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15 December 2019


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You are right. I didn't hit it as hard as I could have. I sensed that the whole thing was a neocon stunt. pl


"the dark lord"...he certainly has the voice for it.

Muqtada al-Sadr, an Iraqi nationalist just visited KSA:



"Peace regiments (Sarai al-Salam) were formed by radical Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr right after the slaughter perpertrated by radical islamists in 2014 in Camp Speicher. This amounted to rebranding the Mahdi Army which was disbanded in 2008 but retained its core of commanders and specialists. They were easily remobilized, since Sadr had more experience working with militarized formations than other leaders. By some estimates Sarai al-Salam could quickly mobilize up to 100,000 men. According to faction leaders, its power is not limited by number of volunteers but by shortage of resources, particularly money and military equipment. That’s because, unlike other factions, Moqtada al-Sadr’s group is largely cut off from Iranian funding. The movement, and its semi-military character, is popular in Iraq due to its activities in Iraq prior to US invasion in 2003. Unlike other parties and military groups, Sadrists were not part of the elite that returned to Iraq after US-led invasion. The movement was embedded with ordinary Iraqi citizens, not elites. Sadr has charted his own course, to the disappointment of Iran’s leaders who poured resources into Mahdi Army in 2003-10. Today Sadr and his militarized formations have a strong pro-national position, reject Khamenei’s politics, and are against the presence of any foreign troops in Iraq. This stance has introduced confusion concerning the role Sarai al-Salam in PMU. From time to time, Sadr’s supporters claim they are part of PMU, yet in other instances they claim they are not. This is partly the result of not recognizing Khamenei’s faction as part of PMU, and an even greater rejection of Iranian influence and of former PM Maliki in Iraq. However, this faction finds it useful to declare itself part of PMU due to its popularity among Iraqis."



Vic, the problem is deeper. Follow the money (as in budgets). Now most problems look like nails. But when you hammer a screw, you just split the wood. Not fair to blame the broken screwdriver in the bottom shelf - A new screwdriver should have been bought.

That is the real question.



Who is "the Dark Lord?" pl



Do you think Nagl believed what he was saying?

It was a neocon stunt, with an extra heaping helping of an extremely hostile Max Boot.



Kissinger? Why bring his name into this? I talked to Nagl after the debate and told him that COIN is a poisoned but attractive idea, that it would fail yet again an take down all associated with it. pl


Colonel, I was replying to Fellow Traveler...he posted an excerpt from a Kissinger piece.


An ordinary afghan man and a nation-builder :
- So you can vote and elect your government now !
- Yes sir.
- Right to choice your leader !
- Yes sir, but my leader is my tribe chief.
- Yes but you can vote as you want !
- I will vote for the man my tribe ask me to vote for.
- But it's a personnal choice !
- I will vote for the man my tribe ask me to vote for.
The french well-known past minister shake his head and left the room.
Only a king can run Afghanistan.
About the military side,for those who want to know more, watch "SHAPIRO" movie and keep in mind that in some place,it was worse.

Philippe T.

When discussing about Afghanistan, somme terms should be clarified.

1) The real nature of Taliban movement : a religious (fundamentalist, wahabist) movement, or the expression of the pachtoun nationalism frustrated by rise of Tajiks (dari-speaking tribes) at the head of the State (a State the Pachtoiun were have been directing for 3 centuries) ? IMO, Taliban are more "nationalists" than "fundamentalists". Pachtoun nationalism has always been a strong political pattern on both side of the Mortimer Duran line. And, by the way, when coranic rules enter into contradiction with the Pachtoun tribal code (the "Pachtounwali"), Pachtouns obey to the tribal code, not to Coran (e.g, inheritage for daughters). In the 80's, I saw Saoudis becoming crazy against the tribal pachtoun cultural patters. And their money would not change anything...

Two consequences of the point 1 : If the Taliban are the expression of the pachtoun nationalism, then :

2) A nationalist movement can seat at the negociation table. A salafist movement won't.
3) A nationalist movement cannot be destroyed by the military, unless you are ready to kill 80% of the pachtoun population of Afghanistan. The solution will be military-then-political (+ diplomatic alliances with surrounding countries).

