padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
I know the War In Pakistan thread was kind of a default AfPak thing but since they are after all, despite the contiguous Pashtun belt on both sides of the border, different countries...and since there's been a big push going on (USMC!) for a while now and since it's effectively Obama's war and I highly suspect we're stuck there until at least the next American election cycle and since McChrystal's been in front of Congress and since it's a hot-button issue on American roundtable news shows where jerks in suits jabber at each other under the vacuous gaze of Wolf Blitzer and since the recent elections were a big steaming pile of shit, etc etc

I'll start us off
Steve Coll - Legitimacy & The Afghan Army
There are several plausible scenarios, which range from bad-but-not-disastrous to holy-crap.
hey-o.

my own personal take (amateur, of course, as always), is that the U.S. (& our allies, esp. you guys & the Canadians, tho w/all due respect it's an American thing innit) could "win" if we were willing to put in enormous amts of $$$, time & most importantly manpower. but clearly we're not & I think for good reason in this case. also, perhaps more cogently, I cannot fathom how the benefits of "winning" - sure to be a hollow victory - would even begin to approach, let alone outweigh the costs. and the Afghans (meaning Kabul & the ANA) sure as hell aren't going to win it themselves. so, yeah. that Michael Howard essay Vim linked to in the Lib Dems thread was, I thought, pretty crap, but he nailed one bit dead on, that this whole deal would've been far better off as a police action/emergency/etc instead of decade-long occupation of the most unconquerable place on Earth. but, oh well...
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
(& our allies, esp. you guys & the Canadians, tho w/all due respect it's an American thing innit)

Saw in the paper (can't remember which one) the other day that that British death rates are about three times higher than the Americans' - whether our boys are taking the most dangerous missions or are just less well equipped (a more-or-less constant whinge from UK soldiers on active duty), I couldn't say.

Not trying to 'out-do' you or anything, just thought it seemed germane.

On another topic, did you hear about the recent 'election' results from one of the provinces? Something like 150 votes in total, and it resulted in the passing of a law that allowed men to starve their wives for refusing sex, thus effectively legalising rape within marriage. This is the democracy soldiers are dying for? I mean, well, fuck.
 
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padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Saw in the paper (can't remember which one) the other that that British death rates are about three times higher than the Americans'

I don't know about this either way but, irregardless, I meant that politically, strategically it is an American-driven thing. if non-American forces withdrew, while it certainly wouldn't help matters any, the war could go on, but it's impossible to imagine that happening the other way round. it's not unlike Vietnam, where Australia & esp. South Korea both made significant manpower contributions. certainly I didn't mean to denigrate any British or other soldiers.

and yes, most of the news is dismal. it's a rather dismal war.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Sure, agreed on all points, and I didn't think you were denigrating anyone. Out of interest, do you have any idea of the % of non-US allied servicemen in Afghanistan vs. Iraq? Just thought it might be interesting to compare.

The whole situation is demented - no matter how well-trained and well-equipped a soldier is, how can he possibly fight (and expect to win) against an enemy who's on home territory, fighting on his own terms and is convinced he's going to heaven when he dies? Fighting for money, and perhaps some vague notion that you're upholding freedom, vs. fighting for God...

It's funny you mention 'Nam, I'm reminded of Brando's speech in Apocalypse Now about the VC soldiers for whom "R'n'R means an hours' sleep and a bowl of cold rice", and the "genius" of chopping off the arms of all the kids who'd been immunised by a Western aid agency - while American soldiers kick back with hotdogs, booze and cigarettes and a dance show by some Playboy models. You can bomb and bomb and bomb, but that doesn't mean you're going to win.

[/Mr. Tea's Military Theory 101 - did I mention I taught Vim everything he knows? ;)]
 
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padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
man like scottdisco beats me to the punch, about halfway down the page.

doing the math real quick in my head it comes to just under 1/4 non-American forces, call it ~24%, w/roughly corresponding fatality rates. the Brits do seem to have an abnormally high casualty rate (while the French/German/Italian ones are, not surprisingly proportionally low).

the Vietnam bits, I dunno, clearly parallels can be drawn but there are plenty of differences as well & I'm always reluctant to make too deep a comparison. the similarities lie mostly, I'd think, in general counterinsurgency principles. I think it's pretty clear that upper echelons of American command have become pretty well attuned to COIN in the last 3-4 years (to the pt where there's an ongoing debate in military/defense circles over whether the swing to COIN has in fact been too sharp), which is an enormous difference from Vietnam where that kind of thinking never made it to the high command. now, having the right strategy doesn't guarantee winning, esp when you've shot yourself in the foot by mucking about for 8-odd years and letting the people you're fighting control most of the country.
 

