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15 December 2019


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Babak Makkinejad

Shia do not consider that the true resting place of Imam Ali, many in Afghanistan do not either.

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for your comments.

But you guys are funny, in a way; where a strong nation exist, you try to weaken it and where none exists you try to create one.


Wunduk -

Thanks for the response. Although the Ishakzay vs Hotak reference escapes me. I thought they were both subtribes of the Ghilzai. What is the issue between them?


Only at the risk of impeachment, which would be forthcoming on the grounds of "high crimes," for not protecting the country (in the opinion of Congress).

At best he could skillfully foot-drag.


I'm thinking this is an 'Idlib can wait' situation.


Mike - Ishakzay are one of the five Ghilzay tribes who joined the Abdalis and became 'honorific' Durranis back in the 1730s. Today the are called Panjpay Durrani.
Got frequently land grants from the monarchy in various parts of Afghanistan, sometimes land previously held by 'rebels' (read: Ghilzay).
Also it's large opium-farming operations with vertically integrated cross-border value generation oppose to poor pastoralists on marginal land.
On the other hand, the Hotakis have the claim to have once headed a mighty empire up to the treacherous alliance between some tribes (Abdalis) and the Iranians...

Keith Harbaugh

The first of the following two articles gives the standard argument (which I don't agree with)
for "staying the course" in Afghanistan;
the second makes, essentially, the standard argument on
the problems of that approach:

“Getting an Edge in the Long Afghan Struggle”
Trump’s early approach holds promise
if backed with a sustained, and sustainable, commitment.

by David Petraeus and Michael O'Hanlon, 2017-06-22

From the Petraeus and O'Hanlon article:

America's leaders should not lose sight of
why the U.S. went to, and has stayed in, Afghanistan:
It is in our national interest to ensure that country
is not once again a sanctuary for transnational extremists,
as it was when the 9/11 attacks were planned there.
In Afghanistan today, the military needs to revisit the phase of the mission it largely skipped in the years after the surge of 2010-12 or so,
when it downsized too quickly and too far.
This approach will not achieve "victory" in Afghanistan,
after which all troops can be withdrawn.
That is an impossible goal in the near-term.
But it will be sustainable and it can improve the prospects of
shoring up our eastern flank
in the broader battle against Islamist extremism --
a fight that likely is to be a generational struggle.

The problems with that approach are certainly emphasized in:

“President Trump: The only America First Afghan policy
is to get out of Afghanistan”

by Michael Scheuer, 2017-07-26

In my (KH's) opinion,
what is needed is a good critique for the argument,
presented in numerous places, that
if the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan
it will become an effective center for future devastating attacks against the West.

Note that even Scheuer's article, as far as I can see,
does not address that argument.

You (the SST contributors) can discuss ad infinitum the internal problems and characteristics of Afghanistan,
but those discussions don't seem to do much to counter the statement italicized above.

BTW, if anyone is wondering, my opinion is that
the U.S. should get out of Afghanistan
and fight the "war against terrorism" internally in the U.S.
and through NSA/CIA activities.
But that's just my opinion, and doesn't explicitly counter
what was italicized above.


@ KH - the tendencies for the Afghans, more particularly the Taliban and from among their midst the newer ISKP guys to veer on a course of support for international jihadist forces have been demonstrated from the early 19th century on, when with Sayyid Ahmad Barelvy the first of many non-Pashtun leaders rose against what he saw the unbearable rule of non-Muslims who based himself in today's AfPak borderlands (he was killed in the battle of Balakot 1831 by the Sikh army, officered by European Napoleonic officers in service of Ranjit Singh). In the whole region from the 1700s a 'resistance' formed against Iranian Shia, Sikh and later British and Russian encroachment. This was from the start framed in the language of jihad against non-Sunni Muslims and built on an even longer duration tradition of expansion of the faith through military means.

This being a long term trend, it is worth noting that there was a counter-trend too. Locals did not all jump on the bandwagon, and the Barakzay sardars of Peshawar, the Yusufzai Amirs of Swat and the Mehter of Chitral were the first to cooperate with the Sikhs against 'Mad Mullah' Barelvy.

So if the threat cannot be discounted, that if this faction wins, it will be time for OBL 2.0. But there are of course alternatives to stay with military forces in Afghanistan forever. I am more than wary of what Petraeus, O'Hanlon are promoting. Supporting whatever power which locally manages the threat is a good alternative.

