The deteriorating situation in Helmand, by Jonathan Mueller

Here is a guest post about the situation in Afghanistan by Jonathan Mueller, a sharp and insightful operational analysis.  Note the brief description of his background appearing after the essay.  My thanks to him for sharing this with us.

One caveat:  I disagree with the strategic context of his analysis.  That is, counter-insurgency successes are almost always by local forces.  CI by predominately foreign forces almost always lose.  This is the key distinction, almost always ignored by pro-war western analysts.

“The deteriorating situation in Helmand”, by Jonathan Mueller

It is fairly easy to see why the British Army is taking so many casualties in Helmand: they have abandoned their clear-hold-build strategy and returned to a search-and-destroy campaign against the Taliban. In clear-hold-build one principle is to never occupy territory you cannot hold, but the British have returned to patrolling and raiding across territory they do not have the troops to hold.

Why they have done this is less clear. British commanders have every reason to know that while clear-hold-build has some hope of success, search and destroy draws on a long record of failure for this kind of operation.

The British Army has led the world in developing classical counter-insurgency doctrine and its officers understand it as well as anybody.

About Counterinsurgency

Classical counter-insurgency doctrine developed in the 1950s. It is based on earlier methods of imperial policing but adapted to combat the more robust threat from Marxist-nationalist national liberation movements emerging at the time. The Americans in the Philippines and the British in Malaya found similar solutions, but while the Americans have forgotten and re-learned those lessons several times over the British have institutionalised and continuously developed them.

Classical counter-insurgency doctrine takes Mao’s maxim that ‘the guerrilla swims among the people as a fish in the sea’ and turns it around: separate the guerrilla from the people and he will die, like a fish out of water. Classical doctrine aims to use police, military, and intelligence services to protect the people from the insurgents and create a screen behind which political, economic, and other measures can be taken to resolve the problem. Clear-hold-build is a re-statement of the classical principles.

We can see:

  • Classical doctrine is a combined-action programme combining military and non-military measures;
  • Even the security portion is a combined action of police, military, and intelligence, which often looks more like policing than regular warfare;
  • The people themselves are the battlefield;
  • The military cannot solve the problem themselves; only create conditions for other means to solve the problem.

Success with classical doctrine requires:

  1. A political framework;
  2. Effective coordination among all the civilian and security agencies that are part of the solution. Today this includes international organisations and NGOs who may not see themselves as parties to the conflict;
  3. Adequate troops in both quantity and quality. Effective counter-insurgency operations require great discipline and restraint. Officers must be diplomats and anthropologists as well as soldiers;

(a) Minimum firepower must be used to avoid civilian casualties, which only make the problem worse – this is why numbers and discipline of infantry are so important.

(b) There is no point taking ground and not holding it. Move in, establish security, take a census, and start building infrastructure that shows you intend to stay.

The two ways to win

There are two ways for an intervening power to provide troops for counter-insurgency:

  1. Send in its own troops in adequate numbers to do the job;
  2. Use a small number of trainers and advisers to organise local forces.

The latter has obvious advantages if it can be made to work. If it cannot, that is a significant warning about the strength, effectiveness, and legitimacy of the regime being supported, and addressing those weaknesses must be part of the programme.

Malaya was an example of the former {FM:  see my note at the end}, the Philippines of the latter.

Blended approaches that use local troops of inadequate quality to make up for inadequate numbers of outside troops seldom work. Neither do forced hand-overs of responsibility from outside to local forces based on a timetable fixed by the outsiders’ desire to withdraw. It is always desirable to stand up local troops and hand over to them as quickly as possible, but they must take responsibility as they are ready to, not be given it when it is politically convenient to do so. As soon as the outsiders say they are going, they lose influence. All the people whose collaboration they need start positioning themselves for life without foreign patrons. To build a durable solution you must convince people that you will stay until the durable solution is in place.

It is important to distinguish between regular troops and auxiliary para-military forces. Whether they are called militia (a dirty word in Afghanistan), home guard, or whatever, and irregardless of whether the regular troops are local or foreign, these can be important force-multipliers, but there still must be an adequate force, in quantity and quality, of regular troops. Zero times anything is still zero.

