Opinions on Afghanistan


Only 92% Evil
Verified Military
Sep 6, 2006
I was curious how everyone who has been to Afghanistan and have a stronger understanding of the political and cultural climate, would weigh in with their opinions on the following article. Any thoughts?


NATO Chief Warns of Afghan Tipping Point
Associated Press Writers
1 hour, 39 minutes ago

KABUL, Afghanistan - NATO's top commander in Afghanistan said Sunday the country was at a tipping point and warned Afghans would likely switch their allegiance to resurgent Taliban militants if there are no visible improvements in people's lives in the next six months.

Gen. David Richards, a British officer who commands NATO's 32,000 troops here, warned in an interview with The Associated Press that if life doesn't get better over the winter, most Afghans could switch sides.

"They will say, 'We do not want the Taliban but then we would rather have that austere and unpleasant life that that might involve than another five years of fighting,'" Richards said.

Afghanistan is going through its worst bout of violence since the U.S.-led invasion removed the former Taliban regime from power five years ago. The Taliban has made a comeback in the south and east of the country and is seriously threatening Western attempts to stabilize the country after almost three decades of war.

"If we collectively ... do not exploit this winter to start achieving concrete and visible improvement," then some 70 percent of Afghans could switch sides, Richards told The Associated Press.

Richards will command NATO's troops in Afghanistan, including 12,000 U.S. forces, until February, when U.S. Gen. Dan K. McNeil will take command.

The British general said he'd like to have about 2,500 additional troops to form a reserve battalion to help speed up reconstruction and development efforts.

The south of the country, where NATO troops have fought their most intense battles this year, has been "broadly stabilized," Richards said.

"We have created an opportunity," following the intense fighting that left over 500 militants dead in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand, he said. "If we do not take advantage of this, then you can pour an additional 10,000 troops next year and we would not succeed because we would have lost by then the consent of the people."
Afghans tend to hate outsiders. Hell, they tend to hate each other thanks to the tribal situation over there but they will rally against what they perceive to be an invader.

We waffled too much with the carrot and the stick. 6 months carrot, 9 months stick, carrot and the stick aqt the same time....our emphasis seemed to change but the stick was always there even if it was ineffective.

25th ID put us where we are now. MG Olsen (sp?) was a tool. He stood down his units in Afghanistan (he was the CJTF-76 commander from spring of 04 to the spring of 05) to avoid casualties there. (His Stryker BDE in Iraq was getting chewed up). His IN guys did mostly local patrolling. When the 173rd took over the bad guys had already re-supplied themselves and haven't looked back.

We had them on the ropes and let them get away.

Add Pakistan's sham commitment and the borders are wide the fuck open. There are something like 200 known border crossing points used by the ACMs.

Our logistics over there are shot: not enough helos and our convoys are tying up a lot of bubbas that could be in the mountains looking for bad guys. The Soviets did this too and that was successful.....

So, the locals don't like us and see us as weak. Our CA guys are doing great work considering they are low on the depth chart.

The bad guys are learning from Iraq too, that doesn't help much.

Our SOF guys are hamstrung, conventional leaders won't turn them loose and let them be SOF...except for the black SOF units.

I'm not surprised at all to see this shift in the people's attitudes. We just aren't focusing on OEF and it shows.
Thanks for the information. It is greatly appreciated! It clears up some questions I had about our mission over there that I couldn't get from the main stream news reports.
I did find it interesting that the British general quoted in the article mentioned "consent of the people" in connection to "Afghanistan." ;)

It's kind of hit-or-miss with regard to how much more people "know" about Afghanistan just because they've been there; I'd argue that just being somewhere doesn't necessarily mean one has a better understanding of the larger picture. Many times peoples' view of the big picture is colored through the soda straw of their own experiences, and they apply their own narrow tactical experiences to the operational or strategic picture.

Freefalling's post is an obvious exception to my comment above- he's been there & done that in Afghanistan, has a grasp of the big picture and can articulate it to the rest of us. Thanks for posting that, Free.

Two books I read in the last year that give interesting insight into the Afghan culture (I think their names are) "Kite Flyer" and "The Bookseller of Kabul." I'll be glad to loan them to anyone who wants them. Also interesting to me (although pretty dry reads) were "The Bear Went Over the Mountain" and "The Other Side of the Mountain."
I have your copy of Kite Runner, mara. I THINK I have your address somewhere around my house.

Been there and done that? Not really, but thank you. I was in an extraordinary position to talk not only to the guys doing the deed but also surf the SIPR and sit on daily staff briefs. I don't have the be all and end all views on the country but I'd like to think I have a grasp on OEF.

