What was determinative in America’s victorious 2001 and 2008 – 2013 Afghanistan military campaigns was the will of the American people to keep the Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist base again. Unlike Vietnam, but like the Second World War, this war was started by a surprise attack on the American people at home. Thus the America people’s definition of “victory” was security at home, whatever games America’s ruling elite of the time were doing to either make the goal more or less than that definition.
This American determination was aided by two things. The will of the Afghans not to be ruled by foreign Islamist backed drug warlords and the terrain of Southern Afghanistan.
The much missed at the time fact was that America’s military was not “colonizing” Afghanistan for the West. It was _re-establishing_ the old cultural order of Afghan tribal elders against the drug trade and the students of the foreign Saudi-Wahabi Islamist schools in Pakistan and the wider Muslim world.
American Special Forces Hunting Taliban on Horseback
The Pashtun Drug Warlords, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were the “power challengers” with guns and cash who were atomizing local Afghan tribal culture and cutting that culture off from both welcome modern medicine and wireless telecommunications, not the Americans.
When the Narco-Taliban forces started killing those with modern communications devices or treated by American military medicine to protect its drugs, it exposed the Schwerpunkt (center of gravity, focal point) of the Afghan drug trade. The drug trade relied on Opium and opium needed water. It had to control the people who controlled the waters of Southern Afghanistan.
At the time of the second Afghan campaign, 65 percent of the Afghan population lived within 35 miles of the main road system, which approximated the old medieval caravan routes. Which, in turn, had followed the water sources. This meant only 80 out of 342 districts were really key to military success, and in those districts, only the areas that had irrigation for Opium poppies mattered.
Afghan Army Special Forces trooper in Opium Poppy Field
The surge of American troops in the 2008 to 2011 time period allowed American forces to drive the Drug Lords away from the water, literally drying up the cash flow that allowed Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces to bribe Afghan government officials, buy Pashtun gunman and provide supplies to their membership in Southern Afghanistan and the Pashtun tribal areas of Pakistan.
This did not kill the world drug trade in Opium, which moved elsewhere, but it did reduce the problems of the Pashtun areas to a scale that allowed the defacto American military governor to manage the tribes with the Afghan government the way the 19th century British did, via bribes and reprisals.
The continuing problem of Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency/Pakistani Taliban meddling in Afghan affairs did not end until the Pakistani Coup of 2021. Which began with a 15 kiloton nuclear detonation in Islamabad that killed the leaders of the military government, destroyed the ISI headquarters and most senior ISI leaders and set off the Wars of Pakistani Succession in the aftermath.
The Afghan Pacification Campaigns — Lessons in Salvaging a Failed State. @ 2043, AUSA Press, PP 3
6 thoughts on “Afghanistan 2050 — Two Successful Campaigns in a Wider War”
These are phenomenal contributions. All of them. I can barely keep up! I feel like taking notes from each one and doing a summary post for myself or something :)
(Lex and others, too busy with work again this week and weekend to be able to post, but will try during the next week. Ah, real life responsibilities. Quelle drag, except this is the stuff of life :) )
Seriously: we’ve had discussions of current strategy, strategic partnership linkages, postulated future events and “deux ex machina.”
This is really amazing. Wow.
Except, er, this one and Lex’s really break my heart regarding what may happen in Pakistan. I pray the more dystopian predictions do not occur but I suppose that is the reason all of us are so engaged in the topic. We don’t want to see the region go up in flames or be able to project any negative stuff towards us.
I wonder how the Pakistani flooding (terrible humanitarian situation) will change any of what we are doing now? The Pakistani army will not be available to squeeze the Taliban on their side of the Durand Line much now, I would imagine, and it always was a problematic partnership strategically (because of the FOIN aspect of their campaign – “fomenting insurgency” in conjuntion with COIN pushed on by US in FATA etc. Anyway, terrible humanitarian situation.
Interesting point about the roads. I wonder how the road the Indians built to the Iranian port will change things? Is Afghanistan becoming less land-locked and more accessible? That would be a big change.
Whatever their colorings, the members of the Pakistani state — civilian or military — are Pakistani nationalists.
The only thing that unites the polyglot Pakistani people is their hate for India. This means that Kashmiri and other terrorist activities aimed at India are a prerequisite activity for any Pakistani power faction attempting to gain dominant power there. Every faction of the Pakistani state will use that card to stay in power domestically, whatever they are saying to the West.
