Winning in Afghanistan

One of the few points of agreement between the two vice-presidential candidates in the debate on Thursday evening was that more U. S. troops were needed in Afghanistan. There was no discussion of strategy and there appeared to be agreement on tactics. The only disagreement I noted was on logistics.

I’ve been over this ground to some degree previously here but, since I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the outcome, perhaps we can devote a little more attention to it. Here are three questions about Afghanistan:

  • What are our strategic objectives in Afghanistan?
  • What tactics will effect those objectives?
  • What are the logistical requirements of implementing the objectives?

Getting back to basics can do wonders for clearing the mind. Have at it!

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, General,
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.

Comments

  1. Sheila says:

    •What are our strategic objectives in Afghanistan?

    To create order and stability.

    •What tactics will effect those objectives?

    Vigilance.

    “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

    •What are the logistical requirements of implementing the objectives?

    How ’bout we leave that to the military commanders on the ground – the ones to be appointed by the able and ready John McCain! I shudder to think what would happen if the military actually started listening to the inexperienced and unqualified directives of Barack Obama and other unqualified Americans! Even if Obama is elected, I think it is Obama who will be doing the listening, while our military does the directing. That’s hope you can hope for. Anyone who thinks Obama is capable of running the US military needs to ‘change‘ their minds – the upcoming McCain-Obama debates should make this completely obvious to all (we can only hope).

  2. RWB says:

    I have always thought that we should put more troops into Afghanistan to finish the job we interrupted, until a few months ago that is. In recent months I have noted a number of news stories that seem to indicate that as a result of the length of the mission on Afghanistan and of the adventure in Iraq the locals in Afghanistan who once greeted us as liberators are starting to look at us as occupiers. More troops will likely increase this perception. Occupiers have never done well in Afghanistan. By interrupting the war in Afghanistan to persue the neo-con dream of regime change in Iraq, we have risked losing a rightous war we should have won against an enemy that is real.

  3. anjin-san says:

    •What are our strategic objectives in Afghanistan?

    To create order and stability.

    You might want to put your thinking cap on and try again, that is pretty weak. The Taliban wanted to create order and stability in Afghanistan as well, they just have a somewhat different vision of we do.

    How about:

    What are our strategic objectives in Afghanistan?

    • To deny our enemies the use of Afghanistan as a base for planning/carrying out attacks against the United States or its allies.

    • To create a viable, successful government strong enough to deny Islamic fundamentalists the opportunity to regain control of the Afghan state.

    • To assist the Afghan people in attaining a higher standard of living and greater educational opportunities. Give them a reason to oppose the world view of Bin Laden.

    Even if Obama is elected, I think it is Obama who will be doing the listening

    Do you really object to the idea of a President who listens and thinks? Just look at the strategic and tactical mess McCain has made of his campaign by going with his gut. Even Palin says he blew it by folding in Michigan.

  4. belloscm says:

    anjin-san,

    You have correctly defined our top priority strategic objectives.

    Now for the hard part: How do we attain these strategic goals?

    Will the western allies commit the resources (time, lives and $$$) to fundamentally reorder Afghan society and culture to the degree required to affect real and lasting change?

    Can you change Afghanistan without, at the same time, imposing sweeping change upon Pakistan? A Gordian Knot if there ever was one.

    You think that Iraq has been tough? Stand by for the real test of western resolve.

  5. tom p says:

    belloscm:

    You are dead on except for this:

    to fundamentally reorder Afghan society and culture to the degree required to affect real and lasting change?

    How does one change thousands of years of cultural evolution in, say 5 yrs? 10 yrs? 20 yrs?

    We have to

    • To deny our enemies the use of Afghanistan as a base for planning/carrying out attacks against the United States or its allies.

    • To create a viable, successful government strong enough to deny Islamic fundamentalists the opportunity to regain control of the Afghan state.

    • To assist the Afghan people in attaining a higher standard of living and greater educational opportunities. Give them a reason to oppose the world view of Bin Laden.

    within the existing societal and cultural framework. We can not change Afghanistan.

  6. belloscm says:

    anjin-san,

    I seriously question if we can, at acceptable cost, successfully “…create a viable, successful government…” without altering/re-ordering the culture/society that underlays that government.

    Specifically, can we do what is required with a culture based on the tribe and where corruption is endemic? As bad as his government has been, I’m not so sure that Karzai isn’t the best that we will find.

    I believe that the west has little choice but to try, however; let us be forthright about the resource requirements of the desired change. Time span of the Malayan Emergency (12+ years)? At least.

  7. Michael says:

    Specifically, can we do what is required with a culture based on the tribe and where corruption is endemic?

    Yes, we just have to give up the idea of a western liberal democracy. An Islamic Republic, like the form used in Iran, could accomplish the first two goals at least.

  8. tom p says:

    belloscm:

    I seriously question if we can, at acceptable cost, successfully “…create a viable, successful government…” without altering/re-ordering the culture/society that underlays that government.

    Agreed… Hence my gut feeling that this is at best a fool’s errand.

    I thought so in 2001 as well, I felt then that we could accomplish our goal of destroying(or at least severely hurting) Al Quaeda and punish the Taliban for “harboring” them with out overthrowing the Taliban, by way of a bombing campaign with some special forces infiltration. That may sound very similar to what we did do, except for our taking sides with the northern alliance. The “strategy” of what I thought we should do then was to divide the Taliban from Al Quaeda, and leave the Taliban in power, and Al Quaeda foundering (hopefully we would also get Bin Laden).

    Hardly an ideal result (I am as disgusted as the next by the Taliban) and maybe even a little naive, but at least then we would not now be stuck in the middle of yet another Afghan civil war.

    Specifically, can we do what is required with a culture based on the tribe and where corruption is endemic?

    I am afaid that we have no choice now, but to, as you say, try

    As bad as his government has been, I’m not so sure that Karzai isn’t the best that we will find.

    That may well be but I wonder, will the Afghans feel the same way? In a country as fractured by tribal loyalties as Afghanistan is, I think it is a sucker’s bet to put our money on any one man, and in the end, it will be their choice.

    As to the “12+ year” time frame…

    It has now been 7 years, that means we have 5/6 more to go…