Time to Get Out of Afghanistan?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Jabbadabbado, Sep 1, 2009.

  1. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    Truth be told, there's not much we can do to stop Al-Qaeda from setting up shop in places like Yemen, Sudan or Somalia. In the case of Yemen we're working with the government there to shut down terrorist cells, albeit fairly discretely. When you're dealing with a mess like Somalia, well then I don't know. Still, if the terrorists decide to play whack-a-mole with us and a mole pops up in Afghanistan....we don't have much choice but to whack it.

    Well, I don't know. But a lot of experts seem convinced that although we can't stay in Afghanistan forever, we still haven't hit rock bottom yet and that it's important to keep trying while we can still make a difference. One thing on our side is that the Taliban are hugely unpopular with Afghans, and as time goes by more institutions and infrastructure will rise up to allow them to resist the Taliban.
  2. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2005
    star 5
    In Yemen US is once again just making things worse. It's supporting only semi-democratically elected regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been ruling North Yemen from 1978 and united Yemen in an authoritarian fashion since the 1994 civil war, readying to hand the country as an heirloom to his son. He has used islamists against his own opposition, both the northern Zaydi branch of Shii'ism and southern secularists, has supported and armed islamists in Somalia - ironically with former foe Eritrea - and is a long time buyer of North Korean weaponry.

    Yet, the previous and current US governments have declared their support for his regime, even when it is based on clay feets that are crumbling: The Zaydis are a majority in the north, most of the country's population is concentrated increasingly in the towns of the more urban former South Yemen and partly thanks to Saleh's cultivation of islamists, al-Qaeda - or at least islamists using the name of the franchise - have gotten a foothold in the country, sometimes among tribesmen whose reasons to support them is rather mundane, like grievances against the Saleh regime because of lack of jobs. Saleh's base of support is growing smaller inside the country as he is getting more support from other countries.

    Simply put it, the regime can survive only with the help of foreign states like Saudi Arabia and US, and with the help of conservative tribes that have been described as "jihadists" by the opposition in Yemen. It can only grow more feeble, demanding more help from it's supporters and opening more possibilities for al-Qaeda. Yet, as long as Saleh screams about Iran supposedly supporting the al-Houthi Zaydi rebels (even when they represent a minority branch of Shii'ism different from the Seventh and Twelwer Shii'ism of Iran) US will probably go on supporting a lost cause of keeping Yemen as a property of the Saleh family.
  3. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4

    Just reading Vietnam magazine and it's very interesting the paralells between it and Afghanistan. We have a quasi-totalitarian, corrupt and unpopular goverment (although infinitely more democratic, freedom loving and less corrupt than that which replaced it) with an inept and ineffective army propped up by foreign forces. It faces an increasing insurgency largely conducted from a safe haven in a neighbouring country and partially funded by drug money.

    The difference is that Afghanistan is purely an insurgency. Contrary to common belief the Vietnam war was largely fought not by the indigineous Viet Cong (who never recovered from their decimation during the Tet offensive and the CIA's Phoenix programme that followed)but by the the regular North Vietnamese army (NVA or PAVN-peoples army of Vietnam). The reason for the escalated allied involvement in 1965 was that NVA regulars started making their way down the Ho Chi Minh trail to fight in South Vietnam, the North essentially invaded the South. Saigon never fell to guerillas in black pyjamas and sandals, it fell to regular NVA soldiers with tanks, artillery and helicopters.

    Also no matter how many times the allied forces defeated the NVA in the field they would retreat to their safe havens in Laos and Cambodia to regroup and fight again. Unlike those countries Pakistan has slowly started to take action against the Taliban on their side of the border although they could do a lot more (Laos and Cambodia later falling to communism just as the domino theory predicted). Also there are no superpowers backing them as the USSR and China did, the Mujahadeen's victory over the Soviets largely based on their use of Surface to Air missiles and anti-armour weapons provided by the West.

    Victory (or at least withdrawl of NATO forces leaving a friendly goverment behind) is still possible but it largely depends on persuading the Pakistanis to take on the Taliban rather than view them as a useful ally against India whom they see as their real enemy.
  4. Rogue_Follower Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 12, 2003
    star 6
    WikiLeaks just released about 91,000 reports related to the situation in Afghanistan.
    25th July 2010 5:00 PM EST WikiLeaks has released a document set called the Afghan War Diary (AWD), an extraordinary compendium of over 91,000 reports covering the war in Afghanistan from 2004 to 2010.

    The reports, while written by soldiers and intelligence officers mainly describing lethal military actions involving the United States military, also include intelligence information, reports of meetings with political figures, and related detail.

    The document collection will shortly be available on a dedicated webpage.

    The reports cover most units from the US Army with the exception of most US Special Forces' activities. The reports do not generally cover top-secret operations or European and other ISAF Forces operations.

    We have delayed the release of some 15,000 reports from the total archive as part of a harm minimization process demanded by our source. After further review, these reports will be released, with occasional redactions, and eventually, in full, as the security situation in Afghanistan permits.

    Here's analysis from the NY Times, the Guardian, and Der Spiegel, who all had early access to the documents.

  5. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    Looks like the Pentagon Papers were released in a special limited edition.

    What's that you say? We're doing it all over again in shouting distance of Vietnam?

    Unforgivable in every way.

    We should withdraw every soldier and bit of resources from the region. No exceptions. We're wasting money and other resources (like, you know, lives) in staggering amounts to less than no gain.
  6. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I blamed Bush as much as anyone for diverting resources away from Afghanistan to launch a preemptive war against Iraq. But let's face it. Without the Iraq war, we would probably be more or less exactly in the same position today with Afghanistan facing a resurgent Taliban and a failed state propped up by nothing but our military presence. Ultimately our experience has not been all that different from the Soviet invasion.
  7. Gonk Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 1998
    star 6
    I blamed Bush as much as anyone for diverting resources away from Afghanistan to launch a preemptive war against Iraq. But let's face it. Without the Iraq war, we would probably be more or less exactly in the same position today with Afghanistan facing a resurgent Taliban and a failed state propped up by nothing but our military presence. Ultimately our experience has not been all that different from the Soviet invasion.

    Maybe, maybe not. Afghanistan always had a rough issue because there was a core problem with the country that was not in it: Pakistan.

    Now, it's clear that without Pakistan there would still clearly be some messed up crap going on. But it would be more manageable, and might have been resolved to an adequate extent over these8-9 years.

    But Pakistan has constantly been playing on the fence with this. There was a reason Colin Powell told them to be prepared to be bombed into the stone age. The nation has for some time supported more and more miltant Islam since around the late 70s and the ISI has been very active and paranoid about Pakistan's external stability. So paranoid, in fact, that they've embraced on one level or another policies that have NEEDLESSLY put them in the target zone of the world's greatest superpower.

    What exactly has Pakistan been hoping to accomplish here? Do they SERIOUSLY fear a military threat from an independant Afghanistan? Do they SERIOUSLY think India is particularly troubled by a de-stabilized Afghanistan? Thier moves make little political sense -- even less so than North Korea.

    How this is all going to unfold really depends on if the US feels another terrorist attack will realistically occur on US soil. If not, then the Afghan war will quietly peter away... in terms of US involvement... and things will return to what thy were before the invasion, except with power blocs that had made up the Northern Alliance substantially strengthened and perhaps better able to acquire foreign aid.

    If the US feels that another terrorist attack will take place, then... well I'm not sure what the final end goal here is. Is it just this one massive exercise in busywork? Is it just there to make it look to everyone that the US and its allies are 'doing something' about the problem? Either we work with an indefinate status quo, or Pakistan has to be realistically confronted. It's been 9 years. This is getting rediculous, and it seems nobody seems to know what the end point is, or if there is one.
  8. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    So what was actually leaked, and how do we conclude that the war effort is failing? I'm reading the Guardian article and it really doesn't tell me much I didn't know already. I mean, we knew that there were civilian casualties, we knew the Taliban had hand-held SAMs, and we knew for a long time that we were assassinating Taliban leaders. Obama has been downplaying the leak, top military leaders are downplaying the leak, and I think I'm with them in thinking that it's not that big a deal.
  9. SuperWatto Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 2000
    star 5
    Well, that's the end of that: we're getting out tomorrow.

