Small Wars Journal

How Bin Laden Escaped in 2001: The Lessons of Tora Bora

Mon, 12/16/2013 - 11:30am

How Bin Laden Escaped in 2001: The Lessons of Tora Bora by Yaniv Barzilai, The Daily Beast.

Exactly twelve years ago, during the cold Winter days between December 10-16, in the jagged mountains of Tora Bora that separate Afghanistan from Pakistan, Osama bin Laden walked unencumbered into Pakistan and disappeared for nine and a half years.

Just before, however, bin Laden had made an egregious error. After spending a couple seconds too long on his radio, the CIA pinpointed bin Laden’s location to within ten meters. One hour later, forty of America’s most elite special operations forces raced to kill the most infamous man alive.

It was the only day for nearly a decade in which the United States knew exactly where Osama bin Laden was. And, it was the last time that the majority of al Qaeda’s leadership would ever be in the same place…

Read on.


Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 05/12/2015 - 9:46pm

Any one want to go back and look at my questions about Kabul and blocking the NA? Non Western sites are full of theories....the reporting is hilarious too. Why the world will fall apart if the Taliban are kicked out without a Pashtun faction! Yea, let's see the 'it is only a localized insurgency crowd' go back and look at its past analysis. The partisan American political types. The local is embedded in the regional and the global.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 11:55am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I think I read at War on the Rocks that diplomatic history is out of fashion? Seems a shame, another interesting idea might be to go through memoirs of this period and take out all the pieces on "the Pashtun question", and the way in which different prominent decision makers talk about the issues.

War Studies is quite clever as a concept, better than Security studies in a way, in addition to needing to develop a paradigm, it allows anything to be studied, so, theoretically, to stay away from academic bullying, fads, and fashions. Interesting.

1. Which parties were pressing this issue with the Americans? How did various factions attempt to cultivate Americans? Northern Alliance and their patrons, and the Taliban, Pashtuns and their patrons?
2. How did American scholars of the region come to prioritize this aspect of scholarship, or is this related to policy considerations and is unfair to the larger scholarship/

And so on. For once, I'll spare you all.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 11:39am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Michael Schaeuer seems to have been quite impressed by Musharraf, as an aside. Well, in some of his books he sounds that way, which is quite interesting, if so.

I wonder what other intelligence agencies, especially, the Germans and the French, who didn't have the same strange Anglo-American relationships in that region, think about some of this? Wheels within wheels.

One thing that is illuminating is to look at think tank scholars and what they wrote about the region pre-Abbottbad. It's mostly hugely naive, that's what you find, no "bombshells," just a terrible kind of vanity and innocence by some. Things like, "gosh, maybe we should encourage trade between Indian and Pakistan, and then, er, magic! No more Taliban insurgency!" Gee, why did no one ever think of that before? Hoover, AEI, Brookings, the lot. It hardly makes a difference.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 03/17/2015 - 11:31am

From Page 53 of Barzilai's book; I always thought there was something weird about Kabul and our approach to it:

Chapter 5, The Strategic Void:

<blockquote>During the ten days of hell at CENTCOM, the principals at the White House vigorously debated the future of Kabul and the best use for the Northern Alliance. Tenet and his field commander in Afghanistan, Gary Schroen, argued that American airpower should provide close air support for the Norther Alliance so that it could consolidate northern Afghanistan and take Kabul. Cheney agreed but reminded the advisors that the primary objective was Al Qaeda. Yet the common aphorism "kill or capture bin Laden" had slowly degraded into "kill, capture, or put on the run." Powell expressed concern that supporting minority ethnic factions to take over the country's capital might alienate the majority Pashtuns, resulting in long-term difficulties.</blockquote>

That excerpt shows that our system has not, really, ever got a handle on that initial strategic confusion and most of my comments in this section--and others--have tried to understand how certain attitudes about that part of the world have taken hold within the Washington establishment, to include plain old ignorance compounded by a traditionally small and rather odd South Asian analytical and scholarly community.

On page 73 in the same book, there is a map titled "Major U.S. Special Forces Operations" and it has a drawing within the map of a "kill box". The "back" of the "kill box" (its eastern and southern aspects outside of the box, outside Kabul, so to speak) is, oddly, a physical representation of the blankness of the strategic confusion of that initial period, carried into today.

Add to that physical blankness, the various maps from Peter Tomsen's book The Wars of Afghanistan, the maps discussing the major Taliban offensives. It's almost as if you can take these maps from the two books and lay them on top of each other. Then, add labels with the different camps within the American system and trace <em>their</em> intellectual histories and how each camp viewed the "blank" spaces:

Why was the Pashtun question of such central importance in an initial military campaign of destruction, and why was that equated with the governance structures that were to take place? Should they have been? Could it have been otherwise? Or no? Is it simply impossible that any other actions could have taken place realistically?

Why would destroying the leadership that had hosted Al Qaeda--with introductions to the Taliban from the Pakistanis and Saudis during the 90s, a key point when considering what happened, outside the question of insurgencies and stability--be the same as excluding the actual people of the South from governance in a new constitution?

Whether NATO Turkey, traditional "ally" Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan (with its strange elite relationships to various Western camps), we have the continual problem of deciding what our American interests are and how far we are going to go in accommodating allies. The military in particular seems to view ally management as an end in itself.

Bruce Reidel asks for empathy to the initial shock felt by the decision makers and the pressure all were under. A valuable point.

The questions remain, however, and today you can find anything you like as you look at the situation on a regional and global level:

1. Negotiations with Iran, and Pakistan's desires in that regard, balancing Chinese and Saudi patrons.
2. Complicated relationships with Russia that still have some common interests in this region.
3. China finally acknowledged as an important player that has allied with the Pakistanis as their proxy, against more than one party, regionally and globally.
4. The Indians turning east and starting a new relationship with the US.
5. The Saudis attempting to court the Indians in a different way than, er, the past, when the Iran-Saudi rivalry contributed to violence in Kashmir.
6. American domestic political fears (politician and military), fearing a repeat of what is going on in Iraq and so extending an American presence, which might calm a different faction that the southern faction, so to speak.

Doesn't it all seem strange, the things many of you--me too--were taught, about the region, all mostly haphazard left overs from the Cold War.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 6:29am

So this is interesting:

<blockquote>"I said, 'I want to bring the ships in next to the beach. I want to land stuff across the beach. I have an airstrip nearby where I can fly stuff in and out. I want an intermediate support base where I can put some fuel. And by the way, here is H-hour, D day, and my objective.' The Pakistanis knew it all three weeks in advance and never revealed one word."</blockquote> a quote from General Mattis in Esquire (2010, Tom Barnett article)

I messed up a little in a previous comment. The sequence was this, wasn't it:

1. Negotiation for logistics through Pakistan in a trade for the dropping of sanctions and various aid packages. Plus, the pattern was set for the American military in terms of "we will argue against you in public but in private we will support you," which brought in the American military psychologically in interesting ways, even if inadvertent or unplanned.
2. Permission for the Kunduz airlift from President Bush or Cheney (?, different stories) because Musharraf had said he was vulnerable and needed the help.

To date, the quietness over this in relation to the attention given to Tora Bora is a bit odd. It occurs to me that it might not be a bad thing for various parties if the focus is on Tora Bora.

In terms of strategic depth, isn't one aspect falling back with assets, evacuating to a different place to plan a future offensive? If you look at it that way, what do we see in those initial weeks after 9/11?

Half fighting, half retreating, all in the name of future assets to be used if needed. And information from joint planning from the very beginning? Whether from the top or from "rogues", either way, from the beginning, the false narratives on South Asia that were a part of the American psyche were major problem.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 5:57am

In reply to by Bill M.

Thanks for that comment.

I never thought about it in that way before. The point about language and Design was made in this Infinity Journal article (it's in one of the articles by van Riper in IF at any rate):…

I don't think it is just the language that alienated a lot of people, I think it is the lack of understanding of an environment because the focus is so much on the theory as opposed to regional understanding, and the fact that some proponents are parroting information and don't seem to understand the philosophers they are quoting.

But that could be a bias of mine, I'm not the biggest fan of the endless study of various military theories as opposed to examining the world you will be operating within. It seems to me that the military is most interested in the military and most articles about warfare are really meditations on what the military or its related intellectuals think about the military. An endless loop of navel gazing.

Bill M.

Sun, 01/04/2015 - 10:23am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

"We focus an entire complicated conflict into the narratives of only one small part of the story. Our need to manipulate the situation via our proxies, and, then, we Americans become lost within our own propaganda, and start to believe it. Fascinating."

An accurate assessment, one I used to blame on the curse of Clausewitz, but finally realized I was misplacing blame. Clausewitz was brilliant, and the center of gravity concept generally worked for the types of war he wrote about where the major objectives were either defeating an opponent's army or capturing their capital. He recognized the character of warfare would evolve, that was it was a series of duels between two or more interacting opponents that would adapt throughout the conflict based on the conditions presented. We on the other hand seemed to ignore that lesson in our doctrine.

Instead, military planners are foolishly taught to reduce complex problems to the one underlying cause (as though the world is really that simple), and focus the majority of our energy on that problem (mass), and everything else falls under the economy of effort lane. Then we build metrics so we tell ourselves how great we're doing at achieving the objective tied to the center of gravity we so brilliantly reduced the situation to. It is brilliant because we determined the COG with very little understanding in the first place! Only brilliant people can create artificial simplicity.

A lot of smart folks in the military have recognized the errors in our planning approach, which is one reason design thinking is being proposed by some to replace or augment the current reductionist and deterministic process. Unfortunately for design thinking though, some of the most vocal advocates are overly focused on quoting dead philosophers. This makes design thinking seem esoteric and anachronistic, which in turn leads to them failing to make a convincing and pragmatic case for those who don't have the time to read or re-read Kun, Marx, Nietzsche, Hume, etc. I suspect people are capable of thinking about thinking without reviewing their works, and what they really need to think about are the problems at hand and the various ways to influence/shape them.

