The US Surge in Iraq and Other Thoughts on Counterinsurgency

In John’s post earlier today Jim, Foolish Literalist asked a question regarding the US Surge in Iraq, specifically whether if it wasn’t just the US paying off the Sunnis in Anbar. As someone who was assigned as the cultural advisor for a brigade combat team that was part of the Surge in 2008 (the second and final rotation of Surge brigades), I had a front row seat to what the Surge was and was not about. Jim is correct, but…

The US Surge in Iraq had the following components:

  1. A reversal in policy towards the Sunni tribes in Anbar that allowed a change in theater strategy so that US commanders could engage with the Sunni, and eventually some Shi’a, tribes involved in the Awakenings (Sawha).
  2. These engagements would leverage the Sawha and the tribes to create the Sons of Iraq program, where we paid Iraqis to serve as local security forces that were networked throughout each operational environment (OE).
  3. We Surged brigade combat teams (BCTs) into the city of Baghdad, as well as the agricultural areas surrounding the city of Baghdad in order to stop anti-Iraqi Government forces (al Qaeda/al Qaeda in Iraq, Jesh al Mehdi, etc). These are called qadas – the BCT I was assigned to was assigned first to Madai’an Qada, which was south and east of Baghdad and, by late 2008, also to Mahmudiya Qada, which is south and west of Baghdad.
  4. The Surged BCTs within the city of Baghdad were intended to restore order and normalcy after the sectarian cleansing of Baghdad in 2005 and 2006. The reality is that US forces in Baghdad did not so much as pacify the violence and stop the cleansing as stepped in after the cleansing had occurred, consolidated the Iraqi clearing into US forces holding. By doing so we basically blessed off on the results of the inter-sectarian cleansing and made it an irreversible fact on the ground and the de facto reality to this day in Baghdad. The Surged BCTs in the qadas were there to keep anti-Iraqi government forces from entering Baghdad to cause trouble.
  5. By 2008, as the first group of five surge BCTs was preparing to rotate home, and their replacements to rotate in, we began to more fully transition to working with the Iraqis to rebuild. Using counterinsurgency terminology we were moving from clearing and holding to holding and building.
  6. All of this was supposed to be done in a by, with, and through manner. Basically working with our Iraqi military, law enforcement, intelligence, governmental, community, and business partners. (This has worked far better in the fight against ISIS than it ever did prior to 2010. Some of this has to do with the Iraqis really wanting help this time, some of it is we’ve learned a lot of lessons over the years.)

That is pretty much the reality of the Surge. But there’s a few additional caveats I want to make. The first is that we were not really doing counterinsurgency (COIN). Despite all the ink spilled and digits digitized between the COINTras and the COINDinistas from 2007 on, we were not doing COIN in Iraq! What we were doing was adapting concepts from FM 3-24: Counterinsurgency. With the exception of Special Forces and some personnel in joint, multinational patrol bases, US forces in Iraq were not living among the host country population. Sure, we took the real estate we thought made tactical sense, fortified it, built bases on it – from patrol bases (PBs) to combat outposts (COPs) to forward operating bases (FOBs) to camps, and then we would roll off them for missions and return to them to reside. This is not what FM 3-24 means by living among/with the host country populace. The Iraqis could not enter one of our bases without permission, without being screened.

We drove from place to place in heavily fortified vehicles because of the IED threat, dismounted armed and armored, and proceeded to do whatever business we had to do. I’m almost 100% convinced that the first patrol that I and two of my teammates went on through Jisr Diyala’s market in Spring 2008 is etched in the local memories as two security contractors (me and one of my teammates) and an Army patrol escorting a US senator or congressperson through the market (we still tease him about it 9 years later – we love you Larry!). The patrol leader in charge of our security, and properly wary of the bad guys looking to exploit our newness in theater and having improper knowledge, kept us moving through, which partially negated why I wanted to tour the market – to get an idea of how well stocked it was, where the goods were coming from, and who and how many locals were in the market. Technically we were following GEN Petreaus’s oft stated concept, adapted from MG Buford’s own cavalry directives during the Civil War, to move mounted, work dismounted. But it was only a technicality.

