Obama announces rapid drawdown of surge forces from Afghanistan


President Barack Obama announced a swift drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan in a nationally televised speech from the East Wing last night. The announcement reflects an abandonment of a counterinsurgency-heavy strategy advocated by US military commanders and a shift to less manpower-intensive counterterrorism operations advocated by members of the Obama administration.

President Obama's drawdown plan calls for a reduction by 10,000 of the more than 100,000 US troops currently in country by the end of this year. Roughly a brigade of troops, estimated at 5,000, will be withdrawn beginning next month. A second brigade of 5,000 troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan by the beginning of 2012.

An additional 23,000 US soldiers will be withdrawn by the end of the summer of 2012. This will lower the number of troops in Afghanistan to 67,000, which is the same quantity present before the "surge" was deployed in accord with President Obama's announcement of a new strategy in a December 2009 speech. A steady reduction of US forces will continue though 2013 and 2014, until only a small residual force is left by the end of 2014.

A high-risk strategy

President Obama's plan indicates that the US and NATO transfer of control to Afghan security forces will be accelerated, forcing them to divert energy from building and training forces to actively assuming security responsibilities. This high-risk plan relies on the nascent Afghan security apparatus to battle the Taliban in areas outside of government control while negotiating a political settlement with the top levels of the Taliban movement. President Obama also indicated that he will continue to attempt to work with Pakistan to deal with terrorist sanctuaries there.

The US will likely remove the first batch of troops from the southern region, where the bulk of the 33,000 surge forces were deployed. Security in the south has improved since the surge began, and the US believes there are sufficient Afghan forces available to start taking over. The remaining US forces, while smaller in number, will be required to complete the remaining combat operations while transitioning a portion of their numbers to mentoring the Afghan security forces.

The quick drawdown means that the US and NATO will not have enough forces to address the problems that still exist in the east and the north, where the situation has either remained the same or, in some cases, worsened. President Obama's announcement means that troops freed from the south will not be redeployed to the east. They are being withdrawn altogether, while the remaining troops in the south will be kept busy completing the mission there before the final pullout in 2013-2014.

This means that the burden of securing the east and the north will fall on the Afghan security forces, without the support of surge forces. The Afghans will have a fight on their hands, one at least as tough as the conflict in the south. In order to prevail, Afghan security forces will have to improve quickly and significantly, which is a capacity that has not been demonstrated thus far.

Under these conditions, it is not reasonable to expect Afghan security forces to be able to beat back the insurgency, specifically in the east, where the enemy is effective and the terrain is difficult. The east will continue to be a violent, unstable place for some time to come and the insurgency, with access to sanctuaries across the border in Pakistan, will continue to threaten the stability of Afghanistan as a whole. This was alluded to by a senior US military official in a statement made to The Washington Post.

"It's the last place we will be fighting," a senior US military official told The Washington Post last week. "And the Afghans will be fighting there in perpetuity. It's a bad neighborhood."

The effects of the surge

President Obama's call for a rapid drawdown in forces marks the end of the surge and the beginning of the US exit from Afghanistan.

The decision to send more forces to Afghanistan came after months of pressure from US commanders, who warned that the Coalition was in danger of losing in Afghanistan after the Taliban controlled large areas of the country. In December 2009, after more than six months of deliberations, Obama announced his plan to turn around the rapidly deteriorating security situation. Militarily, the US and NATO countries would surge their forces into Afghanistan. The US would provide an estimated 30,000 soldiers while NATO would send an additional 10,000. In addition, the International Security Assistance Force significantly bolstered the organization that trains the Afghan security forces.

The first priority was to focus on improving the situation in the south, while the east and the north would be considered holding actions.

The goal was to blunt the Taliban's momentum and turn around the security situation in the lawless southern provinces, where the Taliban had ruled largely unchecked. The plan called for showing enough progress so that the Afghan Army could start taking over security and US/NATO forces could start being withdrawn by July 2011.

The surge of forces began arriving in Afghanistan in January 2010, with the majority, about 30,000, sent to the southern Afghan provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. These newly arrived forces set about retaking these southern strongholds of the Taliban, battling insurgents for control of areas that have been outside of government control for years.

The rest of the surge forces, about 10,000 troops, were deployed to eastern Afghanistan, while a small contingent was deployed to the north. This group arrived by September 2010.

