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Rising Sun*
11-14-2010, 08:28 AM
Not with a bang, but a whimper.

There wasn't a clear objective for an occupation, which is why victory hasn't been and won't be achieved by an occupation.

Meanwhile Karzai & Co have seen which way the wind is blowing and are trying to ingratiate themselves with the Taliban, and the more extreme Arab elements behind them. More fool Karzai & Co if they think those bastards won't slit their throats the moment those bastards think they have the upper hand. Although by then Karzai & Co should be out of Afghanistan and living on the vast amounts of money they've creamed off the Americans and others pouring money into their fairly useless country.

Instead of the Americans and others not falling for Pakistan, shitting itself at the well-deserved prospect of being lumped in with the Taliban as an enemy, purporting at the start to be an ally, which has allowed the Taliban to survive, prosper and expand in Pakistan so it can increase its thrusts into Afghanistan and eventually recover power in Afghanistan.

Until Pakistan is dealt with, Afghanistan is not going to be dealt with.

And Pakistan is not going to be dealt with, so we're long past time to pull out of Afghanistan.

The military picture has **** all to do with the political picture.

Iron Yeoman
11-14-2010, 01:34 PM
Bloodily, it usually does.

tankgeezer
11-14-2010, 02:30 PM
It will probably end as all the attempts to subjugate by force, or commerce contract have ended. The locals take you for everything you've got, accept your gifts of modernity, allow you to take out their trash, then when you figure it all out, you leave, and they continue as they have throughout time. No one has ever taken Afghanistan, no one ever will. My beloved homeland will in time leave, having taken out a boatload of Baddies, made a few friends (who will very soon forget us) but actually having changed nothing. Then shortly a fresh crop of Baddies will come along.

The Fiendish Red Baron
11-15-2010, 04:06 AM
How will Afghanistan end? Badly usually.


Part of the answer lies in Pakistan. Closing down the militant supply routes in Waziristan and similar tribal areas will have a major impact of Taliban operations in Southern Afghanistan. Sadly the Pakistani army is not entirely capable for the job, though has made significant inroads in the last two years. It is also having success using the armed tribal militias that are ideologically opposed to the Taliban. Several of them have inflicted heavy defeats on Taliban forces in the last six months. Generally small gains, but gains all the same. Trouble is there are plenty of other border routes into Afghanistan... Not just through Pakistan.

Part of Pakistans military problem though will always be that it is looking over its shoulder at India. It will never fully commit forces on the Afghan border as it will keep its premier formations ready for possible fighting against its arch enemy.

As for Afghanistan itself, progress is being made, though mainly limited to the urbanised areas (and I use that term loosely). But once again the only way to make real progress is to win over the tribal warlords and their militias and use them to fight the Taliban. The ANA is too challenged ethnically to ever be a representative Afghan army, but that too has made marked improvements in the last year or so. They will never be as militarily capable as the West but they are improving.

The main problem will always be corruption in the military and political ranks, at all levels, and Afghanistans deep tribal divides. For the last 500 hundred years Afghanistan has been fighting itself when not fighting an invader! I dont believe this will ever be sorted out until they have a ethnically representative government and military that truly reflects the diversity of the Afghan national identity.

Nickdfresh
11-15-2010, 07:39 AM
US plan aims to end combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014
By Peter Baker and Rod Nordland
New York Times / November 15, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has developed a plan to begin transferring security duties in select Afghan areas to that country’s forces over the next 18 to 24 months, with an eye toward ending the American combat mission there by 2014, officials said yesterday.

The phased four-year plan to wind down American and allied fighting in Afghanistan will be presented at a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, this week, the officials said. It will reflect the most concrete vision for transition in Afghanistan assembled by civilian and military officials since President Obama took office last year.

In many respects, the concept follows the precedent set in Iraq, where a similar troop surge and strategy shift under President George W. Bush in 2007 enabled American-led coalition forces to eventually hand over security duties to the Iraqis region by region. By last summer, Obama was able to pull out two-thirds of US forces from Iraq and declare America’s combat mission there over.

“Iraq is a pretty decent blueprint for how to transition in Afghanistan,’’ one American official said yesterday, insisting like others on anonymity to discuss the strategy before its presentation. “But the key will be constructing an Afghan force that is truly capable of taking the lead.’’

The new transition planning comes as prospects for last year’s troop increase in Afghanistan and reformulated strategy there remain uncertain. American forces in Afghanistan have tripled under Obama, and General David H. Petraeus, the commander, has expressed confidence that they are making progress. But officials in Washington have said it is too early to say whether the strategy will work.

The American government is assessing which areas could be safely handed over to Afghan security forces and will be ready to identify them late this year or early next year, officials said. Every few months, more areas will begin the transition, with the last at the end of 2012. Those will almost certainly include the toughest areas, like Khost in the east and Kandahar in the south.

