Given the lack of a national consciousness among the tribes that inhabit Afghanistan, the attempt to train and sustain an Afghan national army would seem to be folly. The idea put forward by Zbigniew Brzezinski to establish local defense forces that can defend their own territories and cut their own deals stands as more realistic.
“According to the latest figures published by the CIA, the Afghan government takes in revenues of $1 billion a year and has expenditures of $3.3 billion. Today, that deficit is made up through contributions by other nations. But that figure does not include the costs of Afghanistan’s military and police units. As [John] Farrari put it, ‘We procure all of their equipment. We sustain them. We pay for a lot of their training.’
This year, for example, the United States is spending $9.2 billion on Afghan security forces and the administration has requested another $11.6 billion for the coming year, funds now tied up in Congress. About a third of that is for equipment – ‘about 80,000 vehicles, 175,000 radios and technical equipment, about 400,000 weapons and 146 different aircraft,’ according to Farrari. All of that is expected to cost some $10 billion by the time the full force is outfitted, he added.”
Afghanistan campaign hits Soviet milestone
U.S. has been in South Asian country for 9 years, 50 days
By Patrick Quinn – Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Nov 27, 2010 8:33:06 EST
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Soviet Union couldn’t win in Afghanistan, and now the United States is about to have something in common with that futile campaign: nine years, 50 days.
On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition will have been fighting in this South Asian country for as long as the Soviets did in their humbling attempt to build up a socialist state. The two invasions had different goals — and dramatically different body counts — but whether they have significantly different outcomes remains to be seen.
Afghan violence soars, insurgency expanding: U.S.
(Reuters) – Violence in Afghanistan hit an all-time high in recent months as Western troops battled an increasingly sophisticated insurgency expanding across the country, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.
By Missy Ryan
WASHINGTON | Tue Nov 23, 2010 5:19pm EST
Nine years after the arrival of foreign forces, the Pentagon said all types of violent incidents in Afghanistan had increased from April through the end of September, up 300 percent from 2007, except for the use of roadside bombs.
The White House will reveal in coming weeks its review of the war a year after President Barack Obama unveiled a new strategy for the flagging, unpopular campaign in Afghanistan.
Even as the Pentagon’s latest congressional mandated report painted a grim picture of the situation in Afghanistan, where corruption undermines the fight against the Taliban and only halting, uneven improvements to Afghans’ lives have been achieved, U.S. officials said there were signs of progress.
Before last month’s mid-term election, future policy indicated there would be a major withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, accompanied by the withdrawal of remaining troops in Iraq.
Following the Lisbon Summit, with little notice in the main stream news, this date was changed to 2014. Of course, any major withdrawal of American and NATO troops will be predicated upon conditions on the ground. Here are facts about the Afghan security fores that mitigate against a successful nation-building outcome in Afghanistan.
“Only 11 percent of enlisted personnel and 35 percent of non-commissioned officers in Afghanistan’s army and police are literate, according to NATO trainers. And before NATO took over the training mission for the security forces, many Afghan police recruits were issued uniforms and guns and sent out to postings without any sort of training in weapons or law enforcement.”
“Drug use is also common among the police, though NATO trainers say they are doing a better job of screening for drugs and kicking out addicts. Those testing positive for heroine or other hard drugs are immediately discharged, while those testing positive for marijuana use are put on probation while they kick the habit.”
The original strategic goal behind the invasion was to destroy al-Queda and suppress the Taliban government. In order to maintain that goal, to insure that Afghan can not be utilized by al-Queda as a safe haven, a pliant platform for planning future world-wide attacks, it has become necessary to establish a stable Afghan government through the process of nation-building. Theoretically, Kabul would be the center of a stable government that would command the loyalty and support of the various ethnic groups that inhabit Afghanistan. Government corruption is endemic to this medieval country, however, which mitigates against developing support among the people. “From hundreds of diplomatic cables, Afghanistan emerges as a looking-glass land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest official is a distinct outlier.”
During an interview on the News Hour, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, explained the fundamental strategic dynamic, the center of gravity (hearts and minds), involved in building a stable society in Afghanistan.
STAFF SGT. TODD BOWERS:
And that’s the complexities of the environment in Afghanistan vs. Iraq.
Afghanistan is extremely rural. It’s extremely tribal. It’s extremely impoverished. And they are also set in their ways, the ways they have done these things in the past. It’s very difficult for them to hear from us that we are going to be there to secure them and take care of them.
But when we do, when we do stop in these villages and we protect them, we give them infrastructure, we show them that development will make their lives better, and that there is no need for the Taliban, that is when we accomplish our mission. But, again, it’s very difficult. And focusing on population centers is going to be key in advancing in Afghanistan.
This recent excerpt from the Associated Press which describes conditions in Helmand Province, Sangin District, frames the operational problem.
“Now roughly a dozen Marine civil affairs operatives and British government advisers working out of Sangin’s district center must maneuver through a minefield of competing forces: corrupt contractors, greedy tribal elders, insurgents, Taliban shadow government officials and, most powerful of all, drug lords who would rather keep the insurgency going than let law and order take root.”
