Wednesday, October 7, 2009

8 years on ...

(stays on top today - G)

And we're still in Afghanistan. The way things are going, we'll be there at least another eight. I heard a lotta shit about Afghanistan since I've been back and most of it stupid.

Seems the big idea is to send another 40,000 troops over there. You see the "surge" in Iraq worked (sorta) so naturally that's the thing to do in Afghanistan. The dumbest thing I heard yesterday was John McCain saying:

"The closest parallel we have to Afghanistan is Iraq."

Let me tell you something, the similarities are few and far between and basing an Afghan strategy on whatever we did in Iraq won't work (Not that it worked in Iraq, we're "cutting and running"; remember?). First, the terrain is different, far more inhibiting. Second, the people are different (but let the Republicans tell you how), and they think in very different ways.

How many times do I say "amateurs talk strategy; experts talk logistics"? Listen to me; you think we had problems getting convoys from the airport to the Green Zone, or out into the field in Iraq, where it's relatively flat, with relatively decent roads, without being ambushed?

I think Afghanistan has only one paved highway and most of the roads through the mountains are dirt tracks that are only accessible by donkey. You ain't getting a convoy of semi-trucks up in there. And then let's look at (while we're trying to resupply in that forbidding terrain) the millions of places to set up ambushes in the mountains. How in Hell you think the Afghans chased the Soviets out? Near the end, the Russians couldn't run a convoy without it being attacked, even with support from helicopter gunships. When idiots with RPGs can take positions higher in altitude than helicopters can fly, you got some serious problems. Figure out what it takes to replenish 40K troops and then figure out how to get them their supplies without heavy losses. Once you do that, then talk to me about a surge.

The people themselves are a setback to "winning", generally through no fault of their own. I laugh when they say they're trying to build an "Afghan Army". There are very few in the place named "Afghanistan" who consider themselves Afghans (a moniker and demarche created by the British); they are a tribal people. Their first allegiance is to their family and then to their tribe, be they Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, or Turkmen. There has never been a central government with any power to affect people's daily lives outside the environs of Kabul. Even the puppet goverment we installed has a very limited reach. How can we expect people to rally 'round a flag and a nation they have very little connection to, let alone be willing to fight and kill their own people for? At least the Iraqis understand the concept of central government (Saddam impressed it upon them), the Afghans don't and there's no way we can impose it upon them in 50 years, let alone a decade.

Our strategy in Afghanistan was misguided from the beginning and then allowed to languish while our attention was diverted to Iraq. Any chance we could have imposed some sort of central government on Afghanistan has come and gone and now we're only delaying the inevitable. The mighty British Empire cut their losses and left and the counterinsurgency operation by the Soviets pushed them over the edge of bankruptcy. We will learn another hard lesson forgotten since Korea and Vietnam by the time we leave as well.

Those who rant for 40K American souls to be sent to the front immediately are misinformed at the least but mostly outright warmongers; small men and women who can only achieve 'greatness' upon a pile of bodies. Afghanistan has to stop, in a way where we can keep the threat from them to a minimum (I'm not naive) and still remove our troops from the theater. It is a complete waste of money and lives and we don't have a surplus of either.

Update (Thursday morning):

Thinking about it, in some conspicuous place in Washington, in the medium of white marble, should this be etched:

Democracy cannot be imposed from outside, it can only arise from within. Democracy cannot be forced at the point of a gun.

Once our leaders (who think people in other places are lining up to get themselves some good 'ol American democracy and only need us to give it to 'em) wrap their heads around that, our Afghan policy (and foreign policy in general) will become sensible.

Update II:

Greenwald also makes the point I was trying to:

... Regarding the primary rationale for escalating (or even remaining) in Afghanistan -- namely, that if the Taliban control Afghanistan, Al Qaeda will return and once again have a "safe haven" there -- DDay asks an excellent question: since the Taliban already control a huge portion of Afghanistan and have for a couple of years (up to 80%, in fact), why hasn't Al Qaeda returned? He argues that "this persistent lie about Al Qaeda's aims in the region underpins the entire case for escalation, just the way the domino theory underpinned consistent troop buildup in Vietnam," and makes an excellent argument in support of that view which is well worth reading ...

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