Introducing The Case for Afghanistan

by Joshua Foust on 8/26/2009 · 16 comments

Many people I know and respect, like Michael Cohen, have written articles and blog posts explaining why there is little or no strategic rationale for the continued war in Afghanistan, and therefore the U.S. should withdraw from the conflict. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have growing doubts about the war, especially surrounding our willingness to fight it, but despite those doubts I see several very important reasons to say. (I’ll also address some of the concerns I see them raising).

For starters, and I mentioned this during the BloggingHeads segment I did with Michael, you cannot ignore the domestic politics of the war. Namely, two administrations now have placed their foreign policy fortunes on defeating al Qaeda because it is a major, strategic threat. I honestly have my doubts—despite actually watching the September 11th attacks from my office window in Arlington, at the bottom of things 9/11 didn’t materially affect the U.S.—the stock market barely paused, the Pentagon didn’t stop working, and within a week things were functioning mostly normally (the psychological shock was severe, but that’s something different). When the nation’s top military officer continues to insist on teevee that al Qaeda is still capable of striking the U.S., that carries tremendous import, and building the case that even another 9/11 is an acceptable risk requires a sophistication of argument—exhaustive, comprehensive, meticulous—that simply is not evident in the “withdraw now” folks. In other words, they need to build an air tight case, which hasn’t happened yet.

There is an annoying side note to this discussion. For some reason, many of the people advocating withdrawal—such as Steven Walt—argue that there either is no discussion of the topic or that the discussion hasn’t specifically addressed some form of argument they would deem sufficient. In Walt’s case, he says there has been no cost-benefit analysis in the public… apparently ignoring the Newsweek cover story that specifically says the costs of the war are quickly becoming too much to bear, I suppose. Now, these sorts of arguments might not be as prominent as a given pundit may desire, but especially given the narrow majority that now opposes the war in Afghanistan, it’s a little bit disingenuous to claim that “the discussion” isn’t happening even as it grips large swaths of the public.

So what of Afghanistan on its own merits? I’m going to take Cohen as a template and summarize the case against the war, then discuss whether or not it’s convincing. From my understanding, the case summarizes as:

  • The war has no strategic focus or objectives. If we can’t articulate what we’re fighting for, why are we fighting?
  • The war has no end state. At what point do we decide we have achieved victory? If we don’t have an end state, is it appropriate to continue fighting?
  • If the war is to be about al Qaeda, then we cannot ignore Pakistan, since that is where al Qaeda is based and operates. Yet, the war’s primary focus is Afghanistan—which misses the point.
  • Al Qaeda do not represent an existential threat either to the U.S. nor to Pakistan. They can be managed and degraded using means other than war.
  • The costs and benefits of the war simply do not add up: the marginal benefit we receive from the war do not justify the costs in blood and treasure
  • Given the severe resource and host country restraints, executing a counterinsurgency is wishful thinking. The U.S. should scale back its objectives to a counterterrorism focus.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be trying to address these, some of which I agree with (particularly about strategic drift at the top), and some I certainly do not (like the argument the benefits do not outweigh the costs). I can’t guarantee I’ll hit everything, though—this debate has become unspeakably tedious, and hasn’t really advanced beyond the last time we discussed it, in April 2008. Even so, I’ll put in a good-faith effort to add something.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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Inkan1969 August 26, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Strategic focus or objectives – Capture Osama Bin Laden and Dr. Aymin al-Zawahiri (I prefer that over killing them), as well as Mullah Mohammed Omar and all leaders from his 1990’s regime. Render any military force that remains loyal to the Omar regime ineffective in threatening the Afghan government, and eliminate the al-Qaeda military force altogether. I’ll consider those the main objectives of our involvement in Afghanistan. The Taliban is supposed to be amorphous? The political solution to the conflict might then be to negotiate with factions fighting under the Taliban banner who are willing to disavow Omar. If these factions form their own political movement with Muslim fundamentalist standings, and they subsequently win elections, then that can’t be helped as that would represent the will of the people. Afghan society can only change on its own. Likewise, I’m not sure what help other countries could offer in solving Afghanistan’s problems with corruption and possible electoral fraud, but any help could be continued without the coalition military. It’s the threat posed by Omar era Taliban ideologues and al-Qaeda that the coalition should oppose militarily.