I think design thinking will gradually have more influence when we have more pragmatic artists write about it in terms that are comprehensible. At the strategic level this potentially will open our eyes to the full complexity of the problems we face, and instead of trying to artificially dumb them down to one underlying root cause to focus on (winning the population as an example), appreciate how multiple factors interact to create desired or undesired conditions. That understanding will present options for shaping, actions we can take to nudge the system in a direction more amiable to our interests instead of trying to control it, which we should have learned by now we can't.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 01/04/2015 - 9:02am

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Why do I keep coming back to this? Not because it is something that is so novel, but because there is something interesting about how people within the American system keep deflecting to this point, the problems at Tora Bora. Is deflection the correct word?

Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan, this is our American MO. We focus an entire complicated conflict into the narratives of only one small part of the story. Our need to manipulate the situation via our proxies, and, then, we Americans become lost within our own propaganda, and start to believe it. Fascinating.

Madhu (not verified)

Sun, 01/04/2015 - 8:54am

Yes, we all know I wouldn't go away. I posted this as part of a comment at Zenpundit (I have made minor changes):

<blockquote>From day one, the Americans fell into the Pakistani trap of viewing the conflict primarily through the eyes of Pakistani clients, a point of view their security apparatus worked very hard at instilling within the American psyche.
Gary Schroen in <em>First In: How Seven CIA officers Opened the War on Terror in Afghanistan</em>,
“Abdullah felt that this was all Pakistani and Pashtun propaganda aimed at creating a climate wherein the Tajik and other ethnic minorities would be isolated and ignored , allowing a conservative Pashtun government-under strong Pakistani influence-to come to power.”</blockquote>

Over the years, I've collected statements about "the Pashtun problem" within the American media, especially in the very early days of the Afghan campaign. It's fascinating. Again, a bit like Kashmir where an entire complicated conflict was reduced to the Valley and the most radical elements of the separatist movement, elements with cross border ties. It's not about taking sides between Pashtuns and anti-Pashtuns, but the way in which the most radical elements were portrayed as localized insurgents and more moderate elements were pushed to the side.

It's interesting that both so called Coindinistas and Cointras fell into this trap, in addition to many other factions within the American Foreign Policy apparatus. The Cointras fell for the propaganda because they didn't think we should even be in Afghanistan while the Coindinistas thought that they WERE fighting a proxy war by trying to split the insurgency. Instead, they lost control of the process because they alienated others as they tried to entice moderate Taliban and cultivate Pakistan.

Nothing new here, but it is interesting to go back and look at the statements by American officials in the very early days of the campaign.

Gen. Mattis, in a talk on YouTube says that the entire ground campaign of those early days wouldn't have happened had it not been for the Pakistanis. True, but as many other commentators have said, the concessions they extracted likely included some kind of promise that they could remove some of their people from Kunduz and perhaps even that they should be the ones to seal the border at Tora Bora. Perhaps that is why requests were denied.

Nothing new, nothing new, except that there is still something very strange about the way in which the entire conflict became viewed through the eyes of the most radical elements of one party within a larger conflict.

Is the same process happening right now with Syria and Iraq? Are we again misframing the situation, and partly because of outside interference?

Madhu (not verified)

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 11:05am

Drill, melted away, whatever:

<blockquote>The Pakistani security establishment appears to meticulously be repeating its November 2001 <strong>drill</strong> when it retracted and preserved its Afghan Taliban proxies only to launch them with a vengeance in 2004-2005 when the US took its eyes off the ball.</blockquote>…

It's interesting to think about it as a drill, isn't it?

Madhu (not verified)

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 11:59am

I posted the following comment in another thread and it belongs here too:

"<blockquote>....He* paused. “Musharraf is trying to put out the fire with the help of the people who started the fire,” he said.</blockquote>

Not just Musharraf, the CIA too. The American military has been publicly flogged for its COIN doctrine, yet the CIA through the NSA has been rewarded, likely because the drone debate has been framed in a way that doesn't get at the CIA's traditional failings in this region."

What was that article about Erik Prince that mentioned in passing how Pakistan was privileged by the American intelligence community over building up intelligence institutions in Afghanistan? Very much in keeping with the Foreign Policy Article by Stephen Walt on Counterterrosim Counterfactuals. Will post when I get the chance. The important thing about the article wasn't Erik Prince, it was the off-hand comment about Crumpton and others? I have to find that article....

Well, when I'm in line at the market or whatever, I get bored and read. What am I supposed to do, read about the Kardashians? Please stop doing that everyone, if you don't click on the links, they may go away.

*He being Hussian Haqqani in a Seymour Hersch New Yorker article.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 10:17pm

<em>Conceptual failure traces to a Chinese restaurant in Manhattan, where Lakhdar Brahimi, UN Special Representative for Afghanistan (2001–2004), Barnett Rubin, Ashraf Ghani, Ahmed Rashid, and two UN staffers dined in 2001. This was the kernel for the UN Strategy Group and the Security Council resolution empowering the UN to oversee Afghanistan's transition.46 Brahimi's core team included Ghani, Rubin, and Rashid. In December 2001, Bush appointed Zalmay Khalilzad as Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan. From 2002 to 2008, Francesc Vendrell was the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan.
UN officials assigned to Afghanistan had Balkans experience. They saw a ‘failed state’ and myriad ethnicities, and ‘moved the Balkans template to Afghanistan.’47 They assigned quotas, coding political lists P (Pashtun), U (Uzbek), H (Hazara), etc.48 The UN was fixated on ethnicity, claiming Pashtuns were the largest demographic group and had the right to govern. Ahmed Rashid insisted that Pashtuns were alienated and had to govern. If not, he warned, there would be instability.49 This popular refrain was so Pashtuns could seize power from the Northern Alliance (NA) controlling Kabul. Rashid, et al. were effectively promoting Pakistan's position: the Pak Foreign Ministry: ‘Pakistan continues to hold the view that the Northern Alliance must not occupy Kabul…’; it was a ‘strategic debacle’ for Pakistan when the NA occupied Kabul (2001). They insisted, ‘[i]f the current situation is allowed to persist for long it could lead to civil war as in the past.’50 They feared Ahmad Shah Masoud's (d. 2001) party, Jamiat-i Islami, and interpreted the Shiite parties as Iranian proxies. ISI knew it could not control NA, and most importantly, that NA was strongly anti-Taliban. The US was methodically nudged toward a policy where it rejected its NA allies.</em>

This is from the paper I mentioned and I wanted to incorporate this excerpt here, not because I want to argue its correctness, but to think about what really happened during that period and whether the standard contra vs coindinista, taliban versus al quaeda, narratives are enough? What else are we missing and how does this relate to the changed state today, after 13 years? So much of the discussion here is static and identity is shallow, one ethnicity or tribe and that's it. So too with academic works or wonks. The paper mentions an entire world of authorities and academics beyond those usually discussed.

And the editors so nicely provided that paper to the public, yet it's not as widely read as some others. What a shame when the editors have been so very generous.

Madhu (not verified)

Tue, 07/22/2014 - 10:06pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

I forgot to add the link to the article:…

The 2001 period is most interesting to me, and I find the thesis that dated thinking from Pashtun exiles was one factor is the incorrect set up of the original government. And that the Taliban was never really disarmed or demobilized, and this too beyond the idea that they "melted away."

Open Letters Monthly has a book review on a book called Pashtunwali and what is interesting is that the author is someone who emigrated some time ago, a Pashtun Western academic from a certain time and place. I know that in my own diaspora community people often think that immigrants become "stuck" in a dated idea of place, the country that they come from moves on but they are stuck with notions that belong to their era. And our elites become stuck too, in one time and place and this combines with their personal relationships with regime emigres to create a dated notion of reality.

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 12:08am

There is an article in the latest Small Wars and Insurgencies that should be read with my comments here (author Mahendrarajah). Pay particular attention toward the 2001 period and the Pashtun narrative favorited by the UN and the usual popular South Asian analysts heavily tilted toward a traditional Anglo American Pakistani narrative. Will flesh out this counter narrative with examples as I dig out 2001 notes....

And again the Nato-ization of American thought with the Bosnia model superimposed onto SA.


Thu, 01/30/2014 - 1:36am

The biggest failure in this mess was Gen Franks and the politicians who promoted him... Combined with poor civilian leadership and stupid, foolish and wasteful ROE rules, which cause us to fight one-handed and always have since WWII. Though I think interference by higher level civilian leadership, other than firing him would have been useless... We have come full circle, with Generals & Admirals making squad leader and company commander level decisions. Failing to trust subordinates, lack of common sense and politics caused us to miss an opportunity, again. Fear of the unknown and the boogyman, combined with risk aversion, fear of collateral damage, force caps, and a failure to move fast and hard at the decisive moment, caused this. Before Tora Bora, SOCOM ran the show. Conventional forces could have been employed and could have really helped but were not used. They didn't need or want if muddled up by the "no hands in your pockets" crowd screaming about head gear. But when they got to a point conventional forces could have been useful, none got sent and those that did, were as usually poorly employed. Tora Bora could and should have been encircled. (If we were smart about send those who really need to jump, we could have two divisions. As the noose was emplaced, SOCOM could have pushed them out and into the traps. Fear prevented this from happening. Failing to trust in subordinate leadership prevented this from happening. Leading from the rear caused this to happen. The safety, safety, safety mindset contributed (our senior leaders fail to realize that while most of us are not suicidal, we didn't join to be safe or we would be selling insurance.) Playing to the idea that Americans can't stand casualties... We don't like them, but if WWII was any indication, we can stand them. Failure to go in combined arms contributed.

