January 15, 2008
Allies Feel Strain of Afghan War
By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2008; A01
The above piece about NATO's lost war is filled with reporting of disdain against troops other than the U.S.:
British officials note that the eastern region, where most U.S. forces are based, is far quieter than the Taliban-saturated
center of British operations in Helmand, the country's top
opium-producing province. The American rejoinder, spoken only in
private with references to British operations in both Iraq and
Afghanistan, is that superior U.S. skills have made it so.
In Iraq, British commanders touted their successful "hearts and minds" efforts in Northern Ireland,
tried to replicate them in southern Iraq, and criticized more
heavy-handed U.S. operations in the north. Their U.S. counterparts say
they are tired of hearing about Northern Ireland and point out that
British troops largely did not quell sectarian violence in the south. The
same tensions have emerged in Afghanistan, where U.S. officials
criticized what one called a "colonial" attitude that kept the British
from retaining control over areas wrested from the Taliban.
Pot - kettle - black ....
But this imperial arrogance is not limited to the U.S. military establishment. The reporter is just as ignorant:
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Bush at his Texas ranch in November, U.S. and German officials said, she told him that while Bonn would step up its contribution in quiet northern Afghanistan, any change in Germany's noncombat role would spell political disaster for her conservative government.
The Potomac Prawda doesn't even get the capital city of the second biggest NATO country right. This on its frontpage - no less ...
Trivial? Maybe - but these things add up pretty quick. The fall of the U.S. empire will be, to a great part, the result of such attitude.
Posted by b on January 15, 2008 at 09:18 AM | Permalink
Just sent an email to Ms. DeYoung thanking her for replacing "Bonn" with "Germany" and requesting that she replace "Britain" with either "the United Kingdom" or "Great Britain". Unless, of course, she was referring to King Arthur's troops in the Middle East.
Posted by: infoshaman | Jan 15, 2008 10:52:28 AM | 1
arrogance, ignorance and a pocket full of guns
Posted by: rudolf | Jan 15, 2008 11:08:50 AM | 2
"Those sixteen-year old assholes commanded their Regiments in big
shining Mercedes cars as though they were Corps Commanders."
-- Erwin Rommel talking about the Hitler Youth.
"Panzer Battles" by F.W. Von Mellenthin
Posted by: UESLA | Jan 15, 2008 12:24:00 PM | 3
nothing surprising here
they are so blind to the catastrophe that they will face & indeed are facing - that they talk shop
it is clear to one & all that they have no idea of what they have unleashed & that is why i find conspiracies hard to believe - because the sheer incompetence before history is being shown us day after day in this or that accident or configuration
certainly they will creat a bloodbath wherever they go but it is as if slaughter replaces strategy
or that slaughter is the strategy - as the heavy bombing of the people of iraq seems to indicate
Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jan 15, 2008 12:58:28 PM | 4
Merkel came away with Bush's pledge to praise Germany's efforts and stop criticizing.
Lucky lucky Merkel, I hope it doesn't go to her head!
Meanwhile, if anyone was wondering how well the Afghanistan reconstruction is going:
Kabul gets only 3 hours of electricity a day, despite millions in U.S. and global aid
Nationwide, only 6 percent of Afghans have electricity, the Asian Development Bank says.
The electricity shortage underscores the slow progress in rebuilding the war-torn country. It also feeds other problems. Old factories sit idle, and new ones are not built. Produce withers without refrigeration. Dark, cold homes foster resentment against the government.
Some in Kabul do have electricity: the rich, powerful and well-connected.
Municipal workers _ under direction from the Ministry of Water and Energy _ funnel what power there is to politicians, warlords and foreign embassies. Special lines run from substations to their homes, circumventing the power grid. International businesses pay local switch operators bribes of US$200 to US$1,000 a month for near-constant power, an electrical worker said anonymously for fear of losing his job.
Posted by: Alamet | Jan 15, 2008 2:33:06 PM | 5
AFGHANISTAN: Rising food prices push two million into food-insecurity – WFP
Soaring staple food prices have pushed 1.3 million previously food-secure people in rural Afghanistan into high risk food-insecurity, according to the latest assessment by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
In urban areas about 900,000 Afghans are also estimated to have been dragged into acute food-insecurity over the past few months due to spiralling food prices and food shortages.
Posted by: b | Jan 15, 2008 3:53:13 PM | 6
Pakistan is also having food shortages (wheat) and rising prices. The linked article says that this is partially due to food being sent to Afghanistan.
