Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bananastan Delusions

President Obama’s Dec. 1 speech about his decision on the Bananastans (Afghanistan and Pakistan) is unlikely to surprise anyone. The sanctioned leaks have been coming fast and furious the past few days, and it appears that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will get what he asked for. Maybe.

He’ll get his 40,000 extra troops, 34,000 to come from the U.S. and 6,000 or so to come from NATO nations. He’ll train Afghanistan security forces to a total strength of 400,000. Afghan President Hamid Karzai will eliminate corruption in his government.


At a million smackers per troop per year, the annual cost of the war bumps up by $34 billion, and that’s probably a conservative estimate. Many other expenses will be involved. Democratic leadership in Congress doesn’t much care for that aspect. Congressman David Obey, (D-WI.), wants to pay taxes to pay for any escalation of the war.

Europe is not all shot up about sending more troops to Afghanistan. France, Germany and England have had significant anti-Afghan war protests.

McChrystal will have a tough time getting Afghanistan’s police and military forces up to 400,000. The Afghan National Army’s rate of turnover--due to desertion, absenteeism and lack of reenlistment--is atrocious.

The White House called Hamid Karzai the “legitimate” leader of Afghanistan after he stole two elections. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called on Karzai to make a “new compact” with the people of Afghanistan. Get real, Hillary. Karzai is one of the biggest crooks in the second most corrupt country in the world. (Somalia is the most corrupt. Iraq is number four.)

McChrystal wants to do a “classic” counterinsurgency operation, based on the doctrine prescribed in Field Manual 3-24 that states unequivocally, in several places, that successful counterinsurgency operations require effective and legitimate governance. We’ll never get that from Karzai. He’s congenitally crooked; he’s a warlord whose cabinet is made up of fellow warlords and his brother Ahmed is a drug lord who’s on the CIA payroll. Drugs finance the Taliban and Hamid himself has old ties to the Taliban.

What on earth are we doing in that part of the world?

We estimate that at a maximum, 100 al-Qaeda operators are in Afghanistan and maybe 300 are skulking around Afghanistan. Former CIA officer Philip Giraldi relates that there may be fewer than ten of them left.

Obama says, "I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we're doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive." If there’s a clear rationale for what we’re doing in Afghanistan why haven’t we heard it yet? If Candidate Obama kept telling us Afghanistan was the “war of necessity,” how come President Obama never told us why that is? Obama’s strategy team already went through one high-level strategy session in March and came with a paper pile of trash. We would disrupt terror networks, turn Afghanistan and Pakistan into real countries, and get the international community involved. Sure.

As we discuss an escalation, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is talking about how to get British troops out of the joint. He’s put up a series of demands of the Karzai government. But he says he would not set a timetable for withdrawal. Nothing ever happens without timelines in the military. If it weren’t for timelines, we’d still be waiting for Dwight Eisenhower to order the invasion of Normandy.

To make matters messier, there are indications that another civil war between the Pashtuns and a Tajik-led anti-Pashtun ethnic coalition that would look like the one that took place after the fall of the Soviet-supported regime in 1992. Sticking our soldiers in the middle of other countries’ civil wars seems to have become America’s new pastime.

We’re still running a funky facility in Afghanistan at Bagram Air Base called the “black jail” where prisoners are locked away with no due process and tortured.

We’re still assassinating “suspected” bad dudes from the air in Pakistan with unpiloted drones, and killing a lot of civilians as well.

Pakistan isn’t doing so well on the corruption scale itself. President Asif Ali Zardari and his allies face corruption and criminal charges, and Zardari has ceded his control over Pakistan’s nuclear weapons to the country’s prime minister, and is being called on to cede other powers as well. Pakistan’s military has traditionally been stronger than its civilian government, and Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad says that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cut a dope deal with Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Service Intelligence agency to negotiate with the Taliban for us. Ain’t that a heel upside the noggin?

Speaking of boots, the Washington Post reports that shortly after President Obama announces his latest Afghanistan plan, as many as 9,000 Marines will deploy to resume an offensive in Southern Afghanistan, the one that stalled out when McChrystal first took over. The current official explanation of why the original offensive went flat is that we didn’t have enough troops at the time. But the time, the story was that the Taliban fighters faded away in the presence of a superior force and struck elsewhere. How many shiny Ohio quarters would you care to bet that they’ll fade away this time too?

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. Jeff, glad to see you're still alive. (See my last comment on your previous post if you're not sure what I'm talking about.)

    The ethnic conflict in the Afghan army sounds like a winning strategy. Let's arm these guys and let them wipe each other out in new and horrible ways. Do you get the feeling that the masters of the Great Game are trying to clear the land of its people to make way for the pipeline?

    Like the idea of the neutron bomb which vapourized people but left buildings intact, a supposed advance in the science and technology of war.