By the end of 2014, American and NATO combat forces could be withdrawn, although tens of thousands likely will remain for training, mentoring, and other assistance, just as 50,000 American troops are still in Iraq.

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company. (http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2010/11/15/us_plan_aims_to_end_combat_mission_in_afghanistan_ by_2014/)

Rising Sun*
11-15-2010, 08:03 AM
US plan aims to end combat mission in Afghanistan by 2014
By Peter Baker and Rod Nordland
New York Times / November 15, 2010

WASHINGTON —

In many respects, the concept follows the precedent set in Iraq, where a similar troop surge and strategy shift under President George W. Bush in 2007 enabled American-led coalition forces to eventually hand over security duties to the Iraqis region by region. By last summer, Obama was able to pull out two-thirds of US forces from Iraq and declare America’s combat mission there over.

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company. (http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2010/11/15/us_plan_aims_to_end_combat_mission_in_afghanistan_ by_2014/)

Oh, goody!

Another triumph!


http://img577.imageshack.us/img577/7214/missionaccomplished.jpg

Churchill
11-15-2010, 07:25 PM
^Sorry, but lol at the picture.

32Bravo
11-20-2010, 07:23 AM
How will Afghanistan end?

It won't.

Iraq as a blueprint for success?

I doubt it, but, in my opinion, it is far too early to judge.

Western attempts at nation building in this region are wasteful. They waste resources, both human and supply. Furthermore, they dupe us into believing that there is a strategy that can work. The policies which we seem to employ - dare I say muddle through until we can come up with a viable exit plan? - distract our planners from focussing on the strategy they hsould be working on. That is the neutralising of Al Quiaeda.

Some time ago, when the question was: can we win, I put forward my opinion that Afghanistan was merely a containment operation. Last week we saw the head of the Army (British), saying pretty much the same thing.

Sooner or later the politicians will catch up with the generals. I think that, in Britian, the recent Defence Review is, in part, indicative that this is happening.

I would say that victory in Afghanistan is not only a non-event - strategically, it doesn't really matter.

As RS said, some time ago, these operations should be conducted as a quick in-and-out clinical strike. The idea of building a nation that will be sympathetic to the West is misguided and wasteful in myriad ways.

Rising Sun*
11-20-2010, 09:10 AM
The idea of building a nation that will be sympathetic to the West is misguided and wasteful in myriad ways.

Forget about building a nation sympathetic to the West. (And why should they be sympathetic to the West, any more than the West should be sympathetic to the various and, by local standards as legitimate as Western local standards, quite legitimate local ideologies in places where it tries to impose Western views for its own purposes?)

The fatal mistake by all Western powers so far has been to think that a foreign power and culture can come in and impose its culture and values upon the entrenched culture and values of another nation or people, and expect them to accept it without resistance, never mind being grateful for it.

That makes about as much sense as Hitler succeeding in invading Britain in 1940-41 and expecting Britons to be delighted by the imposition of Nazism on them, and expecting them not to resist a Nazi occupation.

But in Afghanistan there is a much greater problem, being that it is not a nation and that it does not have anything remotely resembling Western institutions of nationality, government, and the underpinning social, cultural, and political attitudes and institutions which are a pre-condition to ‘nation to nation’ dealings, including things of a warlike nature.

What hope is there for ‘nation to nation’ dealings when, for example, a so-called warlord extracts millions of dollars from the occupying but still not controlling American etc force to give them security from attack when travelling on roads in his region? (And guess who, Mafia protection-like, might be the one who launches such attacks if not paid? Der!!!!) Or acceptance of attacks on schools which dare to educate girls, purely because educating women threatens the dominant male theocracy. Christ (and I say that deliberately), even the Catholics never stooped that low.

Would the natives have converted to the invader's dictates in Britain if Hitler succeeded in WWII or if America was occupied now?

No. Because Britain, America and other countries involved in Afghanistan have a concept of national identity and 'democratic' (whatever that means) notions which are absent from the largely tribal areas under local control of people not answerable to or controlled by any national government, largely because there is no national government but just a façade put up by the invaders and willingly supported by the privileged locals who benefit from it. The ‘Mayor of Kabul’ is a well deserved title for a President who can’t visit most of his country without risk. Meanwhile, the people who control the unstable areas can be, and often have been, bought by various elements hostile to the invaders to support them, even if they were supporting the other side a couple of weeks ago.

And here’s why Afghanistan ain’t ever going to work under Western occupation after the foolish decision to occupy it after flattening it. The essential problem is that the invader is not equal to the enemy in the way the invader conducts its ‘war’. The ‘enemy’ is ruthless and unfettered in its operations way beyond anything that the Western powers could begin to contemplate with the modern bullshit of lawyers at the Western operational commanders' right hand advising on rules of engagement etc and determining what operations may be undertaken. There will never be a mine which destroys a village in retaliation for an IED which kills however many were in the vehicle. Whether that is effective is debatable, given the German practice in the Balkans and elsewhere of retaliatory execution of civilians, but we'll never know because in the modern world the good guys always fight with one or both hands tied behind their back.

