Can Afghan Troops Hold the Line as US Withdraws, and Will US Seek to Stay in Central Asia?

Aljazeera English does what so few US networks are bothering to do: It sends a correspondent to cover the take-over of forward operating bases in Afghanistan by the Afghanistan National Army from US forces, who plan to leave in late 2014. The report and the Afghan commander in Helmand are frank about the challenges of taking on the Taliban there.

The imminent US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan is creating opportunities for neighboring Central Asian countries to off themselves as transit routes for the thousands of departing soldiers, and perhaps to counter continued Russian influence by offering secure bases to the US.

The USG Open Source Center translates an item from a Tajikistan newspaper:

“On 18 October Imruz News reports that the United States plans to offer $500 million to Central Asian states that allow NATO troops from Afghanistan to transit their territory. The article says that Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan will offer use of their roads and railroads to transfer non-military cargo. Some experts say Uzbekistan is trying to “detach” itself completely from Russia to ensure that it remains the primary transfer route for troops from Afghanistan, an idea the article says concurs with 2009 predictions by US diplomats that came to light through Wikileaks that Uzbekistan’s president would want to use the transfer of NATO troops as an opportunity to reassert its independence from Russia. The article says the documents also show that Uzbekistani officials offered to build a US air base in Tirmiz. According to the article, corruption is one of the key concerns about the planned US funding, pointing out that Transparency International ranked Kazakhstan 120th on its 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index, Tajikistan 152nd, and Uzbekistan 177th, so there is doubt that the money will go to the population. The article questions how much money Tajikistan will receive because US officials have made it clear that more than 50% of the money will go to Uzbekistan.
(Dushanbe Imruz News in Tajik — Tajikistan’s only daily newspaper; owned by Orien-Media group; current chief editor is Isfandiyori Nazar who replaced Rajabi Mirzo in 2012) Turkmenistan.

13 Responses

  1. I don’t see why “we” should meddle in Russia’s back yard anymore than I would look kindly on Russians setting up “agreements” with Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, etc to set up bases (& ‘trading protocols’) there.

    If one is dealing with cultures that one barely understands, I suppose the tried-&-true “bribery” method is what can be expected… but I don’t expect it to work to OUR favor. Far from it… ^..^

  2. You gotta just love the way the Great Game operates. And of course the blinders that keep most of us from seeing what “War, the Great Wealth Transfer,” really looks like. Half a billion in “gratuities” to let the US (“NATO or whatever”) military truck their tools and toys relatively unhindered from Dumbistan to NeverNeverLand. Where’s the Glory and Victory and “success” etc. in that?

    Of course, say the Players, it’s all the fault of naysayers who dared to point out over decades the utter futility of those ol’ “land wars in Asia,” even ones in places long denominated as the Graveyard of Empires for some reason or another. On the RISK! board of our planet, there’s no little flap of skin on the back of the arms of all those “Unlawful Enemy Combatants” that our Really Smart Generals (huh? see here: link to can clamp down on, like the schoolyard bully, and pinch and twist until the Lower Orders say “Uncle!”

    In the meantime, the great lumbering incompetent inflexible bureaucracy-with-dozens-of-littler-but-equally-incompetent-bureaucracies-sticking-out-of-it-and-greedy-“industries”-sucking-off-it stumbles along, with more of the same in the Great Procurement Jobs Program Weapons That Will Likely Never Be Used But Have Such Vast Constituencies Game: link to

    There’s WAR in them thar Pentagram Rings, all right, and the tiny chance that there might be a tiny reduction in even the rate of growth of the Great Wealth Transfer has all the players sharpening their daggers and looking around for some Unlawful Competing Procurement to stab in the kidney or heart…

  3. The situation in Iraq circa 2007-2008 was similar to this.

    The most important factor that will determine whether the ANA can hold the line, or even whether it will continue to have to hold the line against a Taliban insurgency, is Afghan politics.

    When the U.S. withdrew from Iraq, it served to weaken the support the insurgents enjoyed even within their own communities; split the insurgency as half of them transitioned into democratic politics, and increased popular support for the government, which was no longer seen as merely a foreign cat’s paw. The military result was that the Iraqi government forces gained military dominance over the insurgents. The political results was that the two sides were able to achieve a deal to end the fighting.

    All of which is to say, the military challenge facing the ANA is not a constant value, with the subtraction of American capability being the only change to the equation as the withdrawal continues.

    • As Bill would say, “Correct, Joe!” Gold star on the grade book page for you today!

      Isn’t it interesting how “normalcy” can often occur without the “benefit” of US involvement, aka meddling in, or invasion of, or otherwise stomping around in, the middle of other people’s bidness…

      But of course it’s always possible to have recourse to that old “but for” argument that gives rise to the joke about the guy with the elephant gun, stalking around Times Square, getting stopped by a cop who asks what the hell he’s doing, responds “Keeping the wild elephants away!” and the cop says, “Buddy, there ain’t a wild elephant within 7,000 miles of here!” and the fella beams triumphantly and says, “SEE, IT WORKS! Now let me get back to my patrolling.”

      “American capability?” Recall the villager, confronted by a Marine E-6 telling him he “has” to move back into a market town vacated due to “Taliban” attacks and that the US troops would “protect him,” responding, “You Americans, with all your weapons and technology, cannot even protect YOURSELVES: how can you say you are going to protect US?”