The Bottom Line? Senior and political leaders failed (as usual) by acting like a bunch of old ladies. Trying to make an omelet without breaking eggs is never going to happen. If the politicians call on the military, then they have failed, they should provide an political end-state (not tactical, or operational one) and nothing more. Military Leaders should fight the battle, with all reasonable assets and means not try to stay on the good side of the politicians. One worrying about the next job, promotion, or over paid CEO job they are going to get. Win fast, win decisively and win are what America really wants.

You cannot be perfect. People who think they are deceiving themselves. So are military leaders. if you don't want to make any mistakes, how are you going to learn, adapt or improve? That's why we have senior leaders who won't act, won't risk and won't win.

The failure of the Senior Leaders to unleash the full fury at the decisive time and place contributed has contributed to the state that America is in today. Blood and treasure has been spilt and spent, that didn't need to be, if only the leadership had been willing to except some collateral damage, and take risk and active decisively. We can't role back time, but I do have to wonder if we had got OBL at Tora Bora what would the state of the United States be today? We can never know that, but we can prevent it from ever happening again due to weak, politically motived, fearful leaders.

Madhu (not verified)

Sat, 01/25/2014 - 8:27am

It would be interesting to "mine" this book for Kabul and the Taliban topics, so-to-speak, as opposed to Tora Bora, as I've sort of attempted in this comment thread. The more interesting thing to me is the patterns set up by decision makers at the beginning and what connections might exist between our leaders and foreign officials. The great age of Davos-level emotional connectivity (and maturity) via leader-leader interaction:

"In 102 Days of War, Yaniv Barzilai takes the reader from meetings in the White House to the most sensitive operations in Afghanistan to explain how America's enemies survived 2001. Using a broad array of sources, including interviews with U.S. officials at every level of the war, Barzilai concludes that the failure to destroy al Qaeda and kill bin Laden when he was cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora in Eastern Afghanistan was not only the result of a failure in tactics but, more importantly, the product of failures in policy and leadership."

102 Days of War: How Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda & the Taliban Survived 2001 Hardcover
by Yaniv Barzilai (Author) , Bruce Riedel (Foreword) - Amazon Review

And the review of Robert Gates' book at War on the Rocks has some interesting comments about the Bush administration and its view of Russia and how that might have affected the beginning of the campaign; too much focus of lack of resources and turning to Iraq as the only problem when some may have viewed the region as a chessboard in the old regional competitions left over from the Cold War?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 6:36pm

What am I supposed to do with stuff like this? It's not wrong, necessarily, trade is good and can be stabilizing, but, still, what am I to do with it?


"Pakistan Ideal for Investment" March 22, 2006

"Let. Gen (retired) Mike DeLong, who is currently visiting Pakistan along with other executives of M/S Shaw briefed the Senate about their firm."

I'm not singling anyone out, the Commonwealth, Brussels, China, Saudi, retired family living in the US from various nations, trade, all those connections that our military somehow thinks it doesn't have to think about as it makes up a campaign. If these connections will stay, you need to think differently than the old ways.

Focusing on core concerns like Al Qaeda is Gian Gentile's brilliance in his writing. I don't actually agree with the so called COINTRAS on the way they look at the region, but the plan is brilliant because the spaghetti diagram of connections matter less in that plan.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:38pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Let it go....I'm just in a "mood" and playing around intellectually with puzzle pieces. I keep thinking there should be another pattern.

There must be another pattern than the usual three or four we have discussed. This is about we Americans. I don't really care about South Asia, per se.

<strong>Inside Afghanistan: End of the Taliban era</strong>, L.R. Reddy

page 266

"As Kabul fell to the Northern Alliance on Tuesday, fears arose in Pakistan of a possible bloodbath and prolonged Civil War as well as loss of influence in a next-door neighbor it had tried to control for years. Pakistan seemed shocked when the alliance troops, after the ruling Taliban retreated without a fight, entered the Afghan capital despite US urging not to do so that echoed the desires of Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf."

page 267

"Hours before Musharraf was due to return home from a trip to the United States, when he discussed the Afghan crisis with President George W. Bush...."

What about the Nixon-wallahs and Iraq, Iran and Russia? What were they thinking and how might they have needed regional armies for their plans? Come on, the neocons were crazy. You think they didn't discuss stuff like this?

And what really happened back in the day with Kissinger and Khalistan?

Wheels within wheels and the stuff not declassified. It wasn't just the British or the Americans, too, didn't then West Germany raise regional ire on the subject?

And we brought the NATO mindset into it....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 5:20pm

<strong>Crisis of Impunity: The Role of Pakistan, Russia and Iran in Fueling the Civil War (Human Rights Watch)</strong>

<blockquote>Direct Military Support

Observers interviewed by Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan and Pakistan have reported that Pakistani aircraft assisted with troop rotations of Taliban forces during combat operations in late 2000 and that senior members of Pakistan's intelligence agency and army were involved in planning major Taliban operations.

This would not be the first time that the Taliban suddenly showed new military prowess and innovation. On several occasions between 1995 and 1999, the Taliban's military skills improved abruptly on the eve of pivotal battles and in one case, declined just as abruptly after a credible threat of intervention was made by an outside power. During its offensives in 1995 against Herat and in 1996 against Kabul, for example, the Taliban suffered heavy losses afar mounting attacks against veteran government forces. Initial defeats were followed by a period of quiet; then Taliban troops mounted new attacks, displaying capabilities that had been conspicuously lacking efore. At Herat in 1995, a 6000-man Taliban army was defeated by government troops after it ran short of ammunition and other logistical support; the rout was such that some analysts predicted the Taliban phenom had run its course.</blockquote>

And the glorious Saudis who our system protects automatically because, well, the American system is about the system, its forgotten, the national security collective, that the American Constitution and the happiness, health and safety of its people matter more than the collective's emotional and intellectual hard-on for its favored enemies. The Game. That's what matters to you. So you focus on Snowden without realizing he could not exist without YOU.

<blockquote>Saudi assistance to the Taliban has at times extended beyond the strictly financial to encompass military and organizational assistance. Western journalists saw white-painted C-130 Hercules transport aircraft which they identified as Saudi-Arabian at Qandahar in 1996 delivering artillery and small arms ammunition to Taliban soldiers....</blockquote>

Yeah, none of this is at all helpful to the present time, to Air Sea Battle or how the Army should be or anything the US is facing in this period. Sure, you all keep telling yourself that.

We built a web of connections and the connections are strangling us when they are not benefitting us. All at the same time. Anyone but a member of the collective can see it.

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:49pm

<strong>Taliban Retreat Takes war to the hills, Christian Science Monitor, Nov. 1, 2001</strong>

<blockquote>I find it very important that the Taliban retreated from Kabul with all of their personnel and military assets intact," says Rifaat Hussein, director of the Defense and Strategic Studies Department of Quaid I Azam University in Islamabad. "They are ceding the cities and now regrouping in Paktia and southern Afghanistan, and they hope they can make it very costly for the Northern Alliance to move into Pashtun areas. And guerrilla warfare is what they are good at anyway."


Some military experts, such as Sajad Haider, a former Pakistani air commodore, say that US air strikes are critical now. "Retreating troops have to be in the open day and night; they make great targets," says Commodore Haider. "The US has to make the best of this time, because when the Taliban get to Kandahar and mix with the civilian population, they will be very difficult to root out.</blockquote>

Dec. 20 comment by Dave Maxwell to SWJ article: Counterinsurgency, Local Militias, and State building in Afghanistan:

"After a quick read of the report one of the shortfalls is that it does not assess the early efforts conducted by Special Forces in 2002-2004 with local indigenous forces. For the most part, the report focuses on 2008 and later....Any comprehensive assessment of these programs should include what really came before and efforts were abandoned due to lack of support by higher HQ...."

What really happened in the early days between Musharraf and the so-called "Nixon wallahs" (so called by me :) ) in the Bush administration?

Iran was a preoccupation for many; how did the Saudis and Pakistanis and others barter with the US over this sort of thing behind the scenes?

Why did the American system accept what it did, long after it was clear we were funding both insurgency and counterinsurgency?

All the same patterns in Syria, in Egypt, closer to home for Mexico, all the same patterns of our national security class, and, in a way, its standard critics. When it's a blind spot for the collective, it's a blind spot for the collective....

As long as War on the Rocks is going all Kissinger for the moment, what about Khalistan and Kissinger? Not rehashing but trying to understand why the Western military intellectual class did not use an example that is most suited to the current environment where it's all connected, state, non state, proxies and lobbies.

Why do you study that which is least likely to help you?

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:59pm

In reply to by Madhu (not verified)

Did Cold Warrior civilian and military officials--men and women of a certain age and generation--buy that Margolis stuff, altogether? If so, then it's a different angle, isn't it, than it has all been discussed up to this point. And it's still going on, given the Iran negotiations, the whole complicated push-and-pull within DC and internationally.

This is the problem with an activist, enemy centric strategic mindset. No wonder you can't do strategy, it's all about "checkmating" people and believing that stupid BS. To the point you pay against your own, you know you do it and convince yourself you have no choice, national security collective.

Too bad the non interventionist community had some silly ideas about "South Asia" too....

Madhu (not verified)

Mon, 01/20/2014 - 4:22pm

<strong>Kabul, not Tora Bora, and Russia and Iran in addition to Iraq....</strong>

Careful, readers, you know my notes sometimes get mixed up but I think the following is correct:

<em>Eric Margolis, War at the Top of the World: The struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet</em>:

<blockquote>I believe that the first theory is correct: the Bush administration was simply gulled and outfoxed by Moscow. After reassuring Bush that the Northern Alliance would not occupy Kabul until a government was formed that was acceptable to Washington, Putin seized the opportunity a day after the US President had publicly asked Moscow to say out....In effect, Putin advanced his rook onto the empty square of Kabul, so checking the strategic ambitions of the Americans.</blockquote>

Laugh-Out-Loud. Your poor things in the military.

Isn't this book on some "AfPak" military lists?

