Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Unforced Error

President Barack Obama is about to make the biggest mistake of 21st century by sending 34,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

We currently have 68,000 troops in Afghanistan. NATO countries supply an additional 42,000. There are maybe 100 al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and maybe 300 in Pakistan. Some estimates say al-Qaeda is down to fewer than a dozen core fighters. And we already have 110,000 mechanized, highly trained and well paid dudes gunning for them. There are also 200,000 Afghan forces under the command of Gen. Stanley McChrystal who suck, but that’s a lot of forces. All told, McChrystal already outnumbers al-Qaeda nearly 800 to one at a conservative estimate.

If we grant that the Taliban and the other militias in Afghanistan are the enemy, which is a dopey notion because those cats just want us to leave their bleak country, we still outnumber them by 12 to one—there are no more than 25,000 Taliban.

The Taliban are supposedly the enemy because they support al-Qaeda. Problem: Hamid Karzai, whose government we’re supporting in that sinkhole, not only just stole two elections, but he’s thigh rubbing pals with the Taliban. His brother Ahmed is hairline deep in the Afghan drug industry and he’s on the CIA payroll. Among other things, Ahmed acts as a broker between the Taliban and us.

Diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who has said that we will recognize success in Afghanistan “when we see it,” has confirmed that we’re trying to cut dope deals with the Taliban. We’re doing this through Pakistan’s Inter-service Intelligence Agency (ISI) who are a bigger bunch of crooks than the crooks Hamid Karzai is in league with.

So why is Obama sending more troops there?

He shot himself in the metatarsal during his campaign with his crock of jive about how the Iraq surge took our eyes off the prize of the “war of necessity” in Afghanistan, where we needed to “finish the job.” The war in Afghanistan is as necessary as removing the prostate gland of a healthy 12-year old boy.

The notion of America exceptionalism has worn itself transparent. We’re making the world a worse place, not a better one. Our counterproductive wars have nothing to do with national security. The al-Qaeda that attacked us with 19 guys on 9/11 who didn’t have the equivalent of a Chicago school system high school diploma is, for all practical purposes, dead and gone. Their work is finished. They suckered us into massive commitments of national blood and treasure into sinkholes that shouldn’t matter to the world’s sole superpower.

The notion that we can create an “exit strategy” by training Afghan troops to take over the counterinsurgency task is, to put it mildly, quaint. Afghan soldiers and police are as reliable as a flock of cats.

We need to get out of Central Asia as soon as we can. Alexander the Great couldn’t tame that patch of mountain and desert, nor could the British, nor could the Russians, and we won’t either.

I had hoped that Obama would stand up to the Pentagon’s insistence on a Long War approach to Afghanistan, but alas. We’re going to be stuck with this pig, lipstick and all, for a long time. It’s a boondoggle that will make Iraq look like a smooth move.

This big re-re escalation of Afghanistan is a big mistake. It’s a grand execution of a flawed doctrine. Counterinsurgency (COIN), the Pentagon’s latest flimsy excuse to exist, is based on a host of internal fallacies. Premier among them is the notion that the host nation must be a “legitimate government” that provided “good governance.” Mohammed on a crutch, if you have good governance from a legitimate government, by and large, you don’t have an insurgency.

Talk of an exit strategy for Afghanistan is low comedy. If you put troops into a country you’ll have to get them out with the hugest pair of pliers ever made. The way to exit Afghanistan is to exit, not to put more troops there.

Reports will say Obama will define the “precise U.S. goals in Afghanistan.” Give me a break. We haven’t had precise goals in a war since World War II, when the goal was unconditional surrender. There’s no such thing as surrender in the wars we’re fighting now. The best thing we can achieve is to bribe our enemies into playing along with us. Bribery, after all, is the essence our COIN doctrine.

Bribery has been the spine of our foreign aid for a really long time. We use the term “foreign aid,” like we’re somehow feeding “those poor kid” in wherever-land, but we’re really just making crooked high rollers richer.

I had such high hopes that Obama would really change things. Not any more, as Inspector Clouseau once said.

An excellent article in Armed Forces Journal by retired Army Col. Douglas MacGregor titled “Refusing Battle” deserves wide attention. MacGregor wisely admonishes:

America’s experience since 2001 teaches the strategic lesson that in the 21st century, the use of American military power, even against Arab and Afghan opponents with no navies, no armies, no air forces and no air defenses, can have costly, unintended strategic consequences. Put in the language of tennis, the use of American military power since the early 1960s has resulted in a host of “unforced errors.”

