AFGHANISTAN - the forever war

IS IT TIME FOR THE WEST TO PACK ITS NATO AND US FORCES AND KISS AFGHANISTAN GOODBYE?

After the invasion to Afghanistan in 2001, going through sixteen years of fighting at varying degrees, conducting a surge, constant training of the local government security forces and a few elections it seems like everything has already been tried with very little effect not counting the large number of casualties (over 26,000 civilians and more than 3400 Coalition soldiers killed).

So, would it be better to leave it to the Afghani people to resolve matters on their own and allow its neighboring countries to increase their influence on the country and its civil war or is it too large of a risk for the West to take?

 

 

Original Post

It should be clear that winning in Afghanistan against the Taliban and other terrorist factions is not possible.  At least that has been shown with the conventional approach up until now but then we can only speculate on what the world might look like had no troops been sent to Afghanistan and other similar places in the first place.

It is refreshing to see a change in policy where we seem to be planning to take a more hands off approach in trying to fix these problem areas around the world going forward but the complicating reality and fear is that disappearing from the scene will allow these terrorist groups to build even more strength which poses a whole other set of problems for us ultimately (as we have seen recently with the rise of ISIS).  

I think many arguments could be made for either staying or leaving but this doesn't really answer the ultimate question as to why a certain ideology has and will continue to be a threat to our peaceful existence.  Stopping terrorism is tantamount to changing an ideology and the likelihood of this happening is rather doubtful.

As a result, this is really a lose / lose type of scenario.  Ignoring it will not make the problem go away?

I think that this is one area where those of us on different sides of the political debate in recent threads can agree that, given where we are at present, there are no 'easy solutions' to the Afghanistan situation. Regrettably, there appear to be no 'difficult solutions' that might offer some semblance of hope and peace for the region either.  

I tend to agree with Florestan on this one. We are in a lose/lose position on this one, as are the unfortunate people of Afghanistan. 

The bigger question for me is where or what has become the more meaningful political arena for the US to focus their war efforts?

Policing the world has taken drastic tolls on the US quality of life in my lifetime. At some point the US will have to look at spending more of their taxpayer's money on the taxpayers and stop playing the game of Risk.

Hmack posted:

I think that this is one area where those of us on different sides of the political debate in recent threads can agree that, given where we are at present, there are no 'easy solutions' to the Afghanistan situation. Regrettably, there appear to be no 'difficult solutions' that might offer some semblance of hope and peace for the region either.  

I tend to agree with Florestan on this one. We are in a lose/lose position on this one, as are the unfortunate people of Afghanistan. 

Even a 16 years old lose/lose situation demands a change of direction or at least a new way of evaluating things. I cannot imagine what the coalition forces are expecting to achieve with less than 20% of the force they used to have while the territory that the Taliban control is only expanding. 

joerand posted:

The bigger question for me is where or what has become the more meaningful political arena for the US to focus their war efforts?

Policing the world has taken drastic tolls on the US quality of life in my lifetime. At some point the US will have to look at spending more of their taxpayer's money on the taxpayers and stop playing the game of Risk.

But then what's the point of having 16 aircraft carriers etc? All those servicemen  and women would get awfully bored if there weren't places like Afghanistan where they get the chance to put their training into practice.   

joerand posted:

The bigger question for me is where or what has become the more meaningful political arena for the US to focus their war efforts?

Policing the world has taken drastic tolls on the US quality of life in my lifetime. At some point the US will have to look at spending more of their taxpayer's money on the taxpayers and stop playing the game of Risk.

Funny thing, that policing...

If the US is so concerned about ridding the world of the evil dictators, why have they turned a blind eye on Saudi Arabia, which is the de facto most oppressive, brutal and barbaric regime anywhere?

Just wondering...

BB

Adam Meredith posted:

As Alexander the Great may have said - Afghanistan 'is easy to march into but hard to leave'.

Much like an Araldite fondue.

It is always hard to leave when there is no sense of accomplishment and knowing that the other side will raise its flags and declare victory the minute we are out. Unfortunately, the 'enemy' is too weak to boot us out and shorten the process.

I can imagine the mixed emotions of families of coalition soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan that on one hand are hoping that their sons and daughters did not die in vain and on the other hand they don't want to see any more soldiers lost for a questionable cause.

History teaches us that the vast majority of outside interventions in local conflicts fail regardless of the size of force used. The immediate losers if the West retreats would be the women and the seculars of Afghanistan but hopefully the country won't remain behind times for too long.

MDS posted:
joerand posted:

The bigger question for me is where or what has become the more meaningful political arena for the US to focus their war efforts?

Policing the world has taken drastic tolls on the US quality of life in my lifetime. At some point the US will have to look at spending more of their taxpayer's money on the taxpayers and stop playing the game of Risk.

But then what's the point of having 16 aircraft carriers etc? All those servicemen  and women would get awfully bored if there weren't places like Afghanistan where they get the chance to put their training into practice.   

The first priority of the US Navy nowdays is to re-learn how to sail and navigate safely without being rammed by commercial vessels.

Don Atkinson posted:

Define "Right". Define "Wrong".

Define "Rich". Define "Poor".

How should we set about putting the WORLD to rights, never mind Afghanistan.

It is long time due, the need to simmer down the animosity between the Moslem world and the West.

Pretty soon ISIS is going to be defeated in Syria as well as in Iraq and that creates a great opportunity to remove all western forces off Moslem soil including Afghanistan. Let them take care of their own business and the incentive to fight the infidels there and in Europe will diminish. If some areas are still engaged in a civil war a Moslem peace keeping force could do the job.

Haim Ronen posted:
The first priority of the US Navy nowdays is to re-learn how to sail and navigate safely without being rammed by commercial vessels.

Proper resources and training need to be allocated to help ensure safety of US Navy crew.

Congressional investigators and military officials warned repeatedly about overworked sailors, shortened training schedules and budget cuts in the years leading up to two fatal collisions involving U.S. Navy ships.

Per WSJ:
Three reports in the past two years by the Government Accountability Office, an independent watchdog agency, spell out endemic problems. They found through interviews and Navy studies that U.S. sailors overseas often arrive to their assigned ships without adequate skills and experience. They end up on duty for an average of 108 hours a week, instead of the Navy-standard of 80 hours, the reports found.

“Experienced sailors routinely provide on-the-job training for less experienced sailors, so the time doing this must come out of sleep, personal time, or other allotted work time,” according to a May 2017 GAO report.

A May 2015 report comparing U.S-based Navy units to foreign-based U.S. counterparts found that U.S.-based cruisers and destroyers spend 41% of their time in training missions and 22% deployed. Their Japan-based counterparts, by comparison, spent 67% of their time—about three times as much—deployed during approximately the same period. U.S. sailors based in Japan had no time dedicated to training, relying instead on training on the margins while under way at sea, according to Navy officials interviewed for the report.

Haim Ronen posted:
MDS posted:
joerand posted:

The bigger question for me is where or what has become the more meaningful political arena for the US to focus their war efforts?

Policing the world has taken drastic tolls on the US quality of life in my lifetime. At some point the US will have to look at spending more of their taxpayer's money on the taxpayers and stop playing the game of Risk.

But then what's the point of having 16 aircraft carriers etc? All those servicemen  and women would get awfully bored if there weren't places like Afghanistan where they get the chance to put their training into practice.   

The first priority of the US Navy nowdays is to re-learn how to sail and navigate safely without being rammed by commercial vessels.

kuma posted:
Haim Ronen posted:
The first priority of the US Navy nowdays is to re-learn how to sail and navigate safely without being rammed by commercial vessels.

Proper resources and training need to be allocated to help ensure safety of US Navy crew.

Congressional investigators and military officials warned repeatedly about overworked sailors, shortened training schedules and budget cuts in the years leading up to two fatal collisions involving U.S. Navy ships.

Per WSJ:
Three reports in the past two years by the Government Accountability Office, an independent watchdog agency, spell out endemic problems. They found through interviews and Navy studies that U.S. sailors overseas often arrive to their assigned ships without adequate skills and experience. They end up on duty for an average of 108 hours a week, instead of the Navy-standard of 80 hours, the reports found.

“Experienced sailors routinely provide on-the-job training for less experienced sailors, so the time doing this must come out of sleep, personal time, or other allotted work time,” according to a May 2017 GAO report.

A May 2015 report comparing U.S-based Navy units to foreign-based U.S. counterparts found that U.S.-based cruisers and destroyers spend 41% of their time in training missions and 22% deployed. Their Japan-based counterparts, by comparison, spent 67% of their time—about three times as much—deployed during approximately the same period. U.S. sailors based in Japan had no time dedicated to training, relying instead on training on the margins while under way at sea, according to Navy officials interviewed for the report.

