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The author of this important report in Politics Daily (also attached below), Dave Wood, is a very experienced combat reporter and one of the very best US reporters covering Afghanistan. (Truth in advertising: I have known and admired Dave for 25 years.) Wood has produced an an excellent, if grim, Afghan SITREP that is well worth studying carefully, including its hotlinks.

I think it would be a mistake to conclude that the situation being in a kind a balance, because we are in a strategic stalemate, however. While it is probably true we are in a strategic stalemate in the strictest sense of term ‘strategic,’ every year the Taliban is able to maintain its menacing posture gives the insurgents additional leverage at the far more decisive grand-strategic level of conflict: To wit, ask yourself if any of the following five trends (which are inversions of the five criteria defining a successful grand strategy) is way out of line:

(1) Polls tell us that the political will at home to continue this war is slowing deteriorating;

(2) our allies are also going wobbly and some have already pulled the plug;

(3) uncommitted countries are not being attracted to our cause and our warlike activities are alienating many in the Muslim world;

(4) the insurgents’ will to resist shows no sign of weakening; and

(5) no one the US government has a clue how to end this conflict on favorable terms for the United States that do not sow the seeds of future conflict in the region, or with Islam.

The Afghan insurgents may not understand grand strategy in these terms, but they understand instinctively that they can outlast invaders, because they believe they have done it before to Alexander the Great, the British at the height of their imperial power, and the Soviets. Is there anyone who not think the the insurgents’ moral is being boosted by the prospect of outlasting the Americans?

A simple grand-strategic analysis reveals that time is clearly on the Taliban’s side and to assume that battle hardened leaders of the Taliban do not understand this is just a tad optimistic, to put it charitably. In fact, the breakdown of President Obama’s strategic review last December, which devolved into a dispute over when to leave, simply reinforced the obvious.

Chuck Spinney
The Blaster

The Afghanistan War: Tactical Victories, Strategic Stalemate?

David Wood, Politics Daily, 13 February 2011

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/02/13/the-afghanistan-war-tactical-victories-strategic-stalemate/

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The 7 minute video at the link below is painfully embarrassing to watch, but it
is quite revealing with regard to the dysfunctionality of our foreign policy and
the state of decay in the U.S. mainstream media.

http://pulsemedia.org/2011/01/27/shihab-rattansi-lays-bare-us-hypocrisy-on-egypt/

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The Clear-Hold-Build (C-H-B) strategy was first enunciated enthusiastically during the Bush Administration as the new counterinsurgency strategy to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Actually, this strategy was merely an unimaginative regurgitation of Marshall Lautey’s “tache d’huile” (oil spot) strategy used to quell native uprisings during France colonial wars at the end of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th Century.

The recent escalation in Afghanistan may be taking the unimaginative C-H-B soundbyte to the extremities of its logical absurdity, if the attached report by Spencer Ackerman is correct: Apparently, our forces applied the C-H-B strategy literally to a small Afghan village in Kandahar’s Arghandab River Valley of Taliban by using 25 tons of air delivered explosives to CLEAR it off the map (see photo). Ackerman goes to suggest HOLDING will be accomplished because we will spend one million dollars to (re) BUILD it. As part of our cultural sensitivity strategy to HOLD onto the Afghan’s hearts and minds during the BUILD leg of the strategy, our troops are holding “construction shuras” with the villagers to compensate them for their loses.

Think of the C-H-B strategy as the Petraeus equivalent of destroying a village to save it — sound familiar?

Chuck Spinney
Archive of selected Blasters (http://chuckspinney.blogspot.com/)

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Afghanistan – behind enemy lines

James Fergusson returns after three years to Chak, just 40 miles from Kabul, to find the Taliban’s grip is far stronger than the West will admit

Independent, 14 November 2010

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/exclusive-afghanistan–behind-enemy-lines-2133667.html

The sound of a propeller engine is audible the moment my fixer and I climb out of the car, causing us new arrivals from Kabul to glance sharply upwards. I have never heard a military drone in action before, and it is entirely invisible in the cold night sky, yet there is no doubt what it is. My first visit to the Taliban since 2007 has only just begun and I am already regretting it. What if the drone is the Hellfire-missile-carrying kind?