Posted by: Dick Durata | Jan 15, 2008 8:18:13 PM | 7
BushCo's Insane Grains-for-Biofuels plan is genocide, literally a "crime against humanity" under the Nuremburg Tribunals, if you bother to look it up. Meant to
keep the corporate farm vote in line, it also props up fuel prices, pushes up
BigAgra pesticide, herbicide and especially fertilizer usage, mandates the once
failing BioPharm GMO-clone business, letting their frankenpollen contaminate
our food grains carefully nurtured, crossbred and selected over 60,000 years.
Use of marginal irrigation on marginal lands will bring salinity, sterility,
and aquifer failure to vast areas of the central plains. All for $3.50 E-85.
In one generation, in one Repug administration, literally 10,000's of varieties
of edible cereal grains displaced by frankengrains under the Bush Biofuels banner.
If a few 100M's 3W'rs starve to death with the grain shortages and Fed sloppage
spiking commodities sharply higher, that's just collateral icing on their cake.
Which makes the checkers game of US pride surging Kabul so much day-old chapati.
Posted by: Tom Terrific | Jan 16, 2008 1:25:03 AM | 8
@ rgiap, #4:
...that is why i find conspiracies hard to believe - because the sheer incompetence...
I concluded years ago that arrogance, avarice and incompetence reinforce one another (arrogance leads to incompetance, avarice to arrogance [because when you have the lucre, you think you are entitled to it] and so on...)
Anyway this dynamic, as I see it, leads to foreseeable consequences which resemble regular conspiracy.
Or, to put it another way: when a room full of assholes fart in unison, the place starts to stink.
Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Jan 16, 2008 3:14:13 AM | 9
3,200 Marines to Deploy To Afghanistan in Spring
President Bush has approved an "extraordinary, one-time" deployment of about 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan for seven months starting this spring, the Pentagon announced yesterday, while defense officials continued to urge NATO allies to supply more forces to fill a long-standing shortfall of 7,500 troops that commanders say are needed to improve security.
The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit was already scheduled to deploy for seven months to the Middle East, where it was to serve as a contingency force, or "theater reserve," for U.S. Central Command, led by Adm. William J. Fallon. Another U.S. combat force will now fill that role, which normally involves only a few months of combat time.
Committing the "theater reserve" - hmm ...
Posted by: b | Jan 16, 2008 3:25:21 AM | 10
The Europeans and Canada should listen to Gates and quit in Afghanistan.
Gates faults NATO force in southern Afghanistan
The U.S. Defense secretary says he thinks the soldiers from Canada, Britain and the Netherlands do not know how to fight a guerrilla insurgency.
In an unusual public criticism, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said he believes NATO forces currently deployed in southern Afghanistan do not know how to combat a guerrilla insurgency, a deficiency that could be contributing to the rising violence in the fight against the Taliban.
"I'm worried we're deploying [military advisors] that are not properly trained and I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations," Gates said in an interview.
NATO officials bristled at suggestions that non-U.S. forces have been ineffective in implementing a counterinsurgency campaign. They argued that the south, home to Afghanistan's Pashtun tribal heartland that produced the Taliban movement, has long been the most militarily contested region of the country.
The European NATO official, who is directly involved in Afghan planning, angrily denounced the American claims, saying much of the violence is a result of the small number of U.S. troops who had patrolled the region before NATO's takeover in mid-2006, a strategy that allowed the Taliban to reconstitute in the region.
Posted by: b | Jan 16, 2008 4:38:53 AM | 11
I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counterinsurgency operations.
Gates is quite right. When you understand the real way that the Surge has worked in Iraq, it wouldn't be a bad idea in Afghanistan. The so-called success of the Surge has not been military - an increase of 30,000 is hardly sufficient. It is due rather to the policy of buying off the Sunni insurgents through the Awakening Councils. The insurgents themselves are quite happy to have a short rest while getting paid for it. In the mean time, US troops are back to barracks (at least in Anbar) and not getting killed. (Though the politics continues to go against the US, for example the creation of a nationalist front in the parliament this week.)
Why not do the same in Afghanistan? It sounds like a good idea. After all, there are no objectives to achieve in Afghanistan. They cannot get rid of the Taliban, who are an inextricable element of the Pashtu population. They are not chasing al-Qa'ida, who are probably in Pakistan. If they want to put an end to heroin production, they really need to bring the Taliban back to power. What are they trying to do? Nothing, really. They cannot solve Afghan internal politics by military acts.
So doing what they are doing in Iraq could be good. At least that will lead to a withdrawal in the end.