Regular troops inexperienced in counter-insurgency inevitably believe they have to seize the initiative with offensive operations intended to seek out the insurgents, and see the challenge as one of locating the insurgents so that they can crush them with their superior firepower. What they do not realise is that, by blundering around a countryside that the insurgents know better than they do, they are surrendering the initiative. The insurgents control the time, place, and duration of engagements. The insurgents control how many casualties they suffer, so they cannot be defeated by attrition.

When the security forces instead concentrate on protecting the population, they are applying Moltke the Elder’s maxim to seize a position the enemy must attack. Cut off their access to the people, and the insurgents must attack, or become irrelevant. Who has the initiative now?

If you do not protect the people, they cannot help you even if they want to (and they probably do not), because the insurgents would kill them if they did. Start protecting them, serving them, treating them with respect, and they may just believe you are good for them, and come forward with information you are desperate for, like the location of IEDs.

The Labour government deserves all the lumps it is getting for its failure to provide adequate resources for the Army in Afghanistan, but the debate is going down a blind alley. Search and destroy tactics may make it look like the Army needs more helicopters and mine-proof vehicles, but that is an illusion based on tactics that will fail even with more resources.

What the Army needs in Afghanistan

What the Army needs in Afghanistan and in general is more infantry. In clear-hold-build your defence against IEDs and other attacks is your ability to persuade the local population that you are there to stay and your presence is good for them. Show them that their bread is buttered on your side and they will show you the IEDs. Holding ground, in particular, is a labour-intensive task which cannot be done without more infantry.

In remarks to the press General Sir Richard Dannatt (Chief of the General Staff) has been tactful about DfID (Department for International Development), but I will be less so. In Afghanistan DfID has always been part of the problem. They have never been on the same page as the Army, always reluctant to work together with the Army in combined action against the Taliban.

When Labour created DfID out of the ODA (Overseas Development Agency) they expressly gave it the mission of alleviating poverty. This was a rejection of white-elephant capital projects, an approach to foreign aid that was largely abandoned in the 1970s. A noble thought, focusing on poverty, but one that has substantially limited DfID as an instrument of British policy.

Under clear-hold-build it should be obvious that the building is to be done by DfID. This means moving in behind the Army to implement quick-implementing local programmes for rural development. Instead DfID is concentrating on capacity-building with the central government. If you want to build a house, do you start with the roof?

The British have the example of the Westminster Process, the stately but time-tested process by which they divested themselves of an empire, which built from locality to province to nation. The time is now for DfID to get with the programme and join with the Army in putting all possible resources into combined action against the Taliban. That this has not already been done speaks poorly of DfID’s grasp of British objectives in Afghanistan, as well as of the government’s effectiveness in directing the efforts of its agencies. The failure to align DfID more closely with the reasons Britain is fighting in Afghanistan is the responsibility of DfID’s own leadership, the Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister, and the entire Cabinet.


Classical counter-insurgency doctrine is a hard slog and by no means fool-proof, but it provides the best hope of success in Afghanistan. The Army needs to return to the doctrine it developed, and the government needs to provide leadership, discipline, and the necessary resources for the necessary combined action programme.

There is a danger right now that the high casualties the Army is taking in Afghanistan discrediting the whole operation with the British public. This would be unfortunate. We have the mess we have in Afghanistan because we abandoned the Afghans when the Soviets left. We forgot their contribution to the fall of the USSR and failed to help them re-build the country we had helped them to destroy. We left Afghanistan to become a ticking bomb, which exploded on 9/11, and if we leave now it will still be a ticking bomb, right next door to another ticking bomb, Pakistan.

Today, on a national level, Afghanistan lacks the political framework to solve the problem of the Taliban, but British and American forces have found that when they apply classical counter-insurgency in cooperation with communities they have been able to build the political framework on a local level. The requirement today is to get all the players pulling in the direction set by those principles, not to give up.

About the author

In 1981 Dick Cheney, then a young and moderate congressman who professed admiration for the way Melvin Laird had maneuvered Nixon out of Vietnam, brought Mueller into his office to help propagate the ideas of John Boyd and Chuck Spinney. 

He went on to a career in the Foreign Service, during which (1988-90) he managed anti-narcotics assistance to the Colombian, Bolivian, and other South American police forces — a form of low-intensity conflict that he believes would probably be more successful if we took more lessons from classical counter-insurgency doctrine. His last job in the Foreign Service (1998-2000) was managing assistance for Afghan refugees. For the last year he has been involved with the Afghan programmes of two small London NGOs, the European-Atlantic Group and the Next Century Foundation.

