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01 November 2015


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FB Ali

Yes, COIN has failed - as far as its stated aims go. But in the process it enriched numerous Western and local participants.

The trouble with the present model of US "aid" to the Afghan government (air power and SF; the training component being a joke considering the state of the trainees), is that it is totally dependent on the local allies: the Afghan SF and local warlords. This results in the US becoming just another participant in the lawless disorder and violence that is going on outside the few big cities.

It was to end this unbearable chaos that the Afghans welcomed the Taliban the last time. Strict though their rule was, it was mainly according to Afghan beliefs and traditions, and ensured peace and order. That is why this will happen again - it is just a matter of time before they take over the country formally (they already control large parts of it).



ABC network broadcast bit of Pentagon propaganda even before the Iraq Invasion of bearded US soldiers searching a walled Afghan village for the “bad boys; Hajji. Elders who had completed the pilgrimage to Mecca. Either to kill them or interrogate them, it wasn’t clear. This has been a religious war from the get go. Destroy the existing culture and replace it with one subservient to western overlords’ resource extraction. Plus, generate capital flight and sell more weapons. The religious war has expanded into Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Syria. Muslims make the perfect “Others” to demonize by war profiteers. But, this leads to psychotic confusion. The Ruling Elite cannot admit that the West is in an existential war with Islam. They would then be blamed for the millions of Muslim refugees trekking to Europe. To win the war, western governments would have to tax the wealthy, restart the draft, build strong impenetrable borders and then send a million man army to kill all the radicals that their quarter century of war for profit against Islam has generated.



"... bearded US soldiers searching a walled Afghan village for the “bad boys; Hajji. Elders who had completed the pilgrimage to Mecca." I wouldn't get to carried away with that thought. in the early days in Afghanistan a lot of Green Berets adopted Afghan dress to include beards. They were all working WITH Afghans. The US command forced them to shave and change back into uniform, a bad idea. pl

J Villain

The 'A' answer is for the US to make an arrangement for the SCO group to take over responsibility for Afghanistan. All of the SCO members are in the region as opposed to the other side of the world. A number of them have interests in Afghanistan. Most of them have already made efforts to try and mend Afghanistan and fight terrorism there. The US has actually been a block to many of their efforts. Would it become a beacon of democracy? No. But I think it could reach a normal that every one could live with. It certainly won't under US control.

US domestic politics masquerading as foreign policy of course blocks that. But I have to think that if the president walked up to a microphone and actually made an honest half hour speech on the reality of Afghanistan I think he could move public opinion considerably. Failing to use that mic has been one of his biggest failings IMHO.


""Afghans" might have been beneficial after many bloody generations of oppressive colonial rule, but the effect on Americans would have been terrible as we grew accustomed to imperial overlordship."

I agree with you on the negative consequences to America and Americans that would have come from "imperial overlordship".

That is why I worry more and more about the consequences of what we are doing and the role we are fulfilling, which seems to amount to "imperial overlordship" lite.

We make ourselves responsible for things that we have no control over -- that may be one of the critical differences between being a genuine Empire and a pseudo-Empire but one that has mixed benefits. There are limits to how much we can screw up and how much we spend, for example, which are pluses. On the other hand, we have no tribute flowing in and Americans are not running the governments of other countries. That means many of our grand plans and hopes are thwarted by local resistance, interference and lack of resources.

We seem dedicated though to keeping up our ridiculously impossible position though. Many in Congress beg to spend more on chasing ways to make our will translate into the results they crave.

The whole thing is crazy and we need to stop.
Our position seems to be the worst

Chris Chuba

I am a true novice in the region so I'd appreciate knowing if my thoughts are off target. My gut feeling has always been that it would not be a big deal if the Taliban re-took Afghanistan, that we could just inform them discretely, that we would leave them alone as long as they did not shelter Al Qaeda groups that attack us and even help them against the ISIS expansion. I would think that the native Afghanistan people wouldn't actually be receptive to ISIS and that by blasting the Taliban to smithereens degrades their ability to resist this type of expansion. Is this off base?

