Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tell Me How This Ends, Afghan Redux

Afghanistan continues to command our attention as it begins to resemble Iraq in 2006. The tactics have turned to roadside bombs that killed American and coalition soldiers. The bloodiest month of the war in Afghanistan.

Small Wars Journal has up three related reports on the war in Afghanistan.

A post by brigadier Justin Kelly who questions the conventional wisdom that defeating insurgencies is all about winning Hearts and Minds.
His conclusion in part.

The twin propositions that “there is no military solution” to insurgencies and that “hearts and minds” approaches are the only the way forward are based mostly on wishful thinking. Fighting is unattractive to liberal democracies while good deeds put a song in our hearts. All western countries would rather build a school than raze a village. Unfortunately, building schools is only marginally useful in creating an acceptable peace. The true worth of such actions is only realised after the war—in extending and solidifying a peace that can, invariably, only be achieved by the application of force.

A hearts and minds approach represents a strategy of exhaustion and typically engages one of the insurgent’s principal strengths—time. For the West, strategic exhaustion is a critical vulnerability: “if you”re not winning, you”re losing”. In any event a “heart’s and minds” approach cannot provide security in the first instance, and can’t be fully realised until there is security.

Haddick focuses on the major thrust by 5000 U.S. Marines into southern Helmand province and the very real issue of the lack of support by the ANA.
A week into of the operation, there are now questions about when those Afghan forces, so vital to Nicholson’s planning, will arrive. In an interview with the Pentagon press corps, the brigadier general said that only 650 Afghan soldiers have accompanied the Marines into south Helmand. “I mean, I'm not going to sugarcoat it,” said Nicholson. “The fact of the matter is, I -- we don't have enough Afghan forces, and I'd like more.” Nicholson could not give a specific answer when asked when more might be on the way.

And in response to the shortage of trained Afghanistan forces.
McChrystal to Seek Expansion of Afghan Forces by Greg Jaffe and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the newly arrived top commander in Afghanistan, has concluded that Afghan security forces will have to expand far beyond currently planned levels if President Obama's strategy for winning the war there is to succeed, according to senior military officials.
Such an expansion would require additional billions beyond the $7.5 billion the administration has budgeted annually to build up the Afghan army and police over the next several years, and the likely deployment of thousands more US troops as trainers and advisers, officials said.

Adding additional prospective to McChrystal's request to expand the Afghan Army is this recent article by C. J. CHIVERS in the New York Times.

It begins.
The Afghan foot patrol descended a mountain and slipped through a canyon. Then things went wrong. One Afghan soldier insulted another. And there, exposed on dangerous ground, a scuffle erupted.
The soldiers turned on each other with shoves, punches and kicks. One swung an ammunition can in a slow-motion haymaker. The patrol had already been hapless: a display of errant marksmanship, dud ammunition and lackluster technique.

“For months I’ve been telling everyone how proud I am of you,” seethed an American captain, yanking the Afghans apart. “Today you embarrassed me.”

The Obama administration has put a priority on expanding the size and abilities of Afghanistan’s security forces, first to help fight an expanding war and eventually to allow the Pentagon to draw down its troops. The task was inherited from the Bush administration, and the United States has helped to field roughly 170,000 Afghan soldiers and police officers in units created from scratch. In plans now under review, these numbers could double.

Read more:

The smaller trickle of blood and the unnoticed cha-ching of the cost to our treasury has kept Afghanistan out of the minds of most Americans. The uneducated or indoctrinated believe that we only need to bring all the troops home and our domestic and economic problems will be cured as if our elected officials will be given some magic wand to grant every entitlement. Afghanistan will consume our atttention for longer than any of us will desire. The question asked by General Pretraus of Rick Atkinson during the Iraq invasion in 2003 is still in play. "Tell me how this ends."

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