Two weeks ago, our Council Forum Question was Should The US Pull Out Of Afghanistan? And If So, How And When?
Therefore the two of us decided to debate the matter in a brand new edition of Head to Head, the Watcher’s Council’s very own version of a cage match that you’ll see onsite from time to time. Grab some popcorn, pour out a cold one and watch the action!
Courtney: This is a trick question.
“War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will.” vClausewitz
Organized conflict – war – is – to paraphrase the delightfully correct and psychic vClausewitz – the ho of politics. A continuation of Statecraft through – let us speak plainly here – bloody, destructive, hurtfully helpful and other means.
And currently – politics au courant show an almost complete lack of will on the American polity to continue war in the Stan. Case closed, right?
“We exhibit to mankind the remarkable spectacle of a people attacked by unprovoked enemies, without any imputation or even suspicion of offense…We shall lay down our arms when hostilities shall cease on the part of the aggressors, and all danger of their being renewed shall be removed and not before” – Thomas Jefferson
For Great Satan to split the AO where she was brutally attacked and in which more attacks are now being planned is never, ever going down, so long as there is the slightest chance, possibility or opportunity of a repeat.
There is no safe haven that al-Qaeda covets more than the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. That turf presents a unique opportunity for enemies and a threat to Great Satan. Situated in rugged terrain hundreds of miles from any coastline, with weak or nonexistent governance and security services, this region provides both a home to al-Qaeda and possible access to new clear weaponry.
“War is not a mere act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity with other means.” vClausewitz
The two tactics Great Satan has employed since 44″s trip are the fading Counter Insurgency – or AFPAK Surge (to distinguish it from the Original Surge in Iraq) and the new school air powered/especial op driven Counter Terrorism tactic.
Surging is a slow, bloody, grinding process. And it ain’t into time. Convincing fence sitters to hook up with the Strongest Tribe, finger the bad guys for especial considerations and discourage insurgents from continuing the insurgency. Surging takes tons of precious blood and treasure. Boots on the ground are an enormous deployment and set piece battle skills are diminished as troops ditch the Ray Bans, learn a few cuss words and mullah jokes in Pashto and control turf.
Counter Terrorism is a way diff critter. Professional, career minded cats well versed in the dark arts of Marine Recon, Rangers, SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force hook up with local and global intell, spies and air power (bombers, cruise missiles and the ever popular Drones Gone Wild) to contain, discourage and annihilate terroristical state and non state actor outers. More like a killing machine than a convincing convention, CT is a nice way of saying annihilate. Yemen is a total war zone for Counter Terrorism for example and at last check – there are zero groups, efforts or calls to unAss the place
In fact, Counter Terrorism is the only way to go to deliver pain and misery on our enemies when political desires for open conflict and COIN tactical delights are exhausted. Several cats have penned stuff recently worrying that CT tactics can continue at an exponential rate world wide without a flicker of interest from the American people simply because there is no American blood shed, little treasure (comparatively speaking) being blinged and no discouraging headlines for inappropriate handwringers to inappropriately handwring over.
Aside from the happy effect of proving once again Americans are kinda crazy and lethal in wartime – it also sends the conflict free signal to other nation states of sorts that in order to keep Great Satan out of their respective hoods it’s way better to hop on the Writ of State train – lest Americans show up and stay forever.
“Our objective is to create an Afghanistan that can stand on its own, that ultimately is going to be able to secure its own territory, not provide a safe haven for terrorists, not drag down the security of the entire region” – Dr Col John Nagl
CT would prevent the hard hammered Taliban group headed by Mullah Omar and operating in southern Afghanistan (including especially Helmand, Kandahar, and Oruzgan Provinces) from taking control of that area upon the withdrawal of American and allied combat forces. The remaining Afghan security forces would be unable to resist a Taliban offensive.
They would be defeated and would disintegrate. The fear of renewed Taliban assaults would mobilize the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras in northern and central Afghanistan. The Taliban itself would certainly drive on Herat and Kabul, leading to war with northern militias.
This conflict would collapse the Afghan state, mobilize the Afghan population, and cause many Afghans to flee into Pakistan and Iran.
Advocates within Pakistan of continuing to support Taliban argue that Great Satan will abandon Afghanistan as she did last millennium, chaos only Taliban or something equally creepy will be able to void fill in a gig that pleases Pakistan and her “Strategic Depth” Strategy.
UnAssing would prove them right.
