This Is The War That Never Ends

It just goes on and on my friends.

The United States’ plan to wind down its combat role in Afghanistan a year earlier than expected relies on shifting responsibility to Special Operations forces that hunt insurgent leaders and train local troops, according to senior Pentagon officials and military officers. These forces could remain in the country well after the NATO mission ends in late 2014.

…Under the emerging plan, American conventional forces, focused on policing large parts of Afghanistan, will be the first to leave, while thousands of American Special Operations forces remain, making up an increasing percentage of the troops on the ground; their number may even grow.

Three things.

1) You just knew this whole new “combat mission ends in 2013, troops out by 2014” was election-year spin, didn’t you?

2) This is yet another example of how special forces are becoming the mover-and-shaker of the military, with consequently rising budgetary and bureaucratic clout (as well as ever closer ties to the CIA, now run by SOF-fan General Petraeus.)

3) The Green Beret’s real mission, no matter what is being said now, is going to turn into refereeing the next Afghan civil war.

With Afghanistan’s three major political blocs and three major insurgent groups moving in opposite directions, the country is facing the prospect of total fragmentation. Here’s the worst-case scenario: The U.S. military reaches a settlement with the Afghan Taliban that does not address the country’s political future, Karzai holds on to power illegitimately while pressing for his own peace deal with the Taliban, non-Pashtuns rise in opposition to both Karzai and the Taliban, and the national security forces fracture along ethnic lines. At the same time, the three insurgent factions turn against one another as the Haqqani network exploits the chaos and maintains a rear defensive position in Pakistani safe havens. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s own domestic Taliban resurges and Islamabad faces yet another wave of terrorism and Afghan refugees.

Arif Rafiq’s plan to avoid this catastrophic scenario for Afghanistan involves “improving the quality, not the quantity, of the Afghan national army and police” and “the army professionalized to serve as a bulwark against fragmentation”. He doesn’t explicitly say so in his piece, but it’s pretty obvious from there who could form the most stable government. Rafiq’s course for Afghanistan most likely leads to a military junta running a U.S.-friendly dictatorship. We’ve plenty of experience at dealing with those.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • is trying to treat Afghanistan as if it were a country. It’s not, any more than Asia or Europe are countries.
    It’s a geographic area occupied by various tribal groups who, as a totality, lack a sense of nationhood commonly agreed upon.
    If you ask someone there who he is, he won’t say “Afghani”, he’ll give you the name of his tribe.

    Europeans ran into the same problem here 400+ years ago – no common entity, no established political structure to deal with.
    We’re dealing with it pretty much like we did with the Indians – violently.
    When it comes to ‘capturing their hearts and minds’, see how well that worked with our own tribes.

    It is worth remembering that the Founding Fathers were all traitors.

  • …Special Forces as the article implies (as opposed to Special Operations Forces, which is where the main effort will actually go in practice), it would be not the world’s worst idea.

    A green beret is a hat. A Special Forces soldier is, well, fill in the blank as appropriate.” ~ me

  • …training for attacks against the western homelands is now considerably longer than just al-Qa’ida…

    And the non -al-Qa’ida groups are able to spend more of their time not running for their lives. The al -Qa’ida guys have had the absolute shit kicked out of them. That’s the centrepiece to the “paper over it, call it good and get the hell out of Dodge” strategy that’s playing out.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

  • …we’re being set up as the fall guy for Israel and the European banking elite.

    Doing all the heavy lifting and dirty work and drawing the ire of the Muslim and Arab world as a consequence.

    I did inhale.

  • …the successful post 9/11 attacks have occurred. If the Europeans are “setting you up” they’ve a peculiar way of going about it.

    In combat one should be very suspicious of painless moral choices. When you are confronted with a seemingly painless moral choice, the odds are that you haven’t looked deeply enough.” ~ Karl Marlantes

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