Actually, Our Afghanistan Strategy is NOT Working


Excellent commentary by Michael Shank, senior policy adviser to Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA-15).
Sober, serious, point by point critique of administration’s counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan.
— Steve Clemons


16 comments on “Actually, Our Afghanistan Strategy is NOT Working

  1. Mohamed Cassam says:

    Re China’s above mentioned investments in A’stan and neighboring ‘Stans, clearly indicates that it is in the value adding business. Can’t say that for our junkerdom, who think we must spend $2-3 billion /week fighting 50 or so Wahabi terrorists hiding among the Pushtoon tribes east of the Durand Line. If they exist at all: don’t believe what the war mongers tell us. Embarassing enough that the Pentagon brass..stoopidest white men in uniform… seem not to be winning a war of their own choice after 9 years and at least $500+ billion.
    Modern American imperialism is plundering. Plundering the Treasury, the US Treasury.


  2. John Waring says:

    Interesting article by Christopher Hitchens.
    I agree with Peter Galbraith: both sides are playing us, and we’re too clueless to realize it.


  3. DakotabornKansan says:

    Use of political WMD against democracy itself


  4. questions says:

    This is just bizarre, or unfortunate, or merely typical:
    It seems that having your salary go from 300k to 500k for the year is not the same as getting a huge bonus at the end of the year. So the “zeroes” are freaking out.
    Now, I was of the understanding that a higher base pay was always better than a bonus because the higher base pay increases future percentage pay raises. But what do I know, I’m not an economist.
    If you look at these numbers, you just wonder about humanity, relative judgment as compared to absolute judgment, what the hell are they thinking when unemployment is where it is.


  5. Warren Metzler says:

    Relative to this topic, I wanted to present information about statistics, because of its relevance to the polling mentioned by Michael Shank.
    Statistics grew out of studies of probability that apparently began in the 1600’s. The “science” of statistics began in the 1920’s with the development of mathematical formulae that could be used to analyze data. All polling is done with the use of statistics. But you should know that no one has ever proven that a single statistical calculation can accurately predict a single outcome. So the idea of using a sample size of 1,200 people to predict the views of a whole nation of people has never been proven to work.
    Further, since statistical calculations are used to arrive at polling conclusions, the only way you can poll a population is to reduce to the possible answers to those that can be translated into numbers: hence the questions with multiple choice answers. And this is results in a major problem: what if the answers of most citizens are not one provded in the given multiple choice questions? And this is my experience. I was called for three national polls. And in each one, not once were the four answers given for any question close to my view on that subject.
    Therefore, I suggest to you that polls NEVER provide an accurate awareness of how people approach any issue. So polls are impossible to provide clarity regarding any one public’s view of how a certain situations should be handled.
    Then there is the idea of which populations you can poll, because all polls are done contacting a small group of people, and then assuming that accurate statistical calculation of the data with reveal how the total population views that issue. Hence enters the term “random sample”. You have to unbiasedly choose who to contact and ask the poll questions.
    In developed countries this is considered no problem, because you just call like every 10th person in the phone book, and it is assumed that almost everyone has a phone, so every 10th person is a random sampling of the whole population. But that becomes an impossibility in countries like Afghanistan, where a very small percentage of the population has a land line, and those who have cell phones are not representative of the majority of the population. So I suggest, apart from the fact that polls can’t give you an accurate sense of how people really feel regarding any one issue, in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan it is literally impossible to get a random sample to assess with your statistical calculations.
    There anyone who is assessing the Afghanistan population by using polls is uninformed and almost guaranteed to give you a wrong conclusion about the issue he, or she, discusses.


  6. Don Bacon says:

    Considering the vulnerability of naval ships these days to quiet submarines, smart mines, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles they should have named it the USS Edsel Ford.


  7. sanitychecker says:

    POA: Next thing you know, one of those deep strategic thinkers will reveal to us that a solution to the I/P conflict might be difficult to reach.
    DB: Isn’t naming an aircraft carrier the USS Gerald Ford asking for trouble? I hope they have life jackets onboard.


  8. Don Bacon says:

    Let’s see, China is spending to $3.5bn in Afghanistan and will wind up with a huge copper mine, a power plant, a railroad, and tons of copper. That same amount of money isn’t enough to fund two weeks of US military activity in Afghanistan, including protecting the Chinese investments, but it is double the cost of operating the Afghansiatn ‘government’ for a year.
    China doesn’t have any aircraft carriers, though. I guess they don’t realize what’s important. The USS Gerald R. Ford now being built has already cost %5.4bn. One ship. The US Navy now has ten carriers, and two more will be built after the USS Ford.
    China now does have the capability to sink naval fleets with ballistic missiles delivering independently-targeted warheads. But as with Afghanistan don’t let facts get in the way of a commitment.


