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28 October 2009


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Hate to say it but the really cheap answer to:

"... 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."

is you go home and leave the rest of the world alone.


Thank you for this comment. Afghanistan is really unnerving me this week because of all the US and NATO deaths.

Patrick Lang


Nonsese. The takfiri jihadis are real and unreconcilable enemies. we did not invent them. pl


America... Counter-terrorism police force for the world.


"such methods do not lead to permanent solutions, but they do lead to accomplishment of our goals."

Which are???

Patrick Lang


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

Patrick Lang


Yup. Life is tough. pl


What "politics of the decision process" will lead this president to send more troops than necessary?

Al Spafford

Col, What has been your take on Matthew Hoh's resignation letter?


How will the focus on population center deal with the issue of supply lines for those forces and the population? If the Taliban are left to rule all the transportation corridors, can't they turn Afghanistan into a collection of city-states or cut the flow of essential goods (food and fuel)?


“We are no longer thinking about just destroying the enemy in a conventional way,” the officer said. “We must remove the main pressure that civilians live under, which is the constant intimidation and corruption and direct threat from the insurgency.”

It seems that they are finally grasping half of the problem, intimidation. Corruption in the Afghan government? That's not going to be solved with more troops.

Interesting to note that McChrystal has already recieved 21,000 new troops, which he asked for earlier. Obama's met with the JCS 7 times this year. Sounds like McChrystal is being over-ruled. He should stop complaining.


This sounds like a pretty good plan, but doesn't it leave unaddressed the heroin trade that is funding the Taliban?

N. M. Salamon

It is interesting to note the parallelism between the USSR and USa re Afganistan:
firts we invade,
second find resistance, third, plan to retreat to cities as a tactic to "protect the civilians.

NOTABLE DIFFERENCE: USSR had "friends" the Communists, USA has "friend" CIA operative Karzai relations!!!

fourth - USSR withdrws
Q: when will USA follow USSR? as there is no military solution, and is altogether too exspensive

Al Spafford

Prof Juan Cole blogs today that " ...Washington is abuzz with the plans and counter-plans on Afghanistan...The Soviets more or less withdrew to the cities and it didn't stop them from being forced to ultimately withdraw from the country...And they had loyal Communist Party cadres and large numbers of urban women on their side. I doubt there is any similar genuine support group for US and NATO presence in the country...What I still do not hear is what the objective of the war is, and how it will be accomplished in some reasonable time fram. If the objective is that Pashtun tribesmen shouldn't feud with each other and with their gov't, and should become secularized, then this really is a 40-year war..."
Reading commentary from such as Pat Lang, Cole, Matthew Hoh brings me to the futile land of the cynic, with nowhere to rest my thoughts on this mess.


To deal with them we must find methods that do not demand limitless numbers of troops, and seas of money.

One method we should try is to play some defense in addition to our offense. A good place to start on this front would have been to require that whenever the Commander-in-Chief is presented with a daily briefing with a pithy title like "Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.", that the CiC spend more time shaking the organizational tree at the FBI than cutting salt cedar trees while on vacation in Crawford, TX.

Real national security would involve securing the borders, paying due attention to cargo transport, and giving due diligence to the Fourth Amendment, because informed searches tend to work a lot better than the un-informed approach we get from our current data-mining efforts (which all-too-often amount to trying to find a terrorist needle in a civilian haystack by adding more hay to the mix).

Real national security at home also requires fixing little problems like "the health care system", because that system bears much of the brunt of terrorist attacks (and especially if chem/bio or nuclear WMD is used). If health care is broken in normal times, just imagine how broken it can be in the aftermath of a large-scale chem/bio attack...

We could play effective defense in this country if we would start paying attention to shared national goals instead of to political processes designed by individual special-interest groups. And it's security at home that is the essential step towards cost-effective national security, because good homeland security protects against terrorists everywhere, not just those hanging out near the Durand Line.

I gather that most of our politicians have never played football. Sometimes the best defense is exactly that: a really good defense.


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

Isn't that a job for police work rather than troops?

And as long as you say "marginal" you can always, repeat always, say you have succeeded.


Don't want to be accused of being a "blog troll", but isn't that the policy the Soviets tried and failed with?


"If the Taliban are left to rule all the transportation corridors, ..."

PS I would say the Karzai has to get the Afghan army to fight for thier own country.

Farmer Don

Geoff Says:
Hate to say it but the really cheap answer to:
"... 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."
is you go home and leave the rest of the world alone"

The Col's response:
"Nonsense. The takfiri jihadis are real and unreconcilable enemies. we did not invent them. pl"

My Take;
Geoff's idea is no quick fix, but it is far from nonsense. Although these enemies are real and now unreconcilable. Staying in Afghanistan in this limited way will only heighten their hatred,resolve, recruiting ability and even strength.

The North Vietnamese were also real and unreconcilable. Many years later they are now more than willing to compete with the USA with non violent methods. There are other large successful trading nations that have less "enemies", i.e. Japan, Germany, China. Usually they keep their troops close to home, and send their business men to advance the national interest.

Also politically it's a hard sell. Both the right and the left will be very against it.


I am sorry, the previous afghan strategy gotta be the WORST war strategy ever. Current one is kinda weak and half baked too. Essentially pentagon strategy was like trying to catch a swiming fish with a fork. after almost exhausted, pentagon decided to add more guys with forks hoping that will finally catch the the fish.

You gonna need a nt to catch that fish yo,... forget the fork. fork is for eating steak.

