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22 August 2017

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Fellow Traveler

Bannon was right, it's over.

As for the policy, I think it was as much Kelly. He has a right to be sentimental having lost a son there. When he gave his SOCOM departure briefing to the press, he was asked what Gold Star families needed. He said they didn't ask for much, but "the one thing they would ask, is that the cause for which their son or daughter fell be carried through to a successful end - whatever that means. As opposed to this is getting too costly or too much of a pain-in-the-ass..."

https://www.c-span.org/video/?402977-1/defense-department-briefing-general-john-kelly

(around the 39 minute mark)

Is El-Sisi holding out on a permit for a Trump Tower in Cairo?

"The United States has decided to deny Egypt $95.7 million in aid and to delay a further $195 million because of its failure to make progress on respecting human rights and democratic norms,"

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/22/us-to-withhold-up-to-290-million-in-egypt-aid.html

Lemur

At least the methods of empire presume a certain order rather than the utter chaos the ideology of 'nation building' engenders.

If the Washington borg won't let America pull out of useless wars (as both Trump and Obama wanted to do in Afghanistan), then the electorate should be reimbursed.

As we head into a multi-polar world, neo-colonialism will intensify as Great Powers compete for resources, trade routes, markets, and geopolitical strategic ground.

sid_finster

Bandolero: correct me if I am wrong, but it ain't that easy to reroute supply lines for something so logistics dependent as a US expeditionary force, especially when going through potentially hostile third world countries.

Bandolero

turcopolier

I remember that well. I think seeing a chance to overcome the tensions would be an overstatement, but I could well imagine some kind of deal like Putin helps Trump securing an LOC to Afghanistan to advance stability with the aim of a regional longterm solution there, and Trump helps Putin to secure compliance of the Kiev government with the Minsk agreement.

Lemur

The European Great powers (mostly) used to win colonial wars. Britain controlled a vast empire with around 100,000 regular troops. Simply put, positively controlling the territory of a different people requires absolute ruthlessness. You can't make people love you with guns, but you can make them fear you. The whole notion of 'nation building' and 'exporting democracy' derives from a fanciful concept of what guns are for (killing people).

Therefore, in practice liberal nation building projects boil down to justifying killing people so they can vote. This ensures neither hearts and minds are won (you're killing people), nor positive control established (you're not killing enough people).

bks

Note to moderator: Up in #23 I must have failed to close the italics. Everything after it is in italics. My apologies.

turcopolier

Lemur

The European colonials tended to use ethnic differences and loyalty directed toward themselves as tols against large ethnic majorities. We have done the opposite. we have tried to "iron out" cultural differences to produce utopian man. Th is a big differnce in practice. Actual GBs like me , TTG and Jim Gant have been punished for identifying with useful minorities. pl

turcopolier

bandolero

I meant something useful and limited as you describe. pl

turcopolier

sid_finster

"Easy" has nothing to do with it. You do it when you must as we did once before. pl

turcopolier

All

Who left the italics on? pl

Babak Makkinejad

The English Rule was considered Legitimate by many of the Colonial peoples. That was why the Raj had less than 10000 Englishmen at any given time.
The Legitimate Authority does not exist in Afghanistan and US cannot create it.

bluetonga

Obviously, the Pentagon and other influent actors inside the Beltway do not wish to leave Afghanistan to its own fate. Russian senator Klintsevich has argued that the US never meant to leave the place anyway (RT) since it sits rigth between Russia, China and Iran and offers a very strategic position for "quick action" (whatever that is supposed to be).

An emerging "united" Eurasia being the obvious actual challenger to the de facto American political, economic and military supremacy over the planet, I think that the argument makes sense and should not be ruled out too easily. If the political and economical entente between countries such as China, Russia and many other -stans persists and flourishes (through entities such as the SCO or the BRICS), then it may well achieve the decline of American influence on the economic and political world scene, ruining the Monopoly scheme played by US oligarchs behind the Washington scene.

