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Drawdown in Astan Has Begun

brihard

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Can’t win a war when only one side is playing by the marcus of queensbury rules and only half in. Should have been evident in the first decade.

When legitimate targets presented themselves, they were dealt with pretty savagely by our side. We were really, really good at killing Taliban. Given that we were fighting an enemy that was in and of the civilian population, I don’t think any less restrained an approach would have been viable. If you start having to commit war crimes to win, you have no moral authority to be waging expeditionary ops in the first place.

We lost because we committed ourselves to nation building something that isn’t a nation. The lines on a map that we call ‘Afghanistan’ are too out of whack with the actual power structures and ethnic distribution on the ground. ‘Afghanistan’ was created to buffer between imperial Russia and British India. I don’t think it was ever a particularly viable nation state construct.
 

QV

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I'm not sure anyone is advocating war crimes. Unless you're suggesting the nuclear deterrent is a potential war crime, or the actions against Japan and Germany in WWII to win are all war crimes. I suppose a country might want to be more choosey when it wages war lest it be required to do something horrible to ensure a win.
 

brihard

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I'm not sure anyone is advocating war crimes. Unless you're suggesting the nuclear deterrent is a potential war crime, or the actions against Japan and Germany in WWII to win are all war crimes. I suppose a country might want to be more choosey when it wages war lest it be required to do something horrible to ensure a win.

You referred to “Marquess of Queensbury rules” WRT Afghanistan. You seem to suggest we were inappropriately restrained. We were not. We operated about as freely as the law allowed. We were not in an international armed conflict where pounding the piss out of another nation state was necessary to achieve a legally defensible military end. We were there under UN authorization on a NATO mission IN SUPPORT OF the ‘friendly’ civilian government of the IRoA. Comparing Afghanistan to WW2 is completely out to lunch.

There’s not much more we could have done in terms of killing people and breaking shit there without exposing our troops and their commanders to the jeopardy of war crimes allegations under both domestic law, and international law to which we’re a signatory. The calculus around military necessity and proportionality in a non-international armed conflict that is in essence a counterinsurgency is very different from military necessity and proportionality in a war between nation states.
 

QV

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You referred to “Marquess of Queensbury rules” WRT Afghanistan. You seem to suggest we were inappropriately restrained. We were not. We operated about as freely as the law allowed. We were not in an international armed conflict where pounding the piss out of another nation state was necessary to achieve a legally defensible military end. We were there under UN authorization on a NATO mission IN SUPPORT OF the ‘friendly’ civilian government of the IRoA. Comparing Afghanistan to WW2 is completely out to lunch.

There’s not much more we could have done in terms of killing people and breaking shit there without exposing our troops and their commanders to the jeopardy of war crimes allegations under both domestic law, and international law to which we’re a signatory. The calculus around military necessity and proportionality in a non-international armed conflict that is in essence a counterinsurgency is very different from military necessity and proportionality in a war between nation states.
So tell me, what would it take to win?
 

QV

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You referred to “Marquess of Queensbury rules” WRT Afghanistan. You seem to suggest we were inappropriately restrained. We were not. We operated about as freely as the law allowed. We were not in an international armed conflict where pounding the piss out of another nation state was necessary to achieve a legally defensible military end. We were there under UN authorization on a NATO mission IN SUPPORT OF the ‘friendly’ civilian government of the IRoA. Comparing Afghanistan to WW2 is completely out to lunch.

There’s not much more we could have done in terms of killing people and breaking shit there without exposing our troops and their commanders to the jeopardy of war crimes allegations under both domestic law, and international law to which we’re a signatory. The calculus around military necessity and proportionality in a non-international armed conflict that is in essence a counterinsurgency is very different from military necessity and proportionality in a war between nation stat
And I should remind you it was the allies who created that friendly civilian government, after the allies initially 'defeated' the Taliban. Then we occupied and "nation built". Then endured the insurgency. I'm suggesting avoiding lengthy COIN Ops altogether, particularly in countries with long histories of not tolerating occupations. I'm suggesting, shortly after 9/11, the US should have just quickly and violently defeated Astan then left entirely. Not sure this should even be considered 20/20 hindsight given history.
 

Halifax Tar

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And I should remind you it was the allies who created that friendly civilian government, after the allies initially 'defeated' the Taliban. Then we occupied and "nation built". Then endured the insurgency. I'm suggesting avoiding lengthy COIN Ops altogether, particularly in countries with long histories of not tolerating occupations. I'm suggesting, shortly after 9/11, the US should have just quickly and violently defeated Astan then left entirely. Not sure this should even be considered 20/20 hindsight given history.
But then how would have the military industrial complex benefited ?
 
