Posts Tagged ‘Af-Pak’

We’ve met the enemy in Afghanistan, and he’s changed

Roy Gutman. McClatchy Newspapers, 14 March 2010.


Today, although the United States and more than three dozen NATO allies and other countries are supporting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Taliban dominate a growing swath of territory, and their power trumps the government’s in three-quarters of the country.

Although they’re often portrayed as mindless fanatics, the militant Islamists’ “life experience” from their years in the wilderness, their study of American military tactics and their analysis of the Karzai government’s shortcomings have helped reverse their fortunes, U.S. intelligence experts say.

Strategic Withdrawal

Steve Coll. The New Yorker, 15 February 2010.


I have also heard it suggested, however, that the big and visible Helmand operation is being conceived as a sort of “demonstration project” of joint U.S. and Afghan security and governance capabilities – that “clear, hold, and build” there will be constructed as a sort of theme park of revived counterinsurgency practice.

Whatever the durability of the current operation, the Helmand River Valley is not likely to be this war’s decisive locus.

An alternative to COIN: It’s time to adapt our security strategy to leverage America’s conventional strengths

Bernard I. Finel. Armed Froces Journal International, February 2010.


A fundamental challenge in devising a strategy for the use of American military power is that the world has literally never seen anything like it. The U.S. today has military capabilities at least equal to the rest of the world combined. There is virtually no spot on the globe that could not be targeted by American forces, and at most a small handful of countries that could thwart a determined U.S. effort at regime change — and some of those only by virtue of their possession of nuclear weapons.

American military capabilities are not a potential form of power, subject to use only following a lengthy mobilizing and requiring a long campaign to achieve significant goals. Instead, the U.S. can destroy fixed locations in a matter of hours or at most days, and implement regime change in a matter of weeks or a few months.

Because this capability is so novel — dating only to the end of the Cold War — American strategists lack a clear framework to guide the utilization of this force. They have sought to match capabilities to conceptions of the use of force from a different era, one in which the Cold War made regime change unpalatable due to the risk of escalation and that tended to make localized setbacks appear as loses in a perceived zero-sum competition with the Soviets.

The reason, in other words, that the U.S. didn’t simply remove Fidel Castro from power was that after 1962, the international consequences seemed too high and the goal too risky. The reason American leaders felt compelled to engage in a lengthy counterinsurgency in Vietnam was the concern that a communist victory would have been a setback in the broader struggle. But imagine a world in which there were few or no international consequences to removing Castro from power, and imagine a world in which the commitment to Vietnam was strictly commensurate to the threat that the Vietnamese communists could pose to the U.S. That is the change in context that has occurred over the past 20 years, and the U.S. has not yet adapted.

Editor’s Comment:

And so many in the U.S. choose to ignore how this dominant military power motivates other nations to seek nuclear weaponry or hold tightly to those they have acquired already!

Obama wants extra $33 billion for wars now, atop record $708 billion sought for 2011

Anne Flaherty and Anne Gearan. Los Angeles Times, 13 January 2010.


The administration’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the main articulation of U.S. military doctrine, is due to Congress on Feb. 1. Top military commanders were briefed on the document at the Pentagon on Monday and Tuesday. They also received a preview of the administration’s budget plans through 2015.

The four-year review outlines six key mission areas and spells out capabilities and goals the Pentagon wants to develop. The pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a priority, with the goals of speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013.

Winslow T. Wheeler, Director, Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information has written a commentary on this report entitled “Just What We Need: More Pentagon Spending” for the Huffington Post, 13 January 2010.

Why COIN Will Fail in Afghanistan

J. Sigger. Arm Chair Generalist, 31 December 2009.

A Leak About the Phantom Army

Meteor Blades. Daily Kos, 30 December 2009.


…the Afghan National Army is a farce; there’s little chance of turning it into a cohesive fighting force; and there’s zero chance of doing so on a speedy timetable…

Majority Staff Memorandum prepared for Hearing on Afghanistan Contracts, Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, 16 December 2009

Majority Staff, Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, 16 December 2009. Hosted on the Commonwealth Institute website.


[The] number of Defense Department Contractors in Afghanistan May reach 160,000. There are currently 104,000 Defense Department contractors working in Afghanistan. The increase in troops may require an additional 56,000 Defense Department contractors, bringing the total number of Defense contractors in Afghanistan to 160,000.

Afghanistan’s never-ending challenge

H.D.S. Greenway. Boston Globe, 16 December 2009.


The enemy, then as now, always rallied to the reliable call of “jihad’’ against the infidel invaders no matter who they were. Of all the tribes, those of the Pashtuns were the most feared.

The motives for fighting in Afghanistan were fear, prestige, and retribution. The British feared Russian expansion, and always sought to put their man on the throne to do Britain’s bidding. Retribution always followed military setbacks, and national prestige was used as the reason to fight on. British control over Afghanistan was thought necessary for the defense of India.

Russia followed the same scenario, fearing that if Afghanistan’s pro-Communist government should fail, it would endanger Russia’s Muslim regions.

The United States invaded Afghanistan out of fear of Al Qaeda, and retribution for 9/11. And today you often hear the national prestige argument that we cannot let the Holy Warriors believe they can defeat a second superpower. More and more, America’s Afghan policy is tied into protecting the stability of Pakistan, once part of British India.