Finally, in regard to the US Surge in Iraq, the closest we got to actually doing counterinsurgency was trying to work by, with, and through the Iraqis. This covered everything from training Iraqi security forces to overseeing the Sons of Iraq programs to working with local leaders, elected and traditional tribal and religious leadership. Unfortunately, regardless of all the tactical successes from 2007 through 2009 we had no strategic success. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is that a hallmark of a good COIN strategy, working by, with, and through the local population is that while you are working by with and through at the tactical (local) level you also have to do so at the theater strategic (national) level. The idea being that as you’re tactically building with the host country population you then pull that layer up to tether it to national government and attach the two. In Iraq, even when there was an effort to do this, the connection points always missed. This was the result of failures of the national command authority (Bush 43 Administration) in DC and their strategic priority of elections and a SOFA agreement, instead of reconciling the various Iraqi societal elements with each other, to their government, and their government to them. It also resulted from not listening to the Iraqis. Or listening, but not hearing. One of the things my teammates and I discovered after taking five months and doing in depth interviews with sheikhs, imams, and other local leaders, as well as more impromptu engagements with internally displaced Iraqis,* is that the Iraqis still had scores to settle with each other. This was also clear if one paid attention to the news reporting from Anbar and of officials from Maliki’s government between 2006 and 2009. The Iraqis were telling us that inter-sectarian violence was coming once we left. And when we did they proved that they weren’t just being hyperbolic.

I want to make a few, final remarks about counterinsurgency. Third party counterinsurgencies, which is what we’ve tried or approximated in Iraq and Afghanistan, are incredibly hard to do. Bordering on the almost impossible. Think back to the well known ones – the 117 year fight with the Moros in the Philippines, Malaya, the Japanese against the Dayeks in Borneo during WW II, Aden/Yemen, Kenya, Algeria, Vietnam (both the French and the US), and now Iraq and Afghanistan. How many victories are on that list? Just one: Malaya. And the British counterinsurgency campaign in Malaya was brutal. First party counterinsurgencies, such as the one the Nepalese fought, are much more likely to be successful. This is because both parties to that type of dispute live where they’re fighting. They both have a real, existential stake in where they are fighting. And, as a result, the preferred outcome of a counterinsurgency campaign – a negotiated settlement – is more likely to occur in a first party counterinsurgency like Nepal’s than a third party counterinsurgency like we’ve been pursuing.

There are also serious problems with FM 3-24. The historic example sections of the manual produced in 2006 is a mess. There was an attempt to fix it in the 2013-2014 revisions, but my understanding is that the inertia of staffing comments and revisions did them in.** The cultural section is also a bit of a mess and I don’t think it got any better in the revised document. But the biggest problem with all of this is the ahistoricity of the field manual. Despite referencing a number of historic insurgencies and counterinsurgencies, including confusing or conflating several terrorist campaigns as insurgencies, it seems to miss the forest for the trees. It fails to understand and state the specific context of various counterinsurgency approaches.

For instance, the discussion of the spreading ink spots that result from clearing, holding, building and ultimately linking an area to another that has been cleared, held, and built ignores the historical reality of the ink spot concept. Bernard Fall in his Theory of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency explains that the French developed the concept of the spreading ink spot in Algeria. The focus wasn’t to clear, hold, and build. Rather it was to take and hold the oases. Since everyone eventually had to come into the oases for water, this provided the French with the ability to make access to the water conditional on reconciling with French control and governance. Fall explains that the Vietnamese adaptation, the strategic hamlet, failed precisely because none of the Viet Cong had to come into the hamlets, so all the French did was fortify a border, inside of which the Viet Cong could move around with impunity, which they did. There were no oases to hold and connect in Vietnam, nor are there any in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria doesn’t need to come into any specific city. Similarly the Taliban in Afghanistan, as well as ISIS-Khourisan and the Haqqani network. Instead they need to take and hold them as conquest, as part of a state building strategy, to extend their influence and control for their operations, or some combination of these objectives. This is a radically different context from what the spreading ink spot was developed to address.

