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16 October 2010


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FB Ali

Col Lang,

Spot on!

This is exactly what is happening and about to happen. The only aspect you didn't mention is the Pakistani angle. Without them being on board, this thing wouldn't fly. They are now.

That is one of the items they probably extracted from the US in return for reopening the supply route into Afghanistan (this was necessary because initially the Afghans and the US were trying to conduct negotiations without involving the Pakistanis).


Col Lang,

What concession do you think the US wants from the Taliban before it leaves Afghanistan? And once we leave (if we leave) how do you expect the Taliban to honor the deal once they don't have too?


Even as we speak Saint David sees a way out of the maze by going along with this,. . .

Speaking of Saint David. I saw a US Army recruitment ad for Army officers this evening that turned my stomach. In the first scene we see George Washington crossing the Delaware in that famous painting. OK, nothing to argue about that one.

But then it's linked with stock footage of Douglas MacArthur wading ashore in the Philippines wearing that hideous scrambled-eggs officer's hat of his and brandishing his ridiculous "trademark" corncob pipe. Hum, that's a little disturbing, from George Washington, Father of our Country, to egomaniac Mac!?

Need I tell you what comes next? General David Petraeus, in fatigues leading a group of the troops and smiling as he advances towards us and salutes smartly.

Petraeus certainly is like MacArthur in his belief that he knows better than the President all things military (including when to start and end wars) but this ad looked like the kick-off of a "Petraeus-for-President in 2012" campaign. I think it is incredibly telling, almost Freudian, in its revelation of what Saint David really thinks of himself. You've got to have big ones to compare yourself to George Washington and Douglas MacArthur.

The ad nauseated me, and it depressed the hell out of me too. With dreck like this on the air, can our decline into a true Banana Republic form of Government really be that far behind?

Patrick Lang

red handed one

My old man worked for Macarthur in PI in the '30s. The hat is the one he wore as a field marshal of the nascent commonwealth army. When he came back on active duty in the US Army just before the war he just changed the cap badge. pl

Patrick Lang


The only concession that we will want is an assurance that they will not allow operations against the US and NATO to be mounted in Afghanistan.

We will actually have more leverage once we remove our forces.

Look at Luttwak's old book, "The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire." pl

Patrick Lang

FB Ali

Yes on Pakistan. Amusingly Fred Kagan and co. are still locked in. pl


Slightly O/T, but The Yorkshire Ranter gives a good background to the tanker wars and the transport owners in Pakistan and how they tie in with Afghanistan's various wars and governments:


William R. Cumming

Ocean currents are difficult things to change. So are the tides of history. My guess is that while most countries that have been "visited" by US Armed Forces in recent times want US out, and in some cases the US wants out, WAR and armed violence often are unpredictable in the changes they bring. Personally, I think that the polity of China, Russia, Pakistan, and India and perhaps Iran also, meaning both the political leadership, the military leadership, and the population at large to the extent it has interest, are not about to let the people of Afghanistan decide anything for themselves. The lesson since Alexander is that Afghanistan is some kind of historic crossroads that seems to demand it be crossed. And let's be honest, how do you think on status missiles in the countries mentioned with respect to each other are targeted? No oil, gas, and nuclear delivery capability are drivers now for the rest of history of both south Asia and East Asia. And the big happy puppy dog (US) could easily be crushed in the traffic even if by accident. As the first major devaluation of the dollar under the DEMS occurs, the last two being more public and more thoughtful by REAGAN and NIXON the US has now decided to save its own skin financially even while destroying many other economies. Well those popies in Afghanistan like other world wide commodities are about to sky rocket in price and value to that economy postpone for another generation Afghanistan becoming interconnected with the rest of the world as an independent nation-state. But perhaps by the 400th anniversary of the Treaty of Westphalia the organizational system of nation-states with their limitation on organized individuals by non-state actors will have been dead for several decades. And can any of this--this being the actual foreign policy and foreign relations of the US be explained by anyone to those who need to know--the citizens of the US--be explained by any politician now on the national scene whatever party? Is it true that the Chinese symbol for "transition" and "danger" are the same? How many demographers are employed by the INTEL community? When will Afghanistan have its first census? Oddly tropical diseases and insects now appearing in Afghanistan for the first time, even in US forces. Why is that? Perhaps the basics of can a country feed itself, educate itself, provide medical care for itself etc etc be looked at before and after US interventions! It now looks like documentation occuring that two major sectors of US economy in reality in their history have not been profitable and survived only by government subsidy--aviation and banking. Maybe agriculture too. Well if the oldest and richest democracy (Republic) cannot figure this out what other systems will? Some hard questions need to be asked and answered with respect to governance in the US as well as Afghanistan! As Liddell Hart spoke of the audit of War, the audit of history may not be kind to US.


And right on cue, Baradar has allegedly been cut free: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/LJ16Df02.html

COL. Lang, could you please clarify in general terms how greater leverage on complete removal of forces works? I can certainly see how it would work with a redoubt strategy and strategies aimed at cutting "dependence", but how greater leverage shakes out in the context of complete withdrawal is opaque to me and I would greatly appreciate a pointer to structure thought. Sorry, I don't mean to put you to extra work, but it's (obviously) a very useful lens.


My old man worked for Macarthur in PI in the '30s. The hat is the one he wore as a field marshal of the nascent commonwealth army. When he came back on active duty in the US Army just before the war he just changed the cap badge.

Wow, Col. Lang, you really do come from a military family! This is a fascinating historical tidbit.

