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28 October 2009


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Norman Rogers

"Afghans will be asking who will be there 10 years from now."

I don't think they care at all. I don't believe they have a concern at all for who will be there a decade from now, nor do they care who has come before. Life is too hard to worry about geopolitics and what's around the corner. The Afghans simply go on not caring one way or the other. The biggest enemy we face just might be fatalism.

Patrick Lang


IMO the Islamic zealots should not be thought of in the same way that one might think of a state based enemy like the North Vietnamese. In fighting an enemy like the NVA it was possible to argue that a "Napoleonic" victory of annhiliation of their forces might result in an end.

The Islamic Sunni zealots are not a state. Their handful of adepts must simply be eliminated as an appealing force among the Muslims. All the talk about the "Caliphate' is just a reflection of the zealots' hortatory preachiness. They are an international religious movement based on a minority view of Sunni Islam. Afghanistan is but one of many places where they exist. Are we going to occupy them all. If so, prepare for the draft and gasoline rationing.

The object in Afghanistan should be to disorder and impede our enemies, not to benefit the Afghans.

Someone mentioned the struggle of Soviet 40th Army to pacify Afghanistan. That's what it was -- COIN. They only withdrew to the cities when they could make no headway in the countryside.
The Soviets wanted to incorporate Afghanistan into the socialist World. they failed and by the time they withdrew from the countryside they were already beaten.

I hope that we are not so foolish as to want to incorporate Afghanistan into anything. pl


Re: "I hope that we are not so foolish as to want to incorporate Afghanistan into anything."

Col., sir:

God have mercy on the U.S. of A! The 52nd State after israel. More endless entanglements!

Duncan Kinder

Let us not forget that the same kind of enemies who attacked us here can be found around the world. To deal with them we must find methods that do not demand limitless numbers of troops, and seas of money.

At the risk of sounding cynical, I would like to know how this strategy would affect defense contractors.

These "seas of money" tend to head in their direction. As for "limitless numbers of troops," I see little value in replacing that with "limitless numbers of mercenaries."


Apologies Col,

I should have made clear before that I am not an advocate of escalation but rather of total withdrawal and an adoption of a Ron Paul style non-interventionist foreign policy. If attacked, the U.S. should apply the greatest force to the smallest location. Otherwise, when in doubt stay out.

The problem of Al Qaida may have come about from a previous zeal to hurt the Soviets. With the encouragement of the U.S., various Arab intelligence services along with Pakistan facilitated the transfer to Afghanistan of young Arab men who were Islamic zealots and had a desire for guerrilla war against the USSR.

By now, I suspect almost all of them are dead or captured and the conditions that brought them there will not be recreated.

That leaves us fighting only Afghans. While I have no doubt there are Islamic radicals who would gladly do harm, I suspect most Afghans are fighting the U.S. because it is there. Were it to leave, they are no more likely to pursue the U.S. than they pursued the USSR after its withdrawal.

Just my two cents.

Cloned Poster

With all due respects Col Lang: I hope that we are not so foolish as to want to incorporate Afghanistan into anything.

Liberal Democracy?

Patrick Lang


No. not that,either. pl

William R. Cumming

To the extent US commits to AF-PAK theatre I would employ all US forces not in URBAN AREAS but on Af-Pak border.
Why, this area of exchange of many things including military assets is the one that Pakistan cannot handle and will ultimately bring down that nation-state allowing radical jihadis to possess the ISLAMIC Bomb.

Patrick Lang


Go look at a topographic map. pl

Patrick Lang


No intelligence assets who are BAD PEOPLE? pl

Bobby Murray

Dear Col. Lang,
I know it's been a while since I've posted here but I've never stopped reading. And I apologize for straying off topic. Should Israel strike Iran, would that not jeopardize US personnel in Iraq? Thank you in advance.

Kind Regards,
Bobby aka taters

Patrick Lang


It is one of many dangers that they face in the event of further degenerations of relations in the area. pl


I do think what is generally missing from the discussion is Afghanistan in the broader strategic sense.

IMO Bush trapped the US in Afghanistan for other, largely unstated, geopolitical reasons/goals. I just dont see much US govt concern re: marginal safety when the US can find a trillion plus dollars for wars, but cant be bothered to have radiation detectors at all ports after 8 yrs.

My suspicion it has to do with having airforce bases at China's western border and to attempt to project power into the stan's. The latrer worked when the price of oil was low. So I ask: Is it in the interest of any of the regional actors to see Afghanistan stabilized? My conclusion is that it is not in the interest of most actors. This makes the achieving of the real, underlying goals far more challenging.

And overlying this is the political goal of re-election.


Col. I think that at some point soon the Afghan army will have to replace our own troops. I doubt that 'bought' security is going to be changed in the interim, especially given the consequences seen when that was done in Iraq.

In your response to Lysander you again point out the make up of the zealots in AQ. It led me to re-read some of your prior posts on Islam on the Athenaeium. Perhaps a new post is in order for newer readers?