What I think we’re seeing with the sparsely detailed announcement the President made last night is really Secretary Mattis and LTG McMaster trying to buy a little more time. Had LTG McMaster gotten his reported desire for 50,o00 more Soldiers it might have made a dent, but it also would depend on what we’re going to use them for and how long we’re going to keep those troops there. Basically Secretary Mattis and LTG McMaster are trying to mitigate and manage the slow motion loss we’ve been enduring in Afghanistan for almost sixteen years so it doesn’t turn into a rout. This isn’t just about optics or egos, there are no good military solutions in Afghanistan. There haven’t been over the past sixteen years and there aren’t going to be any popping up in the foreseeable future. However, if we can’t mitigate and manage the failures of strategy, despite the efficacy of tactics, then we have the potential of an actual localized ripple effect throughout the region. Where the problems within Afghanistan spread to Pakistan and India and Iran and some of the southern Stans. This would take a bad situation largely localized in Afghanistan and turn it into a regional mess with multiple, overlapping problem sets (India-Pakistan rivalry, Russian near abroad in the southern Stans issues, Iran feeling threatened by the failure of an American war, etc). Good and effective strategists recognize that there are often no good outcomes to the problems they face. As a result the strategic options they develop are intended to manage and mitigate these bad outcomes so that failure doesn’t become catastrophic and to buy time.

The last good suggestion we had for dealing with Afghanistan was Vice President Biden’s counter-terrorism strategy proposal from 2009. We would be far better off if President Obama had embraced that suggestion eight years ago.

* I apologize in advance for the lack of typesetting in my article that I’ve linked to. I sent a penultimate draft in to the editor while I was on temporary duty in an operational planning team. I never received any galley proofs to examine. And it appears they actually added commas so that many sentences have Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics, Kings College London, University of St. Andrews, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, and Trinity College Dublin commas!

** In 2009 I was asked to submit suggestions for improving the culture section of FM 3-24, which I submitted through my chain of command at the time. In 2013 I was asked by a colleague, who had worked on FM 3-24 in 2006, for suggestions he would submit for consideration in the revised manual. He has a PhD in military history and I recommended, and he concurred, that the history section/chapter needed to be fixed. My understanding is that his recommendations on this were ignored.

81 replies
  1. 1
    Jeffro says:

    Basically Secretary Mattis and LTG McMaster are trying to mitigate and manage the slow motion loss we’ve been enduring in Afghanistan for almost sixteen years so it doesn’t turn into a rout. This isn’t just about optics or egos, there are no good military solutions in Afghanistan. There haven’t been over the past sixteen years and there aren’t going to be any popping up in the foreseeable future. However, if we can’t mitigate and manage the failures of strategy, despite the efficacy of tactics, then we have the potential of an actual localized domino effect throughout the region. Where the problems within Afghanistan spread to Pakistan and India and Iran and some of the southern Stans. This would take a bad situation largely localized in Afghanistan and turn it into a regional mess with multiple, overlapping problem sets

    Adam – not being facetious here – can’t we just set up on the borders of Afghanistan, facing inward, and hope to contain any problems, bad situations, ‘dominos’ within the country?

  2. 2
    Mary G says:

    The domino theory was part of the reason for us being in Vietnam. right? And it didn’t turn all the neighbors into Communists when we finally left, right?

    My real question is: does being in and having a morsel of control in Afghanistan of value to the US? I know Alexander the Great wanted it, and the Russians in the 1980s wanted it, but why?

  3. 3
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I confess I have not yet read your full post, Adam — it looks like a nice chewy read, and I’m saving it for later — but I have to tell you, I am in love with this sentence:

    And it appears they actually added commas so that many sentences have Oxford, Cambridge, London School of Economics, Kings College London, University of St. Andrews, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, and Trinity College Dublin commas!

    Comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon
    You come and go, you come and go….

  4. 4
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jeffro: It is not clear to me what the borders of Afghanistan would be after we leave. I don’t the current government would survive all that long. And I’m not really sure how much the Taliban can take and hold long term.

    @Mary G: Correct. But we’re not talking a spreading ideologically driven series of takeovers of existing states. Rather, in this case what the concern is is that if Afghanistan’s government doesn’t hold and the chaos that generates spills across its borders or forces its neighbors to get involved once the US and NATO leave then it will have security, and ultimately political repercussions throughout Central and SE Asia.

  5. 5
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I actually had a student who did that in his strategy research project at USAWC. I’d take commas out and he’d then add them back and then add additional ones in the next revision.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    This is excellent work, Adam.

  7. 7
    raven says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Laos is communist, Cambodia and Thailand are not.

  8. 8
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @raven: No argument here.

  9. 9
    Mike in NC says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: I used to edit manuscripts for a friend in New Orleans. He called me the Comma Killer.

  10. 10
    Mike in NC says:

    General Tommy Franks failed his mission in Afghanistan and it’s been all downhill from there.

  11. 11
    Mike in NC says:

    I doubt if that many Americans have seen Sebastian Junger’s “Restrepo” and “Korengal” documentaries. Sobering stuff.

  12. 12
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mike in NC: Yep.

  13. 13
    TenguPhule says:

    This would take a bad situation largely localized in Afghanistan and turn it into a regional mess with multiple, overlapping problem sets (India-Pakistan rivalry, Russian near abroad in the southern Stans issues, Iran feeling threatened by the failure of an American war, etc).

    With all due respect Adam, isn’t that largely what we already have now? Just Mattis and company are trying to avoid a real mass casualty clusterfuck on their watch with soldiers being literally chopped up on camera?

  14. 14
    Adam L Silverman says:

    Alright I’ve changed domino to ripple so as to avoid confusion.

  15. 15
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Alright I’ve changed domino to ripple so as to avoid confusion.

    Oh fudge.

  16. 16
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: No we don’t have that and haven’t had it.

  17. 17
    debbie says:

    Yay for the commas!

  18. 18
    The Lodger says:

    It’s those University of West LA Law School, University of West Georgia, Trump University, Liberty University, Regent University, Pepperdine, Baylor, commas you have to watch out for, Adam.

  19. 19
    Mary G says:

    I admit that I haven’t studied this at all, but the impression I’ve gotten from 14 years of reading the news is that one reason change is so intractable is this Afghanistan is less a country and more of a collection of tribes that all hate each other due to feuds going back centuries. I hoped going by his campaign rhetoric that Trump might just pull out of there, silly me.

  20. 20
    WaterGirl says:

    OT, but speaking of fudge (at #15) I noticed today that our relatively new grocery store has the Graeter’s ice cream that some of you guys talk about. I never paid much attention because I had never been that brand, but now I’m wondering – what are the flavors that you rave about here?

  21. 21
    debbie says:

    So I googled to remind myself what Biden’s plan was and the NYT is saying it was the forerunner for Trump’s plan. Can this be true? Would Trump ever acknowledge that?

  22. 22
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Mary G: There are no tribes in Afghanistan. There are various other types of kinship groups that we call tribes. Which is part of the problem we have in Afghanistan.

  23. 23
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WaterGirl: The mint chocolate chip was very good.

  24. 24
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @debbie: I haven’t seen the article, but I don’t think that’s accurate. What VP Biden wanted to do was pull the US almost completely out and then do over the horizon counterterrorism ops as needed.

  25. 25
    debbie says:

    @WaterGirl:

    Mocha chip is my favorite, but they’re all good. I’ve yet to spit out a bite of any flavor. You should pick a flavor you like and see how it measures up.