I know that it is (or was) the prerogative of generals to design and wear custom uniforms and headgear, and "allowances must be made" for military celebrity, but MacArthur's hat always struck me as particularly over the top, and the pipe was "pure corn," as they say.

I also note you are familiar with "Luttwak's old book, 'The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire.'" I always thought it was excellent, though IIRR it angered many purists who felt a modern military theorist had no business dabbling in ancient history.


Ah, not so fast. The way I see it, some people might start asking themselves, 'with the Americans, and Saint David gone why the hell do we need Karzai?'

Karzai might not like the answer they come up with.

Patrick Lang


To get Macarthur to take the job in PI after he was CofS of the US Army, they had to make him a FM. Since he was the head of that army he could design his own clothes. It is not really true that generals have the right to design their own clothes. some just do it anyway. Custer, Patton and other similar eccentrics. pl

Patrick Lang


You should read the book I recommended, but in general potential force exerts a greater power in geopolitics and grand strategy than committed force. i.e., a potential for violence against your economy and trade plus the threat of a massive renewal of drone attacks with yet bigger aircraft is more effective on a cost-benefit basis than having a large percentage of available combat power committed where it is vulnerable to "ant" attacks. pl

R Whitman

I have said before that Petreus would find some way out of this mess that would enhance his reputation. If that is the price for getting us out of Afganistan, then its cheap and I am all for it.


Col. -- If I had faith in the ability of the American people (more important, our rulers) to reflect upon their corporate actions and resulting "blowback," I'd not mind seeing us beaten out of Affie like a red-headed stepchild. The outcome might, just might, have a positive effect on the development of our FoPo and military profile. Not bloody likely, so perhaps the "united government of Afghanistan thanks the people and the Army of the United States for their assistance and wish them Allah-speed as they march east thru the Kyber" scenario is the best we can hope for. Beats being choppered off the roof in Saigon or Baghdad.

Patrick Lang


"Choppered off the roof?" I took a cab to Tan Son Nhut, checked in and boarded a flight to San Francisco in April, 1973. I was on one of the last scheduled withdrawal flights. I believe you are thinking of the flight of the diplomata from the embassy two years later as the NVA entered Saigon. The US Armed forces were not defeated in VN, the United States defeated itself. The same thing is happening now. As I wrote to BR, the American polity and population has no real comprehension of the world. That is what defeats us. See my old article on "What Iraq tells us about ourselves." pl


Three outcomes are assured:

1. An influx of Afghan political refugees into America will lead to an American discovery of Afghan cuisine.

2. Another Dolchstoslegende involving hippies will be constructed.

3. Twenty years from now there will be a Kabul Hilton and a Kandahar Hilton.

Farmer Don

You should read the book I recommended, but in general potential force exerts a greater power in geopolitics and grand strategy than committed force. i.e., a potential for violence against your economy and trade plus the threat of a massive renewal of drone attacks with yet bigger aircraft is more effective on a cost-benefit basis than having a large percentage of available combat power committed where it is vulnerable to "ant" attacks. pl”

The threat of potential violence from the US will be a lot less potent after the occupying troops leave Afghanistan as the natives know they have fought them for ten years in a hot war and see them leave frustrated, and unlikely to return.

And really when the troops leave will threats of violence from the US be needed anymore?

Patrick Lang


Started snowing yet? My wife's geneology work seems to indicate that my first Canadian ancestor on mother's side arrived about 1629.

It is a classic mistake to think that the psychological effect on an adversary is proportional to the political result. If you think that the Tullab do not thin the American and Canadian forces are not formidable, then you are mistaken. In any event the potential would be for a different kind of destruction from off shore. ok

Sidney O. Smith III

Glad to see Fred and Kim Kagan -- the Marina Del Rey bombardiers -- make a return appearance at SST.

Much about life I do not understand -- that I admit. But the sway the Kagans have had over at least some of the USM is one of life’s mysteries. To illustrate the point, just imagine superimposing on the Kagan photograph the words, “Duty, Honor, Country”.

What the h---?

‘Tis a tragedy to see some of our nation’s finest traditions corrupted at the expense of American blood and treasure.

FB Ali

Whatever else one can say about Gen Petraeus, he is a very clever man. He started preparing the ground for his shift in late September when he was the first one to mention the hitherto secret intra-Afghan talks.

I drew attention to this in my post of 29th Sept on the thread There are other generals....... I also pointed out the likely implications of this development:

It is possible that Dodgy Dave has decided to switch tracks. It is likely that after his recent trial balloons about a war without end, he got the word from the White House that Obama was going to hold him to the categorical assurance he had given about achieving the set goals by the July 2011 deadline. So he decided to do an 'Iraq' again.

Patrick Lang

FB Ali

Dave will want to get this settled so that BO will nominate him for Chairman next summer. pl

Adam L Silverman

Sir: given, as we've discussed previuosly, several of the external advisors to GEN McChrystal had begun criticizing him at the beginning of the year and into the Spring over the lack of a political process (and reconciliation) which was leading the newest Afghan COIN strategy and surge down a route to failure, and given that Dr. Kagan was one of those critics, none of this is that surprising. The overall COIN and Surge brands, as well as the personal and institutional brands of the outside advisors all have to be protected.

Retired (once-Serving)Patriot

General Dave to follow Admiral Mike? Lord have mercy...


FB Ali

Col Lang,

If Dave can extricate the US from Afghanistan in spite of the Kagans and their cohorts of perpetual warriors, he deserves to be Chairman! He would certainly have my vote!

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