In short, periodic invasions, should they prove to be necessary is cheaper than a long term occupation.


OT: Houthis destroying Saudi tank

Comments are funny.

Babak Makkinejad

You cannot be serious; SCO is a joke when it comes to doing anything concrete.

As far as I can tell, it is a sort of Gentlemen's Club - like those they have in London - but with better food.


An example of warlords from Mali where local armed groups fight over the control of roads used for smuggling thereby risking the peace agreement. It's hard to get French and UN troops out if the goal is some sort of permanent peace.


Trey N

There are two things that history has proven without a doubt:

1. As Bernard Montgomery put it (about the only thing that sucker got right), "Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: "Do not march on Moscow."

2. In Afghanistan, the Pashtun always win.

There is a damn good reason that country is known as "The Graveyard of Empires." Of course, as Karl Rove fatuously claimed, "the neocons don't study history, they MAKE history." Maybe they really should take the time to study the real world a bit more....

And whether or not the Unocal pipeline "carpet of gold or carpet of bombs" story is true, there is no doubt whatsoever that the CIA drug trade in Afghanistan is booming. The Taliban eradicated the poppy fields in that country after they took power, but now the farmers there are growing more than ever. This is even a more lucrative deal for the CIA than their Air America flights from the Golden Triangle during the Vietnam War.



My Scots ancestors were warlords or sept chiefs, whichever you prefer. pl

The Twisted Genius

Warlord is a loaded term much like regime. We have no problem acknowledging that a state has a legitimate monopoly on coercive violence, but are appalled when a tribal or regional warlord claims the same legitimate monopoly. In most cases the nature of tribal violence moderates into something manageable and survivable... until somebody screws with it. There's a lot to be said for Roddenberry's Prime Directive.

Yeah, Right

Granted that you thought that to be "a bad idea", but were you ever made aware of the reasoning behind it?

I'm assuming that the reasoning behind that order was to bring those Green Berets into conformance with Article 1 of the Hague Regulations ("To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance"), but that may not be the case.

Bill Herschel

The old reason not to destroy the poppy fields was that it might alienate the Afghans. There is a heroin epidemic sweeping the United States and destroying our youth. Bomb the poppy fields and the poppy growers. Kill as many of them as can be killed. That's too good for them, but it would send the right message.

But of course we could never do that, because the gangsters running Kosovo, our clients, wouldn't like it.

I wonder if Donald Trump would bomb the poppy fields? I suspect he would. What is not to like?


Col. Lang,

I've read, perhaps here, that the last thirty years of war has done great damage to the traditional power structure. The tribal leadership grew weaker as foreigners, and foreign funding, undermined their role on both sides of the border

Would warlordism reverse that, and provide a measure of stability?

- Eliot


"As Bernard Montgomery put it (about the only thing that sucker got right),"

Really? He won quite a lot of battles, and was there to take the German surrender at the end. Arnhem was the big mistake. Unpleasant man, but effective general.

Babak Makkinejad

"Bomb the poppy fields and the poppy growers."; that is a step in the right direction - in my opinion.

Babak Makkinejad

The tribal leadership might have been weakened but the tribalism of Afghans certainly has not been weakened.

The two Communist formations that overthrew the republic, each had a different tribal affiliation.

And then they fought among themselves for power until USSR invaded and imposed some sort of order.


TGG: I looked up Aaron Bank after your recent post. Can you recommend where I can find more information about him. Has someone written a good biography of him?



There is no good book on Aaron Bank. he wrote a little book about himself but it is essentially disinformation. I have his US Army and OSS service records. They are fascinating. pl


lived to the ripe age of 101. wow


Thank you. Maybe someone, someday, will write that biography.

