Monday, 7 September 2009

The Afghanistan Quagmire by Alan Caruba

In November 2008, I wrote of Afghanistan, “Having lived through the long years of the war in Vietnam, I can tell you that Afghanistan looks and smells like Vietnam. It is the classic wrong war in the wrong place.”

I still think the U.S. should leave. I don’t like having to pack up and abandon Afghanistan to its fate, but Afghanistan’s fate has been fought over for centuries and, in the modern era, it has defied any invasion or intrusion into its affairs.

It is in a very bad neighborhood that includes Russia, Iran, and the worst basket case of all, Pakistan. The Afghans and Pakistanis mutually despise each other.

When someone like Adm. Mike Mullen, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the situation in Afghanistan has been “deteriorating” over the past few years and that the “Taliban insurgency has gotten more sophisticated”, as he did on August 23, you better pay attention.

More importantly, the White House had better pay attention. The Admiral is trying to send it a message. He said, for example, he was “extremely concerned” about the recent bombings in Iraq. Speaking on CNN’s ‘State of the Nation’, it was no secret that the man overseeing the greatest military on Earth was warning that it is ill-equipped to deal with insurgencies short of the massive infusion of manpower.

We tried that in Vietnam. It didn’t work. The former Soviets tried that in Afghanistan. It didn’t work. The invasions were successful in turning both places into slaughterhouses. History cries out against foreign engagement in this feeble excuse for a nation.

The U.S. justification for the waging of war is because 9/11 was planned there. It is a fallacy. The next attack on America can be planned anywhere. Al Qaeda does not need Afghanistan to do that.

Specifically, the last general charged with succeeding in Afghanistan asked for and was denied 10,000 more troops. Then he was replaced.

All during the long years of the war in Vietnam, Americans were told that another increase of troops would turn the tide, but we know now what the White House knew then; there was no indigenous enthusiasm for the South Vietnamese generals and even less for the Americans. Both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon knew we could not win a war there and some 57,000 American dead is their ugly legacy.

We have been in Afghanistan since 9/11 when we enjoyed an initial success chasing out the Taliban and al Qaeda. That was accomplished, not by a massive U.S. troop infusion, but by hiring its northern tribes who were opposed to the Taliban, intruders from across the border in Pakistan, in combination with our extraordinary air power. Earlier, during the years of the Soviet invasion, the U.S. provided massive amounts of money and weapons to Afghan tribes, some which were led by notorious drug lords.

The Taliban are back. The Afghans are tired of American troops in their midst and you can largely dismiss the smaller numbers of troops from “coalition” nations because they are window-dressing. This does not diminish the casualties they have sustained, but it does acknowledge their very reluctant participation.

Long ago, the British learned that Afghanistan is a place where empires go to die.

Virtually every military expert agrees that Afghanistan is the last place on Earth for a modern army to wage war and that includes every NATO general. It no doubt includes the Russians whose invasion ultimately brought down the former Soviet Union. That whole game was part of the larger Cold War.

Afghanistan never was much of a “nation” though it was relatively calm when Afghan dynasties ruled from around the 1700s into the last century. In terms of foreign policy, the U.S. had largely ignored Afghanistan for decades.

The notion that democracy as practiced in the West can be transplanted there is farcical though some previous Afghan regimes had made progress to free women from Islamic subjugation. Efforts toward modernization have always been painfully slow there.

Since the 1700s the primary export from Afghanistan has been heroin and it remains so today. Other than growing poppies, there’s not much that passes for an economy there. It doesn’t matter who’s elected because the business of Afghanistan is opium. American troops will not alter that.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan has been going on since 2001, but Americans dislike long wars. We fought a long one and a wrong one in Vietnam. They serve no purpose. Our military exists to kill people and smash things. Nation building is not one of its skill sets, nor should it be.

Right now Americans are distracted by the battles over the hideous healthcare reform bill and Cap-and-Trade. Americans rightfully fear that those in control of our government are deliberately bankrupting the nation. In increasing numbers they have concluded that electing Obama president was a very bad idea.

It is unfortunate that we measure wars by the number of casualties, but they will continue in Afghanistan and, when Americans at last turn their collective attention to them, the pressure to withdraw from Afghanistan will mount.

I confess that the strategic reasons for being there defy my understanding, other than its proximity to Pakistan. It sounds to me like the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs wants to leave and for very good reasons that date back at least three centuries and longer.

