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The Military View Column: The Afghanistan National Argument

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By Jerry Hogan, US Army Lt. Colonel (retired). And the argument goes on! Sitting on one side of the table are the President and his civilian advisors trying to understand military operations so they can make a decision on what the US should do about Afghanistan going forward. On the other side sit the military Generals and Admirals who have devoted their lives to studying and fighting wars. They think they know what should be done and they are arguing their case to convince the civilians of their proposed strategy.

So on one hand you have a group that really doesn’t understand the military ways of doing things but must face the political consequences if they decide wrong. On the other hand, you have a group that understands the military implications, but with the conservative nature of their profession, to insure against failure and to also consider the unknowns of war, they are arguing for a force and a strategy that probably has lots of safeguards and built in reserves if they are wrong.

So what do we the American people do to understand the issue?

It’s complex but really pretty simple if you ask a grunt Lieutenant who has been living on the ground in Afghanistan for the last year, humping an 80-pound rucksack, carrying 60 pounds of body armor, drinking 30 bottles of water a day, and trying to survive and keep his men in one piece and alive until their tour is up. As he puts it, “there can only be one strategy that wins in Afghanistan: contain Pakistan, secure the population, the US Army and Marines need to get out of the Forward Operating Bases (FOB) and put small units no larger than Platoon size (about 40 men) out to mutually supporting positions among the population. Stop worrying about the MRAP (Mine Resistance Ambushed Protection vehicle) and other awful boondoggles that have no place in Afghanistan. Empower junior leaders by giving them battlespace (area of operations they will be responsible for with their forces) and holding them accountable for what happens in it. Right now there is no cohesive COIN (Counter Insurgency) strategy, no unity of command, no unity of effort and the focus is on the Taliban. This is backwards: secure the population and render the Taliban a moot point.”

He makes sense.

The big issue is Pakistan. It is a rogue Moslem nation with a new unsettled government. Their President was forced to resign from the Presidency after he first was forced to resign as head of the armed forces. The current President is the husband of a former Prime Minister who was thrown out of the country for corruption, allowed back in to run for PM, and then killed during the campaign less than two years ago. Her husband took her place in the race against another former PM who was also thrown out for corruption and allowed to come back into the country so he too could run for PM. The husband won the election and when the President resigned, he moved up.

While the military has always been the stabilizing force in the country, with the removal of the military president, there is uncertainty if this stabilization will remain. The country is one of nine countries of the world that has nuclear weapons. While they have been under the control and supervision of the military, because of the influence of the extremist Moslem groups in Pakistan, there is question as to the ability of the military to continue to safeguard the weapons if the government were to fall. More and more of the strict Sharia Law is becoming part of the everyday Pakistan life and continued pressure is being put on the government to adopt even more of this life style. The fear is that migrating extremists coming from Afghanistan into Pakistan to avoid the American and NATO forces will take control of the country turning it into a sanctuary for displaced Afghanistan Taliban and Al Queda terrorist fighters. With this occupation comes control of the government and then control of the nuclear weapons. And that is the West’s worst nightmare…Nuclear Weapons in the hands of terrorists.

So that’s the BIG problem when you debate a strategy for Afghanistan. All of the rest is how do you keep this from happening.

Our efforts over the last eight years have produced poor results. We have been able to oversee a free election, but now the world, and the Afghans, recognizes the winner of that election as being corrupt so that he cannot gain the respect and control of his country. We have been able to drive the Taliban into the hills and caves and across the border into Pakistan, but we have not been able to stop the movement back and forth between Afghanistan and Pakistan. For a long time the Taliban would only have limited engagements with the US and NATO forces, but now we are seeing more and larger scale attacks from the Taliban. Bombings are becoming more common in the cities and the Taliban are growing in both strength and scope of action against US and NATO forces.

While Iraq has a very centralized governmental structure, Afghanistan has a very decentralized culture, life style, and physical structure. What worked in Iraq may not work in Afghanistan. But for any strategy to work, it must be one that involves the civilian population…you simply cannot kill all the bad guys; you must have the support of the people.

And that is what they are saying in Washington and that is what the grunt Lieutenant that spent the last year in Afghanistan is saying…”You have to protect the people, get them involved and make the victory their victory.”

How many additional US forces will it take to do this? I don’t know, but the choices are clear…either put sufficient forces in-country to insure TOTAL victory, or get out now. There will be no half-victory in Afghanistan and Pakistan!

Jerry Hogan is a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel who lives in Heath, Texas. He volunteers to write these articles and can be reached at 214-394-4033 or jerryhogan@sbcglobal.net

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1 Response for “The Military View Column: The Afghanistan National Argument”

  1. Solomon says:

    The militarys job is to spend money–as much money as possible because that means next year THEY CAN GET MORE MONEY! Therefore, as has happened for the last 235 years the military will never advocate for pulling out of a conflict regardless of how stupid, regardless of how deadly it may be. Those who yell the loudest about supporting the troops usually mean keep the money spigot open supporting their buddies in the defense industry. Peace mongers care more for the troops safety far more than the war mongers–never lose sight of that! Stop the money flow and our sons, daughters and friends will only spill their precious blood defending the country from real dangers.
    Mr. Hogans line “what worked in Iraq won’t work inAfghanistan”—wha????? LOL! 10 years, 0ver 4,000 dead young Americans, 100,000 disabled American troops, and $1 trillion spent? “What worked”?? Puhleese, get the troops home and let’s begin a strategy for rebuilding our country, and facing the challenges presented by the biggest thorn in our country’s side–Mexico. Millions of people right across the border need our nation building much more than Pakistan. Why pay trillions for our troops to build schools and clinics in a place Americans/Christians are abhorred when they could be doing the same right here?

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