Friday, April 27, 2007

The Taliban Leave a Calling Card

The Taliban spring offensive is here. The AP reports:

The Taliban conducted a raid in Afghanistan's volatile south and took control of a provincial district, killing five people including the district chief and the head of the district police, the deputy governor said Friday.

According to the NATO/ISAF site, Ghazni contains a PRT team and is in the American sector of responsibility.

Ghazni is also in the newest of the ISAF "expansion areas" and may have been one of the most vulnerable.


The incident at Ghazni indicates what radical Islamism thinks is the "winning combination" against Western armies in the field. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have taught them the West is willing to allow them a cross-border sanctuary. From Syria, Iran and Pakistan they can strike at leisure and from there can deny the West a strategic victory for as long as they please. They understand that a strategic victory for the West consists in being able to establish a stable, equitable and prosperous successor regime that will serve as a counterexample to radical Islamism. Iraq taught them it is unnecessary to defeat an opposing Western army so long as they can totally wreck the progress towards a successor regime. For so long as they can make life in the neighboring country a hell on earth their purposes are served. Promoting criminal activity, dealing in drugs, sowing chaos, unrestricted terrorism, sparking civil war -- all of these are acceptable and even lucrative tactics which prevent the emergence of a stable regime.

Unable to create a stable successor regime, the Western opponent is caught between the alternatives of struggling against chaos or leaving the field to Islamists ready to turn their conquered Caliphate into a gigantic terrorist training camp. This choice is stark in Aghanistan because everyone remembers how the Taliban and al-Qaeda once controlled it and know they seek to control it again. Once it was a base for al-Qaeda; and al-Qaeda is determined to get it back. But it is no different anywhere else. In Iraq, with its strategic location and oil wealth, lies a glittering prize ready to be seized; and if the US is unwilling to fight for such a valuable position why should they stand elsewhere?

The US understood from the beginning that tactical victories could never destroy the core of Islamic terrorism. It knew from the beginning that the only chance of beating radical Islamism would be to win a political and ideological victory against it. It gambled that establishing a relatively democratic and prosperous regime in the Middle East would provide a counter-model to the despotic regimes in the area and a viable alternative to radical Islamism. Unfortunately, it seems that Osama Bin Laden was correct in his belief that the West had no stomach for the long struggle. He concluded, after the "Black Hawk Down" incident, that relatively light losses would galvanize antiwar opinion in the West and force a withdrawal. Inflict a long war and losses would be inevitable. Then the tables could be turned and Iraq, rather than being a political and ideological victory for the West could be transformed into its complete opposite: a demonstration of the moral and ideological superiority of of radical Islam.

Now, with a seemingly successful tactical combination in hand to compel a long war in any given place, radical Islamism's prospects of a strategic victory have never been brighter. Everything that has happened in Iraq can be replicated in Afghanistan -- the sanctuaries, the campaign of terror, the cunning public relations offensive in the Western press -- and in any other battlefield which radical Islam wishes to contest.

While political defeatism has played a big part in helping al-Qaeda's strategy to succeed, the truth is that the West has not developed the "combined arms" mix of developmental, political and military approaches that can deny radical Islam the opportunity to inflict a long war in any given place. Radical Islamism has a battlefield model that has been refined over long decades. With it they defeated the French in Algeria. With it they bedeviled, though they have not defeated, the formidable Israelis. With it they have vexed the redoubtable Indians. The Algerians themselves, in common with every other regime in the region, have only partially counteracted Islamic terrorism through brutal methods that Western armies could hardly contemplate. Understood in this context, the US experience in Iraq, though riddled with mistakes, has really been far more successful than one could expect. No other Western country has tried to create a functioning, relatively civil government in the face of a terrorist campaign. At best, previous other efforts were aimed at re-establishing a colonial administration or enforcing an occupation. What General Petraeus is trying to achieve is in terra incognita.

But that stretch of undiscovered country constitutes the single most valuable piece of real estate in the 21st century. America and radical Islam are locked in a battle for the future of Iraq and by extension the Middle East; for Afghanistan and by extension Southwest Asia; for the Horn of Africa and by extension for the vast swath of territory above the Sahara. Billions of people are watching to see what the outcome will be. Watching to see which side can lay claim on the future.

Winston Churchill once described Admiral John Jellicoe, who commanded the fleet on which Britain's life existed as "the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon". Nearly a hundred years later, the West finds itself in the position of the Allies in World War in 1916: 2007 is a year in which there is no definite way to win but a clear and obvious way to lose. The US political system with its power to persist or give up the fight may be only force on earth capable of losing the war in an afternoon. Or at least, make a fair start on the road to loss. The Taliban's Spring Offensive marks the flowering of their hopes. And the West, so far, sees only a withering.


Blogger Brian said...

W, your eloquence is worthy of that rhetorical giant you cite, WC. And some clear and stirring pronunciatos like this are clearly needed. And then comes the problem of getting them heard. I'll do what I virally can to spread this one.

4/27/2007 02:48:00 AM  
Blogger Brother D-Day said...

You read about Fourth Generation Warfare and how it is a state vs. a networked ideology that is trans-global.

Our enemy has mastered it. We are stuck in the 20th century.

George Bush gave speeches shortly after 9/11 describing how the US would go after terrorists and the countries that harbor them.

So far, the US goes after terrorists in the countries it has invaded, but it has not gone after Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

All part of the mental gymnastics and PC BS that "we are not at war with Islam."

Well, Islam is at war with us, and until the above countries are hit where it hurts, we will lose.