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CBH99

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And I should remind you it was the allies who created that friendly civilian government, after the allies initially 'defeated' the Taliban. Then we occupied and "nation built". Then endured the insurgency. I'm suggesting avoiding lengthy COIN Ops altogether, particularly in countries with long histories of not tolerating occupations. I'm suggesting, shortly after 9/11, the US should have just quickly and violently defeated Astan then left entirely. Not sure this should even be considered 20/20 hindsight given history.
I think the west has learned (I hope anyway) - and most of us would agree with you - that lengthy COIN operations aren't ideal, especially in countries that don't tolerate an occupation of any kind, even if the foreign occupier truly does only want the 'bad guys'.

However, going into Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 to 'quickly and violently defeat Afghanistan, and then leave entirely' was not an option, the way you describe it.

Counter insurgency, by it's very nature, tends to be a longer and more drawn out conflict that isn't possible to win 'quickly'. If it was simply a matter of firepower & using it to take out bad guys - assuming we already knew who and where all the bad guys were - it would be a bit easier. But, as we all know, it isn't that simple.

And how would you quickly and violently defeat Afghanistan? We aren't engaging in state on state warfare, where we can just go in and destroy as many military targets as possible, as quickly as possible.


And while puppet governments tend to be corrupt as a result of the womb they were created in, it's better to leave a 'legitimate as possible, constantly improving' puppet government in place before we leave. Otherwise, who is to say the organization that fills the hole left by the Taliban wouldn't be just as bad, if not worse?

The government we did leave there is fairly weak, and struggles to exert it's authority in many places. Troops and police are of poor quality, and it is quite obvious that many members of government are corrupt, and the money disappears. So while everybody had hoped this government would find it's footing and 'work' - it most likely won't in it's current form..... but holy cow did the west ever try to leave a legitimate government in place before leaving!


We all agree, especially in hindsight - lengthy COIN operations are a no-no for most western countries now. No appetite for it. Which is all fine and dandy with China on the horizon.

Quickly and violently defeating 'Afghanistan' (I know you probably meant the Taliban). Due to their nature, it just couldn't happen.

And leaving as soon as possible after we kill the bad guys, we are just leaving the power vacuum open to being filled with someone just as bad, or worse. Or, China steps in & commits to stabilizing it, and reaps the rewards down the road. (Which I could see happening anyway)


My 0.02
 

brihard

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So tell me, what would it take to win?
Well, properly defining ‘victory’ - a good enough end state - has to be a part of it. Given that I’m not aware of us ever having done that, I’m not able to say what it would have taken to ‘win’.

Also, not everything is ‘winnable’. You can establish objectives that may not be achievable. Destroying the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and leaving a sustainable ‘good enough’ puppet in place to make sure Afghanistan is not a step off point for a 9/11 repeat was, arguably achievable. But that would require turning a VERY blind eye to a lot of things and setting a low bar for ‘good enough’. If our expectation was to establish, prop up, and eventually wean a morally and ethically decent democratic system of government that maintained a civil control over the current lines on the map that = ‘Afghanistan’, maybe that was simply never viable.

What I am confident of is that no added savagery on the part of ISAF or OEF would likely have furthered the ‘clean, democratic’ end state. Killing bad guys was never the problem. Cracking a centuries old tribal political structure and replacing it with a functioning democracy was. Legalities aside, I don’t think looser ROE would have achieved that. I do feel absolutely confident that nothing we wanted or attempted to do in that country was worth one Canadian soldier getting smoked by the MPs or RCMP and going to jail for violating the laws of armed conflict. The “Marquess of Queensbury” rules you deride are a necessary protection for us. If in doubt, ask the Aussies.
 

daftandbarmy

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The Taliban are smart, therefore victory (our way) is not assured:


"Any time the Western way of war can be unleashed on an enemy stupid enough to enter its arena, victory is assured."

Victor Davis Hanson
 

QV

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Well, properly defining ‘victory’ - a good enough end state - has to be a part of it. Given that I’m not aware of us ever having done that, I’m not able to say what it would have taken to ‘win’.

Also, not everything is ‘winnable’. You can establish objectives that may not be achievable. Destroying the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and leaving a sustainable ‘good enough’ puppet in place to make sure Afghanistan is not a step off point for a 9/11 repeat was, arguably achievable. But that would require turning a VERY blind eye to a lot of things and setting a low bar for ‘good enough’. If our expectation was to establish, prop up, and eventually wean a morally and ethically decent democratic system of government that maintained a civil control over the current lines on the map that = ‘Afghanistan’, maybe that was simply never viable.

