Democracy Arsenal

« More on America's Ongoing Civ-Mil Relations Crisis | Main | Our Ongoing Civil-Military Relations Crisis »

September 27, 2010

Magical Military Thinking About Afghanistan - The Stavridis Version
Posted by Michael Cohen

Someday when the history of the US war in Afghanistan is written historians will point to this op-ed by James Stavridis NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe as Exhibit A in the magical military thinking that doomed the US effort there. I'm not sure my prodigious amounts of snark can do justice to how ridiculous this article is . .  but let's give it a whirl.

Stavridis basic argument is that the recent op-ed in the New York Times by Carnegie Endowment scholar Gilles Dorronsorro (who has been consistently right about the increasingly dire situation in Afghanistan) is actually wrong about how badly things are going there. You see according to Stavridis . . . things are going just peachy!

And what is Stavridis's evidence:

There is significant progress in this area as we have fielded 240,000 Afghan National Security Forces. The recruiting and training continues on a path to reach 300,000 by next summer, while operational competence continues to grow.

Really? Here's what General Caldwell, who is actually responsible for training these same Afghan forces, had to say about their status:

General Caldwell said it would not be until October 2011 — three months after the deadline for the start of American withdrawals set by Mr. Obama — that he will have finished building the Afghan security forces to their full capacity. For now, he said, “they cannot operate independently."

Indeed, Stavridis thinks its awesome that the "Afghan National Military Academy is a four year degree-producing institution" and "the Afghan National Army has opened schools in intelligence, engineering, law, military police, logistics, religious and cultural affairs and finance."

Personally I'm surprised he didn't mention the fact that the attrition rate in the ANSF is 47% - after all this is an improvement from its peak of 70%. Or he could have mentioned today's WSJ report that indicates the NATO has trained 100,000 Afghan soliders over the past 10 months but expects to lose 83,000 over the next thirteen months due to desertion, death and low retention rates. That's a net of 17,000 soldiers!

Yet, that isn't even the worst it. Stavridis actually has the temerity to argue that the security situation is improving in Afghanistan:

Compared to many cities around the world, Kabul is very safe . . .While violence has increased in southern Afghanistan — because we are taking the fight to the enemy — it is clear that the increase is mostly in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Very safe? What's he comparing this too - Baghdad, Mogadishu? Kabul is many things - very safe is not one of them. As for the security situation; security has deteriorated practically everywhere in Afghanistan. Places in the North like Balkh, Kunduz, Takhar, Baghlan, Nangahar that were once safe are now practically off-limits. Here's a lovely story from Urguzan and the recent beheading of 11 people there as well the ongoing displacement of Hazaras in the province.

But the BS continues:

The rest of the country is becoming more economically productive. In the south, more fighting indicates less Taliban control — not more. When these areas are stabilized, Afghan security forces will have secured the principal population centers in the former Taliban heartland.

Economically productive? According to our own CIA factbook, Afghanistan's unemployment rate is 35% - 181st worst in the world and has one of the lowest standards of living in the world. This is not to mention the fact that Afghanistan has not been economically productive . . . ever. It's a classic rentier state completely reliant on foreign handouts; now even more than ever.

And notice here that Stavridis makes a big point about Afghan forces securing population centers . . . but sort of glosses over the point that this hasn't actually happened. In fact, even the US hasn't secured these population centers.

Finally, Stavridis can't even keep track of his own inconsistencies. On the one hand he argues, "Our combined special operations forces are eliminating insurgent leaders at a rapid pace. One of the most dangerous jobs in Afghanistan today is to be a Taliban “shadow governor” of a province." But a mere three grafs later he writes this "We will not kill our way to success in Afghanistan." Huh? (By the way, I wonder if Stavridis is at all troubled by the fact that every one of Afghanistan's 34 provinces has a shadow governor right now). 

And to wrap it all up there is this stirring call to arms:

We need to sustain our resolve. Many analysts, academics and pundits decreed “the war is lost, get out now” at various times during fights against insurgencies in Colombia, the Balkans and Iraq. Yet we succeeded there, and we can succeed in Afghanistan as well.