About the Malayan Emergency

This is often cited as a victory of the British, an example of successful counter-insurgency by foreigners.  As does Mueller in this essay, and John Nagl in his book.  That is probably not accurate, as seen by the numbers of troops contributed and their losses (from Wikipedia).

Fighting the insurgents:

  • 250,000 Malayan Home Guard troops
  • 40,000 regular Commonwealth personnel
  • 37,000 Special Constables
  • 24,000 Federation Police


  • 1,346 Malayan troops and police (a conservative estimate; 73% of the total)
  • 519 British military personnel (27% of the total)


Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).  Posts over 250 words will have a fold inserted (putting a “more” button in the comment), so make the opening text an interesting summary of your comment.

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For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar.  Of esp interest these days:

Posts about the War in Afghanistan:

  1. Scorecard #2: How well are we doing in Iraq? Afghanistan?, 31 October 2003
  2. Quote of the day: this is America’s geopolitical strategy in action, 26 February 2008 — George Friedman of Statfor on the Afghanistan War.
  3. Another perspective on Afghanistan, a reply to George Friedman, 27 February 2008
  4. Why are we are fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008 — A debate with Joshua Foust.
  5. We are withdrawing from Afghanistan, too (eventually), 21 April 2008
  6. Brilliant, insightful articles about the Afghanistan War, 8 June 2008
  7. The good news about COIN in Afghanistan is really bad news, 20 August 2008
  8. Pakistan warns America about their borders, and their sovereignty, 14 September 2008
  9. “Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda” by George Friedman, 31 January 2009
  10. A joust between two schools of American military theory, 19 May 2009
  11. Troops without proper equipment in 2004, troops without proper equipment in 2009 – where’s the outrage?, 20 May 2009
  12. New bases in Afghanistan – more outposts of America’s Empire, 21 May 2009
  13. The simple, fool-proof plan for victory in Afghanistan , 1 June 2009
  14. Advice about our long war – “It’s the tribes, stupid”, 9 June 2009
  15. An expert explains why we must fight in Afghanistan, 11 June 2009
  16. Real experts review a presentation about the War (look here, if you’re looking for well-written analysis!), 21 June 2009
  17. The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion, 23 June 2009
  18. The trinity of modern warfare at work in Afghanistan, 13 July 2009

24 thoughts on “The deteriorating situation in Helmand, by Jonathan Mueller”

  1. It seems that the CI strategies are generally based on those used to prop up colonial states and banana republics in the 20th century. These would seem doomed to failure if there aren’t viable local political systems to support in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  2. Indian Investor

    By the time the Afghan presidential elections are held on August 20, 2009 the Department of State will complete its new friendship with the people they’ve been waging a war against for years – dubiously renamed as “good taliban”.

    The “good taliban” forces (e.g. Wazirs) – logistically supported by the United States Special Forces – are racing into Tajikistan – the Amu Darya will turn red soon with the blood of the Wazirs and the Pashtuns.

    No prizes for guessing why the Department of State is suddenly friends with the Taliban. They need the help of Islamic terrorists to disrupt the Turkmenistan – Xinjiang natural gas pipeline. All across this game-changing pipeline – that is to be completed in 2009, the Department of State will build more and more new Kashmirs.
    The race for Dushanbe has begun. This time, it’s the United States Special Forces fighting Allah’s Jihad!
    Fabius Maximus replies: We will bookmark this forecast. My guess (emphasis on guess) is that this is mostly incorrect. There are 23 days to go!

  3. Indian Investor

    The CIA needs to control the poppy fields in Helmand and keep the crop safe so they can early-retire with millions to Orange County.So the black teenager British Army and killer-mongrel United States Marines have been told to change their strategy accordingly. Letting some of them die isn’t bad – after all even if they return safely they’re only going to be man-eating animals who need to be kept caged up somewhere or other at State expense. Apart from paying their salaries with money borrowed from China, the State needs to pretend they’re normal respectable people and not let the media and public know what they are. “Combat stress” my left foot! These are plainly teenagers who’ve become unmanageable cannibals.
    Fabius Maximus replies: We on the FM site staff hear your cry for help, and respond with good advice — please see your doctor STAT and have your meds adjusted. Also, please don’t post your fantasies here without some evidence. “Cannibals”? No mas.