“The group sees the whole point of its effort as building up public trust in the Afghan district government. But the district governor is essentially an army of one because he can’t get anyone to work with him in such a dangerous environment.”
The following excerpt explains the tactical situation on the ground.
“With the big influx of American troops, it took just a few weeks in August to clear the main Taliban forces from Arghandab District, and insurgent attacks dropped dramatically. But as has often been the case in this war, it is easier to drive out the Taliban than to keep them out…”
“The villagers themselves are a big part of the puzzle. There are two senior elders in Deh-e Kuchay, but neither is willing to exercise leadership, Lieutenant [Tyson] Walsh said….’The locals say they enjoy the security we bring,’ he said. But when asked to tell the military if Taliban pass through, they prevaricate. ‘They tell us, ‘The Taliban will kill us if we do,’’ he said.”
“’They are not fence-sitters, these people,’ Captain [Walter] Reed said. ‘They are survivors, that is a more accurate description.’”
“’We are fighting two things with insecurity — the actual fighters, and the fear in people’s minds,’ he said.”
The village elders and the Afghan Army unit teamed up with Company C [Task Force 1-66] to understand much more of what is going on and spend a lot of their time trying to persuade villagers to cooperate.
“’If anyone joins the Taliban, we should go to his mother, father, cousins and brothers and plead with them to tell him not to fight, and even to tell him to come over to the government,’ said Capt. Khwaja Muhammad, 48, the Afghan company commander…”
Success in Afghanistan revolves around two axes: Hamid Karzai and Pakistan.
Despite a concerted effort by top diplomats and commanders, the United States has been unable to achieve more than ephemeral bonhomie with the Afghan leader.
“Our relationship with him has become so tortured,” said a senior administration official. “We’ve gone from one crisis every three months to one crisis a month.”
There is near-universal agreement among top U.S. officials involved in Afghanistan that Karzai’s behavior and leadership have a direct bearing on the outcome of the multinational counterinsurgency mission. But they remain divided about how to improve their ties with him, and whether it is even possible.
Skeptics of the strategy contend his actions, particularly in the six months since the Obama administration started to embrace him as a partner, demonstrate that he cannot be rehabilitated. As a consequence, they maintain that the overall U.S. mission should be scaled back because it is impossible to conduct a counterinsurgency campaign without a steadfast ally in Kabul’s presidential palace.
Supporters of the strategy are of two minds. Some argue that the United States should take a harder line with him. Others play down the blow-ups, casting them as normal disagreements among allies in a challenging situation. They express sympathy with his grievances, saying he is simply expressing frustration over years of U.S. mismanagement of the war and a failure to respond adequately to his concerns.
Pakistan is one of the many Asian countries that exists because of the breakup of the British Empire; it has no core ethnic identity beyond Islam. It has an army with a country which controls Pakistan’s political, social, and economic resources. This power has transformed Pakistani society, where the armed forces have become an independent class. The military is entrenched in the corporate sector and controls the country’s largest companies and large tracts of real estate.
DE BORCHGRAVE: Pakistan bombshell
Candid narratives explode myths about our purported ally
By Arnaud de Borchgrave
The Washington Times
4:57 p.m., Monday, November 15, 2010
Some can’t wait to get out of Afghanistan, and some can’t wait to see us leave. NATO allies want out ASAP. Some have left already (Dutch troops), others are preparing to leave (Canadians), and soon the allied fighting force will be reduced to 100,000 Americans and 9,000 Brits. And Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants the United States to reduce its military footprint countrywide – just as U.S. commander Gen. David H. Petraeus seeks to widen it – and begin negotiations with the Taliban.
When NATO allies volunteered military units to assist the
United States in rooting out al Qaeda‘s infrastructure in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, they figured they’d be home in a few months. Had their governments known that their troops would be in Afghanistan for a decade, they would have stayed home.
…one of Pakistan‘s most influential journalists, the editor of a major newspaper, made the “off-the-record” – which now means go ahead and use it but keep my name out of it – rounds in Washington to deliver a stunning indictment of all the players. Samples:
c Washington says Pakistan must do more to flesh out insurgent safe havens in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). As long as the Taliban were the illegitimate children of ISI, that was possible. But the Taliban are now the enemies of Pakistan, irrespective of whether they are Pakistani Taliban or Afghan Taliban. Assets have become liabilities. We’ve lost 3,000 Pakistani military killed in action. All the jihadi terrorist organizations were created by Pakistan – and they have turned against us.
c Pakistan has a big stake in Afghanistan, and America’s own exit strategy is entirely dependent on Pakistan. Our army has a chokehold on your supply lines through Pakistan. And Pakistan wants to be the U.S. proxy in Afghanistan. ISI wants to make sure Pakistan does not become a liability in Afghanistan.
c The United States should cut its losses in Afghanistan as rapidly as possible.