4) If you don't control the borders with Pakistan, from North (Nouristan/Swat, Nangarahar/Khyber, Logar/Parachinar, Khost & Gardez/Waziristan, Kandahar/Balouchistan, etc.), its useless to try to destroy insurgents. If you decide to declare war to Pachtouns, you must make war to the whole Pachtounistan. The Soviet army wasted huge energy for nothing when they failed to control the borders in the first years of the war. Or, told on another way, you can't defeat the Pachtouns without Pakistan cooperation.

5) The issue of the existence of an "Afghan nation" has been extensively discussed her, I won't elaborate. Nevertheless, one "bémol" to the general opinion : when a foreign power invades Afghanistan, you cas see "something" looking like a national feeling taking shape - against the invader. Maybe, as Soviet army did, the presence of the US/NATO army will be seen by the future historians, as an involuntary contribution to the building of an "Afghan nation", or something looking like...

6) During the last election in USA and in France, observers saw the hiatus between rural and urban political behaviors. Concerning Afghanistan, you can take this hiatus and multiply it by 100. In other words, either you lean on rural Afghanistan to build up your power, or you lean on urban one. Right now, trying to conciliate both is delusion.

7) It's difficult to fight against a people who uses to say "Jang khub maza meta", of "Fighting is tasteful".





Did you mean "Restrepo?" pl

Philippe T.

I forgot point 8 :

8) Electoral democracy and consensus-reaching process : as Westerners, the electoral process appears to be the "natural" way to make decisions in a society : the majority wins, the minority losses, motion is implemented. In the Afghan political culture, the regular process is to get a consensus, whatever time it can take to reach it (and that can take very long time). "Shura" is the name of the game. At the end, nobody appears as winner nor as looser. The electoral process is brutality for Afghans (and in many equivalent cultures) because the minority has lost not only the decision but also the face : two good reasons to start hostility. The willingness to implement formal western democracy at once in Afghanistan is very naive, and chaos-making, not nation-building. The king was the garant of all these consensus building processes, something that the election winner cannot do, being "partie prenante".

PS : I apologize for the typing errors I didn't correct, and generally speaking, for my broken english.


As of about ten years ago, Hewitt weekly attended Saturday evening Mass and a Sunday Presbyterian service.

Babak Makkinejad

On your 1 - in Pakistan, Pashtuns are being assimilated into Punjabi culture and language; the music of Afghanistan, even 40 years ago, reminded one of India rather than Iran.

Dari - "Farsi-e Dari" - Court Persian - is the lingua franca of Afghanistan, that misguided man, Davoud Khan, who destroyed legitimate authority in Afghanistan to usher her more rapidly into the brilliance of the European Enlightenment, tried very hard to make Pashtu the official language of Afghanistan. It had as much a chance as the Patois of Haiti in supplanting French.

On your number 2,3,5,6 - I think one ought to expect the de facto partition of Afghanistan into an Iranic Sphere and an Indic Sphere. In other words, a unitary state cannot be put back together at acceptable costs to the Western Fortress. Then again, Somalia, USSR, FRY cannot be put together again either - what is the big deal?

On your number 7: It is Persian: "War tastes well." which goes to show you that you are dealing with people who know nothing but war.


We are fighting the wrong enemy. Fuhgedabout the Talibs, or make a deal with them. ISIS Daeshis in Afghanistan are suicide-attacking Shia mosques in Herat and the Iraqi embassy in Kabul.

The IRGC should bring the Fatemiyoun Brigade home. They should be protecting mosques in Afghanistan instead of the Sayyidah Zaynab in Damascus.

FB Ali

BM's comment on your Point #1 is incorrect. The NW province, where a lot of Pashtuns live, also has large numbers of people from the Punjab and other parts of Pakistan, who live mostly in the cities, especially Peshawar, the capital of the province. The ethnic Pashtuns largely inhabit smaller towns and villages; they are NOT being assimilated into Punjabi (or any other) culture.

As I said in a previous comment, Afghanistan has never been a unitary state in any reasonable sense of that term. It is futile to try and achieve anything of that sort now. Nor is there any prospect of BM's 'Indic' and 'Iranic' spheres being established in the foreseeable future.


Good points. A question for you or anyone else here: what would have been a more successful alternative strategy for the Soviets? Should they have let the People's Democratic Party fall in 1979-80 and engaged the ensuing regime non-militarily?