Obama has caved in to the Long War Pentagon and its supporters in the Congress and the neocon press who have been so wrong for so long that nobody should be listening to them anymore. He’s still talking his “finish the job” nonsense. What job? How will we know when it’s finished?

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now.


  1. Anonymous7:00 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. It's horrible. Obama is going to announce his troop surge at West Point on Tuesday night. Why isn't he speaking somewhere amongst civilians who are opposed to the war as it is, much less any escalation of it?

    Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the US is rising. This animated map is like watching floodwater drowning a country. So unbearably depressing.

    And now it appears that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is broke.

    How can a war escalation possibly be justified in a situation like this?

    Ron Paul was asking, to a mostly empty room, if the U.S. is just doing this to save face. It's like Obama's government has just turned it's back on its own people.

    I'm not pretending anything is any better here. Our neo-Con prime minister did that to us a long time ago.

  3. That map link doesn't seem to work for some reason.

    Here's the link address:

  4. EXIT STRATEGY MY ARSE ! ! Training the Afghan military will go about as well as us trainig the Iraqi military. Any one remember " as they step up we will step down" These are excuses for staying the course, not exit strategies. Now Obama says he wants to finish the job. What job? OJT[on the job training] is over. He can no longer define our mission there, he can not justify the surge, and he can not find a viable exit plan. WHY? Because there is none, and there will never be any. The West wants to stay for ever. They are using the region for a antural resource mother lode. It has been, is, and always will be about [THE CONTROL OF THE FLOW OF ENERGY]. Plain and simple. Their energy, our blood, sweat, and tears.

  5. fbg463:30 PM

    Perhaps the one (highly qualified) success American forces have had at COIN in the last 50 - plus years has some lessons which are truly depressing.

    South Korea in the late 60's was subjected to low - level insurgency by NK Special Forces, insurgents, guerrillas, etc., with the goal of starting an RVN - like uprising in the South.

    The American forces there at the time -- mainly consisting of two understrength infantry divisions stationed on/near the DMZ -- found themselves being handed a COIN mission in addition to their role as tripwire.

    The effort by the North, nothing near the magnitude of North Vietnam, peaked in 1967 - 1969, and eventually died out in the early 70's.

    What were some of the differences between ROK vs. RVN then and the ROK of the late '60's vs. Iraq and Afghanistan now that may account for relative success in South Korea and which led/are leading to a dismal outcome in the other three countries?

    1. The South Korean people had a strong sense of national identity. With the memory of the carnage wreaked in the South by the North still fresh in their minds, they wanted no part of unification with the North, unless it was on their terms, not Kim Il Sung's;

    2. The South Koreans were relatively homogeneous in terms of religion, culture and ethnicity;

    3. The COIN mission of the American forces was to support the
    ROK Army; unlike RVN then and Iraq and Afghanistan now (where the mission was the same), all the Americans actually had to do was support the ROKs as opposed to doing the fighting for them.
    The ROK Army was professional, tough and ruthless and acquited itself quite well.

    4. The footprint of the American forces in South Korea was small, and was distant from major population centers.

    5. Although the ROK government was a military dictatorship, in the late '60's it seemed to be accepted by the South Korean people as a necessary evil (at least until things calmed down over time -- the President was assassinated in 1979).

    6. Perhaps most significantly, Korea had no history of being colonised by northern Europeans or North Americans -- it had been a Japanese colony until 1945, and the Koreans are not exactly fond of the Japanese to this day.

    Even though all of these conditions were present in South Korea in the late '60's, the South Koreans barely tolerated the presence of American forces -- because nobody likes to be occupied, regardless of how allegedly noble the reason.

    And none of these conditions were present in RVN then or Iraq/Afghanistan now. The Iraqis will push us out when it serves their interests to do so. Afghanistan isn't a country, it's just lines drawn on a map by some white guys.

    Staying in either country is a fool's errand.

  6. Anonymous5:48 PM

    Obama dropped his pants long before he ever took the oath of office.

    Buzz Meeks

  7. Anonymous7:24 AM

    The waste of 5% GDP for the war profiteers with their uniformed con artisits and media machine. And the power that profit gives them.......

    The pentagon is a conduit; taking money away from good things and spreading it among war profiteers.

    The US is being pillaged, without burning any of its villages, to fill war profiteers accounts from burning villages overseas to save them.

    Everyone loses.

    However, Obama will not have to answer lies about "losing Afghanistan" in 2012.

    Any no one will ask "what good has it all been?".

    God help America.

    Loggie 20

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