“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

You want an exit strategy, then quit talking about it.

Operation Moshtarak: 'The message needs to be clear: we are staying until the job is done.'
Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, argues that Operation Moshtarak will only succeed in the long term if Afghans living in Helmand are convinced that we will not desert them.

By Richard Kemp
Published: 7:36PM GMT 14 Feb 2010

Well before Operation Moshtarak was launched, the Taliban knew that a sledgehammer was about to hit them. Many commentators with a little military learning were horrified at this blatant sacrifice of surprise. But General Nick Carter, commander of Operation Moshtarak, knew that didn’t matter because the Taliban would be powerless to respond.
While British, American and Afghan forces continue the hazardous task of clearing the ground they have occupied, the Taliban, unseen, are stalking them. Through lethally experienced eyes they are weighing up our forces’ actions, identifying their dispositions and calculating vulnerabilities.

The next few days will be very dangerous. The Taliban must strike back fast. At both military and civilian targets. To show their own fighters, their supporters and the world that they are not cowed by the might of the infidel war machine. And to demonstrate to the people of Marjah and Nad-e Ali that their reign of terror has not gone away.

The Taliban will try to use improvised explosive devices, mines and booby traps as well as hit-and-run gunfire and suicide strikes. How many get through will depend on the effectiveness of our forces at stopping them. Initially they will depend on vigilance, speed of reaction and the vast array of air and ground firepower at their disposal.

But with no shortage of fighters or munitions, the Taliban will seek to continue attacking in the long term. Intelligence from the locals will become critical to breaking them. Although early signs of support among some of the people is encouraging, it will only be maintained and expanded if we can persuade them that our forces are there to stay and are capable of protecting them.

The Afghan security forces will have to bear much of this burden. Although its capability is increasing impressively, the army is still not ready to stand alone. Understandably the Afghans prefer their own troops to ours, which is why commanders on Operation Moshtarak have where possible put them at the front in dealing with the people. But the locals don’t yet fully trust them to protect against the Taliban. And the Afghan National Police have yet to prove they will not simply replace Taliban oppression with their own form of corruption and abuse.

Through lack of numbers rather than capability or will, British forces don’t have a great track record either, often moving in for a fight then redeploying to deal with problems elsewhere, allowing the Taliban back in with a vengeance.

All of these perceptions will have to be changed, and this includes stopping our constant talk at home of withdrawal and exit strategies. The message to the people of Afghanistan, and to the Taliban, needs to be clear: we are staying until the job is done.

The minute there is adequate security – within days – district governors will be brought in and local councils set up. They will be rapidly resourced for quick impact reconstruction projects to show the local people that life is going to improve. In the medium term, their role should be to identify and direct substantial aid programmes, resourced via the Kabul government. The Afghans must be seen to be in the lead, but we must remain watchful and ensure these bodies do not come to abuse their power or resources.

Operation Moshtarak has been called the beginning of the end of the conflict in Afghanistan. If its gains are properly consolidated it could certainly make a major contribution to turning the situation round. But no matter how effective the combined Afghan and Nato forces are in Marjah and Nad-e Ali, we must brace ourselves for continuing bloodshed. The Taliban are far from ready to give up. And in the circumstances of southern Afghanistan no security can be watertight, however many troops are deployed.

Whatever success, however, we achieve in Marjah, Nad-e Ali or elsewhere in Helmand, the insurgency will not be broken until we develop an effective, co-ordinated cross-border strategy with Pakistan, whose territory provides refuge and support for the Taliban. There is not yet any sign of that on the horizon.


  1. We're coming home, and they know it.

    The Taliban, however, are staying; and they know that, too.

    Simply a silly waste of money. And, we don't have it to waste, right now.

    Obama will declare Victory, and announce a withdrawal plan by September. October, at the latest.

  2. What's so sad about this, is there's going to be a big bloodbath when we leave.Talk about a suffering nation. It's seems like it never ends for them.

  3. Some of the Taliban are staying others will be departing for parts unknown.

    We'll identify the ones we can do business with and attempt to split them off from the others.

    Fundamentalist Islam is still waxing and it's a good bet that the next incarnation of Afghanistan will governed by fundamentalists. The biggest obstacle at the moment appears to be the friction between India and Pakistan.

  4. And the Taliban will be free to throw acid in little girl's faces on the way to school. The National Organization for Women will praise Obama for poking Bush in the eye.

  5. We need more Danica Patrick threads.

    Maybe, we could adopt her as our favorite "sportsperson?"

    You know, kind of a Mascot?

    Other blogs have kittens, and puppies, and such.

    Just a thought.

  6. For instance, this thread could have been titled, "What would Danica Patrick think about Afghanistan;" and, of course, it would have an appropriate picture, or video.

  7. Would Danica Patrick turn her backside to Afghanistan.

    Video of nice, but homely, reporter interviewing somebody named Gates to follow.