Three years ago, the Taliban’s control over this district, Chak, and the 112,000 Pashtun farmers who live here, was restricted to the hours of darkness – although the local commander, Abdullah, vowed to me that he would soon be in full control. As I am quickly to discover, this was no idle boast. In Chak, the Karzai government has in effect given up and handed over to the Taliban. Abdullah, still in charge, even collects taxes. His men issue receipts using stolen government stationery that is headed “Islamic Republic of Afghanistan”; with commendable parsimony they simply cross out the word “Republic” and insert “Emirate”, the emir in question being the Taliban’s spiritual leader, Mullah Omar.

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I totally endorse Andy Bacevich’s new book Endless War. Though I am for a professional, but small and hard hitting military, it is based on the doctrine of 3-3-3 which I discussed in earlier blogs.  The bottom line, we have too many problems at home to continually go out and make everyone smaller versions of the USA. But Dr. Bacevich’s book goes beyond that, he correctly states it is more than a feeling good doctrine (which is a facade), it is actually the influence of big money behind our continual wars of occupation,  using whatever doctrinal fad is used that month by one of the high paid think tanks.  The flavor this month is COIN (Counter Insurgency) where we have convinced ourselves of both parties that we can fight wars at low cost. When in fact, we may have low casualties (as compared to past wars), but how about the domestic civilian population?  Additionally, in a world dominated by 4th Generation Warfare, our nation, led by the think tanks, refuse to reform the military from the 2nd Generation (with few exceptions 3rd Generation culture), while selling a doctrine that requires all the premises of a 3rd Generation Force.  As several other heros have pointed out, but Andy Bacevich leaves out, such as Franklin C Spinney, Winslow Wheeler, Pierre Sprey, G.I. Wilson, William S. Lind and Douglas MacGregor, as well as the late COL John Boyd, we are a 2nd Generation military trying to fight 4th Generation wars, with disastrous results both abroad and here at home as we go deeper in debt while living the lie where our public becomes ever larger consumers in a crowded world of shortages.  It is this dismissive belief that puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. citizens who have an obligation to have HONEST and HARD HITTING debates, and then go to the ballet box, put into office true leaders, not the corrupt fools we have now. As Bacevich has pointed out, the reality is the opposite, as long as the goods flow, the oil remains cheap, and lies are told regarding the rest of the world, such as dismissing the dangerous levels of overpopulation (organized religion tells them to go out and continue to bear fruit), the public continues to live with its heads buried in the sand.

Have a happy Labor Day,

Don
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/05/books/review/Bass-t.html?ref=review&pagewanted=print

Endless War
By GARY J. BASS

WASHINGTON RULES

America’s Path to Permanent War

By Andrew J. Bacevich

286 pp. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company. $25

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I have echoed these sentiments for years.  Of course, you are not heard when you say something that is negative, not in a think tank, etc…just keep fighting the good fight.

Don

Chicago Tribune
August 23, 2010
Pg. 17

Petraeus’ Dubious Strategy In Afghanistan

By Christopher Layne

Gen. David Petraeus recently began a public relations blitz to convince American public opinion that the U.S. should stay the course in Afghanistan rather than holding to President Obama’s pledge to start withdrawing troops in July.

But most non-military observers understand that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won in any meaningful sense. They also understand a big reason for this is that success in Afghanistan requires a lot more than battlefield victory. To stabilize Afghanistan, the U.S. needs to establish good governance and foster economic development there. In a word, the U.S. must engage in nation-building. The U.S. has a long record of failure at that. Petraeus, however, would have Americans believe that the war can be turned around if we just give his strategy more time, troops and money. In making this case, Petraeus is banking on his prestige as the architect of the 2007 Iraq surge.