omar August 26, 2009 at 4:43 pm

The real issue is not Afghanistan, its Pakistan. Lets imagine that the US leaves Afghanistan in disarray, right down to the iconic helicopter takeoff from the Kabul embassy roof (maybe with Karzai hanging on to the rope ladder); even in that scenario, the real loss is loss of face. There is no oil in Afghanistan and no easy way to have a functional modern country in the foreseeable future. Taliban ruled Afghanistan would become a haven for the world’s adventure seeking jihadis, but the taliban would not have peace. The Northern alliance has been revitalized and will continue to get Indian and Iranian (and probably Russian and American) support and will hold the North. The rest will be one big mess, Somalia X 10, occasionally bombed and cruise-missiled as the need arises. How many international terrorist plots have been launched from Somalia? probably zero. Without Pakistan, the jihadis have nothing except endless brutal war in the world’s poorest country.

The real prize is Pakistan.

My question to you is this: do you think the US has finally flipped the Pakistani army or can the Pakistani army go back to training and arming jihadis?

If they dont go back to being jihad central, isnt the US job in that region pretty much done? The Pakistani army could be fighting the jihadis for decades, but as long as they hold the major cities and control the ports and airports, how is that any worse than what is happening now?

It will probably be very bad for the Afghans if the US leaves soon, but is it really that bad for the US?


anand August 26, 2009 at 5:16 pm

Omar it is bad for us Americans. One future ace in the hole against the Takfiri extremists (some muslims are offended by the term Jihadi) is the ANA. The more the ANA and ANP fight them, the harder they the extremists find it to attack anyone else.

An observation: Kashmir blew up in 1996 when Osama Bin Laden got deeply involved and started sending large numbers of suicide bombers for the first time. Today, in 2009, violence is down 90% or more and the insurgency seems over. Why? Obviously a huge financial transfers to the Kashmiri elected state government from the Indian central government helped as did COIN by the Indian police and army. But a huge factor was that most of the Kashmiri insurgents went to fight in Afghanistan and against the Pakistani Army. {In Afghanistan, many seem to fight in with Haqqani’s forces.}

A large part of the reason that Chechnya has been quiet in recent years is because many of the extremists are busy fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan. {Remember that Zawahiri fought in Chechnya, and that Russia nearly invaded Afghanistan in 1999 and 2001 to stop the Taliban from helping Chechnyan extremists.} As some might remember there was a Stratfort report from August 2001 about the possibility of the Russian air force providing CAS to the Northern Alliance against the Taliban, with the US funding the Russians.

Without a doubt a major factor in why there has been less terrorism in America, Europe, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, India and China is because the extremists are occupied in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The ANA and most of the ANP really dislike the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda linked networks. Paying the ANA and ANP to fight them over decades is much cheaper than the cost of WMD terrorist attacks on civilian population centers. 9/11 cost hundreds of billions in global GDP. A WMD attack could be much larger than that.

In the event that military operations inside Pakistan become necessary (we are not there today), wouldn’t it be better to have a highly motivated orthodox Sunni Pashtun ANA itching to do it? This is what exists now, so why not sufficiently fund them? Even if it never proves necessary to cross the Durand line, the ANA and ANP are currently killing a lot of Pakistani extremists (mostly Pashtu Pakistani extremists) and thereby relieving a lot of pressure from the Pakistanis.

Omar, the only way Kabul falls is if America and other countries betray the Afghan people and refuses to fund their ANA and ANP. In that case, the Afghans would be furious with America for decades to come. I don’t understand why a return to warlords would be a good thing in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is much better off because most of them have stood down and been replaced by the ANA and ANP.