scottdisco

rip this joint please
cheers for the hat-tip P!

basically, as Tea was asking, yes, out of ISAF troops in Afghanistan, UK troops endure a fairly high casualty ratio, one of the highest of individual nations attached to the mission. the likes of the Dutch suffer a lot too, whilst it is the Canadians and the Danish that suffer the highest rates.
but definitely agree w P wrt American troop numbers and implications for the Afghanistan Compact if, say hypothetically, the US just left tomorrow and just ended up lobbing drones at people on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border instead of sticking around on the ground in places.

incidentally, my main blog (that P kindly links to) has often banged on at tedious length - from the pov of ISAF forces, not getting into the most important people here, obv the Afghans esp civilians (sorry to sound so obv, but just, tbc) - about my minor annoyance wrt the British media which - in many outlets - has long appeared to think that the only international forces that are in Afghanistan are, basically, the USA and the Brits. w even the likes of the Daily Express (fucking shit, repellant, paleo-conservative, isolationist, shabby parochial tabloid, for the non-Brits reading this screed) recently noting there are countries like the Netherlands doing spade work, things are changing slightly for the better on that front.

it resulted in the passing of a law that allowed men to starve their wives for refusing sex, thus effectively legalising rape within marriage.

re this repugnant piece of politicking, which fortunately met w opposition to the extent it was at first frozen, and, then, modified so that the despicable has been replaced w the - in context, about best you might hope for, alas -

The new version no longer requires a woman submit to sex with her husband, only that she do certain household chores.

(incidentally my second link contains the thoughts of Shukria Barakzai, who noted "We need a change in customs, and this is just on paper. What is being practised every day, in Kabul even, is worse than the laws" - chimes w something tough guy Joshua Foust, in his rather robust-sounding way, had been noting back in the spring)

one interesting aspect of it all that i think deserves much wider attention is the fact that the, er, slightly seedy sounding Iranian-funded man in Kabul, cleric Asif Mohseni * (my description is generous), was taking his cues from elsewhere when he started the whole shebang



speaking of ISAF, Vim and i on another thread once had some posts re differing standards of rules of engagement of different national forces.

* apologies to the bloke that i have posted links w two different English spellings of his name

also i just want to add at Padraig's blog recently i think there's a good (perhaps provocative for some!) quote from a British COIN adviser, which - as P quotes - goes
"the U.S. military is better than the country it serves".
 
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Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Excellent post, Scott. Interesting that this Mohseni/Mosehni guy is funded by Tehran but is in charge of oppressing Shi'ites...I guess consistency is probably too much to ask for from characters like these.

Some good stuff in that piece by Joshua Froust, especially this:

But anyway, Rothkopf’s complaint, and seemingly everyone’s, about that odius law seems to be that it does not match with our idea of what constitutes human rights—right down to quoting opposition politicians who claim, without merit, that it is “worse than during the Taliban” (the Taliban’s women and religious laws were still far far far worse). What’s more, this petty outrage seems born of layers of misunderstanding of what contemporary Afghanistan actually is—the law, for example, is directed primarily at Shiites (think of the 15 year old Hazara girl who was raped and had her baby forcibly aborted by her mother and brother), and is not materially different than the normal experience of rural women anyway. The crime here is not that a law is being passed to normalize a routine practice; it is that this was a routine practice and we chose not to care about it in the first place.
and
Because our primary goal in the region—and we should be absolutely honest about this—is to destroy al-Qaeda. Now, I happen to believe that we can best do this by helping to create a stable, progressive-for-Afghanistan government. These things take time—you cannot reverse three decades of shock and fracture overnight, or even over a few years. Changing a society takes time, especially when large segments don’t want to change. Rather than hectoring them about how backward they are, we could maybe try relating to why this law seemed like a good idea in the first place—and then using persuasion, rather than petty moralistic finger-wagging, to convince them otherwise. As long as we act like the pursed-lip governess of the country, we’re not going to get many places.

Exactly: barging in guns a-blaze and yelling "Stop being barbarians!" isn't going to help change barbaric, and very deep-seated, cultural practices. It's like taking a tearaway teenager who's come from some horrific background of abuse and neglect and thinking you can 'beat the Devil out of him', or simply punish him until he starts acting like a 'civilised' person. Totally deluded and counter-productive.
 

scottdisco

rip this joint please
cheers for the props!

