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27 December 2010


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William R. Cumming

Another terrific post by General Ali. I have now reluctantly reached the conclusion that the real reason this war goes on is because domestic US corruption feeds it. The level of corruption in Afghanistan is much less. Centered on one family and various warlords numbering less than 50. One of the major appeals of the Taliban may be their brutal but effective [from their point of view] anti-corruption efforts. I believe that some anticorruption US candidates may succeed in next few years but the new majority in the House has largely failed its new role in governance by deciding not to change any of the ineffective House of Representative Committee structure. In reality this decision is driven not by needs or good governance but merely to prevent disruption of corrupt relationships between House Members and business and other interests that benefit from the current jurisdictions. Time will tell but it does seem neither party is able to control Congressional corruption.


FB Ali,

Thank you once again for a most excellent post. Wishing everyone happy holidays.


RAISER William

Great analysis. Very depressing. When will we ever learn?

I particularly appreciated your insight on the "perpetual warriors". Too little attention is given to the take-over of the US by the corporate-military elite.

robt willmann

As the federal government of the U.S. becomes more autocratic in its conduct and through the content of laws that Congress surprisingly passes, those who operate and support it desire at least to pretend that something called the "rule of law" exists, which is supposed to be different from dictatorial fiat.

This is what has caused Mr. FB Ali to express that the "bizarre aim of the war", as explained by the Obama administration, is "to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda". He rightly describes this as "weirdness" and "ridiculousness".

The reason the administration continues to talk this foolishness is that it wants to pretend that the war in Afghanistan is based on the "rule of law" as provided in the U.S. Constitution and in laws passed by Congress. In this instance, the source is Senate Joint Resolution 23, which became Public Law 107-40 when signed by president Bush jr. on 18 September 2001. Its operative language is--

"Sec. 2(a) In general.--That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future attacks of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons."

Thus, you can see that "legally" the Afghan war has to be tied to the nations, organizations, or persons the president determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the events of September 11, 2001. This narrows the game down quite a bit.

Let's see ... the story is that 19 men hijacked four commercial jet airliners and--without proficiency in flying solo in a single engine propeller-driven airplane--successfully flew two of them at incredibly high speed into two concrete and steel skyscrapers in New York, and after doing a descent and turn that would make Chuck Yaeger jealous, skimmed another jetliner into the side of the Pentagon building right at ground level, but lost a fourth plane in the Pennsylvania countryside after being overpowered by passengers. Those 19 men are supposed to be dead. The 20th alleged hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, is in jail.

So, who is left among those who allegedly "planned, authorized, committed, or aided" the events of September 11? Well, we heard a lot about a Saudi man named Osama bin Laden. Remember him? However, he has yet to be indicted in State or federal court for conspiracy or aiding and abetting regarding airplane hijacking, murder, or destroying property on September 11, 2001. Benazir Bhutto, in a television interview with David Frost, said that Osama bin Laden had been murdered (at about 6 minutes, 8 seconds into the interview)--


Whether she was correct or not, bin Laden and al-Qaeda were said to be joined at the hip.

The U.S. government is stuck with that story and Public Law 107-40, the "authorization" to use military force. We are stuck with hearing about the so-called al-Qaeda because the war's supporters want to pretend it is "legal". And worst of all, the U.S. soldiers and those of other countries, and the Afghan people, are tragically stuck with the war itself.


Has anyone suggested we leave Affie to those most interested in maintaining a presence there, the Paks & Iranians? It seems to me that the Paks, with their only natural ally, China, could secure the eastern 2/3 of the area, leaving Herat and parts west to the brotherly embrace of the Persians. Energy projects would then become "neighborhood affairs" (kind of like 'Desperate Housewives'!)

Retired (once-Serving)Patriot

Thanks FB Ali. Very good article; it's beyond sad to know that it will not be read by those that can make or influence decisions.

One day the Perpetual Warriors will decide that this war no longer pays dividends (perhaps another war offers better returns, or the economy can’t support it any longer), and they will pull the plug on it. Don't bet on it. While these are supposed "military experts," they are certainly not fiscal economic ones. And those who make decisions belong to the rarefied top 3% of all Americans - the very groups so far detached from the reality of the American Experience these days that their destructive ways continue with nary a thought or glimmer of recognition. No, they will not make such a decision. It will be dictated by the rock-bottom circumstances that they will refuse to acknowledge.