  4. Indian Investor

    FM, it wasn’t a forecast as regards to Dushanbe – the race is already on. US Special Forces fighting Allah’s Jihad against the Tajik regime – because the Tajik regime is working with CNPC on their pipeline. “Weekend explosions in Dushanbe are called as act of intimidation“, Central Asia News, 27 July 2009 — Excerpt:

    The involvement of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is suspected in the recent explosions in Dushanbe on the past weekend. Experts assume these explosions are the act of intimidation. The special services of Tajikistan are investigating the circumstances of two explosions on the last weekend in the capital city to establish who is behind them. No casualties are reported in both cases.

    During the last 5 years four explosions happened in the capital city, which were called by the authorities as terrorist acts.

    … One week prior to explosions on the past weekend in Dushanbe, the Ministry of the Interior reported about detention of 3 nationals of Tajikistan in Gorno-Badakhshan Autunomous Oblast (in north of Tajikistan) under suspicion of preparing a number of terrorist acts in the country. They had weapon, grenades, explosives and communication devices with them. According to the special services, all detainees are members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who participated in hostilities against the coalition forces in Afghanistan and warfare against governmental troops of Pakistan in Waziristan. The detainees said they and several terrorists arrived in Tajikistan as ordered by IMU leader Tahir Yuldashev to commit terrorist acts. At present, the special services are looking for the rest members of the terrorist groups and their aides.

  5. This post is classic COIN, which means it’s big on military — and can’t talk politics. To wit, he says:

    Success with classical doctrine requires:
    * A political framework;
    * Effective coordination…

    That’s all he says about a political framework? When it’s the number one requirement? From the next section:

    There are two ways for an intervening power to provide troops for counter-insurgency:
    * Send in its own troops in adequate numbers to do the job;
    * Use a small number of trainers and advisers to organise local forces.

    What about that political framework? I find this all the time in “classical COIN” talk. They talk about politics, the need for non-kinetic activity, but just like Tom Barnett they list it without understanding it.

    Here, we see a hint that political frameworks are a necessary requirement, but a discussion of the military. Throwing it all on DfID’s back is awesome, especially given their non-record of success in Afghanistan so far. It’s like the reliance on PRTs in the U.S.—they just don’t work in a strategic sense, yet all the military can think about is that they have a 1% civilian component so therefore they’re what we need for that non-kinetic stuff.

  6. Indian Investor

    “Oh wow!” They’ve got a strange unknown mental disease that makes them go and rape a teenage girl, or shoot themselves in the foot. They aren’t barbarians – we need to respect them as valiant courageous warriors. And when I do my own little distortion about them being cannibals – I’m the one who needs “help”?{snip}

    It would be nice to see some evidence that says that these ex-imperial soldiers have a strange unknown mental disease as claimed by the military docs and journalists. How does this disease work, and why does it make someone go and rape a teenage girl from their own country? {snip}
    Fabius Maximus replies: The post links to a 126 page report by medical authorities. Try reading that before making such comments. Also — last warning: no more stream-of-consciousness nonsense. If you have evidence, that’s always appropriate here.

  7. Indian Investor

    OK, as to my theory about the Islamist fighters in Central Asia being the stooge pigeons of the US Department of State – here’s a link to “Islamist fighters on the Silk Road“, M.K. Bhadrakumar, op-ed in The Hindu (one of India’s national newspapers since 1868), 20 July 2009 — I recommend reading it in full, to borrow a turn of phrase :-). Excerpt:

    This is a high-stakes game, as the nature of the power structure in Kabul holds profound implications for the security of the Central Asian region and North Caucasus — and Xinjiang. All evidence points to an intensification of the big power struggle for influence in the energy-rich regions of the Caspian and Central Asia. A defining moment is coming up by the year-end when the 7000-kilometre long gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Xinjiang will become operational. The pipeline will be a game-changer. The U.S. is keenly advancing the agenda of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s expansion into the region and it is meeting with resistance from both Russia and China.

    Against this backdrop, a steadily rising curve of Islamist activities is becoming visible in Central Asia. Armed attacks by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group affiliated to the al-Qaeda, resumed since late May. There are reports that the Islamist commander of the Tajik civil war (1992-97), Mullah Abdullo, recently crossed the Afghan border into Tajikistan with some 300 followers and took shelter in Tavildara, which is situated in the Rasht Valley in the rugged Pamir Mountains, some 20 km from the Afghan border. Tavildara used to be the base of the Islamist fighters in the Tajik civil war.

