Afghan Army/Gov’t FAIL

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Chris Dierkes

Chris Dierkes (aka CJ Smith). 29 years old, happily married, adroit purveyor and voracious student of all kinds of information, theories, methods of inquiry, and forms of practice. Studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church in Canada. Main interests: military theory, diplomacy, foreign affairs, medieval history, religion & politics (esp. Islam and Christianity), and political grand bargains of all shapes and sizes.

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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    In other words, exactly like Vietnam, which I’m still being told we lost because the Commie-liberals wouldn’t let us win.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      @Mike Schilling, Vietnam was a proxy war between the US and the Russians.

      A quick game of woulda coulda shoulda lets us imagine what Vietnam would have been like had Russia not supported the North… and the outcome would have changed substantially.

      Who, exactly, is propping up Afghanistan?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, There wasn’t a single Russian solider fighting in Vietnam; no Chinese either, so far as I know. Russian arms, yes, but we couldn’t win, or even draw, just by supplying arms, as we found out both before and after sending troops.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          @Mike Schilling, really? I remember hearing stories about how soldiers weren’t allowed to so much as acknowledge Russian helicopters. (Firing on them was a capitol offense.)Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, Yes, you’re right: pilots and advisers (3000 seems to be the acknowledged number). Again, Americans in the same capacity couldn’t win or draw against them. If there are a few thousand of them and hundreds of thousands of us, and we’re still not winning, it’s hardly best described as a symmetrical proxy war. (Unlike Korea, say, which was an easy victory until the introduction of massive numbers of Chinese troops.)Report

        • Avatar Scott in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          @Mike Schilling,

          You are so wrong. It is an open secret the Soviets had troops that were in combat with Americans, most well known are the Soviets pilots.Report

          • Avatar Barry in reply to Scott says:

            @Scott, It’s also an open secret that:

            Obama is a secret Muzleeeem, born to Kenyan witchdoctors,
            9/11 was a US government plot,
            MMR vaccines cause autism,
            AIDS was developed by US biowarfare labs,
            et cetera, ad nauseam.Report

            • Avatar Barry in reply to Barry says:

              @Barry, What was critical in Vietnam, and is gonna f*ck us in Afghanis, is precisely the point that all of the ‘we wuz betrayed!’ guys don’t realize:

              We did *not* have people to fight for the government we wanted there. A few, yes, always, but a full-size army, no. The South was incapable of fighting before we got there, and it was incapable during our presence, and it was incapable of fighting afterwards.Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    Yep, what a clusterf*ck. And here I used to think Iraq was intractable.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Part of our problem with “fighting corruption” is that we are unable to wrap our heads around the fact that “corruption” is another word for “the way they’ve always done things”.

    If we can’t wrap our heads around *THAT*, we’ll never be able to wrap our heads around the fact that “the way they’ve always done things” is another way to say “culture”.

    Are we willing to get in there and change the culture of Afghanistan?

    Well, we’d best put on our best Kipling faces and pick up the White Man’s Burden. If we’re not willing to do that… well, we ain’t gonna change the culture.

    Which brings us to the question of “what in the hell are we doing there?”Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird,

      I thought we were preventing the Taliban and their Al Queda allies from returning to power.Report

      • Avatar Chris Dierkes in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, well al qaeda is over in pakistan and even if the Taliban were to come back to power in Afghanistan, it’s not clear that AQ would come back anyway. And it’s not like the US is ever going to leave without still having drones over the country so I don’t exactly see how AQ is the central reason to fight a counterinsurgency in Afghanistan since AQ is part of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

        Which leaves the Afghan Taliban. Yes officially our policy is that we are preventing them from coming back to power. The question is: is this even possible, much less realistically achievable?

        In reality Petraeus, McChrystal, et. al know that the Taliban in some fashion are going to be dealt back into power. They are just trying to quell what they call the “irreconcilables” before they make the deals. But the COIN policy they are running relies on locals (mil, police, and gov’t), picking up the slack. Ain’t happening in Afghanistan and ain’t gonna.

        Without that, the US is just basically killing bad guys. The Taliban can just keep getting new guys to join their ranks and wait the US out.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, “Well, we’d best put on our best Kipling faces and pick up the White Man’s Burden. If we’re not willing to do that… well, we ain’t gonna change the culture.”

      Please note that the British, at the height of both their empire and willingness to educate large numbers of local through firepower, decided that Afghanistan was just not worth it.Report

  4. Avatar Barry says:

    In the end, in Iraq, the US basically made a deal with the Shiites (those which were willing to work with us – and Iran), to kill the Sunnis and cut down on killing Americans. They were willing to do the first because of what the Sunnis had done and were doing, and were willing to deal with the problem of identifying guerrillas among Sunni men of military age by treating all Sunni men of military age as guerrillas. Ethnic cleansing (which I sort of think is the general method for successful antiguerrilla wars).

    They were willing to do the second, because they knew that Americans weren’t able to run the country, and would have limited involvement.

    This did require suppressing Sardr’s people, which his rivals in the Shiite community were happy to do, because it meant that they got the power.

    In Afghanistan, I think that the only faction with the comparable power would be the Taliban faction, which is precisely whom we are fighting. This, combined with the fact that Afghanistan hasn’t had a real central government for many decades (and generally didn’t) is a real problem.Report

    • Avatar Chris Dierkes in reply to Barry says:

      @Barry, The only piece I would add to that is buying off the Sunni insurgency (the so-called Awakening). They had a group of radical Al Qaeda guys killing Sunnis, the Sunnis realized they had already lost the civil war in Iraq to the Shia and so they were willing to deal. The ethnic cleansing was really done by the Shia in Iraq with the US (post-invasion) mostly on the sidelines.

      In terms of an Afghan Awakening, the Iraqi Sunni tribal system is much more centralized anthropologically (as I understand it) than the Afghan one is. Not to mention there is no equivalent scenario in Afghanistan (as you mention). The Pashtun people don’t seem particularly willing (a la the Iraqi Sunnis) to cut off The Taliban even if they could–which given drug funds seems unlikely anyway. The Afghan Taliban are far more integrated into their reality than Al Qaeda in Iraq ever was–plus they have way more numbers.

      The Pashtun are more like the Shia in Iraq (numerically). In other words, what reason do The Afghan Taliban have to make a deal with the US? None, seems to me.

      I guess the US’ only real chance would have been to install a ruthlessly efficient, coldblooded but highly effective military dictator in power. Karzai doesn’t exactly fit that bill.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Chris Dierkes says:

        @Chris Dierkes, “I guess the US’ only real chance would have been to install a ruthlessly efficient, coldblooded but highly effective military dictator in power. Karzai doesn’t exactly fit that bill.”

        And in terms of ruthlessness, efficiency and cold-bloodness, lots of people in Afghanistan can match anything that the central government’s forces can do.Report