At the same time, the growth of the Afghan Army was accelerated from an estimated 2,500 recruits per month to about 5,000 per month. Like the Coalition forces, these newly formed Afghan security forces were mostly sent to the south.

The result of the surge has been mixed. While progress on the military front is evident in the south, the east and the north have remained a stalemate.

Kandahar and Helmand provinces are the center of gravity for Taliban leader Mullah Omar and his Quetta Shura, the top council which is based in the Pakistani city of the same name. Kandahar City and the surrounding districts such as Arghandab, Panwai, and Maiwand have been largely cleared of the Taliban, but the group is still able to carry out high-profile attacks, including suicide assaults, assassinations, and even a massive prison break.

In Helmand, the Taliban were driven out of their traditional strongholds where they had been able to raise millions of dollars through the drug trade and other illegal activities. In Helmand the charge was led by US Marines, who employed an aggressive counterinsurgency strategy and recruited large numbers of local militias, known as arbaki, to provide for local security. The Taliban have been cleared out of most of the center and south of the province, but some northern districts, such as Kajaki, Sangin, and Baghran, are still contested.

The security situation in eastern and northern Afghanistan remains tenuous due to the limited attention paid to these areas during the surge.

The southeastern provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika remain battlegrounds as the Haqqani Network, the al Qaeda-linked Taliban subgroup, and other Taliban groups continue to attack Coalition and Afghan forces, often from their nearby bases across the border in Pakistan. This area is of strategic importance because control of this area gives the Taliban an access route from their safe areas in Pakistan to the Afghan capital of Kabul. The Haqqani Network is considered one of the most dangerous and effective Taliban groups and has access to vast resources due to its connections with both Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate as well as al Qaeda.

In Nangarhar and Laghman provinces, attacks are on the rise, and the Taliban have launched strikes on bases in Jalalabad, a city that was considered secure just several years ago.

In Kunar and Nuristan, the US abandoned several outposts in these rugged, mountainous provinces after the Taliban and al Qaeda staged several large-scale assaults. The Taliban then took advantage of the security vacuum and reestablished bases and training camps, and overran district centers.

In northern Afghanistan, the situation is far worse today that it was just several years ago. The Taliban, in conjunction with the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, have taken control of large areas in Kunduz, Baghlan, Takhar, Sar-i-Pul, Samangan, Balkh, and Badghis. ISAF has identified the locations of suicide training camps in Samangan and Sar-i-Pul. The Taliban and the IMU have carried out a successful suicide campaign that has resulted in the deaths of the top police commander in the north, and several provincial governors and police chiefs.

The shift from a counterinsurgency strategy to a counterterrorism strategy means that in the future, the US will rely on special operations raids and airstrikes in areas outside of the control of the government. Such missions in the past have created problems for the Coalition, as claims of civilian casualties ultimately surface after such actions. And while effective at removing leaders from the Taliban ranks, the strikes and raids do not address the issue of safe havens. The US has been conducting intensive operations in the north and east, and although there is evidence the leadership of the terror groups has been impacted, the organizations are still able to carry out attacks on ISAF and Afghan forces and civilians alike.

The drawdown of forces will also be seized upon by the Taliban, who will characterize the rapid removal of US forces as a victory. Part of the Taliban's information campaign has focused on the perceived lack of commitment of US forces. Just as the withdrawals of US combat forces in Kunar and Nuristan were used to characterize the US as a spent force, so will a massive withdrawal of US forces come the summer of 2012.



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READER COMMENTS: "Obama announces rapid drawdown of surge forces from Afghanistan"

Posted by Soccer at June 23, 2011 12:21 AM ET:

"The shift from a counterinsurgency strategy to a counterterrorism strategy means that in the future, the US will rely on special operations raids and airstrikes in areas outside of the control of the government. Such missions in the past have created problems for the Coalition as claims of civilian casualties ultimate surface after such actions. And while effective at removing leaders from the Taliban ranks, the strikes and raids do not address the issue of safe haven."

I as well as many other readers here do believe this is the best way forward at this point. COIN is too expensive and the Afghans don't seem to want to accept us as a long time occupying force. Counter-terrorism seems the only way forward, and as for civilian casualties, well, I guess it will just happen, no matter how terrible that sounds. The Afghans should tell the insurgents and foreign fighters to GET OUT if they don't want the areas they live in targeted by airstrikes and raids.