What I am confident of is that no added savagery on the part of ISAF or OEF would likely have furthered the ‘clean, democratic’ end state. Killing bad guys was never the problem. Cracking a centuries old tribal political structure and replacing it with a functioning democracy was. Legalities aside, I don’t think looser ROE would have achieved that. I do feel absolutely confident that nothing we wanted or attempted to do in that country was worth one Canadian soldier getting smoked by the MPs or RCMP and going to jail for violating the laws of armed conflict. The “Marquess of Queensbury” rules you deride are a necessary protection for us. If in doubt, ask the Aussies.
Your constant insinuations make discussing anything with you tiresome. Thanks but no thanks.
 

QV

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I think the west has learned (I hope anyway) - and most of us would agree with you - that lengthy COIN operations aren't ideal, especially in countries that don't tolerate an occupation of any kind, even if the foreign occupier truly does only want the 'bad guys'.

However, going into Afghanistan shortly after 9/11 to 'quickly and violently defeat Afghanistan, and then leave entirely' was not an option, the way you describe it. Why not? It is an option, just one that wasn't chosen. They felt they could turn Astan into a free democratic nation.

Counter insurgency, by it's very nature, tends to be a longer and more drawn out conflict that isn't possible to win 'quickly'. If it was simply a matter of firepower & using it to take out bad guys - assuming we already knew who and where all the bad guys were - it would be a bit easier. But, as we all know, it isn't that simple.

And how would you quickly and violently defeat Afghanistan? We aren't engaging in state on state warfare, where we can just go in and destroy as many military targets as possible, as quickly as possible. That's my point. The US should have done just that, and then departed. Hopefully, the Northern Alliance would rise from that and establish dominance.


And while puppet governments tend to be corrupt as a result of the womb they were created in, it's better to leave a 'legitimate as possible, constantly improving' puppet government in place before we leave. Otherwise, who is to say the organization that fills the hole left by the Taliban wouldn't be just as bad, if not worse? Who cares, at least countless lives and treasure would have been preserved. I mean, what is going to happen now anyway? If they turn out bad again and 9/11 part two occurs, you smash them again...

The government we did leave there is fairly weak, and struggles to exert it's authority in many places. Troops and police are of poor quality, and it is quite obvious that many members of government are corrupt, and the money disappears. So while everybody had hoped this government would find it's footing and 'work' - it most likely won't in it's current form..... but holy cow did the west ever try to leave a legitimate government in place before leaving! I think over time, the "occupation" is what eventually turned quite sour. In hindsight, I think a quick departure would perhaps have left a better taste in the their mouths and allowed for the Northern Alliance to establish with far less western animosity to fester. They would have been free to choose their future, not have one forced on them.


We all agree, especially in hindsight - lengthy COIN operations are a no-no for most western countries now. No appetite for it. Which is all fine and dandy with China on the horizon. Agree.

Quickly and violently defeating 'Afghanistan' (I know you probably meant the Taliban). Due to their nature, it just couldn't happen. I meant the country, the country that housed the terrorists and sheltered them. The country that allowed the Taliban to emerge.

And leaving as soon as possible after we kill the bad guys, we are just leaving the power vacuum open to being filled with someone just as bad, or worse. Or, China steps in & commits to stabilizing it, and reaps the rewards down the road. (Which I could see happening anyway) Again, doubtful it would have been any worse than what is about to occur, just with less cost to the west.


My 0.02
 

brihard

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Your constant insinuations make discussing anything with you tiresome. Thanks but no thanks.
I’m not insinuating anything. I’m working with what I have to work with. You asked what we could have done to win. I answered, though not as directly as I suppose you hoped because I don’t think we have sufficient knowledge for a direct answer to be at hand. You suggested that the rules we fought under inhibited victory. I challenged that and articulated why. I’m not suggesting you’re advocating war crimes, merely that your position seems... simplistic, at best. I’m saying there’s not much more we could have done within ISAF without crossing that line. I don’t share your belief that we could simply have done the 2002 thing, killed Taliban, thrown money, SOF and close air at the Northern Alliance, and otherwise leaves out and gotten much good out of it. Hope is not a COA.

Anyway, if you want to throw your teddy in the corner on the matter, have at ‘er.
 

Colin Parkinson

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We always look at this from our viewpoint, but think from the Taliban POV. They know that they will lose any real stand up fight with a western force. If they win political power, they are screwed, because they have no real source of revenue to run a country, the revenue source will dry up for the most part. The existing infrastructure will degrade, they won't be able to buy off tribes, the Iranians are going to turn on them, the Chinese will only do enough to stir the Indian pot as they don't like Muslims much either. As the tribes and people get restless and demand more, the Taliban will go full stupid on them and that will backfire quickly, the Taliban are no longer the mythical warriors of the 90's and will also likely fracture from internal power struggles as revenue and bribes dwindle.
We managed to educate a good chunk of the population and expose them to new ideas and technology, that stuff is pure poison for the Taliban.
 

daftandbarmy

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rmc_wannabe

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You know what they call such people who are living in failed states. Emigrants.