On Pakistan; for the first time since 1947 there is a large popular backlash against the extremists. Popular opinion in Pakistan is now more anti extremists than in Israel, the US, Russia or India. Shouldn’t this be taken advantage of right now, since such an opportunity might not come again? Some parts of the Pakistani security establishment might not be with the program, but I think the popular anger is causing major changes even there.

FDChief August 26, 2009 at 6:53 pm

There seems to be some significant confusion here about what is being argued.

Joshua & Co. are – if I’m reading them correctly – arguing about the presence in-country of an equivalent of 3 US divisions amid an ISAF that totals something approaching 80-100K, and include the civilian and political aid, reconstruction, all the bag-and-baggage that goes with “nation-building”.

ISTM that the case against that is prima facie: there is no “there” there. Nothing in Afghanistan – or Pakistan, for that matter – justifies that level of commitment of Western resources.

anad, on the other hand, equates pulling out 90% of the U.S. trigger-pullers with deconstructing the Afghan Army and the ANP. I’m not sure that this is really legitimate. It would seem, instead, that a withdrawal of foreign troops would equal an INCREASE in Afghan combat power to fill the vacuum.

Shuja Nawaz has a pretty good take on all of this over at FP ( In reply to the often-asked question “why can’t the Afghans fight their own war” he replies:

“Probably because we won’t let them. All the talk about the strategy for the war comes out of American mouths. We never hear the Afghans talk about how they hope to conduct the war or how they hope to defeat the Taliban. If the United States and the coalition own the war, they will fight it their way. (snip) Afghans have been fighting for centuries. What sort of training are they missing to fight their compatriots? It is basic war, light weapons, IEDs, and bribes, threats, and coercion being used to win over friends and foes. Who knows the social terrain better? The Afghans or us?”

So I see the problem here not as a foreign policy problem but as a domestic policy problem. We’ve locked ourselves into this Manichean argument where one side is all the anand-argument (“If we don’t fight them there with everything we’ve got we’re going to fight them here”), which is nonsense, while the other is saying “We can’t possibly win and even if we do the costs outweigh the gains so let’s just stop” which is also pretty much nonsense.

There’s a world of options between the two. But, for what it’s worth, the WORST option seems to be to flood the country with foreign troops. We’ve been trying that since 2006 and it doesn’t seem to be producing a measurable improvement. And the precedent isn’t a good one: when foreign troops take over a domestic insurgency, the local troops tend to a) pick up the worst tactical tendencies of the foreigners, and b) they tend to become mere auxiliaries of the foreign main force.

The U.S. Army created an entire army in the mountains of Vietnam with little more than a tiny cadre of SF and CIA. Given the natural fighting skills and traditions of the Afghan mountaineers, it would seem surprising that – assuming that we have picked a proxy that the locals are willing to fight for (and given that the Talibs seem to be pretty objectionable to many other Afghans) – we could not replicate that sort of economy-of-force war.

anand August 26, 2009 at 9:38 pm

FD Chief, sorry for bashing you that other time. I thought you were one of the hard academic leftists.

Thanks for equating me with a “strategy” by the way. Even I wouldn’t go that far. I have no great insights. 😆

Shuja Nawaz strikes me as part of the US echo chamber. Why doesn’t he directly ask the flag officers of the ANA and the leaders of the ANP how they plan to win this war? For that matter, why doesn’t the mainstream US media ever ask them this question, and even more important relay their answers back to US readers?

Could part of the reason might be that Afghans don’t see this as a short term “triage,” or “winning” in a few years; but rather as part of a long term struggle between themselves and the Taliban. Could it be that Afghans have lower expectations for what can be realistically achieved on a quick time table. If we adjust our thinking to the way Afghans see it; maybe we can begin to have a productive dialogue on joint strategy.

FD Chief, perhaps we differ on what the broader global conflict with extremism is? One of the reasons that the muslim world turned so sharply against Al Qaeda linked networks is the perception that the Iraqis, the Iraqi Government, the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police defeated them on Iraqi soil. It was a devastating blow to their global image, popularity and legitimacy. If the Afghans are seen as beating them too, it would similarly devastate them globally. No one wants to join a loser.

