More on the Fake Mansour

by Joshua Foust on 11/23/2010 · 2 comments

I have an article in today’s AfPak Channel over at Foreign Policy on this fake Mullah business.

Are there any lessons we can learn from this? For one, the officials hyping the talks to reporters never seemed to talk about the prospect of American withdrawal. Filkins himself reported last year that this is a primary, unchangeable goal of the Taliban.

But ISAF and Afghan officials spun the talks as evidence that the new, aggressive stance taken by General Petraeus, focused on killing mid-level commanders to ‘force’ the Taliban to the negotiating table, was working. They were partially right: something had changed. But it wasn’t the effectiveness of their tactics or strategy. Instead, this episode confirms what many Afghanistan watchers have long feared: the leadership of ISAF doesn’t seem to have any idea what it’s doing, who it’s talking to, and (probably) who it is really killing.

Discuss.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. 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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{ 2 comments }

ML November 26, 2010 at 8:51 am

Two words for this business.

AMIS RAUS.

carl November 29, 2010 at 10:07 pm

What does AMIS RAUS mean?

This may be a slightly off the wall observation, but I wonder how much of our love of numbers, “kills”, night raids and Pred strikes comes from video games and movies? The people who make the political decisions inside the beltway are mostly civilians who have never seen complicated dangerous situations in person, the closest they come outside of briefing papers is watching movies and seeing their kids play the video games. I wonder if this pre-disposes them to buy the “spec-ops supermen will save the day if only they can kill enough of them” arguments?

It would tie in with the bureaucratic imperative to have some kind of number to point at. I would have thought GEN Petraeus and his people would know better though. Maybe they do know better and are using the numbers game to placate the politicos who are impressed by numbers, machines and spec ops in order to buy time. I hope so anyway because the game they are talking up can’t possibly work as long as Pakistan is there as a sanctuary. If…if attrition of mid-level commanders got close to being critical they would just take a sabbatical in Pakistan and wait it out.

Sometimes I think we act a lot like the Japanese Navy in WWII. They were fixated on winning tactical engagements, “we sunk more of you than you sunk of us”, and on trying to set up big glorious battles at the expense of winning the war. The best example is the Battle of Savo Island. They were content to whack 5 of our cruisers for no loss but didn’t bother with the cargo ships of the north coast of Guadalcanal. They didn’t want to risk their “victory”. We act like that, puffed with pride at the numbers but not looking beyond it. Teenagers. It’s depressing.

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