In this regard, I am wondering about the request for India to get involved. Could it amount to an attempt to drive further the wedge between India and China and bring the former back to the Western sphere of influence, possibly dislocate the fabric of the BRICS? This may sound far-fetched or too conspirationnist, yet it would make sense in a global strategy for maintaining world supremacy and preventing the rise of solid contenders. Of course, all of this not for the American citizens' best interests but rather for the greater profit of a lurking cast of voracious corporations and oligarchs.

Bandolero

Babak

I don't think that the SCO "is a political zero and absolutely irrelevant" - just the opposite.

With Chinese financial tools - belt and road, AIIB, etc - the SCO got quite huge financial muscles. And with Russian military tools - currently on public display in Syria - the SCO has also proven to have considerable military clout and expertise in fighting and winning against extremists.

RangerRay

In the wake of Trump's speech, I thought I'd throw in my two cents. I was very pleased to hear that we are now going to focus on killing terrorists and not on nation building. The latter, IMHO, is a futile effort considering the cultural environment. The Greeks, the Brits, and the Sovs all failed at this project and we seem to now be learning from this long history. I had the privilege of being the chair of the IC Working Group on Afghanistan when Najibullah was deposed. The members of the Working Group were generally very happy with that outcome, some to the point of near ecstasy. One of the latter members forecast the Afghans soon sitting around the campfire virtually singing "kumbaya" together. To try and put things in perspective, I asked the group to identify the national sport of Afghanistan. One of them immediately named buzhashi, at which point I rested my case.

TV

What the US should have done in 2002 - after pacifying the Taliban but NOT getting UBL (BIG failure):
Maintain a small recon force on the ground, satellite surveillance and lots of drones.
Tell the Afghans:
"Go ahead and live in the 12th century but if we detect a threat, we will be back and kill lots of you."
As for Pakistan, we have the power of the purse and it should have been used back then to squeeze them, but we had/have all those "experts" who know best (mainly about their own careers).
Now we're in year 16 and it looks like the "experts" are still throwing away our blood and treasure.
Drain the swamp.

Kooshy

Colonel Lang, thank you for usual sensible realist analysis of new Afpak military plan. I do agree that with this new announced strategy, nothing will change or can be changed. But IMO, at least in President’ address there were couple of new positive points. One was that India now is considered to be a player with interests, second the usual devils (Iran, China, Russia) were not demonized. And lastly Pakistan was named as inspiring, helping, supporting the Taliban and was put on notice. IMO the Asian devils plus India, meaning Iran, Russia, China, India and Pakistan as well as Afghan Government, none want the Americans to leave Afghanistan, the reason is, everybody except Pakistan is getting a free fighting force against Taliban which non likes. Pakistan and Afghan Government are also getting paid handsomely, which is more important than the security issue. None of these countries specially Iran, Russia and China are worried about permanent American bases near their borders, that is, because they believe they can easily control the supply line for the American bases in Afghanistan. I have heard the fuel for American bases, is Iranian fuel sold through Afghan middlemen, since it is safer and cheaper to get fuel from Iran than trucing from Indian ocean ports through Pakistan. India and Iran, as well as Russia and China all support current Afghan Government, and are helping and building Afghanistan’ infrastructure. That is not the case for Pakistan, KSA, and Israel, each for her own reasons.

FB Ali

MK Bhadrakumar, in a recent blogpost (Aug 20), says that the US is transforming its war in Afghanistan into a proxy war against Iran, using the IS/Daesh. In this it is being supported by elements of the Afghan military command.

Thia issue is being taken seriously by Russia and Iran.

http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/author/bhadrakumaranrediffmailcom/

Bandolero

All

I have a hypothetic question: if you were in Trump's shoes and you would want to leave Afghanistan, how would you do that?

Would you:

1st) Simply order all US forces to get home in the next six weeks or months or whatever time, thereby risking to get pics like in Saigon, chaos to quickly spread in Afghanistan and new terrorist safe havens to establish itself?

or

2nd) Hand over the current duties of the US & NATO forces in landlocked Afghanistan to the most capable neighboring regional powers, ie China, Russia, Iran & Pakistan, thereby securing a sense of order & keep a good chance to prevent total chaos in Afghanistan?

