Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 31, 2009

Afghanistan Strategies

Are these points a good concept for the occupation of Afghanistan?

  • stabilize the country by garrisoning the main routes, major cities, airbases and logistics sites;
  • relieve the Afghan government forces of garrison duties and push them into the countryside to battle the resistance;
  • provide logistic, air, artillery and intelligence support to the Afghan forces;
  • provide minimum interface between the occupation forces and the local populace;
  • accept minimal own casualties; and,
  • strengthen the Afghan forces, so once the resistance is defeated, the military can be withdrawn.

How much do they differ from the strategy Obama announced two month ago? As the Guardian described it:

The key to the new strategy is to build up the Afghan army and police force. Obama today announced an extra 4,000 US troops to help with training, with the intention of doubling the Afghan force from its current 65,000. He said this might have to be increased again as power was transferred to Afghanistan. This is a relatively cheap option for the US as the pay of each Afghan soldier is quite small.

This will be accompanied by a "surge" in US civilians to Afghanistan, doubling numbers to 900, to help rebuild the country's infrastructure.

Obama last month ordered 17,500 US combat troops to Afghanistan to reinforce the 38,000 already there.

Those concept and Obama's strategy seem quite similar to me. Behind both is the idea to nationalize the conflict part while the occupation force provides the national forces with the needed resources and takes care of the infrastructure.

The first strategy is from a paper published in 1995 about the Soviet war in Afghanistan and describes their strategy.

The paper, by U.S. military analyst Lester W. Grau and retired Afghan General Nawroz, ends with these words:

Lessons learned from this conflict were gathered by both sides. Whatever else these lessons may show, the most fundamental of them is that no army, however sophisticated, well trained, materially rich, numerically overwhelming and ruthless, can succeed on the battlefield if it is not psychologically fit and motivated for the fight. The force, however destitute in material advantages and numbers, which can rely on the moral qualities of a strong faith, stubborn determination, individualism and unending patience will always be the winner. These may not be the optimum qualities always found in the armies of western democracies.

The "motivation" and "unending patience" is what the 'western' forces in Afghanistan are missing. If Grau and Nawroz are right, they will lose that war.

Posted by b on May 31, 2009 at 08:35 AM | Permalink


I'm starting to see similarities between Afghanistan/Pakistan/Korea i.e. US provides the pressure, locals take the risk.

Posted by: dh | May 31, 2009 9:49:23 AM | 1

The first strategy is from a paper published in 1995 about the Soviet war in Afghanistan and describes their strategy.

Oh snap! Good one, b.

Posted by: Cloud | May 31, 2009 10:40:05 AM | 2

Robert S. McNamara, in his 1995 book "In Retrospect," listed eleven lessons learned from Vietnam. Here are six of them:

2. We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience … We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.
3. We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
4. Our judgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.
5. We failed then — and have since — to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine.
6. We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture.
11. We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions … At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world.

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 31, 2009 11:16:34 AM | 3

Not only will America lose the war for the reasons you cited, America will be bankrupt soon and unable to afford to keep an army in the field.

Of course a bankrupt America would be great news for countries around the globe as they realize that the evil empire has fallen.

Posted by: Joseph | May 31, 2009 11:19:10 AM | 4

"The 'motivation' and 'unending patience' is what the 'western' forces in Afghanistan are missing." It's not just motivation, as in motivated troops. There is a total lack of explicit purpose or mission.

It seems that after all the lies about why America is occupying Iraq, the dear leaders in Washington just gave up on trying to justify American actions abroad. How can you sustain a battle long term, when you have no clue as to why you're doing it?

You would have thought that after Iraq, where a cold peace seems to have settled in for the time being, they would have learned. Six years into the adventure, and new oil production is still years away.

Posted by: JohnH | May 31, 2009 11:32:01 AM | 5

It isn’t really a war. It is a half-assed effort to control a good chunk of territory through a combination of killing, intimidating, controlling; funding, aiding, in the hopes of improved conditions and seducing the population on the ground; and mostly co-opting, as usual, local despots or potential collaborators, handsomely paid, for the usual BS simulacrum of ‘democracy.‘

Surprise, this many-pronged strategy in function of dubious, shadowy, unstated, on the ground, incomprehensible aims, will veer between dosing this or that component - more training of local police / militia (to arrest and kill their countrymen), more aid (to have more big villas and fat cats living off it, in cahoots with some other forces), less corruption (while corrupting everyone who will take), a more representative Gvmt (Afghanis don’t trust in any case), less or more poppy growth (that seems to vary with the seasons or whatever), more troops (to do what?), more seminars for women to take power (prostitution exist always but has become a last resort for many Afg. women), better health care (some crappy clinics combined with dirty water or even no water for little kids), etc.

The US seemed to dream of turning Iraq and Afghanistan into aspiring little Americas, where corporations reign, ppl pray to the blue screen or the mega pulpit and are ready to work for junk food, junk tv, junk justice, basically to give up their ‘freedoms’ in favor of slavery so that their betters may make huge profits.

Posted by: Tangerine | May 31, 2009 11:40:32 AM | 6

The US forces in Afghanistan have been consistently failing for over seven years, and yet they press on. They are not lacking motivation and patience.

McNamara's observations on Vietnam above also apply to Afghanistan or anywhere else that the US has military designs. Much more than motivation and patience are involved in success, primarily understanding, knowledge, adaption and acceptance.

Raw military power applied with motivation and patience aren't enough, and the enterprise will fail. (Most likely it will fail anyhow, even with cognizance of McNamara's points.)

Posted by: Don Bacon | May 31, 2009 12:14:27 PM | 7

@Cloud - Oh snap! :-)

@Don Bacon - interesting form McNamara - but of course nobody ever remembers that when the next war is on. "Lessons learned" while loved in U.S. military literature are usually lessons learned to be immediately forgotten again.

Posted by: b | May 31, 2009 12:34:11 PM | 8

Everyone, just shut up and take your, Oxybama! ;-p

I concur with just about everything you post of late. It's

Posted by: Uncle $cam | May 31, 2009 3:36:00 PM | 9

I watched the “The Army of Shadows” the other night. It begins with a stunning scene of German soldiers in their daily march in front of the Arc de Triomphe. In the movie it is taken for granted that it was necessary to resist the German occupation. The resistance fighters are terrorists to the Germans.

This is in my lifetime; repeated in all over again in Vietnam, Algeria, Palestine, East Germany, and Iraq; yet, the American government and media fail to notice that the Afghans have the same need to resist the foreign occupation as the French and all other occupied peoples.

Posted by: VietnamVet | May 31, 2009 6:00:29 PM | 10

I wonder if this realization - that the (materially) weaker army can win when properly motivated (by religion) - is somehow behind recent attempts to "Christianize" the U.S. military. I suppose there could be an irresistible, although jealous, temptation here to mimic the success of the so called "enemy" in these "wars" of occupation. Which would make a certain amount of sense, were it not for the fact that this would confirm the worst suspicions that these wars are indeed Christian, as opposed to secular, Crusades. Which in the end would only act to strengthen (and "universalize') the enemies resolve and reduce the odds of success from maybe three or four percent down to no percent.

I wonder if this realization - that the (materially) weaker army can win when properly motivated (by religion) - is somehow behind recent attempts to "Christianize" the U.S. military. I suppose there could be an irresistible, although jealous, temptation here to mimic the success of the so called "enemy" in these "wars" of occupation. Which would make a certain amount of sense, were it not for the fact that this would confirm the worst suspicions that these wars are indeed Christian, as opposed to secular, Crusades. Which in the end would only act to strengthen (and "universalize') the enemies resolve and reduce the odds of success from maybe three or four percent down to no percent.

Posted by: anna missed | May 31, 2009 9:55:40 PM | 11

the typad monster ate my post up and spit it out

Posted by: anna missed | May 31, 2009 9:56:55 PM | 12

Damn you typepad..

I would have really liked to read what you had written, anna missed.

However, I think the elite use the useful idiot zealots to justify the base UNDERCURRENT so as a cover for resource wars. And to manipulate the masses with the 'Two Valued Aristotelian' Black /White Good/Evil Good guys/ Evil doers bullshit thinking. And although the base is small it gets amplified by CBS aka Consortium of Behavioural Scientists, NPR aka National Prop-agenda Radio, NBC Nihilistic Bureaucrat Con job news etc..

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 1, 2009 12:44:10 AM | 13

J 4) Present tense. Just the interest on the pensions-for-life with medical benefits amounts to over $1 TRILLION per year, again, the interest-only! Now on Monday, we're picking up 60% of the GM pensions for life and medical benefits, and $100Bs of GMAC loans and mortgages. We've just gone through the same period of looting and make-righting on ~$600 TRILLION in elite international financial cartel gambling debts as the Soviet Union went through after Gorbechev. We have no more State monopolies to privatize except Defense, Education and the Prison system. Of those three, Defense is the only growth industry, and is already well mercenized.

T 6) Nothing could be further from the truth. Afghanistan is a feudal system ruled over by an elite cadre of expatriate AF mercenaries, paving the way for a "legal" extraction of Afghanistan's natural resources, after which AF will be discarded like the crust of a passion fruit, sweet-sour on the inside, sucked to a dry husk.

anna 11) The 'Jesus Killed Mohammed' article should tell you everything you need to know about the Christian 'mission' in Defense USA. It has absolutely nothing to do with the "convert or die" of the Crusades and the Inquisition, rather, its mission is to zeal up the US military to fight without questioning the morality of it, the necessary prelude to a post-GD2 rise of the Fourth Reich of One Thousand Years.

Afghanistan was lost before 9/11, when Cheney told the Taliban in August of 2001 to either hand over natural resources leases, or be buried under a carpet of bombs, which Bush papered over with his War of Terror Axis of Evil Enduring Freedom ops.
Now it's just the last profit-center still earning a positive ROI (err RO Taxes), and the last hot alpha pick, (after natural resources by loonie commodities bugs).

Imagine rural agrarian society in the Middle Ages. Imagine pre-nation-state Lords and Kings chasing about the countryside with their armies of conscripts, looting and stealing land back and forth, burning through massive piles of gold and silver.

We have, in the 25 years since HRH Ronald Reagan, gone retrograde to the Dark Ages.
To talk of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy or policy is the madness of a Joan d'Arc.
AfPak is just Gaza East, our motives the same as Zionists: Keeping things 'quiet'.

Posted by: Terrence Michaels | Jun 1, 2009 12:59:58 AM | 14

I don't think they are forgetting the lessons of Vietnam. They admit that there is no military solution to the conflict and their solution depends on garnering support from the people. COIN, PSYOPS and collaborators are the order of the day as far as I can see and they got this refined to a science.

In Pakistan they are bombing villages and towns, causing mass dislocation and starvation affecting millions. In Iraq the resistance, proudly called themselves Al Queda in the land of the two rivers, are now marginalized even by those that previously faught against the occupation. Hundreds of thousands turned their guns on them and faught for the occupiers. In Palestine Abbass pledges his support to Obama and proceeds to shoot and arrest more Hamas members. These are all seen as great successes.

Empire 101 divide and conquer. The fact that they haven't actually won anything doesn't seem to matter. The sheer amount of brown people they got killing each other all in the name of fighting the war no terorism is nothing short of phenominal.

Posted by: Sam | Jun 1, 2009 3:03:15 AM | 15

Uncle Scam, ;) it is reciprocal, I always enjoy yr posts and usually agree with you, and also take this opportunity to thank you for the many interesting or vital links you have posted over the years. I wouldn’t have looked/found on my own. Three cheers for hyperspace (has been a lifeline for me) and the bar and all the regulars, and those who pop in.

My impression on the Christian front is that this is just a motivational tool, and tied to the demographics of those who volunteer. When secular objectives and military successes are thin on the ground, best to have some folderol up one’s sleeve to legitimize the actions needed, the defeats, and all the craziness. Religious belief is still defended, accepted, in itself it is holy, untouchable, not open to argument.

When fighting for Jesus involves killing little children and poor women ‘by mistake’ it kinda takes the cake, but there you are. The old colonialism sought to stamp out or marginalize all other religions besides that of the conqueror. Nowadays it is more a case of the putative conquerors having to find some core of belief that will solder them (cultural relativism and the throwing of religion into the mild sphere of personal preference having had its effect.)

Posted by: Tangerine | Jun 1, 2009 11:27:53 AM | 16

The comments to this entry are closed.