Thursday, April 27, 2017

Afghanistan gets worse

Spring is begun in Afghanistan.
Another fighting season has started and the news is grim.

I'm not talking about the MOAB; that non-story that somehow grabbed headlines for days.

Less was said by the serious defeat suffered by the Afghan Army in the north a few days ago.  Similarly, no one wants to talk about the resignation of the highest Afghan military officials as a result.
Very little has been said, as well, about the record casualties that the Afghan Army suffered last year, not to mention the civilian casualties.

Add to this shit sandwich, the hundreds of thousands of refugees that Pakistan and pushing back into Afghanistan, and you have what looks like a very grim stretch of months for the Afghan government.

The Marines are returning to Helmand.  ISIS is spreading in the eastern provinces and approaching the war with a bloodlust that has become typical for the outfit.  The Afghan government remains a completely dysfunctional mess.

The questions that will be faced is how bad will it get and how much can and will the US commit in order to keep our allies from breaking like the Iraqis did in 2014?


  1. It is a shit-show. I have friends there now and I honestly can't believe we are still fucking there. I last deployed to Afghanistan in 2005 - 12 freaking years ago - and nothing has really changed.

    We need to seriously GTFO of that place.

    1. Agreed. It hasn't been that long for me, but I saw the writing on the wall when I left. We should have moved to leave immediately after getting Osama.

  2. Death toll still unclear on that Mazar-i-Sharif attack from last week. Anywhere from 140 up to 300. And wasn't the German consulate there bombed also at the same time?

  3. Answers to your questions:
    1) "How bad will it get" - There is no limit to how bad it can get. There is a reason that Afghanistan is called "the graveyard of empires," invading Afghanistan is always an example of Imperial Overreach and the empires rarely see sense and leave before it is too late.

    2) "How much can and will the US commit in order to keep our allies from breaking like the Iraqis did in 2014?" - Just enough to show that Trump is hard charger who means business (see MOAB) and that Afghanistan is not his fault.

    One of the few areas where Trump seems to better than either Bush or Obama is that he seems to see Afghanistan for what it is (a giant bleeding distraction that cannot be made better with any reasonable amount of resources) and I suspect he is looking for a way out. Bush started his disastrous nation-building program and Obama used Afghanistan to distract the military hard-liners.

    1. Trump seems to...see Afghanistan for what it is (a giant bleeding distraction that cannot be made better with any reasonable amount of resources) and I suspect he is looking for a way out."

      Assumes facts not in evidence.

      This is similar to the "Trump the Peacemaker" and "Trump the Isolationist" memes that one kept hearing during the campaign, when in actual fact the Tangerine Toddler was constantly babbling about "bombing the shit" out of everything brown and Muslim and in all other respects was (and is) a conventional "more rubble, less trouble" Republican.

      Trump hates "losing" and has the knowledge and attention span of a gnat. He'll listen to whoever is talking to him AND he has an exaggerated opinion of military brass. Mattis and McMaster, while IMO smarter than most of the star warriors, are no less invested in the sunk costs in Afghanistan. I really doubt they're telling Five-Deferment Donnie to GTFO.

    2. "Trump hates "losing""

      True, but here he can blame it all on Obama and Bush.

      "knowledge and attention span of a gnat"

      I must respectfully disagree with you on this point. He has the knowledge and attention span of a drunken gnat in the middle of a thunderstorm. All Trump is likely to authorize are more MOAB publicity stunts and cruise missile strikes for fear of drawing attention away from himself and how truly amazing he is.

    3. This article ( is truly incredible in the sense of "What the fucking holy hell everlasting fuck?" incredible. This idiot actually thought that being POTUS would be easier than being a real estate scammer and name-brand grifter? Who the hell thinks that?

      I mean...I knew the guy was a low-information, selfish, relatively venal and not-too-bright egotistical blowhard (I was a young adult in the Northeast in the Seventies and Eighties, when Trump was all over the place) but it takes a special level of stupid to think that the Oval Office was simpler than his suite in the Tower.

      What a maroon. What an im-bessel. Sorry, Jim, but all that stuff about "respect for the President"? How the hell can you "respect" this? It's like "respecting" the dumb crooks in "Fargo"...

    4. Pluto,

      "There is no limit to how bad it can get."
      Aye. I think that Pakistan will not survive our war in Afghanistan and that its not unreasonable to expect another war between Pakistan and India that can be at least partly related to how our influence in Afghanistan upset the balance of power in the region in extremely unstable ways.