Exactly: barging in guns a-blaze and yelling "Stop being barbarians!" isn't going to help change barbaric, and very deep-seated, cultural practices. It's like taking a tearaway teenager who's come from some horrific background of abuse and neglect and thinking you can 'beat the Devil out of him', or simply punish him until he starts acting like a 'civilised' person. Totally deluded and counter-productive.

OT of me but what you say here kinda takes me back a couple years to the partisan politics of the US when Congress had set benchmarks to assess Iraqi govt 'progress' w.

in a heated domestic climate, w Dems (some near hysterically, and, imo, disgracefully) questioning the independence of David Petraeus, you felt like wondering aloud how good - on a progressive scale - the USA would look wrt race relations in, say, 1866...
 

scottdisco

rip this joint please
taken from Auntie earlier

Three French soldiers have been killed in a violent storm in north-eastern Afghanistan, the French military says.
The soldiers, serving with a parachute regiment, "died accidentally" at night in Kapisa province, officials said.
Army spokesman Christophe Prazuck said one of the soldiers was hit by lightning and the other two were swept away by a fast flowing river.
Earlier, Afghan Energy Minister Ismail Khan survived a roadside bomb attack in the western city of Herat.
At least four people were killed.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the blast in a telephone call to news agencies.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
cheers for the hat-tip P!

no problem man, fully deserved. the only problem is that when you cite my fake blog I then feel compelled to post something there.

that quote, for those what don't know, is from Emma Sky, Odierno's (pacifist, liberal, self-described tree-hugger) COIN advisor par excellence, and I agree with it 100%.

just ended up lobbing drones at people on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border

a bit OT, but the end of the fighter pilot is a story that's been in the news the last month or two. gradual end, but still, first time ever that more drone operators than pilots are being trained.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
Exactly: barging in guns a-blaze and yelling "Stop being barbarians!" isn't going to help change barbaric, and very deep-seated, cultural practices. It's like taking a tearaway teenager who's come from some horrific background of abuse and neglect and thinking you can 'beat the Devil out of him', or simply punish him until he starts acting like a 'civilised' person. Totally deluded and counter-productive.

the question really is, what are your goals? and, once you've decided that, what is the best way to attain them? was it ever a strategic goal of the United States to improve the lot of women in rural Afghanistan? (tbc, I'm not saying that it's not an extremely worthy cause, or that individuals or NGOs don't work towards it - just talking about policy here)

I don't think the issue is so much misguided paternalism as Western politicians trying to score cheap points over an issue that makes everyone feel good but has no structural backing, i.e. resources. it's all very well for Mike Mullen to go on about how proud he is of a school for Afghan girls but, listen - that stuff only counts if you can make it stick. what you absolutely cannot have in a counterinsurgency is the classic situation where you rule by day & the insurgent rules by night, b/c then you have nothing. so I while I'd agree that reform - education (esp. for women), jobs, anti-corruption - is probably -our- most effective weapon against the Taliban, the question remains - is there the will to expend sufficient blood & treasure? b/c if not you are, in fact, exposing the population to more danger, as anyone who dealt with you will be first on the Taliban's hit list when you leave. it's very dangerous to turn into an idealist in the middle of a COIN campaign (like, we've been there for 8 years & only now all this stuff is a problem? give me a f**king break...)
 
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scottdisco

rip this joint please
I don't think the issue is so much misguided paternalism as Western politicians trying to score cheap points over an issue that makes everyone feel good but has no structural backing, i.e. resources.

i do wish all interventions were cost-free, and that the US army really was the armed wing of Amnesty (so to speak, if we had a magic wand that meant interventions could be waged perfectly), but, yes, the US didn't go in to Afghanistan to improve upon the Taliban's (admittedly disastrous) health and social models, it was to kill Islamists and to deny them a space to operate and to keep them holed up on the back-foot there so they couldn't constitute a sovereign govt that would let radical Islamists prep on their land for launching attacks.

now the border lands have a lot of dubious sorts there, and a lot of powerful men of various stripes in Afghanistan are dubious sorts (deliberately writing w understatement; forgive me), and, yes, idealists like Ban Ki-moon and the Canadian writer Terry Glavin are maybe all for international assistance to Afghanistan for slightly different reasons to, maybe, some military bods, but it is the Afghans and the international humanitarians and the international militaries that are on the line as i pontificate from my arm-chair so i do have to say that cheap point-scoring over the issues P rightly brings up is pretty pathetic, to say the least... ...i'm thinking of those cartoons you see in radical presses in the wealthy democracies that show a pre-invasion Afghanistan woman in a room in a niqab and a post-invasion woman in a room in a niqab w maybe a TV in the corner this time around, and so on and so forth...sorry, nothing coherent to add, i'm just mouthing off really.

just, in terms of weighing things up, i think of something like (from April 2008, so will be obsolete by now)
“The purpose of the ceremony today is not about words,” said Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, outgoing commander of RC East and commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. “It is about better opportunities for the future of the Afghan people and it is about the Coalition’s enduring commitment to this nation.”

