October 15, 2015

"The United States will halt its military withdrawal from Afghanistan and instead keep thousands of troops in the country through the end of his term in 2017..."

"... President Obama announced on Thursday, prolonging the American role in a war that has now stretched on for 14 years."
“While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” said Mr. Obama, flanked by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his top military leaders. “I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”

109 comments:

David said...

“I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”

And 5500 troops will do this? Well, probably, while Obama is still President, but it's going to leave his successor with a hell of a mess.

Sebastian said...

His approach to A-stan is about as successful as the Yemen model he once touted.

MadisonMan said...

Needs an 'Obama is like Bush' tag?

damikesc said...

Just enough troops to be targets but not be able to do much in a horrendously terrible country.

Yeah, good plan, Obama.

I bet you won't see a Republican holding up Afghanistan as a success in a re-election campaign.

I Callahan said...

War Criminal!!!

Just Like Cheney and Bush!!!

Try him at the Hague!!!

Sorry. Tourette's got the best of me...

Brando said...

This is the part where Dirty Harry throws his Nobel Peace Prize down in the dirt, and walks away.

Brando said...

What on earth are 5K troops for two more years going to accomplish there that tens of thousands couldn't accomplish in the previous fifteen years??? Didn't someone say something about "no more dumb wars"? It was between "hope" and "change" as I recall.

It's obvious to anyone with a pulse that this is nothing more than an excuse to shuffle the burden on to the next president. We're not going to fix Afghanistan. Obama just wants to be able to say it's the next president's fault.

More depressing is the question of what President Hillary will do with that mess on her plate. She hasn't failed to make a wrong call yet, so this should be interesting. The Graveyard of Empires indeed.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I'm sure he'll pull the troops out of Afghanistan right after he closes the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

Dan Hossley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Hossley said...

It should be obvious that we've already lost the war in Afghanistan. Leaving 5,000 troops does nothing to change the outcome.

This is Iraq all over again. The Joint Chiefs wanted a stay behind force of 25,000 and Obama would only agree to 5,000. The Iraqi's turned him down because the offer was a joke. It would take 5,000 troop to protect the US Embassy!

I think the Taliban are at least as ISIS.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

"smart power"

Bob Ellison said...

By NYT logic, World War II is now in its 74th year.

Matt said...

“I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again like I did in Iraq.”

Fixed it for you, Mr. President!

David Begley said...

Will Obama EVER admit he was wrong?

I Callahan said...

This is the part where Dirty Harry throws his Nobel Peace Prize down in the dirt, and walks away.

Not to be technical, but he actually throws it into that retention pond...

:)

Bobby said...

Well, the minimum conditions for long-term "success" in Afghanistan are trained indigenous national security forces capable of ensuring order throughout the country and denying sanctuary to terrorist and insurgent actors, and a modestly legitimate government capable of basic civil administration. Permanent recurring success might require a popularly-supported, reasonably-transparent representative government (though countries like China and Vietnam are demonstrating otherwise) and likewise a functioning economy eventually needs to develop, but can be substituted by foreign aid as long as the international communit is willing (though, interestingly enough, this actually reduces the incentive for the government to be accountable and responsive to the population... The Rentier state problem). Everything else- civil society, justice and rule of law, etc. etc.- might just be "nice to have" kind of thing, as far as the international community is concerned.

One of the problems I had with the surge in Afghanistan was that, as the Coalition grew to over 100,000 troops, I saw first-hand US troops doing missions, clearing villages and taking the fight to the insurgents that, in my opinion, should have been done by the Afghan security forces. Some US units were very good about doing it alongside their Afghan partners, and so those Afghan units developed and got better over time; others were merely a token presence (sometimes a single Afghan soldier in the back of an MRAP was declared "partnered," much to my irritation) and those units withered and indeed learned to do as little as they could so the Americans would do it for them.

An American forcce of 5500, even dedicating about 2000 of that to force protection and essential logistics (the contractor tail doing the rest of service support will be much, much larger than the military and won't count toward the cap- a lesson we learned during the Clinton Administration in Bosnia), along with some additional number of Coalition Partners (which is unknown at this time since we've kept them in the dark about our follow-on plans) if it is dedicated exclusively to security assistance and counter-terrorism might be about right to a long, slow strategy of building up the Afghan National Security Forces to the point where they are capable of ensuring the conditions for enduring security.

And by long and slow, I mean decades- plural. If we're not prepared to make that commitment right now, then we might as well pull the plug.

traditionalguy said...

Playing military tough guy in a totally unwinnable place that we should have pulled out of 10 years ago is sick. But Barry The Liar does it as a cover for his next surrenders when the Russians and the ChiComs hurriedly take hegemony over another third of the world before Obama's term is up.

Scott said...

Where have we seen that before?

Vietnamization was a policy of the Richard Nixon administration to end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War through a program to "expand, equip, and train South Vietnam's forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S. combat troops."

Scott said...

Do they actually want what we're selling them?

Coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott said...

If we're going to be a 19th century-style colonial power, we should at least get some benefit from it.

Brando said...

"Not to be technical, but he actually throws it into that retention pond..."

Ah yes, it's been a while since I saw that scene.

Roughcoat said...

Gee, I wonder if he'll authorize revised ROE so our people can actually defend themselves ... or, perish the thought, engage in offensive ops and kill the enemy.

And note the use of "I" in the "I will not allow Afghanistan ..." etc.

What an asshole.

Matthew Sablan said...

... This is... so... what a waste of time to backtrack to get back what we... I just.

Henry said...