Babak Makkinejad

Perhaps I should have said: "Seljuk Afghanistan and a non-Seljuk Afghanistan".

But I stand by everything I wrote.


Phillipe, thank you for your very insightful posts. I look forward to reading further on the Pashtun.

Babak Makkinejad

The Soviets, like the Westerners, attempted to carry out their version of bringing the Enlightenment Tradition to the non-Western people. They failed - just as France failed in Algeria or the Liberal Revolutionaries failed in South America.


Yes sir !
( Alzheimer is on his way.)

Philippe T.

I can recommand only two books (in French) on the topic :
- a recent one, "La Guerre soviétique en Afghanistan", by Colonel Philippe Sidos, avril 2016 ("Les Soviétiques avaient presque gagné la guerre en Afghanistan...")
The link on amazon.com :

- and an older one : "Afghanistan : Les victoires oubliées de l'Armée rouge" by Meriadec RAFFRAY, 2011,
("the forgotten victories of the Red Army in Afghanistan)

Both books are focusing on tactical and operative approach.
I can confirm personally that in 1984-1985, we (French expats) and the Mujaheddin accompagnying us were very afraid of crossing the Afg Pqk border, and of walking (even by night) in "liberated areas", since :
1) Spetnatz were giving night ambushes to the Mudjs, adopting the tactic of the French in Algeria (groupes de chasse, parachutistes), paratroops dropped on the supply roads of the resistance, and free to attack opportunity targets, before getting back to soviet bases by helicopter after 2 or 3 days of hunting.

2) plus a KGB much more involved in the Afghan war, able to "buy" some tribes, sub-tribes and clanic groups (by playing on the ancestral feuds between willages).

3) plus adapted tactics to storm the resistance bases ("marcaz" = center) in countryside and montainous areas.

The final results was that the Afghan resistance was no more moving within the rural areas "like a fish in water".

But it was too late, and from 1986, the Stinger appeared, making impossible the use of helicopters, which was determinant in their tactical successes.

Now, remains the main issue : how the Soviets, whose primary goal was to secure the communist regime, the main towns and the supply lines,by assisting, training and supporting the Afghan army, get involved at the operational level within 2 or 3 years - thus, with insufficient number of troops ? An interesting topic for the US/NATO troops in Afg.

Philippe T.

M. Babak M.,
Thanks for your comments.
I tried to bring some elements of response to the question of Col. Lang : can US win in Afghanistan? Whatever degree of "Punjabi assimilation" is prevailing in NWFP (but I doubt that Pak Pachtouns would appreciate, besides the fact that Pachtouns society is tribal, while Punjabi society was traditionally feudal), the point is : to which extent the Taliban movement is a nationalistic one, and to which degree it is a fundamentalist one, since Kabul government and NATO won't process the Taliban on the same way. Of course there is a mix of both (but quite different from the 1994 - 2001 period, when Saoudi money was given larga manu by Ben Laden and others), and a pertinent strategy could be to favorize the nationalistic composante, versus the jihadist one. Of course, the neutralisation, if not the cooperation of the pak ISI (military intelligence, a State within the State in Pakistan) would be required.
But that would need a complete re-assessment of :

a) the US strategy (diplomatic strategy with Russians, Chinese, Pakistanis, Iranians + political strategy with Kabul government and Jamiat Islami / Shura e nazar + with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb Islami, who recently defected the Taliban alliance to join the Kabul politics),

b) the US field tactics, by assessing the former soviet tactics of the 1984/85 years, by reconsidering the tactic goal to destroy the enemy (in Afghanistan, it's easier to buy the enemy, or, e.g, to bribe the N°2 of a taliban group for him to kill the N°1 and become "chef à la place du chef", to make much more prisoners and to use the jails as a place where internal opposition to taliban official line can be encouraged (e.g what the Turks did with Ocalan), to let understand the pachtoun population at large that the goal is a participation of pachtoun parties to the future government, etc. I agree with col. Lang video intervention that economic development is a paramount task in Afghanistan, with disappointing results (I visited in 1978 the extraordinary US project in Helmand Arghandab valleys, and the Soviet project in Nangarahar, both places where US and Soviets learn one hard afghan lesson : don't rely on gratitude....)