Then again, the Soviets didn't restrain themselves with legalistic Western restrictions like those now in Afghanistan. And they still lost.

Places like Afghanistan (or Yemen or Somalia etc) and other ‘nations’ not approximating Western nations' identity and values really do little more than comprise random assemblages of sundry cultural and other groups under the guise of a nation left over from the arbitrary lines drawn by now defunct colonial powers half a century or a century or more ago.

We ain’t comparing apples with apples, and there ain’t no point expecting an apple resolution when we’re dealing with lemons on the other side.

[P.S. 32Bravo, Good to see you back.]

32Bravo
11-20-2010, 12:10 PM
Yes!

Now how do we get the rest of the world to get with the programme?

Nice synopsis, by the way.

Nickdfresh
11-20-2010, 06:01 PM
The problem here is that the U.S. and NATO cannot win someone else's civil war, same as in Vietnam...

32Bravo
11-20-2010, 07:24 PM
Shouldn't be trying to. It was never the mission.

Nato and its politicians should get their heads out of the box.

Rising Sun*
11-21-2010, 05:28 AM
Shouldn't be trying to. It was never the mission.

But the mission gets lost as time passes and circumstances change. After a while nobody remembers what the mission was, beyond 'winning', whatever that means. It's not unlike setting up a committee, where after a while the purpose for which the committee was set up becomes obscured by the committee's primary aim of ensuring its own survival which it must do to enable it to achieve its, by now largely forgotten, original purpose.

Vietnam is the perfect example. The mission, being the purpose of the initial commitment of US and allied troops, was to maintain the status quo by keeping the SVN hierarchy in control and denying control to the communists / NVN. Nobody in the US and its allies had the remotest intention of bombing Hanoi or Cambodia at the outset, but as time passed and circumstances changed those and other things which had nothing to do with the original mission seemed like good ideas, and just diverted everyone even further from the original mission and ensured it would not be achieved by creating a new set of problems caused by those actions.

If anyone with half a brain had looked at what NVN had done to the French and the circumstances and attitudes leading to and surrounding that overthrow of an external power and the division of VN in NVN and SVN, the original US mission was unachievable unless NVN / the communists had a complete change of heart. Which wasn't likely to be achieved by another external power telling them how to behave in their own country and using military power to try to get compliance.

32Bravo
11-21-2010, 11:19 AM
Well, yes.

I would suppose the corporations that make up the U.S. arms industry were the ones that engaged the correct half of their brains brains during that Asian conflit.

Then, of course, there were the upholders of the American Way, which promoted the Domino Theory ( not necessarily a different set from the above) as they increased their market share in goods an comodoties in the region.
Tuchman, refers to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam as The March of Folley. That being when governments pursue policies whiich are contrary to their self interest.
From a purely war, no war point of view she's probably right, but there were lots of winners in the U.S.

Easy to lose sight of the mission when there is no real mission other than some abstract description that is 'War on terror'.

When the electorate from a culture of good guys and bad guys, winners and losers, demand explanations for bodybags, the politicians have to engineer something which loosely describes a mission and an opportunity for one wininng, and pray that their people do not become informed enough or have enough of an attention span to challenge what thy are doing as they continue to fumble with unachieveable goals.

There's always Reality-TV

Rising Sun*
11-22-2010, 06:33 AM
Then, of course, there were the upholders of the American Way, which promoted the Domino Theory ( not necessarily a different set from the above) as they increased their market share in goods an comodoties in the region.

The Domino Theory made a lot of sense in Australia as it replicated with communism the Japanese advance in WWII. It was even more compelling because we would be the last domino to fall. (Assuming, as was probable, that nobody wanted New Zealand. ;) :D)


Easy to lose sight of the mission when there is no real mission other than some abstract description that is 'War on terror'.

Which flows from failing to identify the enemy, and what had to be done to defeat it. The enemy in Afghanistan was the Al Qaeda training camps. What had to be done to defeat them was (a) to wipe out the training camps and, ideally, everyone in them, and (b) demonstrate to the Afghan rulers, being the Taliban at the time, that giving sanctuary to that ilk would result in more attacks, so it would be a very good idea not to make the same mistake again.

However, the Taliban per se were not the enemy and there was no need to defeat them or displace them by occupying their country and inserting a puppet regime, regardless of how abhorrent the Taliban's principles and practices might have been to the West.

The end result in Afghanistan is going to be that the Taliban will come back into significant power, maybe full control, after doing deals with Karzai and Co who are presently shitting themselves at the bleak prospects facing them when the US and its allies pull out in a few years and leave them at the mercy of the Taliban.