  26. 26
    debbie says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Here’s the link. The article attempts to cover all sides of the article. Trump agrees with Biden, Trump is more bellicose than Biden, etc, etc. But I can’t argue with this:

    “I had a strong sense of déjà vu listening to Trump’s speech,” said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “It’s almost as if our national security institutions and foreign policy elite are only capable of recycling different versions of some of the same ideas discussed for more than a decade and a half on Afghanistan.”

  27. 27
    WaterGirl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: @debbie: I spotted mint chocolate chip, will have to see about mocha chip. Is that basically coffee? Or is mocha more of a chocolate/coffee combo?

    My current favorite is Haagen Dazs sweet cream coffee caramel. I buy the little tiny sugar cones for portion control. It’s great in small quantities.

  28. 28
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @debbie: Katulis is spot on. One of the major problems we have with American foreign policy, let alone domestic, is that we have artificially narrowed the left and right boundaries of the debate of what is and is not acceptable policy. As a result we wind up with significant issues because we eliminate a lot of new, novel, and/or different possibilities before we ever get started.

  29. 29
    debbie says:

    @WaterGirl:

    Yes, the mocha has some chocolate in it, plus there’s chocolate chunks. All of their “chip” flavors are actually chunks of dark chocolate. Your store probably has Graeter’s peach ice cream, which is also very good. Black raspberry chip, vanilla chip, strawberry chip, double chocolate chip. You get the idea. I need to stop before I make myself hungry.

  30. 30
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @debbie: Chip chip. Extreme extra chip chip of death chip. Eventually they’re going to run out of chips.

  31. 31
    TenguPhule says:

    Donald Trump’s plan to end America’s longest war and eliminate Afghanistan’s rising extremist threat involves sending up to 3,900 additional U.S. troops, senior officials said today.

    So not so much a surge as a small tidal flow.

  32. 32
    debbie says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I would then grab a jar of their bittersweet fudge sauce and a spoon. It will never end! ;)

  33. 33
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Eventually they’re going to run out of chips.

    Gonna need a bigger cacao bean.

  34. 34
    WaterGirl says:

    @debbie: I see lots of “chip” in the names. Love peaches, the peach sounds intriguing. Thanks!

  35. 35
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    As a result we wind up with significant issues because we eliminate a lot of new, novel, and/or different possibilities before we ever get started.

    How much peace could we buy in Afghanistan in exchange for turning over Bush Jr and Dick Cheney over to the Afghani Women?

  36. 36
  37. 37
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WaterGirl: Try the peach chip.

  38. 38
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: I do not know.

  39. 39
    WaterGirl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Will do!

    Are the chips peach chunks or are all the “chips” chocolate, regardless of flavor? I see that has already been answered. Peach with chocolate chips is wrong!

    edited

  40. 40
    WaterGirl says:

    @debbie: You should never have mentioned bittersweet fudge sauce, that sounds dangerous. I will look for that, too. If things get bad enough, I might have to start bathing in that just to make life bearable.

  41. 41
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WaterGirl: I don’t think the peach has chocolate in it. I was just being a smartass.

    The peach is a seasonal flavor available in June and July:
    https://www.graeters.com/our-flavors-seasonal

    PEACH ICE CREAM
    JUNE-JULY
    Nothing says summer quite like fresh peaches and ice cream. Hand selected peaches blended right into our sweet cream brings this summer tradition to a whole new level.

    Here’s the chips:
    https://www.graeters.com/our-handcrafted-ice-cream-flavors

  42. 42
    gene108 says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    And I’m not really sure how much the Taliban can take and hold long term.

    Wasn’t the Talibans success in the 1990’s based largely on support from the Pakistani military?

    Basically you had a bunch of random warlords trying to hold what they could and here comes the Taliban backed by a professional military, which gave them an advantage.

    If the U.S. pulled out, would the support from Pakistan give the Taliban a similar advantage?

    @Mary G:

    The domino theory was part of the reason for us being in Vietnam. right? And it didn’t turn all the neighbors into Communists when we finally left, right?