Pakistani operations against their own insurgents–as well as against al Qaeda, which lives among those insurgents–would probably grind to a halt as Pakistan worked to reposition herself in support of a revived Taliban government in Afghanistan. And a renewed stream of Afghan refugees would likely overwhelm the Pakistani government and military, rendering coherent operations against insurgents and terrorists difficult or impossible.
The collapse of Land of the Pure, or even the revival of an aggressive and successful m”hammedist movement there would be a major suck fest for the region and for Great Satan.
Just as bad, a significant increase and risk that al Qaeda might obtain new clear nastiness from Pakistan’s stockpile, risking an Indo-Pakistani war involving the use of new clear detonations.
Face it – no way America can truly leave.
Rob: It’s a time honored debate tactic to attempt to reframe the question at hand. But reality unfortunately still bites.
I doubt that Clausewitz would recognize what’s going on in Afghanistan as war, since one thing both he and Sun Tzu shared was an iron clad principle that war should never be engaged in without concrete and obtainable objectives. Yet, that’s exactly what we did in Iraq and what we’re doing in Afghanistan.
Not only shouldn’t we stay in Afghanistan, we should never have wasted our blood and treasure going there in the first place. Staying in Afghanistan assumes we have something to ‘win’ there. We don’t.
The above quote used by Dr. Col. John Nagl on what our supposed goals are in Afghanistan is a brilliant summary of exactly why this is true. Afghanistan has never ‘stood on it’s own’ because it’s not so much a country as a collection of tribal fiefdoms and ‘securing territory’ has always been a matter of interaction between those tribes since the country has never had a strong central government. Not only that, but the majority of the Afghans have a very different idea of what ‘terrorists’ consist of than we do…and they could care less about our definition. Frankly, the majority want to keep Afghanistan as their little 7th century jihadi Disneyland, and they’re not interested in buying the radical ideas of freedom and democracy we’re selling. Neither is any other Muslim nation,because it doesn’t jibe with their core values.
The reasons given above for ‘staying the course’ in Afghanistan can be boiled down to the following:
‘If we leave, Afghanistan will be a failed state that we can be attacked from again.’
Actually, there are all kinds of states we can be attacked from again, some failed, some that merely embrace radical Islam and some that are both. One of them is just south of Afghanistan. Nothing we’ve done in AFPak thus far will prevent future attacks from being planned, especially since we’ve given the perpetrators no cause to fear our response whatsoever.. As I previously revealed to my readers, of the reason Osama bin-Laden was ratted out in Abbotobad was to allow Ayman al-Zawahiri to take the organization back to the Arab world, where they’re already enjoying a resurgence in Libya. Egypt and yes, Iraq.
Zawahiri was formerly a part of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main inspiration for al-Qaeda and numerous other similar groups, and when the Islamists take over Egypt, Libya, Gaza and probably Jordan and the Palestinian occupied areas of Judea and Samaria, al-Qaeda will fit right in nicely.
Yes..the Muslim Brotherhood, the group the Obama Administration is cultivating and enabling at every turn. And just as a side note, guess who our official envoy to the Taliban is to negotiate our surrender? None other than Sheik Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s radical jihadist leader.
Nice how that fits together, isn’t it?
‘Surging is a slow, bloody business, and it takes time.’
Horse manure. Ask the ghost of General Patton and the men of the Third Army how long a decent offensive takes..against a much stronger enemy. What takes time is waging war using ridiculous rules of engagement with an emphasis on political correctness and hearts and minds. Especially when you don’t even admit whom the enemy is.
And by the way, what convinces ‘fence sitters’ in Muslim culture whom to ally themselves with is not drinking tea and eating mangy goat meat but either baksheesh in hand or fear of the Strong Horse. Right now, these fence sitters don’t perceive us as the Strong Horse, and rightly so.That, by the way, includes the Afghan Army we spent all that money to put together. The majority aren’t to be trusted, as anyone whose been there lately will tell you.
‘If we don’t continue to slog it out in Afghanistan, Pakistan will cease its counter terrorism efforts and might become even more jihad friendly and anti-American’. Especially now when we have Mullah Omar and the Taliban right where we want them.’
I won’t even go into detail about how effective Pakistan’s ‘counter terrorist’ efforts have been. Suffice it to say that aside from hiding Osama and tipping off terrorists to upcoming strikes, they’ve impeded us every step of the way. More terrorism has emanated out of that country than ever came out of Afghanistan.