Mr. Gates is doing a nice job explaining the silliness of academia that the Obama administration brought in with it, about solving Kashmir and stabilizing Pakistan via aid and making the military and ISI feel more "secure" and grand regional plans that were bizarre in their ambition.

Usual American "South Asian" analyst and Ph.D. nonsense.

But what about the so-called Nixon wallahs (Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.), the old Cold Warriors in D.C., the type that still viewed the world almost entirely through a "get Russia" and "get Iran" lens?

Is any of this in Mr. Gates book? And why did he think paying for the insurgency and the counterinsurgents at the same time would work? He's not a stupid man. Why did he believe it? We were paying, via proxy, against our own men.

Pity is what I feel. This is what the Cold War did to a generation of national security officials. Slowly, bit by bit, you become accustomed to that which is an abomination. Robert Jones makes a related point about a standing Army in another thread; the slow way you are absorbed into the system emotionally and forget to question what you are doing.

What did Musharraf and others say to the Bush administration in the early days about Iran or the Russians? One wonders....

(Ah, my dear anti-war dot com types and The American Conservative types--of which I am one, so this is not against you AT all--you have your blind spots too. We all do. Everyone was mucking around in Kashmir and the Punjab and so on in one way or another doing the Cold War, so that your ideas about diplomacy forgot that we can't be neutral outsiders, we Anglo-Americans, not to mention others.)

Remember how much fun people made of me here, or on other blogs, and on so-called COINTRA blogs in the early days? And yet, it's all conventional wisdom now. So, for all my "crazy", maybe I'm not such a loon....

OTOH, it's all mixed up. What's real? What isn't?

Vali Nasr, Robert Gates, the lot, are coming out with books or blog posts at War on the Rocks. What is going on?

Move Forward

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 4:59pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

From my first link in the earlier response today, you find this quote made by bin Laden in Kabul just 4 days before the city fell to the U.S. and Northern Alliance:

<blockquote>Then, on November 8, he was in Kabul, despite the fact that U.S. forces and their Afghan allies were closing in on the city. That morning, while eating a meal of meat and olives, he gave an interview to Hamid Mir, a Pakistani journalist who was writing his biography. He defended the attacks on New York and Washington, saying, <strong>“America and its allies are massacring us in Palestine, Chechnya, Kashmir, and Iraq. The Muslims have the right to attack America in reprisal.”</strong></blockquote>

From this response, you ascertain that the U.S. and West are going to be blamed for anything perceived to be anti-Muslim. We persecute nobody in Palestine, had nothing whatsoever to do with Chechnya or Kashmir, and at the time were merely enforcing a long no-fly zone over Iraq. Where was the justification for 9/11?

Saudi Arabia certainly has nothing to gain from supporting al Qaeda in Syria over the long run because they could become their next victim. The U.S. looks weak there forcing Saudi temporary assistance of their lesser enemy. We gain to some degree because Syrian armed forces are depleted by insurgents and evil men on both sides are killing one another instead of plotting against the West. Simultaneously thanks to Mr. Putin, we benefit from ridding Syria of WMD that could fall into the wrong hands. Egypt's decision to make the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization certainly does not hurt America. The recent seizure of 4 U.S. service members in Libya indicates that bombing there did little to help our cause. So President Obama's and Clinton/Kerry/Rice policies have had mixed results at best, often due to the efforts of others other than ourselves.

As for drone attacks, I would argue that the Pakistanis are conspiracy theorists anyway so their average opinion is somewhat irrelevant in contrast to the benefits provided to both their government and ours by killing terrorist leaders/planners there. Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and to some extent Syria have ocean front property meaning we can easily exert influence there should events get out of hand. The primary difference is that problems in the Middle East are inevitable if we conduct a war on terror...and even more inevitable and destructive if we don't intervene and plans can evolve without interference or threats from above. In China, problems are much less inevitable because surely someone in China has the sense not to kill the goose laying the golden egg by attacking the U.S. or its allies over small rocks.

Also, Israel will not hesitate to act on their own which could drag us back into conflict in the Middle East due to our appeasement of and inaction in Iran. So before we start claiming that hands off will solve everything, let's gain a sense of realism based on recent and likely future history. Also, I have yet to hear a <strong>realistic</strong> alternative offered that would have improved matters in either Iraq or Afghanistan sans a large U.S. boots-on-the-ground footprint maintaining stability until host nation security forces could evolve.

Robert C. Jones

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 3:35pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


Good questions. To facilitate a broader exploration of this topic I started a thread in the Council.


Outlaw 09

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 3:01pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Robert---an interesting comment;

"In the second case, if not AQ and their Islamist ideology it would have been someone else with some similar message (Islam-based ideology seems to be the only flavor that works in the Middle East for rallying people to illegal political action)."

If one really looks at the ME historically there was a wave of Arab nationalism which awoke many much like the Arab Spring did---but due to the Cold War went absolutely nowhere and was discredited in the eyes of the population.

Then came along AQ with their Salafist fundamentalism and together with the Saudi's pushing their form of Sunni Wahhabi fundamentalism and your "perfect" storm has indeed occurred---Sunni fundamentalism is replacing in the eyes of the Arab population what Arab nationalism failed to achieve.

Actually successfully if one looks at the direction that the Arab Spring has taken.

It also explains why now the Saudi's and AQ have joined forces in Syria--fundamental Sunni Islam has always viewed the Shia as the true enemy---thus the drive to build a Shia containment wall as you have indicated.

By the way CT operations and invasions against this fundamentalism will in fact not go anywhere and you are right it drives the population to even more support of the fundamental messaging.

You are quite correct the rehashing of a 12 year old event is a waste of time.

Although I tend to differ with the comment that what the national leadership has done to reduce the resistance energy has actually been successful ---IMO the opposite is occurring.

What has been the messaging to the Syrian Sunni population---no support from the West massive support from the fundamentalists who while maybe not quite well liked by the population--at least they are on the ground taking the same chances as the population/chemical gas attacks are bad but being bombed by "barrel bombs" is OK /, drone strikes---maybe fewer but still hitting occasionally the wrong targets which in the long run has increased fundamentalism in Pakistan--drone strikes in Yemen---AQ is increasing in strength--Egypt---now the MB are into an underground fight and what is the US position?-potential fundamentalist fighting between the Sunni's and Hezbollah in Lebanon and the US reaction?---right now just words--- examples can on for awhile.

What is concerning though is that the current national leadership does not seem to have an answer to this fundamentalism. This fundamentalism also applies to the Shia side as well---even though Iran is showing a more moderate phase the fundamentalists still control the military and security forces and Khomeini's shadow still covers Iran from the religious side.

What we have developing is in fact a clash of fundamentalists on both sides of Islam leaving the secular side sitting on the sideline and being pushed further and further into the closet.

Actually by our open support with drones and Hellfires to a Shia governed country and our lack of support to the Syrian Sunni's, and our drive for an Iranian settlement supports the Sunni fundamentalist view that we are slowing becoming clearly "a near enemy".

And what is our response?

Robert C. Jones

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 1:12pm

In a court of law this entire thread is what might be called "relevant, but immaterial" (in that the information, while interesting and applicable to the case at hand, in no way helps resolve said case).

At a tactical level AQ is a pain in the ass. Tactically they are "a threat." They came to our country, they murdered our citizens, and while they did so in a war-like way, it was plain old, garden variety mass murder and we need to bring justice to those who perpetrated the act, and peace to those who suffered a tragic loss from that same act. Acting like a proverbial elephant with an irrational fear of mice, tromping all over any place where we think mice might hide with little regard to the impression that is creating in the minds of those innocently affected by our tromping is not making us safer. Quite the opposite, in fact.

At a strategic level AQ is a symptom. Just as the Treaty of Versailles made a future war with Germany inevitable, so too did the US decision to let the programs, policies and relationships nurtured during 45 years of Cold War manipulations in the Middle East to simply ride into the future make conflict with the people of that region inevitable as well. The explosion of information technology was an accelerant. Like the collision of a cold (war) front and a warm front over a sea of the people - it brewed a perfect storm.

In the first case, if not Hitler and the Nazi ideology it would have been someone else with some other rallying message. In the second case, if not AQ and their Islamist ideology it would have been someone else with some similar message (Islam-based ideology seems to be the only flavor that works in the Middle East for rallying people to illegal political action).

Resistance insurgency is a natural human response. While it is easy to appreciate why Hitler triggered this human response in every single country he invaded during WWII (and to some degree we even concede why we triggered resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan), we have a harder time appreciating that not every inappropriate, illegitimate "occupation" need be physical. I think we understand the rise of AQ and the resonance their message has had across the greater Middle East in the post-Cold War era best if we consider the possibility that one can trigger this human response through an "occupy by policy" as well as by the more traditional physical occupations we normally associate with resistance movements.

Why is this important? Because if we want to reduce the likelihood of terrorism against the US we must address the source of energy fueling the problem in the first place. Widespread CT operations and invasions of nations we see as supporting or facilitating the UW operations AQ has been conducting to leverage this resistance energy have served primarily to make that energy stronger. Symptoms must be mitigated, not defeated. To attempt to defeat symptoms ignores the problem and allows it to grow unchecked at best - at worst, and we have been bad, such efforts make the problem worse and accelerate its growth.

In many ways, much of what President Obama has been doing in regards to turning his back on Mubarak, tempering the use of drones, looking for diplomatic solutions to Syria, acting in ways that tend to piss off Cold War partners such as the Israelis and the Saudis in general - all have done far more to reduce the energy of this occupation by policy than all of our military efforts over the past 12 years combined. The boss has good instincts, but we have no strategy to provide the framework or narrative necessary to guide and communicate the logic of those actions.

If we want to get to better results, we need to redefine the problem and then devise new strategies. Working harder and faster to execute flawed perspectives focused on symptoms, or rehashing 12-year old battles, is not going to help us finally turn the corner on this problem.



