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27 December 2010


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

prevention of a Chinese constructed highway linking Beijing with the Mediterranean, Indian ocean and the gulf via Iran.

William R. Cumming

Thanks FB for the reference. Perhaps ending DADT will prevent that issue from being a factor in preventing restoration of the draft. Oddly when I went before draft physical, only the unmarried announced gays were rejected. Those missing trigger fingers and with limps were inducted leaving the post-induction physical to separate out sometimes.

And yes restoration of the draft might make for an interesting thread on this blog.

Perhaps a thread on the usage of the National Guard in foreign wars might be a useful precusor.

Saeed Malik.

Thank you, Brig Ali, for yet another sane analysis of the war in Afghanistan. I do not know if the U.S is keen to learn anything from their experience in Afghanistan thus far. The evidence so far seems to suggest quite the opposite.The U.S is very keen that the Pakistan Army expand its role in this war and move into N. Waziristan. This is being resisted. But if the U.S prevails and Pakistan succumbs to this pressure, I can predict that conditions will be set in motions for the lower ranks in the army, to mutiny. Both the U.S and this war are extremely unpopular in Pakistan, and becoming more so, with each new drone strike. Privately, I have not heard a single General, or any other officer support it. I therefore do not see how Pakistan can long sustain this effort. And if the Pakistan Army starts unraveling, no one can even predict the consequences, much less control them.
Saeed Malik.

Retired (once-Serving)Patriot


Your hypothesis that AQAP (Yemen) is stronger or more important because AQ in AfPak is so weakened by a larger US presence needs some backup.

Last I heard, the two groups, while sharing the BinLadenist philosophy, are different, come from different sources of anger and have different aims.

And, as I recall, we're waging a covert war in Yemen against AQAP. While this may be legal under Sect2(a) of PL 107-40, it stands to reason if AQAP were so important, that we'd expend a far greater number of troops in physical presence there to defeat AQ.

What we're fighting in AfPak is a popular (or at least tolerated) resistance/partisan war. Its not going after AQ there. We had a choice to continue AfPak as an economy of force program (like Yemen, like Somalia, like Philippines and who knows where else). Hell, that's what the Rumsfeld brain-trust wanted to do from the beginning in 2001! Instead, we chose to redirect our Iraqi field army into Afghanistan (at about 2x cost per soldier and about 1/2 the soldiers). In this matter, we keep deploying soldiers albeit at a slower rate and with less chance of completely "breaking" the Army. It also keeps the great wheel of militarized "stimulus spending" going. And the fat paychecks paid to numerous retired senior defense officials (double dipping, of course). Of course, there were other options, not the least of which is bringing home most forces and spending that stimulus money on rebuilding worn out equipment and people. That too would have been stimulus - just not the kind that really fills the coffers of the war profiteers.

When, according to our own estimates, the numbers of true AQ in the AfPak region is running in the 100 or so people - all in Pakistan (!), how can we say with a straigh face we need 100 thousand plus military to "keep the peace"? And not already be thought of as a weak paper tiger (fulfilling a key Bin Laden claim)? I think a 1000+:1 ratio indicates we long "won" the war or otherwise proved our point and everything else since just refills the drained swamp.

@dh -- yep, just as it was in the late-60s/early-70s, we can't let them win. Too bad we aren't even trying to hold a new version of the Paris Peace Talks to gain a "peace with honor."


Neil Richardson

Dear Brigadier 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. "

I found this recent article by LTC Andrew Milburn to be rather interesting. The fact that the JFQ editors chose to publish it makes me wonder how many others share Milburn's misguided view of the oath of office.



There's an alternative explanation to our continued war in Afghanistan that has nothing to do with natural resources or defense contracts. It's my belief we are still in Afghanistan primarily to preserve our national honor and prevent the perception that we "lost" or were chased out. If there was a face-saving exit we would be getting the heck out of their tomorrow.

If the Taliban, Pakistan and other regional players were smart, they'd be working to facilitate a such a face-saving exit, and if we were smart we'd be asking for their help. Instead it's more "Groundhog Day" Afghanistan edition where not much has changed since since about 2004.


Brigadier Ali,

It is tragic. The one thing a soldier can never admit to is that his buddy died in vain. Grunts will fight on the borders, forever. For their devotion, the Praetorian Guards in the homeland will demand the right of selection of the next Ruler.