When the electorate from a culture of good guys and bad guys, winners and losers, demand explanations for bodybags, the politicians have to engineer something which loosely describes a mission and an opportunity for one wininng, and pray that their people do not become informed enough or have enough of an attention span to challenge what thy are doing as they continue to fumble with unachieveable goals.

The other thing that politicians do, by suicidal instinct it seems, is refuse to admit that they have made a monstrous mistake that is causing needless deaths and suffering on both sides with no prospect of a 'win'. Then they compound that error by throwing more lives and resources into a clearly failed enterprise, until finally even the public they try to dupe realises that it is a lost cause and the domestic political tide turns against the politicians, who inevitably succumb to political reality (i.e. trying to maintain political survival) and finally withdraw or are voted out.

The sad point is that there is a gulf between the political and military objectives and potentials. The Vietnam War could have been won militarily if the US and its allies didn't pussyfoot around refusing to advance beyond the DMZ but instead took the fight to the enemy at its heart, but the political imperative was to avoid doing that as it might provoke conflict with China or the USSR. So the politicians handed the military a bag of shit the military could never fight its way out of because the military wasn't allowed to fight an unrestricted war. Grafting notions like civil aid and hearts and minds etc onto the bag of shit didn't change the fact that the attack was coming from NVN and that that was where it had to be met.

As for Afghanistan, that 'war' was won in the first few days of the assault so far as getting rid of the enemy was concerned. Bogging down in an occupation was self-defeating ; self-destructive; unnecessary; pointless; doomed to failure; and, worse, by allowing the Taliban to think they have ejected the invader has diminished the power of the invader to intimidate them with the threat of future attacks if they misbehave again. Unlike the crushing raid.

32Bravo
11-22-2010, 08:03 AM
Which returns us to the paradox of the thread question.

Rising Sun*
11-22-2010, 08:29 AM
Which returns us to the paradox of the thread question.

I doubt it's a paradox.

There seems to be a consensus in this thread that it's going to end badly. For everyone involved. As usually happens when the West blunders in and tramples on the locals in pursuit of its own blinkered interests.

Which is often what happens from the other side when any nation blunders into another country and tramples on the locals in pursuit of its own interests. Which is pretty much what Afghanistan sponsored or allowed, even if it didn't plan or execute it, on 9/11.

Then again, there is a degree of Afghan / Pathan adaptability and durability and ability to endure which will probably outlast the West.

Although America has distinguished itself in this war by enduring it for nine years and with no sign of weakening (even if it plans to pull out in a few years), which is in marked contrast to the American public's unwillingness to put up with protracted and unsuccessful wars as happened with Vietnam.

Which raises questions about whether there has been a change in the American public's willingness to endure longer wars or endure wars which strike at the heart of those responsible for outrages like 9/11, which emulates American public outrage about Pearl Harbor, which would be a problem for the Afghans etc, or whether some other factors are at work, such as there being less concern for a volunteer army put in harm's way than a conscript army as in Vietnam? Or a different world where people have recognised that the world is full of crazy ****s who need to be confronted violently if one wants to stop them wreaking violence on us, which is rather different to the well-intentioned but unrealistic 'Peace, Man' attitudes of significant sections of the American and its allies' populace during the Vietnam War.

32Bravo
11-22-2010, 09:17 AM
The paradox is that contrary to goodsense, the politicians will continue to attempt to justify their abstract objctives by promoting goals that are not realizable, but may be dressed up as achievable or acahcieved in some absurd fashion.

Rising Sun*
11-22-2010, 09:31 AM
The paradox is that contrary to goodsense, the politicians will continue to attempt to justify their abstract objctives by promoting goals that are not realizable, but may be dressed up as achievable or acahcieved in some absurd fashion.

Ahh!

I ain't gonna argue with that!

32Bravo
11-22-2010, 02:36 PM
Not arguing with you at all, marra. Merely exchanging thoughts and ideas and, in part, using you and the thread as a soundboard. I think that on the whole, as you pointed out, we're all batting from the same wicket.

I was about to go off on a tangent regarding your comments on the Domino Theory, but will probably begin another thread.

Rising Sun*
11-25-2010, 08:35 AM
The action leading to Salvatore Giunta's recent Congressional Medal of Honor http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/16/AR2010111605335.html was described in 'War', a book I read recently by Sebastian Junger.

The book also describes a lot more of the life and events of American soldiers at the sharp end of the conflict in Afghanistan. It's worth reading to get an idea of what the sharp end of that conflict is like.

Rising Sun*
11-25-2010, 08:46 AM
Recent events suggest that the prospect of the war ending by negotiation has diminished somewhat.


Sign of War Gains Proves False

Impostor Claiming to Be Taliban Leader Was Key to Meetings Coalition Touted as Mark of Progress

By MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Kabul and ADAM ENTOUS in Brussels

The revelation that an impostor passed himself off as a Taliban leader in Afghan peace talks called into question coalition reports of progress in the war, and illustrated how little the allies know of the insurgency's top leaders and the difficulty that lack of knowledge presents for U.S. strategy.

