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Follow Ups to the Follow Up….

One of the rewards of blogging is to set a discussion in motion and watch the debate unfold. Here’s two more well worth your time.

For those unfamiliar with Project White Horse, it is a site moderated by Ed Beakley, deeply influenced by the ideas of John Boyd, dedicated to critical inquiry as to how American first response, security and defense can become more adaptive and resilient in the face of emerging threats. If you were a fan of Dr. Chet Richards’ now defunct DNI, I strongly suggest that Project White Horse should become a regular read

Ed Beakley at Project White Horse

EEI#27 “What kind of War?” – First Addendum – The Post-COIN Era is Here

….The Post-COIN article has received significant discussion on other blogs, critical review, and comment including from author of The Pentagon’s New Map, Thomas P.M. Barnett. One line of reasoning introduced by Barnett is the degree to which COIN and the debate and decisions have impact on the larger defense and security issues facing DOD and the nation.

In  preliminary articles (EEI’s #6, #7, #10) to the “what kind of war” series, the point was made that as we move in time from 9-11, the  force structure and technical direction decisions made by and for DOD will impact decisions on risk mitigation, risk management, and  level of risk acceptance that the homeland security, public safety and first responder organizations nation-wide will have left on their plate. Understanding these issues, it would seem then , is essential and critical for citizens, private sector and local government alike.  In that sense, to what degree counter insurgency, COIN, is considered method, tactic, tool or core to strategic thinking has significant ramifications –

Gates is attempting to change not just what the Pentagon is buying, but its fundamental understanding of what it is procuring weapon systems for and why. Cold War-era weapons with such focused utility as the F-22 are not what he believes the Pentagon needs with an uncertain future… Gates is attempting a more fundamental reorientation of the entire Pentagon, with greater emphasis on the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, ‘hybrid wars’ and ‘fourth-generation’ warfare. (STRATFOR analysis on the F-22 decision)


While I linked to Miss Pundita previously, newer readers here may not be familiar with her (as I noted from Madhu’s enthusiastic comment about her last post). Pundita specializes in inside-the-beltway diplomatic and economic commentary, laced heavily with political scuttlebutt and graceful rhetorical punches to the kidneys of the State Department.

Afghanistan War: McChrystal’s Choice, and an updated version of “The Bridge on the River Kwai”

…..Taliban are not Viet Cong

The Italian bribery scandal folds into the story of widescale bribery payments to the Taliban so they won’t attack ISAF supply routes. Shortly after The Nation published a jaw-dropping investigative piece on the bribery, Rufus Phillips told John Batchelor that the same thing happened during the Vietnam War, that U.S. troops paid Viet Cong not to attack U.S. supply convoys so “those people down in Washington” shouldn’t work themselves into a lather about similar arrangements with the Taliban. Beginning in 1954 Mr Phillips, who’s a frequent guest on John’s nightly Afghanistan War panel, “spent almost 10 years doing undercover and pacification work for the CIA and the U.S. Agency for International Development in South Vietnam,” according to the publisher’s review of his book about Vietnam, and he remained plugged into the Vietnam War throughout.(1) So I have no reason to dispute his contention.However, I don’t recall ever hearing that the Viet Cong shared proceeds from their moonlighting with people who plotted and carried off catastrophic attacks on the U.S. homeland. One problem with ISAF forces and their contractors bribing the Taliban to guard supply routes is that they never know whether they’re inadvertently donating to Pakistan’s military and al Qaeda. Yet evidentially the tack will be on the table during Thursday’s summit in London. From yesterday’s Q&A in the Financial Times about McChrystal’s openness to negotiating with the Taliban:

Q: Can Taliban fighters simply be bribed?A: Maybe. Western countries gathering in London for a conference on Thursday will pledge funds for a scheme outlined by Hamid Karzai, the president, to try to lure Taliban foot soldiers with job offers. Details remain sketchy. Insurgents may simply accept the incentives then return to the fight. The central problem remains: the Taliban may simply believe it can outlast the west.

Even assuming that the Taliban could be bribed, and that they’d stick to their agreement, this does not address the biggest issues. The overriding issue is how to prevent the Taliban from using force of arms to take over Kabul and launch a massacre of non-Taliban Afghanis if U.S. forces decamp.

Finally, I would like to thank Dave Schuler of The Glittering Eye for nominating The Post-COIN Era is Here  at The Watcher’s Council. Much appreciated Dave!

6 Responses to “Follow Ups to the Follow Up….”

  1. onparkstreet Says:

    I AM enjoying Pundita’s commentary. It’s manages to be detailed and engaging at the same time.
    Comment exit question based on the latest Gulliver post at Inkspots (Just what the heck is going on in the Arghandab? – to paraphrase)
    Can we really call it an insurgency? Or, are two separate groups – us and them! – both trying to kind of nation build at the same time? Shadow versus central government reaching out to rural areas? Hey, I only started reading about this stuff about a year or so ago so I know absolutely nothing 🙁
    – Madhu

  2. onparkstreet Says:

    Here’s the link:
    – Madhu

  3. zen Says:

    Hard to say Madhu. High casualties for this unit compared to others probably have multiple causes, including things as mundane as bad luck and human error, but when they occur consistently over period time there’s a systemic problem  and the responsibility lies with the leadership. If they cannot speedily identify and fix it, they need to be relieved and replaced.

  4. Ed Beakley Says:

    Most appreciate the comments and provision of the link to PWH

  5. JV Says:

    You have stirred it up! Eggsalent! Now I have to look up the other blogs you have listed and see what they say.

    Still have to answer the question of what is the geopolitical value of Afghanistan and why a war there, any kind of war, produces benefits for the US? What is the objective of spending huge amounts of money and the lives of young dedicated and sacrificing men and women there. The most sad reason of all would be that withdrawing would give another political party in America ammunition for future elections.

    If the US defeats the Taliban or AlQ have they changed the ideas and culture that made them? What does “defeating them” really mean?

    How does military intervention, COIN, bombing, anything persuade Afghanistan or Pakistan that a model of a future government/culture made in the image of America is better. What is the value proposition for them at the point of a gun?

    Or do they quietly look at a Chinese model or a Russian model that is not the guys with guns and offers financial gains without all the overhead of moral preaching and ego that America brings there?

    Exit strategy?

  6. zen Says:

    Hi JV,
    "Still have to answer the question of what is the geopolitical value of Afghanistan and why a war there, any kind of war, produces benefits for the US?"
    In itself, Afghanistan has no intrinsic value except as proximity to al Qaida hideouts in Waziristan and Baluchistan to seed in drones and special ops teams to kill these ppl. This should be done on the "Keyser Soze Rule of International Relations" – we want ppl to assume that if you do something like 9/11, we will find you and kill you, all your friends, your family and the people who gave you money.
    Doing this should not be running $ 60 billion annually and the reason is largely our elites maintaining the pretense that Pakistan is not an enemy state. It is. Let’s figure out how to deal with that strategic level reality now that we are going on nine years later.

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