Tuesday, December 9, 2008

In Afganistan, We Are Not in a Diên Biên Phú Moment

Not yet. It could take us years to reach it, But we will, inevitably.

A Second Taliban raid destroys Nato supplies bound for Afghanistan

Gunmen from the Pakistani Taliban torched supplies destined for NATO forces in Afghanistan for a second day running. The militants struck a container terminal on the outskirts of Peshawar, in north-west Pakistan, just over a mile from the previous day's attack, in which gunmen torched more than 100 trucks. Security guards at two depots in Peshawar were outnumbered by more than 200 militants at around 3am. About 70 Humvees loaded on some of the trucks were destroyed.Mullah Mohammed Omar in an email statement, urged western forces to leave Afghanistan before thousands of their troops were killed in the Islamist group's renewed insurgency:
I would like to remind the illegal invaders who have invaded our defenseless and oppressed people that it is a golden opportunity for you at present to hammer out an exit strategy for your forces. The current armed clashes which now number into tens will spiral up to hundreds of armed clashes. Your current casualties of hundreds will jack up into the thousands.
According to the Guardian, the independent think tank, the International Council on Security and Development estimates the Taliban has a permanent presence in 72% of the territory of Afghanistan, (up from 54% last year). The ICSD further says that the Taliban is expanding its control beyond the rural south of the country,and that three of the four main routes leading out of Kabul were threatened by the Taliban. In Pakistan, the Taliban have begun to focus increasingly on choking off the supply path through Pakistan, which is used to take more than 70% of military equipment, food, fuel and other vital provisions to western soldiers across the border.

My allusion to Diên Biên Phú is vastly overblown.

But I'll take a nano-moment for a brief historical note. In Vietnam, the French battle at Diên Biên Phú began on November 20, 1953. Seeking a decisive victory over Ho Chi Minh's Viet Minh's army, the French dropped or flew 9,000 troops into the area over three days. This established a beachhead an airhead. No ground access for logistical support was available. By 8-May-1954, the French were forced to surrender. The Viet Minh counted 11,721 prisoners. I'm saying that the lack of ground logistics was a critical, even if it were not the decisive, mistake committed by the French in venturing to establish 'an airhead' in a remote and landlocked position.

Unlike the French endeavor in Vietnam, Our American Operation Enduring Freedom started off as a 'good' and 'just' war. Afghanistan's leader, Mullah Omar refused to summarily hand over Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks. We were fully entitled under international law to retaliate under the principle of self-defense. As is settled history, George Bush diverted critical resources from the effort to capture bin Laden in favor of preparations for his unprovoked invasion of Iraq. In the meantime, bin Laden escaped justice and Mullah Omar has regrouped Taliban forces.

Long, long story, short:

In the eyes of Afghanis, the nature of the conflict in their land has taken on a different hue. Afghans no longer understand the presence of Americans and their allies as punishment for 9/11 and for "fixing" their failed-state with "democracy". The Taliban, reformed or not, are inevitably more indigenous than our exclusively Christian NATO. Our government in Kabul will never achieve legitimacy or confidence of Afghans.

We might have pulled it off, this Operation Enduring Freedom, if we had concentrated and kept our eye on the ball. At the end of 2001, we held all the marbles; At this point, seven long years after Bush's blind ambition lead him astray, the marbles have rolled off the table. The moment has past. Our envelope of opportunity has eluded us. In Afghanistan, NATO is history.

I was wrong about Afghanistan.

It pains me to say this. Until 18 or so months ago, I believed, with Obama, that it comprised the central front of the so-called war against terror. Now I see it in a different light than do Senators and President-Elects. Their vision is constrained by what their constituencies accept as politic. I am not.

NATO's military-safe zone is an island surrounded by a hostile and rising sea. It is a large and expensive garrison which is not sustainable indefinitely, especially with our current economy. The Christian white eyes will ultimately have to cut and run; after pretending to have achieved some kind of honorable or symbolic modus vivendi of course. Of course, that's what the French were trying to extract with their Diên Biên Phú gambit.

My hope is that Obama can shuck it early enough that pop-historians will consign inevitable failure to Bush where it rightfully belongs. The longer we surge and splurge in Afghanistan, the more Talibinistan becomes Obama's quagmire. Operation Enduring Freedom is unsustainable. And the longer we're there, the longer our domestic economic quagmire is guaranteed to last.

I am not sanguine about the future.

16 comments:

  1. Make no mistake Afghanistan is going to be tough, even tougher than it is now. It is fair, quite fair, to draw parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam. The turf is difficult to negotiate and the enemy will find shelter and sustenance among the native population. The ideologies of "my country" existed in Vietnam as it does in Afghanistan. In both cases the United States and its allies faced and will face a tough and determined enemy. Troubled times are ahead....