I nominate this for a Obama is Like Bush tag. This is exactly the mission proposed by the Bush Administration after the fall of the Taliban. Obama explicitly chose to expand the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan as his own war of choice. 7 years later, with nothing to show for the destruction and loss of life, he takes Bush's original policy for his own.

The Times covers for him, writing this deceitful equivocation: "The president, who has long sought to end America’s two wars before he leaves office..." It's lucky the President was reelected, because his first term was devoted to expanding the war in Afghanistan, not ending it.

Roughcoat said...


Also, sustaining a U.S. presence in Afghanistan is contingent on Putin's cooperation.

Wonder what devil's bargain that entails?

Actually, I don't wonder.

Bobby said...

Scott,

Nixon would probably say that Vietnamization, which was really just a constitutent of the larger Nixon Doctrine strategy of surrogate powers and proxy forces across the globe, failed because Congress took away South Vietnam's support while the Soviets increased their own support to North Vietnam- in other words, he'd say that Congress (specifically the Democrats) simply didn't give them enough time and that if they had, it would look like South Korea today (... which it kind of does, but for different reasons). If the most recently released wave of Kissinger diaries are to be believed, then Kissinger seemed to believe that Saigon needed a more inclusive and responsive government to have any legitimacy, which perhaps- like South Korea- South Vietnam could have built up over time. We'll never know.

J. Farmer said...

Ugh. What an incredibly idiotic decision and yet another pointless sop to that supposedly all important concept of "credibility." It was laughable back in 2008 when the Democratic establishment was tripping over itself to talk about how tough it was going to be fighting the "good" war of Afghanistan. They convenient forgot (or more likely didn't even know) that regime change in Afghanistan was just as stupid as regime change in Iraq. There is no war left in Afghanistan to fight. We spent 15 years pushing water up a hill that is going to flow right back down again. The Taliban do not pose any significant threat to the United States, and we are wasting time and American lives trying to be international social workers in that godforsaken place.

Brando said...

"Also, sustaining a U.S. presence in Afghanistan is contingent on Putin's cooperation."

Hell, we should try to convince Putin to take over that country and promise this time we won't arm the opposition. Let them chase bandits around the mountains again.

Original Mike said...

"“While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” said Mr. Obama"

To which the Iraqis understandably respond, "What are we, chopped liver?"

Roughcoat said...


And by long and slow, I mean decades- plural. If we're not prepared to make that commitment right now, then we might as well pull the plug.

We might as well pull the plug.

A decades-long nation-building undertaking in Afghanistan is impracticable. This would amount to a 20-to-30 years' war and no nation can wage war for that long without suffering catastrophic damage if not destroying itself in the process. Even if it did succeed the cost of success in terms of blood, treasure, and societal cohesion and all the other intangibles that make America a reasonable decent place to live would be ruinously prohibitive.

If that country becomes a safe haven for terrorists we should take limited but focused and highly kinetic action against the safe havens and their occupants. During the days of the "Great Game" these were called "punitive expeditions."



JPS said...

J. Farmer:

Credibility is quite important (I wouldn't say all-important), but it is attained through achieving our actual goals when we said we would, rather than through making it a goal in itself. I wish I felt surer our politicians understand that.

"It was laughable back in 2008 when the Democratic establishment was tripping over itself to talk about how tough it was going to be fighting the "good" war of Afghanistan."

I get the sense we don't much see eye to eye, but I'm glad we can agree on this. I always thought this wasn't particularly sincere, but a political gambit for entirely domestic purposes.

sk2322 said...

“I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”

...

Afghan Taliban’s Reach Is Widest Since 2001, U.N. Says

Sunday, 11 Oct 2015 | 2:54 PM ET

"KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban insurgency has spread through more of Afghanistan than at any point since 2001, according to data compiled by the United Nations as well as interviews with numerous local officials in areas under threat.

In addition, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan over the past two weeks has evacuated four of its 13 provincial offices around the country — the most it has ever done for security reasons — according to local officials in the affected areas."

lgv said...

Well, the troops are staying because they are there, unlike Iraq. There is no Iraq strategy because there are few options. We have nothing remaining there. He really didn't care what happened to Iraq. That's Bush's problem. What surprised him was that Iraq disintegrated before he left office. That's the only thing that bothers him.

Leaving 5,500 will do little, which is all he wants to do. It's going to be someone else's problem.

J. Farmer said...

Afghanistan is a good example of how so many of the same foolish, evidence-free assumptions exist between the Bush and Obama administrations. The entire notion of a "safe haven for terrorists" or having access to "training grounds" is a distraction. How many years after 9/11 did cable news keep running that same looped video footage of the Arab bad guys climbing the monkey bars and shooting AK-47s? The 9/11 attacks were trained for on US soil by people who entered the country legally through international airports. We do nothing to secure ourselves from these kinds of threats by stupid, open-ended, muddled military interventions in countries whose destinies we have very little hand in deciding.

J. Farmer said...

@Igv:

Neither the Iraqi government nor a majority of the Iraqi people wanted US troops stationed in Iraq. It didn't matter who the President was. Iraq fell apart mostly because of (1) the collapse of Syria and (2) decisions made and actions taken in Baghdad. The Obama administration and the Gulf States have been intervening in Syria in such a way as to increase and prolong the instability. To the degree that Obama has been criticized by the GOP on Syria, the line has been that he has not been forceful and decisive enough with Assad. That is, he has not acted to bring Assad down more quickly. Such an action would make Syria even more anarchic and lawless and open to ISIS intercession.