I think that this is a possible outcome. Perhaps you don’t?

FD Chief, in the 1990s, Osama Bin Laden was a big problem for the Chinese. Michael Sheuer discusses how the Chinese complained about him to the US in the 1990s, when the US kind of brushed them off ( You don’t think that the distraction of AQ linked networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan wasn’t part of the reason that China has a smaller extremist problem now than in the 1990s? Several analysts have speculated that part of the reason that Indonesia has had so much success with Al Qaeda linked networks is because they were distracted elsewhere. Is it conceivable that losing to the GIRoA might be worse for extremist networks than not hitting the US mainland?

FD Chief, I think we are not fighting specific terrorists as much as a global extremist movement.

I don’t favor a huge short term commitment but a consistent very long term effort. How about discussing a strategy of allowing the ANSF, NSD, GIRoA and their embedded advisors to strategically pull back from certain parts of Afghanistan (Helmand, Kandahar) and gradually win these areas back over many years through COIN and foreign funded economic development?

omar August 26, 2009 at 11:38 pm

Anand, I dont think the US is safer because the terrorists are too busy in Afghanistan. I think its safer because its far away, hard to reach, very much on its guard, and maybe also because Pakistani security services are not encouraging any such attack.
I absolutely agree that ANA can fight the taliban for decades, given some outside support. They can even win.
I think withdrawal would lead to bad times in afghanistan and in a thousand mile radius. China and India should be paying for this operation because they will be in trouble (india much more than china) if the US leaves.
my point was, how bad would it be for the US? I am actually not saying the US should withdraw. I am saying thinking clearly about its aims will help to concentrate minds all around the region and clarify priorities for the US itself.

anand August 27, 2009 at 12:48 am

Omar, could I ask if you are an American like me? “because Pakistani security services are not encouraging any such attack.” Do you think the Pakistanis encouraged the 9/11 attacks? The ISI had connections to Mohammad Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker and even paid him in 2001. But did they want him to attack the US or another country (maybe India)?

“China and India should be paying for this operation because they will be in trouble (india much more than china) if the US leaves. . . I am saying thinking clearly about its aims will help to concentrate minds all around the region and clarify priorities for the US itself.” I agree with this. America should demand that India and China should each pledge more than $10 billion in Afghan grants over the next 20 years, in addition to a civilian surge of tens of thousands (to embed in Afghan civilian institutions.) Obama should threaten that America might rethink its Afghan efforts if they don’t pony up. Ditto with Russia, given that Russia considered attacking the Taliban in 1999 and 2001.
Read this article on the treat of extremist terrorism to Russia:,1
In a spring 1988 meeting with US analysts “Two threats topped the Soviets’ list of concerns. The first was Islamist terrorism. The Soviet Union had by then decided to withdraw from Afghanistan, but it expected no end to the Islamist fanaticism its invasion had unleashed. The Kremlin thought Islamist terrorism would spread through Central Asia and then up the Caucasus — much of which was then Soviet territory. Moscow itself would suffer terrorist bombings. The Soviets’ warned that the United States, despite its support for the mujahedeen, would also be a target of Islamist terrorism . . . Over the course of centuries, Russian armies had expanded their empire through the Caucasus, the Asian steppe, and the Ottoman-controlled Balkans. Russians and Muslims, in their eyes, were implacable enemies, a fact unchanged by a multi-ethnic Soviet Union. For them, Islam could only be in retreat or on the march.

The second Soviet fear was nuclear terrorism. This was also surprising. The United States worried about the security of its own nuclear facilities and nuclear weapons in the event of a possible terrorist attack. But the United States still considered nuclear terrorism a remote threat. Here it was, No. 2 on the Soviet list. Why?