The war on terror will go on until we kill as many of the leadership of al Qaeda as possible. When it becomes too lethal to join al Qaeda, its members will go back to herding goats. It is a war that can and should be fought covertly and as viciously as possible. Alan blogs here



STORMBRINGER responds.............


In November 2008, I wrote of Afghanistan, “Having lived through the long years of the war in Vietnam, I can tell you that Afghanistan looks and smells like Vietnam. It is the classic wrong war in the wrong place.”

A) Vietnam had a homogenous culture, Afghanistan is tribal, disunited.

B) We lost almost 50,000 in Vietnam over 10 years. To date US has lost 816 over 8 years in Afghanistan – i.e. Afghanistan is not Vietnam

C) US had draftees in Vietnam and forces were demoralized and plagued by drug use, desertions, crime within the ranks etc; by contrast, the US forces in Afghanistan are all-volunteer and morale is high, enlistments and re-enlistments are a highest levels.

It is in a very bad neighborhood that includes Russia, Iran, and the worst basket case of all, Pakistan. The Afghans and Pakistanis mutually despise each other.

Probably good reason why we should maintain a presence – to keep all the shithead countries in line.

When someone like Adm. Mike Mullen, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that the situation in Afghanistan has been “deteriorating” over the past few years and that the “Taliban insurgency has gotten more sophisticated”, as he did on August 23, you better pay attention.

Agreed. As I recall, a year ago the Democratic Presidential contenders were calling Iraq “. . . the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time,” that it was detracting our efforts, attention & resources from the RIGHT war, which was Afghanistan. What a difference a year makes, eh?

Which just proves: “A retreating enemy is probably just falling back and regrouping.” – Murphy’s Law of Combat Rule # 20.

More importantly, the White House had better pay attention. The Admiral is trying to send it a message. He said, for example, he was “extremely concerned” about the recent bombings in Iraq. Speaking on CNN’s ‘State of the Nation’, it was no secret that the man overseeing the greatest military on Earth was warning that it is ill-equipped to deal with insurgencies short of the massive infusion of manpower.

We tried that in Vietnam. It didn’t work. The former Soviets tried that in Afghanistan. It didn’t work. The invasions were successful in turning both places into slaughterhouses. History cries out against foreign engagement in this feeble excuse for a nation.

I agree – Afghanistan was taken by US and British Commonwealth Special Operations Forces. The conventional military saw that as a threat to their entire raison d’etre and had to wade in; things started going down hill from that point on, and were further f*cked up when we let NATO take over and try to run things.

The U.S. justification for the waging of war is because 9/11 was planned there. It is a fallacy. The next attack on America can be planned anywhere. Al Qaeda does not need Afghanistan to do that.

True, but we own Afghanistan now. Why let it slide back to what it was on 10 September, 2001? Cheaper to hold on to what we’ve got, than to let it go and become a twelve-year festering sore like Iraq was in the 90’s and early 00’s.

Specifically, the last general charged with succeeding in Afghanistan asked for and was denied 10,000 more troops. Then he was replaced.

Yes, he was a conventional. He was replaced by McChrystal, who is Special Operations. Now the Whitehouse has to unfetter McChrystal’s hands, let him fight the war without overly constraining Rules of Engagement (ROE’s). I addressed this in June:

UPDATE AFGHANISTAN: GEN STANLEY McCHRYSTAL

All during the long years of the war in Vietnam, Americans were told that another increase of troops would turn the tide, but we know now what the White House knew then; there was no indigenous enthusiasm for the South Vietnamese generals and even less for the Americans. Both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon knew we could not win a war there and some 57,000 American dead is their ugly legacy.

This is wrong on two aspects: we beat the Viets after the Tet Offensive in 1968, but the press (led by Uncle Walter Cronkite) handed a morale victory over to the Communists. We could have followed that tactical victory with a successful invasion of the north and a crushing defeat of the Communist government in Hanoi. The Viets were amazed that we didn’t.

Nixon bombed the Viets to the negotiating tables during the 1973 Christmas carpet-bombing of Hanoi. They’d had enough, they were done. Anything to stop the bombings. Once again, we failed to follow through on this tactical victory.

This was a failure of will to win, a failure of unity of command – NOT a failure on the battlefield. During the entire Vietnam War, the United States NEVER lost a significant battle.