American interfering in that fact is a threat to Pakistani domestic stability, such as it is.
The key issue at hand is that Pakistan, as it exists today, is what we in the West fear Iran will become — a nuclear armed, terrorist supporting, rogue, irrational, failed state.
America has allies inside that failed state dealing with the Anti-Western Islamist factions, but often times we cannot tell the Islamists from the non-Islamist because both our allies and the Islamists factions inside the Pakistani state are Pakistani nationalists one and all.
When it comes to Indian terrorism, there are indistinguishable.
Worse still, those Pakistanis trying to work with the West can’t tell Al-Qaeda from L-e-T either.
There is no one there who can enforce peace over all the Pakistani state factions, and turn ISI’s Islamist terrorists off, because anti-Indian hate is the only thing that can rally popular support for the Pakistani State.
As a result, the Islamist factions inside the Pakistani state have more deniability for terrorist operations than the Mullah’s of Iran.
To be blunt, the Pakistani’s are playing a game of “Moderate Iranian Mullah” with the West.
They will use any foreign assistance from outside to count coup on other Pakistani state factions, but they all will lie to any and all outsiders about war and terrorism with India. They need it to much to maintain the Pakistani state in existence.
While we are on the subject of the failed Pakistani state… that state does not fit into Western ideas of what a state is and what a government of a state does.
The Pakistani state is a vehicle by which the various Pakistani power factions extract resources from the Pakistani people and especially foreigners for their own purposes. It is the tool to vie for power and eliminate the other Pakistani factions.
The Pakistani government, such as it is, exists primarily as a vehicle to deal with the outside world by keeping foreigners from invading and extracting money from gullible foreigners, primarily Westerners.
The Pakistani Army, chief among the Pakistani power factions, knows how to share the wealth in a better, less corrupt manner than Pakistani civilian politicians (who are very corrupt and have sharing issues) and the Jihadi nuts (who are on a mission from God).
This is why the Pakistani army periodically takes over the Pakistani state, then cedes it back to the civilian politicians. It knows it can’t run everything and it needs civilian front men from time to time to get money from the West.
India’s immediate problems and the WORLD’s stem from Pakistan. It is the Disneyland of jihad and India is their neighbor. Outside Afghanistan, the rest of the world is escaping the mayhem because India is both next door and a soft target.
Pakistan does this because it can, and thanks to it’s nukes, the failed Pakistani state is safe to continue these terrorist supporting policies indefinitely.
A cold analysis of policy says the Pakistanis are right about that, given the current nature of the Indian and American governments.
The problem for the Pakistani factions is that America’s people are separate and apart from their government. They can and will bend that government to its will when aroused to eliminate extensional threats to themselves.
Things like terrorist nuclear detonations of “unknown origin” in American cities.
It’s will be very simple for the American people to determine who they’ll nuke when the time comes – Muslim majority countries where the hate preachers have been openly allowed to poison minds.
Ones where that they’ll by then know from bitter experience can’t be quickly pacified because too many of the people are bug-house nuts from generations of hate preaching.
That list of usual suspects will include Pakistan.
Pakistan is the key to Afghanistan and this is an interesting post with much detail. Kilcullen’s book goes into some detail about the geography of Afghanistan in that it is a series of river valleys with one outlet, equipped with an ambush site thousands of years old. The villages are forts with walls 15 feet thick. The “crazies,” as the Afghans call the jihadis, come over the mountain passes from Pakistan. I suspect this description applies more to northeast Afghanistan that abuts the northern territories not under government control.
Very good observation on the restorationist aims of the US in Afghanistan. I agree.
I like the spin here very much. Very plausible, and rooted in the history and culture. It is worth noting that one of the reasons why the ISI backed the Taliban is they wanted to stop the seemingly endless civil war in Afghanistan, and hence solve the refugee problem that had grown worse, not better, after the Soviets withdrew. Afghanistan is very much a security and political problem for the Pakistanis. They have skin in this game and in the outcome in a way that the US does not. I do also wonder whether they fear a unified Pushtun people, who might pose a threat unprecedented in history. The current Pakistani operations in Swat makes clear that they regard the threat posed by the Pakistani Talib as substantial.
Comments are closed.