The fallacy of the Afghan surge

Recently, John McCain, the MAF and Linda Chavez [1] have once again shown that they are ignorant on military issues. Specifically, they have demanded that Barack Obama send additional soldiers to Afghanistan. They believe that the cause of the Afghan problem is an insufficiently high number of soldiers there. Like Soviet generals, they believe that the Afghan war can be won if they just send additional troopers to Afghanistan (their belief begs the question: how many soldiers are enough?).

They are wrong. During the 1980s, the USSR stationed 150,000 troopers in Afghanistan (compared to fewer than 100,000 NATO soldiers now stationed in Afghanistan). It nevertheless got its ass kicked. There’s no reason to believe that increasing the number of NATO troopers in Afghanistan will prevent NATO’s defeat.

The number of soldiers in Afghanistan is already high enough. The cause of NATO’s problem is not the number of soldiers, but rather the strategy. For the purposes of this article, by ‘NATO’ I mean the alliance as a whole, including America.

NATO is wrongly waging a war of country-building, which is a waste of resources and time.

If NATO is to win, it should adopt the following strategy:

1)      Ending the war of country-building. NATO should focus exclusively on military issues. It should defeat the Taleban militarily, train the ANA and then leave Afghanistan.

2)     The number of American troopers in Afghanistan should be reduced to 60,000 soldiers.

3)      The number of ANA soldiers and Afghan policemen must be at least doubled (and NATO countries should all provide the requisite money). That is because ultimately the ANA should be the army responsible for Afghanistan.

4)      NATO must immediately cease transporting any goods through Pakistan and send them through Ukraine and Russia. America has already earned Russia’s approval for that, but other NATO countries haven’t, and neither has NATO as a whole. So all NATO countries that have recognized Kosovo as an independent state should revoke their recognition and bar Ukraine from NATO if Russia gives its permission. Russia should be the sole transit route to Afghanistan.

5)      If Russia helps NATO achieve objective #3 by equipping and financing the ANA and the Afghan police, it should be rewarded with a) an endorsement of the Union of Russia and Belarus b) withdrawal of American troops from Western Europe and the Balkans c) an increase of the number of US consulates in Russia d) uranium purchase contracts e) allowing all Russian nuclear ships to be scrapped at Puget Sound Naval Yard instead of Russia.

6)      Both Afghanistan and Pakistan must become federative German-style republics. They cannot have influential central governments.

7)      Both Afghanistan and Pakistan must implement capitalist economic reforms.

8)      Aid to Pakistan must be given only as a package of commodities, not money.

9)      The USAF should withdraw F-15Es and F-16s from Afghanistan, and deploy additional A-10 aircraft there instead.

10)   Rather than use massed divisions to fight the Taleban, the US military should use commandos, spies, air wings and small regular units in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama has refused to end the war of country-building. He said that he plans to “advance security, opportunity and justice … (and) develop an economy that isn’t dominated by illicit drugs.”[2] But Afghanistan is not the responsibility of the US government – it’s the responsibility of the Afghan government. America doesn’t have the resources nor the moral obligation to be Afghanistan’s caretaker.

The sole responsibility of the DOD is to protect America and its allies from military threats. America will not defeat the Taleban by subsizing the Afghan economy or maintaining Afghanistan permanently on the dole of the US government.

If it hadn’t been for the country-builders, the Afghan war would’ve been won by 2002.

My package of proposals is a realistic package which – if implemented – will defeat the Taleban while ending a war of country-building that should have never been waged.




2 thoughts on “The fallacy of the Afghan surge”

    1. Hi! First of all, sorry about the late response. The answer is that, unfortunately, the Taleban cannot be fully defeated militarily. The US and its allies have been trying to do that for 15 years now, and they still haven’t managed to do it. 7 and a half years have passed since I wrote that blogpost. Nothing has changed, except that inordinate amounts of blood and treasure have been spent by Western countries in Afghanistan.

      The way forward is to accelerate the training of the Afghan army and police (Afghanization) and give them a deadline to a) assume full responsibility for Afghanistan’s security; b) establish good relations with provincial and tribal authorities/leaders; and c) end the useless drug war in Afghanistan.

      The biggest mistake the West, led by the US, has made was to make an open-ended commitment to, and embark on an open-ended nation-building crusade in, Afghanistan (while completely ignoring the menaces posed by peer competitors like Russia and China and regional threats like NK). It is way past time to terminate this misadventure.

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