BTW, this doesn't fit in with the War Game, but, if true, it looks like the Saudis are starting to buckle. Seehttp://sputniknews.com/politics/20151102/1029451419/middle-east-syria-saudi-arabia-russia-isis-couterterrorism.html

Like PressTV and RT, I generally discount Sputnik International's tendency for overstatement, but find the site interesting.



It would be a fascinating book. Perhaps the Saudis might "buckle" but... pl

The Twisted Genius


Here are two short interviews with Aaron Bank on YouTube. A book covering Aaron Bank, Russel Volkmann and the birth of Special Forces would indeed be fascinating.





As I recall Volkmann was a stay behind guerrilla in the Japanese occupied PI and was kept in the Army after WW2. He was Bank's superior in the Army General Staff and had him recalled from Korea to lead the project. All the design and creation work was done by Bank. pl


Thank you.

different clue

Bill Herschel,

In Afghanistan, the poppy growers are at least a couple hundred thousand peasants who grow poppy because nothing else will even make back their costs of production so far as I know. You are suggesting the carpet bombing mass murder of a couple hundred thousand or more Afghan peasants?

Also, you realize that whatever poppy Afghanistan stops growing will be grown in Burma/Thailand/Mexico/etc. instead? As long as someone buys the poppy products at black market prices, someone will be incented to keep growing poppy.

This current heroin epidemic started when prescribers prescribed mass amounts of opioids to mass amounts of patients. The patients ended up addicted to opioids and if their prescriptions were cancelled they turned to heroin. If they decided prescription opioids were too expensive, they turned to heroin.

Treat heroin as Great Britain and Portugal treats it . . . as a medically managed maintainance addiction on the part of registered addicts who get one dose at a time from government registered dose administration sites. It becomes uncool and unfashionable and the black marketeers are deprived of their heroin customers and their heroin money.
From what I have read, it works in Portugal and Britain where the numbers of heroin users has been kept low and the users remain non-violent and non-criminal and some even do a few hours of work a day. Of course that solution fails to provide the excitement and delight of a moral crusade.
It also reduces the worldwide money flow available to big banks to launder at profit to themselves. So if you are a Puritan or a Money Launderer, you will of course reject my suggestion.

different clue


I find this hard to believe, given that KSA supports sunni jihadi terrorism all over the world. Since Russia wants to stamp jihadi terrorism out and KSA supports and admires jihadi terrorism, what would Russia and KSA have an alliance about?


"Afghanistan remains what it has always been, a fractious expanse of territory inhabited by a multitude of peoples speaking mutually unintelligible languages whose political divisions are very much a question of local loyalties, customs and leaders."

Afghanistan was fine back in the 1950s and 60s, indeed up to the communist coup in 1978 (?) and then the Soviet invasion. See Adam Curtis' Bitter Lake (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hdcji). Evidently a loose coalition of local powers. No reason why that shouldn't work again, if external pressure is removed. Needs a leader who understands the situation and is not dependent on the Americans.

The main problem is the introduction of Wahhabi ideology introduced through the Saudis to the Taliban. It's the same problem world-wide. The programme of construction of mosques (or madrasas) funded by the Saudis, with Wahhabi Imams, starting in about 1980, just after they got money. My students have shown me examples in places as far separated as Benin and Pekin.

Sounds tin-foil-hat stuff, but it isn't, if you understand the process. Wahhabism is an outgrowth of the literal Sunnism of Ahmad ibn Hanbal in Baghdad in the 9th century. Anything in the Qur'an, or what the Prophet said, is literaly true, comprehensible or not. Transmitted through Ibn Taimiyya in the 14th century, it was taken up by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab in the 18th century, and adopted as ideology by the Saudis. The Wahhabis destroyed all mausolea right and left after the conquest of Mecca in 1925.

Then in the 1970s, the Saudis got money. Only a few years later, they began exporting their ideology. Some attribute it to the siege of the mosque in Mecca in 1979, but it's not really that, rather the freedom of finance to do it.