The answer was the disaster at Chernobyl. In 1986, a nuclear reactor caught fire and spewed radioactive contamination across Europe. Because of human error, we emptied a city, the Soviets said. But a Chernobyl-like catastrophe could just as easily have been because of human malevolence.”

David M August 27, 2009 at 9:23 am

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/27/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

omar August 27, 2009 at 10:36 am

Anand, yes, I am an American citizen.
And no, that did not come out right (I was writing in a hurry as usual)> I dont think the Pakistani security services encouraged any attacks directly (though I admit I wouldnt know, as far as I can tell, the role of ISI in wiring money to Ata is not exactly confirmed news either; The whole thing is one of those mysteries like the “quetta shura”, everyone talks about it but I have no idea what the official line is and the truth is hidden even deeper. I am just an internet blogger with no access to inside information). What I meant to say was that the Pakistani security services seem to be trying to stop attacks rather than encourage them and without the ISI, the terrorists are down to home grown bomber level. That is still a threat (as in London) but with good policing and flypaper FBI work, most of those nuts get caught. I was thinking that IF the ISI (or some other organization with serious capabilities) wanted to arrange an attack, THEY could probably carry it off (not saying they could get away with it unscathed afterwards). My larger point was that at the Somalia level, these terrorists are local threats. Its only if they have serious partners in a relatively sophisticated country (aka Pakistan) that they become a serious worldwide threat.

FDChief August 27, 2009 at 11:03 am

anand: Certainly the Muslim world would be the worse off if the Islamic neoconservatives like OBL and KSM (their motto: “Forward to the 11th Century!”) took over. But you yourself pointed out that most Muslims DON’T want what they want. For one thing, the entire notion of an Islamic “caliphate” (besides being a complete fantasy which ignores the intervening eight hundred years of human history) would require Iraqis, Syrians, Egyptians, Pakistanis, etc. to stop being citizens of their own nations and start becoming “Muslims”. My experience was with Egyptians, who are quite proud of their nation and would violently resist (as they have the Muslim Brotherhood in their own country) any attempt to pan-islamicize them.

BUT…I would argue that this is a good argument AGAINST setting up the U.S. and the West as an “anti-Islamic” coalition.

Nothing inflames a religion more than religious war. Think of our own history: the bad blood between Protestant and Catholic fired up religious passions that had cooled in the light of the Renaissance to the point where it still lingers in places like Belfast. What killed the religious wars in Europe? Was it victory for one religion over the other?

No. It was the Enlightenment, which made religion irrelevant to daily social and political life. The religions linger on, but, in Europe, are little more than hobbies for 98% of the people. Fighting religion didn’t beat religion; distracting people and teaching them to ignore it did.

Or think of the example of Soviet Communism. We constructed a huge military edifice to contain it, and we did, by and large. But did we actually FIGHT the Soviets? And if we had, would the result have been as positive as what did happen?

So I would argue, again, that what we should be doing in AfPak is:

1. Backing WAY off with the kinetic stuff. Draw down the foreign combat troops to a tiny maneuver element, say 20,000 troops for the entire region. Disperse another 20,000 or so as advisers and trainers for the ANA. This can be done inside of 12 months.

2. Take the existing ANA and cadre it. Let’s say that that out of the 100K ANA troops currently fielded that half are competent to move up a grade. Take the remaining 50K and keep them as maneuver units. Take the remaining 50K and bump them all up 1-2 grades: squad leaders become platoon sergeants, platoon leaders become company commanders, battalion commander become brigade commanders, etc.

3. Establish 4-6 regional training centers and start a national mobilization equivalent to the U.S. Army draft of WW2. Use the ANA cadre and the ISAF trainers to form a 300-400K ANA that is purely designed for FID. No bells and whistles, no U.S. style “back-off-and-call-for-fire” dog and pony show. Pure light infantry tactics; patrolling, movement to contact, fire and maneuver. These guys are already among the world’s most deadly light infantrymen – it’s their tradition, ask the Brits.