Sun, 12/29/2013 - 5:01pm

In reply to by Move Forward

We got caught in a blizzard that lasted 24 hours and dropped over a meter of fresh snow on the summit. Mind you the depth of snow which hampered the ascent enabled us to basically jump/fall down the other side which probably saved a few lives. A lot of Afghans died in the mountains that night.

Move Forward

Sun, 12/29/2013 - 11:59am

I've enjoyed reading your comments about this issue. Unfortunately, we got somewhat off track with some speculation while completely ignoring some of the elephants in the room. For starters regarding whether bin Laden crossed at Tora Bora, perhaps these articles cast some light:

And then there is this earlier one from 2005:…

Both seem to indicate months of bin Laden bulldozer preparation of roads leading to massive cave compounds constructed in the Soviet-control years by our own assistance to jihadis. Osama bin Laden and family also practiced road marches over the mountains for up to 14 hours at a time. One article mentioned using horses to get through the snow. And while I'm astounded to read many of Rant Corps first-hand comments at times, I'm equally puzzled that they did not consider the use of snowshoes to avoid sinking into the snow.

However, one of the elephants is that the Soviets bombed Tora Bora for years unsuccessfully while the USAF used B-52 to drop upwards of 700,000 lbs of bombs on the cave complex. That is the equivalent of 700 1,000 lb bombs in a very small area. Now picture an equal number of PLA short and medium range missiles attempting the same damage against a single target cave complex on Taiwan. However, they don't have just a single target to attack but rather multiple targets. They also could not fly bombers over Taiwan like we did over an Afghanistan without air and missile defenses or fighter aircraft.

So when you look at the number of allies who will have their own missiles, plus their own air forces and navies, and their own bases that have U.S. forces to assist, you start to realize how minor the first strike threat is of the PLA 2nd Artillery Corps missile threat of 1500 missiles, many of which are nukes and would not be used. Of course that also assumes that China wants to simultaneously P.O. all its adjacent neighbors and end up with long term good relations as an end state. Equally puzzling is the belief by many that the PLA could target an aircraft carrier with a multitude of casualties and the U.S. would just capitulate given our opposite reaction to 3000 dead on 9/11.

While an offshore control blockade most certainly would be viable against China after their first strike, I can't imagine any need to blockade Pakistan given a cooperative Musharraf of the time who allowed us access over their land to Afghanistan. I can't imagine a nuclear war between the U.S. and Pakistan given the standoff MAD deterrence that exists between India and Pakistan with far fewer nuclear weapons involved and far less long range reach. Whether we could/should have gotten bin Laden back then is largely irrelevant. We did get him in the end, and did help Afghanistan long enough to build a substantial ANSF. That force, if we continue to fund and support it from the air against any "Easter Offensive" will be adequate to ensure no return to an open sanctuary in Afghanistan far from our sea-based airpower...and long-range cruise missiles that already failed to work once before 9/11.

No matter how many counterfactuals we analyze, it is probably indisputable that without a large scale 12-year presence in Afghanistan, we would not have overland and overflight rights through Pakistan today had we left immediately after "mission accomplished". We would not have gotten bin Laden. Al Qaeda and the Taliban would have returned post haste with nothing to stop them but isolated militias. The risk of al Qaeda getting a Pakistani nuke would have been greater as Rant Corp points out. True al Qaeda and company moved elsewhere...where Navy and land-based airpower can more easily access and target them and their leaders.


Mon, 12/30/2013 - 4:59pm

In reply to by carl

First up the ISI is an arm of the Pak Army, I don't differentiate between the two - much as the Taliban are an arm of the ISI.

Its just occurred to me. The Pak's may have been aware of OBL presence without OBL knowing it. I have to confess that seems even more unlikely than they were completely ignorant - but I grant you it is possible. Stranger things have happened.

Having said that I would have bet my mortgage they would have had a battery of beam riding/wire guided weapon systems over-watching OBL's compound; hidden within one of the neighbourhood houses half a klick away - perhaps in the Academy.

Anyways it all water under the bridge,



Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:05pm

In reply to by RantCorp


I have never banged "...on about a nation of conniving rats". Only a fool would do that. But only a fool would see the Pak Army/ISI as anything other than a thoroughly corrupt and perfidious organization that ultimately cares only for its own privileged position, its country and all the poor people in it be damned.

Whatever hard evidenced gathered when OBL was killed is meaningless when trying to determine if the Pak Army/ISI knew he was there. There are a lot of jailed Mafiosos who were certain that their social clubs and restaurants weren't bugged by the FBI too. Now if you had unfettered access to Pak Army/ISI docs, that would be meaningful, but we don't and never will. So we should go by what we know and the totality of that makes it clear to me they knew exactly where he was. In my view their scathing inquiry was theater designed to cover the sixes of both their big shots and ours.

It is interesting to me that I almost never refer to the ISI but almost always to the Pak Army/ISI; while you separate the two and refer to the ISI as a discreet entity. I think that is incorrect, obviously so. The best evidence is the career progressions of ISI chiefs, they were all, all high ranking Pak Army officers whose service in the ISI didn't hurt their careers a bit, Kayani being the best example of that. The Pak Army is the ISI and the ISI is the Pak Army, hence Pak Army/ISI. To believe otherwise is to ignore the obvious and to give the Pak Army/ISI a very great advantage when dealing with us. They can use the fiction to play the "You gotta help me deal with those crazy guys, so go easy." game. That divides and weakens us. But it gives me another clue into why we can't win over there, a lot of civilian and uniformed genii must actually think the Pak Army and ISI aren't one and the same.

The other examples your cite are more confirmation of what I consider the greatest problem we face, the lack of moral character of our leadership classes, both civilian and military. The truth is something they can't see or don't much care for. That will destroy us if we can't fix it.


Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:38am

In reply to by carl


If we are attempting to make a case for justifying military action we need to base it on facts. That is how our system works best, it can cause much frustration - even unnecessary deaths, but it does stop us making big mistakes. If we rely on circumstantial evidence and that evidence proves unsound the whole case collapses and regardless of the reality; and that our suspicions may in fact reflect a genuine threat (ISI in this case), everyone in governance throws their hands up, they slink off and the Beltway circus moves on.

You’ll recall the chest-thumping indignation in the immediate aftermath of the raid that killed OBL : ‘Gilded palace right next to Pak West Point!’, ‘HQ for GWOT!’, ‘fanatical guards!’, ‘huge firefight!’ ‘hiding behind wives!’ etc. etc. It was all a crock. He didn’t fire a shot despite having his ubiquitous AKSU and a Makarov by his bed. The reality is he was a coward and didn’t have enough money for food and had resorted to milking his own cow, growing vegetables and dyeing his beard. The force we had deployed could have fought a small war. As it happened there were no US nor Pak casualties to the great credit of the Navy.

Carl wrote:

‘It is very important that we acknowledge to ourselves the obvious, the Pak Army/ISI knew where Osama was all or most of the time, certainly during his whole time in A-bad.’

From what I understand the hard evidence gathered by the SEALs proves the Pak’s didn’t know he was there. The scathing denouncement by their own Inquiry (which didn’t use the captured files - please don’t bang on about a nation of conniving rats) came to the same conclusion and publicly derided the entire Pak security force. The point I’m attempting to make is we are playing into the hands of the ISI & AQ if we go around barking counterfactuals that when made public take the wind out of the sails of our fair-weather friends who make the political decisions.

A similar turn of events occurred with the Tora Bora ‘fortress’. You remember the graphic of his multi-storey underground compound with the bomb proof foundations and hydro electric plant and reinforced concrete bunkers and hidden passageways fro 2000 men. (Was the nerve agent factory there?) It was depicted by many up to and including Rumsfield as a regular mini Maginot Line. We decided it needed 700,000 lbs of bombs to soften it up before we attempted an assault. The reality in the words of the ODA team who got there:

‘Again, with the caves, they weren't these crazy mazes or labyrinths of caves that they described. Most of them were natural caves. Some were supported with some pieces of wood maybe about the size of a 10-foot by 24-foot room, at the largest. They weren't real big. I know they made a spectacle out of that, and how are we going to be able to get into them? We worried about that too, because we see all these reports. Then it turns out, when you actually go up there, there's really just small bunkers, and a lot of different ammo storage is up there’. – Jeff, Staff Sgt. ODA 572[23]

All of a sudden those who crave a public persona start back-pedaling and the blame-game kicks in and the whispered asides - ‘ You know I was never convinced...’ and ‘If only they had listen to me when...’. etc. It is interesting to ponder if we had listened to one of the thousands of local inhabitants who knew it was basically a site where goats and their shepherds camped in the summer/autumn and had been used as such for centuries . Now I think about it Delta doing Abottabad and the SEALs doing Tora Bora would have reflected a more accurate understanding of the reality on the ground.

Similarly, the Clinton-era strike on Jarawah near Khost in 1998.

‘U.S. President Bill Clinton announced the attacks in a TV address, saying the Khost camp was "one of the most active terrorist bases in the world”.’

I remember nearly choking on my beer when I heard this. I had an old friend call me soon after and raging down the phone at the stupidity of such a remark. There would have been a hundred official US personnel whose job it was to know this to be complete BS. As it subsequently came to light thru the media this was as globally significant as a terrorist hub as was Tora Bora.

The WMD justification for Iraq broke many people. Folks were incredulous we could actually invade an entire country on the basis of widely acknowledged BS (Ridgeway, Shoup, Gavin spinning in their graves). I know people who were physically sick watching Powell (of all people) testifying to the UN about WMD.

The US Govt spends a great deal of money getting people who can be trusted on the inside where these events are unfolding. To actually have that blown away by jingoistic tub-thumping self-publicists is an appalling experience.

It’s a nasty habit we need to break.




Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:48am

In reply to by RantCorp


I should have figured the 'K' was a typo. The brain probably stores Carl and Karl right next to each other. But then again I was so pleased with thinking up that Teutonic wise crack I would have used it anyway.