      Maybe by leaving the US checkbook lying open, with all the checks signed, to bribe the “Unlawful Enema Combatants” not to shoot up the place? that would work, right? It kept a few of them from attacking “our” convoys hauling fuel and ammo to “the front…”

      Yep, if “we” weren’t “patrolling,” even though most of our “patrolling” has zero or negative effects on stability and security, the place would be overrun with wild elephants…

      And it’s still the case that most “terrorist” activity, along with other kinds of criminal activity (other than huge movements of “Unlawful” drugs, it seems) is caught and avoided by plain old-fashioned POLICE work, not by the trillions of dollars of “matrix” gaming by our MIC.

      • even though most of our “patrolling” has zero or negative effects on stability and security

        Do you actually know the first thing about anything happening in Afghanistan?

        Do you think you even need to in order to make such a sweeping statement?

        I had it with people who think they answer complicated questions by checking their guts ten years ago.

        While you’re grading me for my observation about the positive effects of withdrawal in Iraq, I hope you’re keeping in mind that said withdrawal was carried out extremely slowly precisely to avoid the chaos that everyone agreed was in the offering if we’d pulled out quickly, and that some – not me, but I suspect you – were certain was going to take place anyway, and used as “evidence” that a slow withdrawal was pointless.

        • It’s the myth of “understanding” and supposed wisdom that I react to. Since when have the US rulers or any other invader in situations like Iraq (which, do I have it right, you thought was a bad idea from the git-go?) and Afghanistan (after US and Soviet and British and other incursions) and (oops, don’t say it, Vietnam,) been accomplished so as to leave “stability” behind, whether done fast or slow? What does one see when one follows the money?

          What “we” have done is very complicated, involving troops and bribes and sneaky-petes and corporate interests very much at odds with the nominal expressions of “national interest” (which again, no one seems to want to hang out a definition of for some reason). You care to offer how the “NATO” activities on the ground have increased security and stability over there? I don’t see many folks offering up examples of that, as part of some kind of success story for this round of the Great Game. “The Taliban” in all its little and large parts is resurgent, our generals and DoS people are trying to figure out how or whether (realpolitiking) to try to “negotiate” with the masters of the byzantine shifting relations and double cross.

          As to answers to complicated questions, what are the questions? How to “make a strategic rearward advance to previously prepared positions?” How not to set up a photo op of a Blackhawk with one wheel on the pinnacle of the US Embassy in Kabul, with “our people” clambering to get on board, or the CIA guy face-punching “gooks” trying to get on a transport plane out of Cam Ranh? You think our leaders have any clear vision of human behavior that is most likely to follow what they and their predecessors have triggered? I don’t think so, but then as you point out, by your lights people like me don’t know anything about anything.

          On the other hand, from watching and reading and even participating in some of that kind of stuff, I have a pretty strong feeling that control is a myth, that a lot of stuff just happens, chaotically, and the people who initiate invasions (like Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and the rest, and whichever Soviet dorks thought a land war in Notagainistan was just a great idea!) may have a lot of detailed bits of information but do not have even a ghost of understanding of what they really are playing at and with. Except for maybe some major self-advancement?

          Interesting how everything turns personal and critical, isn’t it? Grades, and 3×5 cards and all that?

          What do you want or hope for the world to look like at the next “ten year gut check?” I, personally, with my tiny little window into the Great Game, got a pretty strong feeling that, barring some sudden massive increase in general wisdom, my grandkids are not going to like it very much.

    • In this case, it’s not a metaphor, but the front lines in the shooting war.

      It is very much a question whether the ANA will have enough capability to avoid being defeated in the field by the Taliban.

  4. In Iraq, you got Maliki, who is pretty smart and really brave.

    In Afghanistan, you got Karzai.

    Draw your own conclusions.

  5. Dr. Cole,
    you ask the wrong question because you made such bad assumptions.

    The ANA and ANP are NOT Afghan forces, they are “Northern Alliance” forces.
    The Karzai government in Kabul is NOT a legit Afghan national government, it is still a puppet installed and propped up by foreign invaders. It joins the Popalzai tribe of Pashtuns with the Northern Alliance. To Pashtuns, it is just another foreign occupation force to replace the NATO foreign occupation force.

    As a linguist, tell me what language that troop commander is speaking in the background, that is being translated into English. I assume that it is Dari.
    Pashtuns speak a different language.

    • “The ANA and ANP are NOT Afghan forces, they are “Northern Alliance” forces.”

      You are ten to fifteen years out of date in your analysis. The “Northern Alliance” went out of business years ago. While it is true that the Karzai government’s mandate does not extend beyond Kabul and environs, it would be true of any government, regardless of ethnic background or political persuasion. There currently is no leader in Afghanistan capable of uniting the country into a cohesive national entity. To think otherwise is to allow hope to triumph over reality.

    • To Pashtuns, it is just another foreign occupation force to replace the NATO foreign occupation force.

      Well, to some Pashtuns. As you said, to other Pashtuns, it is a legitimate government that they support.

      Why is it that Pashtuns – and only those Pashtuns who agree with you, not those other “bad” Pashtuns – are the ones who get to decide of a government is legitimate? The Uzbeks, the Hazara, the Tajiks – they don’t count?

  6. In my mind’s eye I keep seeing Joe Biden repeat to Ryan in their VP debate about getting out of Afghanistan in 2014 means we are getting out.

    I hope what he said is the truth….; and whatever it takes to get out, whatever Country it takes to facilitate our withdrawal, well, let’s just do it.

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