That deficiency sounds worrying, Kuma, but in the most recent collision episode how did the officers on the bridge fail to see and avoid such a huge commercial ship?  

Haim Ronen posted:
Don Atkinson posted:

Define "Right". Define "Wrong".

Define "Rich". Define "Poor".

How should we set about putting the WORLD to rights, never mind Afghanistan.

It is long time due, the need to simmer down the animosity between the Moslem world and the West.

Pretty soon ISIS is going to be defeated in Syria as well as in Iraq and that creates a great opportunity to remove all western forces off Moslem soil including Afghanistan. Let them take care of their own business and the incentive to fight the infidels there and in Europe will diminish. If some areas are still engaged in a civil war a Moslem peace keeping force could do the job.

I almost completely agree with that.  The one remaining thorn is the subsequent rise of intolerance within the Islamic world.  This will have two effects.

1  The refugee situation will continue to worsen, which will make defence against terrorists more difficult.

2  Although the "incentive to fight the infidels there and in Europe" (and the USA) will diminish for a time, as the more extreme views become imposed on a greater proportion of the population, a larger number will be indoctrinated with a distorted 'world view' Islam.  They can easily be convinced that their path to heaven is to kill as many 'kuffaar' as possible and to and become radical 'jihadis'.  This means more attacks in cities in westernised countries (including S.E. Asia), India and possibly also Russia and  China, where the greatest concentration of non-muslim* people live.

Note that this is actually in incorrect interpretation of 'kafir', which in the theological sense means "one who covers the truth".

joerand posted:

The bigger question for me is where or what has become the more meaningful political arena for the US to focus their war efforts?

Policing the world has taken drastic tolls on the US quality of life in my lifetime. At some point the US will have to look at spending more of their taxpayer's money on the taxpayers and stop playing the game of Risk.

And have the top brass at firms like Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, and Huntington-Ingalls, et al miss out on their bonuses? Oh the humanity!!!

We used to call the Dept of Defense "the War Department" - at least then it was honestly labeled. Over $650 billion a year to try to control the planet.

Haim Ronen posted:

An interesting article. I particularly enjoyed the old photographs.  It doesn't seem that long ago that the West was motivated to intervene to stop the drug production, arguing that it was better to tackle the problem at its source, rather than later in the supply chain and with end users. I seem to remember investment being made to encourage Afghan farmers to grow traditional crops instead but I guess all this depends on a stable government. 

Haim Ronen posted:
Don Atkinson posted:

Define "Right". Define "Wrong".

Define "Rich". Define "Poor".

How should we set about putting the WORLD to rights, never mind Afghanistan.

It is long time due, the need to simmer down the animosity between the Moslem world and the West.

Pretty soon ISIS is going to be defeated in Syria as well as in Iraq and that creates a great opportunity to remove all western forces off Moslem soil including Afghanistan. Let them take care of their own business and the incentive to fight the infidels there and in Europe will diminish. If some areas are still engaged in a civil war a Moslem peace keeping force could do the job.

As is happening in Yemen ?

The UN needs to resolve more clearly "right" and "wrong" and set about enforcing it.

OK, that would still leave N Korea out in the cold, but it would be a start.........

........btw, I have some lingering doubts about the politics and effectiveness of the UN.

At the moment I don't see too many easy solutions to A

Don Atkinson posted:
Haim Ronen posted:
Don Atkinson posted:

Define "Right". Define "Wrong".

Define "Rich". Define "Poor".

How should we set about putting the WORLD to rights, never mind Afghanistan.

It is long time due, the need to simmer down the animosity between the Moslem world and the West.

Pretty soon ISIS is going to be defeated in Syria as well as in Iraq and that creates a great opportunity to remove all western forces off Moslem soil including Afghanistan. Let them take care of their own business and the incentive to fight the infidels there and in Europe will diminish. If some areas are still engaged in a civil war a Moslem peace keeping force could do the job.

As is happening in Yemen ?

The UN needs to resolve more clearly "right" and "wrong" and set about enforcing it.

OK, that would still leave N Korea out in the cold, but it would be a start.........

........btw, I have some lingering doubts about the politics and effectiveness of the UN.