    … The U.S. commentators have given a spin that the Central Asian militants are returning home due to the Pakistani military stepping up its operations along the Afghan border region. According to the local opinion in Afghanistan, however, U.S. special forces are providing the logistics to Central Asian Islamists to reach the Tajikistan border from Pakistan-Afghan tribal areas. Kunduz, Islam Qala, Imam Zahib, Aliabad and Chardara district in northern Afghanistan have become staging points for militants to cross into Tajikistan. There are reports that U.S. special forces facilitated the movement of “foreign fighters” from the Wazir tribes on the Pakistani-Afghan border into Chardara district. (Chardara is a Pashtun enclave.) These are very alarming signals reminiscent of the run-up to the Andizhan uprising in the Ferghana valley in May 2005, which had covert American involvement. Conceivably, the security situation may worsen along the route of the Turkmenistan-Xinjiang pipeline.

    Fabius Maximus replies: Would you consider any similar statement by the US government as gospel? If not, then why should this be considered Truth? Note his careful phrasing — allowing later deniability — “there are reports that…”.

  8. Indian Investor

    FM, People need to question the intention behind these wars quite openly.
    I’ve read plenty and plenty of reports from various “authorities”. The truth is startlingly simple. If you can write medical reports justifying that a campaign returned soldier who commits homicide must be sympathized with as mentally ill; if President Obama can publicly justify the Afghan invasion of the US military with an unsubstantiated claim that it is to “win a lasting peace” in Afghanistan;if common people who are immediate family of these soldiers need to feel proud of their non existent courage and sacrifice in a battle that is unconnected with any American public purpose – there you have the political pillars that support these foreign campaigns for ever and for ever.
    It must become common and acceptable for for the common American to recognize the simple startling facts that are distorted and buried in reams of officially certified propaganda. The American soldiers are far superior to their adversaries in all kinds of weapons, training, supplies, strategy, etc. There is no valor or courage involved in decimating a far weaker enemy. All the courage and valor is being shown by cotton clad Jihadists, not the American soldiers. Immediate family needs to be ashamed of their soldiering relatives, not proud.
    There isn’t any reason to think that the US needs to have command over all the regions of the world and talk about peace, democracy, freedom of speech, human rights, etc in those foreign countries. Everybody abroad with even a modicum of education or awareness knows these ideas are canards that are mass manufactured for public consumption propaganda. No evidence is needed to say that these are the noble objectives of the American hegemonists. If there are doubts, however – the doubts need to be established with strong evidence. That is what imperialism is all about. Once an American goes and makes a speech that this war is about lasting peace, of course, all opponents must come to the table with strong evidence to the contrary. After all, this man has made countless speeches that have been believed by countless people with no major evidence. So whatever he says, of course, is assumed to be true by default.
    As to the medical evidence pointing to combat stress as something that causes soldiers returned from campaigns to commit exonerable and empathy-worthy homicides and rapes in peacetime in their own country – my preference is to reserve my judgement on that issue without going into the details of that evidence.

  9. My late papa was , with Commonwealth comrades ,an insurgent in Burma . He helped set up lines of communication ,human and mechanical ,ready for Slim’s advance . They were fed on corned beef and TE Lawrence .There must be many still around who partipated in the Resistance movemnents in WW11. I wonder if these expert thieves have been consulted on catching thieves ? To teach how to think like an insurgent , and so forestall him ?
    Interesting comments from Nigerians on the current violence in Northern Nigeria , which would give good propaganda against Islamic exremists . The extremists are said to be wanting Sharia Law ( their version of ) and saying Western education is Bad . The commentators beleive that the extremist leaders are rich and educated ; they see education ( beyond the narrow confines of the Koran ) as giving power ; what the leaders want is personal financial gain through control of the people .
    Also interesting is that I read Holbrook is getting interested in , who finances the Taliban – a point that I have wondered about .

  10. From #9: “who finances the Taliban”. Anna:

    I totally disagree with this guy’s belief that the US has no choice but to exterminate the Taliban, or even that this is a good goal: “Follow and Kill Every Single Taliban“, Herschel Smith, The Captain’s Journal, 26 July 2009.

