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08 October 2009


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Clifford Kiracofe

Yes,it does sound more positive amd realistic.

Let's hope that a combination of the Vice President, Senator Kerry at the Foreign Relations Committee, and other reasonable members of Congress can help the President reach a sound decision in our national interest.

The Neoconization of the Republican Party began in the Reagan Administration and now we can see the results: Neoconized McCain in the Semate and the hardline Zionist Cantor in the House. The Dems have Lieberman and others so it is a bi-partisan Neoconization.

From today's Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing, along the lines of what SST readers have heard from FB Ali, and what I heard from senior academic and military figures in India on my August trip:

"Former U.S. intelligence officials expressed skepticism at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. Af-Pak policy today, POLITICO's Meredith Shiner reports:

Former CIA Islamabad station chief Robert Grenier expressed his fears Wednesday that American efforts in Afghanistan may be futile.

In his opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Grenier said policymakers are overlooking a more central debate over purpose by focusing on questions of troop numbers.

"The more fundamental question is, do we have an achievable objective and do we have an effective strategy to reach that objective. Right now, I believe the answer to both those questions is no.

"I fear that we are trying to achieve the unachievable in Afghanistan."

Pressed later in his testimony — given on the eighth anniversary of combat in the region — Grenier said building up an Afghan army is a "virtually unsustainable" effort, which would cost multiples in Afghan GDP...." http://dyn.politico.com/blogs/laurarozen/

N. M. Salamon

I understand the political necessity [re neo-cons, military industrial complex and its K street money etc] for the position advaced above.

Unfortunately, such position is economic suicide in the long run! The Empiure Strikes BACK: BANKRUPCY OF USA - as happend to UK, France, Spain, Rome, Greece, the MAyan civilization etc - living beyond your means [be it ecological Mayan, Babylon - re water and salty soils; Rome - profiligate spending with falling income, UK bankrupted by imperial over reach, et al.

Borrowing 3+ BILLION DAILY is not sustainable -- here comes reality!

So called security issues[Afganistan is not REALLY security issue] which have its end the destruction of homelad living standards is not a rational decision, not even by the wealthy and overpaid members of Congress and Administration!


"vulnerable to defeat in detail."


certainly a term of art.
"1862 Stonewall Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign, in which Jackson defeated three Union commands (a combined 60,000 men) with his own command (17,000 men), by fighting each of the enemy columns in turn while the Union commands were separated from each other by impassable terrain or significant distance."



As usual your analysis is right on. The thing is the Afghans will fight the foreign Christian invaders to the end of time. There is enough excess oil money sloshing around to keep the Anti-Coalition Militias armed. Religious fanaticism will keep the militias manned.

Yet, all that really needs to be done, in order for the Western troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, is an agreement with the Taliban and the Warlords that the Arabs will never be welcomed back. With the end of the war next door, Pakistan will calm down.

If the Long War continues it is due to four reasons:

The need to have one’s puppet in charge,

Cultural and religious hatred,

War profiteers fund American politicians, and

No President will admit that the USA is fighting a never ending unwinnable war and thus be labeled a Loser by the opposition.

The economic collapse last year forced the eventual Iraq withdrawal. A cultural, climate and/or economic future shock awaits, then the USA will withdraw from Afghanistan.


I'm far from having the personal knowledge that many here have, but this is what I would like to see happen.

In my view McChrystal may have made it harder for himself to get his 40k. Obama almost cannot go with that number even if he wants to at the risk of appearing weak and having bent himself to the General's will. In light of this I think Obama should announce his decision, with a number of soldiers very close to the General's desired amount, and then a week later have McChrystal removed for having spoken out of the chain of command. He can't be the only pitcher left in the bullpen. I'm sure there is another commander equally capable of the job.


Just want to point out that the Soviet-Afghan war and then the post-Soviet chaos in Afghanistan resulted in many millions of Afghans turned into refugees in Pakistan and Iran. In the immediate aftermath of the US invasion, many millions of refugees did return home. (Contrast with the refugees the US created in Iraq.)

That, by the way, also reduced a burden on Pakistan.

Therefore, initially at least, the US was doing the right things, from the Afghan point of view. Eventually it stopped doing so (we all know how that happened) and the situation is probably beyond retrieval now. But it was not inevitable that there would a " Afghans will fight the foreign Christian invaders to the end of time" situation. We are now in that position because we dropped the ball.


Saw some of Sen. Webb's interview on c-span today. He brought up the difference between a counter-insurgency, large force and costly; and counter-terrorism, small mobile force, an example being the recent hit on four terrorists in Somalia. He seemed to favor the later. Maybe he heard your debate, Col..


Col. Lang:

Let's hope the president's decision resembles something like this story line. pl

From your mouth to God's ears.


@Vietnam vet: Too much emhpasis on religion.

Afghans are patriots, too. I'm sure many, if not most, are now seeing continued U.S. presence as occupation and colonialism, the same way their mujahid predecessors saw the peace loving Soviet Union, which also entered Af with promises of the blessings of Modernity.

A patriot doesn't need his religion to fight for his country. Forced changes to traditional Islamic culture will, however, be seen as legitmate grounds for religous based resistance. Either way, we should get out.

Eight years on and senior officials still admit that there is not enough awareness of local customs or Islamic traditions. Eight years. That's a disgrace.


Mark Stuart

"Obama's developing strategy on the Taliban will "not tolerate their return to power"

To the eyes of many this is seen as a sine qua none condition for the return home of our troops.
What is the basis, if any, of such a condition? Considering what has been said before on this blog and elsewhere about the uncritical need for al-Qa'ida and others with the same intent, to have an actual physical sanctuary to plan and carry out attacks.

Vietnam Vet:
There is enough excess oil money sloshing around to keep the Anti-Coalition Militias armed.

American Fighters and Enemy Fighters

I cannot but wonder how critical for the enemy the oil moneys you are referring to?


Farmer Don

Too soon to break out the champagne, but it looks like this administration is trying to base it's decisions on reality.

The withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan is really much more complicated than their invasions. There is still a chance that extremely good policy might spare these countries the horrors that happened in the post war Vietnam region. And adroit policy might keep the USA from loosing all influence in Iraq and Afghanistan like it did in post war Vietnam or post shah Iran.

As far as the cost of the war machine goes, turning the tap off too quickly would actually be more disruptive to the US economy as well as crippling politically for Obama.

I'm encouraged by the winding down in Iraq, which seems to be happening, with surprisingly little uproar from Obama's political enemies, the main stream media, or the general public.

William R. Cumming

WELL! Whatever the merits of the arguments and the outcome, it appears that the NOBEL Committee sees speeches as a substitute for actions. Perhaps the NOBEL committee read the Pew research indicating that 1.57 Billion of those on earth are worshippers in some form of Islam. And by 2050 almost 1/3 of those living on Planet earth will be MUSLIMS. If demographics ultimately controls history then looking like a struggle for Christendom and the West. Perhaps Dr. Huntington's clash of civilizations not far off except demographics controlling over culture and religion directly. Let's see we are formulating a diplomatic and military strategy that employs largely Christian troops totally ignorant of language and culture and religion of a vast geographic space--i.e. AF-PAK and our policy will be driven by knowledge of the "Threat" from that location! Not likely to have any success from my understanding of the facts. But I guess the facts get in the way of hubris, ego, politics, and of course the past. So what are the "Opportunity Costs" as the economists would say of US investment in AF-PAK? I consider US investments in Iraq as sunk costs without much in the way of return on investment as will be shortly revealed (within next decade)! But hey I know little or nothing about economics. T. Boone Pickens though says on the record "Energy costs will Skyrocket" over next decade.