Since the Taliban era, there are 8,000 more schools and 140,000 more teachers, he added.

About 70 percent of the girls and 97 percent of the boys in RC-East now have access to a state-sponsored education, as well as access to basic healthcare that has increased to nearly 80 percent, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in infant mortality, adding up to about 90,000 lives, Maj. Gen. Rodriguez said. “All of that is a large investment in a prosperous future for Afghanistan.”

(here)

p.s.
to be fair, i am a sycophant for empire.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
don't get me wrong man, I am 110% all for schools for Afghan boys & girls & reducing infant mortality & digging irrigation systems. I have zero sympathy for medieval fundamentalists (of all religions) and I would like nothing more than for Afghans to be free of them. I'm just saying, you can't leave people twisting in the wind. which we very likely will.

one thing about the United States - we're always about war on the cheap, despite the fact there is no such thing, as proven again & again & again. no one, I'm sure, hates this more than military guys.

the problem with the "denying save havens" argument - as played out on Abu M a few months back, if I recall - is, where does it end? are we going to get initiate wars & decade-long occupations in Yemen, Somalia, etc.? none of which would get at the real sources of ideology & funding (Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) anyway. I mean, I dunno, I really don't.

to be fair, i am a sycophant for empire.

aren't we all tho. unfortunately not all of us can be seekers of truth like 3 Body.

(that will never stop being hilarious)
 

scottdisco

rip this joint please
don't get me wrong man, I am 110% all for schools for Afghan boys & girls & reducing infant mortality & digging irrigation systems. I have zero sympathy for medieval fundamentalists (of all religions) and I would like nothing more than for Afghans to be free of them. I'm just saying, you can't leave people twisting in the wind. which we very likely will.

oh yes i can quite see this and didn't want to imply otherwise. Terry Glavin mentions quite a bit the impending sense that, as international forces (and the military component is necessary to institution building and that other good stuff, obv) may draw down from Afghanistan, there may be a "looming betrayal" (of the Afghan people).

one thing about the United States - we're always about war on the cheap, despite the fact there is no such thing, as proven again & again & again. no one, I'm sure, hates this more than military guys.

agreed, in a tragically obvious way. definitely the biggest single observation of the last several years of American projections and entanglements.

the problem with the "denying save havens" argument - as played out on Abu M a few months back, if I recall - is, where does it end? are we going to get initiate wars & decade-long occupations in Yemen, Somalia, etc.? none of which would get at the real sources of ideology & funding (Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.) anyway. I mean, I dunno, I really don't.

again, tbc, some good points. (silver bullets look cleaner on paper, i realise.)

the only thing i know in relation to the Abu M argument, really, is to echo your final sentence i've quoted there...
 

vimothy

yurp
basically, as Tea was asking, yes, out of ISAF troops in Afghanistan, UK troops endure a fairly high casualty ratio, one of the highest of individual nations attached to the mission. the likes of the Dutch suffer a lot too, whilst it is the Canadians and the Danish that suffer the highest rates.

I think that Pakistan has suffered the highest absolute level of casualities of any allied force in Aghanistan.
 

scottdisco

rip this joint please
a startling omission from my posts which were ISAF-specific-centric
:eek:

cheers Vim. i also have no idea of ANA losses :slanted:

incidentally on the 16th June this year David Miliband said that, up to then, in Pakistan this year, insurgents had killed 1,000 civilians and 300 soldiers.
 

vimothy

yurp
that Michael Howard essay Vim linked to in the Lib Dems thread was, I thought, pretty crap, but he nailed one bit dead on, that this whole deal would've been far better off as a police action/emergency/etc instead of decade-long occupation of the most unconquerable place on Earth.

For some reason, FP is not letting me access that article at the moment, so I can't double check it to make sure that it really isn't pretty crap, but regardless, I'm kinda baffled that you could describe it as such whilst simultaneously agreeing with Howard's substantive point*...?

*Which I think I disagree with, for the record.
 
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