    At the same time, his analysis of how the Taliban is funded (here) seems probably correct to me. His take: heroin plays a large part, but so does their control over territory, their ability to tax small businesses and larger industry within their territory. They apparently also get (Asia Times Online, article from 2003.08.26) US money meant for rebuilding Afghan infrastructure , and utilize other foreign contacts (The Fruitfly blog, describing the arrest of former Republican congressman Mark Siljander in connection with Taliban funding). Bottom line, they appear to be a flexible, connected and opportunistic group of people who come up with all kinds of schemes to get money, and are not married to any particular one.
    Fabius Maximus replies: They sound just like governments everywhere. Heroin is the primary product of Helmand Province. Mother Nature made it so, and only vast sums of money wil change that. Recent US history shows that we would rather spend 10x that amount on fighting to control the area rather than a smaller sum to change its economy.

    The real question is why folks read trash like “The Captain’s Journal”. There are many real experts writing about the situation in central asia, but America’s bloodlust is stirred by nutjobs extremists** yelling “Follow and Kill Every Single Taliban.” It’s a symptom of a nation increasingly ruled by its own paranoia and hubris. The results for us will probably not be pretty. For more on this see America’s Most Dangerous Enemy.

    Update: for another (and even worse) despicable recommendation from The Captain’s Journal, see comment #14.

    ** Word changed to conform to the FM site’s comments policy.

  11. Comment #2: “No prizes for guessing why the Department of State is suddenly friends with the Taliban. They need the help of Islamic terrorists to disrupt the Turkmenistan – Xinjiang natural gas pipeline.”

    Hey, Indian Investor, how about using some of that keyboard energy you seem to have at your disposal to actually explain something to us ignorant Americans? Well, to this ignorant American, anyway. Why is it the goal of the American government to disrupt this pipeline? What makes it so important? There are pipelines all over the place. Just because there are U.S. troops fighting in an area, and there is a pipeline in a nearby location does not mean ipso factothat it’s all about the pipeline. Nor does it even mean that the U.S. government thinks it’s all about the pipeline. Be informative, give arguments, or stop wasting my time.

  12. From #9 ,#10 : who funds the Taliban :
    Holbrook was quoted by the BBC among others , as saying the drug trade and local criminal activity would be inadequte to fund the Taliban . That makes sense to me , they cant make much preying on poor people and being first retailers of poppy juice – unless they are an organised international network ,which we are told they arent . Holbrook then pointed at the ” Gulf States ” as funders .
    But its hard to see a financial motive . A Wahabi motive perhaps ? Religious devotion , or Control and Power ? Doesnt seem a very good case – anyone know what else Holbrook said on this ?
    There is an interesting article on Asia Times re Helmand , suggesting the Taliban are nice guys compared with the local police . What a mess .

  13. Pingback: The Captain’s Journal » Follow and Kill Every Single Taliban

  14. I respond to Maximus’ comments about my prose {see comment #10} in an updated post.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Let’s take another look at Smith’s advice (who speaks in the first person plural, like royalty). From “Prisons in Afghanistan“, Herschel Smith, The Captain’s Journal, 23 July 2009:

    “Our position? Same as Old Trooper who comments at Blackfive. ‘Taking prisoners is not productive.’ The problem started when we took prisoners.”

    Centuries of progresss in western civilization, to be thrown away so casually. I will — and have on this site — discussed almost anything. Almost. But such views are IMO beyond the pale. Debate with their advocates only gives them more (and undeserved) credibility. Even if we face dark times ahead from Islamo-whatevers (which I doubt), he serves to remind us that perhaps our greatest threats come from within.

  15. I’m not sure what you’re doing since I didn’t leave the comment just above, but I’ll now let the reader make his or her own mind up. I stand by my prose. I hope you stand by your own hillbilly etiquette. You are an oaf, and your readers can do better. I don’t have such a lack of etiquette.
    Fabius Maximus replies: I am quoting from your own site. Thes recommendations need no analysis. The links are there for those that wish to read your posts in full. If you believe that those quotes are taken out of context, please advise how and I’ll include a longer excerpt.

    As to whether you left the above comment, does it matter? Comment #14 is just points to your updated post. Also, the IP addresses on that and this comment are the same. Probably they can be faked, but why would someone bother to fake your IP address when posting an update notice?

    As to your personal attacks, the opinion of someone who advocates killing prisoners is not of concern to me.