Oh, other challenges include Iran's participation (covertly now I think) in smuggling in their border region opposite Farah and Herat, coalition communication (US and UK have it down pat, the other countries don't and I don't think this is a language barrier at all), and command emphasis on OEF (Iraq owns the limelight, OEF is something CENTCOM does before leaving for the night) and I think we have some barriers to overcome.

As per the norm these days, finding them and killing them isn't the problem, but the support, leadership, and strategy aren't there.
Thanks Mara, and Free. I will look for the books you recommended. It's very hard to sit on my side of the ocean, watch the regular news, and say I have even a basic knowledge of the situation there.
Thanks so much for the input. I hate reading the news with "this" and "that" happening in Afghanistan and yet not having the bare bones basic knowledge of how everything works together (or apart) there.
One of the best ways to understand Afghanistan is to real a simple history of the country. From that you'll learn about the different ethnic groups, why Afghanistan looks the way it does today, it's strategic value historically and in modern times, etc. To me, nothing's changed over the centuries except for the weapons and the religion.

Also take a look at Pakistan, happenings in Afghanistan have been heavily influenced by Pakistan virtually since the latter became independent. There's a book, aptly titles "Afghanistan" (I think) that would interest you. If I can find it when I get home I'll mail it out to you.
Awesome post, Eyes.

Now explain the HiG and the HiK, their role in the Soviet occupation, the subsequent internal wars that resulted in the Taliban, and where they fit in today's Afganistan. ;)

Next week you get to discuss the Hazara's role in Afghan society.:cool:
Eyes said:

They will do anything and sacrifice long-term greatness for sort-term mediocrity. BA

Very true. Loyalty is a novel concept in Afghanistan. The short term is usually the primary concern for most Afghans, at least in my experience with them, which of course is just my personal experience.
Very true. Loyalty is a novel concept in Afghanistan. The short term is usually the primary concern for most Afghans, at least in my experience with them, which of course is just my personal experience.

The Soviet occupation through the present supports this view. Money talks and loyalty is just a material possession or political alliance away. The warloard in the north (Dostum?) is kept in check only through large bri...errr, payments.

Kind of like DC, just more ruthless. :D
Will history repeat itself in Afghanistan?
British military intervention in Afghanistan has a chequered history, making it easy to conclude that British forces will fail again. But such a conclusion is a mistake and does a disservice both to troops fighting there and to history itself, writes military historian Dr Huw Davies.

General comparisons of Britain's first three wars in Afghanistan and the current conflict, are difficult and fraught with pitfalls and traps. However, if one compares the specific experiences of soldiers and officers, there is much to learn from Britain's history in Afghanistan.
Many know that the British tried three times between 1839 and 1919 to subjugate Afghanistan, and each time they failed.
But when dealing with the history of British military involvement in Afghanistan, and in the difficult business of looking for parallels between then and now, it is necessary to separate the general from the specific.
The reasons for the wars in the 19th Century were somewhat different and incomparable with the reasons for the war now. If general comparisons of the conflicts are made, without looking at the specifics, it might be easy to conclude that there is little hope for success in Afghanistan.
The First Anglo-Afghan War broke out when Britain invaded Afghanistan because she feared Russian encroachment into Central Asia. The British were eventually routed and the 16,000 strong army forced to flee Kabul in the winter of 1841. Only one man survived the retreat.
Britain invaded Afghanistan again in 1878 for largely the same reasons. Despite a terrible defeat at Maiwand on 27 July 1880, the British were surprisingly successful elsewhere on the battlefield.
Unlike today, the Afghans showed an inability to adapt their tactics and the British dominated in several battles. Yet the British failed to achieve a political settlement and, as they were unable to occupy the country, chose instead to isolate it, while retaining influence in Afghan foreign affairs.
The third war broke out when Afghanistan declared independence from this quasi-British rule in 1919. However, for Britain, the Bolshevik Revolution had reduced the Russian threat and, with military spending crippled in the wake of the World War I, interest in Afghanistan gradually waned.
General comparisons, then, suggest that Britain has neither the military capability, nor the political will, to complete or attain victory in a conflict in Afghanistan.
Much has changed since 1919, though. The British Army has fought innumerable counterinsurgency campaigns elsewhere, the lessons of which are proving useful now. Technological advancements have also allowed swifter and more reliable analysis of intelligence, a critical aspect of any counter-insurgency campaign.
The Cultural Dimension It appears that there is also a renewed focus on the importance of understanding the culture, traditions and customs of the Afghan population. It is here that the specific experiences of British officers and soldiers in 19th Century Afghanistan can prove useful.