      "Just enough to show that Trump is hard charger who means business (see MOAB) and that Afghanistan is not his fault. "
      I don't know if that'll be enough. The US may need to double its troops just to maintain status quo, that's 10,000 troops!

    5. "We" - as in the people in State who knew something of the region - knew in 2002 that one problem with removing the Talibs would be that, whatever else they were, they were in the Pakistani corner re: things like Kashmir. The Kabul regime we installed almost immediately cozied up to New Delhi, and that's pure political poison for the Pakis; the whole point is to have "strategic depth" to the west. An India-friendly (or even a not-Pakistan-luuurving) Afghanistan was going to get the government in Karachi pissed off. But it was Dubya and his marry band of idiots, so where's the big surprise there.

      That said...I'm not sure that Karachi is as arsed now as they were then. The lack of success Kabul is having in crushing the Pashtun rebellion makes them more likely to look to Pakistan for help, IMO, and less towards India. That, in turn, makes Karachi less likely to want a casus belli with India.

      Right now Pakistan looks no more unstable than it ever has been. In fact...I'd opine that what MIGHT destabilize it would be an outright win for the present Kabul government that would force the Taliban remnants back across the Durand Line and make them Pakistan's problem!

    6. PF Khans: "I don't know if that'll be enough. The US may need to double its troops just to maintain status quo, that's 10,000 troops!"

      I am going to make a bold statement that Trump will not authorize ground troops if Afghanistan. As I said before, that would reduce news coverage about how wonderful Trump is. To restate this a different way, Trump does not care about the success or failure of Afghanistan and he will use the bully pulpit to explain that he cannot be held accountable for the mistakes of past presidents who aren't as wonderful as he is.

      The articles the Chief read about Trump's expectations about the Presidency confirm the theories I formed about 20 days into Trump's presidency. It's not that the man is stupid, it is that he has, in the name of profit, departed from reality. Now reality is reasserting itself and Trump is having troubles coping.

      At about the 60 day mark, I wondered on FM's blog whether Trump would quit out of frustration. That seems less likely now that I have more information but it is still a possibility, particularly if Wall Street takes a deep dive as a result of one of his decisions.

    7. The Tangerine Toddler will do whatever his regional commander recommends. I think it's crucial not to underestimate how truly ignorant he is in general and particularly in military affairs. He's also too shallow to care for anything outside of not-losing so - per that recent article - all his advisors have to do is give him a one-page summary recommending he authorize another three brigades and why that'll be the bigliest win EVAH and he'll ok it.

      As for him quitting? Why? He's making incredible bank of this whole POTUS grift. Some of it sucks, but the money, man, the lovely lolly! The orange scammer won't walk away from an open cash drawer any more than he'd pass up a grabable pussy. That'd be Untrumpian.

  4. Hmm. Let's see...Great Power tries to establish proxy in Kabul to "pacify" unruly natives. How's that gone, historically. Let's ask British Foreign Office wallah Bill McNaughton about that, shall we?

    Oh, wait. We can't. Because the Afghans killed him and his entire army! in 1844.

    THAT's how much worse it can get.

    My understanding is that this pooch was pretty much screwed from the jump because when the U.S. went in in 2002 we hooked up with a bunch of smaller tribes - largely Tajiks and Hazaras - and the Talibs were and are largely Pashtun. Trying to freeze the Pashtun out of Afghan politics was and is a mug's game, and Great Powers trying to prop up local proxies usually is, too, unless the proxy is unusually smart and ruthless and if he is, why would he need the Great Power looking over his shoulder?


    1. Chief,

      It really is so fucking dumb. What amazes me is that the pain of this seems so localized to the US military, Afghans and Pakistan/India, that it hard to gauge when this thing really really falls apart. Its astounding that the NYT wrote the article about the huge shlacking the Afghan Army took a full four days after it happened. In the meantime, we're treated to realtime stories of Trump's meals while we prep for war with North Korea.

      PF Khans

      PS Wouldn't it be special, if we forgot to help Afghanistan AGAIN in the pursuit of a dumber war against a member of the Axis of Evil?

    2. You...and "we", as in "We the People" REALLY need to get over this idea that we can "help" Afghanistan. Not only is that not really possible, for the simple reason that the US has neither the patience nor the wisdom to figure out what "help" really means, but the very idea that the US as a nation and the US public as a group has any sort of interest or intention of "helping" Afghanistan even if they knew how is laughable.