    Can we say that Holland has lost the war?
  10. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2005
    star 5
    Who knows in these days when nobody ever officially declares war anymore?

    If you ask from my government - we still have our small contingent in Afghanistan with no intention of withdrawal - you didn't lose, because according to our government there is no war in Afghanistan and our troops are just taking part in a normal peacekeeping operation. :rolleyes:

    And did you win or lose in Iraq?

    And if the wars would have gone otherwise and US troops could have marched in ticket parades on their home turf, what would have the Dutch and the rest of US' little helpers have won?

    Just a few words of thanks from US politicians, I think.
  11. Rouge77 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 11, 2005
    star 5
    The war effort is failing because there is limited progress militarily, the supposed building-up of Afghan forces and strengthening of Afghan central government are either failures or modest successes depending on areas, and the called for political resolution to the war is not in sight, and all of this combines to the realization that there are two options: Eternal war in a stalemate, or a withdrawal that will look like a defeat (or made to look so by Al-Qaeda, Taliban and political opponents back home).

    It's not that US and it's little helpers would be in danger of losing the war, but then Soviet Union wasn't in danger of losing either. It's just that military victory is not achievable with the kind of resources US&vassals are able or willing to and the chances of a face saving political resolution are not looking good, because the taliban won't negotiate because the only thing they need to do is to last as long as US cuts it's losses and leaves Afganistan. They don't have to achieve anything better than the current situation to "win". But, like I wrote before, as long as US wants to fight the war and accepts it's costs, it won't lose. But the price of getting out of Afghanistan might be the same as for Soviet Union: a de facto defeat and abandoning a vassal government that will fall in a few years' time.

    I see the war in Afghanistan as a kind of political insurance for US governments against possible new attacks against US on it's own soil or attacks like the Embassy bombings in 1998. Withdrawal from Afghanistan followed by such attacks would mean political doom for US government whether Democrat or Republican, but with huge concentration on troops in Afghanistan and the killing campaign through missiles waged in Pakistan's tribal areas, a government has a political life insurance that will protect it against claims of being soft on terrorism threat from the area. So, I rather expect to see US troops in Afghanistan well past 2014-15. Naturally the most spineless of vassals will stay also, whatever the public opinion among their own populations.
  12. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    The war effort is failing because there is limited progress militarily, the supposed building-up of Afghan forces and strengthening of Afghan central government are either failures or modest successes depending on areas, and the called for political resolution to the war is not in sight, and all of this combines to the realization that there are two options: Eternal war in a stalemate, or a withdrawal that will look like a defeat (or made to look so by Al-Qaeda, Taliban and political opponents back home).

    We know for a fact that there isn't a military solution because the Taliban are embedded within the fabric of the Pashtun (southern Afghan ethnic group) society. We also know that corruption will take a long time to root out. I'm saying that it might be possible for Afghanistan to build itself to where it can resist the Taliban on its own, but if we're going to do this then we are going to be in for the long haul.

    As for why we should stay....well aren't we always talking about how we should have intervened in Rwanda or Darfur, but nobody had the political will to send troops or peacekeepers? Well we're in Afghanistan right now, we're already there....and it makes no sense to let another mass atrocity take place. Sure the Taliban may not commit genocide, but it's a sure bet that they're planning on "re-educating" society and they've shown no compunction against using mass violence and intimidation to do it.
  13. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4


    Which of course is exactly what happend in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia after the allies abandoned them, the massacres of thousands at Hue during the Tet offensvie repeated in each and every town and village all over Southeat Asia. I think Iraq didn't make much difference (and actually attracted thousands of foreign fighters to be killed who'd otherwise have gone to fight in Afghanistan) and we've largely achieved our objectives there, free and democratic, increasingly prosperous and a lot less bloody than under Saddam with no prospect of the goverment being overthrown, if we could have Afghanistan in the same shape as Iraq is now I think we'd be pretty happy.