There is no chance whatsoever for the U.S. and its NATO and other allies to prevail in Afghanistan. No big military successes are possible. All U.S. targets are unrealistic. You cannot prevail on the ground. ISI will not abandon the Taliban. And if the Taliban does not have a major stake in negotiations with the United States, these will be sabotaged by Pakistan.
c Time is running out for Gen. Petraeus – for the United States and for us (Pakistan). Our system is falling apart. The sooner the U.S. andPakistan are on the same page, the better it will be for both of us.
c The Kerry-Lugar aid bill ($1.5 billion a year over five years) is too little, too late. Only half of U.S. pledges are actually coming in. A huge slice of this bill goes to administration and local bureaucracy; $25 million was earmarked for “Sesame Street” – for Pakistanis. U.S. aid is not achieving any of its objectives. Flood relief also caused havoc. Four hundred bridges were washed away.
c The attacks against U.S.-NATO supply lines through Pakistan, which have included the torching of scores of tanker trucks, were not the work of Taliban guerrillas; they all were the work of the ISI made to look like Taliban. The objective was to demonstrate the extent to which the United States is dependent on Pakistani security.
c U.S. drone strikes? The Pakistani line about “huge provocations” and more civilians killed than the Taliban and their partners is pure army invention. Drones play a limited role and should continue.
c One can’t begin to understand the Pakistani crisis until one absorbs the terrifying fact that Pakistan’s 180 million population includes 80 million children younger than 18 – almost half the population. And just 40 percent of Pakistani children are in school. (Reminder: Pakistan also is one of the world’s eight nuclear powers, counting North Korea)
Maulana Attaur Rehman is Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Tourism. He was elected to the National Assembly the lower house of the Pakistani parliament, in the February 2008 elections. Rehman belongs to the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), a political-religious party that is part of the federal governing coalition in Pakistan.
While speaking at a public meeting in the Mansehra district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the tourism minister recently described the Taliban as the “true followers of Islamic ideology” and dubbed the United States as the world’s “biggest terrorist.”
The tourism minister’s comments drew a strong response from liberal Pakistani columnist Irfan Husain, who questioned why Maulana Attaur Rehman, a pro-Taliban orthodox cleric, was given the charge of tourism ministry by President Asif Zardari.
Writing in the Dawn newspaper, Irfan Husain observed: “Normally, if the public views of a minister are so far out of sync with government policy, he is asked to resign. But as far as I can detect, Zardari and his Prime Minister [Yousuf Raza Gilani] show no embarrassment at all over this outburst….”
To read the full report, visit
Hamid Karzai is weak, corrupt, and the illegitimate president of Afghanistan. Our government considers him to be “manic depressive”, psychotic.
Recent disclosures through the WikiLeak document dump confirm this assessment of this central personality in Afghan affairs. In 2008, the US embassy informed Secretary of War Robert Gates that Karzai “has failed to overcome his fundamental leadership deficiencies in decisiveness and in confidence to delegate authority to competent subordinates. The result: a cycle of overwork/fatigue/indecision on the part of Karzai, and gridlock and a sense of drift among senior officials on nearly all critical policy decisions.”
The most extraordinary failure of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan is that the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars has had so little impact on the misery in which 30 million Afghans live. As President Barack Obama prepares this week to present a review of America’s strategy in Afghanistan which is likely to focus on military progress, US officials, Afghan administrators, businessmen and aid workers insist that corruption is the greatest threat to the country’s future.
In a series of interviews, they paint a picture of a country where $52bn (£33bn) in US aid since 2001 has made almost no impression on devastating poverty made worse by spreading violence and an economy dislocated by war. That enormous aid budget, two-thirds for security and one-third for economic, social and political development, has made little impact on 9 million living in absolute poverty, and another 5 million trying to survive on $43 (£27) a month. The remainder of the population often barely scrapes a living, having to choose between buying wood to keep warm and buying food.
Afghans see a racketeering élite as the main beneficiaries of international support and few of them are optimistic about anything changing. “Things look all right to foreigners but in fact people are dying of starvation in Kabul,” says Abdul Qudus, a man in his forties with a deeply lined face, who sells second-hand clothes and shoes on a street corner in the capital. They are little more than rags, lying on display on the half-frozen mud.
“There is an awful feeling that everything is lurching downward,” said a Western diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Nearly five years on , there is no rule of law, no accountability. The Afghans know it is all a charade, and they see us as not only complicit but actively involved. You cannot fight a terror war and build a weak state at the same time, and it was a terrible mistake to think we could.”
Progress can be measured in Helmand and Kandahar provinces because of the troop surge. Overall, the situation in Afghanistan regarding the goal of producing a viable government from disparate elements, tribalism and no sense of nationhood, is bleak.
Gone are the days when the general led his brigade against the enemy line across a field or the colonel advanced his regiment against enemy works on yonder hill. Gone are the days when the general divided his army to pin the enemy while a corps marched upon the foe’s unguarded flank. In Afghanistan and Iraq small unit actions represent modern combat operations: the platoon patrol in the bazaar or the battalion sweep through a guerilla-infested river valley. Boredom and waiting are the companions of fear and death in war.
A Year at War
Between Firefights, Jokes, Sweat, Tales and Tedium
Duty in Afghanistan includes not just patrols, but also the sweaty, unglamorous everything else of being in the infantry
By JAMES DAO
Published: November 21, 2010
For up to date information about Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: