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Afghanistan: Tell Me Why It Will Be Different

This post is aimed people who want to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan. According to the Congressional Research Service report Troop Levels in the Afghan and Iraq Wars, FY2001-FY2012: Cost and Other Potential Issues, we have roughly 42,000 soldiers (see p. 28) in Afghanistan at the present time. 30,000 more brings us up to 72,000.

What I’d like to know is why people think we’ll be able to manage with 72,000 troops what the Soviet Union couldn’t manage with more than 100,000 troops and far more willingness to “do whatever it takes” than even the most aggressive American neocon is willing to do.

For those who don’t remember the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, check out this 1995 article from the military sponsored Military Review:

THE SOVIET WAR IN AFGHANISTAN: HISTORY AND HARBINGER OF FUTURE WAR?
by General (Ret) Mohammad Yahya Nawroz, Army of Afghanistan
and Mr. Lester W. Grau Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, KS.
http://www.smallwars.quantico.usmc.mil/search/LessonsLearned/afghanistan/waraf%5B1%5D.asp

This article appeared originally in Military Review September/October 1995

There are differences between American and Soviet forces, most notably that the Red Army was conscript driven and we have volunteers (except for people serving under stop-loss orders). But still, a modern army fighting tribal warlords with more men and equipment than we have.

I know someone will tell me I’m not a military commander and that’s fair. I think it’s also fair to say that no general wants to be known as the man who lost Afghanistan. No career will be hurt by trying harder, even if it’s ineffective effort. But to come out and say that our campaign is following the path of previous British and Soviet efforts to conquer Afghanistan is probably a career killer.

We also need to consider what our goals are. If the goal is to keep al-Qaeda from regaining a training presence in Afghanistan, then we probably could do that by having more intelligence assets in the country and consistently reminding the Afghan government (or the local warlord) of what happened the last time they gave sanctuary to al-Qaeda.

I supported this war from it’s inception through last year. But I believe we’ve done all we can with American military power and we’ve lost the support of most of the Afghan population. It’s time to search for another way. Unless someone can tell me how another 30,000 troops will avoid a Soviet/British style quagmire.

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3 Responses

  1. I don’t know if it will be different, but I know that when we first invaded Afghanistan, that was where the taliban/alQaeda was located. They were the ones responsible for 9/11, so it made sense to me to go after them. Invading Iraq made no sense at all (except to Cheney/Bush and those who made billions from it). If we had put our time, effort, money, and lives into continuing the attack in Afghanistan instead of wasting it on Iraq, we might have had some success. Maybe. Now, IMO, it is too late. AlQaeda has spread from Afghanistan into Pakistan and has made inroads into other parts of the world, as well. Our focus in Iraq gave them a wonderful opportunity to spread and escape. It’s sad that our President and his ilk cared more about getting richER than about our security. I pray that President Obama will be able to undo some of the harm Bush, Inc. did.

  2. The initial invasion made sense to me to. And I agree with you that we had a chance to achieve our victory aims (capture top al-Qaeda leadership and facilitate a US friendly government) if we hadn’t ran off to Iraq for no good reason. We have lost the initial support we had from the Afghan people who mostly seemed to view us as liberators from the Taliban. Now most of them see us as unpopular foreigners propping up a corrupt, fraudulent government. Kind of how the Soviets were viewed in the 1980s. I assert we’re less brutal than the Soviets were, but foreign troops who don’t understand your language or culture are seldom welcome anywhere.

  3. One way we could do very well in Afghanistan is provide massive amounts of civil support in the way of medicine, road and building construction, food, education, cultural heritage preservation, support for local industries and agriculture, etc. If the US became the source for support for self-determination and good things, then perhaps this country, which is, I believe, the third-poorest in the world, might after a while decide that warlords and Al-Quaeda just aren’t that cool.

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