    Pakistan is the key, Iraq or not the Taliban were always going to come back as long as they had a safe haven to lick their wounds in. Persuading/pressuring the Pakistanis to act against the Taliban is key otherwise they'll end up like Cambodia and Laos who tolerated the communist safe havens on their territory only to find themselves doomed once Saigon fell and the Vietnamese communists could turn their attentions to backing the Kyhmer Rouge and Pathet Lao.

    Problem is whilst the Allies could retreat from Vietnam and continue to fight by backing the goverments in the Philipines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia etc against their own communist insurgencies if we retreat from Afghanistan we can certainly expect many more 9/11 style attacks in our own homelands.

    These secret paper releases are appalling, they could cause thousands and deaths (the Taliban have openly said they're combing through them for the names of people to kill) and cripple the allies, who's going to help the allies if they're going to see their names in the press and end up on a Taliban hitlist? Once again the self-righteous and naive press have shown the dangers of power without responsibility
  14. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 8
    Well, about your last point, the "media" didn't really leak anything. It posted articles with general conclusions/trends they extracted from reading the reports. It was Wikileaks that posted raw documents, and they aren't really a news organization. So, all the media actually did was write analysis stories about publicly available information.
  15. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    Problem is whilst the Allies could retreat from Vietnam and continue to fight by backing the goverments in the Philipines, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia etc against their own communist insurgencies if we retreat from Afghanistan we can certainly expect many more 9/11 style attacks in our own homelands.

    I'd probably dispute this part. So, I'll say first that I'm not an expert on terrorism....but I find it highly unlikely that 9/11 was the product of the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. The hijackers trained here in the U.S. and if we had to stop them it would have had to happen here, not there. Terrorists today can get their ideological inspiration right from the internet so again, no real need for "training camps". Terrorists don't march out from Afghanistan wearing turbans and wielding Kalashnikovs to wade ashore in Miami, if you want to carry out a 9/11 type attack you have to blend in with the populace and that means the best training camp for a terrorist is right here in the United States.
  16. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    but I find it highly unlikely that 9/11 was the product of the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

    Can it control the mindset and desire? No. But the WTC attacks were certainly the product of a governmental regime that offered tacit approval to a terrorist organization.

    Think of it as the difference between the Red Brigade operating on its own in Italy and on the run from authorities after assassinating a NATO commander in the 1980's, and if the actual Italian government offered the Red Brigade communications infrastructure, financial networks, and official training facilities. The scales are completely different, and it's the difference that allowed the coordination of the attacks.

    Afghanistan wasn't the first time that a government was held responsible for the actions of a violent third party. For example, Libya was bombed because of its official support that allowed the Lockerbie bombing to occur. The Taliban simply represented the largest scale to date of such support.
  17. saturn5 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 28, 2009
    star 4
    No, I disagree, sure you can have amateur internet terrorists and they shouldn't be underestimated (like Timothy McVeigh/the Unabomber etc) but those that can attend a safe haven in which to plan, train, organise and prepare etc are that much more deadly (AL QUAEDA is actually Arabic for 'the base').
    Infinitely harder to stop them once they arrive in our free and open societies where the law protects them more than the public. The only effective way would be to create a police state and then we might as well give up anyway because our freedom would be already gone.
  18. KnightWriter Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 6, 2001
    star 8
    The recent killing of Americans and the Taliban retaking of northern territory reminds me a lot of Tet.
  19. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    You mean, an overwhelming tactical victory for the Americans that had severe political repercussions for the incompetent Johnson administration based on how it was presented?

    :p
  20. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    There was a piece on Afghanistan on CNN this morning. It's good to see American journalists on the ground in Afghanistan. There just has not been enough of that in the last 8 years.