    Cambodia became communist. I am not sure about Laos. But Cambodia and Laos may have had as much to do with our escalation of the war into their countries. Edit: Which caused governments there to be unstable and open for communists to take over.

    Anyway, back in 1999, Pakistan got a bunch of Afghan fighters to occupy the Kargil pass in the Indian portion of the Himalayan border with Pakistan. The fighters were equipped and supplied by Pakistan, and the Indian military took several weeks to dislodge them.

    Look for similar such acts of aggression to spread as a Taliban lead government would more than likely be sanctioned by the rest of the world, which means renting out their fighters to fight proxy wars may be one way to pay the bills.

  43. 43
    sharl says:

    I seem to recall that the U.S. had quietly developed a detailed and voluminous plan (“26-volume” is a phrase that seems to come to mind) for the occupation of Iraq after the conclusion of the 1990-1991 Gulf War which ended with a partial invasion into Iraq that Bush-41 halted well before U.S. forces reached Baghdad.

    Does anyone else remember reading about this plan, or am I misremembering? It may have never been officially confirmed that such a plan existed, although even if it did exist, Bush/Cheney obviously ignored it as they brought in interns from the Heritage Foundation and other such ideological young’uns to run major multi-million dollar programs after the 2003 invasion. Occupation decisions were made from the gut, if you will.

    I just tried a couple cursory searches for this (maybe real) occupation plan, but could not find anything definitive. General Anthony Zinni may have been somehow involved in its development, but other than that, I got nuthin’.

  44. 44
    WaterGirl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: And I learn that on August 22. Bastards! Thanks for the list.

  45. 45
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @gene108: We supported the mujahadeen partially through Pakistan. When we stopped Pakistan’s ISI, the Saudis, and other wealthy state and non-state actors filled the void. Hence bin Laden. The issue/question is who is going to step in this time when we go.

  46. 46
    WaterGirl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Oh my gosh, the peach sounds awesome. Chunks of peaches in sweet cream. I am now terribly sad. Perhaps I can console myself with the upcoming peppermint and pumpkin.

    They did give me an idea, though. I wonder if I could make Coquito (puerto rican eggnog) into an ice cream for christmas.

  47. 47
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @sharl: I think you are confusing the red storm contingency plan that Clancy fictionalized in Red Storm Rising that existed prior to Desert Shield/Desert Storm. It basically treated Iraq for what it was historically: OPEC’s strategic oil reserve. The contingency planning was based on the Soviets trying to invade Iran and then push into the Middle East to seize petroleum resources, warm water ports, etc. The portion for Iraq basically amounted to capping all the Iraqi petroleum resources in a way that would make it difficult for the Soviets to restart production and refinement. This also helps that most of Iraq’s oil isn’t where everyone thinks it is and isn’t actually being pumped or refined as a result of an agreement that predates OPEC. I wrote a post on this a while back.

  48. 48
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WaterGirl: Sorry.

  49. 49
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WaterGirl: I don’t see why not. Incorporate it into a plain ice cream base, then run it through your ice cream maker.

  50. 50
    WaterGirl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: And their photo of their peach ice cream is still at the top of their seasonal page. That’s why I called them bastards! Ever hopeful, I am still going to look for peach tomorrow, just in case it’s still available at the store. Maybe while supplies last? As I said, ever hopeful.

  51. 51
    WaterGirl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: It’s actually so rich, I wonder if it could be the ice cream base:

    Puerto Rican Eggnog – Coquito REVISED

    1 15-ounce cans coconut cream

    8 ounces of heavy cream
    2-3 splashes of milk
    1 14-ounce can evaporated milk

    1/2 cup Puerto Rican rum

    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
 – used about half of that, then added more just before serving

  52. 52
    debbie says:

    @WaterGirl:

    Then I won’t tell how good it is on top of their Christmas flavor, Peppermint Stick. 😇

  53. 53
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WaterGirl: Looks like it would to me. Make a batch and try it. What’s the worst that happens? You have Coquito slushies?