So let's presume for a moment that the silver bullet of a "residual force" had been achieved in Iraq. What would could it have done to (1) halt the collapse of Syria (which the administration, the GOP, and regional Arab allies seem to want) or (2) change the sectarian manner in which the elected government in Baghdad chooses to govern?

Qwinn said...

J. Farmer:

I haven't read a single conservative arguing a "get tough on Assad" line. The critique is he's not tough enough on ISIS.

The Drill SGT said...

Scott said...
If we're going to be a 19th century-style colonial power, we should at least get some benefit from it.


And we should handle A-stan like the 19th Century Brits learned... "Butcher and Bolt"...

Fuck with us and we'll use B-52's till the rubble bounces.

Do it again and we'll fuse the rubble into glass. Some groups just need the correct culturally appropriate messaging to get the point across.

Note that Obama has no objection to US troops pointlessly dying in small numbers, he just doesn't want to see the rout on his watch...

(cue Saigon Embassy shot, April '75)



Bobby said...

Roughtcoat,

"Even if it did succeed the cost of success in terms of blood, treasure, and societal cohesion and all the other intangibles that make America a reasonable decent place to live would be ruinously prohibitive."

The operation is expected to cost $15B per year (the bare-bones option, which was a 1000-man force merely to protect the Embassy, was expected to cost $10B per year; the no-bones option, to close the Embassy and withdraw all US official personnel, was not estimated, as far as I know). It's a lot of money and we can probably find common ground on where it could be better spent, but I don't think $15B per year bankrupts an economy the size of the US. In terms of blood and social cohesion, frankly, more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq cost us fewer than 7000 KIAs - out of a population over 300 million, the number of those killed and who serve abroad is a very, very small fraction. War just isn't as disruptive to society as it once was, especially when successive Administrations make a deliberate decision to fight a war with just two of the three components of the Clausewitzean Trinity.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Cook said...

“'While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over....'"

What was that mission again?

Bobby said...

J. Farmer,

"So let's presume for a moment that the silver bullet of a "residual force" had been achieved in Iraq. What would could it have done to (1) halt the collapse of Syria (which the administration, the GOP, and regional Arab allies seem to want) or (2) change the sectarian manner in which the elected government in Baghdad chooses to govern?"

Most civilians tend to think the Surge was merely the introduction of 35,000 troops in Iraq. Sometimes they understand the introduction of FM 3-24, the Counterinsurgency Manual. In fact, these were just two of several factors during the Surge that led to its short-lived success: the flipping of the Sons of Iraq and the overreach of JAM in Karbala and its subsequent impact on al-Sadr pausing his militia activities are of at least equal importance (and there's more factors as well, but not germane to this discussion).

I mention this as background because there was an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work that American diplomacy did to induce behavior change on the part of the Shi'a political parties (Dawa, SCIRI/ISCI, and Fadhila- not so much OMS, of course) in order to promote national reconciliation, get the government to behave more moderately to the Kurdish and Sunni minorities, as well as to smooth tribal schisms and to promote federal-to-provincial responsiveness. Ambassadors Zalmay Khalilzad and Ryan Crocker led much of this effort, and it never got the credit it deserved in stabilizing Iraq during the Surge. One thing the residual force would have done is provided subsequent Ambassadors (chiefly James Jeffrey and Robert Beecroft) with the same leverage to pressure al-Maliki and his Dawa allies into maintaining the political cooperation that had previously existed. It's by no means a guarantee- nothing is- but it needs to be pointed out that it stood a much better chance than post-removal of US troops.

Brando said...

We need fewer foreign entanglements, not more. These all have a cost--in lives (both American and friendly), money and opportunity. They also can fray our alliances. If a particular adventure is worthwhile, the proponents should be able to make the case for what we're getting out of it, and why our intervention is likely to succeed.

The problem in Iraq and Afghanistan is the proponents misjudged the reasons for going in (Iraq really was no threat to us, then or in the near future, and Afghanistan housed Bin Laden but that's an argument for a surgical operation to catch and kill him, not take over and transform the country) and misjudged our likelihood of success with their game plans. We should have learned from that. There is certainly no plus side to staying in Afghanistan now. Our best case scenario is those troops stay put there for a few years, costing several billion dollars, and then we get them out while the country reverts to some form of authoritarianism and eventual chaos.

Obama campaigned on ending "dumb wars". If this fifteen year sojourn in Afghanistan is a smart war, I'd hate to see what a dumb one looks like.

Bobby said...

The two-year extension is just for domestic political consumption. The continued operation (which by the way does not drop below 9800 troops on Obama's watch) means that he stands a very good probability of maintaining the status quo in Afghanistan- i.e., lots of Taliban killed, a few embarrassing but short-lived Taliban victories, etc.- on his watch. If the subsequent President takes office and ends the mission, and later terrorist activity in Afghanistan allows an Islamist to attack US interests here or abroad (say, for example, by toppling Pakistan's government and taking control of their nuclear arsenal), Obama's sycophantic supporters will say that it was all the New President's fault for not maintaining the mission. It won't matter to them that Obama set in place the policy that set his successor up for a real problem.

If that sounds familiar, it might be because that's roughly the same tactic that Bush supporters employ against Obama with Iraq. You've seen it from commenters on this blog in other threads: Bush had won the war and if only Obama had negotiated the SOFA and kept the residual force in place, then none of this would have happened - ergo, it is all Obama's fault. Obama supporters will make the same claim in defense of their guy. As I said on another thread, hypocrisy runs strong in both conservatives and liberals, they just think only the other side has it.

Robert Cook said...

"War Criminal!!!

"Just Like Cheney and Bush!!!