The man, who claimed to be one of the highest-ranking members of the Taliban, held at least two meetings with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and other officials, officials said.

Senior coalition officers—U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, chief of coalition forces, foremost among them—had sought to portray the nascent peace talks as a sign that the one-two punch of American forces clearing territory and Special Operations forces targeting insurgent field commanders was wearing down the Taliban and pushing them to the negotiating table.

Those claims are now in question. Many Western officials have concluded that the peace process is making little progress and the Taliban are ready to fight on. The talks were disclosed in October by Gen. Petraeus, who said the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was providing "safe passage" for senior Taliban leaders to take part in preliminary talks with the Afghan government.

Some Obama administration and defense officials were unhappy when Gen. Petraeus revealed NATO's role facilitating the talks because they thought it raised expectations.

CIA Director Leon Panetta said recently that reconciliation was worth exploring but that the agency saw nothing to indicate a serious effort was being made by the Taliban.

Another track of the peace process, the so-called reintegration effort that aims to lure low-level Taliban fighters off the battlefield with promises of amnesty, cash and jobs, are also moving slowly—in part because it is drawing impostors seeking to profit by pretending to be pacified insurgents.

A senior NATO officer said the revelation about the talks wouldn't change the counterinsurgency strategy, which seeks to bolster the Afghan government and marginalize insurgents through military campaigns and development projects. But the apparent setback to the goal of driving the Taliban into peace talks will weigh on a scheduled war review by the Obama administration in December.

Commanders expect to have a clearer indication of which way the war is going in the spring, when the fighting season resumes, the senior NATO officer said. "This is going to take a long time," the officer said.

In the NATO talks, Afghan and coalition officials met multiple times with a man claiming to be Mullah Akthar Muhammad Mansour, one of the chief deputies to the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, before figuring out he was an impostor.

The man was flown multiple times to Kabul from Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, by British intelligence and given "a lot" of money to keep coming back, officials said. Officials didn't say how much he was paid.

A senior Afghan official said the figure who provided the most promise of progress in the talks was the man impersonating Mr. Mansour. The man's willingness to talk and relatively mild demands—for example, he didn't insist on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan before opening peace talks—had raised hopes that the peace process was making progress after two years of often futile attempts at negotiating with the Taliban. It isn't clear whether other real or fake Taliban leaders were involved.

NATO's Afghanistan task force declined to comment on the talks or the ruse on Tuesday.

An official said the U.S. didn't provide the impostor with any money, but declined to say who provided the funds. U.S. officials believe the impostor's motivation was money, an official said.

U.S. intelligence officials have maintained the peace talks were exploratory. Western officials said they were mainly aimed at identifying who could be trusted conduits to Taliban leaders and to determine who represented whom. Western officials in Kabul on Tuesday said allied intelligence agencies have had little success in penetrating Mullah Omar's inner circle, and lacked evidence the insurgents were ready to negotiate.

A Western diplomat familiar with intelligence reports on the insurgency said the lack of knowledge had sometimes reduced officials to engaging in "mere guesswork" when it came to figuring out whether the Taliban were ready to compromise.

The Taliban organization, which denied taking part in the talks from the outset, quickly began gloating as word spread of the ruse. "The Americans and their allies are very stupid and anyone could fool them," said Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi in an interview.

There are conflicting accounts of how Afghan and coalition officials figured out they were dealing with an impostor. The senior Afghan official said Tuesday that he and his colleagues and Western officials have known for a least two weeks. The official said it is now believed the man is Pakistani, and may be a shopkeeper from the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta.

In the reintegration effort, NATO reintegration chief, British Army Maj. Gen. Philip Jones, described in a recent interview going to Herat province earlier this year to see Afghans who claimed to be Taliban and had turned themselves into the government hoping to get jobs. He said he found fewer than 80 people wanted to turn themselves in.

"We had a look at these 76 people and I don't think probably any of them knew how to handle a rifle," he said. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748704369304575631994136148852.html

Nickdfresh
12-02-2010, 10:32 PM
New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/03/world/asia/03wikileaks-corruption.html)

December 2, 2010
Pervasive Afghan Graft, Starting at the Top
By SCOTT SHANE, MARK MAZZETTI and DEXTER FILKINS

From hundreds of diplomatic cables, Afghanistan emerges as a looking-glass land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest man is a distinct outlier.

Describing the likely lineup of Afghanistan’s new cabinet last January, the American Embassy noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.”

One Afghan official helpfully explained to diplomats the “four stages” at which his colleagues skimmed money from American development projects: “When contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits, during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.” In a seeming victory against corruption, Abdul Ahad Sahibi, the mayor of Kabul, received a four-year prison sentence last year for “massive embezzlement.” But a cable from the embassy told a very different story: Mr. Sahibi was a victim of “kangaroo court justice,” it said, in what appeared to be retribution for his attempt to halt a corrupt land-distribution scheme.