It's funny that Stavridis doesn't mention Vietnam here where all those pundits and academics were right about getting out - and where we didn't succeed. But the bottom line is that "success" elsewhere does not translate into success in Afghanistan. To argue otherwise is not only simplistic and childish it's downright insulting to readers. 

If this is the sort of embarrassing argument that our military leaders are using to make the case for progress in Afghanistan - then things might actually be worse than I initially thought.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Magical Military Thinking About Afghanistan - The Stavridis Version:


There is some good news from Afghanistan — the surge is working!

IEDs show troop surge working, U.S. officers say
MUSA QALA DISTRICT, Afghanistan — From Marine headquarters here, Maj. Robert “Barney” Barnhart ticks off names of comrades killed by roadside bombs, pausing at the mention of a sergeant Barnhart had persuaded to re-enlist for the fight.

His face darkens. This Taliban tactic of lacing the countryside with explosives, he says, is “a more cowardly way to fight.”

In Helmand province, the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment led by Marine Lt. Col. Michael Manning had been hit by 240 bombs (an average of more than one a day) and disarmed an additional 331 during a six-month tour that ended this month.

Manning and Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, who commands all Marine ground combat forces in Helmand province, say the increase in IEDs is proof the military’s surge is working. “The more you disrupt, the more he tries to find ways to disrupt what you’re doing” Manning said.

"pundits decreed “the war is lost, get out now” at various times during fights against insurgencies in Colombia, the Balkans and Iraq."

*A congressionally mandated "troop cap" - an attempt to discourage "mission creep" - currently limits the U.S. presence in Colombia to 800 military personnel and 600 U.S. citizen contractors.
*Aug 20, 2010: Colombia's Constitutional Court has struck down an agreement that allows the U.S. military to use Colombian bases.

* While the US flew 23,208 sorties against the Yugoslavia in a 78-day air campaign, and dropped tons of bombs, the US never fought a ground war against insurgents.

* Fifty thousand troops remain.
* Iraq, now an Islamic republic aligned with Iran, has not been able to form a government
* Seven US military have died this month in Operation New Dawn:
-Sgt. Philip C. Jenkins, 26, of Decatur, Ind.
-Pvt. James F. McClamrock, 22, of Huntersville, N.C.
-Senior Airman James A. Hansen, 25, of Athens, Mich.
-Sgt. John F. Burner III, 32, of Baltimore, Md.
-Spc. John Carrillo Jr., 20, of Stockton, Calif.
-Pfc. Gebrah P. Noonan, 26, of Watertown, Conn.
-Spc. Marc C. Whisenant, 23, of Holly Hill, Fla.

"pundits decreed “the war is lost, get out now” at various times during fights against insurgencies in Colombia, the Balkans and Iraq."

The Afghanistan ,a big problem

What's the hell going on

There is some good news from Afghanistan — the surge is working - thats great!

Measure out a good length of wire line or Links of London Letters, if the balls are larger, leather or cotton cord. Should be enough to wrap around your neck than 5 inches. If you are using wire, slide a bead embedded in one end and a part of clasp. Pass the cable through the securing of accounts, adjust, and then flatten the Links of London Sale with crimping pliers. Trim the tail of wire. String accounts. If you want a symmetrical pattern, start with the Links of London Pendants and add segments on each side. Add the second part of the hook or, if you are using a snap hook Should silver jewelry be plated? Silver coating can be done with rhodium, white gold, yellow gold and platinum, even. Another thing you should know when to buy silver Links of London online may no longer be done by hand or machine. Of course, pieces of handmade silver are priced much higher than machine-made counterparts because more value is placed on the works of human hands.

merhaba arkadaşlar çok güzel bir site yapmışsınız gerçektende şu bizim nacizane linkimizide kabul ederseniz çok müteşekkir olurum.Görüşmek dileğiyle umarım thy bilet fiyatları konusunda istediğimiz başarıya ulaşırız.

I believe you will get what you want.

thank you for share,very good and useful.just i need.I could not agree with you more

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use