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  2. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was reassuring:

    It is sad of course to see attacks on convoys, but let me assure you there will be not the slightest disruption for the ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

    iht

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  3. The Soviets had vastly greater numbers (200,000 ?) and vastly shorter supply routes, and how long did they last in Afghanistan?

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  4. Kabul is surrounded. The noose is drawn tighter every day. Kandahar has essentially been abandoned to the Taliban.

    I know you don't hear anything about it, but that's how it is.

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  5. Thanks for posting on Afghanistan.

    There is still a solution there, similar to how the real "surge" worked in Iraq: Bribe The Tribes. You give the tribal leaders $300 per month per soldier that they field in anti-guerilla ops. Powerful incentive, and employment.

    Aside from Kandahar and Kabul, Afghanistan is not a country, it never has been. It's all tribal, 30 languages, and they don't like the Pashtuns/Taliban being dominant. Ample hatred and idle personnel on tap.

    Using the same math as Iraq, it would take only $400 million to field 100,000 anti-Taliban fighters for a full year. Cheap, or what? My hunch, this is precisely what Petraeus has in mind. It was his whole logic behind stabilizing the Sunni Triangle. (Actually not his logic--borrowed from his betters.)

    Granted, it's too far gone to nation-build, and the Taliban has too much support (Pakistan, ISI). But I think Bribe the Tribes would work to the extent of protecting the arteries, and allowing a speedy troop draw-down. Which would be victory enough for us.

    Theoretically, it would encourage security cooperation between the tribes. If they beat the Taliban back into Helmand, they'll either turn on each other, or they'll form a coalition.

    Afghanistan's core problem isn't that it needs to become a stronger country. It's a Yugoslavia, and it needs to be partitioned along its internal blood borders.

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  6. Vigil--

    P.S:

    I don't know if it was our right under international law to attack in Afghanistan or not. But I do know that neither arrest warrant nor indictment was ever issued against Osama Bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks.

    I was in Manhattan on 9/11. For a variety of reasons, 70% of my fellow NYC residents believed the attacks were an inside job. Why? Things were seen by eyewitnesses, reports were made on local TV and radio that never made it to national amplification. Things which did not line up with any official report or timeline and were strenuously refuted.

    Not to mention that you could smell it burning underground for weeks. An industrial smell, with a hint of sulfur. I encourage people to keep an open mind on 9/11, and remind them that the burden of transparency and proof is on the government.

    At minimum, the Bush Administration did not prove Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the 9/11 attacks, nor did their Justice Department even attempt to.

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  7. Marc, On your last comment, I'll be brief. A lot of what you have to say seems to be a deconstructed conspiracy theory based upon a premise of cui bono from the 9/11 attacks. Bush benefited? Ergo, it must have been an inside job.

    #1 The whole world acknowledged it was within international law for USA to punish Mullah Omar's refusal to hand over OBL. A great power, once brutally attacked, does not negotiate with the likes of a Mullah Omar. India may negotiate with Pakistan, But an America, China, or Russia gives Mullah Omar types one chance to cough up the evil doer. If he don't cough reflexively, doors get broken down & ceilings get raised. Our present problem stems from the fact that the head of our swat team, George Bush, was a fucking incompetent with an ulterior agenda with someone who did not attack us. That's why al Qaida's franchise is still open for business. If Bush had done what he promised, getting OBL dead or alive, we would not have to have spent your fortune and mine in this godamned ant hill, commonly described as Afghanistan.

    #2 OBL's al Qaida gang brought down two WTC towers and hit the Pentagon with our airliners. Get over the pretense that Muslims can't organize themselves with out the help of Western insiders. Anecdotal evidence counts for zip. Too bad we can't rebuild the WTC's and replicate air liners flying into them and see what happens, huh?

    #3 OBL, admittedly a liar, admitted to having responsibility for directing the 9/11 attack. Do you think he was kidding? If he was, I think his head still needs to be on the end of a long stake so that all can see - far and wide - what happens when you kill 3,000 innocent Americans.

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  8. US Forces Mistakenly Kill Six Afghan Police:

    Kirk Semple, The New York Times:

    "American forces killed six Afghan police officers and one civilian Wednesday during an assault on the hideout of a suspected Taliban commander, in what a senior military spokesman called a 'tragic case of mistaken identity,' the authorities said. Thirteen Afghan security officers were wounded in the incident.

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  9. Vigilante,

    #1) if disgruntled farmers from France had done 9/11, the response would've been much different. An investigation, with NYPD, FBI, and Interpol crawling over a WTC crime scene would have ensued. OBL and AQ are not nation-states, they were individual actors, so there was a crime scene yet no investigation. Attacking Afghanistan was based on supposition and sentiment, not evidence. International will was present, sure, but best practices were not followed. I doubt Mullah Omar had legal standing to speak for Afghanistan.