I deal with us going into Pakistan in a post below and will get on to other things.

It is very important that we acknowledge to ourselves the obvious, the Pak Army/ISI knew where Osama was all or most of the time, certainly during his whole time in A-bad. Were we to acknowledge that it would lead inexorably to the conclusion that the Pak Army/ISI is the enemy. That would a fundamental change in outlook and might give us, or more probably have given us, a fighting chance. If we can't bring ourselves to see the sun in the sky we can't possibly Afghanistan or in anything.

Once again, I didn't suggest we blockade Pakistan now. I said we can handle Pakistan easily with sea power alone if it ever came to that. A glance at a map of the world shows why.

Your mention of getting stuff out and the truck driver is a non-sequitur, though it is probably useful for giving inside the beltway suits the vapors.

It is interesting you mention that highway to Red China, or the two highways, since it was cut in two a few years ago by a landslide that created a new lake. Now they have to use boats for part of the trip with the on and off loading that involves. But even if that road was intact, it is just one road that goes over the top of the world through very steep terrain with a very bad winter. Logistically that means it can't ever come even a tiny fraction of close to supplying a country of 180 million people. Karachi is indispensable logistically. That road is very useful to the Pak Army/ISI though. Its existence is one more reason for the genii inside the beltway, both civilian and military, Not To Try.

This is the first time I've ever heard someone say the relationship between Pakistan and India is near perfect. After Mumbai things were a bit tense between the two countries if I recall, tense as in a war almost started. When the Pak Army/ISI gets adventurous again, Indian public opinion won't be so accepting I believe. That isn't a perfect situation.

I don't see how the Indian Army has mastered unconventional war (they do use an interesting term though, sub-conventional war). They hang on to what they want and deter the Pak Army/ISI to the extent they do because of their conventional big war fighting force superiority. Without that God alone knows what those immoral killers in 'Pindi would do.

The GPF as you call them were plenty capable of doing well in Afghanistan. Things have gone as they did not because those forces couldn't, but because the leaders Wouldn't Try, or Couldn't Try, mainly in my view because the leaders refused to see who the main enemy really was and is, the Pak Army/ISI. Making the criticism you did as you did is like saying rifles are no good for hunting because you've been using one with no sights and haven't been able to hit anything.


Mon, 12/30/2013 - 2:02am

In reply to by RantCorp


Boy I hate going over this again and again. But I haven't been clear enough so I'll try once more.

There would have been no need at all to send forces into Pakistan sans permission. The idea would have been to ask to do so. Then if permission had been denied, even the genii inside the beltway might have seen whose side the Pak Army/ISI was on. We could have then planned and acted accordingly, at the very least not establishing the Karachi supply line nor given those rats billions. Given the situation at the time, as Bill M. has mentioned, they may have even coughed Osama up at that time instead of a decade later. But we'll never know because We Didn't Try.

And as I've said before, it is becoming more and more clear to me with this exchange that a reason We Didn't Try is these kinds of wild flights of fancy you expostulate were/are taken seriously inside the beltway. There is another reason too that you just illustrated with this statement "Pakistanis do not fear the US or anybody else for that matter." Geesh people really think that those corrupt jerks are 10 feet tall. Imagine, all that Raj, Kipling, Khyber Rifles imagery still impresses people.


Sun, 12/29/2013 - 8:07am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M:

Strangely enough I have never thought about how the Pak mil would attack the US homeland. It does seem somewhat preposterous now I think about it. No I have always assumed in the event of a massing of a expeditionary force on the Durrand Line the Pak High Command would air-burst a nuke on or just inside their border at the four major routes into Pak ie. Chaman, Khost, Parachinar or Landi Kotal where that force was massing. All of these crossings are basically as desolate as the surface of the moon so the collateral damage would be minor.

These choke points are sparsely populated and the few persons that do inhabit the region are troublesome Pathan tribesmen anyway. The Pak High Command would rightly claim it’s their country and if you choose to enter uninvited (chasing Saudi dissidents) with your army you have to expect the full force of the State to throw you out. Like you suggested they are not stupid. They could pass it off legally and diplomatically as a domestic test program i.e. Nevada Test Site if they really stretched it.

Pakistanis do not fear the US or anybody else for that matter. They used to fear devastating humiliation at the hands of a nuclear armed India but they have rectified that problem. I can’t imagine CENTCOM having the balls to order a BCT Cmdr to unilaterally cross an international border which has the remains of a mushroom cloud passing up into the stratosphere above it and the possibility of a hundred more on the way.

IMHO the fear of nukes (whether real or imagined) certainly played a role in keeping us out. To me at least the unexpected fallout from the subsequent 12 year standoff is the serious question of how our hugely expensive GPF execute the conventional option. IMO for those who wish us harm the past 12 years suggest there is very little to fear.

We need to rectify that perception.



Bill M.

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 10:36pm

In reply to by RantCorp

I think we can dismiss the total war myth with Pakistan as irrational for several reasons, so in the end this seems to be just one excuse piled on top of the other for not acting more aggressively when we had both the political will at home and globally to so. I suspect there is some truth to Carl's arguments, and I think our military became very good at coming up with excuses throughout the 90s based on perceived risk, which they could use to manipulate a risk adverse Clinton administration. Remember the Haitian with the machete on the pier that turned back the U.S. military? It really doesn't get much more embarrassing than that.

In 2002 Pakistan did not have missiles that could hit the U.S. and I don't think they have them now. I don't think anyone in their right mind was concerned about a nuclear conflict between Pakistan and the U.S., as one Pakistani officer said that would be suicidal for Pakistan. The State may host irrational actors, but the State of Pakistan is very much rational. They have nukes for one reason, which is to deter India which has superior conventional forces. Musharraf was worried that the U.S. would invade Pakistan and secure his nukes, he didn't threaten to use them, he simply moved them to hide them from us so they could maintain their deterrence capability for India.

The real concern was if we invaded it would create political instability within Pakistan that Pakistan couldn't contain, and then there would a be risk of extremist groups securing the nukes, though most would be like a pig staring at a wrist-watch. If that happened there is little doubt the West and probably India would intervene surgically to secure the weapons. There wasn't a logical concern of major war between the U.S. and Pakistan. It was all about the Great Game and we suck at it, and were most likely played by Pakistan who somehow convinced us not to conduct an incursion to capture/kill UBL, because it would create too many problems.

We'll never know, but I suspect if pushed harder the Pakistani's out of self-interest would have cooperated against AQ, not the Taliban which is another weapon of theirs to maintain influence and wage irregular warfare against India. We may be the big clumsy guerrilla in the region, but it was never about us for Pakistan. We are and were a risk to their desired status quo in the region, but with our downsizing the Great Game will continue without us.

Congressional report on Pakistan's nukes:

Interesting discussion in a Pakistan Defense Forum online (blog)

Read it carefully, they're not talking about a U.S. threat to Pakistan per say, but to its nuclear arsenal based on article published in India which was probably hype.


Mon, 12/30/2013 - 1:42am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Robert C. Jones:

Let us refresh everyone's memories with something that happened, a big something that often seems forgotten when discussing these things.

On September 11, 2001 AQ murdered almost 3,000 people in NYC. Murders most foul they were. Osama and AQ were crowing about having done them and how happy they were that they did.

Osama was in Afghanistan at the time and we asked Taliban if they would give him up. They, with the encouragement of the Pak Army/ISI, refused. So we invaded the place to get at him.

If MO and the boys had given up the mass murderer there would have been no invasion. Given that set of circumstances I don't see how there wasn't going to be an invasion once they said no you can't have him. Us flyover people, low order thinkers that we are, would not have stood for it.

Robert C. Jones

Sat, 12/28/2013 - 10:10am

In reply to by RantCorp

Not to disrupt the fun, but AQ's #1 "near enemy" (& #1enemy in general) has always been the Saudi family. We were just in the way. Ironically AQ and the Saudis are now quite literally working together in Syria against what they both see as a shared existential threat to their respective agendas - the expansion of an Iranian Shia band of containment of Sunni Islam stretching from the Hindu Kush to the Med.

A move only made possible by the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.


Sat, 12/28/2013 - 8:27am

In reply to by carl


First up very sorry about the K. I have no idea how I got a K – they’re not even close on the keyboard!

I also see many reason to cut off funding to Pakistan but in Dec 2001 Pakistan was still an ally. My point - and I grant you the article attempts to paint a broader picture into the present day – is at that moment CENTCOM realized he did not; or more accurately could not, go that way into Pakistan. The Pak’s and the Afghans also knew it. The US had a small force in Parachinar but it soon became obvious it had no mission.

If we had insisted on dropping an Airborne Division in and around Parachinar (scarcely big enough to search the White Mountains in winter) the Pak Army would have no alternative but believe we had a hidden agenda(as happens he was heading north back into AF and ended up regrouping several hundred km north inside AF). They would have duly resisted. Their argument would be a bunch of Saudis murdered 3000 Americans and their leaders and fellow terrorists (all Arab) are running around in Afghanistan and the KSA so what the hell are you invading us for!

Obviously in 2001 we had little idea how to interdict individuals such as OBL even when they were right under our noses (For what it is worth OBL refers to a Delta team (Americans with beards) coming very close to his small E&E team). Disturbingly we were still doubtful even after the SEALS were standing by his body. I don’t believe it was a lack of desire or courage it was simply it is difficult to be certain of the facts. And when you are shooting people in a sovereign country that hasn’t given you permission the facts are important.

If we had insisted and gone ahead and sent a large force to their side of the White Mountains for reasons all parties knew to be bogus (in the immediate sense) IMHO there would have been total war with Pakistan. I think it is best we agree to disagree on that hypothetical.

The question of whether they knew he was in Pak during the subsequent 10 years is something many people find important. From what I understand one of the few significant finds within the hundreds of thousands of files retrieved from Abbottabad is they did not. OBL repeatedly gives detailed instruction to his ‘Staff’ how best to continue to avoid detection by the Pakistani authorities, both in an operational sense as well as a part of daily routine. Personally I don’t consider it important. As time has shown it has changed nothing.

