Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Operation Enduring Quagmire

I don't have a lot of commentary to offer on Afghanistan.  I was there, I served, and I came home.  Mine is the typical Air Force Fobbit story:  I worked on stuff, had a few harrowing convoy experiences, and found myself in the random rocket attack, one of which hit the sewer dump and also blew up two British Harriers at Kandahar.  I even managed to sleep through a few...

People who have spent a substantial amount of time in the field are calling BS on the official government story.  Afghanistan is a hopeless cause.  The latest damning report from the field comes from Lt Col Daniel Davis, who just got back from a one-year deployment.

"That murder took place within view of the U.S. base, a post nominally responsible for the security of an area of hundreds of square kilometers."
There's more...
I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people. Some of the Afghan civilians I talked with said the people didn’t want to be connected to a predatory or incapable local government.
Through the interpreter, I asked the police captain where the attack had originated, and he pointed to the side of a nearby mountain.
“What are your normal procedures in situations like these?” I asked. “Do you form up a squad and go after them? Do you periodically send out harassing patrols? What do you do?”
As the interpreter conveyed my questions, the captain’s head wheeled around, looking first at the interpreter and turning to me with an incredulous expression. Then he laughed.
“No! We don’t go after them,” he said. “That would be dangerous!”
According to the cavalry troopers, the Afghan policemen rarely leave the cover of the checkpoints. In that part of the province, the Taliban literally run free.
No, it's not a Hollywood farce, put on for our entertainment. Karzai and the Taliban are playing us for fools as they rob us blind. Time to leave them to their own devices.

I am not a warrior, but I served with quite a few. I can tell you that leaving that God-forsaken place to whatever fate awaits it would not be a betrayal to anyone who died or was wounded there. We kicked the Taliban’s ass and then we gave the benighted inhabitants a chance to improve their lot. They failed. Our fighting forces, especially the Army and the Marines, fought like the heroic lions they are. Nothing to be ashamed of. We win, they lose. Our forces return to the greatest country in the world, and they remain stuck in the toilet we tried to pull them out of. 

James Traub concludes US Can Live with an Afghan Loss

And it's true. Despite the heroic efforts of our warriors, Afghanistan will continue to be a 6th century Hobbesean world ruled by ignorance and the sword. No better and no worse than before. China, Pakistan and Russia will feel the negative consequences, as will the Taliban, who has been feasting off of our largess all the past years.

We, on the other hand, will be materially better off. Richer because we no longer dump billions down that South Asia toilet, strategically smarter, and militarily stronger for the experience.

Having said what I said earlier, I have to admit that Afghanistan has haunted me, less and less as time goes by, but I was shocked to see how many posts I had written about the graveyard of empires where I used to live...

Many a crisp mountain morning I would view the snow capped Hindu Kush and sadly ponder how this would be a great tourist location if it weren't for the people trying to kill you...

Afghanistan: Moving towards a distant endgame


Always On Watch said...

My USMC cousin, age 22, recently returned from Afghanistan.

He's the quiet type, but I did manage to have a one-on-one conversation with him. He believes that Afghanistan is a lost cause.

He will not be re-enlisting.

Always On Watch said...

Despite the heroic efforts of our warriors, Afghanistan will continue to be a 6th century Hobbesean world ruled by ignorance and the sword.

Ever read James Mitchener's Caravans? It's all about SSDD. Or SSDC: Same Shit, Different Century.

Silverfiddle said...

Yes I did read Caravans. I loved Mitchener back in my younger days...

Finntann said...

Nice picture... four ball, corner pocket.


More serious comments when I get off of work.


Anonymous said...


Make LOVE not WAR!

Don't argue with your spouse. Stay home and keep her happy in honor of the occasion.


~ FreeThinke

Ducky's here said...

Our hubris lets us believe we have solved the question of development in poor landlocked countries.

Utter nonsense.

If there is a solution it is to have rich neighbors as Switzerland does but that isn't Afghanistan's situation.

But someone made a freaking bundle off this fiasco. And we continue to listen to them. Hi, Dick Cheney.

Anonymous said...

Afghanistan is now, was historically, and will always remain ungovernable on anything above a tribal level.

We should leave them in their happily ignorant and uncivilized state with the clear understanding that if we have to return there won't be any survivors.


Ducky's here said...

^ moy mucho macho. marine?

That's the attitude that got us into the current mass.

Anonymous said...

...That's the attitude that got us into the current mass.