"Try him at the Hague!!!

"Sorry. Tourette's got the best of me..."


No Tourette's...just fact.

Unknown said...

My son is headed to A-Stan this winter. Last deployment he was doing a patrol, underfire, radioed that they were going to return fire and was ordered (1) not to return fire, and (2) continue the patrol. I think he came close to NJP, if not actual courts martial.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Tourette's, eh?

Well it seems there was group of protesters chanting outside the building where budget money for medical research was being debated.

"WHAT DO WE WANT?" "Money for Tourette's !"

"WHEN DO WE WANT IT?" "C*nt !"

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

The Drill SGT said...

Unknown said...
My son is headed to A-Stan this winter. Last deployment he was doing a patrol, underfire, radioed that they were going to return fire and was ordered (1) not to return fire, and (2) continue the patrol. I think he came close to NJP, if not actual courts martial.


Too much Lawfare, too many f'ing lawyers in roles they have no business in.

PS: married to a retired Army JAG

chuck said...

If you have planned to loose and have already screwed up your logistics, why not just get the heck out?

J. Farmer said...

@Bobby:

I agree with most of what you wrote in your response to me. And you reiterated a point I have made over and over in the "Obama lost the war Bush won" meme. The successes of the surge were not due primarily to superior US military power or troop numbers but to the fact that it successfully coopted changing dynamics on the ground (.e.g loss of support for insurgent forces among western Sunni populations). The fact that many of the mixed neighborhoods around Iraq had been effectively ethnically cleansed also contributed to the decrease of violence seen in the post-surge period.

One of the most (if not the most) significant sticking points in the SOFA negotiations was on immunity laws for US soldiers. Many SOFAs provide for US military personnel accused of committing a crime against a host country's population to be prosecuted by US military court rather than by local civilian court. There are a lot of legitimate legal arguments for having such an arrangement. It was wildly unpopular among a majority of the Iraqis and was often widely denounced by Iraqi political figures. Even if the US could have exerted sufficient pressure to get an agreement from the government, it would have suffered a huge blow to its legitimacy (especially in a parliamentary system).

Robert Cook said...

"It's obvious to anyone with a pulse that this is nothing more than an excuse to shuffle the burden on to the next president."

Yep...the same reason Bush negotiated our withdrawal from Iraq to occur after he had left office.

Anthony said...

Many of you warned me back in 2008 this would happen if I voted for McCain. I should have listened. I promise never to vote for McCain again.

Roughcoat said...

War just isn't as disruptive to society as it once was, especially when successive Administrations make a deliberate decision to fight a war with just two of the three components of the Clausewitzean Trinity.

I disagree with your conclusions. And I especially disagree with what you wrote in the passage above. It is to a large measure precisely because we are fighting wars (multiple not singular) with just two of the three components of the Clausewitzean trinity that we are either not winning our outright losing our wars. The Old German was right in his understanding war and we ignore his wisdom at our peril.

I repeat: fighting a decades-long war in Afghanistan is a sure path to misery and possible ruin. The greatest damage will be done to our military capability and its ability to change and evolve to meet other threats.

I'll spare you a lengthy exegesis in support of my views. I know that you know the sort of arguments I'll deploy. Let's just say we disagree and leave it at that.

Alexander said...

Somebody has to stay and pay protect the poppy producing pederasts!

Roughcoat said...

Btw, and by way of establishing a few bona fides, I am actively and professionally involved in the conflict in Syria and Iraq, particular with regard to assisting Christian Assyrians and Chaldeans, and Yizidis, in defending themselves. It is this involvement that informs my views on the non-viability of a decades-long presence in Afghanistan. It is also the reason why I advocate a lengthy (if needs be) committment to Near Eastern Christian and Yazidi communities.

Bob Ellison said...

Roughcoat, thanks for the information and for your service.

You folks in the field must speak up sometimes. Civilians don't know what's going on or what's required.

Roughcoat said...

Thanks Bob for your kind words. My contribution is really very modest. An extremely small light in a gulf of darkness. It's the people I'm working for who are doing the heavy lifting and taking the major risks.

jacksonjay said...

Does this amount to "half-baked ideas" or "mumbo jumbo"?


Obama on October 2, 2015

“But I also think that there’s a difference between running for president and being president. And the decisions that are being made and the discussions that I’m having with the joint chiefs become much more specific, I think, and require a different kind of judgment.”

Now he tells us!


Smiley needs to find a late nite show or a YouTube idiot to visit with.

William said...

There don't seem many people in that part of the world who are willing to fight for or even recognize their own rational self interest. Added to that, it's just as hard to recognize our own rational self interest. It's very confusing. There are no good options, and even the least worst outcome is pretty bad.......I note in passing that the Mongols didn't have all that much trouble in conquering Awholestan, Mesopotamia and Persia. As a civilized people, we wouldn't want to use such tactics, but such tactics should be taken under advisement if the good citizens of those countries find a way of nuking us.

Bobby said...

Roughcoat,

Yup- agree to disagree on my conclusions. With respect to Clausewitzean Trinity, I'm not necessarily an advocate of fighting without the People, just acknowledging that this is what at least three straight Presidents have done. But in full disclosure, I'm More Jomini than Clausewitz.

Good luck with the campaign - we may know many of the same players!

Bobby said...

William,

There's actually quite a few of them with said will- unfortunately, most of them are fighting for the other side. Yup, I said it.

Michael said...

OBAMA LIED PEOPLE DIED

William said...

@Bobby: There are lots of people willing to fight, but I don't think the causes of the Taliban or ISIS are in the rational self interest of even their own members, much less their subject populations......You seem well informed and reasonable. Can you predicate a good outcome and a possible way to reach it?