Posted by TLA at June 23, 2011 12:44 AM ET:

Political gesturing and electioneering that has no say from anyone outside the Supreme Commander's talented military ensemble (which consists of Hilary Clinton and someone from the Democrat's scout troop).

Posted by Villiger at June 23, 2011 1:21 AM ET:

Link to the speech

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AplABHpuzqE

He seems to have an extra layer of make-up on. Get ready for the 2012 election. This decision is a strong " Two terms please " plea, is it not?

The major flaws:
-- Same old non-strategy for Pakistan, not articulated

-- An assumption that the Taliban is a separate herd of animals from al Qaeda.

Aren't there now only 30 to 40 AQ terrorists in Afghanistan? ;-)

Posted by Gerald at June 23, 2011 1:56 AM ET:

The Afghan Army has to stand on is own . America always sides wih the weaker less determined group in its foreign endeavors. Karzai or his successor has three years to put his house in order.

Posted by KaneKaizer at June 23, 2011 3:34 AM ET:

A surge too small being pulled back too soon. Does that about sum it up?

There will still be a substantial force in country post-Obama (this observer believes that Obama is a one-termer), but it'll be an enormously difficult decision for his successor to impose a second surge if it becomes necessary. Much less invade Afghanistan a second time if the Taliban take over again when we leave. A very shortsighted move based on political strategy, not military.

Posted by michael at June 23, 2011 4:19 AM ET:

Considering the fact that Afghanistan was supposed to be a trap, pulling out is the best option.p
Afghanistan's problems cannot be fixed by foreigners.

Posted by Matt at June 23, 2011 5:01 AM ET:

The problem is to keep NATO forces in place through 2013 so we could have 400,000 with the ANSF.

Because the US made up the bulk of the force structure of international forces, the US withdrawal was not a reason for NATO members to start withdrawing in a similar time frame.

That is why if we had pulled out 5,000 and then announced next year another 25,000 was coming out before the election that international force structure would have been in place through the 2013 fighting season.

It will end with US forces being in country alone with a smaller token effort of a token effort of the NATO countries if lucky, it could be just the US in country.

That creates the perception of one nation occupying another the reason we bought the Aussies along to Vietnam. But the perception was still the same as it will be in Afghanistan.

The Taliban did not need Tet the Administration and the Hill did a Tet on themselves.

Unless the ANSF hold the Biden CT model cannot be performed, and even then it has no end date and we will be at least on carrier short as it will need to be constantly deployed to support an opened end CT operation.

Prior to the surge McKiernan had to use a lose ROE and rely on air power to keep the strategic holding pattern in place. So under a CT model more civilians will be killed that fuels the insurgency and will place increased pressure on the ANSF and increase support for the Taliban against the Afghan Government.

So the main issues are not so much the number as even if 5,000 came out this year and another 25,000 at the end of next year, we have lost a few months in 2012 and another 5,000 this year under Obama's plan. But the numbers are basically the same. But it is not good to down draw during the fighting season.

The main problem is keep at least 100,000 ISAF troops in country through 2013, so we can have 400,000 boots on the ground.

We asked for a force structure of 400,000 ANSF so we could have 12 months in 2012 of 500,000 on the ground. But the Administration turned us down, they just make it harder and harder to win the war each time and all these things add up in the end.

In the end there was not a lot of resistance from the military, they wore us down, if they did that to the enemy instead.

The main thing is we do not want to be made scapegoats if Afghanistan returns to pre-9/11 and the US homeland is attacked again, especially if is a nuclear attack.

So as long as the President accepted full responsibility for any outcome we are cool with it.

Because if an attack occurs they will look for scapegoats, that is why the CIA Director before taking over the DOD make a statement of a substantial draw down without making clear it was a personal opinion and not from agency analysis.

The CIA are blamed for the pre-9/11 situation in Afghanistan and then an intelligence failure that led to 9/11. For the CIA to be held responsible for Afghanistan reverting back to pre-9/11 conditions and if we are attack again an intelligence failure in so many decades would lead to the Agency being disbanded.

Posted by Stay the course! at June 23, 2011 6:50 AM ET:

Please stay the course!

