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01 February 2010


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N. M. Salamon

Thank you for the analysis. This analysis applies to the long war issue of the previous posting, for the reality of the health of the USA armed forces and the reality of the effective insolvency of the USA economy puts paid to military adventurism - except if the USA elites attempt the impossible, therby destroying the USA in short order, a la USSR in the 1990-s

William R. Cumming

This is a very excellent and accurate POST IMO!

Thanks for contribution of your insight to this blog.

Much appreciate by me and I am sure others.

I am now thinking that Pakistan despite calling off the dogs of war in the NWF is probably going to be unable to control future events with any certainty. Expect tensions to ratchit up greatly in the ruling elites in Pakistan and they understand their pact with the DEVIL--fundamentalists and taliban--will not provide a future for them or their children. Time for really hard nosed contingency planning over control and nuclear surety of the so-far only Islamic Bomb. Again IMO.


So much for "shock and awe"!


I don't have any comment on FB Ali's analysis at this time, but I thought this Dec. 2008 powerpoint presentation by Gen. McChrystal's J2, MG Flynn, would be of interest.


Gen. Ali, will the Taliban actually begin negotiations now that victory is near?

Also, is there any trust in the Americans since we appointed Karzai and his corrupt administration in the last Loya Jirga ?

On a side note, last week there was a double episode of "Border Wars" followed by an hour long program on the Special Forces in Afghanistan.

If you want to see just how unwindable this war is, check out that program.

Clifford Kiracofe

"policy has hit the ‘brick wall’ of harsh reality, and all the rosy assumptions...the wildly unrealistic assumptions ..."

One question to ask about the present policy debacle is just why and how did the delusional US politicians and military "leaders" get away with their nonsense for so long. WHY and HOW???

Nancy K

I feel shocked and awed about what a big mess we have made and how much it is going to cost us, our children and the Afgan and Iraqi people. The only nation building we should be doing is our own, which is not in good shape right now, economically, infrastructually or unity.

Charles I

Karzai's pulling out all the stops to keep the US in theatre, judging from this snippet from Juan Cole today:

"Karzai attempted to raise the stakes for Western success in Afghanistan, saying that a US geological survey will soon announce that the country has $1 trillion in petroleum reserves, in addition to substantial copper and iron ore deposits (China has a contract to mine the copper.)"


As I have posted previously at my peril, once the vector of dope and war is completed by the discovery of oil, past experience indicates the fighting will go on for some years yet.

A trillion bucks of oil'd be worth fighting about.

Sidney O. Smith III

A Jacobin only wants to ensure that, before an attack on Iran, USM personnel and assets are deployed to Muslim lands and seen as occupiers by Shia, Sunni and the various tribal groups. Then after an attack on Iran, the goal of a clash of civilizations is one step closer to fulfillment, as surely the Iranian response will focus on the US.

Nothing else matters.

Jacobins package and market US foreign policy as promoting freedom and democracy. If they can package a military strategy using the traditional lexicon of COIN, they will. They don’t give a damn about Muslims or their culture, though. Or Americans for that matter.

Strip away the pretensions of David Brooks, and one can certainly make a legitimate argument that the real purpose of the latest historical incarnation of Jacobinism is the following: use the power of a centralized US government to ensure the goal of Likud Zionism -- a greater Israel depopulated of Muslims.


One of my many questions is that where do Taliban get its weapons from? Where is the source of money? I heard that opium is the source of money, but how do they transfer opium?

N. M. Salamon

My questions are:

1.,How long will the citizens put up with htese wars, costing over 160 billion per year [as per President's budgert proposal] when unemployment is south of 10% [closer to 20% if counted as in 1960]?

2.,And how will the USA Treasury get 1.6 trillion dollars from bond sales without resorting to the Fed's printing presses [thereby debasing the currency, which has negative effect on most citizens]?

3., How long can the President and Congress kepp on upsetting China, ere the blowbakc with VERY SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES for USA Economy?


In my opinion, big money is still to be made from this fiasco and that is a problem for a future Afghanistan. Will peace ever happen? Will it or can it ever be imposed?
China may create a military base in Pakistan. They also may go to the moon by 2020 and create a colony there.
How does this benefit the wealthy elites here? Or are they looking beyond nationalism to a new corporate type of power?
Sure looks like America has to hedge it's bets.