Speaking of Clauswitz, another thing he and any reputable strategist talk about at length is the need to keep your supply lines open and your lines of retreat intact. We’ve done neither. As I write, the Pakistanis, not content with the $7 billion in baksheesh we’ve already given them are now demanding a bribe of £3,000, – over $4,700 dollars- per truck to reopen the roads and allow supplies for our troops in Afghanistan to cross the border.
Aside from the increased cost and difficulty in supplying our forces, there’s increasing doubt that we’re going to be able to pull our troops and equipment out safely, even if we pay the Pakistani’s price.
And as for the Taliban getting access to Pakistan’s nukes..I’d love to know how a hundred thousand US troops who aren’t even allowed to enter Pakistan are going to stop that from happening …as opposed to, say, a JDAM strike on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities.
What America – or at least, two American presidents – have never been willing to face is that we’re fighting an ideology, not simply a bunch of ‘terrorists’. Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-taiba are simply groups of subcontractors in the jihad against the West, and there are plenty of Muslim nations willing to provide them with the essentials any group like that needs and indeed can’t survive without- money, logistical support and a haven to train, plan and recruit.
After 9/11, rather than confront -militarily or otherwise – the Muslim nations openly supporting jihad against America and the West, two presidents have elected to ignore what we’re actually fighting and concentrate on placating the Muslim world. That’s why we’re still fighting this war a decade later, stuck in a conflict of attrition. COIN is the obvious result of our military attempting to square the circle between actually fighting a war and appeasing our political elites. The results, at best strategic retreats, have been predictable.
Far better we salvage what we can in men and material from Afghanistan until we have leadership actually willing to fight a war the way it needs to be fought and a commander-in-chief worthy of our efforts.
Real peace comes from victory.
Oh, sorry! Zoned out there for a second
“Tighten your shot group kid” Colonel Chesty Puller
“Nothing we’ve done in AFPak thus far will prevent future attacks from being planned, especially since we’ve given the perpetrators no cause to fear our response whatsoever.”
Oh. Really? LOL – actually the reverse is true.
Sure AQ is unassing AFPAk and heading for sunny climes on or about Suez. Now, why is that so? Easy – because America’s killing fields in the wild wack regions of the Stan for one. Just as aQ unAssed Iraq and fled back to the Stan around 08 and 09, going up against Americans in a dumb thing to do – leaving aQ or Talibanic enablers all dead on the side of the road for a stranger to bury hardly advances their deigns desires or delights.
COIN is indeed a slow, bloody grinding process – and to be about as subtle as wearing a thong to church, General Patton would certainly agree.
Indeed, as Colonel Will F Owen says “Using lethal force to break an insurgency’s collective will to endure in combat defeats any type of armed opponent in any environment. Lethal force is the most effective and efficient method of breaking collective will. As Clausewitz made clear, killing does not set forth or resist the policy, but rather removes the violent armed objectors that seek to counter it. The population should not be asked to pick sides. They should merely be informed that the Army will win, and that should be demonstrated to them, as forcefully and unequivocally as possible. No one should be confused that if you fight the Army/Security Forces, you will die or be captured. Evidence should be literally laid before them. There should be no more complicated message than that.”
Old Blood and Guts could have said that himself in Ramadi or Marjah.
Despite past history, the Stan can easily fulfill all of Dr Col Nagl’s premonitions. Not by running away and hoping for the best, yet with the carefully – coldblooded – CT mix as artfully described above. As Colonel Owen implies – changing Afghani attitudes about what is terrorism and what is cool can be done in a fun way with multiple craters for fence sitters to contemplate. Anything else is just asking for trouble.
All of Rob’s off the cuff responses confusing COIN with Counter Terrorism are risible and a pitiful fail on an epic scale to convince any one to hop on the defeat, retreat and repeat train. Rob actually makes my case on several issues.
Pakistan is the wild card no doubt – yet CT neutralizes ISI’s double dealing. Land of the Pure’s military is undergoing some hard looks by a populace growing increasingly disaffected with Military Inc and their horrific love and hate relationship with Taliban.
Simply put – America didn’t start the war. And to unAss the place for rather dubious concerns and reasons about worthy leadership hardly impress or address previous concerns. Simply put, Great Satan has the CT tactic to use to our hearts content with no blood and little treasure to visit righteous payback until the term Taliban is about as au courant as Waffen Ss or Kamikaze
It’s a global war Rob. And the Stan is one front among many.
Running away is a sure fire recipe for grief, heartache and misery.
Rob: It’s unfortunate that a few inconvenient facts bored Courtney, but it doesn’t make them go away. Labeling me a ‘defeatist’ doesn’t do the trick either.