    It made me wonder about translation, the media and the war effort. The visual: a bunch of bearded men in turbans sitting around on the floor in a fairly modern looking room, talking relatively amicably with U.S. soldiers.

    The translation, repeated by Kiran Chetry and John Roberts over and over: "village elders" or "tribal elders." I mean, come on. Is that really the best way to describe these guys? What about "city council members?" or "village advisory board."

    This was true in the Iraq war, the vast, wholesale, and largely unquestioned adoption of crude, demeaning, condescending terms to make the people of Afghanistan and Iraq seem more primitive and inferior, when really, they're just a lot poorer.

    Imagine Der Spiegel in Germany translating "Chicago city aldermen" as "village elders?" Really, why not? It's accurate. Mayor Daley is our local tribal leader.

    Isn't it bad enough that we're occupying their country and ignoring our past promises to help rebuild? Do we also have to talk about them as if we were general Custer trying to interface with Native Americans as they're being packed off to a reservation?
  21. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    To be frank, that's about as close as their titles actually get. There isn't a direct Western counterpart to village leadership in Afghanistan because we don't elect city representatives based on how good they are at killing people. :p

  22. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    So call them local militia councilmen, anything that doesn't convey a sense of a primitive tribal society that we're trying to train and cajole up to western civilization snuff. My point is that the language we use to describe the people of Afghanistan and Iraq becomes itself a kind of apologist rhetoric for excusing our presence there.

    Isn't it so inconvenient and frustrating that we have to negotiate with quaint village tribal elders instead of a local municipal government?

    Or rather, doesn't the media have some kind of responsibility to acknowledge them as the local municipal government to drive home the gravitas of our foreign occupation?
  23. Ben_Skywalker Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 20, 2001
    star 5
    I think I can provide a little insight on this since I'm actually on the ground, interacting with these people almost every day.

    First off, these "village elders" are exactly that. They're the oldest people in the village that have most of the responsiblity (shared with local imams). They're not elected and they're not armed so you can't call them councilmen or militia. And besides, villege elder is actually a direct translation from both Dari and Pashto.

    The majority of the journalists that are embedding with US forces right now are heading into the fight, which is currently in the sparsely populated areas. There are "city councilmen", but what you'll see on TV is what the journalists are reporting, and that's usually from the countryside.

    And quite frankly, everyone from these areas are very primitive. There's no point making them sound more sophisticated than they actually are. But by no means am I saying they're stupid. They are very intelligent and very creative. I'm simply pointing out that their governmental institutions at the local level and their social norms are rather dated.

    And I'm sorry to burst your bubble but the local municipal government here is almost non-existent. The system is set up. The people are simply not participating. Why? Because the Taliban has had shadow governments that threaten and extort the local people. Prior to NATO troop surge, there weren't enough soldiers to both protect the local civilians AND take the fight to the enemy. Rather, we were stuck on our bases because every time we left it, within 200 meters, we'd get ambushed.

    We're actually seeing a lot of progress now. We're now in the villages, interacting with people, providing security and services. Our phone hotline is now starting to get calls with legitimate tips daily, which a couple months ago was unheard of in our area.

    Anyways, I'm going off on a tangent. I've been here for four months now and I've seen a very noticeable difference amongst the population and it gives me hope. :)
  24. GrandAdmiralPelleaon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 28, 2000
    star 6
    Last night our state television showed a documentary about the Belgian military in Afghanistan (Kunduz). Obviously it's in a funny foreign language for most people here (Dutch, spoken + subtitles) but in case anyone's interested, here's the direct link to the documentary on the website.
  25. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    I don't know if it's just the bias of American news channels, but there has hardly been anything about Afghanistan over the last several months. Has the surge in troops contributed to some progress in Afghanistan, or is it the same as ever? Has administration of the war improved with Petraeus in charge? Will the United States begin withdrawal this summer, as promised by President Obama in the fall of 2009?