      And the "pain being localized in the US military" is a feature, not a bug, of the VOLAR. The people in both DoD and the US government that instituted the volunteer services knew perfectly well that once the goddamn US public didn't have skin in the fucking game that they'd go back to their default position, which was and is seeing these cabinet wars as a sort of reality show, entertainment, without really knowing or caring about the deaths and maiming and impoverishment and misery.

      They also knew that these sorts of expeditionary wars seldom, if ever, result on the sort of catastrophic "falling apart" that overtook the RVN. More often they're like our Banana Wars of the Twenties and Thirties that resulted in ruin and pitiless hatred in Central America. But who gave a shit? So a couple of hundred thousand beaners' lives sucked ass. So long as Chiquita Banana showed up in the Acme, who gave a fuck?

      We really are a miserable fucking excuse for an empire.

    3. Chief,

      Lol, so what are we getting out of Afghanistan? I don't see any fucking bananas. What, opium? Entertainment? Your position sounds dangerously close to conspiracy theory.
      And we 'can' help Afghanistan. We could leave. It's not a matter of 'can' it is the problem that has plagued America since at least I was born, it is a matter of political will.

      PF Khans

  5. Another useful lesson from history is the failure of the Soviet era Afghan Army. The muj - probably the fathers and uncles of many of today's Talibs - were pretty good at kicking the old army's ass. Afghans seem to fight poorly for foreign paymasters (the British seem to have worked something out with their Pashtuns in what is now Pakistan, but that seems to be an exception...)

    1. Tho even the Brits found that Afghan troops were not an "always true to their salt" thing. I was just reading about the 1919 Third Anglo-Afghan War and how when the Afridis joined in the British had to disband the Khyber Rifles of Talbot Mundy fame because the Afridis that served in the unit couldn't be trusted to shoot their cousins.

  6. Possible blue-on-blue incident less than a mile from the MOAB drop zone. Two Army Rangers. Not said who put ordnance on them, but probably not Afghan-allies-on-blue per local authorities. But that makes it even worse IMO. When the fwck do we stop killing our own?

    1. More to the point, Mike, it sounds like the raid hit a hot LZ and was taking fire as or within seconds of unassing the birds. Not too surprising to have own goals in a clusterfuck like that.

    2. It's amazing how often I heard 'find-fix-finish,' and 'you need to clear with infantry to actually finish' and how often we didn't do that in Afghanistan.
      Looks like 2,000 lbs or 20,000 lbs, it don't fucking matter.
      Poor guys.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. "Clearing with infantry" is costly in lives, PF, if you REALLY do it thoroughly. As any of the guys who fought their way up the Italian boot, or through the houses in Metz, or the bunkers on Iwo.

      Those sort of losses aren't really sustainable in a cabinet war, regardless of the rhetoric your company commander may have used. His brigade commander knew damn well that if his company took the sort of KIAs that, say, the 1 Marine Division took clearing Hue that the public screaming would cost him his birds and HIS commander's stars all the way up to the CINCCENT.

      So you didn't do that because there was no rreal eason to do that; your commanders knew that all you would do is kill or capture a couple of dozen replaceable muj and every joe you lost would be a PR nightmare, and that no matter how many locals you killed or captured unless you went Full Roman and killed and captured them ALL that you weren't going to "win" why take the risk?

    5. Chief,

      We didn't do it for a lot of reasons. But you pay now or you pay later. There is value beyond just the body count, though. And it wouldn't be clearing Hue. There is no NVA here. There are lots of irregular militia of varying training and equipment. We're talking about 2 fatalities being news, you can't actually fight a war that way.
      So instead, that full bird is pretending his actions won't lead to clusterfucks like Wanat or Kamdesh and then going 'what could i do?' when it happens and keeping his chances of a star alive. The body count stays pretty fucking similar tho.

      PF Khans

    6. There isn't any NVA. But...there's also isn't any Hue. There's NOTHING there. Afghanistan has been strategically insignificant since Timur's time and still is. There is nothing there, not a goddamn thing, worth the bones of a North Dakota grenadier, to paraphrase Bismarck.

      So even a single guy lost to a boody-trap clearing houses is too many. A guy lost in a rollover accident. That's the reality; the public knows that fucking around in the wilds of southwest Asia isn't a "war", it's just imperial policing, and while you can fight an imperial police action that why...why? It gains you nothing other than wasted time and money and lives.