It is hardly news that predatory corruption, fueled by a booming illicit narcotics industry, is rampant at every level of Afghan society. Transparency International, an advocacy organization that tracks government corruption around the globe, ranks Afghanistan as the world’s third most corrupt country, behind Somalia and Myanmar.

But the collection of confidential diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks...offers a fresh sense of its pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials who have made shoring up support for the Afghan government a cornerstone of America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

The cables make it clear that American officials see the problem as beginning at the top. An August 2009 report from Kabul complains that President Hamid Karzai and his attorney general “allowed dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court.” The embassy was particularly concerned that Mr. Karzai pardoned five border police officers caught with 124 kilograms (about 273 pounds) of heroin and intervened in a drug case involving the son of a wealthy supporter.

The American dilemma is perhaps best summed up in an October 2009 cable sent by Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, written after he met with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s half brother, the most powerful man in Kandahar and someone many American officials believe prospers from the drug trade.

“The meeting with AWK highlights one of our major challenges in Afghanistan: how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt,” Ambassador Eikenberry wrote.

American officials seem to search in vain for an honest partner. A November 2009 cable described the acting governor of Khost Province, Tahir Khan Sabari, as “a refreshing change,” an effective and trustworthy leader. But Mr. Sabari told his American admirers that he did not have “the $200,000-300,000 for a bribe” necessary to secure the job permanently.

Ahmed Zia Massoud held the post of first vice president from 2004 to 2009; the brother of the Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, he was discussed as a future president. Last year, a cable reported, Mr. Massoud was caught by customs officials carrying $52 million in unexplained cash into the United Arab Emirates.

A diplomatic cable is not a criminal indictment, of course, and in an interview Mr. Massoud denied taking any money out of Afghanistan. “It’s not true,” he said. “Fifty-two million dollars is a pile of money as big as this room.” Yet while his official salary was a few hundred dollars a month, he lives in a waterfront house on Palm Jumeirah, a luxury Dubai community that is also home to other Afghan officials. When a reporter visited the dwelling this year, a Rolls-Royce was parked out front.

The cables describe a country where everything is for sale. The Transportation Ministry collects $200 million a year in trucking fees, but only $30 million is turned over to the government, according to a 2009 account to diplomats by Wahidullah Shahrani, then the commerce minister. As a result, “individuals pay up to $250,000 for the post heading the office in Herat, for example, and end up owning beautiful mansions as well as making lucrative political donations,” said Mr. Shahrani, who also identified 14 of Afghanistan’s governors as “bad performers and/or corrupt.”

Then again, another cable reports “rumors” that Mr. Shahrani himself “was involved in a corrupt oil import deal.” He denied the rumors, saying that they were inventions by two rivals who were “among the most corrupt in Afghanistan,” the cable said.

Pity the diplomat who must sort out whose version of reality to believe. One cable reported the American ambassador’s attempt to size up Mr. Shahrani, who later became the minister of mines. “Ambassador Eikenberry noted Shahrani’s extravagant home, suggesting that the Afghans knew best who is corrupt,” the cable said.

The cables lay out allegations of bribes and profit-skimming in the organization of travel to Saudi Arabia for the hajj, or pilgrimage; in a scheme to transfer money via cellphones; in the purchase of wheat seed; in the compilation of an official list of war criminals; and in the voting in Parliament.

Dr. Sayed Fatimie, the minister of health, told diplomats in January that members of Parliament wanted cash to confirm his appointment. “Expressing shock at the blatancy of these extortion attempts, Fatimie said MPs had offered their own votes and the votes of others they could purportedly deliver for $1,000 apiece,” a cable said.

The case of the Kabul mayor, Mr. Sahibi, shows how complicated it can be to sort out corruption charges. A Jan. 7 cable signed by Ambassador Eikenberry gave an account sharply at odds with media reports, which treated the prosecution as a landmark in the campaign for honest government.

The cable, referring to embassy interviews with Mr. Sahibi, said the charges against him were based on a decision to lease a piece of city property to shopkeepers. Three months after the lease was signed, another bidder offered $16,000 more. The “loss” of the potential additional revenue became the “massive embezzlement” described by prosecutors, the cable said.

Mr. Sahibi told the Americans he had been summoned to appear in court on Dec. 7 to be assigned a hearing date. Instead, he said, he was given a four-year sentence and a $16,000 fine.

As for the motive behind his prosecution, Mr. Sahibi said that in less than two years as mayor “he had found files for approximately 32,000 applicants who paid for nonexistent plots of land in Kabul.” He said he halted the program and “invalidated the illegal claims of some important people,” who took their revenge with the bogus criminal case.