The big problem. US troops situational awareness is as wide as a fork tips. It's sharp but only in incredibly small area. Useless. The entire strategy doesn't make sense. The army is preparing for siege of Moscow instead of hit and gone before they know what hit them. Dude, dial up the clock. It's 2009 yo. You got cell phone towers in afghanistan.


A. development strategy for safe propinces. (how to hook up with police, afghan army and central gov., clean up, strengthen provincial administration skill and down.) Lesson learn from one propinces probably can be applied quickly to others. This couldn't possibly involving thousands of troops.

B. Now the troubled areas.

1. The Kandahar Express Pizza strategy. (Kandahar + Helmand)

These are functioning cities with cellphone towers. That means one can recruit locals and give them all cell phones and tell them to hail a calling center if they see big problem.

Divide the city into district and put a call dispatch & recruitment manager. Attach this call center onto a)The guy in charge of US troops in district b) intelligence officers c) local police and civilian gov.

So after some training US troop awareness horizon is instantly the size of the city! (Hey dude, what's going on in that neighborhood? you ever heard this and that guy? Know who I can talk to to find this guy? btw, know anybody from that town down south?) Seriously guys....

Those are the key missing information. The call center can hire/put cellphones in hand of local stores, prominent families, key figures, ...just about anybody imaginable. That's the ground intelligence network.

with those information, military planner doesn't need to guard everything all the time. It has awareness horizon much bigger than any taliban groups.

10-20 rapid moving platoons can control the entire propince and win all the battles before lunch. Kandahar area is open desert. It's classic battle field.

Lesson learn from Pakistan waziristan offensive should give plenty of big picture data point. Ask/hire pakistan officers. They speak the language and know the area.

B. Kabul Business Service. (Kabul and surrounding provinces).

This is pure social interaction and secret service op being hooked up onto hidden military campaign. There is almost unlimited human resource in kabul and surrounding. The afghanistan army & afghanistan secret police are also centered in kabul. The number of translators, NGO, people who knows how to the system work are more than enough.

Use it or lose it.

Create a network of observers, a call center, urgent translation office (mp3?), a good intelligence officers and case managers... Start moving. Eg.afghanistan is a war torned country. Take up widows with children. Give them shelter and take care the children. And the mother will do any light intelligence work you want. (recording devices, go inside social functions, market, mosques, gathering, etc.) They understand all city spots and the social dynamic of a city. They know the street. They can see and hear danger miles away ...

A guy with a truck/trucking company? give them little money, work and a cell phone. That's pretty much the most update traffic condition and regional politics. Trading company? supply depot? political leaders? etc. Everybody needs something. Run post war south Korean security method.

So that takes care of 2 out of 3 big problems. I seriously doubt Kandahar and Kabul will take another 8 year if done right. Afghanistan force should be able to take care the mundane/man power consuming task of patroling, guarding and maintaining order. (few sophisticated attacks are inevitable. But the system should be able to handle it.)

C. Nuristan and that damned mountains.
This is hard. This will take the brightest military mind to solve. Nobody ever tame that area. inteligence is minimal, social dynamic is not well understood, and the population are pissed off.

Suppose there is magic trick that can make taliban fight outside town. Then the problem is reduced to military tactics. It's logistic and tactic.

Definitely need a UAV system that can magnify the capability of two 8-10 men platoons operating for 5 days, in radius of 200 miles from a safe base, against 200 taliban attack (that's their maximum capability it seems). Probably UAV that can drop 100+ antipersonnel mortars, another with machine guns that can auto detect target, whatever the pilot can see from camera, or with help of laser pointer. So that's a force that can be packed into a heavy lifter heli and be moved from point to point between safe base + quick emergency resupply.

So if the entire nuristan area force can fight simultaneously in 400-500 fast moving different points using these small moving platoons+anti infantry air support, overall capable of facing 50K+ taliban force... Plus logistic, adminstration and guarding base...

that would be more than capable "pointy fork tips" with rudimentary intelligence input.

so, the nuristan strategy is basically, hyper active rapid operations in as many known target as possible. Fight all opportunities at once, all the time. combined with UAV bombing, taliban will not be able to gather and form a mass.

after 1-2 years, somebody better figures out how to build "information net" in hostile nuristan area and instal the central government authority there. Then the operation would be down to a trickle based on reliable information.

Patrick Lang


All wars and enemies are not the same. The North Vietnamese were fighting for a political cause. Al-Qa'ida and all the other religious zealots are fighting for salvation by adhering to a form of Islam that they believe in. pl


I sure as hell ain't no COIN expert but it seems to me, Afghans will be asking who will be there 10 years from now. If NATO troops withdraw from all those areas where the Taliban are strong and hole up in places that are 'safe' it's a sure sign that one side is unwilling to do real fighting.

Bribing the Taliban may seem like a plan, but it has two big draw backs.

1) Will they be paying simply for a cessation of attacks or paying to have the fighters turn in their weapons, give biometric info, etc.? I can see some accepting the former. I suspect the latter will be a harder sell. Which brings us to two;

2) If the populace begins to think that NATO can only operate by paying off the Taliban not to beat on them, what message does that send to Afghans about who intends to be there in the long run?

I mean, if this insurgency problem could be solved by just paying out a few bucks, why has it taken 8 years to figure that out?

Patrick Lang

PS and Fred

At present, supply trucks transit areas where protection has been bought. How will that be different? pl

Patrick Lang


Obama is not a "decider." He is a "presider." He seeks the emergence of consensus. pl

Patrick Lang


I wish him well. pl

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