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03 September 2009


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Bill Wade, NH

"The interests of the reigning generals, the neocons and the Brothers of the Order of Counterinsurgency at CNAS are coming together now. "

Well then, good luck to them now. I'll just hope that few GIs get killed but I know that's a ludicrous hope of mine.

I wonder how our Afgahn allies will escape now down the road, there doesn't seem to be a lot of boats and oceans around.

William R. Cumming

I guess the labels for strategy and tactics are helpful!
But not sure what the MSM knows, or understands, or cares about anything more than headline stories. In your opinion PL are any reporters past or present conveying the "real" story as to successes, failures, momentus etc. in either AF-PAK or Iraq? With the interest of the MSM in obtaining the biggest headline at lowest possible cost and without much regards to accuracy does the George Romney use of the word "Brainwashed?" after his Viet Nam briefings and ending his Presidential career have any resonance in current situation? Is OBAMA being "brainwashed"?


And as you've pointed out before, the true costs of applying a successful COIN strategy would be very high in terms of people and funds. The WaPo editorial board helpfully leaves out that point, that the decision not to implement the strategy that "has yet to be tried" is that no one wants to own up to the costs. Cowards. Frauds.


The implication of your argument is to apply the "Iraq model" to Afghanistan one would have to rent the Taliban to destroy Al-Qaeda, no? I'd be curious as to whether that's even on the cards. The Sunni resistance in Iraq got pretty angry when AQI started imposing their extreme views on everyone else in the neighborhood, but I haven't really seen any evidence of AQ/Taliban discord even though they have divergent origins and goals.



Again well said. You left out a couple salient facts that the Washington Post never mentions:

Bagdad was ethnic cleansed. As far as I know, this is not a viable tactic in Afghanistan since the Arabs were ejected into Pakistan years ago and I have not heard of mixed tribal neighborhoods in Kabul that are at each other throats. The Afghan bombings all appear to be aimed at the foreign Westerners and their puppet government.

There is no reporting on the effect of contractors (mercenaries) on the conduct of the war and the accumulating cancers undermining the war and America's future. Contractors outnumber coalition troops in Afghanistan. Mercenaries always introduce lawlessness and greed into to the conduct of war. Their one and only goal is to survive and rip everyone off. The more Debauchery the better. Thousands of men with thousand yard stares and lawless lifestyle are returning to the USA with no support or access to the VA.

American politicians are addicted to the flow of political money from contractors to be re-elected and have the good life. Washington DC until forced by the voters will never consider that Afghanistan has lot of the characteristics of Bloody Kansas; a guerilla war being fought over religious and economic beliefs. Kansas didn’t settle down until after the Civil War and introduction of law and civilization. Until America gets over its addiction to war and agrees to assist in the the restoration of law and order; Pirates, Outlaws and Mercenaries will rule the world from the Horn of Africa to Pakistan.

Mark Gaughan

Even Nigerians who are upset with oil companies polluting their country are now considered part of this international terrorist organisation. We should change the name from GWOT to GWOB, Global War On Boogeymen. It would be more accurate than communists or terrorists.

Abu Sinan

Good points. What will happen in Iraq when the payouts to the Sunni insurgents and tribes ends? A Shi'ite dominated Iraq is what is in store for them.

Once the money stops and the US leaves, what will the scene look like then? The strategy was a short sighted one in the best interests of the US. Long term the end result will most likely be very different.

Clifford Kiracofe

Indeed. It is about time for some sensible policy in the national interest (ours).

The Bush Administration not only failed but riled the planet increasing the global terrorist threat. The Obama Administration has not "changed" anything apparently.

One "enemy" is constituted by the complex of INTERNATIONAL terrorist organizations -- to include AQ and all the rest arrayed against us and operating GLOBALLY. I do not doubt for a minute that there are numerous such operatives and supporters with beards trimmed neatly decked out in business suits with their gold Rolexes and all the rest going about their business in financial centers around the world...etc.

The present obsession with COIN ops in the Hindu Kush/Afghanistan is a non-starter in the real world but lines a lot of pockets.