    #2) That's speculation. Whence DNA? Black boxes. Testimony. AQ is real, inimical, quite capable of sophisticated ops, I didn't say they're not. Still, all we saw was 17 pictures shown on the evening news, somehow assembled by 7PM EST on 9/12. That's not evidence, it's "your mama told you so."

    #3) I agree OBL's head needs to be staked. But how do you know he admitted responsibility for 9/11? A voice, a video, a translation. My profession is how to fake those, and the NSA contacted me and my team at AT&T Labs re: feasibility shortly after 9/11, using an Arabic speaker as a hypothetical example. We refused to work on it. But--even if OBL claimed responsibility, is that evidence? As for the wide expanses of cui bono, hundreds of people claimed to be Jack the Ripper.

    Sure, motives are important, and speculation is natural. But I was referring only to personal experiences for doubts: to me, my family, my friends who witnessed and related facts to each other, then only later noted discrepancies between our local observations and national narratives.

    If your cousin is a firefighter on the scene, and on 9/14 he tells you he there was obvious blast damage on the ground floor, that bombs must've gone off and there were casualties inside, do you call him a liar? I had no reason to at the time. The media and government did that later. That and many other details differed in what you saw and what we saw.

    I respect you as a thinker, so please don't dismiss the memories of millions of people there, including myself, because of what you watched broadcast on the news, or what a political commission deemed official. Open mind, that's all. If you want specifics, we could get into those, but that's not great for me, and it's mercifully fading into the past.

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  10. I'm not certain how we got to OBL, but if there was no warrant issued for his arrest it will be because there is just not enough evidence to implicate him. He was the leader of al Qaeda and clearly al Qaeda was responsible but that belief is not enough.

    There was a video-tape wherein he expressed his satisfaction and surprise at the collapse of the towers but that is just not enough. Evidence such as this must be corroborated. Standing alone it just isn't sufficient to warrant a conviction.

    From time to time a crime is committed that is so heinous it drives us to seek revenge against those believed to be responsible without only a little bit of evidence as in this case. The fact is there was much more evidence in the OJ Simpson trial and yet he was acquitted.

    Do I think OBL was behind 9/11? Of course! Does the world think he was behind 9/11? Of course! If he is ever found alive I can warrant there will be enough information to convict him of a lot of things, including 9/11. That is a big "if" however..........

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  11. M. Mike, you've never heard of vigilante justice?

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  12. LOL! I have Blogging4 and there have been many times when I have had an overpowering urge to engage in it, but I managed to control myself. In the case of OBL however.....

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  13. Vig says, "In Afganistan, We Are Not in a Diên Biên Phú Moment" -- agree but unless we do something drastic now, I am of the opinion that we might be heading towards something very much akin, if not, to DBP.

    55-60 thousand troops, disparate at that, fighting the Talibans and reconstructing Afghanistan which is what, 4 times the size of England? An impossible feat to accomplish.

    Do you realise that 25 thousand British troops were stationed in N Ireland to fight/quell terrorism of about a hundred or so strong IRA terrorists in N Ireland and didn't even get anywhere near accomplishing their mission?

    I am of the opinion that we must throw in 250 to 300 thousand troops (which will require a standing army of 1 million!) with proper materiel to do both the jobs of fighting and reconstructing -- military solution alone will not work -- or be prepared for a decisively much bigger defeat than Dien Bien Phu.

    Gen Jones has a very good idea of what needs to be done in Aghanistan; Obama must listen very carefully to him.

    Either that, or we all leave Afghanistan, the Pakistanis and the rest of the region to their fate; but if we do that, we must be prepared for an all out, massive Al-Qaeda asymetric warfare launched against us. Nobody will be safe.

    We cannot let Afghanistan fail.

    Re: "NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was reassuring" -- Anvendelig

    Sorry but I'm beginning to think that current NATO Sec Gen is way over his head.

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  14. How can Hillblogger's scenario be seriously entertained?

    ...that we must throw in 250 to 300 thousand troops (which will require a standing army of 1 million!) with proper materiel to do both the jobs of fighting and reconstructing -- military solution alone will not work -- or be prepared for a decisively much bigger defeat than Dien Bien Phu.

    How can the USA's strategic options be limited to Hillblogger's box?

    Either that, or we all leave Afghanistan, the Pakistanis and the rest of the region to their fate; but if we do that, we must be prepared for an all out, massive Al-Qaeda asymetric warfare launched against us. Nobody will be safe.

    Does the Taliban = Al-Qaeda?

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