Posted by: Alex | Jan 16, 2008 5:26:48 AM | 12
I don't understand why haven't they tried to "Awaken" the Pashtun in Afghanistan. I'm sure the http://arablinks.blogspot.com/>Saudi's would be willing to provide financial support, maybe even recommend a new leader.
Posted by: anna missed | Jan 16, 2008 5:31:26 AM | 13
gee Alex, we cross posted the same thought - or did we?
Posted by: anna missed | Jan 16, 2008 5:34:37 AM | 14
Yes, we did.
Posted by: Alex | Jan 16, 2008 5:50:01 AM | 15
It's deja vu all over again
Yogi Berra knew what's what in that intuitive no bullshit way that is always missing from the bands of diplomats, bureaucrats and senior soldiers who earn their living analysing then reporting on the centres of misery they or their predeccesors dragged into despair when they colonised them.
Afghanistan is a classic example of this. The people have always had the wherewithal to resist the career misery makers, but unfortunately not the misery and the end result of that has been ever more desperate attempts to subdue the fuzzy wuzzy with cold steel, or hot lead. The plans have new titles but always the same old strategy - send more guns.
The Independant carries an article on the same dispute B highlighted between the amerikan and english groups in USuk:
US attacks UK plan to arm Afghan militias
The US general in charge of training the Afghan police has criticised British-backed plans to arm local militias in an attempt to defeat the Taliban. The remarks by Maj-Gen Robert Cone, the second most senior US soldier in Afghanistan, are likely to deepen the row between London and Washington over how to counter the insurgency.
General Cone, who is in charge of rebuilding the Afghan police force, is the second US commander to condemn the initiative. He said: "Anything that detracts from a professional, well-trained, well-led police force is not the answer."
Last month, Gordon Brown said Britain would increase its support for "community defence initiatives, where local volunteers are recruited to defend homes and families modelled on traditional Afghan arbakai". The arbakai system involves arming untrained Afghani men, who agree to come running at the beating of a drum if their village elders feel threatened.
The amerikans whose ears are already stinging from the accusations that they armed OBL and most of the Taliban militias starting from back in the day when Russia was lured across the border into Afghanistan, now believe the notion of arming Afghanis to be an absolute anathema.
The British who believe their cannon fodder has been bearing the brunt of the armed 'insurrection' since amerika redployed out of Afghanistan into the Itaq surge, are only too happy to arm the locals and let them fight it out. But of course even for the limited abilities of the institutionalised thinkers that populate both 'teams' the issue is larger than that.
The amerikan prez aspirants are advocating change at the moment. It is the never-ending catchcry of change that is used to justify this continual, unceasing rhythmn of institutional onanism. Careers are built upon the ability to detect the exact moment to withdraw from a centralist course of action and promote decentralisation. And of course vice versa.
Out in the weird phoney world of GWOT, it seems that the amerikan forces are still caught up in the Rumsfield centralisation which started in the Pentagon which has now made it out into the field.
Whereas the Bliars attempts to decentralise his bureaucracy through limited regional self government in Wales and Scotland, is still with the english, and has become a tenet of every english government employee's thinking.
Is it really that simple? That the problem with Afghanistan is that USuk haven't fallen into the right tempo to fuck? One is going out while the other goes in and then goes in while the other moves out? We've all had that interesting moment with a new partner when we have to move into a shared movement, a common rhythmn, perhaps the english and amerikans will find the time and Afghanistan, then the world will dissolve into an earth shatteringly delicious orgasmic experience!
Yeah right stop that picture and instead picture this: George W Bush of amerika and George Brown of england down the local rave picking it up? No no no - the image is just too ugly.
Well here's a dance tune simple enough for them and one we would all like to see them perform.
But aside from the slim chance of all the USuk warmongers getting locked up and getting down with the pillow biting and shirt lifting that most secretly lust for, why the hell can't they agree to do it right?
It goes back to organisational dysfunction. They are always going to be at odds with each other because they know deep down that the only solution that is ever on offer, guns and violence cannot bring stability to a region where getting a roof over yer head and enough for your family to eat is a real struggle that most of us sitting at our puta screens couldn't begin to comprehend.
As long as the USuk model is driven by people trained, equipped and encouraged to regard guns and violence as the ultimate fallback position when things get hard, and Afghanistan is a tough country where nothing comes easy, the best they are ever going to come up with is the centralised amerikan position of arming the centre (Kabul) and shooting everybody outwards or the current english one of going out to the edges, arming those on the fringes and hoping the war will work inwards.
It's the old story give a bloke a hammer and all he'll see will be nails or give him a gun and it won't take long to find people to shoot.
