be cut, but it will have to be cut hugely, soon, the American economy simply cannot support previous levels of spending.

I would have argued for total withdrawal of conventional forces. The Al-Qaida elements to be kept in check by airstikes and Special Forces Ops, surveillance, and good old-fashioned HUMINT infiltration. Period.

The Afghans to govern themselves as they see fit, they will work it out, or not, over time, in their own way. That's the only thing sustainable in the long run.

Cloned Poster

It would seem Obama is going for the software option here, ie. cash, for tribal leaders, rather than hardware option, cash for the Military Industrial Complex.

TARP in Afghanistan. But Euros and Rubbles?

Patrick Lang


Try thinking of this nnd many other things as a movie. Stop thinking of events as "stills." Obama's pronouncement yeterday is one frame in the film. pl

FB Ali

If I understand the Colonel aright, what he is saying is that the real Obama plan beneath all the verbiage (“The statement and the words are meant to mean anything to anyone”) is:

· Use the beefed up US-NATO forces to prevent a collapse in Afghanistan while the Afghan army and police are built up to take over that function in a couple of years, allowing the US and NATO to then pull out most of their troops (“We will be out of there with most of our force by the next presidential election”).
· Use intelligence and Special Forces to “disrupt and disorganize our real enemies enough to keep them off balance and unable to plan significant attacks”.
· “Buy” the Pakistanis to make a real effort to clean up their tribal territory.
· Hope all this disrupts and weakens al-Qaeda and associates sufficiently to prevent them from mounting any serious attacks on the West in the foreseeable future.

That may well be Obama’s intent in the compromise plan that he has adopted (see today’s NYT). The danger with minimal, compromise plans cloaked in expansive language is that the various players (such as the US military, Pakistanis, Afghans) take the “verbiage” to mean what they would like it to mean, and act on that basis ‒ and then react appropriately when they discover their error.

The fundamental flaw in this plan is that it wrongly identifies the main potential threat to the USA from that region. That is not al-Qaeda but a Pakistan under the control of fundamentalists. This error can have disastrous consequences because, in pursuing the minor threat, the US could bring into being the major one.

This strategy also suffers from some other serious conceptual flaws:

· It assumes that Pakistan is a reasonably functional state, when in reality it is a seriously dysfunctional polity.
· It assumes that Afghanistan is a unitary country, when it has never really been one, nor is one now (except in name).
· It assumes that Pakistanis and Afghans see the world through the same prism as do Americans, and that their interests are the same as those of the US. (It is dangerous to take at face value the protestations of one’s clients).
· It fails to realize that Pakistanis and Afghans, however grateful and friendly to the US, will not subordinate their national interests to the US’s (a lesson obviously not learned from Iraq).
· It bases the US-NATO exit strategy on a military solution instead of a political one.
· It lumps together the Taliban and other Pashtun insurgents with al-Qaeda as “terrorists” (this term has done much to confuse and befuddle US policy in the last decade).

Above all, the crafting of this strategy indicates no comprehension of the impact on the Muslim peoples of Pakistan and Afghanistan of US policies in the Middle East, and how this colours their basic attitudes towards the US and its actions in that region. This is the large elephant in the policy chambers of the US that no one will acknowledge, or even look at.

It is ironic that a big sigh of relief has gone up at the Obama administration having abandoned the old policy of ‘nation-building’, just when that is exactly what needs to be done in respect of Pakistan! Not the kind of stupid project the neo-cons dreamed up for Iraq, but more a putting together of the broken, rusted and misaligned parts of a once-functioning machine. Pakistanis can, and must, do most of the heavy lifting involved, and they will make the country work once it is mended; what they need is some help to get the process started, and some of the vested roadblocks to be pushed aside. The US is well positioned to do that. It would be a tragedy if, instead of attending to this task that is so vital to its national security, the US spent the next few years wandering around the barren hills and valleys of Afghanistan, scattering its blood and treasure over this wasteland.



Who are the 'director' and the 'producer'?

Patrick Lang

FB Ali

Thanks for your reasonable analysis.

Unfortunately, we Americans are not a "city on a hill." We are merely the inhabitants of yet another city. We developed delusions about the extent of our ability to help others as opposed to trying to live virtuous lives ourselves. These delusions were always delusions. Now, we, and "the others" will pay the price for that. pl

Babak Makkinejad

FB Ali:

You wrote: "help to get the process started, and some of the vested roadblocks to be pushed aside. The US is well positioned to do that."

What, in concrete terms, do you suggest the United States do in and for Pakistan?

Babak Makkinejad


Afghanistan was a functioning state for much of the 20th Century.

The proximate cause of the destruction of Afghan state - in my opinion - was super-power rivalry; just like Cambodia.

The state was put together again in Cambodia through foreign intervention, first by Vitenam militarily and then by UN. And even there we are not out of the woods yet.

But Cambodia was a much smaller place with a much smaller population - with a unitary people (Khmre) and fewer meddling neighbours.

Afghanistan may go by the way of Somalia - with a pieces [areas around Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kabul] that function and aother parts that do not. The working areas will be non-Pahtun and the on-working will be Pashtun.