Patrick Lang

Fred et al

I am a tad over committed. Perhaps you and others could point out some of those posts for new people? pl


Col. Lang:

re Obama as "decider" vs. "presider":

Thank you. An important and much appreciated distinction. It or something similar would make a wonderful bumper sticker. It's been rattling around in my head since I read it. We can only hope that this approach is truly a far cry from the Group Think of Kennedy and the Bay of Pigs.

re Fred et al:

This issue has been developing on SST for some time and if your judgment is correct it may finally have reached an end point. I can imagine that several journals might be interested not only in the content but how it was developed.


A proud courtier went to Shibli and asked him to accept him as a student. Shibli said no, the man was not appropriate. The courtier insisted that he was, Shibli said he wasn't. Back and forth, back and forth, until the exasperated courtier finally said that simply had be something, anything he possibly could to show his suitability. Shibli paused and said that was in fact something he could, but it was pointless to mention since the courtier would never do. Galavanized, the courtier swore he would and begged the master to tell him the task. And Shibli said:

"Shave your head and beard. Remove all your clothes and go to the public square. There, buy a bag of walnuts and hang a sign around your neck saying 'A walnut to any boy who punches me in the nose'".
The courtier stared blankly at Shibly:

"B-But", he said,"I could never do something like this." And Shibli answered:

"I know, that's what I told you".

Collectively, neither our politicians nor our military are prepared to accept the presence of political Islam, nor even show any respect for Muslims as Muslims.

Forever war it is.

Someone mentioned the struggle of Soviet 40th Army to pacify Afghanistan. That's what it was -- COIN. They only withdrew to the cities when they could make no headway in the countryside. The Soviets wanted to incorporate Afghanistan into the socialist World.
Interesting comment by a Russian Afghanistan veteran attending the funeral of a Canadian soldier fallen in Afghanistan. It is particularly interesting because of him telling about his subjective view of his mission.
...I identified with the Canadian soldiers at the funeral mourning the loss of their friend. Like them, I went to Afghanistan believing in "fighting terrorism" and "liberating Afghans." During my first mission, we were protecting refugees escaping an area that was under attack by the mujahedeen. I was deeply affected by their misery, and by the poverty and suffering of the Afghan people in general. In my mind, our presence was "helping Afghans," particularly with educating women and children. My combat unit participated in "humanitarian aid" - accompanying doctors and delivering food, fuel, clothing, school and other supplies to Afghan villages.

... In 1988, my unit accidentally hit an Afghan wedding party. My friend, whose mortar shells had killed innocent people, was shocked when he learned of it....

The US now use not mortars but drones, and the people blowing up wedding parties sit in a climatised room far away from the combat unit they support (iirc some of the missions are being controlled from inside the US) and don't get that sort of immediate feedback. The result of such incidents is the same the Russians experienced.

Patrick Lang


I have fond people to be so resistant to the sectarian realities of the Islamic World that I have largely stopped talking abot them. pl

R Whitman

Col Lang
Referring to your answer to Lysander, you have defined an intelligence and police problem, not a military one. All the more reason to get military thought processes out of any solution. We need HUMINT and action against Al-Quaida only.

Patrick Lang


Military SOF and HUMINT forces have to part of the "mix." CIA and law enforcement would not make up enough of a "team."

We need to take hyper-ambitious generals and think-tank drones out of the picture. pl


The current situation is much different from what the Soviets faced. The insurgency in Afghanistan today in confined to the Pashtun areas and those places with significant Pashtun minorities (ie. Mazar i Sharif). Unlike the Soviets, were are not fighting any of the other ethnic groups. Geographically, these "safe" areas are significant and, if need be, we can keep the Pashtun-based insurgent groups from taking over these parts of the country for a long time.

Supply routes will not be a huge problem. First, we have made deals with the Russians and the northern route is not under any kind of Taliban threat. The second major route goes through Pakistan, over the Kyber and through Jalalabad to Kabul. This will be one of the protected areas under this new plan. The final major route is in the south running from the border near Spin Boldak up to Kandahar. Kandahar is part of this new plan and I will assume that the road to Spin Boldak will be a protected area as well. The final piece is the ring road, specifically the southern half running from Herat through Kandahar and up to Kabul. The insurgency has not had much success at interdicting this route and I would expect coalition forces to continue to defend it.

In short I agree with the Col. that this is a viable plan and one that is much more sustainable than a COIN/nation-building effort.



Your plan and the President Obama’s decision process are merging. This is because it is the only way to keep the Bubble War going on forever. All the Bush and Clinton Administrations policies are joining together into the current continuous happy talk spending spree. Just like the Swine Flu vaccine shortage, reality will keep popping the DC Villagers’ optimistic Bubbles. The Afghans will oppose the Christian occupation until one date certain in the future when the last foreign troops withdraw back across the Friendship Bridge into Uzbekistan.

Wars breed Fanatics and War Profiteers. The only way to keep them under control is with peace and police.

judith weingarten

PL: "A marginal reduction in the level of threat of attack in the US."

How many trillions of $ is that marginal reduction worth? No better way to spend that money than protecting the unprotectable?

Patrick Lang


I agree, but there is no immediate way out of Afghanistan and even Iraq will take a few more years to be complrtely gone, (trainers, etc).

I have te try to give advice that is actually usable.

If we are going to stay in Afghanistan for a while, then I think the compromise shaping up is about the best deal available. pl

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