AQ and others operate globally and are not limited to Afghanistan. We can neither "pacify" Afghanistan nor the planet in general.

But we need to take down terrorist orgs and exterminate the mangy (but nonetheless able) enemy. This requires a policy of strengthening our intelligence and covert capabilities and building effective relations with those governments around the world who wish to cooperate out of their own national interests. One would work toward intelligence and police cooperation and covert ops primarily for this.

The COIN fantasy, and Taliban hysteria, causes billions we need for real defense and counter-terror ops to be wasted down the rathole.

It should be obvious to anyone even casually reading the newspapers or Internet that AQ and others are moving around some lately to Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and other locations to include North Africa.

Just how does our AFPAK policy and quagmire in the Hindu Kush address this?

The White House has failed to present a coherent GLOBAL counter-terrorist strategy...just a lot of buzz and bs and delusion about Taliban and Afghanistan and COIN.

The White House appears to have failed to present Congress with the required (repeat required) statement of its National Security Policy/Strategy. It was due after the first 5 or 6 months of the new admin, thus around June.

Thus the American people through THEIR Congress remain uninformed as to the actual National Security Strategy/Policy of this Admininstration.

The "establishment" and its delusions? Our policy? Inside the Beltway, PEOPLE ARE policy...so one tabulates just who the policymakers are name by name and examines their bios etc.

1. Examine carefully what the Carr Center at Harvard is churning out about AFPAK. Does anyone believe the Harvard crowd does not have access and influence in the Obama Admin, himself a Harvard Law guy? http://www.hks.harvard.edu/cchrp/

2. Read what Stephen Biddle the resident AFPAK policy go-to guy at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York (the grand lodge of US foreign policy) is writing.

and so on.


Renting insurgents was a tactic Napoleon used in Egypt. It had temporary, but not lasting benefits. Juan Cole's book, Napoleon's Egypt, reads too much like the present for comfort. However, unlike the present powers that be in the US, Napoleon had the forsight to abscond during the night to avoid the inevitable and claimed success when he got home to France.


It always amazed me that it never occurred to America's fearless leaders to rent Iraq from the beginning. When the US invaded, Iraq's GDP was $67 Billion. US supplemental appropriations for Iraq cost more than that by themselves. Why didn't they just apply the money to renting the whole damn place? Everyone would have been better off.

Patrick Lang


1- I don't care if my methods would not be in the best interest of the Afghans. We are not the world's daddy.

2- I find it odd that some of you seek permanent "fixes" for foreign policy problems. Nothing lasts forever. pl


Is it possible to maintain the ability to strike Al Qaida if the Taliban clobbers the central Afghan government? If we do need to support the central government, how do we do that without mission-creeping our way into nation building?

I am skeptical about the current focus on COIN, but I have a hard time understanding how to create a clear limit to our involvement.

Patrick Lang


Thst is why you have to hold an enclave that includes the national capital and our own most necessary facilities. pl


My favorite part of this editorial is found in the last two paragraphs, where first the WaPo editors assert that the Taliban are so dangerous that they'll soon overturn Pakistan's government and steal those nukes to use against the U.S.

Then only a couple sentences later, we learn that the Taliban are so weak that their base of support is non-existent (the word "tiny" is deployed to characterize that support).

And upon those two wildly-contradictory estimates of enemy strength, the Post editorial staff concludes that we must waste blood and treasure for many years to come.

Thus the well-worn epithet "dumb as a post" must be a form of ellipsis, in that once upon a time there was one more now-omitted word at the end of that phrase, i.e., "editor".

Clifford Kiracofe

What is ground reality around Kabul and Bagram areas? That is physical: as in valleys, rivers, and mountains (big ones).

Well, here is some imagery to give the flavor. This is not to mention what the rest of the country is like.


From these basic images and enhancements we can visualize the "national capital" and "enclave" situations Col. Lang is pointing to.

Serious realistic policy logically must take into account the physical geography of the country plus the ethnic-tribal nature of the country, the cultural context, the historical context and all that.