  54. 54
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @debbie: I’m not complaining or anything, but my attempt to do a topical, long form post on a major issue has been converted to a discussion of ice cream. Next time I’m just going to put up a post entitled Open Thread: Premium Ice Cream and wait for the questions about low intensity warfare in the comments.//

  55. 55
    sharl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Ah thanks, that’s probably it. I DID see Clancy’s name pop up with Zinni’s in my attempt to jog my memory via google search, so that may be how I got my wires crossed.

  56. 56
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @sharl: No worries.

  57. 57
    WaterGirl says:

    @debbie: Now that DOES sound good! We should have a BJ on-line ice cream party sometime in December!

    @Adam L Silverman: I’m so sorry, Adam, that’s my fault. I did not mean to disrupt your wonderful thread. I’ve just been so discouraged that I ran off on a tangent without paying any attention.

  58. 58
    WaterGirl says:

    Ahem, as I was saying about Afghanistan… the Taliban Chip is my least favorite flavor.

    Seriously, I think we should cut our losses and get out of there. The other choice is to be there into perpetuity. My slightly informed two cents.

  59. 59
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WaterGirl: @WaterGirl: No worries, I was just teasing. And it isn’t exactly a I can read this post in five minutes type of post. I just wanted to get it in before the Phoenix rally, and what I expect will be a lot of insanity, goes down this evening.

  60. 60
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @WaterGirl: There are no good options. There are only less bad ones.

  61. 61
    WaterGirl says:

    @Adam L Silverman: I knew you were at least mostly teasing, but still, I went OT pretty early in the thread, and I try to be more respectful than that. I learn a lot from your posts and really do appreciate them. I may not say that enough.

  62. 62
    Brachiator says:

    @gene108:

    .Anyway, back in 1999, Pakistan got a bunch of Afghan fighters to occupy the Kargil pass in the Indian portion of the Himalayan border with Pakistan.

    I think that it has long been accepted that the fighters were Pakistan army and Pakistan paramilitary forces.

    The whole thing also seemed more a weird attempt at ego boost by Pakistan rather than a military campaign with any reasonable goal.

  63. 63
    debbie says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    Sorry. I’ll try to remember to hold off until an open thread.

  64. 64
    Brachiator says:

    Great stuff, Adam. Another thoughtful post that I will save for later.

  65. 65
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @debbie: It is marked as an open thread, so no worries. I’m just teasing. I don’t enforce or really care about comment orthodoxy.

  66. 66
    Regnad Kcin says:

    @Adam L Silverman: you should just have this as a sticky post every day like Alain’s “on the Road”

    http://smallwarsjournal.com/do.....senemy.pdf

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Regnad Kcin: Given that I’ve posted the link to that here several times, including last week, I know both the authors – we worked in the same program, and they were feeding me material as I prepped for what I thought would be a deployment to Afghanistan, I’m very, very familiar with it.

  68. 68
    TenguPhule says:

    @Adam L Silverman:

    I don’t enforce or really care about comment orthodoxy.

    But heaven forbid someone bring up bacon ice cream.

  69. 69
    Chris says:

    @Jeffro:

    Adam – not being facetious here – can’t we just set up on the borders of Afghanistan, facing inward, and hope to contain any problems, bad situations, ‘dominos’ within the country?

    The borders of Afghanistan are entirely lined with countries that are hostile to us (Iran, China), countries that are heavily under the influence of those hostile to us (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, all with close historic ties to Russia), and Pakistan, which is almost as big a shit-show as Afghanistan and is inextricably linked to that shit-show in any case. Setting up a perimeter of any kind would require far more cooperation with hostile nations than we’re currently willing to consider, and then there’d still be Pakistan.

    Basically: Fuck.

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    Adam L Silverman says:

    @TenguPhule: Has that been a problem here before?

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    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Fuck, I jus borked my own long comment.