During the First Anglo-Afghan War, for example, certain British officers spent much of their time learning about the culture of the local populations. In doing so, political, economic and social solutions to violent problems were unearthed.
In 1839, the British military had the difficult task of convincing the Afghan population to accept the new ruler, Shah Shuja, as he was from a different tribe to that of the deposed ruler, Dost Mohammed.
Shah Shuja's ascension to the throne in Kabul inevitably caused a shift in the balance of power, and those who had enjoyed political power under Dost Mohammed were cast aside and replaced with their rivals. This in turn caused widespread political disenfranchisement that manifested itself in violent rebellion.
“ Why, then, did the British fail in Afghanistan in 1841, and will
the same thing happen today? ”
The instinctive reaction of the British then, as now, was to meet violence with violence. But then, as now, commanders quickly recognised that violence was not necessarily the solution.
Instead, the granting of some reasonable demands might buy off the support of those that were politically disenfranchised. Then, as now, the difficulty for the British lay in identifying and separating those who were die-hard supporters of the rebellion against British authority, from those who simply felt oppressed and whose loyalty could be bought.
Cultural understanding proved critical for the British in reaching these conclusions. Inevitably, then, as now, there were those whose resistance to and hatred of the West could never be defeated without recourse to violence.
Why, then, did the British fail in Afghanistan in 1841, and will the same thing happen today?
In 1841, those in political charge in Afghanistan and British India did not perceive this "cultural solution" as being worthy of any merit. Despite the efforts of a minority of officers and soldiers, the preferred British method was retaliatory violence. For most, the "cold, hard steel of the bayonet" enforced the authority of the British Empire.
Ultimately, this almost indiscriminate use of violence alienated that segment of the population that might otherwise have supported Britain and Shah Shuja.
The difference now is that much more attention is being devoted to understanding the culture of Afghanistan and to finding solutions that do not necessarily involve military action. Efforts are being made, with some success, to incorporate cultural understanding in all military activities, from fighting to reconstruction.
But with a resurgent Taliban, apparently committed to an extremist vision of Islam and harbouring terrorists, it will also be necessary and unavoidable to use military force.
Awareness of the cultural dimension will not necessarily guarantee victory, but ignorance of it, history shows us, will guarantee defeat.

Dr Huw Davies is a lecturer in Defence Studies, King's College, London based at the UK Defence Academy

Story from BBC NEWS:
BBC NEWS | UK | Will history repeat itself in Afghanistan? http://newsvote.bbc.co.uk/mpapps/pag...int/news.bbc.c...
The Hindu Kush, Pathan Tribes, and the crossing of the Silk Road into the Near East... All names for the area, sources of wonder and fear for the early Indian Civilization, one place the Mongols avoided, the crux of Espionage in the Age of Empires... Influenced by others but never truly conquered... A loose association of tribal groupings whose alleigances shift with the wind but steadfastly remain with the local tribal chief. Political borders mean nothing to the Pathan (used in the old sense for the major tribal grouping in the Kush) tribes people

3 decades of war in the area? Let's see, Rudyard Kipling published "Kim" in 1901 and described an area enveloped in war and espionage for hundreds of years over a century ago. Lawrence surveyed the area for the Brits, the French and the Russians used it as a crossing point...

The peoples collectively known as the Afghans will band together to secure their homeland then dissolve those bands when they feel the threat has lifted - they will shift alliances based on what they feel is the best deal for their tribe or association of tribes. There is a cultural miasma in the area that predates even Islamic influence. There is a societal long view -both forwards and backwards that calls for an unchanging structure in the area. They like some of the modern conveniences, but are happy to live in the 1500's.

The area is a dichotomy, an enigma, and modern intelligence/political/social/cultural analysis is not going to work unless the culture and area and history of the area are brought into the current situational review.

Until we look at the area with a less politically modern set of eyes, we are going to end up as every other civilization that has tried to control the area - mired and confused and stymied. FID and UW and CA are the most efficient ways to gain what trust we can, but these are a set of peoples that have been at this for a long time against many other 'invaders'. We need to look at the bigger view, or the smaller view - depending.

Just my :2c:
OK if we accept Britains take on the current situation how do we sustain better.

I don't see an infrastructure that can support prolonged econonic growth. I don't see us working to replace poppies with ? , building materials, clean water, health care, central pride, national respect.

Wow I just had an idea lets reform their health care and leave ours alone.

None of the needed changes can happen in 6 months if everybody was from the same tribe. Hell it takes longer than 6 mo. to change my personal economic conditions.

I am not saying give up I just want to read the sustained plan not the secret squirrel stuff just the how are we going to improve the life of the average family.

I fought in a different time and we had providence chiefs and all they care about is the local area and the quality of life for their little part of the country.:2c: