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27 February 2012


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Mike C


My computer claims it doesn't know what to do with a .msg file. Is the link correct?

Charles I

Pretty grim. He's dead right tho, nobody's going to pony up to the World Bank's projected security/governance aid requirement figures past 2014, whatever our negotiating competence.


Could we have this piece in some common format, preferably .html? .msg does not work with my word processor.



The format is Cordesman's at CSIS. Not mine. pl



Try this???

FB Ali

I managed to open it on my Firefox by choosing Internet Explorer as the program with which to open it!

This is typical of the muddled thinking that seems to prevail in US policy-making circles. A fairly clear-eyed assessment of how things have gone wrong, and the mess the US is currently in. But the remedies he proposes ignore the basic realities of the situation in Afghanistan and the region. There appears be an innate inability for US policy makers to recognize situations which don't lend themselves to the achievement of their aims. It is as if there is an invincible underlying assumption that the US cannot fail, that circumstances will perforce align themselves to enable the US to succeed in whatever it wants to do.

Unshakable belief in the mantra "We cannot fail" is not an adequate substitute for realistic assessment and clear-headed planning.

Mike C

Thanks rjj,

I searched for it earlier but all the results either pointed back here or dead-ended.


The failure was readily foreseeable for anyone able to take a dispassionate look at the situation. A more interesting question to me is why our leaders thought it necessary to undertake a long-term military occupation once with had disposed of the Taliban regime and crippled Classic al-Qaeda. Four issues were never addressed - much less answered.

1. What is the strategic need for eliminating the Taliban as a political force in Afghanistan? Was it to prevent any part of Afghanistan every again being used as a springboard for terrorist operations? Well, to achieve that end we'd have to eliminate the Taliban from Pakistan as well. Likelihood? Implications for internal Pakistani stability?

2. What makes Afghanistan unique? There are half a dozen other places that could serve as organizing sites and spring boards. So where's the logic of concentrating on Helmand and Paktia rather than Hamburg?

3. How do you balance damage done to 'them' against the (highly motivated) recruits created by your actions?

4. How do you define 'success?'

Cordesman and the rest of the DC/NYC navel gazing crowd still haven't recognized that those were and are are at the sore of the Afghan issue.



The eregious Christopher Matthews was on the tube today with the message that he could not understand Afghan attitudes because of he were an Afghan.... pl

FB Ali

In response to your first two points:

I don't think the stated reasons for the renewed war in Afghanistan (eliminating the terrorist threat, etc) were in fact the real ones. It had much more to do with strategic considerations -- establishing a strong base in a troubled region, projecting power in the region, acquiring mineral resources, etc. Such considerations come naturally to the rulers of what they believe to be the dominating world power.

Such a world power cannot possibly believe that a ragtag collection of religious/nationalist zealots with improvised weapons can force them out of their country. It is going to be a long and painful repetition of the fate that befell earlier empires (the British and Russian) here.


It opened up in Word for me.

The Twisted Genius

Beyond the strategic shortfalls and tactical blunders, think of the logistical shortsightedness of this mess. I wondered what the reasoning was behind the idea of building effective military and police forces that any Afghan government could never sustain. Last Sunday I heard the DOD comptroller explain that the DOD was not planning for the possibility of sequestration, because they just don't believe it will happen. I could almost see him closing his eyes, plugging his ears with his fingers and saying, La la la la la la I can't hear you." I guess they also believed that never ending, barely questioned supplemental funding was an unalienable right and the new normal.


FB Ali

A reasonable theory as to motivation but incorrect. It was just plain stupidity and blundering from the beginning. pl



Simply put; all of America’s Wars since dawn of the Atomic Era have not been fought to win. Winning would be too expensive in treasure and lives. The use of atomic weapons assures mutual destruction. Afghanistan has been turned into a profit center. Washington Post has had several articles on “MEP”, Mission Essential Personnel, a corporation that provides translators for DOD. There are millions of dollars to be made in these contracts. It isn’t the company’s fault that one of their Afghan translators shot and killed an American soldier.

Waiting at the Urology Clinic at the VA Hospital with us Old Coots today was a very young kid who had lost both of his legs in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is a very hard thing when you realize that every war America has fought for the last sixty years the only winner was the War Profiteers.



Both these wars became great opportunities for making money for Iraqis, Afghans and Americans but that was not why we did it. We did it because we are stupid.