The embassy cable largely supported Mr. Sahibi’s version of events, saying that the mayor’s “official decision may have antagonized powerful people who then sought the power of the state to discredit him.” Far from being a blow against corruption, the cable suggested, the case was a travesty of justice.

The widespread corruption is made possible in part by a largely unregulated banking infrastructure and the ancient hawala money transfer network that is the method of choice for politicians, insurgents and drug traffickers to move cash around the Muslim world.

Last year, a cable signed by Ambassador Eikenberry said that the hawala favored by the Afghan elite, New Ansari, “is facilitating bribes and other wide-scale illicit cash transfers for corrupt Afghan officials” and providing financial services to narco-traffickers through front companies in Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates. He asked Washington to send more investigators and wiretap analysts to assist nascent Afghan task forces that were examining New Ansari.

The anticorruption task forces already faced significant obstacles. For instance, Afghanistan’s interior minister asked that the American government “take a low profile on the New Ansari case” to avoid the perception that investigations were being carried out “at the behest of the United States.”

Months later, when the New Ansari investigators carried out a predawn raid on the house of a top aide to President Karzai whom investigators heard soliciting a bribe on a wiretap, Mr. Karzai intervened to release the man from jail and threatened to take control of the anticorruption investigations. In November, the Afghan government dropped all charges against the aide.

The resulting standoff between Kabul and Washington forced the Obama administration to take stock of its strategy: was trying to root out corruption, at the risk of further alienating Mr. Karzai, really worth it? And with American troops set to begin leaving Afghanistan next summer, and the American public having long ago lost the appetite for nation-building, was trying to root out corruption a Sisyphean task?

In September, President Obama acknowledged the dilemma. “Are there going to be occasions where we look and see that some of our folks on the ground have made compromises with people who are known to have engaged in corruption?” he asked. “There may be occasions where that happens.”

A February cable described exactly such a compromise, reporting on a police chief at a border crossing in southern Afghanistan, Col. Abdul Razziq, who was reputed to be corrupt — and good at his job.

Western officials, it said, “walk a thin tightrope when working with this allegedly corrupt official who is also a major security stabilizing force.”

Nickdfresh
12-02-2010, 10:34 PM
Seems like a bit of a retro replay of our ARVN generals--mired in the skimming of American aid and drugs...

Iron Yeoman
12-03-2010, 03:57 AM
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11906147

When this is going to go down like a lead balloon...

Rising Sun*
12-03-2010, 06:11 AM
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11906147

When this is going to go down like a lead balloon...

If the wikileaks documents recording the endemic corruption in the Afghan leadership and society are even moderately accurate, nobody from Karzai down is in any position to criticise any foreign troops risking their lives to prop up the crooks like Karzai who are sucking the lifeblood out of the foreign aid (military, economic and everything else) for their own profit.

I've never seen any good, or even any, reason to prop up such a corrupt and worthless crew in such a corrupt country.

Blind Freddie can see that the Taliban and their ilk will be back in control sooner or later, after doing deals with Karzai as he tries to save his corrupt arse and after which they will knife him in the back, which will be about the only justice in the exercise. Then they will impose their primitive Islamic rule to oppress everyone who doesn't think and dress like like them, which includes all women who have the misfortune to live under such a brutal patriarchal regime.

The latest revelations merely confirm my original view that we should have done a crushing raid and got out immediately, leaving them to get back a bit sooner to where they're going to end up eventually anyway but conserving our forces and resources for the next crushing raid. Even those benighted zealots would get the idea sooner or later that it's not in their interests to be a home for the like of bin Laden.

Iron Yeoman
12-03-2010, 06:32 AM
I agree with a lot of what you've said. I find this particulary galling as I lost a friend of mine out there. What grips me is the sheer hypocrisy of this man and the governor of Helmand.

Karzai issued an edict a few months ago to ban foreign PMCs/Bodyguards etc and from now on it would go to local companies mostly run by...his brother!

The governor of Helmand was a well known panic merchant and was often reported to get on the phone to the Brits telling them to get to some town as it was about to be overrun, which was often not the case. The reason why Karzai and the governor are so anti-Brit is that the Brits insisted on taking on the opium trade, something both derive a good chunk of wedge from.

It's probably true that the Brit forces were/are under resourced for taking on Helmand but that is our governments fault. However, it doesn't help when you're trying to prop up a corrupt system who are more concerned in getting as much cash out of the situation as possible and you've got an equally corrupt and venal police force who often won't fight and are in direct contact with the very same bunch you're fighting. By all accounts though, the Afghan Army are quite a good bunch and nothing like their police brethren.

Firefly
12-03-2010, 04:27 PM
Back in 2001 the objective was to rid Afghanistan of the Taleban. Job done I think, then, not now. What should have happened next was to ally ourselves with a couple of strong warlords and not necessarily send in the troops. However, we got embroiled in a little sideshow called Iraq, for reasons I still don't really understand. This moved the main focus for long enough to enable a resurgence in Afghan.