Norbert M. Salamon


your analysis is correct!, the end of the Afghan war will be dictated by economic reality - not the BS propagandized by USA Gpvernmenr re Unemployment,
GDP, inflation rate, natural resource availability at affordable prices.


General Ali:

The only thing encouraging (for me) about your analysis is that it verifies my lay opinion that the US presence and mission in Afghanistan is absurd so long as we try to prop up the hopelessly corrupt Karzai government.

Even if there was a non-corrupt, more-or-less fairly elected president there, I doubt that the war would be "worth it."

The larger point, that we have a "permanent war" power elite in America, which (we can see from Obama's Presidency) manipulates both parties, is beyond depressing. I really feel it's 1984 in 2010.

William R. Cumming

NMS respectfully disagree. The only stimulus the US government can agree on is militarization of its homefront and its international relations. And no strong and effective political middle-class however defined is necessary for that policy to continue and in fact just the opposite. The end of the draft loosened civil control de facto over the military and allowed it to develop separately and appart from the norms of our democracy (Republic) and thus eventually will as with ROME be the final and ineffective arm of the state in maintaining itself. Best candidate for Praetorian Guards in the US? Secret Service? Special Forces? Army, Navy or Air Force Units? Pretending to be apolitical the Armed Forces of the US at the senior levels are the most political ever. Many do not vote which of course demonstrates pretty conclusively that they have no understanding of our democracy. The military now lives in a largely secret world unknown and unsupervised by the civil sectors and political appointees of the US Executive Branch. Why? No need to know! A scary situation.


Yes, all the noble rationales for the war have long since proven themselves phony and even ridiculous. Just like in Iraq, in Kosovo, an in Iran.

So what are US motives? At the risk of being accused of Marxist thinking, it is now obvious that a key motive is clearly strategic resources (a common reason for war). And the facts on the ground prove it--the TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India) pipeline agreement is now a done deal.

M K Bhadrakumar
writes that "the pipeline signifies a breakthrough in the longstanding Western efforts to access the fabulous mineral wealth of the Caspian and Central Asian region. Washington has been the patron saint of the TAPI concept since the early-1990s when the Taliban was conceived as its Afghan charioteer. The concept became moribund when the Taliban regime was driven out of power from Kabul.

Now the wheel has come full circle with the project's incremental resuscitation since 2005, running parallel with the Taliban's fantastic return to the Afghan chessboard. TAPI's proposed commissioning coincides with the 2014 timeline for ending the NATO "combat mission" in Afghanistan. The US "surge" is concentrating on Helmand and Kandahar provinces through which the TAPI pipeline will eventually run. What an amazing string of coincidences!

He continues, "This geopolitical reality is very much linked to NATO's future role in Afghanistan. US strategy toward an Afghan settlement visualizes the future role for NATO as the provider of security to the Silk Road that transports the multi-trillion dollar mineral wealth in Central Asia to the world market via the Pakistani port of Gwadar."

The US aims to become nothing less than the indispensable party, the "protection service" standing between Europe and its energy resources. Europe, having no real choice, has bought into the deal. Of course, guarding the Silk Road means, conveniently enough, that the US will also stand between China and India and their Central Asian energy sources, too.

Instead of yammering on about what politicians say, which seem to be mostly lies, I wish that people would start talking about what the US is doing, which is the only thing that reveals Washington's true intentions.

Once those intentions are exposed for all to see, then we can finally have a honest debate on whether those ambitions merit busting the federal budget, rob Social Security, and mortgage the country to China.


Thank for the great analysis and happy New Year to you.

Sir, just remember that next year several of our American States and many more of our Municipalities will probably be in default or attempting to go into bankruptcy and/or credit restructuring.