Clifford Kiracofe

1. anent the "Durand Line" there is no agreed upon demarcated border between Afghanistan and Pakistan:

"...Pakistan inherited the 1893 Durand Line Treaty after it's partition from India in 1947, but so far there is no formal agreement between Islamabad and Kabul on its formal ratification.[1] Many in Afghanistan as well as some Pakistani politicians find the existence of the international boundary splitting ethnic Pashtun areas to be at least objectionable if not abhorrent.[5] Some argue that the 1893 treaty expired in 1993, after 100 years elapsed without ratification.[1] However, neither the relatively short Durand treaty document itself nor the much longer joint legal boundary demarcation agreements that followed in 1894-6 make any mention of a time limit. In 2005, spokespersons of US Department of State's Office of the Geographer and Global Issues and British Foreign Commonwealth Office also pointed out that the treaty documents have no mention of expiration date.[6] It's reported that the two countries had agreed to sign a formal agreement in 1977, which would have brought this contentious issue to an end.[1]..."

2. "Pashtuns":

"Pashtun society consists of many tribes and clans which were rarely politically united,[14] until the rise of the Durrani Empire in 1747.[3] Pashtuns played a vital role during the Great Game as they were caught between the imperialist designs of the British and Russian empires. For over 250 years, they reigned as the dominant ethnic group in Afghanistan. More recently, the Pashtuns gained worldwide attention after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and with the rise and fall of the Taliban, since they are the main ethnic contingent in the movement. Pashtuns are also an important community in Pakistan, where they are prominently represented in the military and are the second-largest ethnic group.[15]

The Pashtuns are the world's largest (patriarchal) segmentary lineage ethnic group.[16] The total population of the group is estimated to be around 42 million, but an accurate count remains elusive due to the lack of an official census in Afghanistan since 1979.[17] There are an estimated 60 major Pashtun tribes and more than 400 sub-clans.[18]"

3. Taliban was created by Pakistan's ISI together with Saudi Arabia and some funding also from the UAE. The Clinton Administration coyly gave a wink and a nod one can say without going any further into details. Surely Mrs. Clinton remembers this? She could check with her husband or Madeleine Albright and the others if needed. UNOCAL, Central Asia, Brzezinski's geopolitics, the pipelines and all that???

There are about 40 some million Pushtuns, and some say 5 percent are into the Taliban ideology/action mode. Who knows?
"The Taliban's extremely strict and "anti-modern" ideology has been described as an "innovative form of sharia combining Pashtun tribal codes,"[32] or Pashtunwali, with radical Deobandi interpretations of Islam favored by members of the Pakistani fundamentalist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) organization and its splinter groups. Also contributing to the admixture was the Wahhabism of their Saudi financial benefactors, and the jihadism and pan-Islamism of sometime comrade-in-arms Osama bin Laden.[33] Their ideology was a departure from the Islamism of the anti-Soviet mujahideen rulers they replaced who tended to be mystical Sufis, traditionalists, or radical Islamicists inspired by the Ikhwan.[34]"

N. M. Salamon


A very intersting and literate analysis of the Afgan war:




Obama won Nobel peace prize. This is going to change a whole lot of strategy and geopolitical decision.

Wow, this is going to be weird for sure. my trend map now is all over the place.

Mark Stuart

Clifford Kiracofe:
The Taliban's extremely strict and "anti-modern" ideology has been described as an "innovative" form of sharia combining Pashtun tribal codes [...] with radical Deobandi interpretations of Islam [...] contributing to the admixture was the Wahhabism of their Saudi financial benefactors...

Some explanation seem to be missing from this wikipedia entry Sir? :

The Saudis are supposed to have financed the "anti-Soviet mujahideen rulers", then turned around and financed "the Taliban" although they are a departure from traditional Islamism? Although Deobandis are regarded by traditional Saudi Clerics as "innovators", meaning out of the realm of Islam, they would have still been financed by Saudis? Why would they, why should they finance the new kid on the block on the Af-Pak political scene when they had been bankrolling the mujahideen for so long?

(ref: Are Deobandis part of Ahlus Sunnah? Are they within the folds of Islam?, it's a litle esoteric but the bottom line from this Saudi Cleric is clear: they are to be avoided.)

Also, to link back to my previous comment, looking at this Map of Afghanistan and the Surrounding Countries wouldn't the Taliban and al-Qa'ida benefit from the many safe passages and sanctuaries if best case scenario we root them out of Af-Pak?