We have been in Afghanistan since 9/11 when we enjoyed an initial success chasing out the Taliban and al Qaeda. That was accomplished, not by a massive U.S. troop infusion, but by hiring its northern tribes who were opposed to the Taliban, intruders from across the border in Pakistan, in combination with our extraordinary air power. Earlier, during the years of the Soviet invasion, the U.S. provided massive amounts of money and weapons to Afghan tribes, some which were led by notorious drug lords.

Who do you think achieved this? United States Special Operations Forces, and the CIA. It was only after we turned efforts over to the conventionals and NATO that things went down the toilet.

Long ago, the British learned that Afghanistan is a place where empires go to die.

Maybe so, but the United States is not an empire, no matter how much the America-haters wish to portray it as such. We never went to Afghanistan to conquer; rather, we went to liberate. The United States is the only country that ever invaded other countries with the purpose of liberation; we have a one-hundred year history of this.

Virtually every military expert agrees that Afghanistan is the last place on Earth for a modern army to wage war and that includes every NATO general. It no doubt includes the Russians whose invasion ultimately brought down the former Soviet Union. That whole game was part of the larger Cold War.

Of course! The conventionals MUCH preferred the idea of rolling tank columns across Kuwait and Iraq. That is the war they trained and prepared for at Ft. Irwin and the plains of Central Europe throughout the Cold War.

Afghanistan never was much of a “nation” though it was relatively calm when Afghan dynasties ruled from around the 1700s into the last century. In terms of foreign policy, the U.S. had largely ignored Afghanistan for decades.

He contradicts himself here; where he pointed out how we supported the Mujahadeen against the Russians during the 1980s.


The notion that democracy as practiced in the West can be transplanted there is farcical though some previous Afghan regimes had made progress to free women from Islamic subjugation. Efforts toward modernization have always been painfully slow there.

Let me see if I got it here: things are getting hard so we should let the Afghans revert to subjugation of females, to include female circumcision, etc. Got it.

Since the 1700s the primary export from Afghanistan has been heroin and it remains so today. Other than growing poppies, there’s not much that passes for an economy there. It doesn’t matter who’s elected because the business of Afghanistan is opium. American troops will not alter that.

We could spray herbicides on the poppy fields, like we do to marijuana and coca growing operations in Central and South America. We know where all 500-odd poppy fields are located.

The U.S. war in Afghanistan has been going on since 2001, but Americans dislike long wars. We fought a long one and a wrong one in Vietnam. They serve no purpose. Our military exists to kill people and smash things. Nation building is not one of its skill sets, nor should it be.

The war in Vietnam was a righteous cause – as evidenced by the bloodbath the Communists unleashed on the South after we withdrew; we were fighting to defend the people there from slavery and mass murder.

News alert: our military does NOT exist to “kill people and smash things” – this is an insult to any professional soldier, myself included. The military exists to defend America’s liberty from enemies foreign and domestic. Sometimes this involves “killing people and breaking things.” Funny how nobody complained when we were nation-building in the Balkans – REMINDER: the nation building in the former Yugoslavia could only take place after we killed a lot of people and broke a lot of things. But it DID take place, and it was the military doing it. Same as the significant progress our military Civil Affairs units are having, building schools, clinics, hospitals, power plants, etc, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is unfortunate that we measure wars by the number of casualties, but they will continue in Afghanistan and, when Americans at last turn their collective attention to them, the pressure to withdraw from Afghanistan will mount.

Progress in wars should NEVER be measured by number of casualties – this was one of the big fallacies of the Vietnam conflict. The press hangs on to body-count math as a device to further their loser agenda. Funny thing is if you go by body-counts, we are cleaning the enemy’s clocks, kicking their asses.

The war on terror will go on until we kill as many of the leadership of al Qaeda as possible. When it becomes too lethal to join al Qaeda, its members will go back to herding goats. It is a war that can and should be fought covertly and as viciously as possible.

This guy confirms what I’ve been saying about Special Operations all along. So why give up a good fortress; i.e. Afghanistan – hand it back to the enemy, when we can continue to occupy it and kick terrorist ass?

This writer sets himself up as some kind of expert; I would like to ask what are this writer’s formal military credentials?



SEAN LINNANE SENDS

2 comments:

Regional said...

The war must be carried to the enemies heartland conforming to the time proven doctrine of defence, withdrawal and advance.

courtneyme109 said...

excellent counter Sean. Well done.