  9. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Actually, Our Afghanistan Strategy is NOT Working”
    My Gawd! I sure am glad we have these think tanks and foreign policy wonks to clue us in, Steve!
    I mean, egads, can you imagine us lowly outside-the-beltway morons reaching such conclusions on our own?????


  10. Don Bacon says:

    Yes, China has an interest in east-west land (and water) movement. They have been more interested in Central Asia but they are interested in Afghanistan too as a straight shot into Iran.
    In 2008 China won a $3.5 billion contract to develop Afghanistan


  11. Warren Metzler says:

    I propose an alternative view. No country can have a viable democracy until almost all the citizens perceive themselves as individuals, citizens of that country, and are willing to lose an election.
    Most of the citizens of Afghanistan define them by their tribal identity (and most of the tribes hate each other), are obviously to the fact one can be an individual, and are fundamentally unwilling to to lose an election.
    Until this current situation changes to what I described above, it is literally impossible to form a stable government, because all people who are willing to be in such a government are egotistical, very corrupt fascists. I perceive that all humans move slowly toward the developmental skills I describe above, but only through self-government, never through other countries imposing themselves. And will take a long time, during which much unpleasantness will occur.
    Until we leave and leave them to fend for themselves, they will make no progress in this direction.
    If we don’t leave the outcome will duplicate Vietnam.


  12. rc says:

    The natural land-link between China and Iran is under emphasized in the above analysis. China’s deep water port in Sri Lanka (paid for by guns from China to defeat the Tamils) gives China a navel base in the Indian ocean right next door to India as part of a sea route to Iran and Africa. A land link to Iran gives China (and by extension North Korea) a trade route with one of the largest oil-gas producers in the world. Afghanistan is a strategic crossroads running both north-south and east-west. The fall back for Pakistan from Indian hegemony is obviously Iran (after all Pakistan was part of British India) and both Iran and Pakistan have strong economic links with China. The US is in trouble if it stays and in trouble if/when it goes. A bit like the former USSR, the blow back may be more domestic in the end.


  13. sanitychecker says:

    To counter the lies from the government we need Wikileaks more than ever. That’s how we find out that while the public is fed tales of success and victory, privately it’s all about “unwinnable,” “trainwreck,” “hopeless,” and other adjectives that say more than a thousand speeches by the Liar-In-Chief.


  14. Don Bacon says:

    Thanks, JohnH, and for clarifying that’s it’s “Silk” Road. That bill was wrtten but not passed in 1999 and again in 2006. There are several think-tank studies explaining and promoting US financial interests in Central Asia. It’s an area analagous to eastern Europe — the Soviet demise has opened economic opportunities for US corporations. Natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, minerals and water.
    Michael Shank makes correct statements about polls and humanitarian conditions. Unfortunately they don’t matter. Polls don’t matter at all to the decion-makers, nor do the humanitarian, financial or economic condition of those affected, in this case Americans and Afghans.
    The war must go on, in spite of intelligence reports, in spite of costs and conditions, in spite of everything that makes any sense, and especially is spite of what people want.
    Proof: At the recent AfPak Assessment news conference, after a couple soft-ball questions to Secretaries Gates and Clinton, a reporter in the front row asked (paraphrased): The American people, according to a recent poll, think that the Afghanistan war is a bad idea. What about that?
    SecDef Gates gave a clear dictatorial response (again paraphrased):
    It’s not only the US polls. In all 49 US-allied countries polls show that the people are against participation in this war. But leaders have a resonsibility not to respond to polls but to do what’s in the public interest. (end Gates)
    The state knows what’s in the public interest and the public doesn’t, the story goes. What do we have, DADT for wars?


  15. JohnH says:

    Don Bacon clearly illustrates US’ inability to do anything but stammer when articulating its Afghan strategy. Of course, this only reinforces the view that the US is totally flummoxed about why it is in Afghanistan. Either that, or the US is there for a some hidden agenda that is too nefarious to be exposed for public viewing. (which is what invites leaks from organizations like Wikileaks and explains the US’ outrage when it gets outed.)
    As usual, it is best to totally disregard US government statements, which are basically half truths if not outright lies.
    Better to pay attention to US behavior. Oh, surprise! surprise! “Pipeline project a new Silk Road.” And it runs right through the heart of Pashtun territory!
    Folks, you won’t see Steve, or anyone else in Official Washington admit it, but Afghanistan is about US control over the industrial world’s lifeblood–oil and gas. Oh, and maybe poppy production, too.


  16. Don Bacon says:

    Why the US is in Afghanistan
    The US intended to go into South Asia anyhow, for reasons explained below, but the 9/11 events served the purpose for going in, and recenly serve to be a continuing reason for staying despire the setbacks.
    President Obama, March 27, 2009: “to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.”
    And on December 1, 2009: “We must deny al Qaeda a safe haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government.”
    The December 2010 assessment stated: “And in Afghanistan, the momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas, although these gains remain fragile and reversible.”
    And: “This review also underscores the importance of a sustained long-term commitment to the region


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