Luckily, we made life better for all Afghans and not just the wealthy, ruling elite.

Young Afghans have grown up to enjoy things like "music, art, expression, moderate equality." Something tells me they won't be flocking to an ideology that effectively removes those experiences and replaces them with strict adherence to militant Islam.

It might well end up being like "Footloose" with Kalashnikovs....
 

Blackadder1916

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Looking forward to more sitcoms as a result:

The United States of Al:


Yeah, I watched it last night including their post show appeal for viewers to support Afghan interpreters' special visas. I have a feeling that the current government of Afghanistan has a better chance of surviving than the show getting a second season.
 

daftandbarmy

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Yeah, I watched it last night including their post show appeal for viewers to support Afghan interpreters' special visas. I have a feeling that the current government of Afghanistan has a better chance of surviving than the show getting a second season.
Baby Lol GIF by MOODMAN
 

TangoTwoBravo

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I felt that during our campaign we never truly looked at the war from the other side. I heard people talking about "protecting the locals from the Taliban." Um. Sometimes the locals are the Taliban. And if we kill them? Then what. I think we had a tendency to view the Taliban as an outside, alien force like Cobra or Hydra. We didn't stop to ask "why are the young men here very willing to take a crack at us?" I recall being the first uniformed Westerners in a Helmand village, seeing the twenty or so young dudes standing at the back of the market with their arms crossed and set faces. Yup. Those are Taliban. And if we schwak them twenty more from the area will replace them. Never mind the opium gangs.

Maybe some of the things we saw as a path to victory were actually making it worse? My read of modern Afghanistan is that in the 70s we had increasing tension between educated, urban elites and the traditional rural power structures. It grew to insurrection that the Soviet turned into insurgency with their invasion to prop up the Moscow-educated and backed Kabul elites. The issues I saw in 2006 were similar. Rural, traditional power structures threatened by modernity. The answer might not have been doubling down on the very things that threatened those power structures. Because that turned it into a test of will, and we would always come up short there.

When I think about Afghanistan and the West I think of that saying "When you are up to your ass in alligators it is easy to forget you came to drain the swamp." I flip it for our campaign. We went there to hunt a couple of alligators (AQ) and then tried to drain the swamp. Apologies comparing Afghanistan to a swamp - its the idea that we tried to change the environment which is a herculean task. And I don't think they were asking us to modernize their country on our terms.
 

SeaKingTacco

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I felt that during our campaign we never truly looked at the war from the other side. I heard people talking about "protecting the locals from the Taliban." Um. Sometimes the locals are the Taliban. And if we kill them? Then what. I think we had a tendency to view the Taliban as an outside, alien force like Cobra or Hydra. We didn't stop to ask "why are the young men here very willing to take a crack at us?" I recall being the first uniformed Westerners in a Helmand village, seeing the twenty or so young dudes standing at the back of the market with their arms crossed and set faces. Yup. Those are Taliban. And if we schwak them twenty more from the area will replace them. Never mind the opium gangs.

Maybe some of the things we saw as a path to victory were actually making it worse? My read of modern Afghanistan is that in the 70s we had increasing tension between educated, urban elites and the traditional rural power structures. It grew to insurrection that the Soviet turned into insurgency with their invasion to prop up the Moscow-educated and backed Kabul elites. The issues I saw in 2006 were similar. Rural, traditional power structures threatened by modernity. The answer might not have been doubling down on the very things that threatened those power structures. Because that turned it into a test of will, and we would always come up short there.

When I think about Afghanistan and the West I think of that saying "When you are up to your ass in alligators it is easy to forget you came to drain the swamp." I flip it for our campaign. We went there to hunt a couple of alligators (AQ) and then tried to drain the swamp. Apologies comparing Afghanistan to a swamp - its the idea that we tried to change the environment which is a herculean task. And I don't think they were asking us to modernize their country on our terms.
TTB,

I think you have put your finger on something important- a Western tendency (maybe human nature?) to want to make everyone like us.

If rural Afghan tribes want to keep living a “traditional” life style, is it hubris or arrogance to try to change that? My sense from reading and listening (I never deployed into Afghanistan) is that the very best you can hope for is a sort of detente with the tribes. Don’t try to change their way of life with an understanding that harbouring/encouraging those that would harm us comes with consequences- I think they get that. Give them aid in the form that they want, not what we want to give them. Don’t run around tribal Afghanistan with a big conventional force that rubs their face in it and presents juicy target.

We might not be able to turn them into allies, but we may at least not constantly piss them off.
 
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