Taking the long view on Afghanistan

Taking the long view on Afghanistan

A panel of senior ex-military and defense experts had no easy answers Wednesday for the near-term challenges of sequestration, world financial crisis, the U.S. military build-down or dealing with the future of Afghanistan. Over the long-term, however, they said things might turn out all right.

In a session convened by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, retired Air Force Gen. Ronald Fogleman acknowledged that the next few years might not be so pleasant for the U.S. and Afghanistan — “The outlook is not all that good,” he said. But he urged the audience to open its aperture.

“I look at the Korea experience,” he said. “We came out of there with ‘an armistice,’ — as opposed to a clear victory — “y’know, it was ‘a tie.’ It was the first one we didn’t, ‘y’know, ‘win.’” At the time, the U.S. was deeply divided after a long, costly war, and the immediate aftermath was not ideal for Koreans, either. (Especially those in the North.)

Fifty years later, however, Fogleman said he was in South Korea with some veterans of the war, who looked around at the country’s progress and said, in his words: “I was glad I was here. I am glad the way this turned out. That may be the outcome for our troops” — in Afghanistan — “and it make take that long for that to happen. The public just has a short attention span.”

Retired Army Gen. Peter Chiarelli said he took a much different, darker lesson from Korea: He repeated his worry that the coming defense build-down would result in another Task Force Smith: An ill-equipped, unprepared American ground force nearly being defeated early in a future war.

Chiarelli also implied our inability today to see down the line had a flip side: He quoted a “former chief of the United States Army, who will go unnamed,” who told Chiarelli in the spring of 2003 that there would only be about three Army brigades left in Iraq by December of that year. At the time, Chiarelli was a little crestfallen, having just taken command of the 1st Cavalry Division and then learning he wouldn’t be able to take it to war. As it turned out, he did, and the Army stayed in Iraq until 2011.

Afghanistan probably will not look like South Korea in 50 years. It probably will look very much like it does today, with more Chinese international mines; a perpetual Haiti-style presence by an alphabet soup of international aid organizations; and probably  some contingent of foreign troops. Local warlords probably will rule large sections of it. It will probably not be a “Central Asian Roundabout” and few people in the year 2062 will confuse it with Switzerland.

Still, Fogleman is right, as far as it goes: If the Afghanistan of the future is a place where girls can go to school without being scarred or murdered; where a majority of the adult population can read; and which can deny the use of its territory by terrorists who hate civilization — it will have been an improvement. Whether that outcome will have been worth the price is one we can’t yet answer.

What do you think?

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Was it worth the price? Was it worth the price of nation building? No.

Given our fiscal problems I foresee future commitments falling off rapidly. Without that support the crooks we prop up will fold rapidly and the order of things will reestablish itself. Afghanistan will become a place of continued raids and drone strikes, sans the nation building.

Another lesson of why you can’t instill societal change from outside.

I wouldn’t look for much good news from Afghanistan. The world is likely to be a less stable place, and Afghanistan among the worst of it.

We have aging populations in the developed world; and rapid population growth in the underdeveloped world where competition for more limited resources is more acute. In the cyber domain, asymmetric threats have global reach, and vulnerabilities are increasing in the developed world. Whackjobs around the globe have access to vast resources of information to help them formulate their local terrorist mayhem.
“The Joint Operating Environment … provides a perspective on future trends, shocks, contexts, and implications for future joint force commanders and other leaders and professionals in the national security field. …is intended to serve as a starting point for discussions about the future security environment at the operational level of war.”

The message from the general is — losing isn’t so bad, and once you get used to it can become a culture a way of life — just look us in the US military.

I think I would frame this a bit differently. Much that was good in Afghanistan was destroyed by the PDPA coups and the Soviets. Then the warlords took over and continued the havoc. By the time we got there, Afghanistan was firmly entrenched in what Peter Tomsen calls the “shatter zone” — a bit worse that Somalia and problematic for many of the same reasons, plus an intrusive neighbor that harbours the insurgents for its own ends. If you want to do good by the Afghanis, I say: Just do it. Don’t give me your tale of woe or your measly excuses. Just do all the good you can with the resources you are given, and let the rest take care of itself. I think if we approached it this way without engaging our insufferable national ego, both we and the Afghans would be in a better place. But that does not mean cutting people like Hamid Karzai or the ISI any slack. You mess with our people, you get it right back. So choose.

And itfunk/oblat shows his true colors again.

Afghanistan is the keystone country of the U.S. Central Asia strategy — AKA The New Silk Road. There’s money to be made there, something that generals can’t get their minds around. They think OEF in Afghanistan had something to do with 9/11 and safe havens.

The current U.S. policy is to bring India into the AfPak theater. General McChrystal warned about this in Sep 2009, but it continues, and Pakistan doesn’t like it. The Paks naturally don’t want to be in an Indian sandwich.

