Questioning the Afghanistan Strategy

Col. W. Patrick Lang was the first professor of Arabic at West Point, a career intelligence officer and teacher of intelligence officers. He held the responsibility for all human intelligence at the Department of Defense and was the head of intelligence analysis there for seven or eight years. His areas of focus are the Middle East, South Asia, and counter-intelligence. His wikipedia entry is here. He has a blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis.

Pat Lang is skeptical about our strategy in Afghanistan:

We went into Afghanistan to deprive the takfiri jihadis of a base. That was a counter-terrorism operation. What is assumed to be the future of American policy in Afghanistan is something that is far more than a counter-terrorism operation.

The devious nature of Central Asian politics is well known. Why not return to the norms of local politics.

How much do the Taliban want per particular Al-Qa’ida head that we covet? Has anyone asked them? Al-Qa’ida has caused the Taliban a lot of trouble. Perhaps they would be amenable to a practical but invisible arrangement?

I have drunk a lot of tea in a variety of interesting dwellings and listened endlessly to grandmothers and uncles tell of injustices past and imaginary lineages that Homer might have constructed. It is deeply satisfying to drink their tea and have them tell strangers that you are one of them. Unfortunately, you are not one of them, and can never be one of them. The spiritual endorphins of the COIN process are deeply seductive. We must be sure that we have not seduced ourselves before we commit to an open ended responsibility for these people so far away. The president should ask himself how many more American soldiers the imagined Afghanistan would be worth.

Afghanistan presents a dilemma for us. On the one hand we’ve learned to our sorrow that ignoring it completely has a way of biting us. We can’t allow what Col. Lang refers to as the takfiri jihadis, Al Qaeda, to reestablish themselves there. On the other hand there’s very little reason to believe that we can successfully establish a coherent country with a centralized government there, let alone a democratic one.

Read the whole thing.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Middle East, Terrorism, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. DC Loser says:

    I agree that nation building and the imposition of democracy may not be in our best interest in Afghanistan. We recognize its tribal social construct and should really push for some kind of figurehead that can unify all the tribes. Perhaps bringing back the Afghan monarchy will give them a sense of unity that so far has eluded Karzai.