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30 May 2010


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The last message I got from my son who's in Khost is that "the Afghan people are totally screwed". I take that to mean the situation is hopeless.


"We've dramatically changed the state of the insurgency in that region," McChrystal said, but at the same acknowledged that Marjah was still a struggle.

Dramatically changed it, as in, making it worse? There's more than one way of reading his words. It's as though he was talking to a congress panel.

Every place the Army enters and leaves, looks like a modern day scorched earth policy in operation with the status quo upended in some forms while others continue to remain the same. No one in his right mind would switch sides when they see the Army for a few weeks promising security and then leaving them out in the cold against the Taliban.

I've come around to the idea, the Europeans are going through the motions, the US is buying time till there is some dramatic shift of priorities. Like the BP oil spill needs a nuclear detonation or something.


Like childish, sleazy commercials on TV they wouldn't exist if they didn't work. The warriors treat the public the same way. They prepare their remarks for the stupid people who buy them. Unfortunately there are more stupid people than one would like to admit. On this Memorial Day observance it is obscene that people like McChrystal, and yes, Obama sadly, are still putting a positive spin on bullshit which is killing and maiming young people daily.
The only explanation I can find is that a Neocon/Pentagon/Military/Industrial cabal loves the huge profits made in war and armaments. All other talk about freeing oppressed people, women's rights and such is smoke and mirrors, like the WMD the Cheney/Bush criminals put over on the public.

Patrick Lang


Yes. they like the money but there is far more bureaucratic group think in this than you believe. Marxism as an an analytic tool is sadly inadequate. pl

N M Saloamon

View from the Afgan front:


by a UWS Vet from Iraq, now serving in Afganistan.


"The plan is to focus on delivering services like electricity and water, he explained." - Stan the Man

Shouldn't the plan be to remove, by all means, the enemy from the area?

But then again, it is hard to define who the enemy is.

I wish things were as simple as the prefect game we attended last night.. three up, three down.

LA Confidential Pantload

"Every place the Army enters and leaves, looks like a modern day scorched earth policy in operation with the status quo upended in some forms while others continue to remain the same."

Why, it sounds vaguely like "they created a desert and called it peace." How very Roman Empire of you. Absolutely correct, of course, but....

Mr. Lang,

I suspect in your military career, you reached the highest level at which one could still be an honest broker. I'm not sure there are an abundance of examples of generals and admirals admitting failure in other than Hirohito-esque terms.

Although I consider myself a Marxist, I totally agree that Marxism is an inadequate analytic tool. So is any other specific method of analysis, which is why it is wise to develop one's understanding through multiple perspectives.

This blog is a wonderful place to visit. I wish everyone here a very fulfilling holiday.


I think we can at least be thankful for small mercies in that McChrystal didn't blame all his problems on the Government of Iran.

On a totally off topic note, I only get to see Fox News once a week when I'm over at my girlfriends place.

I watched a Fox News "consultant" talking about the wonderful job the CIA was doing in Afghanistan - he said something about the CIA being "The point of the spear", operating way out front and passing excellent information back to the "War Fighters". I was not impressed.

I was also not impressed by the announced plan of going after "Potential" terrorists, but I assume that the average Foxite cannot see the huge danger signal inherent in the word "Potential".

Then there was an interview with Two "warriors" about to deploy to Afghanistan. 911 figured in both their reasons for enlisting......

Have a relaxing and satisfying Memorial Day.

Patrick Lang

LA Confidential Pantload

So, you are really Craig Ferguson?

I have been told several times by senior officers that I would have been promoted to BG if the Army had wanted someone with my skills set promoted. If they had I would have been. That is not a problem for me. For me, soldiering was its own reward.

In the SES in DIA I reached a high level, but in the end the very thing you mention was lethal to my further progress. People don' like to have their judgment questioned. pl


Mr. Lang,
I just saw you'll again be at the Miller Center on September 10. I look forward to watching the pod cast.



You missed the news today from Stanley that Iran was training the Taliban and sending arms into Afghanistan. Kind of like the IEDs in Iraq that were manufactured in Iran. Speaking of manufacturing stuff, McChrystal seems to be good at it.


"The Marjah offensive has been followed by the re-infiltration of Taliban forces into the area despite a continuing strong U.S. Marine presence." I don't think the Taliban are focusing on water and electricity delivery. I assume that when all prior generations were living in the region they had water and managed to get along without electricity. Perhaps a focus on security and a less corrupt government might be more effective; especially given this:
"... the strategic partnership depends on being able to transfer some responsibility to Afghan forces, which are still plagued by a lack of training and distrust of the people despite years of training programs funded by the international community."

If we are ever to leave we need to transfer ALL responsibility to Afghan forces.

Dan M

I attended an off the recordish, but highly public (at least 60 attendees) sitrep talk about Afghanistan at the Pentagon this weekend. A number that jumped at me is that Kandahar's daily electricity supply is about 35 percent of demand.

If this electricity and "services" stuff really is the key to success, we're in big trouble as we steam through year 9 of the war.

In the end, contrary to Secretary Clinton ("we will never abandon you, oh people of afghanistan"), we will start to withdraw some time next summer.

This seems the inevitable political conclusion at the moment.

Patrick Lang


COIN as anything other than integration into the environment is crap. pl

Robert C.

If what Dan M says is true, are not all the US casualties from this point forward "the last man to die in Afghanistan"...and for what?...Sadly and immorally, the Neocons will spin this as blood on Obama's hands...and he will, as per usual, have no rebuttal.