"Life is hard and it is harder when you are stupid." pl

FB Ali

Col Lang,

Behind the madness of "plain stupidity and blundering" there are signs of method. Not just in this case, but in most of the policies the US follows. There appears to be a layer in the policy making structure where there exists a clear-eyed view of US interests and desirable goals. Their views and recommendations affect the policies finally made, even if a lot of political and other crap gets into the mix. It is true that this layer is not high enough to control the execution of such policies, and thus they often get badly out of whack.

There was an article in the Scientific American journal's issue of Oct 2011 dealing with Afghanistan's potential mineral wealth. It appears that this is likely to contain large deposits of five critical strategic minerals for which the US is 100% dependent on imports (plus another for which the US imports about 60% of its needs).

What is remarkable in the article is this statement: Within three weeks of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Mirzad [an Afghan-American geologist] and Medlin [of the US Geological Survey] received authorization — and, later, funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development — to help the Afghans firmly establish what natural resources lay buried in their native soil..... These surveys have been going on, under armed escort, ever since.

Three weeks! Surely, there is some method there!


It looks like the only sane response is to close the bank in Afghanistan and bring everyone home by Memorial Day. Since it is now abundantly clear that nothing is to be won in Afghanistan, it is really stupid to keep digging deeper there.


Does this mean that Obama's Afghan surge has failed? If so, and how or why not, will there be a critique of the strategic play-acting that justified it the first place?

William R. Cumming

In PL's reply to W! AMEN! Which is why Syrian intervention will occur this year!


FB Ali

"There appears to be a layer in the policy making structure where there exists a clear-eyed view of US interests and desirable goals"

Sorry, but there is no such layer. Rememner, I was a career SES in DoD. Senior American civil aervants have nothing like the "clout" that they have in other countries. This may have to do with our presidential system of government which reduces the role of the career people in the Executive Branch vis a vis the Congress. The Congress has all the money, all the money.

The federally funded research institutes might play such a role but but they do not seem to do so.

Politicians drive the sytem glorying in their ignorance. pl

William R. Cumming

With respect to PL last comment note that in Election Years GAO prepares a report on non-career personnel burrowing into the bureacracy and obtaining career status. Under OPM regs if you have held a non-career SES position for at least one year you are nominally qualified for any career SES position. And of course C.P. Snows "Corridors of Power" seldom read by US appointees or civil servants anymore. Too bad both would learn something. Personally I hold President James Earl Carter as solely responsible for creating an SES system that allowed fear of geographic transfer to gain sway within that cadre. Just like politicians like to become denizens of Washington, so do those career personnel from outside DC originally as well. DC is an international capital, with almost 80% of downtown commercial real estate owned by foreign trust or companies. Several of my real estate agent and broker friends repeatedly tell me of foreign nationals, or new minted GREEN CARDERS who say they don't need a mortgage and just write out a check for housing in the DC area. Flight capital? Perhaps US foreign assistance coming home to roost? And of course the widened beltway will make an excellent defensive perimeter to repel the peasants and their pitchforks!


@PL: Politicians drive the sytem glorying in their ignorance.

Ignorance may be a qualification for the job. Who drives the politicians?


As the inimitable Yogi Berra said, "if you don't know where you're going, you might not get there."

While I agree with FB Ali's comment regarding the US apparent strategy, having such a unspoken strategy, unknown to the American people and to a wide swath of Washington insiders, entails the major risk that many of the players are not working towards the same ends. That could explain the muddle.

Alternatively, the political elite's arrogant, "Too Big for Failure" attitude could explain it as well.


There seems to be an accountability problem in that there never seems to be any negative consequences for failure...politicians who spend money are rewarded regardless of the outcomes .... i respect Ron paul and tea party sentiment that our government over-reaches .... government is too big and has access to too much money that it wastes and does stupid things with


JohnH, FB Ali WRC et al

Nonsense. you will have to look elsewher then the US for the illuminati, masons, the CFR, trilateral commission. None of you ahve ever exoerienced the internal workings of the US government at a senior level. there is no such thing. The desire to find order and purpose in all this is touching but unjustified.

WRC. I have known a few politically "burrowed" SESs. None of them amounted to anything. They were refugees from poverty who succeeded in having the departing administration find an SES job for rthem. They were all treated with suspicion by the true careerists who regarded them as a menace that might pit an agency ageinst the party in power. The AIPAC/Zionists also "burrow" people into the career civil service where they combine against tribal "enemis" and inform co-conspirators in the Congress and congressional staffs. pl

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