Karzai is scheduled to leave office in Dec 2014 so the U.S. will replace him with another puppet aligned with the warlords and India, another dangerous move. So the beat will go on in this small country on the other side of the globe, and one way or another conflict will be sustained. It’s good for business.

But most generals can’t be expected to understand that — it’s not their line or work — so who cares what they say? Why ask generals ANYTHING about world politics? I don’t get it.

Unfortunately I see Afghanistan end more like Vietnam then Korea. The Taliban isn’t grounded in a front or boarder and already wont accept any cease fire. Karzi is stabbing us in the back and will not last long w/o US troops propping him up for decades longer. When US forces leave the US back government like the Soviet one in the 80s will fall and only hope the Taliban isn’t the main winner.

I think you’re both right — I don’t see your 2 views are in opposition to each other.

I agree, to have it “end” like Korea (which really hasn’t ended either) we’d have to keep large numbers of troops there for decades AND the Afghan people would have to want to change to be like us. I don’t see the general public supporting that ir the Afghan people wanting to change.

The best analogy I have heard is a that Afghanistan is a “generations” problem.
Can’t save grandad because he grew up fighting for or against the Russians or against other tribes.
Can’t save dad because he grew up fighting for or against the Taliban or against other tribes and was taught to do so by grandad.
Son is where the change can start because son will have grown up hearing from grandad and dad about how bad it was; but if a successful change can happen then son will see the difference.
Grandson is where the change will happen because he won’t have grandad’s or dad’s harsh fighting outlook and will have son’s perspective that the change is for the better.

So the question isn’t really will there be change and will the change be for the better, but how many years (and generations) will it take?


Do American generals really believe that peace and prosperity comes from the barrel of a gun? Have they all become Maoists? We lost 58,000 men in Vietnam and 40 years later they became capitalists anyway. Let Afghanistan find their own way, with their own lives and their own money. We need to save our own country. $15 trillion in current debt will take every dollar of federal income (no borrowed money), including every dollar from Social Security payroll deductions, for the next TEN YEARS to pay off. We are THAT bad off. But it sounds like the generals feel they are the New Deal Works Progress Administration (WPA), here to create jobs during the coming depression.

Afganistan is a lost cause, they do not share our view of the world, democracy, decency and individual rights and resposibilties when they are not fighting the Russians American and the Brits ( this will be our third defeat in this country) they fight amonst themselves. We are wasting the lives of our young people on a country that is simply not worth it, let them revert to the middle ages, thats what they appear to want. As for lessons learned Special forces at night is what really rattles them!

To heal the people with modern technology is to look to be God sent Angels. American made products makes america to look like angels sent from heaven to reacue the people from ****. Its not to take the devils role and hurt to make hate to make a possible attack on america and americans. Its to be the true positive of remodeling their country to truly be peaceful world peace. I know military loves war but i have a more important war we need to protect the earth from destruction as the metero struct to kill the dinosours is our generation to truly be prepared to protect from the meteors deatroying our heaven here on earth. New developement mean eternal amount of money to protect our home the earth from all angels around the world. True world peace is a world of soldiers ready to protect as bees protect is humans to protect working together to truly be the strongest is heaven felt by all is for all to be healthy wealthy and wise is the strongest world of all. Heaven to be known and appreciated for all all eternity. True world peace. God.

Vietnam never launched an attack on the US or allowed its country to be used as such. Big difference.

I think you are missing the true issue in this article. It is not keep a big army, nor stay in the current war, or go looking for a new war just because. The issue is the Constitution mandates an Army to protect the United States and its interests abroad. Whether Soldiers like it or not they are going to be ordered to the bidding of the President & of Congress. This means men & women will be in harms way. GEN (RET) Chiarelli is stating don’t keep pounding too many chests of Soldiers to get out and don’t keep cutting out too much critical capability. Read “This Kind of War,” & see what he means when he talks about Task Force Smith. Aviation & nuclear warfare were supposed to be the way future conflicts. Bad scenario when the North Korean Army moved their large, armored forces at night taking advantage of night when our aircraft were not flying. They punched through the ill-equipped & undermanned US Army Advisors at will. Cut what is not needed; keep what is needed; modernize what is not quite effective and is lacking compaired to near-term threats. If not don’t point fingers when failure and death of Soldiers happen.

The Constitution talks about defending the U.S. from invasion. Nothing about going abroad. In fact, while the Constitution authorized an army and navy, the Congress refused to finance them for years, believing, like the Europeans, they would get us entangled in “foreign adventures” which would cost us in “blood and treasure.” That’s exactly where those phrases come from. And what are Iraq and Afghanistan if not foreign adventures with no clear purpose? We only had one task for Afghanistan– kill Bin Laden — job done. Iraq was George Jr’s cowboy moment, but it had no clear purpose.