And in an analogous manner to the Somali pirates, we could start seeing raiding parties from these non-functioning areas into the neighbouring states in search of booty, loot, hostages etc.

Abu Sinan

Good post colonel. I was just wondering if the "tawheed" in Arabic (caligrahy at the begining of the post) was picked for any particular reason, or you just like it?

It is an interesting word and an interesting concept in Islam.


I see little evidence that the West can distinguish between quelling the ongoing Pashtun rebellion and disrupting terrorists.


Is there still Pashtunistan Square in Kabul? Mabye the best solution is to accept geo-cultural imperatives and declare Pashtunistan once and for all - from Kandahar to Chitral/P'hore/Quetta.

Seems that it is the Pashtuns who are de-stabilizing both Af and Pakistan. Give them their state and set their borders accordingly.

Patrick Lang


Refers to the lack of unity in the US command structure in afghanistan. pl


"lack of unity in the US command structure in afghanistan"

Not to mention in NATO and ISAF, and its various partners in reconstruction work mediated through UN. Thats one of the real problems I have with understanding this whole war, why the clearly dysfunctional multiple chains of command have been retained.

FB Ali

Babak Makkinejad

Pakistan suffers from a number of severe systemic ills. It has some institutions that can initiate and shepherd along the long and difficult process of ameliorating and, hopefully, ultimately curing these ills. The US can urge these institutions to act in this direction, and support their efforts. It can also use its influence to prevent vested interests from blocking or undermining this process of reform.

Babak Makkinejad

FB Ali:

Thank you for your response.

How do you propose, in detail, for US to interact with these institutions?

Are you implying that US has a lot of local leverage inside the Pakistani State that she is not using?

Could you please at least supply an example of how this could work?

FB Ali

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, the US currently wields a lot of clout with key players in the power centres there. But it has not used it to push for the reforms that are needed. Instead, it has pressed them to act in pursuit of its own war aims in Afghanistan. This has added to the strains that already beset Pakistan.

A detailed discussion of how the US can help Pakistan is perhaps best left to another occasion.

Medicine Man

I have a question -- although I'm not sure if this is place to ask it.

How much does "war fatigue" effect US war plans nowadays?

It seems to me that a low intensity war can be run virtually off the public radar, if the casualties are gradual enough. The only "fatigue" that seems to matter is the increasing burden placed on the small-ish percentage of people who actually fight in foreign conflicts, and their friends/families. That and the fatigue of the big money-men who start to lose enthusiasm due to the expenses incurred.

I wonder about this a great deal. My own country has suffered a lot of casualties relative to the size of our military and yet the subject of the war is not prominent in public discourse.

To rephrase my question: Is the main kind of fatigue that is relevant to war plans the strain on institutions, military professionals, and the financial system?

Babak Makkinejad

FB Ali:

Thank you for your response.

I remain rather unconvinced.

How can US do anything in regards to the land-owning classes in Pakistan, for example. For, in my opinion, they are an obstacle to any concievable reform in rural Pakistan.

And how can US help increase the representation of non-Punjabis in the decision making centers of Pakistan?

Ken Roberts

Interesting comments re Obama/US plan announcement, at marvimemon.wordpress.com/category/diary-march-2009 see the March 31st entry.

Babak Makkinejad

Dr. Ettefagh on Pakistan:



"If the Taliban are not defeated, history is a witness that whenever Khyber has been breached, the battle has been fought in Panipat." - Pakistan's Ambassador to the UN, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, quoted by Khalid Hassan in the Daily Times.

-- Folks may want to look up where Panipat is (and also the battles of Panipat).

The lesson from history that the Ambassador is bringing to our attention can only mean that if the Taliban prevail in Pakistan, that will lead to a India-Pakistan war. The world should think long and hard about letting that happen.


yargh..... I truly don't understand how they run things in afghanistan...

are they invading poland or stabilizng and stopping al qaeda?

Take these little example:


Pentagon Prioritizes Pursuit Of Alternative Fuel Sources

(dude, you ought to bring natural gas liquifier to afghanstan and QUIT flying in fuel. Those humvee and heavy trucks are all running on turbine. Synthetic fuel from natural gas is OK.)


Militants torch trucks along US-NATO supply line

The latest attack started around 2 a.m. on the outskirts of the main northwestern city of Peshawar, local police officer Gharibullah Khan told The Associated Press.

"They fired rockets and used automatic weapons and torched at least eight trailers carrying cement," he said.

(CEMENT Factory costs $20million to built. Ship it from Russia on the cheap, or china even. Afghanistan cannot build defense without cement. amazing... Cost of importing cement is 5 times the price of building a cement factory inside afghanistan. jeebus...)


Bottom line, had they not horsing around 8 years ago, half of current problem would have been solved. (building material, basic defense infrastructure, civilian construction.)

I imagine, they are going to goof around and spend $100m flying in fuel and cement from Pakistan, thanks to massive corruption.

Install, the most ruthless organizer and technocrat to manage the civilian side of afghanistan program. Somebody has to stop the incompetence, corruption and Hashish smoking.

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