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03 August 2012


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Babak Makkinejad

Central Asians - excepting Khazakhstan perhaps - also have been unable to maintain the legacy of Soviet Union; both tangible and intangible structures are in a state of disrepair and decay (to varying degrees).

A similar story can be seen in Zaire/Democratic Republic of the Congo, in (Western) Somalia, and even in India where the bureaucracy left from colonial times has become the most significant impediment to progress in India.


One of my professors is an old Soviet diplomat. He explained that even in the Soviet era the Stans were ruled as sultanates by local magnates.


Have you visited Detroit lately?
Somalialand is doing well but that is not a popular story.

Al Spafford

Actually, when I was back visiting Michigan This past spring, Dearborn (on the edge of Detroit) was seeming to be doing quite OK with it's Mid East ethnic population--except for the extreme right wing "Christians" that were picketing. I'm not familiar with any "Somalialand" in Wayne County-where is that?


Having returned from a year long deployment to Northern Afghanistan a few months ago and reading some of the comments posted so far has sparked a few thoughts, if the readers will bear with me;

The first is that ISAF and the IJC have done a fairly OK job building a logistics and training system that both the westerners and Afghans really don't understand how to operate. Where we as the advisors/partners fail in trying to train the Afghans to build a self sustaining organization that trains, mans, equips and operates on its own is we fail to ask "so how does X battalion get a bar of soap from Kabul to Combat Outpost Z in Western Gormach" or how do I get SGT A from Kunduz to Kabul to attend advanced police training? The system is there, it exists, but we fail to take the time to grasp it. It was an eye opener when one Afghan battalion commander was asked how many trucks he was authorized and he really hadn't a clue. Worse off, his coalition partners really hadn't bothered to review the MTOE (Tashkil in Dari) to get the true answer to have an honest discussion with him or help him see himself and understand how he would have to maintain those trucks. We spent about 2 months as brigade staff wrestling with the problem of trying to define exactly how does one move a bar of soap from the Afghan police depot in Kabul to Gormach. It appeared that no one had bothered to apply basic military doctrine such as DOTMLPF in order to help the Afghans see themselves and the systems built for them.

And before the usual comments of "Afghan Good Enough" or the stories of how the Soviets turned bases over with 90 days of supply to the ANA and are bare within a month come out, I'll say that the Afghans can be smarter than we give them credit for sometimes. Just our way of partnering and mentoring, the one year wars fought over a year method, does not lend itself well to developing the ANSF to do this job on its own. I will also acknowledge the fact that there is a significant amount of graft and corruption in the system that makes the task at hand even more difficult.

So, could we have done a better job of turning COB Conlon over to the ANA? No. Could we have done a better of training the ANA to sustain itself? Probably. Maybe a few less lessons on how to properly do a 5 man stack in a door and a few more lessons on building and training a force could have been in order. Who knows, maybe we can give it a try this time in Syria...



This post triggered me to click on Goggle Maps and search for Vietnam and then Bong Song. North of the town you can still see the asphalt air field I flew in and out of in my one year in country. Google even marks where LZ English was. But, the helicopters, artillery batteries, hooches, sand bags, and barbed wire are all gone; have been for decades.

It is not that the outcome in Iraq and Afghanistan was unknown. It was preordained. Just like the imminent fiscal crash in Europe or future climate change. The Elite have created their own reality and agitprop to gain more wealth and power for themselves.

Ignoring history and science and avoiding the truth of what must be done to fix society and the environment are leading to consequences that will be devastating to all of us.


"reverting to type"...

maybe, someday, the US might revert to type - cease looking backward, nor forward (w/ corrosive jingo-sanctimony), & simply be comfortable in pragmatically applied knowledge. confident & ever-maturing, if ever imperfect.

The Twisted Genius


Very interesting observations. In my opinion, they support Col Lang's point that, in ten years, we tried to create an Afghan army and way of doing war that simply does not belong in Afghanistan. Perhaps Adam Silverman and his crew should be conducting a study of how the ANA conducts war and what trying to force the ANA into our mold is actually creating. An accompanying study of how the Taliban fight and sustain themselves may also be helpful to those willing to listen and learn.

FB Ali

A small but significant item in the report has elicited little attention: the Afghan soldiers renamed the outpost (and overwrote the American graffiti on the walls) in Dari!

Dari is the language of the 'Northerners'. The Pashtun of the South, who populate the area where the war against the Taliban (also Pashtuns) is being fought, and will be fought after 2014, consider the Dari-speaking Northerners to be old antagonists.

One of the biggest problems that the US will face in the post-2014 scenario is the fact that the Afghan army it leaves behind will be largely Dari-speaking (especially its officer corps). This problem was recognized by the US command in Afghanistan but was ignored in the rush to build up the Afghan army to meet political deadlines.

Gorgon Stared

Syria would be over with already if the Airborne could drop in with paint and brushes at Aleppos schoolhouses.



Thanks for the comments. I agree, the focus of the war over the past ten years has left us really no further down the road that we started. But that requires us to make changes to both our military and how we use the USG as a whole in wars like these that probably would not be palatable to many.

But I will say that trying to do a compare and contrast between the ANA and "Taliban" would probably not reveal much. Here's why I think that. I discovered very quickly that the concept of "Taliban" as something existential you could grasp and define and show was a pretty fruitless effort. We found it much easier to use the term "Insurgent" and then further tie them to or define them to a geographic spot on the ground that related to who they are and what they were fighting for. In doing so, we could also identify intra country, transnational and trans ethnic ties or lines of communication that had some influence on the group. The Taliban moniker could be misleading at times. I would offer that if you asked someone to associate "Taliban" with a group/tribe in Afghanistan, most of your answers would be the Pashtuns with more "smarter" answers further defining the various Pashtun tribes. Now to fracture that mindset, it would not be uncommon to find both Uzbek and Tajik groups that would call themselves "Taliban" Bit of a spanner in the works when that happens.

