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What type of military strategy is needed in Afghanistan?

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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H2 11/16/09

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Someday we'll be leaving Afghanistan like a beaten dog with our tails between our legs. In this submissive pose we'll wonder why we didn't leave earlier. Just as in Iraq we will have gained nothing from staying one extra second. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have been examples of 4th generation warfare in which the superpowerin this case us, always loses.

The October 27, 2009 article John Kerry's Afghan war speech; Foreshadowing Obama's decision? reminds us of Kerry's thirty-eight year old question how do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? relating to the Vietnam quagmire.

Obama is getting a wide disparity of opinions regarding Afghanistan. At one extreme is Gen. Stanley McChrystal's Afghan war report in which he reportedly asked for something like 40,000 more U.S. troops. Kerry is at the opposite end of the spectrum as the article states Maybe more like 10,000 to 15,000 to fight a targeted (limited) counter-insurgency/counter terrorism strategy. In short, Kerry's pitch is, less is more.

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Gone, as The Ticket reported three weeks ago, would be the broad defeat of the Taliban, annihilation of Al Qaeda and construction of a viable democracy plan of the past. Said Kerry:

"Achieving our goals does not require us to build a flawless democracy, defeat the Taliban in every corner of the country, or create a modern economy what we're talking about is good-enough governance, basic sustainable economic development and Afghan security forces capable enough that we can draw down our forces.

The US ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, has warned against plans to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan, until President Hamid Karzai's government demonstrates that it is willing to tackle the corruption. The Karzai government remains dogged by accusations of incompetence and corruption. The most glaring example of the latter is that Karzai's brother is a drug dealer who is also being paid by the CIA.

A senior diplomat has become the first US official to resign in protest at the war in Afghanistan, in a move that has shaken the White House, according to reports. Matthew Hoh, 36, a former captain in the Marine Corps who fought in Iraq before joining the US State Department, resigned from his post as the senior US civilian in Zabul province, a Taleban stronghold in Afghanistan. He said that he believed the war only fuelled the insurgency, the Washington Post reports.

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"I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States' presence in Afghanistan," Mr Hoh wrote in his resignation letter, dated September 10.
"I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end."

He said that many Afghans were fighting the United States largely because its troops were there. While the Taleban was a malign presence, and al-Qaeda needed to be confronted, he said, the US was asking its troops to die in Afghanistan for what was essentially a far-off civil war.

You have to understand that the superpower never wins in 4th generation warfare and that each day we are there we make more terrorists than we kill. Even Rumsfeld realized that as exemplified in his October 16th 2003 'slog memo'.


War theorists believe we have entered into a new generation of warfare where an evolved form of insurgency uses all available networks (political, economic, social, military) to convince the enemy's decision makers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit. They have named this new era of war fourth generation warfare.

Our technological advanced military is useless against fourth generation warfare as the article continues Fourth generation warfare is defined as an evolved form of insurgency that uses all available networks ( political, economic, social, military ) to convince the enemy's decision makers that their strategic goals are either unachievable or too costly for the perceived benefit. Unlike past wars, it does not win by defeating an enemy's military forces, but by defeating their political will. Fourth generation warfare is not new, but has been evolving for over seventy years. It is the only type of warfare known to have defeated major military powers. It defeated America in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia; the French in Vietnam and Algeria; and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan".The defeat of major powers by weaker opponents makes it essential to understand this form of warfare and adapt accordingly. Success against a fourth generation opponent is contingent on the willingness and ability of a state to adapt to this fundamentally different type of war.

Every time we use an unmanned drone attack in Afghanistan and kill innocents we are creating entire nations of adversaries.

Does the US understand Afghanistan's culture. If not we are doomed to defeat as the article continues Cultural intelligence is the study of an adversary's culture; it requires an understanding of their habits, intentions, beliefs, social organizations, and political symbols. It not only helps establish interpersonal relationships; it can also help determine the form of warfare, organizational structure, and motivations of a fourth generation opponent. Cultural intelligence is key to ensuring success in humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts.

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Any variant of what Obama is discussing now for the strategy in Afghanistan will include the reconstruction of the war ravaged country. The article continues:

Cultural intelligence is key to ensuring success in humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts. Regardless of the mission, engagement with the populace is crucial and the soldiers' ability to interact with them can greatly effect the outcome. Currently, the Department of Defense has a limited strategy on cultural intelligence. The cultural analysis organizations that do exist are under-funded, marginalized, and dispersed.52 Cultural training is only provided to soldiers prior to deployment and is often brief and oversimplified. The Department must develop a holistic approach to cultural intelligence to ensure that it is incorporated into plans and operations at all levels. Training and education programs must be developed that focus on foreign areas studies, language, and political and social structures. In addition, soldiers must be provided the opportunity to be immersed in the culture to learn first hand cultural and social knowledge.

Just remember the failed effort of reconstruction in Iraq. We'd build a bridge in a Sunni area only to have the Shiites come along later to blow it up. We are doomed to have the same problems in Afghanistan if we don't follow the instructions of concentrating on cultural intelligence.

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Winston Smith is an ex-Social Worker. I worked in child welfare, and in medical settings and in homeless settings. In the later our facility was geared as a permanent address for people to apply for welfare. Once they received that we could send (more...)

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