Big Mike said...

Or, as the late Chris Kyle put it, "they only started coming to the peace table when we killed enough of the savages out there, that was the key" (meaning the key to the success of the Surge).

Dan Hossley said...

The only thing missing from this slow motion train wreck, is a democrat controlled Congress cutting funding for the 5,500 after a Republican wins the White House in 18 months.

James Pawlak said...

Could it be that BHO wants as many US troops, loyal to Honor and THE CONSTITUTION, outside of the USA for-and-after the 2016 elections to:
1. Minimize their votes in that election; And,
2. Keep them out of the way in the case that the Democrats attempt to steal that election as backed-up by the many thousands of Federal employees armed, at a military level, under that tyrants directives?

Remember, "Paranoia" is only the unreasonable fear of others.

cubanbob said...

With Democrats and progressives setting the rules, the US can't win any wars. Naturally the smart thing is to have never declared victory and announce a withdrawal schedule and instead just fade out when the conditions merit it but then again with the Left in this country that can't happen. The Russians will have better chance since Putin doesn't give a crap. He will kill as many as needed and he won't care about collateral damage. I'm sure he learned from both the Soviet experience in Afghanistan and from putting the Chechens down. That is use overwhelming force, kill as many of the enemy as possible, it doesn't matter how many enemy civilians are killed, that is for the enemy to worry about and minimize the losses of your troops as much as possible. If your country is sufficiently powerful and you have the reputation for being ruthless if necessary the SJW's and NGO's and the lawfare types are nothing to concern yourself about. The security services can always dispatch a few. As Mao said "kill the chicken, scare the monkey". Sanctions might be imposed but then again those that will impose them will eventually walk them back especially if there is resistance.

J. Farmer said...

@Cubanbob:

"With Democrats and progressives setting the rules, the US can't win any wars."

By your definition, what will it mean to "win" the "war" in Afghanistan?

ThomasD said...

"By your definition, what will it mean to "win" the "war" in Afghanistan?"

Maybe if we could draw down forces to the levels that Obama declared his plan would achieve - basically a token force sufficient for securing our embassy in a generally non-hostile Afghan capitol. Maybe that could count as a victory.

But, since Obama left Obama in charge of the operation even that minor victory escapes us.

Michael K said...

"Vietnamization was a policy of the Richard Nixon administration to end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam "

It might have worked if the Democrats had nor pulled everything out in 1975 breaking the promises we made. Every ally should have gone to school on that Democrat action. A lot of the potential allies might be alive today if they learned from that.

here was never any chance that a nation could be built in Afghanistan. The best we could hope for was for Special Forces to kill enough Taliban to allow a strong man government to prevail.

Iraq was a different matter. There was a chance that, if any Arab country could ever have a democratic government, or at least a modern dictatorship like Egypt has now, Iraq was worth a try. We did not understand the tribal nature of the place but we were learning fast.

Part of the failure was Pakistan which is an enemy, not an ally. The rest was Obama and the hysterical Democrats.

Bobby said...

Farmer,

The immunity requirement was absolutely a major obstacle to the SOFA, there's no doubt about it. That said, it was really only the Shiite parties for whom it was such a great issue of national pride- we never really left the KRG and the Kurds very heavily preferred to have us protecting their backs than to be left to fend for themselves. Likewise, the Sunni parties and the Sunni tribes, at that point, saw us as something of their guarantor- the only party ensuring they would get a fair shake from the Shi'a dominated government. It's true that ISCI and- especially- OMS would have absolutely used a Maliki/Dawa "capitulation" on the SOFA as an electoral wedge, but how successful it would have been is really unclear. In any case, if the White House had wanted to negotiate a SOFA, they could have. It just wasn't a priority because the Administration was filled with personnel who were (right or wrong) convinced that invading Iraq in 2003 was a strategic disaster of epic proportions and that therefore any negative consequences would be inconsequential. There really wasn't a lot of thought put into what a complete withdrawal would mean, and therefore, little was done to mitigate what could (and did) go wrong.

richard mcenroe said...

Obama pretty much just makes noises at random now, doesn't he?

Michael said...

Obama is looking more and more peeved.

mtrobertslaw said...

How is it that we didn't understand the tribal nature of the place before we went in there? If these decision makers had read about Alexander the Great's experience in this area and thought about it, things might have turned out differently.

Drago said...

So now it's racist to NOT THINK we need to leave troops in Afghanistan.

Drago said...

mtrobertslaw: "If these decision makers had read about Alexander the Great's experience in this area and thought about it, things might have turned out differently."

What was Alexander the Great's thoughts on Air Assault tactics?

J. Farmer said...

@Bobby:

The rise of ISIS is due primarily to the collapse of the Syrian state, something the US and the Gulf Arabs have been trying to make happen for at least the last few years. There are groups calling themselves ISIS in Libya under exactly the same conditions. Even if it was conceded that a residual force in Iraq could've been able to hold western Iraq together, we'd still be faced with a failed, fractured state in Syria.

As for the overall condition of Iraq, suffice to say, I have much less faith in what a residual US military presence could accomplish. The Kurds are of course interested in American military guarantees because they are trying to run a de facto state of Kurdistan. The modern political borders of Iraq enclose people who do not want to live together. That is the fundamental dynamic at play in that society, and a residual US military personnel would primarily be a side show. To me, trying to guarantee the political integrity of Iraq makes about as much sense as trying to guarantee the integrity of Yugoslavia. It is all doubly pointless since none of this seriously threatens our national security. ISIS is a gruesome bunch, but they do not threaten us in any serious way. If the Turks and Arabs feel threatened, then let them deal with it.