When in India over Christmas and again during August I had the opportunity to speak with a number of senior retired military -- generals, brigadiers, colonels and the like. In addition, I spoke to senior academics in a number of institutions. Naturally, the topic of "AfPak" came up.

As I reported to SST in January, the consensus I heard is:

1. that the US is making rather a botch of things.

2. The security situation is a REGIONAL problem and needs a REGIONAL solution to include Russia, China, India, and Iran.

3. Given the US involvement, one strategy would be for the US to aim to secure the immediate Kabul/Valley area as a strong point from which to operate. The US could promote economic projects in this area as a demonstration for the rest of the country. The US could make various arrangements with appropriate ethnic-tribal leaders outside this zone per AQ. This is about the extent of what the US could do realistically.

4. Involving the Russians and the Chinese and others in security and economic projects could help.

And so on.

I was also told that if the US thinks Afghanistan is a problem per AQ, Washington should consider the consequences of Kashmir becoming an AQ redoubt....

Patrick Lang


Typepad has not yet posted your comment but I find it incomprehensible. pl

Patrick Lang


Perhaps someone can explain to me what you are talking about. Perhaps your objective is to make me seem incapable of comprehension.

Your aggregated putative scenarios are unrelated to each other.

Stray nukes? What? pl


Let's see, what are the possibilities-- 1 - You actually are such a dumb
bell that you think that US forces in Kabul might be attacked with a phantom
nuclear weapon, 2- you are an Israeli hasbara provocateur.

Patrick Lang


On reflection your suggestion that Kabul or Bagram would be more at risk than they are today is so unreasonable that I don't see what your future participation would add to the discussion here.

Send in your next person. pl

Mark Logan


There may have been deadline pressures....but
it does reflect something of the mixed feelings among even the most ardent supporters. I think it's telling.

This thread got me to look up Andy Exum, as I hadn't checked Abu Muqawama for a spell, and I found something interesting.


"As I walked out of the studio last night, though, Gwen Ifill turned to me and said, "Look, I understand you're not some fire-breathing hawk, but you're about the only person we can find in Washington to defend this war at the moment."

Woah. The only person who will defend this war? If this blogger is the only person in the nation's capital willing to defend the war, we have a big problem."

John Howley

Where would all of these AfPak scenarios leave the NATO-as-expeditionary-force project?

Under either (1) total withdrawal, (2) Col. Lang's redoubt plan and (3) Will's "offshore" strategy, it will appear that NATO has been wholly unsuccessful in its first major military operation beyond Europe.

Surely this weighs on the minds of our betters?

Babak Makkinejad


What would it take to put an end to the Afghan Wars of the last 30 years?

Does anyone have any ideas along political, diplomatic lines?


Hi Col.,

Check out this gem by Patrick Buchanon on Hitler


Where are the true Conservative intellectuals these days?




We're nearly 8 years in and talking about sending in more troops, this after we were told at the start that it would take 3 years to train the Afghan army.

Question: Why on earth would a Pashtun betray his kin for us? Money - not these people. Honor? How many so called insurgents are the products of reckless drone attacks or misguided JDMs? One of the most non-sensical ideas about the Catastrophe was that every mujahid was fighting jihad, instead of defending his country against an invader or exercising his right to revenge. Muslims are not obligated to accept blood money.

Not every 'insurgent' is a talib.

The hysteria over Iran's elections, the breathless "Oh, the villains!" reporting that promoted the fraud meme, seems to have gone silent over the Afghan elections. With good reason probably, since historically the leader of Af has always been Pashtun.

The Taliban are Pashtun, al- qa'ida isn't. We need to talk to the Taliban. I've asked this question before: Is there still a Pushtunistan Square in Kabul? Maybe we should start thinking about that, too.

Mark Stuart


"We are not the world's daddy." I sure wish you were mine.

"renting" enough Sunni Arab insurgents to isolate the international Sunni terrorists associated with al-qa'ida

But are we good at renting foreign fighters? weren't the Afghan Mujahideen rented?


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