  8. Danica Patrick Contemplates "Will Greece Drive Euroland into Bankruptcy?"

  9. Danica Patrick "turned on" by imminent Rise in the Yuan.

    Goldman's Oneill convinced The Rise is Coming.

    You can say that, again.

  10. The last regime in Afghanistan was a fundamentalist one, the one we established, an Islamic Republic, too.

    So it certainly is not a secular republic, in the US model.
    No, both of the latest set of Republics we founded, have Islam as the State Religion.

    Islam is the State Religion of both Iraq and Afghanistan, it is repugnant for US to support either, let alone have founded and funded such unconstitutional abominations to free thinking.

    To think that while leading US that GW Bush founded two State Religions in the whirled, both Islamic, it is just repugnant.

    That we continue to subsidize those State Religions, with US blood and treasure, pukable.

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  12. The popular opinion, amongst Mexicans and their military is that the US aggression against Mexico was both imperialistic and religiously motivated.

    While the opinion of religious purpose for the conflict may or may not have been the primary motivator for the mass desertions and switching of alliance, by the Irish soldiers, it was a motivator for some of them.

    And there were hundreds of Irish that "flipped".

    And just as the US did not recognize the War with Mexico as being religious in nature, it denies that Iraq and Afghanistan are religiously based conflicts.

    Why it is Islamics that we are handing off to, in each area of military operations.
    So how could they be the enemy?

    Just as many Catholic Irishmen did not desert the US Army in Mexico.

    But to the many of the Mexicans we fought, just as with many Iraqi and the Taliban, their wars with US were and still are perceived as a religious conflicts.

    If one is allied with local Mexicans, or Iraqi, or Afghans, it is hard to be at war with their religion, and still be allies.

    And being allied with Islam is at the core of US policy.

  13. Actually, being allied with the "Oil" states is the heart of U.S. foreign policy.

    Of course, since Saudi Arabia is the primary benefactor of Pakistan, we certainly don't want to be openly allied against them.

  14. But the reality that the US has founded two Islamic Republics proves that the idea that the US is at war with Islam to be a fabrication of fantasy.

    We are chasing border bandits, just as Black Jack Pershing chased Pancho villa through the badlands of Mexico.
    Before coming home empty handed.

  15. If that was true, about being allied to the oil and not the religion, we'd have turned Iraq over to the Baathist, secular Generals.

    Not disbanded the Iraqi Army.

    Instead we embraced the Islamic Revolutionaries and empowered them.

  16. "If that was true, about being allied to the oil and not the religion, we'd have turned Iraq over to the Baathist, secular Generals."

    You guys act as if you think there was any actual planning that went into preparing for the war before invading Iraq.

    As I recall, the actual war planning prior to the invasion amounted to about six weeks to two months.

    Everything about the war in the first year or two was ad hoc.

    You'll recall Bush even kept changing the rationale for the war every six months or so (weapons of mass distruction, center for Al Queada and terrorism, democracy for the Iraqis, you name it). It took them a few years before they started getting anything right. Their only plan initially was to go in and get rid of Saddam. After that, well...we'll figure that out later.


  17. "Given the current environment surrounding the leadership of the World Bank Group, it is very difficult to be effective in helping to advance the mission of the institution. Therefore, I have decided to leave for other opportunities," Kevin Kellems told the AP at the time.

    Kellems, in an email this morning, responded to an early barrage of negative Coats stories — including my post last week about Coat's lobbying work for an oil company that partnered with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.

    "There's a reason Democrats are throwing so much mud so early against a very decent man Hoosiers respect and twice elected statewide," he wrote. "They are nervous about Senator Bayh's recent support for the President's extreme health care agenda and the fact that Evan hasn't had a competitive election in decades."

    Wolfowitz Spokesman

  18. Well, I hate it, but I agree with Rufus, Whit, 'Rat, and T, and that's ugly enough for me to try to think about something else.

    They shouldn't have fucked up Garners plan, saving immense numbers of lives, dollars, and goodwill, then spent a little more of same to roll up Syria.

  19. Lindsey Vonn knows what causes Global "Warming."

  20. Clair Bidez didn't "support" the Surge. She Caused the Surge.

  21. Well, we made it to the second day before We start aplogizing

    What a load of horseshit.

  22. You noticed her bellybutton?

  23. With regards to the lack of prior planning, quirk, I agree, but it is not to the point.

    We can look back and see what we did. It is now a knowable.

    we empowered radical Islamic revolutionaries, in Iraq, establishing a Republic with a State Religion, there.

    That religion is Islam.
    So, proof positive, the US is not at war with Islam.
    We are allied with it.

  24. M Allawi's power base, before that power became US.

    Notice the AK used in the logo.

    Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution Iraq.

    Our allies in the War on Border Bandits.

  25. The US military, it is a proxy force the "moderate" Mullahs, in Iraq and Afpakistan.

  26. The Grand Ayatollah al-Uzma Seyyid Ali al-Sistani - The Mullah we have fought and died for, in Iraq.