« SECDEF has been ambushed by reality. | Main | Over the hill and far away… What’s happening at Deir az-Zour? - TTG »

28 January 2016


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

A. Pols

Ah, but of course some "glow red in the eyes".
Some cannot separate respect for organizational skills (which the Wehrmacht had plenty of) from respect for the ideology of the German State...

Bill Herschel

You know, I could write a comment, but that would miss the point entirely. Your post should be published in every publication with a circulation greater than 1 in the English-speaking and Attempting to English-speaking world right now. Right now. Right now.


There is a reason the Brits, Soviets, and even the Greeks (Alexander) had problems in Afghanistan. You hit it- it is not a nation-state, and never was- but a number of different ethnic nations. And who is going to pay the billions it would take to build an effective Afghan military? These generals and DoD bureaucrats are not the elected officials who do the budget- what does Congress think of this? Are they willing to go to the American people- who need infrastructure and host of other things- and tell them their needs have to be delayed to pay for building an Afghan army? Or are they willing to tell the country we have to raise taxes to pay for this? I doubt either.


Col. A key question is tacit within your post, but not directly addressed.

The WP article says, "The shift in mind-set, made possible by President Obama’s decision last fall to cancel withdrawal plans, reflects the Afghan government’s vulnerability to continued militant assault and concern that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda continue to build training camps whose effect could be felt far beyond the region, said senior military officials."

The underlying fundamental assumption in this "decision" is that the U.S. cannot be protected at home unless the military continuously acts to insure that the bad guys will "continue to build training camps whose effect could be felt far beyond the region..." On the other hand, does the continued presence in Afghanistan just enhance the danger to the US and its interests?

Clearly, the continued US presence in Afghanistan will not result in a stable Afghanistan because enough of the Afghanis do not want us there and those can never be defeated. Indeed, leaving might fairly quickly result in a Taliban stabilized Afghanistan. Though through our western eyes, a Taliban rule seem to be a hellish situation, it seems clear they have substantial local support. Thus, it is probably an accurate statement that continued US presence will certainly result in a continuously destabilized Afghanistan.

So, would the US interests be better served by an American presence with continual instability or be better served by just leaving and having a Taliban stabilized Afghanistan? Once the US is gone, the Taliban might decide to not provoke US to come back having once experienced the downside of American anger.

I do not have the expertise to answer my question, perhaps some in the committee can enlighten me on the likely alternate outcomes.

This fundamental question is not being addressed in the MSM: it should be.



What you have described for military doctrine in staff schools should be the same for social sciences, or indeed, any "science": social science people should first learn its principles, then be taught to find the "errors" and think about why and how what they originally learned are wrong. This is, after all, how all sorts of "science" works. Unfortunately, we love to force-feed people "formulas" and indoctrinate them to worship them in all walks of life, while crucifying those who find errors as heretics.


They should stay there, after the USA is gone, they'll be wondering what happened. Its like the people with the yellow flags and stickers since 911, looking as clueless as they likely were.


A characteristically shrewd commentary, Col. Lang - and very well written too. I confess I am one of those whose eyes have glowed red to hear mention made in SST of the virtues of the Wehrmacht. They glow red still, for this was a war machine operating in the service of unparalleled institutionalised barbarity. Yet what a war machine: possibly the greatest, the most skilled and courageous, the most imaginative and best-led, that ever was. I'll grant you that,in spades.


Well, we could start with "Parameters" and "Military Review".

John H

I remember reading ,from either an ex CIA guy or the British historian John Keegan ,that the Pashtun always win in Afghanistan .Is not the Taliban the military expression of the Pashtun ? I also remember reading Dexter Filkins in the New Yorker that when we had the hopfully "decisive" invasion of Helmut province with a couple thousand Afgans we approached some locals who could give us some info but none of our Afgans could speak Pashto .It sounded pretty crazy and incompetent to me . The year before we occupied the country the Taliban had basically eliminated the opium crop for moral reasons .Since then it has flourished and the increase in addicts in Russia ,Iran ,Pakistan ,Europe and US as well as Afghanistan has exploded .


Col. Lang,
Thank you for these thoughts that bring back a course I took many years ago in a graduate school course on the philosophy of the social sciences. The then-latest panacea was cybernetics, the theory of control, or more accurately governance, from the Greek root. It was all about feed-back loops with lots of models. Since then such concepts seem to have colonized more territory than I could have imagined. At that time, I recall numbers were very important in the media especially in the coverage of the events reported out of Vietnam. More recently the term of art that is preferred seems to be metrics, a fancy-pants term for what in reality amounts to little more than bean counting. Twenty years ago when I was assigned the task of teaching business ethics, the content focused on the ethics of management but was morphing into the now-current management of ethics. A sad day it is, indeed, for you and your ilk, not to mention our republic.