    Don't become an isolationist, please, as you mentioned in your podcast. You'll get locked in with the war crazies. The sane of the world have got to stay connected.

    Today's CBC Sunday Report had a discussion on Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. The audio will be up on the site tomorrow, but the program notes said this:

    We will begin the show by looking at Canada in Afghanistan. Not just - who knew what and when about torture and detainees - but what Canada is still doing there after eight years of mounting deaths and debatable progress, and how those years have changed Canada's role in the world, and standing at home.

    I can't say I like what Canada has become very much, but I'm only one person. The dissenters have been gagged, blindfolded and tied up, but still included in the warmaking by having their taxes extracted from them without a chance to object.

    I seem to remember that the "taxation without representation" thing caused a revolution somewhere a couple of hundred and change years ago.

  2. It also bothers me that he will be making this announcement at West Point. A tactic right out of the W era.
    Will he talk about the [stop-loss]program? Will he talk about the numerous, endless, tours that our soldiers are in? Will he even hint at an exit strategy? So many questions. And all we get is escalate, surge, more, more, and more.
    Increase taxes to pay for more deaths on the front lines in AF/PAK. Decrease taxes so the war-profiteers can earn more. And above all do not talk about increasing taxes to support health care for the American people.

  3. Then there was this. The concern the Paks have over Balochistan and the surge.

  4. Hope you are done with the flu.
    No doubt there will be more troops sent to the meat grinder of Afghanistan. Exit strategy? No way, can't have one of them things. It would smack of cut and run. Better to just send more off to the slaughter. Just as we kept doing in Vietnam.He cannot mention stop loss. That is just involuntary servitude any way. What can he do about multiple tours in the war zone, bring back the draft?
    We need to go back to the ideas of the founders. Not isolationist, but the idea of fair trade and friendship to all, entangling alliances with none.
    Oh, and we could try to restore the old constitutional republic and get national health also.

  5. RZ,

    Yeah, making his announcement at the academy smacks of Dubya.


    I think I may have a week to go with this flu. It's very persistent. Thanks for your concern.


  6. Ever since I expressed to friends and family the desire to do some cruising in my new sailboat, I have been warned incessantly about places I should not go under any circumstances. My aunt, for instance, is convinced that it is certain death to visit Mexico, solely on the basis of what she reads in the papers, of course. I'm being encouraged to understand that the world is dangerous place, full of violence and barbarism, and that I should stay here in the U.S., which in their judgement is the safest, most civilized place on earth (as long as you stay out of certain neighborhoods).

    Well, we here in Washington state today woke to the news that four police officers were gunned down in a coffee shop. Just like that. Police have no leads, but suspect it was probably a vendetta killing of some sort. Which is exactly the sort of failed-state violence you would associate with a place like Mexico, or perhaps South Africa (and what should we conclude if the perpetrator turns out to be and Iraq or Afghanistan veteran?).

    And it's not just this one incident, shocking though it is, that seems to suggest where we're heading. The news is filling up with stuff like this, despite the best efforts of the "don't worry, be happy" crowd. People seem to be waking up to the fact that they have been comprehensively betrayed by the institutions they trusted, and the one response you can count on Americans to have a thorough grounding in is violence (where do we learn that, I wonder?).

    Americans, your country is falling apart. It may be happening slowly enough that you can ignore the ramifications of events like this, but it's happening. The things that need our attention are not on the other side of the world, they're right here under your noses. The idea that we can bring a country like Afghanistan into the 21st century when our own is falling back into the 20th (the worst decades, that is) is not just delusional, it's positively insane.

  7. Take this to the bank:

    We will lose the war in Afghanistan. Every human being who is dying for this cause is dying in vain. England and Russia learned this lesson a long time ago. You would think....N­ever mind.

    Suffice to say, I don't receive half the information Obama receives. I don't read all of (or any of) the Presidential Daily Briefings that are placed on his desk every morning. Maybe he knows something that I don't. I am not doubting that as a distinct possibility. But from where I sit it would seem to me that this president has failed to learn the historical lessons taught to us by the administrations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson - lessons involving bold action in times of economic crisis, and the utter folly of trying to win wars that cannot be won.

    I want to believe in this guy but the sad fact of the matter is that I am quickly losing confidence in my president. Where the heck is all this change I could believe in? Are the Republicans still in charge? What gives?

    Tom Degan

  8. There is no real difference between the Repubs. and the Dems. especially when it comes to war, and foreign policy. The same global policy makers are still in charge. When you think of Obama and foreign policy, think ZBIG. Neocons, Neolibs, same agenda. Different suit.

  9. Did anyone bother to tell the CinC that the South Asian fighting season is just about over for the year?

    Oh well, i guess it only means that we'll have rousing successes for a few months before it all goes to shit again.

    I was recently pointed in the direction of some Politburo minutes from mid November 1986. Check the link below if you're into disturbing, deja vu.

    As always, Jeff, well said.

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