Bobby said...

William,

"There are lots of people willing to fight, but I don't think the causes of the Taliban or ISIS are in the rational self interest of even their own members, much less their subject populations."

They're not- not if you live in this world in the now and/or believe that through Christ your immortal soul will be redeemed. But for many (certainly not all, but you'd be surprised how many) of the Taliban, this really is about them believing that they are fighting a holy war on behalf of their family, their clan, their tribe, their nation. If the only way into heaven is a good and pious life according to the Taliban's interpretation of goodness and piety- and here I'll point out that Islamic scholars uniformly dismiss the Talibanic view of Islam as being heavily influenced by Pashtun cultural and social traditions, but the Pashtun don't recognize that (similar, perhaps, to how Catholicism practiced reductionism in Latin America to where you see things like the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico)- well, then how can you stand by and watch people you love- your son, your brother, your cousin, your neighbor- be led astray into this bad, sinful and evil way of life? And the only way to protect them from this sinful life (which they admit is more tempting than the absurd poverty and miseducation they peddle) is to eliminate any possibility of their fellow Afghans from making the "wrong" choice- which they do by prohibiting just about everything except breathing (and trust me, they'd find a way to ban that too, if they could). Many of them really do believe that they're fighting and burning the village in order to save it, and so in that way, it is in their self-interest. Of course, in reality, they're filled with tons of contradictions and violations of their own tenets, but they don't see and can't see it because they're blind to their faults.

I don't agree with the Taliban or their viewpoints- I think they're big-time idiots. But I'm trying to honestly represent their perspective as they purported it to me instead of just caricaturing them as so many others do. That should go without saying, but I say it anyway, because on this blog it seems many of the commenters think insufficient condemnation at every moment means you therefore support that something.

"Can you predicate a good outcome and a possible way to reach it?"

Unfortunately, I don't. I do think that some combination of security assistance, unconventional warfare and counter-terrorism can- at least theoretically- create the time and space that the Afghan government needs to build legitimacy and ultimately stand on their own. And to that extent, I think it's a good thing that we're down-sizing our presence so the US military won't be tempted to do it for them (and perhaps, more importantly, the vast reduction in discretionary impact funding that the military and USAID provided will reduce the rampant corruption as many of the power brokers see their profit margins reduce and seek greener pastures). But like I said before, I think all that takes decades. And I don't believe that America has the political will to gut it out. I actually agree with Dan Hossley in that the moment a Republican takes the White House- if we're still in Afghanistan- the Democrats will use that Afghanistan a political weapon to re-gain power... Kind of like they did with Iraq in 2006 and 2008.

Bobby said...

Farmer,

"Even if it was conceded that a residual force in Iraq could've been able to hold western Iraq together, we'd still be faced with a failed, fractured state in Syria."

I never intended to imply I believed that a post-2011 continued US presence in Iraq would have prevented the rise of ISIS. It would have blunted- perhaps even prevented- its successes in western and northern Iraq, but I agree that Syria was coming apart (given the demographics, it's almost a given that history will not end well for Assad and the Alawites) and something would have capitalized on Sunni disaffection there. But if Baghdad had been more accommodating to the Iraqi Sunnis (as happened from 2007-2011) instead of intentionally marginalizing them, ISIS recruitment in Iraq would have been hugely reduced.

"The modern political borders of Iraq enclose people who do not want to live together."

They do and they don't, right? None of the major and even semi-major parties run on irredentist platforms about creating their own ethnosectarian country. On the contrary, they reject any proposal (however much it makes sense to Westerners) at every opportunity. Rather, they each seem to believe that their faction should rule unchallenged over all the others. Edward Luttwak, in his "Give War a Chance" essay published maybe 20 years ago in Foreign Affairs, argued that we needed to let the Balkans just fight it out until they reached a point of moral exhaustion and would be willing to accommodate some cross-cutting ethnosectarian consensus. Don't know if that's really feasible today, when people getting their heads cut off will automatically cause the party out of power to turn it into an electoral issue to regain power in the United States.

By the way, as I'm sure you know, there was once a political movement in the Middle East that cut across ethnosectarian divisions- they were called the Communists, which I point out merely for the irony of how important it is to keep things in the present in a historic perspective.

Michael said...

Apparently the President actually is capable of learning from his mistakes. Although this does seem to be the first example.

J. Farmer said...

@Bobby:

"Sunnis (as happened from 2007-2011) instead of intentionally marginalizing them, ISIS recruitment in Iraq would have been hugely reduced."

I agree that such a scenario is at least plausible. But I don't have as much faith in you that a residual force would have given the US so much extra leverage to extract more concessionary behavior from the Maliki government.

"By the way, as I'm sure you know, there was once a political movement in the Middle East that cut across ethnosectarian divisions- they were called the Communists, which I point out merely for the irony of how important it is to keep things in the present in a historic perspective."

As an ethno-nationalist myself, I am always highly suspicious of any political movement that promises to "cut across ethnosectarian divisions." I am not sure such a political movement exists. If I was going to sum up the 20th century in four words, they'd be "diversity is a disaster." Of course majoritarian forces who stand to control the country don't want it broken up into smaller constituencies. The Kurds, who are about a fifth of the population, most certainly do want something that looks an awful lot like an independent state, as much as the Arabs and Turks are willing to accept anyway. I am not saying that there are volatile separatist groups vying for power in Iraq. I am talking about the lack of much more fundamental forces necessary for stable democratic governments to work.

jr565 said...