At the moment I don't see too many easy solutions to A

The west is probably spending on daily basis (since 2001) over $100 million trying to protect itself against terrorism. Can we imagine the difference if this huge $ amount would be spent instead every day in the fields of research, education, health care and infrastructure? Our brain lame leaders somehow decided that it is an acceptable cost for fighting terror and are doing nothing in terms of changing their approach and looking for creative solutions to diffuse the conflict. Removing its forces from Moslem lands should be a giant step in the right direction.

Yemen is a civil war, better keep out and just offer humanitarian aid through the UN.

There is no military solution to N. Korea so rhetorics have to be cooled off and assurance must be given to them that we have no plans for another regime change. They are not going to disarm but they might behave more rationally if it will benefit them economically.

There are no easy fast solutions to any of these difficult realities. It takes long time to change public perceptions and attitudes but I don't even see any government trying.

As for Afghanistan, continuing to do exactly what we have been doing and failing for the last 16 years just doesn't make sense.

 

 Both the U.S and their European allies should take a long hard look at themselves and their motives in the Middle East during the past 100 years and ask themselves where the line between cause and solution lies and in light of those honest answers should then answer the so called problem of Afghanistan.  Where history will put us all in say another 100 years would be interesting INMO it never was the U.S or it's allies place to police anywhere apart from within their own borders.

I don't think that Western politicians are terribly concerned with the past 100 years of history nor projecting the future 100 years. Rather, their decisions are based on what will get them re-elected. US dependence on oil from the Middle East has declined significantly in recent years and China is a bigger factor than ever before. Afghanistan lies somewhere in between and then there's Putin to the north. China, Putin and other regimes can operate without concern for re-election.

joerand posted:

I don't think that Western politicians are terribly concerned with the past 100 years of history nor projecting the future 100 years. Rather, their decisions are based on what will get them re-elected. US dependence on oil from the Middle East has declined significantly in recent years and China is a bigger factor than ever before. Afghanistan lies somewhere in between and then there's Putin to the north. China, Putin and other regimes can operate without concern for re-election.

I'm not naive enough to think that they will look at the decision's they make in an historical setting I'm 47 not 7 my point was that they should and if they did in fact try and learn from history and also try to worry about the world we leave for future generations then perhaps these kind of issues could  be avoided in the future.

 

 

Monster posted:
joerand posted:

The bigger question for me is where or what has become the more meaningful political arena for the US to focus their war efforts?

Policing the world has taken drastic tolls on the US quality of life in my lifetime. At some point the US will have to look at spending more of their taxpayer's money on the taxpayers and stop playing the game of Risk.

Funny thing, that policing...

If the US is so concerned about ridding the world of the evil dictators, why have they turned a blind eye on Saudi Arabia, which is the de facto most oppressive, brutal and barbaric regime anywhere?

Just wondering...

BB

OPEC?

Perhaps you are all happy to let the rest of the world develop brutal internal regimes.

I am not.

The UN was set up, amongst other reasons to bring decent standards to all those nations wishing to be part of it. Providing the USA and others act in accordance with the UN and its underlying principles, I see no problem with "interfering" with the internal issues of problematic states.

OTOH, I think that the UN needs to re-evaluate its position. If the "West" feels it's standards are being eroded by China, Russia, India, or whoever, we should either push the UN to up its game, or leave and form a new alliance with renewed standards. If others wish to join such a new alliance, fine, but don't expect to take over.

The League of Nations evaporated quite nicely when it no longer served its purpose.

I spent about 2 years in Dohfar back in 72/73. It was hard work, but with care, time and patience we won the hearts and minds. 

It can work. But I don't recal ever thinking "just another day" .

Oh, we kept the press well away from the action. We made mistakes from time to time and we didn't need them to keep reminding us.

Don Atkinson posted:

I spent about 2 years in Dohfar back in 72/73. It was hard work, but with care, time and patience we won the hearts and minds. 

It can work. But I don't recal ever thinking "just another day" .

Oh, we kept the press well away from the action. We made mistakes from time to time and we didn't need them to keep reminding us.

"Just another day" was said with sad sarcasm.

We already had in 2012 at the same Bagram air base a serious incident of burning Koran books which triggers wide protests all over Afghanistan leading to 30 deaths including 4 Americans. I suspect that remembering previous mistakes might have helped to prevent the latest occurrence. 