      The way to prevent clusterfucks like Wanat and Kamdesh is NOT. TO. GO. THERE.

      I know you're heavily invest in the joint, but there is nothing for the United States, or any of us who live in it, but ruin and merciless hatred. The sooner we recognize that and leave the locals to their own quarrels, the sooner we will move on.

    7. Chief, I need to know. Do you not get that I have the same position as you?

    8. I don't. My position is "This is doomed; GTFO"." When you say things like "You pay now or you pay later" I read that as you suggesting the is, and should be, a "later". It seems like you would like to be able to salvage something out of the Umpteenth Afghan War, and I can understand that. I wanted that, too, for a long time. Too many Army brothers have given too much for these shitshows. But I've finally let go. My read on what you write is that you still hope. I'm sorry if you've given in to despair as I have...but, in a sense, less sorry than if you still DO hope the We the People, and our services, and those who served, can salvage anything from this.

      It's not a good thing, either way. These pseudowars are harming and will harm everything they touch.

    9. Chief,

      It is doomed, GTFO. Agree 100%.
      I only meant 'you pay now or pay later' in a tactical sense. If you keep troops hunkered in bases doing nothing but lobbing bombs, we're only protecting some Colonel's career. No base is impervious, no truck is truly bomb proof.

      I write these posts mostly because it is therapeutic :).

      PF Khans

  7. It sometimes helps to remember WHY the U.S: (and the West in general) got into Afghanistan.

    The majority civil war faction of Afghanistan had offered hospitality to UBL BEFORE 9/11 happened, and they did not withdraw their hospitality BEFORE UBL admitted to having orderer 9/11.
    Shortly after we attacked this civil war faction it was already out of power in all urban areas and UBL had escaped.
    We kept pounding this civil war faction ever more (this is where NATO article 5 ended - defensive wars end when the aggressor party has lost control of its country) and occupied the country, nation-building by a president who had campaigned with rejection of nation-building). Nowadays there's a subsidized proxy government that still needs foreign troops for help, is kleptocratic and trying to oppress the largest ethnic faction because it supported (and was represented by) aforementioend civil war faction.

    That country is landlocked in Asia and there are 4 regional and great powers that would meddle in the country without any Westerner present, with but one of those being supportive of aforementioned civil wasr faction to some degree.

    Did I mention that almost nothing was done to the last host of UBL because they had nukes?

    The mess is ongoing with Western participation almost 16 years after 9/11.
    No doubt, historians will call our politicians "idiotic".

  8. Fack...I really, really don't want to touch this subject, but damn if the Area of Effect splash isn't going to get on me, anyway.


    I hate it for the sink hole it is.
    I hate it for the tar pit it always has been.
    I hate it because all this was known before 2003.

    And worst of all, I hate Afghanistan because it enlarged all the cracks in our national facade that we are "Murica, fuck yeah!"

    Afghanistan is that djinn we so desperately want to stuff back into the lamp, but it ain't going back in that lamp until it is dealt with...and we are the ones who rubbed that lamp vigorously with all our wishes of faux nationalistic pride...

    Perhaps that will be in epitaph on the tombstone of America, "Empty Pride Precedeth America's Fall."

    Ah well, Obama failed us, and it looks like more of the same from Trump's White House.

    1. Sorry steve. I hate it too.

  9. It is just going to keep coming.
    Ignore the headline, the real story is buried here,

    "Pakistan has said Afghan forces fired on Pakistani census workers and troops escorting them, killing two soldiers and nine civilians on Friday.
    Islamabad also claimed 50 Afghan troops were killed in retaliatory action, a claim Kabul denies, saying only two border policemen and a civilian were killed."

    From Pakistan:
    "Gunship helicopters conducted regular aerial surveillance of the border area, while schools, offices and markets in the nearby areas remained closed."

    Pakistan lies, we lie. Worst case scenario is that Pakistan is actually fighting our ally. Best case is that they are just lying about it.

    1. Thing is, PF, my understanding is that Karachi's big issue is that the U.S.-installed regime in Kabul is insufficiently hostile to India. The biggest reason the Pakis were okay w the Talibs was their lack of cooperation w New Delhi. Now the nabobs in Karachi see the ANA as an Indian proxy, and are unsurprisingly cheerful about savaging them...