In Colonel Lang's statement in the 2009 discussion I was struck by his reference to size of the area in which a COIN campaign is undertaken. In order to achieve stability in a contest over legitimacy, our allies need to have the benefit of attempting it on a manageable scale. Protecting them from becoming overstretched would be a good strategic advice.

Princely states of the frontier in the 19th century were an answer to that threat that did not require troops deployed. A certain level of homogeneity helped bind every one who mattered to his lordship in every state. Among his retainers were technical specialists (foreigners), who maintained a force at his disposal which would have better capabilities than the rest of his subjects. Not more. Sometimes these were officers deputized by British India, sometimes they were adventurers who were encouraged to join the service of this or that lord.

The disappearance of the small principalities has led to a loss in quality over territorial control. The new elites in Kabul and Karachi/Islamabad saw no value in maintaining the archaic systems and did away with these feudal structures. Their revenue stream came from customs, export duties and international rent payments. It would do a lot of good in my opinion to revive the smaller units in both countries, maybe even in today's Central Asia, and maybe under the umbrella of confederations headquartered in today's national capitals.

Would this be practicable today? In my opinion, Somaliland took this route and has things to show, being still under the roof of Somalia. While no perfect state, it at least does not require constant garrisoning.



I suppose I am influenced in my thought of how much land a native regime should try to control with the resources available by Ibn Khaldun's idea of the division of all such theoretical domains into bilad al makhzan (the retained or retainable area) and bilad al-siba (the uncontrollable area). north Yemen when I lived there was exactly like that and the government's practical reach was quite limited of necessity. You could draw lines on the ground to mark the extent. pl

Babak Makkinejad

Thank you for upbringing forth the salience of anti-Shia sentiment in the formation of what used to be Afghanistan. Cut-off from the source of their civilization, there was only one way left for them and that was down, down, down.

In your comments about Central Asia I think you are not going far enough; one has to envision a situation in which the Soviet structures - an offshoot of the European Enlightenment - decay and disintegrate - just as those of the Western Colonial states did after the independence drive after World War II.

Philippe T.

You are right.
I witnessed the fact that the DaShKas and ZiGoYaks have shot down much more helicopters than the Stingers did, during the second half of the 80'. I didn't know that this was the outcome of a voluntary tactic. Anyway, as a result, the Red Army and the Afghan régime had to abandon many outposts, subdisctricts and disctricts centers, which became undefendable without helicopters to supply/defend them. The Mujaheddins, therefore, captured a lot of military equipment as "ghanimat" (booty).

Philippe T.

Yes, sorry for the "raccourci".

Philippe T.

Here is a recent interview of Colonel Philippe Sidos, in the specialized publication "DSI" (in French) : http://www.areion24.news/2017/01/20/analyse-militaire-de-guerre-sovietique-afghanistan/

scott s.

I am interested in US Army's creation of "Security Force Assistance Brigades" and the call for a Div and even Corps HQ. Seems like a permanent war for Afghan?


Wrong! "Military success" has not been had. That implies seizing and holding ground until at some point the enemy loses the will to keep fighting.

To put it another way; Win battles? Certainly! Break the Afghan will to fight? Never!



Yes, but I was right and Mattis is now trying to make a deal with the Taliban. pl


scott s

IMO they are just creating structures so they can have a large number of generals in the "club." pl

Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

It's all part of Brzezinski's Gran Chesboard - The US can threaten Iran, Russia and China from Afghanistan. And most of the dying is being done by Afghans, so who cares? "Let it Bleed"


From the Petraeus and O'Hanlon article:

America's leaders should not lose sight of
why the U.S. went to, and has stayed in, Afghanistan:
It is in our national interest to ensure that country
is not once again a sanctuary for transnational extremists,
as it was when the 9/11 attacks were planned there.

End Quote

That justification is stupid on so many levels as to be obviously a complete lie. They can't be stupid enough to believe that excuse.

1) It's next to impossible to prevent extremists from setting up camps in a country like Afghanistan where the terrain is insane and the government weak. The US just spent 14 years and billions of dollars trying and obviously has failed miserably, irregardless of whether there are "sanctuaries in Pakistan".

If you can't control them in Afghanistan, how the hell are you going to control them in Pakistan, which is the same thing separated by an imaginary border?

2) Why use military means to achieve this? Why not try bribery?

3) Why not try the same law enforcement - counter-intelligence methods that have worked against other extremist groups?

4) Would Betrayus and O'Hanlon like to tell us how they would achieve this when 14 years and hundreds of billions of dollars have not succeeded? How does "stay the course" actually change the outcome?

5) Since these guys don't get the phrase "pissing money down a black hole", clearly what matters to them is precisely that money (and their careers and influence) and nothing whatever to do with 9/11 or actually doing something that effectively defends the US from terrorists.

And contrary to what FB Ali suggests, there was no logic or reason to invade Afghanistan at all to get bin laden. Not to mention they DIDN'T get him for how many years? Knocking over the Taliban was NOT necessary at all. All Bush had to do was provide evidence to the Taliban that bin Laden was involved in 9/11 and they had suggested they would turn him over to a neutral country for trial. Bush couldn't be bothered. An oil pipeline and the heroin trade was much more attractive.


OE I suspect it is possible and that it is just location/moderation/guests and audience. This audience are looking for reasoned argument which is what will sway them. What you get in a typical MSM slanging match is entertainment with the possibility of cementing the opinions that were already with you. Horses-for-courses, in my case the first may work and the second is unbearable to sit through.


"where none exists you try to create one" you omitted the words " ...a weak..." or maybe that was just so obvious that it was assumed.


General Petraeus is not the sharpest spork in the drawer.
There is no purpose to the American presence in Afghanistan, there is also no definition of what victory would be.
The theorists in the American military can be successfully inserted into two cubby holes.
1) Coindinista
2) Summer's Soldiers.
The underlying assumption of the Coindinista is that the nation we wish to hammer is run by Quislings and McCains. Enough baksheesh enough unctuous oils, enough fresh orange juice, enough pie in the sky and we win ... something.
The underlying assumption of the Summer's Soldier is that the nation we wish to hammer is run by nationalists, Churchills, never give up patriots. Enough bomb them back to the stone age, enough genocide and we win ... something.
I am learning to appreciate the ability to put complex things into cubbyholes.



Which "SHAPIRO" movie? I have never heard of this film, and I can't find any film called SHAPIRO or related to a guy named Shapiro. I would be very interested to see a film that depicts Afghanistan from the Russian point of view. Very interested.



Ah - Restrepo. Yes, I have seen that.

I walked into the Military Museum in Kiev maybe 12 years ago and there was a poster on the wall of a Soviet soldier cradling an Afghan baby and smiling at the camera. My world spun around for a few seconds. It can be quite educational to see things from other people's points of view.


@Philippe.T @turcopolier It should be noted that while "Stinger" had effects in Soviet Operations in Afghanistan - It did however get mitigated somewhat with Compromises, Tactics and Countermeasures that rendered the Problem far less severe by 1988... To late for many but that is War.

When the Stingers first came to notice, Soviet Teams were in competition to be first in Collecting a Sample, At least 3 such were captured in Operations Jan 1987..

A long side increasing use of Flares, Helicopters would work in duos as seen in Syria Today, one pair covering the rear of the other as they would cycle around the Battlefield at low altitude and high speed. Air Fields saw increased security Patrols, higher Angle of Descent for Transport Aviation and the use of Helicopter 'Escorts' to protect higher value Transport. For other Aircraft who could afford it, it could and often did mean increased Altitude decreasing effectiveness (The Soviet War in Afghanistan was somewhat done 'On the Cheap' in terms of some Provisions)

None the less as the Colonel Points out this appears to have been a result of Valid Tactics that whilst 'On the Cheap' in essence no different to Soviet Intentions of Integrated Air Defense that made up PVO (and Todays VKS), Interconnected Systems forcing an Aircraft from one Zone in to another.. That Stingers themselves may have been less effective than Advertised does not necessarily change influence - Pushing some Aviation in to ineffective Altitude and others lower into other Fire...
(Or in the Case of Airfields increasing the risk of otherwise Standard Take off and Landings)

At no Point I can think of right now were Soviet Forces unable to 'supply' or Access Towns, and Districts, though certainly this does not mean exactly 'Freedom of Action' in Contested Mountains, Regions.. More likely the reality is that even whilst arguing against the War from the enset having being forced to prosecute the War, the Armed Forces and KGB went with the approach you correctly noted before, Picking and Choosing some Battles and supporting some local Groups in negotiated Truces, Trades that could bring relative 'peace' to some Areas...

Afghan Forces in Terms of Operational Freedom and Aircraft Losses I am less able to speak of at this Point...

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