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Jones, In The Graveyard of Empires

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Jones, In the Graveyard of Empires

-Afghanistan a wicked problem; Difficult/impossible to solve because of incomplete info and when you find one part of the answer/solve a part of it will create another one forcing a growth of the wicked problem.

-Lack of tradition for a central government in Afgh. The tribal leaders/ each valley has its leaders.

-A nation state: one ethnical group=1 state (like FR, GM and NO)

-A state: a multitude of ethnical group, like Afgh. Makes it much harder to make a coherent structure. Lack tradition for being under on government. Borders for them is just line on a map, that do not fit the real world.

-Need to offer Afgh something they want/need. Taliban offered a harsh but fair and quick judicial system, central gov need to do the same. Also need to provide them with food/water etc to ensure their support.

-Relative Deprivation, this unbalance needs adjusting making the “ordinary Afgh” feel better off, otherwise there will be no progress.

A story: Turkish defense minister bragged that the Turkish contingent in ISAF had finished a tour in Afg without firing a shot. To his audience of Turks, this was cause for approval. To others, the boast demonstrated that the Americans would have to redouble their efforts.

Graeme Wood book review (edited by Gloves): The Graveyard of Empires describes the follies of the patchwork of nations in Afg. The coalition errs frequently, and members amount to just a few committed nations: U.S., U.K., Canada, the Netherlands. Most others are halfhearted -- they only build roads and schools, even if evildoers destroy roads or kill teachers. Jones’s book takes seriously the war concept originally conceived: NATO coming to the defense of a member state, the U.S. Jones devotes more than a few paragraphs to Operation Medusa, the Canadian initiative that ended in the largest land battle in NATO history. Canada won, but the region has remained dangerous.

The lessons of the past are by no means clear. Alexander famously insisted his officers take local wives and gave his men reason to believe that most would never see Macedon again; surely forcing an officer to marry an Afghan and never to go home counts as a sign of resolve and a commitment to "local" initiatives, if not of the precise modern liberal variety Jones prefers. The Soviet lesson is ambiguous. Are we to conclude that big countries always fail to occupy Afghanistan? Or that countries with terroristic policies toward Afghans eventually get booted out? The only clear lesson from these horror tales, from the Hellenistic period to the Anglo-Afghan wars to the Soviet period, is that wars in Afghanistan are not easy. This is hardly news.

Afghans do not think in the language of NATO. It is a shame that Jones fails to deliver anything but a sadly bland and anodyne set of remedies -- fight corruption, act locally, and undermine the Taliban's sanctuaries in Pakistan. This would have been implemented by now if it were anything less than fiendishly difficult.

Notes from Gloves / “an insurgency is a pol-mil campaign by non-state actors seeking to overthrow a gov’t through unconventional strategies and tactics” xxiii / insurgency caused by weak governance and religious ideology xxix / failed Afghan state demanded USSR involvement 22 / Soviets tried to strengthen the state by emphasizing military and secret police 27-8 / once the Soviets left, the US lost interest in Afg 48ff / Taliban members were radicalized Deobandists - fundamentalists 54ff / Pakistan supported the Taliban from the early 1990s 63 / “While it was a detestable regime that committed gross human-rights violations, the Taliban was successful in establishing law and order” 67 / Taliban’s great mistake was harboring Usama Bin Laden 67-8 / Afghan jihad brought Muslims from all over the world together 72 / Qutb’s theology, very popular, was black and white 77-8 / for a Muslim country to not adopt sharia law was traitorous 78 / Taliban didn’t send UBL to Saudi or US 84 / FATA an ideal sanctuary 98 / redrawing borders – great idea, impossible to implement 100 / US goal in Afg was to overthrow Taliban and wreck al Qaeda’s org structure – did the first, but not the second 100 / Afghan fighter identity: “I am a 6000 year old Pashtun, a 1000 year old Muslim, and a 27 year old Pakistani” 108 / US declaiming “nation building and peacekeeping were not roles for American troops” 113 / US light footprint – failing to achieve security for the populace – was a grievous error 114-5 / Iraq took the lead, and Afg became a footnote 125ff / Afg warlords filled the power vacuum 129-31 / learned the wrong lesson from history – it wasn’t the size of the occupying force, but how they were used (conventional vs. unconventional) 132 / US strategy after military victory was institutionalist 140 / national focus, not regional 140-1 / moving Khalilzad from Afg to Iraq was stupid 150 / insurgencies must come from a disillusioned populace and rally around a motivated leadership 151 / local population is the most important group to the insurgent 153 / two causes for insurgency – weak governance and a clear reason to rally 154 / poverty and geography and population dispersion also help 154 / lately, weak governments come from former colonies 156 / ethnic ties make for good causes – better than political or economic ties 159 / in Afg, primary motivation was religious ideology 161 / insufficient police made Afg a hotbed of insurgency 163ff / ANA not too bad 176-80 / “the inability to establish law and order in rural areas … pushed local communities into the hands of the Taliban” 180 / without security, the military is stuck doing reconstruction 189 / relative depravation – insurgency in Afg grew because Afg’s trajectory was negative 202 / Taliban resurgence from sanctuaries in Pakistan 210ff / Taliban started holding ground in the south in 2006 / Afg insurgency a complex, adaptive system 224 / insurgent groups in Afg are learning organizations 227 / bn size Taliban units in Helmand in 2006 230 / Taliban of old and neo-Taliban differ in that neo-Taliban are more tech-friendly and do suicide bombings 232-3 / overwhelmingly motivated by ideology, and there are sgfnt ideological differences between the insurgent groups 235 / poor governance is a stronger motivation than religious ideology 237 / Afg COINs were multinational 238ff / “lead nation” approach stunk 240 / NATO replaced “lead nation” concept in 2003 243ff / NATO undersourced and many members had national caveats preventing combat ops 248ff / “clear, hold, build” is tache d’huile – not enough combat ops forces to make a sgfnt dent in the Afg problem 253 / insurgencies benefit from outside support and a sanctuary 258 et al. / Pakistan’s intel service, ISI, playing both sides 266-7 / Iran and India working to influence Afg to get at Pakistan 217ff / al Qaeda in Pak? I get Taliban in Pak. 278 / al Qaeda in Pak’s FATA 279-82 / three al Qaeda goals for Afg: overthrow Karzai, reinstate sharia, attrit the West 283 / al Qaeda is decentralized and nonlinear 284 / four elements: al Qaeda central (leaders), affiliated groups, affiliated cells, and an informal network 285-7 / PRTs a good idea 297 and 301ff / Trinquier: “The sine qua non of victory in modern warfare is the unconditional support of a population” 299 / insurgents use civilians as shields, and use casualties as propaganda 304 / “building a govt in a fractured, xenophobic country is almost infinitely more challenging than overthrowing one” 315 / here’s how to fix Afg: confront corruption, partner with locals, end Pak sanctuary, improve governance, ensure public security, earn local support 317ff


seminar notes / Afg interconnected problems: Pakistan, poppies, populace / to abandon Afg and restore Taliban would be to lose credibility as a humanitarian nation / counterpoint: to abandon Afg might be seen as a show of humility welcomed by the world / PRT can be used as a wedge between al Qaeda and Taliban, enabling better federal-regional power sharing / “madrassas are the true sanctuary”

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