Al-Qaeda isn’t heading back to the Arab world because of anything we’re doing. They’re heading back there because of new opportunities that have arisen for the formation of the new Caliphate because of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, the coming Muslim Brotherhood takeovers of Egypt, Libya and quite possibly Jordan, the suppression of the Sunnis in Iraq and our retreat from the region.
The formation of a world wide Caliphate was what the Muslim Brotherhood has always been after since the 1920’s and al-Banna and the Brotherhood were al-Qaeda’s direct inspiration. The Obama administration is handing them exactly what they’ve always wanted on a silver platter and yet Courtney has the nerve to refer to that as our fighting a ‘global war’? We haven’t even started to fight this war yet.
If we were doing as much damage to our enemies in Afghanistan as she imagines, why would we be negotiating with the Taliban? Using the Muslim Brotherhood, no less? Why would we be releasing Taliban killers back to the Taliban as part of ‘negotiations’? Given the Muslim honor/shame mindset, these actions aren’t negotiations, but a plea for a ceasefire and a retreat.
We’ve been in Afghanistan doing the hearts and minds, nation building polka for a decade now. What are the results? Courtney attempts to claim that Afghan attitudes have changed for the better, that Pakistani attitudes have changed, that Afghanistan can ‘can easily fulfill all of Dr. Col. Nagl’s premonitions’ . She unfortunately provides absolutely no proof that Afghanistan can meet Col. Nagl’s conditions for success she cited earlier.
In fact, if anything, the Afghans and Pakistanis have become even more pro-jihadi and hardline than before and none of the links she provided do anything to disprove that. If attitudes are changing so much, why would the Afghans whom are supposedly on our side still be murdering aid workers and U.S. soldiers? Why would the head of the Afghan government who only survives because of our support be calling us terrorists and murderers to ingratiate himself with the Afghan population by stoking up anti-American hatred? Why would the Pakistanis repeatedly betray our operations to the Taliban, jail Pakistanis who provided information on Osama bin-Laden for treason and cut off our supply lines?
The idea that we were going to build a democratic Islamic nation that would be a U.S. ally in the so-called ‘war on terror’ and not be a haven for our enemies is exactly the sort of fairy tale spun by President George W. Bush about Iraq, where we used a similar strategy to the one Courtney is touting. Let’s examine how that turned out.
Iraq is now a Shi’ite republic with its laws based on sharia ruled by a Shi’te bloc led by Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Iran backed proxy the Mahdi Army, and Iraq is well on its way to becoming an Iranian satellite like Lebanon.Fully half of Iraq’s Christians have been driven out of the country on our watch, and the rest aren’t far behind.The Sunnis, contrary to the promises we made to them to get them to fall in with the Awakening movement are being increasingly marginalized, especially since Maliki and the Shi’ite bloc essentially stole the last election. The Sunnis are being kicked out of government jobs and the security forces, Abu Ghreib is operating again under new management, and there’s now a resurgence of al-Qaeda in the Sunni areas of Iraq like Anbar.The Kurds, who were our one real ally in Iraq had to go hat in hand to the Iranians to beg for terms.
As for the Iraqi government not supporting terrorism, let alone being a U.S. ally…well, let’s just say that isn’t exactly happening either.
When we left Iraq, not a single Iraqi showed up at the traditional flag lowering ceremony…although our flag was featured prominently at a number of other events as we departed.
Afghanistan is different in that it will undoubtedly be worse, since it’s not a cohesive country. In Iraq, Generals Petraeus and Ordiano plus the grit and courage of our warriors bought us at least an orderly retreat. That’s a lot less certain in Afghanistan. Just watch what happens as we leave in mid 2013.
In spite of all the high minded quotes about hearts and minds, counter terrorism strategies, COIN, and Muslim democracy, these results speak for themselves, and unlike Courtney, I see no reason to keep doing what hasn’t worked. Talk to one of our warriors who had to abide by our ridiculous Rules of Engagement to hold his fire on a jihadi he’d caught installing an IED roadside because the jihadi saw him, stepped away from his work and was unarmed. That will tell you a great deal more about how we ought to be fighting this war than all the pontificating.
As I said, real peace comes from victory. Had we been willing to fight it on that basis after 9/11 instead of worrying about placating our enemies, the so-called ‘long war’ would have been over during George W. Bush’s first term. Engaging in the politically correct defensive war of attrition (if you can call it war) as we have thus far ensures that we will continue to sacrifice blood and treasure for decades, with the kind of results we’ve seen thus far.