We cannot long talk about the Strategy for the War in Afghanistan without talking about America. The most striking comment in the Afghanistan debate in NYC in which you participated was the one saying the McChrystal troop increase report makes no mention of religion. Western Civilization is unusual in that cheap energy and education allowed a significant portion of its population to distance itself from religion. Only 30 percent of the USA could be classified as true believers; although this number will grow with the collapse of the economy and continued failures of government. In a third world tribal agrarian society, religion is as much a part of life as the sun rising in the morning. Any Strategy that does not address the culture and religion of Afghanistan is doomed to failure.

Islamic religious fanatics would of no interest to the American Empire, any more than Whirling Dervishes were a problem for the British Empire, except for two critical 21st Century facts: Western governments have not gotten control of the excess oil money that is going to Islamic Charities and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Only energy independence and ending the war next door, addresses either problem. Continuing the Long War with a slight or no troop increase only exasperates the problem; Nobel Prize or not.


In other words they're an Old Testament society armed with modern light arms,luckily they aren't rolling in oil wealth. We need to get out the sooner the better.


Not of mention of Religion in the Counterinsurgency Field Manual; "Islamic" extremism being held as the greatest threat to US security (no mention of the extremism practiced by 'Christian' Timothy McVeigh)and over at Conservapedia they are re-writing the bible to remove the 'liberal' bias.

So much for both Matthew 5:9 and most of what that 'liberal' from Nazareth had to say, too; as well as respect for religion. This is very troubling.


This doesn't look good. I thought it was in 5-10% range. but 30%? We are talking about serious public rejection and total lack of legitimacy.


A former senior United Nations diplomat in Kabul has made a scathing attack on the UN's handling of Afghanistan's disputed elections, claiming that almost one in three of the votes cast for president Hamid Karzai were fraudulent.

Peter Galbraith, the former deputy head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, singled out his former chief, Kai Eide, for criticism, saying he had deliberately played down the level of cheating in an election where, in one region, "10 times as many votes were recorded as voters actually cast".


Mark Stuart:

Your American Fighters linked happy snap showed....Limey Fighters!

Sidney O. Smith III

Due to prior “comments”, I am obligated to step forward and say something that, quite actually, speaks in favor of Senator Webb.

Imo, Senator Webb on October 6 was simply tremendous when on MSNBC, he said in no uncertain terms that Gen. McCrystal should have presented his views about the military options in Afghanistan within the chain of command. Maybe I am missing behind closed doors politikin’, but here it is. Decide for yourself.


Senator Webb’s analysis was so trenchant, precise, and articulate, that I almost wanted to belt out a “yahoo”, pull out his book on the “Scot-Irish” and then even kick back and listen to some Tony Rice to get that bluegrass Virginia feel. (you tube would do, I suppose, starting with “Freeborn Man”).

But, as I say, “almost”…

…here’s hoping that the next time Senator Webb takes a stroll through Arlington National Cemetery, as he, apparently, is wont to do, that he will head over to the gravesite of Captain McGonagle (MOH) and pay his respects.

Who knows…if he did so, maybe some ghost, barefoot and clad in ragged butternut, will head over from Jackson Circle to join Senator Webb and say, “Hey, mister, ain’t you a fancy Washington lawyer? What you gonna’ do about what happened to Captain McGonagle.”

Of course, if that happened, then surely some ghost clad in blue would join in, saying, “Hey, Rebel, when it comes to standing up for the Captain, your senator from Virginia reminds me of McClellan in 62.”

Then an educated officer ghost clad in gray may join in, saying, “McClellan? Yankee, the senator is acting more like Hamlet.”

And with that, the blue and gray would get a good brotherly laugh after all those years. And if they are laughing, then isn’t all of Arlington National Cemetery doing the same?

That said, Senator Webb truly was magnificent during his recent interview.

And I do have a confession. I did go ahead and listen to the you tube video of Tony Rice playing “Freeborn Man” with Mark O’ Connor, Sam Bush, and company.

My first thought was that I had forgotten that Tony Rice looks like Larry Bird’s brother, imo. Second thought was ‘tis a pity that so much of “Appalachia” has turned to meth instead of celebrating its astoundingly brilliant cultural achievement called bluegrass. Final thought presented as a plea: less meth (and less Hagee, imo) and more bluegrass, please.

