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02 August 2010


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Col. Lang,
Well said. Thank you for the four point list. It helps. Seems like there must even be a rough time limit on the welcome mat, so to speak, after which our forces start being seen by all sides as "occupiers," i.e., as part of the problem rather than solution.


FWIW, here are my impressions.

1) Al Qaida was never really intended by the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan. Throughout the 1980's the US, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and a slew of other western friendly Arab intel services, recruited, trained and shipped large numbers of radicalized citizens of the aforementioned nations. For those nations, it was like a release valve to get rid of a nuisance. For the CIA, it was a means to send more motivated fighters to fight the USSR. And if they got killed themselves, well, two birds with one stone.

2) Once they were in Afghanistan, they developed contact with the locals, perhaps intermarried, and became long term guests. And perhaps after their help against the Soviets, the Taliban thought it rude to ask them to leave.

3) The above dynamic no longer exists. Without active aid, training, financing and transport assistance of several countries, it will not be easy for large numbers of radicalized Muslims to reach Afghanistan from elsewhere and organize. I doubt those few who make it there will still be welcomed by the locals.

4) I'm dubious about the degree of involvement of the Taliban government with 9/11. My guess is that they neither knew of it, nor would they have approved. Possibly even after the fact they may have initially doubted Bin Laden's involvement. But all that's just a guess. At any rate, their initial official reaction to 9/11 was condemnation.

Overall, I would say that if all NATO forces left tomorrow, the chances of anything resembling Al Qaida reforming in Afghanistan is rather slim.



America has done nation building in the past; West German, Japan and South Korea. But, without the Draft and a Tax Increase, transforming Afghanistan or even Iraq into a puppet Nation State is simply impossible; not enough men or money.

Right now COIN is failing. Targeted Killing Is New U.S. Focus in Afghanistan. Your “Methods” are back in vogue. There is no other alternative except withdrawal.

There are three basic problems with a war of attrition like Vietnam or Afghanistan;

1) You have to kill them all. No matter how selective, Drone bombs or sniper assassinations breed more insurgents unless you decimate the young male population and cower the rest.

2) No matter now many tours one pulls, they still look alike. Intelligence on the “Bad Guys” is in the hands of the Natives.

3) The Afghans are experienced fighters; forcing the British and Russians to withdraw, are just two recent examples.

Patrick Lang


Sounds like you agree with me. One exception, the way I do HUMINT under these conditions I end up owning the natives I use. Not a pretty thing. pl



Yes, I am naïve. Watching George Clooney in “Syriana” probably isn’t a good representation of how Middle East Intelligence Operations actually work.

The only monies I ever dealt with in the Army was the max of $254 a month plus $65 combat pay I earned which was enough to buy a year old Plymouth Valiant in cash when I returned to the world.



I don't see the COINestas like Mr. Nagel giving up with out a knock-down drag-out fight. Nagl and the COINesta crowd are making BIG $$$s from padded contracts. Nagl doesn't give a hang that you and I are concerned that Uncle owes us money. Well Nagl needs to consider it as well since he is drawing O5 military retirement.


That would be great! But Obama has proven he can't be trusted to keep his word. Watch what they do,do not trust what they say.


Col. Lang,

Your conclusions are sad but true.

If I was rude, I would make the observation that I don't think America is socially or culturally conditioned to be good at COIN, there do not seem to be enough Maj. Gants, or Col. Langs, in the chain of command. To put it another way, "bait and switch" marketing doesn't cut it, as the sons of Iraq are going to find out.

You need to stay forever. You will know its time to leave when your constituents use the institutions and traditions you have inculcated to protest your continued presence.

Patrick Lang


You are rude but correct. I have said the same thing. pl


This afternoon I was listening to the radio and heard Obama on Iraq or something and wondered if we elected Barak Bush. Or are ALL our Presidents programmed when the get into office?

Roy G

I can't remember who said it, but I recently heard a good line about this situation. Something along the lines of 'COIN tends not to work well in a country with a 2500 year history of invaders.'


So Obama says we are back to "don't let them use Afghanistan as a base for terrorists".

Wasn't the foolishness of playing Whack-a-Mole settled years ago?


Let's recall why NATO forces are in Afghanistan in the first place. In October 2001, following the worst, mass casualty terrorist attacks ever broadcast live on television, the United States declared that it would invade Afghanistan, drive out the dominant militia and capture the 9/11 attackers' leaders.

Half-achieving that goal with relative ease by bribing, arming and providing air support to local warlords and drug barons, an international coalition then plopped thousands of heavily armed soldiers into Kabul and announced that... they would be staying indefinitely!

Ostensibly, this was to facilitate the painting of some schools, the education of some little girls and the transformation of a fractious, narcotics-riddled, tribal war zone into a modern liberal democratic state, amongst other simple, straightforward and laudible goals. And so, the Afghans settled down to the long project of creating the world's most corrupt political and economic system under the watchful gaze of it's most awesome military.

Almost a decade later, our once-defeated foes were miraculously back and ten times as ferocious as ever, spitting bullets and chopping heads. For our part, we have intentionally and massively expanded the country's war into the territory of its nuclear armed neighbour.

Somehow, this reformed "Taliban" are able to resupply themselves with men and materiel in some of the most rugged terrain on Earth, a region in which a donkey can't fart without being monitored by billions of dollars worth of spy satellites and drones.

They're able to move freely within a population that reputedly hates and fears them and are now stalemating a superpower and its allies in a country that has already defeated and contributed to the downfall of the world's only other superpower within living memory.

Not what one would call a good result



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