The eventual hope of course is that the Afghanis will tire of all the killing, cry 'uncle' and the job's done. Afghanis aren't famous for backing down from a blue so it will be a long and bloody wait for that to happen.
While the waiting continues it doesn't hurt to indulge in a little finger pointing to distract the citizens whose taxes and children are being offered up to this insanity.
One would have to imagine that amerika is probably fully engaged in Iraq, and much as they would like to go back to Afghanistan and put real capacity into the Pakistani border country they probably won't be able to. Firstly because there is too great a risk of Iraq imploding if they pull troops out;
Then the Nato structure in Afghanistan, which they daren't give the flick lest the european troops shoot thru as well, means that the solution which has worked well in Iraq and Kabul thus far probably won't work in rural Afghanistan.
The controls and bureaucracy that the amerikans have put in place to buy off the insurrection is a nightmare in triplicate.
All that cash floating round, and since Joe Auditor probably isn't up to visiting rural Iraq and checking to make sure all the monies have been properly acquitted, it would be surprising if any more than 50% of the bucks are getting to Iraqis, the remainder paying for amerikan military children's college funds.
That system couldn't work across the spectrum of the "coalition of the willing to kill peasants", even if amerika were prepared to pay to keep foreign troops from getting shot.
All those different armies with all their different cultures may be able to fight together, may be, there hasn't been huge evidence of this, but trying to make them conform to the same arcane pentagon invented system for disbursing funds to the former insurrectionists wouldn't be a big chance of working.
The Germans and English certainly won't pay their own cash out like that. There is a huge risk of blowback, just from the story leaking out to the media, much less if a payee kills someone, which would almost certainly happen.
That has probably happened in Iraq a number of times the only reason no one knows is because of the controls that were forced down through their command structure. Of course it will leak out fairly soon, hopefully during the election campaigning.
There is nothing in it for european countries to want to pay for. No one is having an election that could be embarrassed by troops getting killed, and the aid money has none of the usual potential for looking after 'corporate friends' of the governments.
So they will stick with giving everyone guns and then hiding in their forts.
Posted by: Debs is dead | Jan 16, 2008 7:11:09 AM | 16
I don't understand why haven't they tried to "Awaken" the Pashtun in Afghanistan.
I could imagine that in some quarters within the US policy machine, the idea of making payments to the Taliban is certainly being entertained, blood is thicker than water after all. Maybe, with a bit of luck some of the bank accounts from back in the 80's are still active, if not the common friends from ISI would surely be able to help out.
If it weren't so terrible a situation for the Afghani people suffering from continued imperialists meddling, one could almost see the joke. Last time they paid them to actually be insurgents, fighting & hating (or the other way round) the godless infidel hordes occupying the country. 20 years on they would pay them again, this time to stop fighting the godless infidel hordes occupying the country, themselves. Sweet irony.
Posted by: Juan Moment | Jan 16, 2008 8:57:08 AM | 17
There are several reasons why an "awakening" in Afghanistan would serve strategic ends:
a presumed reduction in violence against NATO forces
an eradication of poppy production
would serve as a strategic foil against Iranian interests
would normalize the political environment enough for pipeline and or re/construction of infrastructure beneficial to the west
and this, the big if. drive a wedge between the Taliban and AQ, as in Iraq.
So, why don't they do it? They seem to love the idea in Iraq, maybe they could even come up with a big "surge" promo for Afghanistan too. They could even keep Karzai for a while as an intentionally weakened Maliki like figure.
Posted by: anna missed | Jan 16, 2008 3:15:42 PM | 18
AM-18, I don't think that's right. An "awakening" would not lead to an eradication of poppy production. It would rather stimulate poppy production, as they would now have better armed guards for the fields. To eradicate you need to get the Taliban back. No to drive a wedge between the Taliban and AQ, as in Iraq either. The Sunni insurgents in Iraq who are now supposedly split from AQ are secular, while AQ is fundamentalist. The insurgents were fed up with AQ fundamentalists, as AQ made war on everyone in sight - themselves, their Shi'i friends, in addition to the US. The Taliban and AQ are both fundamentalist organisations. The issue would be an attempt to split the Pashtu tribes from the Taliban. But the Taliban are deeply rooted in the Pashtu tribes, and AQ are not that in Iraq.
Posted by: Alex | Jan 16, 2008 4:04:15 PM | 19
Adding to 11 - the Dutch are pretty pissed ...
Gates’s Comments on NATO’s Afghan Force Anger Dutch
The Dutch government has summoned the American ambassador here to explain comments by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who criticized NATO forces in southern Afghanistan in a news report published Wednesday.