You suggest we blockade Pakistan. Does that include the land highway into China? How are we to get all that lovely gee-whiz gear out in and out of Afghanistan? Do we allow what we want in and out and deny everything else? I wouldn’t like to be a truck driver hauling US supplies up the 2000 km to Kabul from Karachi thru a embargoed nation of 200 million people. Once again I politely request to agree to disagree.

You mentioned India. IMHO the current relationship between India and Pakistan is perfect. Even when the lunatic fringe within the Pak military sent a suicide team into Bombay brazenly armed with standard issue Pak Army equipment (as opposed to VBIED or hijacked airliners) the Indians did nothing to threaten the current state of affairs.

Basically what the Indians realize is that none of these assholes are worth one single dead civilian let alone several hundred million.

The solution to the problem is we need to master Counter Unconventional War. The ISI has mastered UW and we need to counter that. The Indian Army seems to have managed it so why not us. I don’t see how the blue water Navy or the Air Force can possibly manage it. As opposed to many people I honestly believe the US and her allies have more than enough capability and capacity to empower our allies who are being attacked by UW proxies.

Jumping up and down about who knew what and when they knew it and where they knew and not playing by the rules is IMHO of no value.

We need to recognize UW where it threatens our interests and respond accordingly. The GPF has proven to be a ruinous failure so we need to dust ourselves off and get back in the fight.

Once again sorry about the K.




Sat, 12/28/2013 - 12:22am

In reply to by RantCorp


Uh oh. We have the dreaded substitution of the malevolent Teutonic 'K' for the good old down home 'merican c. I am in trouble now.

We shall deal with your comments one by one starting at the top.

Your response was not to the article. Your response was to something not at all stated in the article. The gist of the article was that we didn't try very hard to catch OBL IN Afghanistan and thereby may have allowed him to escape TO Pakistan. There was nothing at all in the article about going into Pakistan. So if it was a trap avoided by not trying very hard to catch OBL IN Afghanistan before he escaped TO Pakistan...boy the logic of that one eludes me.

You stated: "He wasn’t there and when he eventually did arrive in their midst they were equally as clueless as we were." From this I conclude that you believed the Pak Army/ISI when they shrugged their shoulders and said 'We don't know where he is.' That you are not the only one who believes those mendacious, backstabbing, thieving, corrupt killers is apparent by our behavior over the past 12 years. That you can believe this given the history of those years I find incredible. But there is no talking somebody who believes the Pak Army/ISI out of it now. However our actions do make sense if the people who make the decisions indulge in magical thinking and believe the Pak Army/ISI.

You also stated: 'So we blockade a country of 200 million for no discernible reason? How is that going to help?'. Let me give the context, again. You suggested the possibility of nuclear war with Pakistan. I responded by saying a nuke exchange with a country with one port and no counter to our Navy was silliness. A blockade would do the trick. Also somewhere in there was the idea that if the Pak Army/ISI opposed our chasing OBL into Pakistan, they would in essence have been protecting a man who had just helped murder almost 3,000 Americans. That is a pretty easily discernible reason for a blockade. But we'll never know, because, once more, We Didn't Try.

Let me get this straight, winning isn't an option but we can't afford to lose. Ok, you lost me.

And I got further lost when you said US forces pursuing or a blockade would have aided AQ. That makes sense only if you believe the Pak Army/ISI hasn't been hiding, aiding and abetting or at the very least turning a blind eye to AQ and its activities in Pakistan. That I don't believe and think anybody who does is nuts. Both courses of action would have forced the hand of the generals in 'Pindi. But again we don't know because We Didn't Try.

Short of reducing the power and prestige of the Pak Army/ISI in Pakistan there is nothing in my view we can do in the region to thwart those who want to kill us and our allies. The best chance we had was to have called the Pak Army/ISI's bluff years ago, or even now. But We Didn't Try and We Won't Try. If we had they would have had to cave thereby diminishing their prestige and their power. Then maybe, maybe their insane ambitions and psycho strategy could have been checked. Now when we go home, they will be riding higher than ever. What I figure is the most dangerous organization in the world will then be riding higher than ever and God alone knows what will ensue.

I find it curious that you make all these comments and don't mention India. If for some reason AQ or anybody, got hold of a Pak nuke, the Indians wouldn't just stand there. They are as likely to be hit by a loose nuke as anybody, maybe more likely. They would have to act and when they did, that would be the end of the Pak Army/ISI, Pakistan and maybe millions of poor people who don't deserve to die on both sides of the border. A blockade doesn't seem so bad in that light. But we don't know because We Didn't Try. And it seems to me that if you don't try, you can't possibly know how to win.


carl (the small 'c' 'merican one) or Karl (the malevolent Teutonic one)


Thu, 12/26/2013 - 9:31am

In reply to by carl

Merry Xmas Karl,

My response to the article was simply to point out the implausibility (IMHO it would have been impossible but hey-ho, any of us might win the lottery next week) of what the author was suggesting occurring. It was a trap and we didn’t fall for it. The Pak’s knew it, the Afghans knew it and it appears CENTCOM knew it. So no small mercy for that.

The problem is what happened immediately afterwards. The Pak’s understood OBL couldn’t come over and that he was right under our noses. It opened a window for our friends and our foes to observe what does our high speed, digitalized, C4I, all volunteer, hell-yeah force bring to the mission to capture a man responsible for the murder of 3000 Americans.

As it turned out it brought nothing.

Twelve years later our attempt to rectify this deficiency with COIN has rendered us bankrupt and a military hierarchy obsessed with avoiding casualties. The military leadership's other obsession is blaming someone other than themselves for not coming up with a military strategy to satisfy their political masters.

The Pak’s are acutely aware of their own military’s similar inability to deal with terrorism and political dissidence in general and have chosen to lay waste to their neighbor with a UW force in the forlorn hope it will keep a lid on secession on their side of the border. In the long run it won’t and they know it.

Karl wrote:

‘To deal with the boogey men one by one: there would have been no need at all to pursue into Pakistan if the Pak divisions rolled.’

He wasn’t there and when he eventually did arrive in their midst they were equally as clueless as we were. So we blockade a country of 200 million for no discernible reason? How is that going to help?

Karl wrote:

‘Now I understand one more reason we won't win.’

I’m sorry Karl but this is not an option. We cannot afford to lose - it as simple as that. The removal of OBL is a huge step forward for AQ. He suffered badly from a Savior Complex – he always did. The fact that he was defended by a son and two fat brothers in their pajamas , four women and fifteen children suggests the Messiah thing was still burning bright to the end.

Ayman al-Zawahiri does not do the circus thing his predecessor found so gratifying. He has refocused AQ on the near enemy (Israel) and pushed us to the back-burner.

He still seeks a nuclear device with which to liberate Palestine. He is an intelligent and patient man and is in no hurry. Pakistan is falling apart and each day he gets closer to his prize. A US invasion or blockade would have aided his strategy. What he and AQ fear is a stable and prosperous Afghanistan and Pakistan divided by a secure Durrand Line (like its eastern border).

For those who might consider my thoughts hyper I defer to the world’s worst baseball coach – Paul Yingling :

‘However, only in southern Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan are there adherents to al Qaeda’s radical ideology less than a day’s drive from the world’s least secure nuclear arsenal. Moreover, al Qaeda does not need Afghanistan to achieve its goal of acquiring one or more nuclear weapons for use against the West. Even if Afghanistan were perfectly stable, the danger of al Qaeda acquiring nuclear weapons in Pakistan would remain.’

Hopefully when the GPF leaves with all their bells and whistles to prepare for the surprise attack by the Chinese Armada we can start doing something in the region to thwart those who wish us and our allies great harm.

Jingle Bells All The Way,



Thu, 12/26/2013 - 12:47am

In reply to by RantCorp


The point is we didn't try very hard to get OBL, not that it wouldn't have worked or would have, we didn't try.

As somebody else said one of the main points of trying really hard, say by trying to follow into Pakistan, would have been to force the Pak Army/ISI into taking an actual stand. If they had opposed then even the genii inside the beltway might have been able to see what was going on.

Your citing Pak Army divisions, millions of Pathan tribesman and "a nuclear war with Pakistan." gives me an inkling of why we won't or can't seem to win anymore. It's no wonder if such outlandish and far fetched scenarios to frighten us into inaction. To deal with the boogey men one by one: there would have been no need at all to pursue into Pakistan if the Pak divisions rolled. Why? We could have known what the game was and dealt with them another way. It's like in soccer, you don't always have to push the ball forward. You can pass it back if you want to.

Nuclear war with Pakistan?! Even Gumby can't stretch that far. First off, that leaves India out of the picture, and for the Pak Army/ISI India is never out of the picture. Second off, we have the biggest navy in the world and Pakistan has one major port. No need for much besides announcing some sub sailings and advising the merchant operators not to approach Karachi. The country would have been immediately cut off from seaborne trade.

Now I understand one more reason we won't win. We frighten ourselves half to death with fearful imaginings. There is no reason to try and win if you convince yourself that no matter what you do, it won't work.

Bill M.

Wed, 12/25/2013 - 10:43pm

In reply to by RantCorp

A whole of speculation, which I guess is all we can do. I guess at the end of the day I don't think, of course none of us can ever know, Pakistan would have resisted an incursion into Pakistan that close to the 9/11 attacks when we should have had the political will to pursue the prick who planned and directed the attacks on our homeland. Furthermore we had a lot of political support from around the globe, which we squandered when we pushed for a fight with Iraq.