"“While America’s combat mission in Afghanistan may be over, our commitment to Afghanistan and its people endures,” said Mr. Obama, flanked by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his top military leaders. “I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”


So it was ok for Iraq to be a safe haven for terrorists, but not Afghanistan? the exact same argument he's using today regarding Afghanistan was used by those telling him not to withdraw in Iraq. When I was watching it I literally answered every point with "and how was this not as true for Iraq?"

Roughcoat said...

Bobby @4:16 PM:

Thanks for wishing us good luck. I respect your views. We're on the same side and I suspect we are in fundamental agreement on several issues related to the those discussed here. Would certainly enjoy a long conversation on Jomini and Clausewitz. Now there's my idea of a good time!

Wouldn't be surprised if we did know some of the same people ...

jr565 said...

Dan Howley wrote:
It should be obvious that we've already lost the war in Afghanistan. Leaving 5,000 troops does nothing to change the outcome.

This is Iraq all over again. The Joint Chiefs wanted a stay behind force of 25,000 and Obama would only agree to 5,000. The Iraqi's turned him down because the offer was a joke. It would take 5,000 troop to protect the US Embassy!


when it was bush the libs demanded that bush listen to the generals (any general that argued against policy that is). Yet here the generals are telling him they need 25,000 troops.
He wants the result, but he doesn't want to commit the troops to achieve the result. Stupid asshole.

Drago said...

Bobby: " But in full disclosure, I'm More Jomini than Clausewitz."

Finally, someone mentions Jomini in addition to Clausewitz!

It's sort of how Newton gets all the credit and von Leibniz is left watching from the wings.

Though I will be really impressed if any works in Liddell Hart.

Drago said...

Michael: "Apparently the President actually is capable of learning from his mistakes."

Actually, the President is capable of understanding what an election calendar is and does not want his policy in Afghanistan to completely collapse until AFTER the next election, when, I guarantee, any troops he has left in Afghanistan will be pulled between the election and inaugural.

Obama wants us out. He simply cannot afford another Iraq in Afghanistan (the fake "good war" according to the dems who are, of course, lying to everyone) which would tarnish any viable dem running.


Paul Ciotti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Ciotti said...

“I will not allow Afghanistan to be used as safe haven for terrorists to attack our nation again.”

And if you give me just two more terms without any boring complaints about the constitution I can wrap this up tighter than the pull-tabs on Hillary's panty hose.

10/15/15, 9:22 PM Delete

jr565 said...

J farmer wrote:
@Cubanbob:

"With Democrats and progressives setting the rules, the US can't win any wars."

By your definition, what will it mean to "win" the "war" in Afghanistan?

by your definition how would we win any wars? You are the same as the democrats.
But as to what winning the war in Afghanistan me as its that its not a terrorist state. It's stable. The Taliban is either vanquished or extremely marginalized and living in the hills. It doesn't have to be a liberal utopia. It just doesn't have to be a cess pool. And it might require we keep residual troops there for a long period of time.

AReasonableMan said...

jr565 said...
The Taliban is either vanquished or extremely marginalized and living in the hills.


The Taliban are an emanation of Pakistan's power. How do you eliminate the influence of this enormous, nuclear powered and very unstable state?

Michael K said...

" I have much less faith in what a residual US military presence could accomplish. "

In Afghanistan, we can accomplish nothing,

"The Taliban are an emanation of Pakistan's power. How do you eliminate the influence of this enormous, nuclear powered and very unstable state?"

Interesting day. I agree with ARM again. India is our ally, neglected almost his whole two terms by Obama.

Egypt is an ally and Obama tried to overthrow the government.

Interesting. Thank God that, in spite of Obama, we have developed energy independence. Imagine if we had a robust nuclear power sector.

David said...

AReasonableMan said...

The Taliban are an emanation of Pakistan's power. How do you eliminate the influence of this enormous, nuclear powered and very unstable state?


Where did you come up with that one? Taliban are one of several disruptive forces in Pakistan and are enemies of the established Pakistan state. The "central" government in Pakistan has large territories where its ability to govern is weak to nonexistent. Taliban are an emanation of the weakness of the power of the Pakistan state.

Roughcoat said...

More than any one single individual, Benazir Bhutto must be called to account for the creation and rise of the Taliban. The Taliban was very much her creature.

J. Farmer said...

@jr565:

"It doesn't have to be a liberal utopia. It just doesn't have to be a cess pool."

And what makes you think the US military can accomplish that?

Bobby said...

Farmer,

"I am not saying that there are volatile separatist groups vying for power in Iraq. I am talking about the lack of much more fundamental forces necessary for stable democratic governments to work."

I know, which is why I referred you to Luttwak's "Give War a Chance" article in Foreign Affairs. He got there in the summer of 1999. I just don't know how viable it is in the current informational environment- human tragedies abroad don't go unnoticed, are exploited by the American party of out of power in order to gain votes and the inevitable "we need to do something" (complete with a Russell Brand music video) forces us into doing something. Maybe you're saying in a more ideal world this wouldn't occur, but as long as we're wishing for a more ideal world, why don't we wish that those tragedies didn't occur in the first place and cut out the middle man? One is hardly less realistic than the other, frankly.

Paul said...

So Obama thinks he is keeping Afghanistan from terrorist but he will allow Libya and parts of Iraq and Syria to be safe havens for terrorists, right?

Achilles said...

J. Farmer said...
@jr565:

"It doesn't have to be a liberal utopia. It just doesn't have to be a cess pool."