LA Confidential,

Why, it sounds vaguely like "they created a desert and called it peace." How very Roman Empire of you.

No, the Roman methods produced results. There might be crosses on every hill, salt in the fields and bodies littering the streets of the ash heap cities, but at least the Romans could say that there would be no more war in that province, not for generations. Futile destruction is even more depressing.


Israel appears to have gone mad. Up to 20 protestors on the Gaza Relief Convoy shot dead by Israeli commandos.

Live blogging on Al Jazeera:


and on Guardian:


The BBC is so "balanced" on it it is a disgrace.

The whole Western ruling elite seems to be succumbing to a mass attack of hubris.


Some superb live coverage in the Mondoweiss comments:


(A South African describes this as Israel's Sharpeville.

John Minnerath

Back to McChrystal, will he fall as far and as hard as Daniel Dravot?
Will a modern day Peachy return with his head?


The Obama plan to begin troop drawdown from Afghanistan is a purely domestic political matter, tied to the obsession of Axelrod, Jarrett and Obama himself with his reelection in Nov. 2012. This is not statecraft, or even competent military strategy. It is crass political scheming. That is one side of the problem, that is already impacting on the thinking of Gates and others who went through Vietnam and know what it means to lose a counterinsurgency war because the domestic political clock ran out. Gates, from the outset, has known that there is a deadline for showing enough success to roll back the date when the American people run out of patience for the war and its costs--human and economic. The attempt to roll back Taliban dominance in Helmand and now Kandahar is a reflection of military strategy bent to conform to domestic political realities, always a recipe for failure. To make matters worse, the big story in Marjah is that the small farm town is the center of the opium production and the heroin labs. There is no clear US or NATO policy for dealing with the opium economy, other than by alternately squeezing and paying off Karzai's brother.

McChrystal is a COIN theologian monk, who believes that, with enough time, and enough COIN, we can succeed. He has no intention of abiding by the President's electoral calendar.

Petraeus keeps being treated like a presidential candidate for the GOP against Obama in 2012, and that further complicates the already established frictions between the COIN faction in the military and the Obama White House team--none of whom served, as far as I know--in the military. It's as if policy was being made on two different planets.

My bet is that the failures of Obama on almost every major policy front, especially the domestic economy, now captured on the nightly news in the Gulf of Mexico wipeout of an entire regional economy, is going to intensify these frictions, and all of these factors bode very poorly for Afghanistan.


Let me say "Happy Birthday" and thank you for all your efforts on this blog.

I feel like I have far more questions than answers these days but one thing I do know is that we cannot go on like we are.
What we've done with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is said Yes to spending and No to thinking about these wars and the people fighting them.

It seems our leaders are stymied by the fact that our most determined enemies seem to be in Pakistan, mostly beyond our reach and ineffectually dealt with by the Pakistani government despite our money and arm-twisting.

We desperately need to turn our attention to problems here at home. Our troops desperately need a break from nearly 10 years of multiple redeployments.

If we're not doing so already, we should be "surging" on the money and arm twisting too in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where it might do some good. (I don't mena paying off Talkban to let us safely deliver supplies.)

I think we should give it our best shot in the upcoming months and then call it quits, in essence, for our regular troops. Let the special forces, trainers, etc. stay on but the bulk should start coming home soon.

If the Defense budget is not shrinking and we're not concentrating on ourselves by 2012, we're defeated no matter what happens, aren't we? By our own stubborness and stupidity, if nothing else.

Richard Armstrong

In a previous comment I asked why the military and press always referred to the Afghani resistence as the Taliban. This is BS as this quote from SFC Shorting points out.

"In Iraq the military finally figured out all the groups who were killing us. We found out who they were and then paid them not to kill us. In Afghanistan it is not as simple; there is no center of gravity to this insurgency(s). There are so many groups and players that we might as well send everyone money not to kill us. We could drop the money from helicopters.

Sergeant First Class Bill Shortino
831st DDST / US Army
Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan"


Since we're fighting everyone in that country except President Karzai we need to leave. Now. The effort there is not worth one American life. Nation building is not what our service men and women signed up for.

Our service men and women swore to protect the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.

It is impossible to prove to any sane individual that Afghanistan poses any threat to either this country or to the Constitution.

I can only think of two wars since 1776 that meet the requirements of that oath. Our War of Independence and the War of 1812.

Our Indian wars didn't nor did our wars with Mexico nor did the Civil War nor did WW1 nor did WW2 nor did the Korean War nor did the Vietnam War nor did the invasion of Grenada nor did the invasion of Panama nor did the Iraqi war and nor does the current war in Afghanistan. Nor did the Spanish-American War nor did the Philippine Insurrection nor the Boxer Rebellion in China nor did the interventions in Nicaragua, Panama, The Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico and Haiti.

The Civil War is debatable and I will gladly debate that with anyone who wishes.

Yes I am opinionated. There are way too many Armstrongs that gave their last full measure fighting in wars way way outside the oath they took.

The last threat to our beloved Constitution was the War of 1812. All that followed were costly folly.

Richard Armstrong

Postscript to my previous post.

The United States was indeed attacked by both the Germans and the Japanese in WWII.

I did not mean that the US should not respond when attacked.

My comments were meant to show how Washington burns up American service men and women for reasons of their own that do not necessarily protect the Constitution.

I believe this is what is meant by the term "cannon fodder."

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