No it's not. What got us into the current mess is the touchy feely 'lets show them a better way' theory of nation building.

If we'd have gone in with that attitude after the Taliban refused to turn over bin Laden and company we could have been out of there in December of 2001 leaving the entire region with a very valuable lesson in why you never poke a tiger with a stick.


beamish said...

I think the war in Trashcanistan WAS winnable until right around the end of Obama's first 6 months in office, when Secretary of State Shrillary Clinton had "reset" relations with Russia, gave the A-OK to their occupation of Georgia, and pretty much shit on goodwill and lost our hard-won logistical basing rights in central Asia, particularly Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

The Bush administration had corralled the Taliban and its al-Qaeda and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan allies from northern Afghanistan all the way into Pakistan's NWFP and was preparing a push to drive them into Baluchistan province in Iran and let the Shiite hardliners finish them off, but the Obama administration dickered around playing golf instead of approving Gen. McChrystal's plans and took up paying millions of dollars to the Taliban itself.

Which at the time prompted a sarcastic question from me on whether or not the military can arrest the President as the Commander-in-Chief and charge him with violating Article 104 of the UCMJ.

Yeah, we need to get out of Trashcanistan. Not because we can't win, but because we've wasted three good years twiddling our thumbs instead of trying to win.

When Osama bin Laden turned up being a guest of the Pakistani military command, it was time to unleash some god-damned neutron bombs on every Pakistani city with a population greater than one, followed by neutron bomb strikes on every Pakistani city exhibiting signs of having the manpower to bury their dead.

As far as I'm concerned Pakistan has waived its right to exist.

Z said...

Had I a son who died there, I'm quite sure I couldn't have read your whole post for the tears and anger. On the other hand, tears and anger seem like such euphemisms for how I'd really feel. There probably aren't words available to describe that grief.

We have all heard stories about our having built hospitals in Afghanistan and how they can't keep them up. HOw the roads to get to them are constantly destroyed and they haven't the money to rebuild the roads, how there aren't the materials needed to run a hospital...but there it is, thanks to us$$$

Our CIA gave us terrible information, we STILL don't seem to understand the Arab mind and sensibilities, and you're right, we need to get out.
Would that Massoud had lived.
who knows?

Jim at Conservatives on Fire said...

Ducky is right about one thing. As usual, somebody made a bundle of money off of this war. Anonymous is also right. We should have come home at the end of 2001.

Bunkerville said...

Will we ever learn from others? Everyone who ever went in there came out a loser. I still cant figure out why no one will read history.

beamish said...

Would that Massoud had lived.

Would that he'd been listened to in 1998.

Anonymous said...

Our attempts to meddle in the internal affairs of nations who have not attacked us militarily is and always has been flat-out WRONG. The trouble and expense it has brought us far outweigh any "advantages" we like to imagine we might have gained in these no-win military adventures where tens of thousands of Americans have died and many more have been maimed physically and psychologically for no good purpose.

WWII was the last "good" war, and it was only good, because it was absolutely necessary for us to get involved. Without the vital military support given by the USA, the Allies would very likely have been overtaken, defeated and enslaved by the Axis Powers.

Our deliberate "no-win" "no-gain" strategy since Nuremberg and the birth of the damnable UN has benefited no one but The Military Industrial Complex, which I think we need to recognize and treat as a very great evil.

Going around the world shooting up other people's countries and causing enormous "collateral damage" where hundreds, possibly thousands of innocent men, women, children and infants get killed or maimed and lose their homes as well is NO WAY to WIN FRIENDS and INFLUENCE PEOPLE.

Certainly now way to "sell" DEMOCRACY.

It's insanity pure and simple, and it needs to STOP.

Who the hell are WE to appoint ourselves to mind OTHER PEOPLE'S BUSINESS? We have more than enough crap to deal with right here at home -- and FACE IT -- our resources are SHOT.

~ FreeThinke

Leticia said...

I want to personally thank you for serving our nation and for serving in Afghanistan.

I have a very close friend who is serving right now and another close friend has received orders for next month and will be gone for a year.

God bless you all.

Finntann said...

The mistake is thinking that a war is won by leaving something resembling New Jersey in place when you are done.

It's the whole hearts and minds thing that has screwed us up since Vietnam. You don't win wars by winning hearts and minds, you win wars by eliminating the enemies will and capability to resist. The hearts and minds thing comes later, after unconditional surrender.