Forty years of freedom to train the young in Wahhabi-style ideology, in Afghanistan as elsewhere. Islam is not necessarily like that.



"There is a heroin epidemic sweeping the United States and destroying our youth."

Poisoning the heroin supply would also be a disincentive but poisoning our own drug users would set a bad precedent.



"Afghanistan was fine back in the 1950s and 60s," Afghanistan was minimally governable even then but the carpets and food were good. pl


Col: Sorry that this comment is late, but I finally got around to watching the Frontline on "Inside Assad's Syria."

Martin Smith does a masterful job of allowing the viewer to see all the shades Assad's supporters (and fellow travelers). He shows the beauty of Western Syria and its modernity. He then deftly lets the viewer see the security state by showing his endless requests for permits and identifying his minders, who abound. Even the "man on the street" interviews showed the population as hesitate and careful, without the need for heavy-handed commentary. An excellent piece of journalism.

Assad's Syria most certainly is better than the alternative.

The Twisted Genius

pl and Matthew,

I forgot to mention Wendell Fertig. He's another remarkable case. The three of them worked on creating Special Forces with Bank doing the lion's share of design and creation work. As you know, Bank also created and commanded the 10th. I could not see any of the three every arguing for credit. They were all quiet professionals and Men with a capital M.


"Afghanistan was minimally governable even then" Not that I want to contest but wasn't that my argument? The third element, after the Soviet and US occupations, was the introduction of Talibanism. Talibanism is Wahhabism in its interpretation of Islam. It wouldn't have existed without the Wahhabi-style madrasas in Pakistan.


"Afghanistan was minimally governable even then". So what? I remember it well. The question is why Afghanistan can't get back to a comfortable lightly governed country.



Yes, I think the old royal government was a carefully constructed artifact that had largely been generated by British India's careful diplomacy and influence with the acquiescence of Imperial Russia. I think that set of circumstances is unlikely to recur. IMO the Taliban will rule parts of the country with local chiefs having as much power as they can hold. pl

different clue


It wouldn't be a nice thing to do, but upping the heroin purity level to 100% would have that effect. I have read that a lot of the overdose deaths are resulting from users not used to the sudden purity increase in the heroin currently being sold. But I would prefer the "registered addict maintainance" method myself.

A government which sees fit to stealth-poison one group of people will move on to the next groups of people as long as the poisoning stays stealthy. A precedent best not set.


is there, was there a relation between the special forces created by Aaron Banks and the 10th Mountain Division of WWII - my late father-in law (Alvin Dobsevage) was in the 10th mountain from the beginning, busted from sergeant to private during the extended training in Colorado for fighting on skis, survived, ended up as an officer after many promotions during the fighting in Italy. Didn't talk to his daughter about it. Did say to me that his guys could question all prisoners in their own language. He himself could speak (and taught) many modern languages as well as Latin and Greek. Before I knew him, during the Vietnam war (he was still active in the reserves) he decided he ought to be able to speak Vietnamese and so taught himself it well enough to read and speak it (so he said and I believed him. He was not a man to brag or exaggerate.)

In any case, my question which is a bit off topic is the relation if any between the special forces and the 10th Mountain division. A quick look a Wikipedia is not informative about this question.

Thanks in advance for any reference / link




No connection but the 10th Mountain was formed mainly from pre-war skiers and mountaineers who, like Bank, had cosmopolitan backgrounds. pl


When some Iranian leaders speak to groups in the US they report the desire of the Iranian government & people to control the drug trade from Afghanistan.

Who is making money from that trade?


And from Wiki:

Some scholars question why Fertig did not receive the Medal of Honor, despite his considerable military achievements at great risk of his life. Others question why, when Fertig commanded so large an army of irregular guerrillas, he was not promoted to brigadier general when other men, who were never in combat, received that rank as the U.S. Army grew in size. William Manchester, in his 1978 biography of MacArthur, American Caesar, offers the opinion that MacArthur and his staff may have had their own agenda in minimizing the efforts of Fertig, other resistance leaders and the guerrillas themselves in liberating the Philippines.