So in a roundabout way, what I think any study by Silverman, et al will discover is that insurgent groups in Afghanistan, to use a DOTMLPF construct, works at both the local and transnational level with activities running from roadside shakedowns for money food fuel to training in tactics to devices is something both local and transnational. But I would guess that the relevant point of the conclusion that Afghan insurgencies are almost always local in orgin, local in reason for existing and local in terms of support with some assistance from the outside.

For those not familiar with DOTMLPF, wiki has a decent page that explains it.

A more relevant study by Silverman might look at the 4 parts of the ANSF (ANA, ANCOP, ANP, ABP) and how we trained and fielded each of those organizations, the differences between the four (ie the ANA is centrally manned, trained, equipped and deployed while the other three are locally done) and where we did well coordinating them and didn't in terms of dominating the physical terrain (ANA) dominating behavior (ANCOP) and enforcing local laws (ANP) and where does the ABP fit into all of it.



I remember you. How about this for a thought - The United States should not occupy any more countries and seek to create a "do-over' there? pl

The Twisted Genius

Brigadier Ali,

You are right. We may simply be indirectly arming the warlords through our efforts to create an Afghan military. I saw this happen in Lebanon. We undertook a substantial effort to organize, train and equip into combined arms brigades. The brigades were organized largely along sectarian lines. Many of us saw this as a tragedy waiting to happen. Not long after the Mountain War started, the Druze brigade joined Jumblatt, the Shiite brigade joined Berri, and many other army elements went over to their sectarian warlords. In essence, we just threw more fuel into the long and bitter Lebanese civil war.

Babak Makkinejad

"Dari" is a politicized term for the language known as "Farsi-e Dari"; i.e. Court Persian.

Successive Afghan Government in the 20-th century, in order to create an Afghan national identity, referred to Persian as "Dari" to distinguish it from the official language of Iran.

This is analogous to what the Soviets did in Tadjikistan - calling Persian language Tadjiki.

Persian is the lingua franca of Afghanistan and Davoud Khan's attempt at turning Pashtu into official language in 1970s was a costly and ridiculous exercise in perpetual translation to and from Persian.

Afganistan, as a unitary state, is not possible.

Another Euro-American fantasy.

The Twisted Genius

Watcher said:

"But I would guess that the relevant point of the conclusion that Afghan insurgencies are almost always local in orgin, local in reason for existing and local in terms of support with some assistance from the outside."

I agree. And it's probably a much better fit for Afghanistan right now than what we are creating in the ANSF. We do not have the time, resources or political will to sustain the ANSF into the future. I feel much of it will revert to a more sustainable structure... probably similar to what we call the insurgents. They will figure out or muddle through to their own future. I feel we should do the same and not attempt anymore experiments in creating national security structures in foreign lands. Our foreign military efforts should be limited to JCETs, MTTs and the training of foreign personnel in our military schools.

Babak Makkinejad

The fundamental problem is one of Loyalty to Legitimate (State) Authority.

To whom should an Afghan soldier be loyal: to his commander, his ethnic group, the seated government in Kabul?



Is this supposed reality rooted in intrinsic cultural deformations - like the Palestinians suffer? Genetic? If not so, please explain.

FB Ali

The situation is further complicated by the fact that Karzai has tried to bring in Pashtun officers into the top command of the ANA. This increases the odds of the army splitting along ethnic lines.

Incidentally, the same situation prevails in the central intelligence services (as Dr Brenner reminded me).

The facade of a unitary state in Afghanistan is being supported and maintained by the presence of the large foreign military force. When this force departs, the country is likely to revert to its historic configuration.

Babak Makkinejad

What is your question, please explain.

Hank Foresman

A friend recently recommended that I read the "The Story of the Malakand Field Force" by Sir Winston s. Churchill (available for free at Project Gutenberg). I was struck by the following lines, it would seem little has changed over the eons.

"Then the Mullah will raise his voice and remind them of other days when the sons of the prophet drove the infidel from the plains of India, and ruled at Delhi, as wide an Empire as the Kafir holds to-day: when the true religion strode proudly through the earth and scorned to lie hidden and neglected among the hills: when mighty princes ruled in Bagdad, and all men knew that there was one God, and Mahomet was His prophet. And the young men hearing these things will grip their Martinis, and pray to Allah, that one day He will bring some Sahib—best prize of all—across their line of sight at seven hundred yards so that, at least, they may strike a blow for insulted and threatened Islam."


Thanks for that quote. The Story of the Malakand Field Force is a convincing argument for the phenomenon of deja vu. I recommend it to all.



I read the MFF when I was a kid. It was one of the things, like "Ft. Apache" (the film) and my families story telling that led me to a life of attempted adventure. "Deja vu" all over again? Sure, the "mad mullahs" are still with us. Try "The River War" next if you have not. pl

FB Ali

A couple of comments in passing on the Churchill quote from The MFF cited by Hank Foresman above.

Firstly, it would be wrong to think that their faith is the real motivator for the Pakhtun's violent aversion to having foreign soldiers treading their soil. Islam is only the latest garb for this deep antipathy that the Pakhtun have shared with the denizens of barren highlands all over the world throughout history.

Secondly, I doubt if the Pakhtun ever thought of the British as "Sahibs". They would not have joined their timorous plainsmen brethren in according them this special status.

Babak Makkinejad

If you obtain a good translation of the Book of Kings (actually, the Kingly Book) by Ferdowsi you will recognize that Pashtuns are descendants of Rustam's soldiers.

It does not make much sense to entangle with people whose ferocious ancestors, according to those legends, laid waste to Turan to avenge the murder of Prince Siawosh.

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