An unusually clear view of the Afghanistan War

Summary:  It’s possible to see the true condition of the Af-Pak War, if one puts together the pieces.  The resulting picture is not pretty.

(1)  Facts:  ‘Still a long way to go’ for U.S. operation in Marja, Afghanistan“, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, 10 June 2010 — The opening tells the story; the rest of the article provides supporting facts.

Residents of this onetime Taliban sanctuary see signs that the insurgents have regained momentum in recent weeks, despite early claims of success by U.S. Marines. The longer-than-expected effort to secure Marja is prompting alarm among top American commanders that they will not be able to change the course of the war in the time President Obama has given them.

(2)  Spin:  Kandahar offensive will take months longer than planned, U.S. says“,  Karen DeYoung and Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, 11 June 2010 — Mostly malarkey.  Note this specimen.

The kickoff was a regional Kandahar shura in April led by Karzai, with McChrystal at his side. “Are you happy about this operation?” Karzai asked more than 1,000 tribal leaders at the gathering. In response to their loud murmurs, he answered the question himself. “No? Listen to me carefully. Until you’re happy and satisfied, we will not conduct this operation.”

At the time, U.S. officials were pleased with Karzai’s deference to local sensibilities. Since then, especially in the absence of emerging local leadership, they have wondered at his apparent inability or unwillingness to lead.

McChrystal said Thursday that in the next few days he would make another trip to the city with Karzai for additional shuras that would focus “on all things to improve in Kandahar: security, governance, reducing corruption.”

Kafka would be proud of DeYoung and Whitlock.

  • US officials were pleased at Karzai’s remarks, until they learned that he was telling the truth. 
  • The “absence of emerging local leaders” means new leaders responsive to US wishes.  The old leaders do nothing for us.

(3)  Analysis:  “McChrystal faces ‘Iraq’ moment“, Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, 15 June 2010 — Red emphasis added.  Excerpt:

General Stanley McChrystal confronts the specter of a collapse of United States political support for the war in Afghanistan in coming months comparable to the one that occurred in the Iraq War in late 2006.

… Despite news media before and during the offensive referring to Marjah as a “city of 80,000”, it was an agricultural area whose population of about 35,000 was spread over some 120 square kilometers, based on the fewer than 50 dwellings shown on the Google Earth map of a 1.2 kilometer segment of the area.

That means the 15,000 NATO and Afghan troops provide a ratio of one occupying soldier for every two members of the population. Counter-insurgency doctrine normally calls for one soldier for every 50 people in the target area.

The fact that the US-NATO forces could not clear the Taliban from Marjah despite such an unusually heavy concentration of troops is devastating evidence that the McChrystal strategy has failed.

If the extraordinary ratio of 1:2 troop:population does not work, then what will work? 

Porter is an optimimist.  I doubt that any stalemate or slow decline will reduce support for the war among the American public — anesthetized and brain-washed from years of lies.

A few of the posts about the Af-Pak War on the FM website

  1. Why are we are fighting in Afghanistan?, 9 April 2008 — A debate with Joshua Foust
  2. The Big Lie at work in Afghanistan – an open discussion, 23 June 2009
  3. Quote of the day: Our Afghanistan War explained in 22 words, 26 August 2009
  4. The advocates for the Af-pak war demonstrate their bankruptcy. Will the American public notice?, 1 September 2009
  5. The three kinds of advocacy for the Af-Pak War, 15 October 2009
  6. Admiral Mullen sets a high bar for continued US combat in Afghanistan, 18 November 2009 — A long-lost voice of sanity.
  7. We destroy a secular regime in Afghanistan (& its women’s rights), then we wage war on the new regime to restore women’s rights. Welcome to the American Empire., 20 November 2009
  8. A look behind the Afghan mask covering our operations in Afghanistan, 25 February 2010
  9. Update about the state of the Af-Pak war; my forecast was wrong, 1 March 2010
  10. France gives us tips for the Afghanistan War, from their successful role in the American Revolution, 11 March 2010
  11. A clear view of our Afghanistan War strategy (unfortunately, it’s mad), 16 April 2010
  12. A powerful story from Afghanistan, an illustration of our un-strategy at work, 18 April 2010
  13. Excerpts from the April 2010 DoD report on the Afghanistan War, 3 May 2010
  14. Exum looks at Af-Pak campaign of the Long War, revealing more about ourselves than the foe, 7 June 2010

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