Extend the withdrawal deadline to mid-2013.

Posted by villiger at June 23, 2011 6:58 AM ET:

http://feministlookingglass.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/tom-toles-afghanistan.jpg

Although i prefer the one in my IHT today--imagine its also in the WashPo.

Time to grin and bear it.

Posted by Nic at June 23, 2011 9:43 AM ET:

"President Obama also indicated that he will continue to attempt to work with Pakistan to deal with terrorist sanctuaries there." I hope Obama reads the Onion.
@Bill: Could you please do research into the rumor/story of Afghan troops selling their weapons. On a larger scale, the general level of corruption that is expected to be present in the Afghan military at the end of our pullout. Thanks.

Posted by Abu Samuel at June 23, 2011 9:44 AM ET:

There seems to be no consideration in this decision by Obama for the ability of the Afghan National Army to take on the Taliban itself.

Afghanistan's military and security forces are in no position to offer effective and long-lasting resistance to the Taliban and would at most (and this is highly optimistic) repeat the doomed performance of Government forces after the withdrawal of Soviet forces and hold the line for a limited time.

Obama might try to spin the death of Bin Laden as a justification for this draw-down of US forces but the fact remains that the leaders of Al-Qaeda based in Afghanistan/Pakistan are for all intents and purposes now part of the Taliban following the swearing of oaths of loyalty to Mullah Oman by leadership figures.

This announcement comes at a time, whatever the merit of Obama's intentions, at a time that will leave no doubt in peoples minds that the clock is ticking for Coalition forces and the field will be left to the generally incapable and inadequate hands of Afghan military and security forces.
People will choose sides as a consequence of this decision; and I doubt that these decisions will bode well of Karzai and our other Afghan 'allies'.

Posted by villiger at June 23, 2011 11:42 AM ET:

Would he have made the same decision if he hadn't killed UBL just last month? Did he drag that killing out to fit his timing perfectly? Did he drag his announcement out to not be too close to UBL's killing?

I wonder. I'm deeply suspicious of such clever political chicanery.

Expect a visit to Afghanistan this summer, especially before he goes off to Hawaii. And maybe an announced day in Pakistan sometime balance of this year, to keep to his commitment. Of course the area from where he is withdrawing, AfPak, is too hot for comfort.

Meantime, Zawahiri gets one more year.

Posted by Mr T at June 23, 2011 12:01 PM ET:


"Karzai or his successor has three years to put his house in order."

Or else what? They all die and/or are doomed to a harsh life under Taliban rule where they are not in the Talibans favor.

Is this the way the US treats its allies?

This was purely a political decision and one that will cost the lives of many Afghan soldiers and innocent civilians who sided with the US and against the Taliban. We are leaving them high and dry and dead.

Obama will work with Pakistan to deal with sanctuaries there? What a broad open ended statement. How? What is the plan. The current plan is to do that and it is a miserable failure that has casued this war to drag on for over a decade. That plays into the Talibans plan.

So Pakistan is helping the Taliban in this war. How exactly do you intend to work with them when they are fighting for the Taliban and their strategy is working because we are withdrawing and leaving the country to the Taliban?

This stinks of political decision making that flies right in the face of what is good for the brave people who have sacrificed everything in this war, including Afghans.

What will Obama say when the massacres start? Well, they should have worked harder? Meanwhile, they are dead, The Taliban will be emboldened as well as all jihadists around the world.

Do you think the jihadis will increase their attacks around the world or decrease them based on Obamas decision?

I think they will increase attacks around the world and Obamas plan will blow up in our face, literally. Hey, but at least he will be reelected.

Posted by Steve at June 23, 2011 12:23 PM ET:

Afghanistan has just become an even more dangerous place for our troops. It's not even close to being similar to Iraq for those units left behind to train the ANA. We should either be all in or all out ... these half measures are going to get our our brave young men and women killed.

God Bless our troops!

Posted by M. Muthuswamy at June 23, 2011 1:38 PM ET:

It used to be that (a year ago) there was need of a strategy in AFGHANISTAN

Now, surprise, surprise, there is a “consensus” that we need a strategy in PAKISTAN

I have said for quite sometime now, including in my book that the US needs a strategy in INDIA, i.e. how to leverage India to deal with Pakistan.