"Okay, who put a "stop payment" on my reality check? ~Author Unknown"


The Boston Globe ran a good piece on the revolving door at the Pentagon and defense contractors: http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2010/12/26/defense_firms_lure_retired_generals/?page=full

One of the firms has retired generals "advising" on equity investments in defense-related firms, with the generals also having a financial interest in the target companies. They have a strong incentive for keeping up demand.

Patrick Lang


I see that you live in Hoganland. You have my sympathy. Well, if the US has been pursuing resources in these wars it is truly incompetent in doing so. Iraq for oil? Afghanistan for what, rare earths? Yemen for baboons? Get a grip. If we wanted to do that we would invade Canada. Either you can't think your way past the economic determinist stuff you were stuffed with as a "duck" or your insistence on that is some sort of diversion. pl



It seems we are whistling past the graveyard not only in Afghanistan but also in the realms of our national economic base and our finances.

As Bacevich notes, the military-industrial-intelligence-homeland security-congressional complex has conflated the well being of its institutional complex to the well being of the nation. The national security state, to use Pat's aphorism has become a "self licking ice cream cone". Perpetual War and its concomitant hysteria are the natural outcome.

This is no different than the Wall Street financial complex which is several factors larger in its scale and use of state power to further its interests.

Fraud and embezzlement have become deeply entrenched in our body politic. The public is easily bamboozled with propaganda. As I have noted here at SST, from a purely financial perspective, we are destined on the current trajectory to a funding crisis.

Regarding Anne Patterson's cable, she articulates the same point you have made that Pakistan's national security interests demand that they support the Taliban and Kashmiri insurgents as their pawns in the power game with India. In your opinion what would be the conditions under which Pakistan would feel less threatened by India? Do you believe that while Pakistan is embroiled in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Kashmir to the detriment of a stable and growing economy, India's rapid economic growth and consequent global influence will become harder to overcome over time to Pakistan's strategic disadvantage?

Neil Richardson

"The US aims to become nothing less than the indispensable party, the "protection service" standing between Europe and its energy resources. Europe, having no real choice, has bought into the deal. Of course, guarding the Silk Road means, conveniently enough, that the US will also stand between China and India and their Central Asian energy sources, too."

Europe certainly has a choice in this matter. They could either field a real armed forces under EU or pay off the oil producing states. Europe has been a free rider under the American hegemony since 1945. As for Australia, what will you do when PLAN comes knocking at your door? I don't suppose you could rely on the Kiwis who got rid of their air force (Keith Park and Arthur Coningham must be turning over in their graves). My suggestion to you is to learn Mandarin. Be careful what you wish for lest it come true.



Certainly Australia and New Zealand could just buy a new Air Force:

Think of the money they'll save buying Chinese nock-offs. Including the aircraft carriers to come.
I'm sure President Palin will need to have a '600 ship' navy as part of her second term, 'funded' by another round to tax cuts no doubt.

Norman Rogers

We are replacing the American Middle Class with the American Defense and Intelligence Class.

Silly me. I thought for sure we would see major cutbacks in the numbers of contractors. Maybe Secretary Gates is still planning this. Who knows?

What used to be an American middle class, spread evenly, more or less, throughout the country, is now a Middle Class of people spread out in the five counties surrounding Washington DC, and then clustered in a few sites around the country where this community now exists. In order to protect these people from the hoi polloi, they will require more gated communities so that their lives can continue without facing the grim reality of an America that has been fleeced for the redistribution of resources needed to fight perpetual wars against no one.

Soon, one will need special permission to enter the enclaves in Fairfax and Howard counties, a special permission slip to live near the massive facilities that employ these people.

What value is a Top Secret clearance when a million souls now possess it?

America's elite demand this standard of living, and the price for this is a happily maintained file somewhere in a bureaucrat's drawer. America doesn't belong to citizens anymore. It belongs to the people who protect America from three or four hundred deranged little shits who have too much education and the unfortunate fact of being on the outs with whoever runs whichever country they hail from.

If you don't have skin in the game--in other words, a blue or a green badge of some important and officious construct-- then you should content yourself with dwindling influence.

Ironically, the Senior Senator from the State of Virginia does have thoughtful things to say about poverty. And, where this thing they call AFRICOM is going to be located. There could be a whole other blog, dedicated to watching what Senator Webb does over the next several years. Perhaps someone very astute (not me, I'm too old and too prone to being distracted) can pick up that standard and run with it.