4. Meanwhile, get some Afghans out front to actually LEAD. Get the U.S. and NATO talking heads off the TV screens. Make an Afghan general the CIC of ISAF. Make the Kabul government take over. The U.S. and NATO can noodle around behind the scenes as much as they want, but the goal is to make the whole thing an Afghan show inside of a year or so.

Will all this solve the problem of political turmoil and tribal war in Afghanistan? Hell, no. In fact, the real problem with an ANA, any ANA, is defusing the tribal fault lines that divide the whole “country”; figuring out a way to get Tajiks, Pashtuns, Hazaras, etc. to work together. Working together requires trust, which isn’t something that tribal societies have a lot of.

But what it WILL do is take the whole “Western infidel oppresses Islamic hero” factor out of the picture. There will still be oppression – you can’t have a civil war without SOMEbody getting oppressed. But it will push the whole godless West-Islam issue off the front burner and go a long way to defuse the AQ/Talib/various islamic faction rhetoric.

Then we can let the place either stumble along in its long post-colonial, post-Mughal desuetude or develop its own Islamic Enlightenment. Either way, we’ve done what we can to frustrate the people who wish us ill while reducing our involvement in one of the most intractable spots on the globe…

anand August 27, 2009 at 6:39 pm

“only if they have serious partners in a relatively sophisticated country (aka Pakistan) that they become a serious worldwide threat.” Agreed. But they do have such assets. Retired Pakistani Army and ISI officers who are out of step with the current Pakistani public mood. There are also members of the Saudi Royal family. If you remember after Mumbai, the US pressed for charges against 4 top retired Pakistani Generals: two retired Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of the Pakistan Army, 1 retired Chief of the ISI, and one other retired top Pakistani Army officer. All four had links to AQ linked networks. For a list of other top Saudi and Pakistani officials, you can read this book:
(Posner asserts that Khalid Sheik Mohammed gave what he thought were his “Saudi interrogators” the cell numbers of three members of the Saudi Royal family and the chief of staff of the Pakistani air force and insisted that they would confirm that KSM had acted with their approval.

The Pakistani Army and its ISI are massively changing; but I wouldn’t assume that AQ linked networks don’t still have some assets in them; especially among retired flag generals. Nor would I assume that AQ linked networks cannot hit the US homeland. Many very smart people (including non Americans) think they can.

FD Chief, I like the way you think 😉 But for it to work the international community needs to commit to a long term foreign aid commitment to the Afghans conditioned on difficult Afghan reforms. I think it would cost about $250 billion in grants over 20 years from the entire international community.

I might think through some of the specifics differently. You would need to work through the current CSTC-A, Afghan National Army Training Command, Command and General Staff College, National Military Academy of Afghanistan, and Kabul Military Training Centre system. You would also need to work through the existing MoI system. Getting buy in from the flag general officers of the ANA and ANP would be critical for success.

The Afghans have plenty of volunteers and don’t need a draft.

I think the ANA needs 1 ISAF embedded division HQS, 6 ISAF emdedded advisory brigades (one per ANA Corps and division HQs), in addition to a large number of trainers. The ANP need probably 1 ISAF embedded division HQs, 6 ISAF advisory embedded brigades, in addition to a large number of trainers (hopefully Chinese, Indian, Indonesian.) Transfer all battlespace to the ANSF, including all reconstruction and PRTs.

12 super embedded ISAF advisory brigades seem like a lot, but this is necessary to transfer all of Afghanistan to the ANSF quickly, which you seem to favor (so do I.)

Then gradually draw down to ISAF one emdedded advisory battalion per ANA Corps or Division HQs. Keep gradually drawing down as the ANSF and security situation improves.