    Too tired to retype it all, just wanted to say that I wasn’t so much trying to say the Surge was just the pay-off aspect

    I may have this wrong, but as I remember it a key part, maybe the key part, of the “surge” was a massive pay off to Sunni tribal and militia leaders in western Iraq to side with US and the gov’t in Baghdad. From what I’ve read, there’s little comparable in Afghanistan either in Kabul or as a stable power structure in the provinces that we can negotiate with. To John McCain, Lindsey Graham and their media allies, the Surge was a display of steely-eyed, barrel-chested military might; to Petraeus, it was just as much a pragmatic exercise of diplomacy, flexibility and “soft power”

    just trying to pushback against the McCain-Friedman-Graham-Kristol-Blob notion that the solution to most foreign policy problems, especially in the MENA, is military force, it’s just a matter of slightly altering the application of military force to reach the desired end. If it takes sixteen years or, to borrow a phrase from McCain, why not fifty? why not a hundred?

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    Chris says:

    @sharl:

    Zinni’s biography was co-authored by Tom Clancy (one of those setups where Clancy basically loaned his name to someone to boost recognition). If there’s an association in your head, that may be why…

    It’s a good read, incidentally.

  73. 73
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist: No worries. You gave me something to work with.

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    Regnad Kcin says:

    @Adam L Silverman: yep, i just mean it oughta be required reading before people post in your threads

  75. 75
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Regnad Kcin: Gotcha. Everyone makes this mistake. I’ve corrected readers here. I’ve corrected sergeants, colonels, generals, senior executives, and everyone in between on this point. It is simply the common knowledge, despite it being wrong. It is what it is.

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    Ruckus says:

    @WaterGirl:
    All of them Katie. All of them.

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    Vhh says:

    It sounds that the “new” Afghanistan strategy of winning-by-not-losing-outright really amounts to more “not on our watch” aka kicking the can down the road.Fine except that our hated presence inspires new terrorists. Fine except for the young people who come back minus legs,arms, or worse. All for honorably not losing. Meanwhile, Putin ties us down by just providing missiles to the mujahadeen. And our Navy keeps hitting huge cargo ships and coming out the worst for it.

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    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Vhh: Pretty much.

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    Vhh says:

    @Adam L Silverman: And so I am unimpressed with the oh so brilliant generals of our junta-lite who are merely covering ass. If the Afghan tribes get their act together, we are heading for an inglorious bloody exit, like the Brits in 19th C Afghanistan (one surviving soldier, families as hostages) or the French at Dien Bien Phu. Ifthe status quo continues, our soldiers die slowly, and obviously for nothing. By comparison, the rapid surprise Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan looks brilliant. Trump is again a weak, vain, corrupt, Useful Idiot without the brain or spine to take a leadership decision and all its consequences.

  80. 80
    Vhh says:

    @Adam L Silverman: And so I am unimpressed with the oh so brilliant generals of our junta-lite who are merely covering ass. If the Afghan tribes get their act together, we are heading for an inglorious bloody exit, like the Brits in 19th C Afghanistan (one surviving soldier, families as hostages) or the French at Dien Bien Phu. Ifthe status quo continues, our soldiers die slowly, and obviously for nothing. By comparison, the rapid surprise Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan looks brilliant. Trump is again a weak, vain, corrupt, Useful Idiot without the brain or spine to take a leadership decision and all its consequences.

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    central texas says:

    Being a child of the great SEA Cluster-F, I am sensitive to dominoes by whatever name. I gather from your responses above that we fear that our 16 years of “help” has rendered Afghanistan incapable of being governed/controlled/whatever by anyone, the Taliban included. Given that we were negotiating oil pipeline routes with the last functional Afghan government,who were the the Taliban, it seems that our lives and money have only made things worse. I am a loss to understand the argument that if we just keep the same folks in charge, add yet more treasure and a few more American lives and a pot full of dead Afghanis, we will be able to sneak out of the country someday and no one will be any the wiser.

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