    Update: per comment #16, Smith says that he does not advocate taking prisoners. My apology for the misinterpretation. But oldtrooper’s comment seems to imply that! See comment #17 for details.

  16. I don’t advocate the killing of prisoners, you idiot. Again, I don’t write for idiots. I write for thoughtful people who can discern one thing from another. Your readers are invited to my site to read better prose and analysis than you offer.

    I should have known. A man who cannot even let a guest author post his own article without stating up front that he disagrees with such and such an aspect of it. What immaturity and insecurity.

    BTW, I can give you multiple examples where you are wrong on your assertion at the front of this post. Again, your readers are invited to more sophisticated analysis that you provide.

    PS: I don’t revise commenters comments on my site. I leave them alone.
    Fabius Maximus replies: As for revisions, I do snip out personal attacks, as they tend to surpress debate and lower its quality. I leave insults when directed at me (such as yours), as they tell so much about their author.

    “I don’t advocate the killing of prisoners, you idiot.’

    I have noted your correction in the above comment. But you say your position is “the same as Oldtrooper’s”. People can read Oldtrooper’s exact words in the next comment and decide for themselves if my interpretation was correct.

    Re: guest posts — I often post material that I disagree with — and note my objections. This is a site for discussion about things on the edge of the known, hence the often long and intense debate.

    Re: comments — There have been over 11,000 comments posted since this site opened in November 2007. Many are hundreds or thousands of words long. Many threads have over 30 comments; some over 50. So I must be doing something right.

  17. What to do with prisoners?

    This is perhaps the quote H Smith refers to in his post (see comment #14), along with an excerpt from the post. Smith says that his position is the “Same as Old Trooper who comments at Blackfive”. I don’t believe Oldtrooper and wt259 are advocating a “catch and release” program, but readers can decide for themselves.

    Releasing Iranian terrorist leaders, and hiding it“, Blackfive, 28 July 2009 — Excerpt:

    “Releasing the Irbil 5, who Iran claimed were diplomats and we were certain were not, was problematic. Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal reports that it was not just these “diplomats” who were cut loose, but a known Qods Force commander, and that he was slipped into this exchange to mask the fact that he was deeply involved with planning and execution of attacks on US troops.

    “The fact that we are now releasing them is shocking and needs to be discussed far more vigorously. Some of this is driven by our security agreements with Iraq, but it seems likely that some is to push negotiations with Iran on multiple issues. They have been complaining that we hold and must release their operatives and it seems we are putting the desire for talks with Iran above the safety of our troops and Iraqi civilians.”

    Comment by oldtrooper, 29 July 2009 (bold emphasis added):

    “Isn’t that about par for the course? I’m not surprised. Angry, pissed beyond belief, but not surprised. Our troops and Iraqi civilians are not as valuable as “negotiating” with Iran, since “the one” has done everything but swallow, when dealing with Iran, so far. I’m going to quit now, before I say what I really think.”

    Comment by wt259, 29 July 2009 (bold emphasis added):

    I think the O-nnointed one actually did swallow, when he refused to comment on the aftermath of the Iranian elections, for days. Just another indicator that prisoners should be few and far between.

  18. Mr. Smith,

    Fabius and I concluded that you wish to exterminate every Taliban because in your posts, it sounds like that’s what you’re saying. At the end of your 2008.08.15 post you wrote:

    “It isn’t about the poppy, marble or financiers from the house of Saud. It’s about the religious radicals practicing jihad because of their belief system, who would fight to the death to destroy the West. There is no solution except to kill them.”

    So, sorry if we mis-interpreted your words, but that’s the impression we both got from reading you.

  19. More on Smith and his “Kill them all” theories

    As atheist notes, Smith’s site offers some interesting examples advocating “kill them all” solutions.

    “Pirates in the Gulf of Aden”, 1 October 2008 — Excerpt:

    “This is easy. We tell the LOAC and ROE lawyers that they’re special and that they should go to their rooms and write high-sounding platitudes about compassion in war so that they’re out of the way, we land the Marines on the ship, and we kill every last pirate. Then we hunt down his domiciles in Somali and destroy them, and then we find his financiers and buyers and kill them.”

    For more on this see here, here, and here.