"And what makes you think the US military can accomplish that?"

We did. Iraq circa 2010 was safer than Chicago and a few decades away from being Germany or Japan where we had troops for the last 70 years.

Drago said...

Michael K: "Interesting day. I agree with ARM again. India is our ally, neglected almost his whole two terms by Obama."

Agreement with ARM happens more than it seems because when there are disagreements those disagreements are often spectacular.

India is also a long term strategic "project" necessary to cultivate as a bulwark against the Chinese.

J. Farmer said...

@Achilles:

"We did. Iraq circa 2010 was safer than Chicago and a few decades away from being Germany or Japan where we had troops for the last 70 years."

First, there were a number of factors involved in the reduction in violence, so it is not quite accurate to say "we did" it. But even if we were to assign "the surge" the total credit for the reduction in violence, by the strategy's own terms, the reduction in violence was supposed to provide space for political reconciliations that never really happened.

Post-WWII Germany and Japan are meaningless analogies. Neither Germany nor Japan required nation-building. They were both very coherent nations with deeply shared cultural and historical traits binding them together. You're also disregarding the fact that Germany and Japan had been utterly destroyed in aggressive wars that they started. Germany and Japan also happened to be among the most industrialized, developed nations on the planet. There were dozens of variables more important in determining their outcomes than US military occupation.

@Bobby:

" just don't know how viable it is in the current informational environment- human tragedies abroad don't go unnoticed, are exploited by the American party of out of power in order to gain votes and the inevitable "we need to do something" (complete with a Russell Brand music video) forces us into doing something."

I am not so sure that this is true. A humanitarian interventionist, duty-to-protect foreign policy does not usually gain much traction. What we tend to get instead is scaremongering and threat inflation. It's always 1939; someone's always Hitler and someone's always Chamberlain. That's usually about as deep as the analogy extends. Regime-change and nation-building are remarkably foolish foreign policy goals to pursue, and it really boggles my mind that people who consider themselves "conservative" can support it. The US is conducting a Quixotic foreign policy and finding no shortage of windmills to tilt at.

As far as I am concerned, the most catastrophic foreign policy the US ever pursued was to enter the First World War on the side of the British. We broke ground with that decision, and we have not stopped digging the hole for ourselves since.




Anonymous said...

Maybe if he listened to his generals, instead of thinking he was smarter than everyone else (as usual) he would have figured this out years ago. This is what happens when a Narcissistic know it all gets elected.....

Rusty said...


First, there were a number of factors involved in the reduction in violence, so it is not quite accurate to say "we did" it. But even if we were to assign "the surge" the total credit for the reduction in violence, by the strategy's own terms, the reduction in violence was supposed to provide space for political reconciliations that never really happened.

Then were those pesky elections. Which by Illinois standards were an example of henesty.
So some form of Iraqi democracy was taking place.

Michael K said...

"Japan also happened to be among the most industrialized, developed nations on the planet."

That wasn't really true until Edwards Deming showed them how to do quality control. They had come a long way in armaments but consumer goods were after Deming.

"the most catastrophic foreign policy the US ever pursued was to enter the First World War on the side of the British."

I do kind of agree with you about WWI. I have discussed this with a friend who is retired British Army and they should have stayed out, too. It was the catastrophic decision of the Kaiser that forced their hand. In 1870, there was no German High Seas fleet. Wilson had a role to play that sort of resembles Obama in that he reassured the Germans that we would not go to war. I blame Roosevelt for Wilson. He should have left Taft alone but ego got control, as is so often the case.

Jake said...

But Iraq - Iraq can be a safe haven.

Roger Sweeny said...

I've been reading about Nixon lately and this sounds a lot like his problem, searching for (and trying to develop) "moderate" opposition (to ISIS or the NLF), not finding much that's any good, and desperately trying to get some sort of "peace with honor."

jr565 said...

"First, there were a number of factors involved in the reduction in violence, so it is not quite accurate to say "we did" it. But even if we were to assign "the surge" the total credit for the reduction in violence, by the strategy's own terms, the reduction in violence was supposed to provide space for political reconciliations that never really happened."

Such things take time. We needed to bug out and leave, thus not giving a chance to allow it to occur. Note, when Maliki was problematic, he was replaced in an orderly fashion, through the democratic process. That would NEVER have happened had Sadaam stayed in power. So there was already much change that had already occurred. We needed troops their to at least maintain that stability.

EMD said...

"The problem in Iraq and Afghanistan is the proponents misjudged the reasons for going in (Iraq really was no threat to us, then or in the near future, and Afghanistan housed Bin Laden but that's an argument for a surgical operation to catch and kill him, not take over and transform the country) and misjudged our likelihood of success with their game plans. "

This ignores the geopolitical realities in map-reading. Look in between Iraq and Afghanistan. What's there?

Rusty said...

EMD said...
"The problem in Iraq and Afghanistan is the proponents misjudged the reasons for going in (Iraq really was no threat to us, then or in the near future, and Afghanistan housed Bin Laden but that's an argument for a surgical operation to catch and kill him, not take over and transform the country) and misjudged our likelihood of success with their game plans. "

This ignores the geopolitical realities in map-reading. Look in between Iraq and Afghanistan. What's there?


Because!

Anthony said...

One of the real ironies of the whole thing is that in 2000 Bush was the one calling for the more humble foreign policy. I can remember Europeans I knew complaining to me before 9/11 that Bush was abdicating America's "role" in the world.

Sigivald said...

In the style of Glenn Reynolds:

They told me that if I voted for John McCain we'd still have troops in Afghanistan in 2016, and they were right.