Mr. Gates told The Los Angeles Times that international troops deployed in the south — mainly from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands — were not properly trained to fight an insurgency.
Speaking from Oruzgan, the contingent’s commander, Col. Nico Geerts, also criticized Mr. Gates’s comments in a radio interview, saying Dutch soldiers were “doing an excellent job.”
Posted by: b | Jan 17, 2008 1:27:54 AM | 20
More from WaPo: NATO Allies Bristle at Criticisms From Gates
Some of the United States' closest NATO allies expressed anger and astonishment Wednesday at published statements by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates describing their forces as poorly trained for fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Dutch Defense Minister Eimert van Middlekoop, whose government recently extended its commitment in Afghanistan for two years despite increasing public opposition, summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain Gates's criticism.
"This is not the Robert Gates we have come to know," Van Middlekoop told the Dutch broadcasting agency NOS. "It's also not the manner in which you treat each other when you have to cooperate with each other in the south of Afghanistan."
In Britain, Conservative Party lawmaker Patrick Mercer called the remarks "outrageous," the Associated Press reported.
Gates telephoned the Canadian defense minister, Peter MacKay, Wednesday to explain what he had said. MacKay later told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that Gates had expressed only strong praise for Canada's role.
NATO officials said they were particularly galled by Gates saying: "Our guys in the east are doing a terrific job. They've got the [counterinsurgency] thing down pat. But I think our allies over there, this is not something they have any experience with."
"Our troops, men and women, are well prepared for the mission," Col. Nico Geerts, the Dutch field commander in Uruzgan province, said, according to the Associated Press. "Everyone in the south, the British, the Canadians, the Romanians and our other allies, are working hard here. . . . I wouldn't know what the secretary of defense of America is basing this on."
Posted by: b | Jan 17, 2008 2:57:12 AM | 21
Afghanistan is on the news a lot in the UK, if my viewing over our Christmas visit was anything to go by. The impression I got, from watching the beeb and Channel 4, is that UK troops are heavily engaged in combat, and it isn't going particularly well. I saw some fairly gritty footage, much less prettied-up than the US kind, including a combat mission in which a sergeant was killed by a mine. It was an operation involving UK and Afghani regular army troops, to recapture a Taliban-held town which the UK commander admitted somewhat shamefacedly to having handed over to the 'government' only to have it retaken by the Taliban.
My point in mentioning this is that, from a UK media perspective, UK troops are fighting hard and dying in the south to little effect. Interestingly there isn't the whole emphasis on being "at war" that there is over here - at all, as far as I could tell. The casualties that were reported while I were there were presented as hard-working professionals who had met untimely but not entirely unexpected ends. There was a sort of gritted-teeth air to the whole thing, and a touch of "we've been here before." There was also less of a 'them and us' emphasis vis-a-vis the Afghanis - while there wasn't an enormous effort to humanize the Afghanis on the UK telly I saw, there was certainly no attempt to dehumanize them.
Is this useful? Probably not. Much too subjective. But I'm sure the latest US whingeing won't play at all well with the UK public.
Posted by: Tantalus | Jan 17, 2008 4:43:59 PM | 22
If the US/ USuk/ Nato/ EU, do not manage, long term, to control the remaining oil fields, at least in part, with whatever crap they can dream up, such as...
PSAs (profit sharing agreements - benchmarks!), democracy (vote and starve, and soon look to your local overlords to shoot), economic development (aid for the stooges, soon plonked in offshore accounts), arms sales (getting back cash for useless crap, as internal or national domination does not depend on that kind of force), Royal Puppet Religious Leaders, Faithful despots, up for anything to keep their dominant position, kill or imprison or marginalize their people; other crazed ploys, all over the board, anything goes,
> end of long sentence, > they (we) will be up shit creek.
It will be a fight to the end, bartered, negotiated, underground (sic), the media playing their flunky role, their bread coming from pandering to power, with the real bullet points unmentioned, every red herring trail, nice an’ stinky, put to the public, a high five triumph. (Quiet or manic grins over margaritas. Coke in the bathroom.)
More grand-standing, threats, more occupations, more wars, more angst, more muslim hate, more terrorist blame, more raw countries with unspeakable violent gunmen (eg. Nigeria), more bombing, more military, more monumental walls, fences, borders, more compounds, more security, more camps, more citizen control, more deaths in the millions, more and more...
Till one fine day the whole show collapses. Completely. In one poof, like a dried out poisonous mushroom, idly punctured, botanic interest mildly disgusted by the small whoof of deadly stuff.
A glass or two and... well...
Posted by: Tangerine | Jan 18, 2008 1:58:40 PM | 23