Of course that would take some years (2 or 3) and a perfect coordination between the US military, diplomacy, intelligence and civil affairs officers... I am not qualified to assess the feasibility of this coordination...
Of course, I assume that the final goal of the presence of US/NATO in Afghanistan is not to stay and wait / create opportunities to penetrate Central Asia republics and create chaos against Russia...
I'll treat the issue you raised, partition of Afghanistan, in another post, today or tomorrow.
Best regards.


Sad not to have watched this back in the day. I think the set arguing against the motion represented the reason why the American role was torn between succeeding at limited goals (maintain a CT platform) and failing at unreachable objectives (make Afghanistan the Switzerland of Asia). So the faction arguing for success was not quite united on how to define that. I never understood how Shinn made the jump from the need to maintain a network for information gathering and possibly direct action to the task of propping up a whole government and shape it in our image.

Pn the interview: McMaster knows it very well, maybe best among the Americans, and I have confidence he knows what to do. The hints to address the sanctuary in Pakistan are in the interview quite bold. Reaction is like before however. Some people get driven around in Quetta these days...

In 2009, Nagl and his 'bible' in particular drove me crazy. First he preached that you are supposed to understand what constitutes legitimacy in the local culture, and build on it an adequate system. While this political reform is what he and Petraeus preached as necessary precondition for going to steps of economic development and security operations, when called to do just in the end of 2009, they all recoiled and voted for imposing a political mechanism alien to the culture, which was then not even implemented along its own rules. So in the absence of political reform, the project was doomed from the start in 2009, and I felt very sorry for the many Americans and others who were burnt mentally or physically in this venture.

@Philippe T. - the common enemy effect was well described in a series of articles by Malcolm Yapp. Worth reading them. His 'Disturbances in Eastern Afghanistan' (BSOAS 1962) were an answer to Nikita Khalfin's thesis that there was an Afghan national sentiment emerging through the joint opposition to invaders. As described in great detail by Dalrymple's book, there was no such national sentiment. I had searched myself for such protonationalisms in the region and came up empty. Each hopeful incipient dynasty (dawla is also used for state and interchangeable with government - hukuma) comes up with some more or less legitimator language, mostly geared towards other powers in the region.

Your observation of Pashtun tribal code over sharia is of course correct. But as far as the Taliban were concerned, they went to great lengths to change this from 1994 onwards. By 2000 they had to put down armed rebellions in the Pashtun heartland over this matter. While they play on Pashtun ethnic sentiment and the belief that Pashtuns are destined to rule, the agenda under 'ita'at-i amir' (obedience to the Amir) is ultimately to abandon the ethnic baggage - as useful as it is for the moment and as difficult this is for many Taliban leaders in private.

One factor easing the jettisoning of the Pashtun nationalist element is clearly that traditional culture favors the elite, and the Taliban come out of the impoverished rural population, which had not much in the sense of rights in traditional Pashtun society.

@ FB Ali and Babak Makkinejad - In my experience the Pashtun language in Pakistan is noticeably different from each of the three rural dialect groups, and large populations of Pashtuns in Karachi and other urban centers have adapted to what goes for mainstream subcontinental culture. You ca go back to the Delhi sultanate days and see a gradual integration of the Pashtun upper crust, as well as their language into then Persianate Indian culture. This is well more than just adapting loanwords. Case in point is the most recent biography of Amir al-Muminin Mullah Omar published by his former propaganda minister (Abdulhayy Mutmaen), an Afghan who lived a lot of time in Pakistan by now. Review here by an Afghan journalist: http://www.rohi.af/fullstory.php?id=56908

@ mike - The Daeshis in Afghanistan have nearly all grown out of the Taliban movement, and in many cases split over the question whether or not an Ishakzay should replace a Hotak at the helm. Too soon to forget about what spawned them. And IRGC never left, contrary to popular impression. Their people and the Tajiks working for the Russians were politely told in October 2001 to stay clear of the Americans and obliged their hosts. Easy to blend into the background. The shrine on par with Sayyida Zainab's is Ali's grave in Mazar. And they are on it.


Phillippe T

The debate organization set the question, not I. pl


Phillippe T

We introduced Stinger into the war to force the soviet helicopter gunships down to low altitudes where heavy machine guns could knock them down. That worked well. New subject: by the last year of the war the muj had captured so many armored vehicles that we were going to help them form armored units. pl

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