Posted by James at June 23, 2011 2:39 PM ET:

I think it was Yogi Berra that said: "It ain't over till it's over." This is the kind of attitude and mentality I so admire.

This decision by Obama and good ol' 'jumpin' jack joe' (Joe Biden) should come as no surprise. When the going gets tough, the tough get going, they don't 'cut and run'.

It might take a "Killing Fields II" (possibly in our own midst?) to wake up the public to the evil our brave soldiers are attempting to now eliminate.

The only good thing I've seen recently from the current regime (in DC) is the decision to appoint Petraeus as head of the CIA. He will be based in DC (instead of Kabul) where his positive influence and insight is now so sorely needed.

This war isn't over. It is no where near to being over. For those in the 'wishy wash' world who like to fantasize otherwise, our message to them needs to be "get over it," and deal with the cruelties of the real world.

Posted by Chicago at June 23, 2011 2:40 PM ET:

This is a rare instance where the US would be justified in taking and holding territory.

Take a big area, say the Kandahar Valley all the way to where the lithium is -- drive out all of the locals into Pak or the rest of Afganistan.

Let our soldiers or entrprenures settle the place, mine the lithium, farm the land, large military airport and base, etc.

Have a hard border where Afgans and Paks can deliver goods to sell, but cannot come through.

Afgan is a beutiful place, imagine that US and Euro citizens could come there to ski and pay high prices.

Let every soldier who served have first dibs on living there and settling there as compensation for the BS they have had to put up with.

The key is - it has to be a fly in fly out destination, thath way no one has to travel through Pak or Afganistan. Greedy locals would make sure all essentials were delivered timely to the border as long as they were paid - this would be the best thing that ever happened to Afganistan.

What would we call our 51st State?

Posted by Paul D at June 23, 2011 2:59 PM ET:

The problem with Afghanistan is Pakistan.

What is Obamas plan to stop Pakistans influence/interference in Afganistan and its Global Islamist ideology which runs deep in the Pakistan Army?

Posted by wdames at June 23, 2011 3:48 PM ET:

I don't think if stayed there for forty years it would do any good. The county is corrupt, the afghan army is to illiterate to ever stand on it's own. The crust of the problem is the Pak's and the ISI. If they would have acted responsibly we could have brought all the troops home by now.

Posted by GW at June 23, 2011 5:50 PM ET:

@TLA

Obama's military ensemble took out OBL. Please keep that in mind.

Posted by Charu at June 23, 2011 8:30 PM ET:

The ANA is essentially the Northern Alliance. They will eventually retreat to protect the non-Pashtun regions. The Pashtuns tribes on both sides of the Durand line will need to work something out in order to govern their Pashtun lands.

The Punjabis fear this and will do everything in their power to keep this from happening; but they forget that we too have options. If they continue to piss us off then they will end up landlocked and loveless (except for their priapic nukes). And if the Pashtuns continue to associate with al Qaeda and terrorism they can kiss their Pashtunistan goodbye for at least another generation.

Since the Punjabis, like the Palestinians, never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, they will predictably make the wrong choices that will speed up the disintegration of their failed state. They don't appear to realize the depth of the anger brewing in the US over their duplicity, and that the Mumbai terror attack was the proverbial last straw for the ever-cautious Indians.

Posted by BobR at June 23, 2011 8:35 PM ET:

Just get the hell out of there and rain the 14' 6" diameter graphite rods down on the Pak sites that hold the warheads.

Posted by naresh C. at June 23, 2011 10:33 PM ET:

From US perspective, drawdown is the right thing to do. It should have been even faster. There is a difference between a battle and a war. A battle is about last man standing. A war is about strategic objectives. A war should not transform into a battle. The strategic objective of US is control and not law and order. Therefore, there is no end game. America's strength is massive and unmatched air and naval power and diplomacy. And by diplomacy, I mean the ability to become the kingmaker. And you don't need large number of troops to maintain political control.
Ultimately, I expect that few US troops like 10k-20k troops will remain in Afghanistan for a few centuries.
US will never withdraw completely from Afghanistan or Iraq. Jihad is not an imaginary threat. And it will only grow. All superpowers become 'reluctant' empires. USA will not be an exception. 'This time is different' has always been an incorrect statement.