I do agree it was UBL's strategy to draw us into a long fight into Afghanistan which he managed to do, and then he we gave him the bonus plan when we went into Iraq. Whether these wars caused our current debt crisis is debatable, but they certainly contributed to it, and whether they did or not AQ is taking credit for it, just like they took credit for breaking the USSR economically. Our approach reinforced their overall strategy, it didn't counter it. As for 10 times the dead, why is it we Americans have a tendency to resort to hyperbole about our enemies' capacity to create unacceptable casualties? I guess it is better to error on the high side to some extent, but when strategists take these numbers seriously and they shouldn't they take potentially good options off the table.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/27/2013 - 7:52am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M---"I agree we failed at spreading democracy which was never in the national interest to begin with."

Would actually argue that spreading democracy under the guise of fighting AQ has been the goal since 9/11 if one goes back and analyzes all national leadership public comments since 9/11 and our actions taken on those comments---and now at the end of 2013 does anyone see the string of failures as a plus for this concept?

Will national leadership analyze those failures---will even the DoD analyze those failures----no---all we get is "win/victory" statements/books/articles.

The ability to understand the environment means the ability to reflect, think, and strategize---and strategy is what has been missing for 13 long years.

Bill M.

Thu, 12/26/2013 - 2:15pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09


You wrote, "is it not strange that in the last 13 years of war in literally multiple places of the world all in the name of spreading of democracy--that is what it has been all about--- we have a national policy that has totally failed---does anyone find that rather unusual especially when there are internal forces that want to drag us into a really major war with Iran where there will be no winners only losers."

I agree we failed at spreading democracy which was never in the national interest to begin with. The only part of RantCorp's post I agree with on this thread, often agree on others, is that we will be able to pursue our real interests after the conventional forces pull out.

Bill C. often comments that our real objective is modernizing nations, which in our view means establishing democratic governments, free markets, and gay rights. Damn the view of what the people in those countries actually want, and forget the fact that economic development in a war zone doesn't work, and even it did it doesn't address the real issues why people are fighting to begin with. The scariest part of all this is the Nagl's, Petreaus's, and more than a handful in the State Department think we're pursuing the right ends and if we just try harder we'll build a better world.

Realism doesn't reject humanitarian issues which the idealists will accuse of, we just pursue a more probable path to achieving our ends. In fact, pursuing the modernization ideology has resulted in 10s of thousands of needless of deaths around the world. We need to focus more on understanding what is, and then what can be, instead of blindly marching forward attempting to impose our one size fits all solution. We're killing thousands and going bankrupt and have little to show for it.

Outlaw 09

Thu, 12/26/2013 - 5:55am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Agree largely with Robert in these comments---is it not strange that in the last 13 years of war in literally multiple places of the world all in the name of spreading of democracy--that is what it has been all about--- we have a national policy that has totally failed---does anyone find that rather unusual especially when there are internal forces that want to drag us into a really major war with Iran where there will be no winners only losers.

Iraq a failure, AFG a failure, Southern Sudan a failure, Libya a failure --we totally failed at understanding the Arab Spring and have virtually lost any influence in those countries, we have now Saudi Arabia openly questioning us and openly supporting AQ elements in the defense of Sunni's.

I think this is what Robert has been saying for a long time---we simply are unable to truly want to understand the world around us and our true role in that world.

Especially when viewing Islam---for example why is it that we somehow do not understand the internal shifts of Islam from a tribal concept to a general society---Islam never had a Reformation driven by literally killing thousands in Europe in the name of religion before a settlement was reached---if one really reads the AQ strategy it is a political driven strategy using tactics to achieve that strategy---why do we always seem to fall for the tactics of an event, and ignore the strategy?

Why has it been so difficult in the last 13 years to understand and learn from history?

A trillion dollars and a major financial disaster later we see that actually AQ has done really nothing towards the mainland since 9/11---actually it sidelined AQ due to the "far fight" they focused on---with a shift to the "near fight" AQ has taken off. Actually we have not seen that bleeding us dry financially was really the core AQ strategy---and it has worked brilliantly--UBL did understand our center of gravity.

Now the mainland is in far more danger from the south of the border ie Mexico, Middle and Central America than we were ever threatened by AQ---because in fact the cartels have replaced anything the AQ with their "far fight" could have ever imagined ----they are omnipresent in virtually every major and minor city/town in the US--something AQ has never been able to do. The cartels have made it to the streets of Tulsa, OK---have seen no AQ elements operating there recently. How is it possible that Americans see ghosts of AQ, but not see the cartels?

There is an interesting article on SWJ that goes to this issue that is worth a long and intense read since some are actually saying the tipping point has been long reached south of the border and the tipping point is in fact our cities/towns and regardless of how many we arrest and throw in prison, regardless how much DEA has made in RICO, cash taken during raids, regardless of how many tons of drugs have been interdicted--we have lost the so called "war on drugs" and somehow we cannot even admit that.

Taken from that article is the following;

Carl Von Clausewitz warns that “the first, the supreme, the most far reaching act of judgment that the statesman and commander have to make is to establish…the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something that is alien to its nature.”[1] Unfortunately, many modern internal conflicts defy basic definitions. Gangs, drug cartels, and mafia groups challenge analysts attempting to understand the nature of criminal threats that can hold cities hostage and challenge state militaries for the monopoly of force. Violence in Mexico and other nations facing robust criminal groups combines aspects of terrorism, crime, and insurgency as evidenced by beheadings, massacres, car bombs, urban combat, and improvised armored personnel carriers.[2]

Robert C. Jones

Wed, 12/25/2013 - 11:50am

In reply to by RantCorp

Not the merriest of Christmas thoughts, but probably a very accurate assessment all the same.

We cannot bring peace to this region through continued warfare, but we can bring peace to thousands of American families by ending our $2 billion / day commitment to this poorly understood, il-defined, and inappropriately pursued errand.

Peace on Earth is not feasible and not our mission. We should instead enjoy and expand this historic respite of peace for America. It is time to reframe problems, redesign our strategies and policies, and reset the force to better deter and prevent what can truly harm us. Someday war will come and we will need our full strength to prevail - there is no need to weaken ourselves in efforts likely to hasten that day.


Wed, 12/25/2013 - 7:12am

The author wrote:

“Exactly twelve years ago, during the cold Winter days between December 10-16, in the jagged mountains of Tora Bora that separate Afghanistan from Pakistan, Osama bin Laden walked unencumbered into Pakistan and disappeared for nine and a half years.”

The suggestion that OBL walked thru the The White Mountains into Pakistan in December I find troublesome. My team passed thru a pass similar to one at the rear of Tora Bora in October and we came very near to dying from the cold and altitude. Half my team were convinced we were dead men. The snow was too deep for pack animals and even waiting for the snow to refreeze in the early hours you still sank to your crotch. And that was in October. Even with no gear, at night, below freezing, 3500 meters ASL and not in the best of health OBL IMHO wouldn’t have stood a chance.

OBL would have been given good advice that he wouldn’t make it thru and chosen an alternative. If I understand things correctly he took that advice and went down to the Jalalabad Road (straight thru our units rushing to ‘cut him off at the pass’) crossed over and followed the Kabul River upstream north into Kunar and crossed over into Pakistan in the spring/summer.

If in Dec 2001 we had insisted OBL had passed over the White Mountains the Pak Army would have correctly assumed we had a different agenda for getting a force into Parachinar (the nearest town on the Pak side of the White Mountains ) and refused. That would have flagged big time in the Beltway and a huge shit storm would have began.

There are two Pak Amored Div and two Mechanized Infantry Div in this region of Pakistan plus the Fronteir Corps and several million armed Pushtoons tribemen. Perhaps in the near term the USAF might have said they could hold them back as they dropped the Airborne onto Parachinar and the Airborne would retreat back along the Pul-i-Alam road to AF or perhaps a Joint Force doing a pincher movement thru Pul-i-Alam in the south and Landi Kotal in the north (the mind boggles) and trap OBL . Either way it would have taken a decision by Congress.

So perhaps if we had indeed 'pursued' OBL thru the mountains in Dec 2001, come 2013 we might now have a copy of a 'White Mountain Resolution' to pin on the wall next to our copy of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. IMHO if there had been such a Resolution from Congress (remember this is only 3 months after 9/11) and we had gotten away with ten times the dead we lost after getting our facts wrong in the Gulf of Tonkin we would have been very lucky indeed.

Meanwhile OBL would have been sitting up in Kunar laughing and marveling at how perfect his plan worked to get a bunch of Saudi political dissidents to crash a few planes into Manhattan and the Beltway and draw the US into a nuclear war with Pakistan.




Fri, 12/20/2013 - 6:42pm

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Outlaw 09:

A point of semantics here but it should be noted. The Turkish gov may be turning a blind eye to things but the reason Assad forces don't pursue enemies into Turkey isn't because they are especially respectful of the Turkish gov or they hold borders sacrosanct. The reason they don't pursue is they would have to tangle with the Turkish army which they don't want to do. So regardless of what words we use to describe it, when the ant-Assad forces retreat into Turkey, they are hiding behind the skirts of the Turkish army.

Outlaw 09

Fri, 12/20/2013 - 4:50pm

In reply to by carl

carl--this goes to some of the comments by Robert.

No the Turkish Army is not providing the sanctuary---Turkey is a Sunni at least still a secular Sunni country whose population does support the Sunni majority inside Syria- against a deviant Shia minority--the Turkish government recognizes that and is turning an eye in the other direction.

What is going on inside Syria is a bitter fight between a majority Sunni population dominated by a Shia minority---the complete reverse of Iraq and it is over the Iranian Green Crescent policy called for by Khomeini which is being massively countered by the Saudi's as the anointed defenders of the Sunni faith in the ME who is attempting to wall in the Shia influence in the ME.

We are not getting involved especially after our experiences in Iraq where we in fact installed a Shia government which now is just another problem for us--although I say although--it appears from some recent reporting that we are trying to figure out a way to talk with some of the more "moderate" Islamists.

Watching the Saudi's right now addressing what they view to be an ongoing Shia revival would make a great Ph.D thesis.