2/1/20 – The most recent “headline” from Afghanistan was the so-called “discovery” of the SIGAR reports which regularly document the tragedy of American policy in Afghanistan and which verify what many of us already knew for years. Jezail.org has long maintained that the official US policy on Afghanistan is NOT to get out. Afghanistan is the founding AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force) given to the White House to conduct an undeclared war. But the enemy is a tactic, “terrorism”, more than an identifiable political or military entity. This gives the purpose of the war in Afghanistan a shape shifting characteristic. One day we have been fighting against Al-Qaeda, the next we’re fighting the Taliban, the next we are nation building, the next we are crusading for women’s rights and so on. It’s never quite the same and the more one drills down to identifying a reason to end a war, or set waypoints for progress in the war or measure progress in the war – the more vague everything becomes. But like the British empire before us, the stewards of US foreign and military policy have convinced themselves that America needs to stay in Afghanistan. Presidents can say what they want and they do. But they are not in control of US foreign policy as they should be. There seems to have been some kind of “Caine Mutiny” in Washington. This has become more or less an open secret with a number of senior government officials challenging the constitutional basis of a president’s responsibility to have a firm hand on the tiller of foreign policy. Sadly, in spite of his campaign promises, this president seems to have a poor understanding of where we are at in Afghanistan. This is somewhat understandable because fewer and fewer people familiar with the ways of Washington believe that Donald Trump is being properly informed of events in any of our wars by his own cabinet and staff.
Jezail.org has experience in the insurgent point of view in Afghanistan. We point to some simple observations that go a long way to making a solid assessment of America’s position in the region. Years ago, jezail.org identified a waypoint in the Afghan War to be on the watch for. It comes from a book written in the early 1980’s by Olivier Roy on the Russian experience in Afghanistan. A key sentence for us was this: Soviet or Communist authority in Afghanistan was “limited to the range of their machine guns”. That is a specific, identifiable and unambiguous measurement. We’ve been at or near that point for a long time now. Not only are the Taliban and the Pakistani ISI able to detonate truck bombs in Kabul at will, they don’t seem to be able to stop themselves from doing so. Now, when a bomb goes off, it doesn’t even make a headline in the US press any more. It may even jeopardize “peace talks” in Doha but they go off just the same. Americans in Afghanistan are mostly confined to base camps and safe areas and cannot wander the countryside freely. But here is a new waypoint to consider: click here
American military command is dropping more bombs on Afghanistan than ever before. This is not a path out of Afghanistan. The Soviets didn’t escalate air strikes before they packed up and left. Curiously, it seems that the Pentagon is finally getting around to small footprint Special Forces type deployments to get specific, targeted missions accomplished. It is backed up by airpower that is closely coordinated with ground forces. It was experimented with as early as the 1970’s but never really adopted by the Pentagon as any kind of doctrine because the early experiments didn’t have expensive weapons systems involved. It is a method of fighting in Afghanistan jezail.org once advocated. Predictably, the Pentagon is still getting it wrong. It makes heroes out younger fighting officers instead of braided flag officers and that is a cultural sin in the Pentagon. Instead flag officers now want expensive systems and machines at their command to control a battlefield from half a world away.
Yet, in spite of all of the battlefield intelligence systems that the Pentagon has spent lavishly on, they still cannot stop killing the wrong people, civilians. So, with most of the missions that are meant to eradicate “the enemy”, whoever or whatever that is, there is so much “collateral damage” that the end result is to make more Afghans hate the US and long for a return of the Taliban. The result is that Pentagon planners have constructed a self defeating violence loop.
What also is not adequately realized is the danger of any strategy that relies on US air superiority. There has been a steady loss of helicopters in Afghanistan all of which are described as crashes. That leaves independent observers in a quandary. Either, the quality of US training of pilots has gone down precipitously or they are not all crashes. Take your pick. Jezail.org suspects that the Taliban may have MANPADS that no one wants to admit. They will be effective against helicopters. More ominously, a US e-11a came down last week. This is a high altitude aircraft. If it was taken down, it likely was not done with standard AAA. Jezail.og doubts that it was a MANPAD. E-11a’s undoubtedly have counter measures. Pentagon officials have dismissed the MANPAD cause as being far fetched as well. But they have no explanation that makes sense. Jezail.org now wonders if some form of digital warfare technology was used to hijack the E-11a’s avionics to bring it down. We do know that the Iranian air defenses have been able to crack US drone codes and have been able to down a number of American drones in this manner. We also know that Pakistan’s military has always been working on its’ digital warfare capabilities. Most disturbingly, we are also aware of a trade in US military code security breeches through Israel, beginning with Jonathan Pollard and progressing to this from 2012: click here
One can quibble about the sources on this, Wikipedia and the Jerusalem Post. Neither are exactly the Guardian or the New York Times are they?! But the fact is that a US military E-11a went down mysteriously over Afghanistan and there is a long history of trading technical military secrets through Israel. Is there any alternative explanation? Maintenance? Pilot error? Jezail.org doubts this. But we do know that Israeli military officers have been roaming freely in the Pentagon for years and we are concerned. Merely assuming an indefinite technical edge over an adversary is a very bad idea in any case. Historically, the Nazis tried it and got as far as Stalingrad. Their assumption of greater technical ability ended even as they accumulated ever more enemies. They had no idea that the Allies had cracked their entire military encryption regime, “Enigma”. Even though some senior command officers began to suspect this was the case, Guderian and Hoth in particular, the OKW made no serious changes. Sound familiar? By the battle of Kursk, the much vaunted German offensive power ceased to exist only to be replaced by tortured spasms such as Manstein’s “miracle” at Kharkov and the Battle of the Bulge in the West. The Allies had been reading their communications, something like reading their emails.
What jezail.org sees is an increasing over reliance on a military tactical approach that is not working on the battlefield and is becoming ever more precarious. In addition, we see a comfort level with an imagined air power and digital tech superiority which does not exist. At the same time, American foreign policy is one of sanctions and making enemies out of competitors and competitors of allies. The result is an ever increasing global isolation. Jezail.org is very concerned for members of the US military serving in Afghanistan. We see a growing possibility of a fate like that of Elphinstone’s army in 1842. The cause of that defeat was classic imperial hubris.
It has been said that history does not repeat itself but it does rhyme.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.