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16 December 2010


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The CNAS folks are idiots, yes, but well paid.

For a realistic view on Afghanistan read the Afghanistan Analyst Network blog. Realist folks on the ground.

This by Kate Clark from Kabul today (she is usually in some other province there):

In the last nine years, civilians who welcomed deployments of ISAF in the hope they would limit the power of local militias have watched as the foreigners have routinely allied themselves with Afghan strongmen at various levels, allowing them to consolidate their power through lucrative contracts for security and logistics or recognising those self-same same militias as ‘local police’. The foreigners are understandably seen as complicit in the crimes of their allies. Always the immediate attractions of force protection (of the foreign troops) or of allies who promise to be able to hunt down Taleban trump justice, but with horrible long-term consequences.
In every country, the sense of injustice has a visceral motivating power, but this is especially true in Afghanistan, where justice has historically been tied to state legitimacy and where there is ample precedent for armed resistance in the face of perceived wrongs. The Taleban have exploited the justice deficit to the full, using it in their propaganda to deride president Karzai and his foreign backers, and as often the only service the movement provides to civilians in areas under its control is in the form of Taleban courts.
Principles of rule of law and human rights, of civil and political rights have been developed over the centuries to stop states becoming predatory. Sidelining them has allowed a predatory state to develop and thrive. The lack of a clear strategy to address injustice is almost equivalent to the lack of a strategy for the internal political aspects of the insurgency – the abandonment of arguably the single most important battlefield of the conflict to the Taleban. Until this is fixed, arguing over how many foreign troops to deploy and how best to fight the Taleban will remain absolutely pointless.

Patrick Lang


You should love the CNASers. You share their faith in the possibility of creating a benevolent, just and centrally powerful state in Afghanistan. pl

Neil Richardson

Dear Col.Lang:

What is the likely high end estimate for the force requirements in a shift to CT mission? I missed your earlier comments here on the subject. Austin Long thinks five BNs (mostly SF but I don't know whether we have enough personnel without drastically reducing coverage elsewhere or maintaining very high operational tempo for these units), four CAS squadrons and a QRF brigade. I guess the NATO allies could continue to deploy their special operations units as some of them probably look at this as a professional challenge. Is Long near the mark with his estimate?



Nothing will stop our intervention in Afghanistan except a total collapse of our economy. Even most of the anti-COINsters speak of a light footprint beyond 2014 'til infinity.

The casualties may be up, but they are not at the levels to bring protesters out in the streets. Especially with their man Obama at the helm.

Patrick Lang


This needs serious study but "back of the envelope" I think that to hold a few major cities, and bases it will be necessary to have something like twenty thousand combat and support troops. Over and above that about five thousand intelligence, CT commandos, and GBs. High side, maybe thirty thousand?

Civilian advisers and Afghan forces are not in that estimate. pl

Neil Richardson

Thank you, Colonel.

Norman Rogers

"...it will be necessary to have something like twenty thousand combat and support troops..."

A permanent foreign legion, an expeditionary force that is stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq. A means by which foreigners can attain US citizenship. All they have to do is commit to a two year tour of one of those places, serving as the elite guard of our foreign outpost. Their duties are to kill who they are told to kill, keep pipelines and airports open, and to not tell anyone what they see.

In exchange, they get to live in Arkansas or Indiana, and they have to run a Best Western motel infested with bedbugs or a convenience store infested with surly teenagers who are overweight and can't stop yapping into their overpriced phones.

If we offer this to the world, we will never run out of foreign legionaries. In Eastern Europe alone we could find the next quarter of a million troops for this endeavor, easily. We could form an entire army out of disaffected Ukrainians who want to live in the American midwest, should they survive.

Richard Armstrong

Psc, you said, "The casualties may be up, but they are not at the levels to bring protesters out in the streets. Especially with their man Obama at the helm."

Obama as commander-in-chief doesn't "especially" disuade protesters in the streets anymore than McCain as commander-in-chief would. People protest policies that they have a personal stake in. The Modern Volunteer Army limits the risk to those who volunteer to serve. If every citizen faced the risk of being deployed to unnecessary wars then the streets would be filled with protesters.


Change! Some come early while some come late. The Cnasties are late but they are here almost.

Now that CT will be the message forward the question arises do we have enough SF's (GB's)? I recognize we have plenty of SOF's or SOF Light.

The best point of this hopeful change will be a little more money left in our treasury which hopefully will go to pay our debt.

William R. Cumming

Why does it look to me so like a "TET OFFENSIVE" could occur in Afghanistan?

Winter in the mountains does seem to impact campaigning by all sides but perhaps am wrong.


" You share their faith in the possibility of creating a benevolent, just and centrally powerful state in Afghanistan. "

I do not. Strong centralization in Afghanistan is impossible. Justice is possible only in the sense of Taliban justice (that's why they won earlier and are winning again). And I do not know of any state at all that is benevolent.

As for CT in Afghanistan: 20,000-30,000 troops will get their JP7 and other logistic needs how? They will be cut off whenever this or that group or neighbor country of Afghanistan feels it is time to do so. The Sowjets needed 80% of their 110,000 boots on the ground just to keep the LOC open.

Patrick Lang


Interesting point, but I think we have a lot more air transport assets. pl


"COIN is cool, just not possible except in a country the size of a playground. It also helps if you own the playground and do not leave after pacification ends along with recess."

Pat, you're in stride these last few days. Just perfectly edifying and concise.

Rick, I wouldn't bet against you.

Merry Chirstmas to everyone at SST. Received a beautiful note today from an old friend at HU of Jtown. He was on the roof of the Austrian Hospice watching an unusual dust storm over the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa. No matter what the atheists say, that town is beautiful. Cheers everyone.



Protests in the streets? Don't you know that tax cuts are the most important think in time of war? So said conviced fellon Tom Delay and just recently 80 Senators and today 277 Representatives.

Medicine Man


Not only are tax cuts the most important thing, they are the most important thing *after* months of listening to campaigning congress-critters scream about getting the deficit under control. I wish I could say I found the cynicism involved shocking.

Norbert M. Salamon

If due to QEII [and III etc] and the new budget the Bond Vigintalesg et upset, the cost to the treasury of each 1% of interest rise is more than the total yearly cost of Afganistan.
1% Rise would cripple the economic recovery [if any regardless of the Governmetn Propagada re CPI, GDP, Unemployemnt etc], while anything above 1% will guarantee a depression!

The war mongers better make sure that the interst rate does not rise, else their ideas are PERMAMENTLY cooked!



Sadly I think the tea-party will vote for the same bill of goods next election too.

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Salmon: there is not a single piece of evidence indicating that interest rates will be going up anytime in the near future. Moreover, this round of quantitative easing is likely to have very little effect on the economy. I've yet to seen anyone's math that says otherwise, which is why Bernanke called on Congress to pass more fiscal stimulus because he's at the lower bound with monetary stimulus and can't do anything more. We've reached the point where Say himself said Say's Law didn't apply and where both Friedman and Keynes agreed: when you've hit the lower bound, have the ability to borrow at incredibly low rates, and the private spending is not happening, then investments - and here they're talking about public ones on infrastructure for instance - should be pulled forward as it's cheaper to do it now because of the low interest rates and because it will stimulate growth by pumping money into the economy for goods, services, and wages. The persistent drumbeat about bond vigilantes is like the persistent screams that if we don't fix social security the deficit will explode (which it won't as social security isn't funded the same way as everything else) have reached the point of almost being classifiable as conspiracy theories. We're not going the way of Greece as we control our own currency. Austerity won't work which is why Ireland has gotten worse over the past two years and Iceland has improved. And making the investors and shareholders in huge banks take a penalty for cracking up the economy works, which is, again, why Iceland is in recovery - they didn't allow their financial institutions to privatize the profits and socialize the risks, they got broken up and people paid major penalties, while Ireland did the opposite and continues to do so. Which is why the next round of austerity, backed by false hysteria over bond vigilantes and currency stabilization, will only make things worse.

Norbert M. Salamon

With great respect Dr. Silverman:

As the link indicates since ot 10 /2010 to the present the ten year Treausry has increaed almost 1%;


That the US media and "erudite economists", who did not foresee the current mess, are concentrating on EU land - especially the PIGS, is beside the point. The USA debt scenario is worse han Spain or Portugal . Contagation could be drastic for the UK, USA [and Canada] as here is not enough CAPITAL in the world to fiance all debts in OECD land.

From readig and analyis, the UK and the US can both be in similar atress as Ireland or Greece - with drastic onsequences for their respective citizens.


Adam: Thanks for the very concise analysis of the economic situation. I just wish we were Iceland.

DE Tedooru

WOW!!! This is the Pat Lang I saw as something of a military Messiah!

Thank you. Sorry I just read it now. I hope you don't mind it being disseminated. Americans need to know this from someone from inside the once LEAN MEAN GREEN MACHINE rather than the desert camouflage PR Center of Petraeus and his peanut gallery of "experts."

Your words mean more to me than anything Santa will (or won't) bring me. Thanks!

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Salamon: none of those charts, nore the narrative explanation actually indicate what you're concerned about. In fact one of them has the QE2 effects points circled and marked "why I am so underwhelmed". Not a single one of these charts show any data past December 2010 and not one of them shows an interest rate on any bond above 5%. And All the bond yields but the 30 year are under 4% and the 30 year is below five. Are they ticking up a bit? Yes, but 1) they'd have to tick up a lot to reach the scenarios that you're worried about, 2) them actually going up would show an actual strengthening economy, and 3) this would only become a problem if the Fed then decides not to start appropriately tightening. I truly understand your concern, believe me I've worked enough development stuff for the Army to be worried too; as I've written here before we've got infrastructure so bad the only worse I've seen is Iraq's! And I'm not sure our elected officials get it, and I know the special interests want to use it to get more of what they want, but to confront the economic crisis with either no or bad facts isn't going to help. The US is not in any shape like Ireland or Greece. We control our currency, most of our debt, as in over 60% of our debt, is actually owned by Americans: citizens, corporations, and investment vehicles like pension funds through the purchase of treasury bonds. China and India do own a lot, but it's still a minority of it. And they can't dump it without crashing the system and harming themselves. To really resolve the debt and deficit problems we have to deal with the four main causes of it: 1) unguided operations in Afghanistan, 2) unguided operations in Iraq (for both of these I'm referring to we're paying for it without having an income stream for it -it's deficit spending), 3) the Bush 43 tax cuts we've just renewed, and 4) lack of remaining tax revenue because of unemployment increases since 2008. And finally, Mr. Salamon, I spend a lot of time reading about and working macro-economics issues and the economists I pay the most/regular attention to are the ones who were right on the economic crisis and have been right on how to fix things even if what they recommend - letting the Bush 43 tax cuts expire, create a dedicated tax to pay for our wars, and then bringing spending forward to the present because it's cheap and effective to do so now and will get people back to work - will never be implemented.

Norbert M. Salamon

Dr Silverman

I thank you for explaining your interpretation of the debt crisis vs. EUland or parts thereof.

We will see the future, and either you, Sir, {I hope] or I am right [wish would not happen, for it will be similar for Canada as the UK or USA].

It is true that a high % of the USA federal debt is held in the USA [Feds at 900 or so, China at almost 900, Japan close, UK, Opec, and the Carribean are the biggest].

Unfortunately, the edges of USA public debt are faying, as indicated by he Muni issue, next will be the "bad States": California, New York, Ill etc.
I agree with your position a to the main causes of USA FEDERAL Debt, however the States', Counties', Munies' re excluded from the Federal PUBLIC Debt [as in Canada], a situation not permitted by the laws of EU. In this respect Greece and IReland are worse than the UK, USA and Canada, while these three are worse than Spain and Portugal [Belgium is also a minor power, while ITaly a major one is worse thn USA et al].

The decrease in private debt to this date is due almost completely to bankrupcy/foreclosure and write offs, while the debt of the Public has risen more than the private total decreased. You can not solve a debt problem by going deeper in debt [deficit/Federal Reserve], eventually leads to great inflation - the only solution is moneterizing the debt [OR DEFAULT].

With this posting I shall refrain to cite any more economy related points on this blog.
Thank you for your attention, to all.

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Salamon: you are correct that the state and local debt, what you're referring to as muni or municipal debt, is a huge problem and because of it forcing states and localities to lay off personnel it is contributing to the unemployment problem, which exacerbates the Federal concerns. This is why programs such as the supplemental program where states were given block grants to then administer to private businesses to keep employees on payroll was both a huge success and is now sorely missed as it expired and the renewal couldn't get past a pseudo-filibuster in the Senate. Some of the best coverage of this problem and it's causes are by Matt Taibbi over at Rollibg Stone, and the financial scheme that was put in place to take advantages of states and localities was the same one used to push Greece, at the national level, over the edge. Greece went completely over because of a tradition of keeping the real economy off the books, so the black market is, defacto, the market combined with predatory financial speculation by the big banks to deal with debt caused by so much of Greece's economy being off of the books, and the fact that they can't control their own currency.

As to switching your argument to the state and local level: I noticed the change in the level of analysis... And it's not a question of who is right, I'm not doing forecasting here, just trying to accurately describe what is going on at the US federal level.

Adam L Silverman

Mr. Salamon: one final thing- in the situation we find ourselves now, both Friedman and Keynes argued that pulling expenditures from the future to the present was the way to go. This is generally referred to as counter-cyclical and/or deficit spending. The idea is to deficit spend now, which will shore up the economy, and then from the mid to the long term, once the private sector is spending, dial back, which deals with the deficit. This was the way out of the Great Depression and it's what was argued for, but Japan failed to do resulting in the lost decade. Plainly stated, if done right, one can deficit spend oneself out of debt.

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