Clifford Kiracofe

Mark Stuart, All

For those interested in backround:

On the Deobandis, I'd suggest Barbara Daly Metcalf, Islamic Revival in Brtitish India: Deoband, 1860-1900 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982). The original Wahabbi missionary contact from Arabia to South Asia runs back into the 18th century and the movement developed rapidly in the 19th.

On the background of Saudi assistance to the Taliban, Deobandis and etc. I'd suggest Ahmed Rashid, Taliban (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001) who presents extensive analysis.

Going back to the 1990s, many of the madrassas along the Pak-Afghan "border" which supplied the muj for the Afghan War had close relationships with the Deobandis and were financed by the Saudis. Also, for example, the Saudi Religious Police later were reported to have advised the Taliban and trained up some of their cadres. etc.

Looking to the future, Graham Fuller's book, The Future of Political Islam (New York: Palgrave, 2003) is useful.

The various ideologies of political Islam are something of a melange. I had an interesting conversation recently with an Egyptian analyst who pointed out elements of Wahabbism underlying AQ ideology, for example.

On the map thing, Taliban are Pashtuns with a particular perspective. There are about 40 some million Pashtuns in "Af-Pak" with the old British colonial Durand Line having an impact on them and us today. They move around within their traditional areas.

As for AQ, some of the terrorists who hit us in 911 were living in Hamburg, Germany and the Euros routinely pick up Muslim terrorists resident in Europe...so these types are rather mobile. You don't need to wear theatrical clothing, do the mangy beard and forehead patch thing, and live in a cave in the Hindu Kush. The Swiss just identified someone working at a nuclear research facility in their country as allegedly having links to an international Muslim terrorist organization.

Clifford Kiracofe

Sidney Smith,

Yes Tony Rice is a great flatpicker. Heard him once live at a small venue in Charlottesville, VA some years back.

Mike Seeger (Pete's half brother) lived here in Lexington and passed on in August. There was a memorial service for him recently. He did so much to develop interest in researching and playing traditional American music and instruments.

Rest assured there is an active local music scene here in the Shenandoah Valley and environs. You might like Larry Keel,for example, a younger player who has established a solid reputation.

Larry plays a "Rockbridge" guitar which as the name indicates are made right here in Rockbridge County with some additional work up in Charlottesville. I like mine a lot, an SJ cutaway with a Boggs pickup. Great guitars. http://rockbridgeguitar.com

Per the meth and all that, well this is owing much to the proliferation across the US of the Hispanic gangs out of California/Mexico ("CalMex") and Central America (Guatemala, El Salvador). Talk to the police in Staunton or Roanoke or Lexington or wherever here in the Valley, for example. Review the Justice Department studies and reports.... IMO, the real threat is already here among us, like Pogo says, not in a cave in the Hindu Kush. The worst case scenario is AQ and friends linking to the gangs already operative in the US. And that imperial pimp McCh. wants 60,000 more troops....for the Hindu Kush quagmire.

F B Ali

This is weird! Surreal!

The other day the White House put out the word that Obama and his national security team were seriously considering a shift in focus from Afghanistan and the Taliban to Pakistan and al-Qaeda. Since this was widely expected to lead to a confrontation with the military, it would appear to be really important (not least for Obama’s political future) that the new strategy prove successful. So, what happens next? The US sends a huge bull (in the shape of the Kerry-Lugar bill) charging into the Pakistani china shop!

Equally weird, if not more so, is the total incomprehension in Washington as the sound of smashing crockery and the howls of anger and anguish arise from Pakistan. The universal reaction is: What’s wrong with them? Instead of getting down on bended knees and thanking us, what are they complaining about? It is painfully obvious that the US hasn’t a clue what the situation in Pakistan really is, and why there is this strong reaction. This is perhaps the most troubling aspect of the whole episode.

It is too early to say how deep and long-lasting the damage to the relationship between the two countries will be. But damage there will certainly be, and this will adversely affect US interests and prospects in the region. This clumsy move has upset the delicate power balance in Pakistan, and it will have a serious, and possibly long-lasting, impact.

Truly weird!

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