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendell_Fertig



Army promotions at the level of O-6 and above are very much a matter of internal and external politics. It is thus in all armies. pl

Babak Makkinejad

The Arabic word "ملوک الطوایف " is a better one, in my opinion; "Clan Chiefs".

Babak Makkinejad

Indeed Afghanistan was a backward but functioning country until a member of the Afghan royal family decided that he knew how to run Afghanistan best and made a coup against his own cousin in 1973.

Sort of like what happened in Cambodia.

But, since Afghanistan was a unitary state in the Person of the Monarch of Afghanistan, his removal meant that the legal as well as traditional basis for statehood no longer existed in that country.

That meant that any upstart could lay a claim to be the Ruler of Afghanistan - which is what happened with the coup which was launched by combined tribally affiliated Khalq (People) & Parcham (Flag) communist formations against the Davoud Khan republican dictatorship.

And so on and so forth.

Taliban were never in power long enough for us to know if they had escaped that coup-counter coup-dictatorship dynamics; I am personally rather doubtful that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will have witnessed any orderly transition of power.

The Wahabi doctrines only have aggravated the issue of state legitimacy; "Why should a country called Afghanistan exist?"

There is no answer since the last King died.

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, ملوک الطوایف - and in time they might even decide to select a family to be their nominal king.


Babak and Laguerre

I find this discussion of Afghanistan a little odd. I own a lot of old Afghan rugs of various kinds. I like Afghan food. The country is pretty and the spirit of the place in the old days suited me just fine, but to maintain that Afghanistan was ever more than a tribal and sectarian maelstrom pasted together by Iran, Britain and Russia is just funny. "Four things greater than all things are; women and horses and power and war..." Amen. pl


"The question is why Afghanistan can't get back to a comfortable lightly governed country"

Because it is unacceptable - after all the US has global responsibilities. DC can't sleep sound as long as the Afghans go about their ways of old and grow opium, do their creepy bajibasi thing (iirc that afghan proverb goes 'women are for children, boys are for pleasure', lock away their womanfolk and deny them education and rob the odd halpess traveller.


Beyond opium and the matter of safe haven for Al Qaedaite groups there is little to care about in that godforsaken backwater. Like so many endeavours undertaken 'out of area' it certainly is 'not worth the bones of a single pommeranian grenadier'.

We will never lure or beat the inner Westerner out of the Afghans however hard we try.

The Russians went about it with a great effort. How many US teachers and doctors have the the US sent into Afghanistan? How many doctors, craftsmen and engineers educated trained in the US? Despite doing all this, the Russians had only very limited success. In the US the pretty significant part of the Soviet effort in Afghanistan that was development aid and nation building tends to go unmentioned.

Babak Makkinejad

I think US tried similar things in Vietnam.

Recently, a European friend who visited there stated that at times he felt that he had indeed come face to face with the proverbial "Inscrutable Oriental".

Babak Makkinejad

Well, I recall reading the travelogue of a professor of Persian Literature of Tehran University who visited major cities of Afghanistan in early 1970s and it seemed to be a functioning country; he travelled to various cities, he was met by professors, put up for night in this provincial town by a school teacher and his family, and so on and so forth.

I suppose the maelstrom was under control at that time when Zhair Shah was in office.



Yes, functioning but at what level of actual integration? IMO the US functions at less than 60% integrations and that is declining. pl



A better example would be the invasion of maiden lady school teachers in PI after the end of the Philippine Insurrection. pl

Babak Makkinejad

It is like my old teacher of Persian Literature told us in high-school; "I am grateful that I can walk to the corner bakery and buy my bread in tranquility and security."

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