That credibility, however, rests on a dubious foundation. The media-savvy Petraeus created a myth — and that is what it is — that the Iraqi surge was successful. Studies of the Iraq war have shown, however, that the surge was incidental to dampening down the violence in Iraq. Most important, however, the surge failed to achieve its overriding objective, which was, as then-President George W. Bush declared, buying time for Iraq’s Shia and Sunni populations to achieve political reconciliation. As the current political stalemate in Baghdad indicates, in this respect the surge failed, and Iraq faces a bleak political future.

The strategy Petraeus advocates for Afghanistan is a dubious one based on the counter-insurgency (COIN) doctrine of which he is the primary author. Col. John Nagl, an influential COIN theorist who is president of the Center for a New American Security, has said it will take “at least a generation” for the U.S. to prevail in the fight against terrorism.

The new strategy assumes that the global counter-insurgency may last as long as the Cold War, and will require a greater mobilization of national resources than has occurred to date.

The problem with COIN is that in the real world none of the preconditions that military planners deem necessary for success can be fulfilled. Neither Congress nor the American public is willing to accept an open-ended military commitment to Afghanistan.

COIN misdiagnoses the root cause of America’s Middle Eastern difficulties. The U.S. is the target of Islamic terrorists because of its regional policies like support for corrupt regimes, its one-sided stance on the Israeli/Palestinian problem, its heavy politico-military presence, and the fact that the U.S. appears to many in the Middle East to be the imperial successor in the region to the French and British who once dominated it. As Andrew Mack, currently on the faculty of the School of International Studies at Simon Fraser University, pointed out in a classic article 35 years ago, there is a good reason that big states lose small wars: The forces of national and religious identity are stronger than the will of outside powers — powers that, inevitably one day will go home.

On its own terms, COIN is a problematic policy. Even more worryingly, it sets exactly the wrong grand strategic priorities for the United States. In an ironic coincidence, the same morning leading newspapers carried reports of Gen. Petraeus’ remarks, another headline announced that China has overtaken Japan as the world’s second largest economic power and is on track to overtake the U.S. by 2030 (indeed perhaps as soon as 2020, according to many leading experts). In the early 21st century, East Asia is becoming the world’s geopolitical and economic fulcrum, and it is U.S. air and naval power that will be needed to meet the emerging challenge from China. That is where America’s long-term grand strategic interests lie — not in fighting futile Eurasian land wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

Christopher Layne, the Robert M. Gates Chair in Intelligence and National Security at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, is writing a book on the collapse of the Pax Americana.

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It is not as if the disaster described below, in the Afghan war logs released by Wikileaks to the Guardian, the New York Times , and der Spiegle, was not foreseeable.   For example, my close friend and mentor Chuck Spinney wrote an Op-ed for Defense Week in April 2001 What Revolution in Military Affairs? , well before we began the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I also told comrades about the disasters that would await us if we tried to occupy and convert Afghanistan into a democracy (trillions and years later, still no progress), and later when we invaded Iraq (and I describe in my 2002 book Path to Victory: America’s Army and the Revolution in Human Affairs (Presidio Press)) regarding the failure of occupations by foreign armies. I prescribe to the doctrine of 3-3-3 (described by William S. Lind in http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/parameters/Articles/1995/lind.htm .
 
And I was hardly alone or invisible.  Readers familiar with the work of reformers Colonel John Boyd, Pierre Sprey, Colonel James Burton, Colonel Mike Wylie, Colonel GI Wilson, Colonel Bob Dilger, Bill Lind and Tom Christie, among others, will know that they have been highly visible canaries in the high-tech coal mine since the late 1960s.  For those unfamiliar with their critical analyses, I refer you to  James Fallows’ National Defense (Random House 1981), and Robert Coram’s Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (Little Brown, 2002), or The Winds of Reform, Time (7 March 1983).

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