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08 May 2010


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FB Ali

Col Lang

You said: the Marja operation will decide the fate of the US effort in Afghanistan.

A public opinion survey carried out in the area by the International Council on Security & Development in March 2010 (after the operation) does not paint a very optimistic picture. Some extracts:

“ICOS field research reveals that Operation Moshtarak has contributed to high levels of anger among local Afghan: 61% of those interviewed feel more negative about NATO forces than before the military offensive. In other words, the objective of winning “hearts and minds” - one of the fundamental tenets of the new counter-insurgency strategy – was not met............

Of those interviewed, 95% believe more young Afghans have joined the Taliban in the last year. 78% of the respondents were often or always angry, and 45% of those stated they were angry at the NATO occupation, civilian casualties and night raids..............

97% of Afghans interviewed by ICOS said that the operation had led to new flows of internally displaced people. Thousands of displaced Afghans were forced to move to non-existent or overcrowded refugee camps with insufficient food, medical supplies or shelter. Local aid agencies were overwhelmed, and in some areas were not present at all.....

Another issue causing friction with the local population is the lack of an effective or realistic counter-narcotics strategy............ Eradicating the poppy crop is opposed by 66% of Afghans interviewed by ICOS.............

59% of those interviewed believed the Taliban will return to Marjah after the Operation. Alarmingly, 67% did not support a strong NATO-ISAF presence in their province and 71% stated they wanted the NATO forces to leave”.

Even though the sample interviewed was comparatively small, I believe the results are fairly accurate in representing the views of the population. The report is at:


Adam L Silverman


Mr. Ali beat me to it. I was just about to link to the actual report:http://www.icosgroup.net/documents/operation_moshtarak.pdf
and compare and contrast it with the recently released Pentagon report on Afghan operations to Congress. This report, which can be found here:
also recognizes the negatives, but puts a far more positive overall assessment of what ISAF is doing in Afghanistan. The survey data from the Pentagon report is much broader (a larger sample) than the ICOS one, however, ICOS presents far more of the data in its initial form rather than bundling it into multicolored eye charts to show trends. While the latter is useful, the former is invaluable. Moreover, the ICOS report specifically focuses on the areas immediately effected by the Marja operations, which would seem to capture more of the actual and localized perceptions and reactions to that operation.


@FB Ali -

while the numbers of ICOS may be right, take them with some salt:

International Council on Security and Development (formerly known as The Senlis Council): An international policy think tank working to combine grassroots research and policy innovation at the intersections of security, development, counter-narcotics and public health issues. (Formerly "An international policy think tank with offices in Kabul, London, Paris and Brussels, advocating the regulation of opium in Afghanistan as a way to reduce the role of illicit drugs plays in the Afghan insurgency."
/endquote/ emphasis added

When I looked into it a while ago the big money behind Senlis Council was a rich owner of a big Swiss pharmaceutic business. I am not sure that he is behind ICOS too but as that is the follow on organization of Senlis Council he may well be.

The organization has done and does some valuable work but its opinions about the opium in Afghanistan may well taint its view and maybe also its numbers.

William R. Cumming

What percentage of the population in Afghanistan gets their primary income from the growing and trading of poppies and opium or its derivatives? And what is the proposed or actual replacement source of income for those people if the drug eradication effort succeeds even partially? Without answers to those questions military effort IMO is completely wasted. Is that what COIN contemplates? Transition to other forms of Livelihood? Or is it in reality a form of strategy based on patience and waiting out the enemy until they just quit their efforts? Please understand my total ignorance except that it appears the US effort has failed in many respects and it could be argued although I do not that in fact the military effort their has assisted the international drug cartels and their primary source of supplies in Afghanistan yet we hear almost nothing about that relationship. I do understand the random drug testing of US forces may not have been effective as a deterrant to drug usage there and that the drug screening and involvement of contract personnel is extremely limited. Corrections on this blog are welcome. I do know although perhaps PL will disagree is that part of the washing of the hands by Pontius Pilate types in DC of the Vietnamese was in part based on concerns that the huge returning population of military trained drug addicts in US Forces was a clear and present danger and had to be ended.

n m salamon

FB Ali:

Somewhat similar reaction of the natives as was the case in Iraq. The USA politicians and DoD can not learn a lesson after 9 years of warfare on two fronts.


7 December 1941 to 15 August 1945. Afghanistan? As with most crimes it's easiest to solve if you follow the money.

different clue

Why not narrow the goal and the means to achieve it? If the goal is to prevent al quaeda or other such groups from re-assembling training centers and planning centers in Afghanistan; then just secure enough of Afghanistan to have a safe place from which to strike out and destroy such re-emergence anywhere else in Afghanistan.

The non-Pashtun areas always resented and fought the Taliban as best as they could. Limit Afghan Army membership to Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and other traditionally non-Talibanized groups; and limit the nonPashtun Afghan Army's coverage to nonPashtun parts of Afghanistan. Keep Kabul and Northern Alliancestan (including the Hazarajat if possible)secure and surrender Pashtunistan to their beloved Taliban. Keep secure bases in Northern Alliancestan from which to reach out and destroy any Taliban al quaeda activity which threatens to reach outside of AfPashtunistan.

If the Shanghai Cooperation Council nations object to that, announce a fastest-feasible timetable for the orderly total abandonment of Afghanistan and tell the SCO that they have just-that-long to plan for solving the problem their way...if they think they are so smart.

FB Ali

The definitive verdict on the success or otherwise of the Marjah operation was delivered by the leaders of Kandahar and surrounding area. Assembled in a shura by Hamid Karzai recently, they were unanimous in demanding that a similar operation NOT be carried out in their area.

As Col Lang says, the US does not have the time or the money to successfully carry out this COIN-type operation in Afghanistan. Nor does it have the requisite number of troops, or an adequate governance organization.


The all volunteer military and civilian outsourcing ensures all volunteer wars. Most people in the US have no clue where Afghanistan is.
For the people who have an interest in Afghanistan, there are mostly money and career motives. Hence, it makes no sense to leave or get out anytime soon.
War zones present countless opportunities to make big bucks quick. Why would the people making the money want it to end?
And then there are the tens of people who are appalled at what is actually going on. Tough luck for them.

n m salamon

The following is a depressing analysis indicative that the USA [and the world] can not afford Iraq, Afganistan and any other war in the short term [The long term will not be technological/energy based war]


From all the material I found on the WEB, Marjah was overplayed before the action, and its significance is underplayed now by MSM - it was a total failure, Kandahar will be worse, NATO will depend on mindless technology and the resultant civil casualty will lead to total rejection of NATO effort by most Afgans and Pakistani. It will also most probably the end of COIN in practice if not in theory [Petreus and his flag officers will be judged accordingly].

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