If you'ld decide for the 2nd option, an additional question: how would you sell that decision to the US public? Would you:

a) Go live on US TV and announce that the US lost the geostrategic war in Afghanistan and therefore you're going to hand over Afghanistan to the valued US friends China, Russia, Iran & Pakistan?

or

b) Announce something like the only US interest in Afghanistan is that terrorists do not rule or find safe havens there and victory for the US means a regional solution for the conflict?

Given the political climate in the US, if I were in Trump's shoes and wanted the US to get out of Afghanistan, I'ld likely try to go with a speech like he made it. How would you do it?

PS: Food for thought: CNN (fake news, I know) had a couple of weeks ago a piece on Afghanistan, which I find interesting if I subtract the usual anti-Iranian and anti-Russian spin there. Quote begin:

The Taliban have received improved weaponry in Afghanistan that appears to have been supplied by the Russian government ... One splinter group of Taliban near Herat say they obtained the guns after defeating a mainstream rival group of Taliban. ... In one video the Herat group are seen brandishing the guns, which they said were taken from the mainstream Taliban, led by Mullah Haibatullah, after that group attacked them. Eighteen of their rivals were killed in the attack and six were captured, they said. ...

Quote end. Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/25/asia/taliban-weapons-afghanistan/index.html

So, according to CNN, the current picture in Afghanistan is that Taliban with weapons supplied by the Russian government currently fight and kill in Afghanistan Taliban with weapons supplied by other sources.

I find this remarkable. And I question myself: maybe Taliban fighting with weapons supplied by Russia are more likely to agree to a Russian or Chinese sponsored Afghan peace agreement than Taliban fighting with weapons from other sources? I would not wonder if it were so.

Kooshy

Americans are told we must pay with blood and the money to keep our afghan foothold, while atlanticist American military is happy thinking they have got themselves an strategic point in middle of 4 nuclear powers and an ancient power for what purpose? only they know. One should ask them, supposedly you do have a strategic base, in middle of this 5 countries ,what can you do with it? what is it's use?

Cortes

Another interesting piece. Thanks so much.

I found the following linked article, by an Indian former diplomat, intriguing, especially in the reference to Bannon's departure:

http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/russia-warns-us-over-afghanistan/ri20720

Oilman2

Colonel -
Outside of Grenada, when have we not enjoyed mission creep in the last 50 years? I get the feeling that forward plans, if they do not include mission creep budget 'fat', are not approved.

I'm also curious about your feelings regarding mercenaries and putting control of them in theater command hands.

Greco

On the face things, I think you're estimations are correct, Colonel.

However, how much should we take at face value? What if he and the three amigos are cooking up a substantial withdrawal several months to a year from now until the conditions are right? It may not pan out that way, but that could be the intention here if things play out as they hope, i.e., they establish conditions that either eliminate or effectively contain the overriding national security threat posed by jihadist terror enclaves.

Tillerson's comments today seem to have hinted at that:
"I think the president was clear, this entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you. So at some point, we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way bring this to an end."
(emphasis added)

Huckleberry

After establishing air re-suppliable base for drone-ops with a 10km dead zone around it:

1. Flame poppy fields
2. Drone strike all unpermitted gatherings of Afghans of 20 individuals or more
3. Repeat

Peter AU

US LOC through Russia?

The Ukraine situation is stable and I cannot see the US pulling out of Ukraine. Although Trump may be willing congress will not.

And then there is this
https://sputniknews.com/politics/201708121056412734-russia-afghanistan-military/
"According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, in at least three provinces in the north of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan an unidentified aircraft was spotted dropping boxes for Daesh militants. Kabulov noted that the issue was raised by Russian diplomats at a UN Security Council meeting."

TonyL

sid_finster @24,

It is sad. Besides the fact that DJT is unfit to be POTUS, is there any compaign promise that he has fulfilled? It is time to say definitely that he has conned a lot of people into believing he would conduct the foreign policy anything different from a neoliberal such as Hillary Clinton.

Given what we've seen how DJT deals with the North Korean issue, I would even say we are in worse foreign policy shape than when Bush Jr. was in office.

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