Patrick Lang

Norman. May I call you Norman? You are all too correct. The rubric "Defense" must include the business of death making tools manufacture and the armies of consultants, individual and corporate. And then there are the Kagans, etc. pl


Yes, Europe could have fielded a real armed forces anytime before the breakup of Yugoslavia. But now it's too late. The US controls the sea lanes. With strategic control of Kosovo, Washington "protects" the only non-Russian, Eastern pipeline gateway to Europe.

After this fait accompli, Europe had no choice but to accede to NATO's primacy over Central Asia pipeline and sea routes as well. Japan is in even worse shape.

The real questions that looms are as follows: will the US be a fair dispenser of an ever diminishing booty? And how selfish can the US "protection service" become before it creates a backlash?

If recent trends of distribution of wealth in the US economy are any indication, it won't be long before the rich demand even more wealth. IMHO it is highly likely that Washington will gradually begin to abuse its position, demanding ever more onerous levels of protection money and services from its "allies." Most likely, this will be in the form of ever increasing amounts of cheap debt that the US never intends to pay (too big to fail.)


General Ali:

Our government lies. What is the real strategic reason for America's
presence in Afghanistan?
How can progress and cost
in lives and treasure be measured accurately without knowlege of the goal?

Neil Richardson


"Certainly Australia and New Zealand could just buy a new Air Force. Think of the money they'll save buying Chinese nock-offs. Including the aircraft carriers to come."

Or if they're concerned about a reliable source of maintenance parts, they could turn to Soviets...excuse me the Russians (Old habits die hard). The Russians could use a new market after they turned down the latest purchase order from the PRC. Although the Aussies could've taken advantage of the great German panzer clearance sale like the Canadian Forces, I'm not sure about their current inventory after the holidays.

"I'm sure President Palin will need to have a '600 ship' navy as part of her second term, 'funded' by another round to tax cuts no doubt."

Heaven help the Republic if it comes to that.


FB Ali,

I spot some basic flaws in your analysis. To wit:

* Despite the positive spin, the review is absolutely right that the primary US interest in Afghanistan is to deny a key sanctuary to AQ.

* The relative recent weakening of AQ in AfPak (vs. Yemen etc. as per your Biden link) is BECAUSE of the large US presence in Afghanistan. Without a large US presence in Afghanistan, the drone campaign would be ineffective due to lack of humint and more importantly AQ will simply move back into its former Afghan havens and be reenergized thanks to a perceived victory

* You are probably right regarding Pakistan not succumbing to bribes or threats to move on the Taliban sanctuaries but as the Times Square failed bomber showed, the Pakistanis will also have to reckon with the irreconcilable contradiction in their approach. The best Pakistani proxies, the Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network, are also the two groups most closely tied to AQ. As long as the Paks cannot de-link their proxies from AQ, they are one successful bomb away from facing an uncomfortable choice - between keeping their proxies and keeping the aid gravy train that sustains the economy.

Net net, what you and other cut and run advocates fail to realize is that no US President can ask the troops to simply leave the region when AQ is still a significant presence there. Again, for those that say that AQ is weaker in AfPak than elsewhere, remember that the only reason it is so is because of the US presence.

FB Ali


You rightly point out that waging war for almost 10 years without the draft has loosened civilian control over the military. An equally serious effect has been the increasing alienation of the soldiers of this military from citizens back home. This article, which deals with this problem, is worth reading:


Perhaps Col Lang will take up this topic in a separate post. It has ominous implications for the future.

FB Ali


You ask about the possibility of Pakistan feeling less threatened by India. Pakistan is such a fractured, broken polity that one cannot expect it to make any radical changes in its policies. All its governmental structures can do is continue in the same grooves as before. You are right, as time passes India will become a much stronger country than Pakistan; that is why the latter clings so closely to its nuclear capability ‒ the great leveller.


"What is the real strategic reason for America's
presence in Afghanistan?"

I think it has come down to Western prestige. Radical Muslims must not be allowed to win one.

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