"Ambitious generals with too many troops and no war to win." And a $700 Billion dollar defense budget to defend or lose it to Social Security, Medicare and health care.

Oh well, there's always Iran or Venezuela. Quagmires 'R US still has options.

Clifford Kiracofe

Sidney Smith, All

My friend Prof. Claes Ryn, who teaches at Catholic University in DC, deals with the Jacobin matter and the Neocons in his: "America the Virtuous. The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire" (New Brunswick NJ: Transaction, 2003). He argues the Neocons are, in essence, Jacobins dedicated to the "permanent Revolution."

Thus Neocons and their ilk are constantly seeking to stir the pot globally so as to draw the US into a permanent global crusade/war, the so-called "long war."

In some ways, one could argue, the Israeli population is a prisoner of higher international circles. We might loosely group these as "Anglo-Zionist" and refer to Martin Gilbert's book: "Churchill and the Jews" for example for some context. Also, we can note the anti-Zionist arguments of leading British (and American) Jews in the early 1900s which were prophetic and which sadly ring true today.

IMO, the US Neocons service this Anglo-Zionist power. The Fascism of the Neocons should not surprise as Revisionist Zionism bases itself on, for example, V. Jabotinsky himself a Fascist, though Jewish. And of course the British secretly supported Mussolini now didn't they? (Hoare and that crowd I mean).


Charles I may be right, assuming that no, no lessons were learned from the Iraq "cheap oil" debacle. Having worked with the minions of our Empire in "the land of the pure" (Karachi & I'bad), I wouldn't put an attempted end-run past some of our folks on the ground. However, I believe recent misadventures have brought a "never again" mindset back to the ever-aspiring one-stars. Smith's Zion card is another, more troubling matter entirely....


from what I read the Taliban get their basic weapons (AKs, RPGs) from Pakistan. In Pakistani village workshops they basically build a rifle and weapons generally after a copied design of choice from scrap metal with simple tools. While not exactly 'good' in the western sense the arms are apparently quite 'good enough'. It appears that this arms market is self sufficient. I can't find the article on that atm.

These weapons still need to be bought though, and where they get the money from, I don't know.


Tony -- things change over time, but during the mid-90's, the heroin was partly refined in eastern Afghanistan/western Pakistan, then camel caravaned down Balochistan to the coast. There it was picked up by dhows & other vessels.
Cute system, since the traders rented their transport from tribals, so if they were intercepted & the "vehicles" confiscated, the owners could talk to their cousins in the military or the FC and get them back by paying a fine.

Sidney O. Smith III

Prof. Kiracofe

Thank you for the references. If I had time, I would look at them today.

In my opinion, all analysis must answer to the following assumption. People within the USG desire to see the US lead the way in a clash of civilizations vs. the Muslim world.

If analysis does not incorporate that assumption, to whatever degree, then it will not withstand the test of time.

Moreover, if it doesn’t, then odds increase the person(s) writing the analysis is interested in career and/or rank advancement more than the long term interest of the American people. In civilian terms it is called selling out.

Habbakuk, in his critique of Strauss and the World of Intelligence, referenced one of Sherman Kent’s prophetic warning that strategic intel analysis should not “take off from the [ideological] wish” or disaster awaits. As a historical reference to make the point, Kent in his famous book, Strategic Intel for Am. World Policy (46, 66) pointed to the Nazis.

N. M. Salamon

The financial picture painted by Mr. Farrel at Market Watch indicates that Ali is right, the politicians decided that the long war is unaffordable> Please read:


and Weep!

Adam L Silverman

Anonymous: The One Tribe at a Time concept laid out by MAJ Gant is unlikely to work in the broad socio-cultural framework of Afghanistan or Pakistan. Afghan society is not tribal, per se, the way most people use the term. Army HTS released an unclassified report on this topic, specifically focusing on the Pashtuns, late last Summer. Some Pashtuns, and other Afghans, behave more like we think of a tribe (decent from real or mythic historic ancestor, centralized hiearchy, tight kinship), while others do not. Moreover, the divisions even among the Pashtuns are so regionally and dialectic/linguistically dependent that common cause among the sub groups may be problematic. While I think, based on my own experience, that MAJ Gant's approach was a very good one, the real criticism is that he inserted his ODA into an inter kinship dispute between lowland and highland members of the same kinship group. One can reasonably concludes that had his team been inserted with the highland subgroup that he would have gotten the story in reverse and likely partnered with them against the low landers. Or had two teams been inserted with each group, each would have gotten that subgroups version of the dispute.