Currently Kabul province has completely transitioned to the ANP. The ANA has two brigades with one combat line battalion each in Kabul, but they are in there for backup. 3 more provinces that can transition quickly are Paktia, Paktika and Ghazni (to 203 ANA.)

anan August 27, 2009 at 6:40 pm

I meant to write “anan.” I am not Anand Gopal.

sayke August 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm

the elephant in the room here is the fact that much of the high-leel afghan political and military leadership seems relatively uninterested in helping afghanistan stabalize and develop, and extremely interested in making vast sums of money.

this goes for many ministers, generals, and well-connected afghans of all stripes. as long as leadership is viewed as a for-profit endeavour , it will fail. this problem has been enabled and exacerbated by the bush administration’s willingness to embrace and promote corruption at a center-of-government level. whenever they were faced with a choice between short-term stability and justice, they chose stability… and like the saying goes, they got neither.

that’s why this current election is such a wonderful opportunity for the forces of good. karzai has been caught dead to rights trying to cheat his way back into power, so let’s make an example of him… and anyone else who tries any shit. let’s reboot this puppy and do it right this time.

i have serious doubts as to whether anything short of that would work.

Walter M. Clark August 28, 2009 at 9:33 pm

FD Chief and Anan(d)

I think you are both missing an important factor that will make the Afghan military and police build-up and take over of the battle against the Taliban more difficult than you imply by your comments. The illiteracy rate in Afghanistan is very high, and creating a modern, or even semi-modern army and police force needs recruits who can read and learn from what they read. You’re going to have to both teach them to read AND teach them how to do their jobs. This makes the project much slower and more difficult. I’d like to have it as easy as your comments seem to imply; I just don’t think it is possible.

M Shannon August 29, 2009 at 8:26 am

1. Afghans tend to want to stick close to home so army recruiting,with the chance of being sent to another region is made more difficult. The army also gets lots of village trouble makers and they discourage the recruiting of more educated people. Police recruiting is difficult because the police are held in low esteem by educated people. Doubling the ANSF may also lead to a reduction in standards for leaders especially if educated people can’t be convinced to join in large numbers. The chances of that are very low as the “surge” of civilians and base building will increase opportunities for educated people to get much better paying civilian jobs. The increase in US FOBs will also drain the ANSF of folks who head to better paying jobs with PSCs.

2. Whose interest is it for the war to end? US contractors- No. Afghan politicians- No. Afghan employees of DOD, NGOs, USAID- No. US military- No (but there are limits are how much escalation it wants) CIA- No. Afghan businessmen- No. Tribal leaders- No. Afghan criminals- No. Self declaration: M Shannon- No.

The level of casualties and damage are too low and the cash flow is too high to expect any of the groups that profit from the conflict to be in a hurry to end the war. If civilian casualties continue to drop there will be no push to end this from any quarter.

Michael S. Levinson September 1, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Realistic Light At The end Of The Tunnel:

Amongst others, George Will is wrong. For guaranteed success, we need to occupy all the opium poppy fields. We need to dig extensive livable foxholes in every field. We need to negotiate with every farmer we are purchasing the total crop from the farmers. We are willing to pay the distilled heroin price but we want the opium in its original black milk form. In the event there are users in the house we will allow the farmers enough raw opium for their home use.

The key to solving the terrorist issue is the opium poppy! The poppy funds a dope running religious fanatic organization operating under the name Taliban. The poppy harvest funds all of the operations conducted by al Qaeda.

Government officials throughout the country siphon the proceeds from the poppy, to send their kids to Harvard. 


93% of the world’s opium, the base for heroin, morphine, and codeine is grown in Afghanistan. The most powerful marijuana, best for neutering the side effects from chemotherapy grows in Afghanistan.

Had Ted Kennedy smoked five Afghani marijuana stogies a day, the canniboids would have traveled his blood stream and physically fought the tumor in his brain. Kennedy would still be with us!
(I digressed).

After the harvest, most of the opium poppy milk, the raw opium is distilled into white powder heroin. The Afghan heroin is smuggled throughout Russia, the eastern Bloc, some to Iran where they grow their own opium for home use, a different strain of poppy that when milked has a reddish look instead of black; plentiful smuggling through out Western Europe, and tons by boat and plane to South America where the heroin is repackaged to appear South American grown.