Here's the perfect and latest example:

"A top Muslim Brotherhood official has warned that any cuts in U.S. aid to Egypt could affect Cairo’s peace treaty with Israel."

So...what? We've been paying them money all these years so they don't commit suicide by attacking Israel again?

You can't buy friends either!

And yes someone is and will be making big money off Afghanistan and it's not Cheney it's China.


Kid said...

When Karzai sides with the taliban, and it is clear that there will be no unified country and security system, and it is clear there is no commitment to win in any regard, it is clear that it is time to go.

Let's leave now. Why wait two years and ruin more lives of our sons and daughters and their families. The ME has been at this for a thousand years. Maybe we can save some individuals from the torture/sadism of islam, but we are not going to stay there forever OR take over the country (which I would find an alternately acceptable option. As in it and it's resources are now ours)

So, let's get out.

No wonder so many people hated Vietnam. No commitment to win.

Jersey McJones said...

I watched some of the hearing on the Hill about the Afghanistan situation today, as I have for years now. It's an intractable disaster, it probably always was, and it probably doesn't matter if we leave or not. Just the same, we're stuck there now, so if things are failing then maybe we should reevaluate our strategy - how's about less contractors as opposed to soldiers for a start?


Anonymous said...

"You don't win wars by winning hearts and minds, you win wars by eliminating the enemies will and capability to resist."

Sherman said it best; " War is the remedy our enemies have chosen and I propose that we give them all of it that they can stand, so that generations shall pass away before they ever have recourse to it again."

The decades of 'tempered and proportionate' responses to insult and atrocity ( the Pueblo and Beirut spring to mind ) taught the rest of the world that they could, with relative impunity, kick Uncle Sam in the shins. So who is to blame when they grow up to kick him in the balls?


Silverfiddle said...

Jersey: You made sense until the end...

how's about less contractors as opposed to soldiers for a start?

Again, commenting on things you know nothing about. KBR guys pulled my fat out of the fire more than once when I was out in the middle of nowhere and needed a part or a brace fabricated, and I caught a ride out more than once with Blackwater. Awesome professionals.

So now, get past the PuffPo talking point and tell us how "less contractors as opposed to soldiers" would solve this? What's the ratio? What should it be? What ar contractors doing that soldiers should be doing? How is this causing a problem?

Educate us General!

Anonymous said...

"The KINDEST war - and the SHORTEST war -- is the most BRUTAL war." (paraphrased quote)

~ William Tecumseh Sherman

"He he would be kind to the cruel will be cruel to the kind."

~ Anonymous?

"Extemism in defense of liberty is no vice."

Moderation in war is imbecility."

~ Lord Acton?

It doesn't much matter who said these things. What matters is that they were said -- and that they are TRUE.

~ FreeThinke

Ducky's here said...

The mercenaries will always disappoint.

A privatized military is anti-American and prone to great mischief.

Jersey has it sussed.

Ducky's here said...

Wow, the Blackwater guys happened upon you first and gave you a ride.

Awesome professionals. How much are we paying for your freaking cab rides?

Anonymous said...

When you are faced with a genuine enemy -- someone who is determined to do you in no matter what it might cost him -- you must do WHATEVER IT TAKES to defeat him utterly.

"All's fair in Love and War."

The idea of fighting a "limited" war, an "honorable" war, a "decent" war is patently absurd and a good way to guarantee your own defeat -- especially when your enemy plays by no known set of rules and has nothing but contempt for your concept of "honor."

Gouge out his eyes as you go for the jugular, then piss on his body as he gasps his last. TERRORIZE him into abject surrender, then grind him under heel.

People who pick fights should be ANNIHILATED.

~ FreeThinke

Silverfiddle said...

Ducky: I'll pitch Jersey's questions to you, since the two of you want to form some kind of military expert panel this evening.

I know you'd love it if they had left me in Spin Boldak... very little internet connectivity there...


KP said...

Powerful article, SF. Having not been there, my first inclination is to ask you additional questions rather than tell you how you are wrong.

Then again, I don't consider myself an ideologue. Ergo, I understand that I could be wrong. What a concept.

I look forward to answers to your specific questions with specific detail.

OD357 said...

Silver you a Tockroach, no way.

Anonymous said...

I figured out what is going on, I'll be done in less than two weeks.

dmarks said...

Ducky said: "A privatized military is anti-American and prone to great mischief."

If it costs less and does the same job, then it is very pro-American.