The rule of law is gone from America. Bankers stole trillions of dollars of American wealth; lost in worthless derivatives and bankers bonuses. Homes are stolen (foreclosed). But, not one banker is indicted.

Two administrations in a row have been kicking the can down the road doing the Oligarchs’ bidding; paid for with borrowed money. You can believe in Shock Capitalism, or not. But, the path ahead for America will be filled with new shocks and great dangers for its citizens from extremism within, corporate globalization without, and radical Muslims converted by never ending wars of occupation and drone bombing campaigns who will finally have a successful attack. The New American Caesar will then have the excuse for crossing the Rubicon.


I agree with Andy that American "honor" is part of the motivation. The militarist crowd has been trying to expunge the ghosts of Vietnam, where American pride was seen a humiliated.

The problem, as the militarists saw it, was that American public opinion stood in the way. "Resolve" in Afghanistan translates into "the public be damned--in America and everywhere." The truly powerful need not listen to anyone.

And so the war goes on, apparently for no concrete reason and no clearly explainable strategic goals or measures of success.

Nonetheless, Washington's behavior (the TAPI agreement) does reveal clear goals--controlling the distribution of the industrial world's life blood. The TAPI agreement belies the ambiguous, virtually inarticulate public statements about objectives.

And so, America's explicitly stated "resolve" is not really about honor at all. Instead, it is being promoted as the only acceptable attitude for patriots. This attitude is supposed to replace any need for questioning, debate, or explicit objectives. Washington's policies which must be accepted on faith, the American people are too "immature" to accept the militarist idea that an authoritarian empire is perfectly fine, even if it means looting the Social Security Trust Fund to do it.

Patrick Lang


"The militarist crowd" You are obviously far too virtuous and holy to post things on this website. pl

s nadh



Clifford Kiracofe

Interesting new poll on "conservative" opinion in US per Afghanistan:

"•Conservatives and Tea Party supporters are worried about the costs of the war in Afghanistan. 71% of conservatives overall, and 67% of conservative Tea Party supporters, indicate worry that the costs will make it more difficult for the United States to reduce the deficit this year and balance the federal budget by the end of this decade. Significant percentages of conservative men (67%) and women (75%) indicate concern about the costs of the war as do conservatives in all age groups. Those in active duty military or veteran households are as worried about the costs of the war (69%) as those in non-military households (72%). 61% of conservatives who believe the war has been worth fighting are worried about the current level of costs.
•Two-thirds of conservatives support a reduction in troop levels in Afghanistan. When given a choice between three options, 66% believe we can either reduce the troop levels in Afghanistan, but continue to fight the war effectively (39%) or think we should leave Afghanistan all together, as soon as possible (27%). Just 24% of conservatives believe we should continue to provide the current level of troops to properly execute the war. 64% of Tea Party supporters think we should either reduce troop levels (37%) or leave Afghanistan (27%) while 28% support maintaining current troop levels. Among conservatives who don’t identify with the Tea Party movement, 70% want a reduction (43%) or elimination (27%) of troops while only 18% favoring continuation of the current level.
•A majority of conservatives agree that the United States can dramatically lower the number of troops and money spent in Afghanistan without putting America at risk. 57% say they agree with that statement after hearing about the current number of troops in country and the funding needed to support them. Only a third (34%) do not agree with this statement. Among Tea Party supports 55% agree that we can reduce the number of troops without compromising security while 38% disagree. Among non Tea Party conservatives, 60% agree with this statement while 27% disagree.
•More conservatives believe the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting (46%) than not worth fighting (39%). Among those who believe the war has been worth fighting, as many support reducing troop levels (43%) as favor maintaining the current level (44%). Just 5% of these conservatives support leaving as soon as possible. Those who do not believe the war has been worth fighting overwhelming support reducing the level of troops (31%) or getting out altogether (60%) with only 5% supporting the current troop level. While Tea Party supporters overall are more likely to believe the war has been worth fighting (51% worth it, 38% not worth it) than other conservatives (41% worth it, 43% not worth it), those who strongly identify with the Tea Party movement are split (42% worth it, 45% not worth it)."


Some might conclude it is the "liberal internationalist" elites in the US (Neocons, jacobins, nation building libs, peacemaking libs, etal) who are the true believers in endless intervention and war. Perpetual war for perpetual peace. Folks at the Council on Foreign Relations or the Belcher Center at Harvard, all those lib types....

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