The Columbian Cartels then ship the heroin to the Mexican Cartels for export sale and distribution in USA.

The heroin manufactured from Afghanistan opium poppy cannot be replaced by the drug dealers overnight! The Afghani’s have a monopoly! They wiped out the competition. Were we to simply purchase their opium crop, year in and year out, and their marijuana crop, for medicinal purposes, their whole country would thrive.

There would be enough money in Afghanistan, in each of the provinces, skipping their imagioned federal government, to create jobs building roads and schools and to live in peace and harmony! This would be a lot more cost effective then engaging in senseless war.

Al Qaeda would be out of business, unable to pay their operatives who would slip away without a guarantee of pay. Al qaeda would not have the money to pay the families of the suicide bombers. The idea of planning a mass murderous attack on USA would be a hashish pipe dream. Dick Cheney would be out of business.

The troops who follow the Afghani warlords would go home. They follow the warlords for food and money. The Taliban would dissolve. They are dope smugglers only pretending to be religious fanatics.

It’s all about the drug smuggling money.

To bring this about, an end to the warring there, making the world a safer place for the innocent everywhere, we need only occupy the opium fields with the understanding we are paying top dollar – the distilled heroin price for the raw opium and then Taliban, the war lords, and al Qaeda won’t have any choice but come out from behind the boulders where they hide by the roadsides, and attack us, attack our dug in troops in the poppy fields.

On the move, with drones we will pick off half before the Taliban and al Qaeda get that far.

The night before the plant milking harvest is to begin, we cut down our poppy! We know from the farmers how many ounces each plant produces. We multiply the opium volume X the number of plants to determine the farmer’s cut.

Then we cut down the poppy two inches above ground, chop up all the plants into mulch, enriching the soil for the next harvest. Liken this to spilling a fat line of coke, tipping a mirror off your knee and dumping the line of powder onto a shag rug.

All the terrorist operations in that part of the world will collapse!
The blood of their enterprize is the opium / heroin and what they get for the drug on the underworld world market. This is beyond the scope of our military bureaucracy.

Recently the Chairman of the joint chiefs was questioned in a televised interview. He was asked what the army was doing about the opium / heroin trade. He said words to the effect they were “targeting” the people “distributing the product.” The “product?!” 

This is the language of a bureaucrat, not a military leader.

The president should ORDER the military to do exactly what ‘eye say.’ Then we win. Without paying homage to conspiracy theorists, the military does not want to defeat these terrorists. Without the terrorist threat, their own power and influence, their bureaucracy is diminished.

President Eisenhower warned against the military industrial complex. The words, “peace,” and ‘harmony” do not appear in their lexicons. The words, “peace”, and “harmony” are absent from their military manuals.

Anyone using these words is considered by the military a domestic enemy, and each branch has a counter intelligence domestic program operating in USA. They investigate inside our country!

The last time i sent a sharply worded letter to noose paper editors all around the country, the f be eye knocked on my back door, waving the email and wanted to come into my house to talk to me. How long before the Fascist Bureaucracy Ink comes knocking on your door? 

michaelslevinson dot commie is a decent place to visit. Just don’t visit from your home computer unless you want to invite an echo in your telephone, indicating you are on j. edgarina’s party line for a couple three-day trials.

j. edgarina, the fascist cross dressing pervert of dirt established policies that are active to this day. Hoover’s domestic counter intelligence minions, the newspaper editors and writers ef be eye sponsored into grad schools and from there, local TV newsrooms and noose papers need to be weeded out. 

The writers sponsored by the ef be eye shill professor jay rosen need to be uncovered. 

An examination of all the noose paper people who got emotional in the noose rooms when discussing weapons of mass destruction need to be looked at – where these editors and writers have close family members who work in the D.C. bureaucracy, like the Pentagon and Sea Eye Yay, which stands for cash In Advance, they need to be relieved of their positions! 

We are better served with policies reflecting the above. Try you tube dot commie forward slash poet prophet. gets you a free copy of “New World Hors D’oeuvres.”

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