Posted by TimSln at June 23, 2011 10:36 PM ET:

Soccer,

"COIN is too expensive and the Afghans don't seem to want to accept us as a long time occupying force. Counter-terrorism seems the only way forward..."

Could be true, but next year would have given us a definitive answer on whether the counterinsurgency was working.

With most of the surge troops redeployed to the east, would we see gains like those in the south, while at the same time the improved security in the south was holding. Pakistan safe havens, Afghan government corruption and effectiveness of Afghan security forces being the biggest obstacles.

I was willing to give COIN more time. If working move forward with it. If not, then drawdown and move forward with a counterterrorism strategy. However, we will not know that answer definitively now.

Posted by GB at June 24, 2011 12:06 AM ET:

Enough is enough, guys. I'd love to see the full force extended for several more years but fiscally its just not working. Its unfortunate that our economy is going to force us home but its reality.

The Afghan government is corrupt and thats not going to change as long as Karzai and his family control the country. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if Karzai has his own ambitions. I don't think he is someone whom you can trust.

I don't like to be a pessimist, but I dont think the Afghan forces can survive. There is something seriously wrong with your leadership when you have a large force and you can't overcome an organization that has less than 30,000 men. The ANA is basically General McClellan and the Taliban is General Robert E. Lee at this point.

Posted by KaneKaizer at June 24, 2011 12:21 AM ET:

@GW

Last I checked it was the CIA and SEALs/Delta who took out OBL. Besides, I don't see how taking out OBL in Abbottabad makes everything all peaches and roses in Afghanistan or in the GWOT for that matter. Not an excuse to become complacent.

Posted by TLA at June 24, 2011 7:47 AM ET:

@GW

The only thing Obama's 'team' did for the dismissal of OBL was to not say no to the option that they were given. They had no choice, and could not face the threat of not authorising the mission.

Posted by Davey at June 24, 2011 12:15 PM ET:

After OBL was caught in Pakistan, the PAK Army and ISI has been under intense pressure from Pakistani population and internationally to make a choice between America/The West and Taliban/spreading strict Sunni Islam - I believe that pressure would only have built up - now Obama has announced in definate terms a withdraw plan the message the Pakistani's will receive is - America is going - so we were right to support the Taliban - they will look beyond Western Presence in Afgan and look to their ' strategic depth' policy and countering India / Iranian influence in Afgan.

The Obama speech is a serious failure in the political arena of Afgani and Pakistani counter-insurgency...

Posted by Mr. Wolf at June 24, 2011 4:10 PM ET:

Strategically what the US pulled off with the OBL, Saddam, Zarqwari, Bulger, etc. attacks & captures was/is pinpoint accuracy. If the USA politico can specify which people are threats to the American way of life, these troop levels are the appropriate measures to take in a war (not the battle as noted). The same is true for the Pak nuke sites. If the US army can make it to Abbottabad and back, they can easily limit the strike and movement capabilities within the sites without destroying the actual warheads. This can politically be used more effectively if the populations can see that we are not taking land or holding cities. A very large key to this strategy is the poppy fields. Either burn them or send in troops and dig them up. Then instead of offering cash (which is traditionally the best way to go), GIVE rice, flour, wood, wool, and pay for the domestic diplomatic missions to deliver these goods. We have enough eyes in the sky (and potentially many more smaller observers) to watch progress and act accordingly. Accuracy at this level has never been capable before, and because of that, the Gen. can move to CIA ops instead of diplomatic dinners.

Posted by sports at June 24, 2011 10:46 PM ET:

Hmmm...I saw a poll that said ONLY 56% of Americans wanted to leave Afghanistan. I guess that's called consensus.

I don't believe for a second thought the Prez is making the right decision. SAD...Truly sad. My son will deploy later this year and I'm afraid Afghanistan will become less safe for our troops and the civilians.

Karzi is a clown.

Well...after many, years of watching clowns try to run this world I'm becoming more and more cynical. The good news is that my years on this Earth are numbered and I won't have to worry about it.

Posted by Infidel4LIFE at June 25, 2011 10:50 AM ET:

The real problem is Pakistan. We have stayed long enough, and Karzai is a thief. Nation building does NOT work. Counter-terror is the way to go.

Posted by villiger at June 25, 2011 12:55 PM ET:

Infidel, they are all thieves in that area, Pak included. There is an utter lack of morality in that region. So that would include Kayani, Pasha, Zardari...the lot.

I agree CT could be effective, but provided it is full-on and also encompasses Pakistan especially the FATA.

Turning the key in Baluchistan could also be very effective and a double-edged sword. Fuel the independence insurgency and at the same time target the QST and Taliban there.

Neither Afghanistan or Pakistan are true nations, so its better for these people to have their own free patches before investing in their societies. Unbundle the whole lot, i'd say.

Posted by villiger at June 25, 2011 2:11 PM ET:

The thing that really irks me, as a global villager, about Obama is that he appears to be totally clueless about the Pakistan end of things.

Quoting from a bold writer of Pashtun origin:

"From FATA to Karachi the whole country has become the home of al Qaeda. As long as the generals’ fascination with jihad in terms of abuse of the Islamic notion of jihad continues, Pakistan will continue to be a jihadi state, where the likes of former jihadi General (retd) Hamid Gul will roam around safely and those who dare to expose the jihadi connections of the generals with hard facts, be it journalists like Saleem Shahzad or tribal leaders in FATA, will continued to be silenced with brute force."

Read the full article at
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011%5C06%5C25%5Cstory_25-6-2011_pg3_3

How do you execute a CT strategy when the PakMil is the Godfather?

Posted by Neo at June 25, 2011 3:50 PM ET:

How much of a presence among the Afghan population is required to run an effective counter terror campaign along the Afghan Pakistan border. I doubt you can run anything effective just controlling Kabul, Bagram, and the Kandahar air base. To run counter terror you must have contacts within the population. If your effective contact with the population is limited, it becomes problematic or even dangerous for the locals to work with you.

Like the “stand off strike” policy the United States used prior to 9-11, any stand off version of counter terrorism is going to be very limited. We have been forced to develop a certain amount of that in Somalia and Yemen, but it probably achieves less in a year than is now done in Afghanistan in a number of hours. It’s a capability that is still a largely undeveloped dream, many aspects of which will turn out to be very unrealistic. It’s a bit like a kid whose mastered the T-ball and has aspirations toward hitting major league grand slams. Even if you do manage to hit a grand slam once a decade, doesn’t mean you can play that game.

The motivation is understandable. Basically it is driven by wanting to have the least footprint, the least amount of exposure, the least cost in both lives and cash, and the least antagonism of local populations. Those are all major considerations, but can you go so far and still maintain an effective suppression and counter terrorism campaign.

We are back to another stand-off strategy, of trying to influence things without a major presence. One again we think if we go to a non-obtrusive stance, and get our anti-colonial credentials all bonafide, we think the entire world is going to smile and wave at us. Call it “neo-pacifist lite” were we understand that there are some individuals around the world that just aren’t going to play the peace game. The ridiculous notion though, is that you can have a clandestine hit team sitting out on Diego Garcia, waiting at the ready to knock off Wabi al Salami or the next HVT. So how much of a regional presence does it take to mount a effective anti-terror campaign, and at what point do minimized forces remaining become nothing more than target practice ducks.

Perhaps the announced strategy isn’t too set in concrete though. The strategy to draw down the surge troops seems to be set. What comes after seems a bit vague, perhaps wisely so, a lot can happen between now and the end of 2012. It is politically useful to signal to the Pakistanis that we are not a permanent regional presence. It would also be useful for us to draw some distance between us and the Pakistani political establishment in a way that doesn’t suddenly cut them off and completely destabilize the government.

Posted by drexel at June 28, 2011 8:36 PM ET:

To me, the real question in my mind is, what is the Will of the Afgan people? When all appeared on the verge of complete and utter failure in Iraq, this very site and the many contributors documented/observed an incredible, some might even have said at the time, impossible transformation from within.

I am not suggesting there is a comparison to Iraq in any way, shape, or form. I understand there are many, many differences. I am also not suggesting this could or will happen here, but it damn will should. Who else can or will?

But, what are the Afgan people willing to do and what does it all mean to them?

Does this represent an opportunity, or is this the path to descend into even more Hell for them?

Do they even want to control their own fate? Do they have it within to be the change they so desperately need?

More questions than answers I'm afraid. This post was simply to pose some basic questions about those who could really make the difference and to ask what is really within the hearts of the people of Afganistan?

My fear is I already know the answers.