This is a very good point. The crisis of imagination cuts through our culture. Look at what's on in the movie theater. Go to your nearest fancy contemporary art gallery. Something happened, and real thinking, dreaming if you'd like, was cast aside for machine like application of formula.

Hood Canal Gardner

You got me remembering Liddell Hart on Rommel.

Another staff college curriculum metaphor: Charlie Wilson's Tennessee mules down around D.I. Khan/Punjab refusing to eat even the 'best' army wheat straw (bhoosa). The mules were trucked down from Chitral-Warm Springs Afghan duty. I forget how many loads of alfalfa were flown in from Australia/trucked over Lowry Pass before the US Army's Tennessee Mule think was recycled into kababs.


Colonel, TTG,

Here's one you'll find interesting:



"Where there is no vision, the people perish."

Proverbs 29:18


You know, it wouldn't have taken much for our political and military leaders to talk to our 'allies' with experience managing colonies and learn that you can't build a nation overnight.

Of course, these same allies are the ones who broke much of the world in the first place--Nigeria/Biafra, India/Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine...

But we're exceptional, so we can fix anything. Right?

FB Ali

What this means is that the Taliban will continue to fight on (there is no AQ there; that reference is just these "commanders" being PC). Afghanistan will become another Syria or Iraqi Anbar - the big cities held by the Afghan army, the countryside around them under the Taliban, the US bombing like crazy, US and Afghan SF launching occasional raids, the Taliban (and IS) launching suicide bombers inside the government towns.

And, of course, everyone involved getting rich - the US contractors, the Afghans in the US-supported government and army and their hangers-on, the US arms producers, etc.

More ideological fodder for the Islamic State to peddle to increase its ranks. Its war will also go on and spread. Increasingly hard right-wing parties will gain strength in the US and Europe, followed by militarisation of the 'homelands'. If nothing else, this will ensure that the increasingly impoverished general populace is kept under control.



Rommel was not a staff college graduate. pl



"Unparalleled" is a mighty big word. I could name you some others of equal barbarity. pl


Are the Russian and Chinese officers better served?


FB Ali,

If it continues as promoted, the consequence will be exactly the result Osama designed. His simple, cheap operation on 9/11 will have succeeded in destroyed the USA.

Such suckers we seem to be?

Babak Makkinejad

3 article:


2006: http://strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/parameters/articles/06spring/jalali.pdf



What makes this mess any of America's business? If the locals go back to eating each other, why should America care? Why should it be willing to continue wasting staggering amounts of money in futile endeavours?

Perhaps some of the problem lies in still appearing to be so rich that it seems possible to do everything and never need to make choices. Maybe it will take a big depression to change that and force the political class to set realistic priorities.


The mindlessness of our endless engagement in Afghanistan becomes starkly clear when we pose the question: what is the American objective? The Obama people have never given an answer - other than the Gates' idiocy that "we'll know success when we see it." Originally, it was to eliminate AQ and to deny it a refugee. That task is completed (FB Ali is correct: there is no viable AQ structure in Afghanistan). The ancillary objective was to eliminate the Taliban as a force in Afghan politics so as to guarantee that the country never again could become an AQ base. This latter goal obviously in unattainable. Moreover, even a Taiban government would have no incentive to invite whatever remains of AQ Central back in since that would result in a return to isolation with no apparent gain.

Above all, the entire question is moot since AQhas morphed into quite a different sort of outfit from what is was in 2001. It now is a franchise operation. There are half-a-dozen places where it conceivably do whatever it did in Afghanistan. Yemen is one example. There we have devoted ourselves to clearly the way for them to gain a degree of control they could only have dreamed of before we decided to become handmaidens to the Saudis(and Israelis). Then, of course, there is ISIL which has largely eclipsed AQ as a long-term terrorist threat. (So much so, that we are feeding arms to AQ in Syria because we consider them a counterweight to ISIl - among other reasons). Everyone from Obama on down has declared ISIL our security problem No. 1 - so why are we wasting resources chasing around Afghanistan after an enemy that never has attacked a single American outside heir own country?

How about that for a "debate" question?


Bill Lind writes, seemingly nonstop, about the inadequacies of the US officer corps. Particularly as it relates to his generational framework of war.

Hank Foresman

George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", Our leaders are not educated. Oh they have an education and they know the answers to pass Leavenwrth 2 up 1 back 54 trucks in the attack. But they are ignorant of history, culture, religion except the fundamentalis Christian variety, politics and government. Colonel Lang described them beautifully. Those who do not conform are quickly cast aside and find themselves either out of the service or holding down a billet in some God awful part of the US.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad