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22 December 2019


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No head of state can take a decision of that magnitude and see it through. The sheer weight of arithmetical probability ensures that cannot happen.

We already discussed SIGAR's yearly reports in one previous post some weeks ago. In the same post, we also discussed the UNODC yearly report.

Both these reports are published yearly and should be required reading for, if nobody else, the press corps at the very least.

But they are not required reading.

Along the years, there have been many damning reports that seemingly never made an impact in the minds of people whose job it is to ask fundamental questions, such as: "How?!"

Vanity Fair's "Billions Over Baghdad" comes to mind. Or the Pentagon's $500M paid to the British PR firm Bell Pottinger to produce AQ videos.

There are dozens of other reports that have come out over the years but that elicited no curiosity at all, let alone any investigation or action. One of my all time favorites, reported by major Western news outlets, is when Libyan rebels in the midst of the mayhem circa 2011 reportedly declared they were going to set up a central bank. If that does not elicit a guffaw I don't know what could.

The Afghanistan Papers are not news to anyone that has followed this even from a distance. Mostly however, this is not news to anyone that has a basic understanding of sovereign fiscality and monetary policy.

Though the technology changes, thus also the timeline, the dynamic is the same throughout history.

The cycle is well known and it always carries through to its logical end because man has an innate belief that, this time, we can overcome the arithmetical reality of our actions.

The President of the USofA has no power to turn this ship around. The seat of power is no longer residing in the hands of civilian/political actors prime ministers or presidents though they may be.

Sovereign bankruptcy always and everywhere ensures that the security apparatus eventually takes over policy. This is an arithmetical identity and it is inescapable.

It was inescapable for ancient civilizations as it was for the Romans.

Fiscal reality trumps all. The timeline changes but the result is always the same.

Mathias Alexander

If someone wanted to destabilize China,Russia and Central Asia the parts of Afghanistan America controls might be usefull for that.


Excellent, right up to the last sentence. SJWs are mere tools of people like George Soros and have zero anti-war agenda nor do they care about America’s manufacturing base ect.. In fact, many are chomping at the bit to join, what was once termed in the SST comments, the LGBTQ-C4ISR sect. I refer you to mayor Pete’s exchange with Tulsi on the matter; he even invoked our sacred honor as a reason to stay the course in Afghanistan.


For the past 2-3 years many generals and politicians have been using the threat of ISKP as the new bogeyman for staying in Afghanistan. This threat is not wholly unfounded, a disproportionately large number of US airstrikes since 2015-2016 have been against ISKP in Nangarhar(remember the MOAB?) rather than against the Taliban. If my memory serves me correctly ISKP was responsible for every single US casualty in 2016-2017. In the past two months however ISKP has been collapsing in its erstwhile stronghold of Nangarhar, surrendering to the ANA rather than fall into the hands of the Taliba,à la Jowzjan in summer 2018. I was very surprised by the number of foreign fighters and their families to come out of there. We have the Taliban to thank for these two collapses.


TTG What is the "Six Sigma" mindset?



IMO American "exceptionalism" doomed our effort in Afghanistan Very few of us are set up mentally to accept the notion that other peoples are legitimately different from us and that they don't want to be like us and do things our way. I attribute this deformation on our part to the puritan heritage that you much admire. In your case your recent immigrant past seems to have immunized you from this deformation. As SF men we rightly fear and dread the attitudes of The Big Army, but, truth be told, it is we who are the outlier freaks in the context of American culture with its steamroller approach to just about everything.


Does it have more then a historical meaning in hindsight?

“In the interviews, more than 400 insiders offered unrestrained criticism of what went wrong in Afghanistan and how the United States became mired in ...

What went wrong? Only? Seriously?

Never mind the huge wave of "Western" sympathy post 9/11. Concerning Afghanistan? But ... Did it make sense ... to start with?


Happy holidays to you, your family, including your son and of cause to everyone else around. Happy Hankukkah or whatever holidays may occur around the winter soltice.

The Twisted Genius

Six Sigma is a management approach that uses data and statistics to improve business processes and reduce variation. It's geared toward manufacturing. It was the rage for a while in DIA with all kinds of seminars and courses with different colored belts for completing the courses. In my opinion, it was pure bullshit. I avoided them like the plague. We should have been giving leadership studies and seminars.

The Twisted Genius

JMH, you're forgetting the peacenik hippie wing of the SJWs. Those who read "Mother Earth News" and "Laudato Si" with equal fervor.

The Twisted Genius

Ah yes, all that shining city on the hill stuff biting us in the ass once again. Like the Puritans, we seem to believe we alone are His chosen people and are utterly shocked that all others don't see this. In truth, Jesus probably sees our self righteous selves and our pilgrim forefathers much as he saw the Pharisees... a bunch of douche nozzles.


TTG wrote: "Trump can break the cycle. He holds no ideological conviction for staying in Afghanistan."

That is correct and wrong IMHO:

Trump has no ideological conviction in the narrow political sense, therefore, he would be a good candidate.

OTOH Trump wants to be a winner, retreating from Afghanistan, however, may create a loser image Trump does not like.

My bet is, there will not be any substantial change.

The Twisted Genius

Vig, it's not just history. It's our current policy and military action.

Merry Christmas to you, too, vig. One of my brothers, the one who lives in a Puerto Rican rain forest, took my father down to the Mohegan Sun today for a little casino action. It's part of his 90th birthday celebration.

The Twisted Genius

Ulenspiegel, I'm hoping Trump can spin a withdrawal as a win. If anyone can do so, it's him. The SIGAR study seems to indicate we're losers for staying there.


Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan, by Rajiv Chandrasekaran provides useful insight into many challenges that go beyond those in the brief summary of the “Afghanistan papers” through “Obama’s surge”. Some key points I recall were that some relevant federal agencies like USAID had lost any capability to do useful work (not just in Afghanistan) and that there was no central military command as the Marines had managed to report directly out of country (not through Petraeus, which I had never realized) and were apparently primarily focused on their image. This book also began with describing the delusional US Afghanistan aid policy in the 1950’s, creating a “little America” in country as a vision for their future.

Eric Newhill

Thank you for this post, TTG.

This is personal to me as well as significant to me as an American. My son is 100% disabled from a head wound received in combat in Afghanistan, in 2012, long after we should have left. When he was in ROTC and decided to branch into combat arms we discussed what that might mean in terms of becoming a casualty and he told me that he was at least as capable as leading in combat as anyone else and could not shirk that duty and pass it off onto someone else just to be safe; which made me very proud of him. He could not imagine that his life would be wasted in an effort that was known at the time to be so completely futile regarding anything beyond his personal honor and the men under his command.

On a less intense personal note, I just got done ticking off an old friend who had been over at the DoD working on DARPA for 10 or more years and who had tried to reconnect with me. He has severe TDS and tells me that one of Trump's big failures is not listening more to the military and IC. In fact, he seems to think that Trump should just rubber stamp whatever they propose. I told him that, for me, it is good that Trump isn't mindlessly adhering to whatever those people tell him to do. This guy has become a deep stater to the marrow. When we were close friends, he was not about that at all. Somehow he has lost his way.

Yes, Trump should promote this story. So we can get out of there and so maybe it won't be repeated.

Eric Newhill

It's a shrinking cohort. For some of these types, their TDS is actually causing them to side with the CIA and military. Enemy of my enemy.....and since there's no draft, they have no skin in that game.

Eric Newhill

The promise of the Six Sigma approach is one of those hobgoblins of bureaucratic small minds. If you are critical of it, the cult considers you to be an unredeemable luddite.



"After several years at war, we were still totally reliant on interpreters in both Afghanistan and Iraq"

That pretty much says it all. Why bother when in just another Freidman Unit we'll win!



I agree with all of that. The Mathers should have been strangled with their umbilical cords. Actually I should have widened my condemnation to ALL Calvinist cultural influences in the US



There have been various charlatans who have tried to reduce intelligence work to a science. They have all failed because intelligence is about humans and humans are more complex than that unless you are dealing with something like water depths in the lagoon at Tarawa.


Ah yes, the water depths in the lagoon at Tarawa,
my father was there.
I was told that there was an expert from New Zealand who told the USA Navy NOT to attack at the appointed hour, that the tides would be too low and they would be stranded. USA Navy ignored his expertise, attacked, got stranded and were easy targets.

Babak Makkinejad

Yes, true. I read that account myself. The commanding officer ignored that piece of information


Mohegan Sun
Hmmm? Interesting context. ...

It's part of his 90th birthday celebration.

Close to the same age as my father and apparently 'his' birthday is close 'to my brother's'. ;)

If I may:
I was the Chief of our Afghan Task Force for a six month period that year.

Some type of coordination job?


I have been bemused over the years by many reports from SIGAR. None of them ever got much media coverage, and some of them were truly appalling. Like the $43 Million gas station https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/11/02/pentagon-afghanistan-gas-station-boondoggle/75037032/ I'm pretty sure if Turcopole were to visit Afghanistan again he would find they are still utterly dependent on native interpreters, and that no more than two or three commanders have even a smattering of Dari or Pashto. They still do not know who are the "good guys" and who are the "bad guys," where they hang out, what they are doing.

Eric Newhill

Not true. There were no nautical charts of Tarawa and some Kiwis who knew the islands somewhat were consulted. The Kiwis said that the tides at that time of morning would provide ample (about a foot extra) clearance over the reef; which was generally true. However, on that fateful morning there was a rare - albeit not unheard of - phenomenon that caused the tides to behave unusually and to be lower than expected.

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