And this discussion takes place before we get to any of the other socio-cultural divisions in Afghanistan or the drivers. Especially as a lot of the drivers aren't Pashtunness or Hazaraness, but are instead about access to resources or disputes over religious interpretation or the right to control smuggling routes for drugs and weapons.

Disaggregating the population out so that it can be separated from the negative actors and reoriented towards the government is a good idea. But in Afghanistan the government has never commanded wide support and there is so much nuance to the disaggregation it would be exceedingly difficult to run an effective solution one tribe at a time.

Patrick Lang


I think it is unimportant whether or not Afghans are "tribal" in an anthropological sense. the important thing is that skill and sympathy make local groups susceptible to recruitment. pl

Adam L Silverman


The nuance that you're bringing up is absolutely correct, and I'm sorry for eliding it in my comment. The issue, however, still goes to a society that is so comprised of so many different and often subtle and context dependent identities that I'm not sure that the skill and sympathy gets us very far beyond local groups or the local level. In one sense that's not a big deal as I think, as I've written about here in the past, if we're going to be engaged in Afghanistan then the focus should be that lowest level. The problem I see is that the stated goals are not to secure, stabilize, and develop those local levels and then largely withdraw, but rather to work all the way up to the national level. Once you do that all the skills of MAJ Gant and his team mates and their ability to reorient the population goes right out the window as the group or groups they're working with will be in competition with a group or groups that some other ODA or a PRT or an MEF or an NGO is working with. This is essentially what happened in Iraq. The folks on the ground in a number of places had a lot of really great success that was undercut by the stuff that came out of Embassy or by other units. And Iraq is far more suited for this strategy than Afghanistan.


Col. Lang is right about the functional nature of Pathan "tribalism." Their control of the transport sector in southern Sind, especially Karachi & the long haul trucking essential to the logistics of our Afghanistan campaign, is anything but a traditional tribal enterprise.

In an aside, I had a few "coach guns" made-to-order in Darra Adam Khel, in the FATA. Gave them a photo of an old stagecoach side-by-side w/barrel & stock lengths. The pieces are somewhat ornate -- engraved, not inlaid or chased -- and would not meet with the approval of F.lli Rizzini, et.al. Fully functional, even if the firing pins need occasional adjustment.

Back in the '80's in Danao City in the Visayas, PI, you could get some really interesting sidearms (revolvers chambered for M-16 ammo!!) that were more conversation pieces than day-to-day tools of the trade.

FB Ali


I’m glad you, and others, found the note useful. Thank you for the appreciation.


I think the Taliban and other insurgents could be brought to the negotiation table. After all, it’s better to achieve your aims by talking than fighting. Quicker, too. Pakistan has considerable leverage with them, especially the top Taliban leadership, and could prevail upon them to talk. The Saudis, with promises of future financial aid, could also exert influence. So long as the talks lead to the early exit of foreign forces, the insurgents will likely be quite happy to take their chances in the resulting set-up.

One Tribe at a Time

This is a catchy but very misleading name for what Gant is advocating. Sure, he achieved remarkable success in a couple of villages, but to believe that the same thing could be done on a countrywide basis is delusional. To paraphrase Adam Silverman’s technical exposition, Afghanistan doesn’t have a few tribes that a few Gants could win over in short order, it has thousands of tribes, sub-tribes, clans, sub-clans and families, many of them with opposing interests and agendas, as well as long-standing enmities and feuds. The Gant template can’t work on this scale. Even the Iraq experience doesn’t hold good here; the Sunnis, a threatened minority, signed up in order to strengthen themselves for the coming showdown with the Shias. All they were required to do was to turn on the takfiris, who were disliked foreigners, not countrymen (as the Afghan insurgents would be).


The ‘citified’ Afghan is quite different from his village compatriot. The tribal bonds melt away in the struggle to survive in a cutthroat environment; money replaces the old tribal values and mores. This is the type you saw in Karachi; they make excellent entrepreneurs. They now control the entire long-distance trucking business from Karachi to Peshawar and beyond.

Patrick Lang


Why should we care about "the nation?" pl

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