What business did the British have in Dohfar (beyond 'fighting communism') that made them win hearts and minds there? Nothing to do with oil I suppose.

Haim Ronen posted:
Don Atkinson posted:

I spent about 2 years in Dohfar back in 72/73. It was hard work, but with care, time and patience we won the hearts and minds. 

It can work. But I don't recal ever thinking "just another day" .

Oh, we kept the press well away from the action. We made mistakes from time to time and we didn't need them to keep reminding us.

"Just another day" was said with sad sarcasm.

We already had in 2012 at the same Bagram air base a serious incident of burning Koran books which triggers wide protests all over Afghanistan leading to 30 deaths including 4 Americans. I suspect that remembering previous mistakes might have helped to prevent the latest occurrence. 

What business did the British have in Dohfar (beyond 'fighting communism') that made them win hearts and minds there? Nothing to do with oil I suppose.

It had nothing to do with oil. There isn't much of it down in Dhofar.

What there is could be easily be got when the road from Nizwa to Thumrait was built.

You only "win" wars like this when people have a choice that they can make without the threat of subsequent reversion under a brutal regime.

Bob the Builder posted:

There is a book called Return of the King by William Dalrymple about the wars between the British and Afghanistan in the 19th century a great read that contains some very depressing similarities with the present day minus the oil and the pipelines of course.

An excellent read. We just need the coalition forces to ride on elephants to complete the similarities.

I recommend this book on the subject (Don, to your attention):

 

It covers a very small reserve Green Berets unit inserted in the Pech valley in early 2003. While doing an excellent job of gaining the trust of the local population and keeping the region (they were in charge of a territory of 5000 square miles) relatively peaceful it lasted only as long as their deployment did. New replacement units used more aggressive tactics and the region reverted again to be one of the deadliest in Afghanistan.

Haim Ronen posted:
Bob the Builder posted:

There is a book called Return of the King by William Dalrymple about the wars between the British and Afghanistan in the 19th century a great read that contains some very depressing similarities with the present day minus the oil and the pipelines of course.

An excellent read. We just need the coalition forces to ride on elephants to complete the similarities.

I recommend this book on the subject (Don, to your attention):

 

It covers a very small reserve Green Berets unit inserted in the Pech valley in early 2003. While doing an excellent job of gaining the trust of the local population and keeping the region (they were in charge of a territory of 5000 square miles) relatively peaceful it lasted only as long as their deployment did. New replacement units used more aggressive tactics and the region reverted again to be one of the deadliest in Afghanistan.

Thanks Haim, I have actually read the book, but thanks any way. I might read it again.

It's over 40 years since Dhofar was brought out of the "Dark Age" and returned to Oman.

It's probably more stable than Birmingham or Bradford.

Jota posted:

The US military corporations are addicted to war because they need the trillions of dollars to keep rolling in.  Name a year the US hasn't been at war with someone or other.

Aside of US arm corporations you have numerous UN people who made grand careers of Afghanistan, not to mention all the fortunes being made by consulting, planing, engineering and constructions companies. They all have an interest in continuing and expanding on what has been done there in the last sixteen years.

Haim Ronen posted:
Jota posted:

The US military corporations are addicted to war because they need the trillions of dollars to keep rolling in.  Name a year the US hasn't been at war with someone or other.

Aside of US arm corporations you have numerous UN people who made grand careers of Afghanistan, not to mention all the fortunes being made by consulting, planing, engineering and constructions companies. They all have an interest in continuing and expanding on what has been done there in the last sixteen years.

I'm not sure whether you consider engineering and construction companies are a benefit or a disgrace in Afghanistan.

Don Atkinson posted:
Haim Ronen posted:
Jota posted:

The US military corporations are addicted to war because they need the trillions of dollars to keep rolling in.  Name a year the US hasn't been at war with someone or other.

Aside of US arm corporations you have numerous UN people who made grand careers of Afghanistan, not to mention all the fortunes being made by consulting, planing, engineering and constructions companies. They all have an interest in continuing and expanding on what has been done there in the last sixteen years.

I'm not sure whether you consider engineering and construction companies are a benefit or a disgrace in Afghanistan.

Fortifying the whole capital of Afghanistan doesn't look like a sound idea any way you look at it even if it involves engineering and construction.

If the Afghani security forces with the active aid and training of NATO and US troops are still unable to secure Kabul after sixteen years what do you think is the real situation in the countryside? 

 

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