Insurgencies take along time, the days of sending 500,000 US troops OS to fight are long gone. It is up to the indigenous forces in this case the Afghan’s to continue the war. As in Iraq it takes time to build up such a force structure. The surge was thought up in 2005 but without building up the Iraq force structure there was no point sending the 20,000 block until 2007. Afghanistan is different a rural based insurgency, like the Boer War. Clearly they would have had more breathing space if we could have had 400,000 ANSF and 160,000 ISAF for 12 months to saturate the country with 560,000 plus the LDI’s. Then after that 12 month surge let the ANSF have 400,000 force structure for a couple of years while we were in an over watch role. In that case the insurgency would have been clearly blunted and you could declare victory, even so it will take about 25 years to win in Afghanistan 2035, our objective was to blunt the insurgency and shape the environment so the Afghanistan had a solid foundation to contain it and defeat it in the years to come.

Instead it is transition during a full blown insurgency, it increases the risk of failure. One day like Nam the documents will be released that show the enemy strength was far higher than 35 to 45,000 quoted. More like 1 million Pashtun’s that support the insurgency. Richard Holbrooke alleged this in his comments in relation to Pashtun’s.

The outcome is more uncertain than most would have liked. The Taliban think they will be back in Kabul in months, I don’t think so the next 5 years after the coalition pull out will be the most important the ANSF know this so the want ISAF to support them and do the fighting until 2020, the insurgency is far stronger than they would have liked and the ANSF far smaller in structure. So they will have to build that foundation, that we did not.

If the war is going to be lost it will be lost in Kabul due to politics, Karzai has had it easy blaming the ISAF, when his own troops are in the lead. Then it will be different, so he will make decisions that limit the ANSF ability to win, for political purposes. Say he bans night raids, air strikes, pulls troops from rural areas, sacks generals, senior officers, not signing off operations. That is the biggest risk for the ANSF. Karzai was our biggest hindrance and he will be the ANSF also.

If the war is lost it will be lost in Islamabad with the decision on how much and quickly they want to supply/support the Taliban.

Now you’re just making stuff up.

“Foreign adventures” and “blood and treasure” are from Washington’s speeches not the constitution. Congress as constituted by the constitution always funded the Army. While you’re re=educating yourself reread section 8 “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations” The Taliban letting a party to plan and launch attacks against a sovereign nation (us) and Saddam broke 17 UN resolutions.

If you’re going to quote the constitution at least read it…

“so the Afghanistan had a solid foundation to contain it and defeat it in the years to come. ”

Last year one of my fellow company commanders said this after we smashed our way into a valley that had never seen a US soldier — “they (the Afghan people) have to want it more than us.”

Among the enumerated powers of Congress is “to define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations”. It is therefore not only constitutional to wage war abroad, but to engage in all forms of operations other that war, as we understand them today — and since the Constitution itself invokes the “Law of Nations”, that pretty much closes the door on the argument that engagement in UN and NATO led loperations is unconstitutional. While the Constitution predates Emmanuel Kant’s 1795 essary on “Perpetual Peace”, it is very much along the same lines of Enlightenment philosophy.

Here is the problem. Pushtunwali itself is not adequately flexible to serve as the basis for civil society without an external sovereign who keeps conflicts that inevitably emerge in bounds. So you get what Kipling wrote of in his “Ballad of the King’s Mercy“

Obviously, the United States of American cannot, and ought not have anything to do with this. The numbers we send do nothing more or less than remind the Afghans that life does not need to be like this, that bravery need not confound charity, and loyalty in a free and open society is not confined to family and friends.

Hold your horses on that closed door. If Congress never declared war and what we have is a series of “cowboy moments.”

Instead of war why not Gods intelligence to heal the problem with amerocan made technology to look like the angels rather than comgress demonds. We.are all God sent. Think about it. Americans healing the will produces the most jobs to send god made products that appreciates the world to be more like heaven for all for all eternity. God is the highest intelligence to give the wotld heaven. Do you wish to compete with God. Whos size is large enough to light the sun just with the friction of thumb and finger to creat the snap to creat the sun. God hates poor leadership dont u. Its why the devil doesnt exsist in heaven. Then why does congress lead as the devil leads by giving negative life to the people and suffer none for their own recessions debt and so on. We all have gods trust fund to spend for all eternity.

This is ruthless country populated by a proudly savage and brutal people. If they want to be free then let them earn it. We can’t spoil a whole population with a freedom that wasn’t earned, but simply vouchedsafed. There are many bad places in this world that have been stuck in an infinite loop of chaos and malificense for literally millenia. Eventually the stupid kid has to grow up and see the error of his ways; that cannot just be given to the adult child. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we just treated one another with decency? Ain’t ever going to happen and that is a hard lesson to learn.


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