    Also, for the “sophisticated analysis” Smith offers: “U.S. Marines versus Hezbollah: A Modest Proposal”, 12 August 2006 — Excerpt:

    “So when will payback occur? Why not unleash the U.S. Marines on Hezbollah. Let’s watch payback happen “Marines-style!” The war will be dramatic and over very quickly. And Hezbollah will be no more. Problem gone.”

    For another view of piracy, see these posts on the FM site:
    * All about Pirates!, 12 December 2008
    * More about pirates: why we no longer “hang them high”, 5 January 2009

  20. The question of Prisoners is important and I have asked before . In Afgh , how many prisoners ? How are they classified , how are they treated ? Surely , if you are an insurgent, this is hugely important : would you be not unwilling to surrender ; or would you have a just cause ,even your mother would approve of , to fight and fight ?

  21. And another thing . Even if this discussion is dead .
    The Taliban are reported to have a booklet out from Mullah Omar, requiring a code of better conduct towards civilians including non muslims . So there are several good things : a man of religion ( can argue the Koran with him ), trying to regain leadership ( someone we could have talks with , someone who might be able to call off the dogs ) suggesting slightly human -righty things ( aha ! a chink of light through a door ! )
    And the US/UK response is : Grr , spit ,just propaganda , doesnt mean anything .
    But anyone who trains animals or tries to teach difficult children , knows about shaping . Shaping is where you take anything , anything ,approaching the behavior you want and reward it . It would have taken little to respond in a positive way , for example to say “We have come to realise the pain we , also , have inflicted on innocent civilians. Perhaps our representatives could meet, to discuss our common desire to protect women and children.”
    Fabius Maximus replies: No discussion ever dies on the FM site! Thank you for mentioning this; it is a releveant and perhaps important development. Here are some articles about it.

    (1) “Taliban issues code of conduct“, Al Jazeera, 27 July 2009 — Excerpt:

    The Taliban in Afghanistan has issued a book laying down a code of conduct for its fighters. Al Jazeera has obtained a copy of the book, which further indicates that Mullah Omar, the movement’s leader, wants to centralise its operations.

    The book, with 13 chapters and 67 articles, lays out what one of the most secretive organisations in the world today, can and cannot do. It talks of limiting suicide attacks, avoiding civilian casualties and winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the local civilian population.

    Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said every fighter is being issued the pocket book entitled “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Rules for Mujahideen”.

    (2) “New Taliban code: Don’t kill civilians, don’t take ransom“, US News and World Reports, 31 July 2009 — “The 60-page code of conduct, issued in the runup to Aug. 20 elections, urges fewer suicide bombings. US and Afghan officials say it’s propaganda.”

  22. Anna, thanks much for those Al Jazeera & US News links, I’ll read ’em when I have time.

    One thought, it is probably significant if the Mullah Omar has made such a statement publicly. However, it does not necessarily mean that all, or even most of what we call “The Taliban” will follow his directive. From what I have read of “The Taliban”, they are very far from being a unified movement (link: article, “Who Are The Taliban?” by Annand Gopal, The Nation, Dec. 3, 2008.) Many of them might not even call themselves “Taliban”.

  23. “The Taliban as a unified movement ”
    This is why some time back , I queried the policy of targeting leaders . Take me to your leader . I need to have a word with your production supervisor . Get me the director on the phone. I will take this up with the manager . Who’s in charge of this ruddy outfit ?

  24. The Taliban are all-Pashun insurgency; not terrorists according to the CIA and its Jewish-run media. The Taliban are clearly winnig the war in Afghanistan and have more territory to hold than the Afghan puppet government. Having said that, Pashtun insurgency is fighting for the Shariaw law to be implemented in Afghanistan; this is a major reason why the US invaded Afghanistan. Drugs like heroin as well as other Afghan mineral resources are vital for the US and its allies to get their hands on; minerals means power and power means influence. The west will never seize to rob the 3rd world countries because the US full spectrum dominance depends on invading foreign lands and in this case Afghanistan with the usual and brutal CIA’s fake 9/11 and then it was poor Iraq full of oil and again CIA’s bluffing 45 minutes claim of Iraq’s missile that could hit the West was a lie and everyone knows it now. And this is the same case about Britain’s role in Helmand; they did not go there to rebuild the country but to get the drugs and logistically stay there. This is a same scenario; fooling the Afghan public and then continuing painting the Taliban as evil thus robbing the nation in the proccess.

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