I don't think we can regain any momentum there, for many of the reasons stated above especially the Pakistan factor.

It's probably well past time to cut our losses and leave. After having spent a bit of time there I am convinced were probably doing more harm than good, including harm to our own militaries.

Time will tell I suppose but a lot of decent blokes won't be around to see it and some of them aren't here due to a constant mission shift in my opinion.

Rising Sun*
12-04-2010, 07:05 AM
Time will tell I suppose but a lot of decent blokes won't be around to see it and some of them aren't here due to a constant mission shift in my opinion.

That's the problem with these sorts of exercises, from Vietnam onwards.

They start with some reasonably clear political and or military objective(s) related to the strategic interests of, usually, America and to a fair extent its allies in the given exercise.

The objectives are usually fairly short term and or related to a given situation, but as time goes on and the situation changes the objectives shift but become less clear to everyone involved, although there is commonly the brilliant clarity of the oft-stated objective of 'winning', which is counterbalanced by the always unstated absence of any definition of what 'winning' means.

The mistake America, and its allies, consistently make in these exercises is deciding somewhere along the line to engage in reshaping the local social, political and economic landscape to be 'democratic' or otherwise imposing Western values on societies which have no tradition of democracy (whatever that means) and generally no interest in introducing it because it undermines the clan, tribal, caste, religious, class and whatever other stratifications, institutions and traditions operate in that society.

We (the Allies) got away with it in Germany after a crushing defeat and a successful occupation, but that's the only time we've managed it. And largely because we were dealing with a people with whom we had common understandings about many things related to social, political and economic values and institutions, and a people who largely didn't want to persist with the Nazi past.

But everywhere else we (the West, which now includes Germany) have failed to achieve anything remotely like that, largely because we're trying to impose alien systems on people who, quite reasonably, don't want them imposed upon them by an invader.

tankgeezer
12-04-2010, 11:03 AM
The idea (according to myself, and a couple friends anyway) would be to go in, kill as many of the known bad guys as can be gotten to, destroy as much of their stuff as can be, then leave. Fully knowing that those taken out will be replaced, and after awhile things will be back the way they were. There is no hope of winning hearts and minds on a grand scale, though one, or two long(er) term allies may be found. Perhaps in ancient times it was an important place to control, but these days, unless you want to corner the world gravel market,or make a fortune in "Chock full O' nothin' futures, its not very important.

The Fiendish Red Baron
12-06-2010, 05:24 AM
Sadly you are very wrong.

Afghanistan is as important now as it always has been.

It provides the key to destabilisation for an entire region. Left to fester it could cause untold grief to Pakistan and Iran, not too mention neighbouring former Soviet Republics. Destabilisation of Pakistan could lead to another round of wars with India, one of the worlds largest growing economies, and who knows what that may do to Indo-Sino relations.

What happens to A'stan is important as it directly effects those countries that border it, and indirectly effects the entire region.

Rising Sun*
12-06-2010, 07:14 AM
Sadly you are very wrong.

Afghanistan is as important now as it always has been.

It provides the key to destabilisation for an entire region. Left to fester it could cause untold grief to Pakistan and Iran, not too mention neighbouring former Soviet Republics. Destabilisation of Pakistan could lead to another round of wars with India, one of the worlds largest growing economies, and who knows what that may do to Indo-Sino relations.

What happens to A'stan is important as it directly effects those countries that border it, and indirectly effects the entire region.

I would have thought that Pakistan and Iran were the keys to destabilisation for a very large region, and much of the world. They're both rogue states.

If Afghanistan is so important to its neighbours, why is it that the Americans and their allies had to deal with it for harbouring people hostile to and attacking America and hostile to everybody else who doesn't have men with a beard which extends beyond a hand closed around it and who think that women aren't an inferior class and deserve, among other things, an education?

Afghanistan ain't gonna cause any grief for Pakistan. It's the other way around, with elements of the Pakistan regime supporting the Taliban etc.

Pakistan will be, and is being, destabilised by its various internal conflicts, such as this one http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Clashes-and-arrests-in-Karachi.-Lawyers-protest-against-Zardari-14705.html

Afghanistan is a proxy war between Pakistan and India, and that has nothing to do with America's and its allies' involvement.

"Neighbouring states are already considering the Americans as good as gone and are preparing for an endgame scenario with old rivalries renewed," Rashid said. "If no solution is found to reconcile Pakistani and Indian interests [in Afghanistan], the coming months might see stepped-up terrorist attacks against Indians in Kabul and the return of militants infiltrating Indian Kashmir."

Rather than the end of the Afghan war, this sounds uncomfortably like the resumption of a regional one.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/06/india-pakistan-afghanistan-exit

So, whether the Western involvement ends with a bang or a whimper, it'll only allow the region to revert to its own politics and conflicts. If they go to war, it'll have nothing to do with the West and everything to do with local politics.