4/27/2007 03:16:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The stakes have risen for both sides. The enemy too is heavily -- even critically -- invested in the outcome. A defeat for radical Islam and/or Iran in this central contest will be more than a tactical setback. It will be a visible and humiliating defeat. So great would be the loss that for them defeat is probably not an option. But that works to their advantage because they will do anything to win. Anything to survive.

Not so the West. It has for too long been secure in its illusion of invulnerability. Like Admiral Rozhestvensky it has the inability to conceive that true defeat could ever happen. The Leftist attitude towards the current crisis is not marked by a conviction that the West can never win, as they often claim. It is characterized by a deep and abiding faith that the West can never lose. Did they actually fear that their little entitlements, reproductive rights, sexual prerogatives etc were seriously threatened they would spring into action. For them the war is distant and will remain forever so. September 11 did nothing to change that view. What event could disabuse them of that illusion is painful to contemplate. And probably not long in coming.

4/27/2007 03:52:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

In one sense the impossible has already happened. Conventional wisdom held that Islamic terrorism could nowhere be engaged. It was evanescent. Will-o'-the-wisp. Intangible. They were ghosts. But by making Iraq their rallying point, by throwing down the gauntlet in this one place and time, radical Islam in general and al-Qaeda in particular have taken on the mantle of tangibility. They have committed their men, money and most important of all, their prestige to the enterprise of driving the United States from Iraq. They have promised it to the world. They collect money each day in mosques to guarantee this result. They tell all who care to listen that Allah himself has foreordained the outcome.

Thus have they have raised up their adherents. But with this danger: if they cannot achieve what they have promised, if they and not America are driven from the field then they will pay the penalty of every prophet who has prophesied and been made the fool. But wait. Politicians are far better at making fools of themselves than the al-Qaeda will ever be. There is hope for the jihad yet.

4/27/2007 04:06:00 AM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4/27/2007 05:17:00 AM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...

If you want to fight, fight...

at the moment the west doesnt have the balls to actually fight...

Islam, not militant islam, but ISLAM must be taught a lesson...

and we in the west are too lazy to do anything about it, for now...

a tipping point is needed....

the neville-like democrats think that iraq and WMD are the issues...

In pakistan 30k islamic schools are churning out 1.3 million islamic nut jobs...

maybe it's time to start fighting back by withholding medicine, technology and food to un-western areas of the world

maybe the islamic fears of western attempts at genocide might have to be unleashed to teach the islamic world that the west is truly evil enough to kick their asses, not in a military battle but in a clash of civilizations (huttington) war.

Maybe it's time for famine, plague, viruses to "hit" the largest areas of iran, iraq, afganistan, turkey, pakistan, egypt, indonesia?

sounds evil dont it?

black death, aids, bird flue, famine, drought...

all are tools that can be employeed ONCE the west understands the fight....

not pretty eh?

4/27/2007 05:20:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

"Did they actually fear that their little entitlements, reproductive rights, sexual prerogatives etc were seriously threatened they would spring into action."

Well, yes, sort of, but "spring into action" in their case consists of, at most, painting over the "Make Love Not War" signs with ones that say "Free West Bumpass" or whatever the cause de Jour is. At an "anti-war" protest they held at the Pentagon just after I escaped that dungeon in the early 90's at least a potion of the small crowd was there to protest not the fighting of a war but failing to fight one to free East Timor.

As Rush Limbaugh likes to say, feminism was created for the purpose of giving ugly women access to power.

The "peace" movement was created for the purpose of giving people who don't actually know how to do anything useful access to power.

But pick up a gun themselves? Or even vote Republican? No effing way.

4/27/2007 05:45:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Maybe it's time for famine, plague, viruses to "hit" the largest areas of iran, iraq, afganistan, turkey, pakistan, egypt, indonesia?

Those are not the weapons we need unless the world is engulfed in a cataclysm from which no one will escape unscathed. If those weapons are ever used it will only be as a seal to the most catastrophic of policy failures ...

No. The weapons we will use are the ones we have painstakingly learned to employ. It's remarkable to observe what US forces have evolved towards as they gain experience. Less and less brute force and a more and more intelligent application of it. It is the enemy who is changing in the direction of wholesale slaughter. Who kills masses of people each day? The enemy. Who targets mosques, Muslim women and children and schools? It is the enemy.

Our problem is that we have everything, even right upon our side without even being able to realize it ourselves.

4/27/2007 05:52:00 AM  
Blogger What is "Occupation" said...


I hope your right...

But I see the BLOOD LUST is rising is all parts islam, from Northern African to the breakaway areas of the old USSR...

the weapons i speak of are not weapons we would USE, but rather a natural reaction when the west withholds medicines, vaccines, technology to vast areas of the world that are hostile to us.

Part of my PLAN would be to label all products with ethnical of origin labels...

I could see it now, medicine or computers with a small label on the back stating:

The product your about to use has been made by the following:

then show a small star of david, cross, budda, cow (hindus), oak tree (druids & earth worshippers) cresent etc...

let's MAKE the bigot refuse the medicine cause a jew, a black, a pagan, a christian, a moslem helped create it.

As for American use of power, yes I agree, a learning curve, smart vrs blunt anyday...

4/27/2007 06:09:00 AM  
Blogger R said...

Sigmund Freud thought that the "hysterical" patient was the most difficult to treat and the least likely to be cured, if at all possible and within definition. If one takes that great line from Rodney King: "Can't we all just get along" and adds an hysterical set of glasses from which we look into this mass movement intent on destroying our way of life, he/she will sense that our troubles are just beginning. Like a giant bear who raids the beehive and just swats at the bees swarming him as he plucks the honey, we really don't know how long just swatting is going to work as we feed ourselves. Then what? America is still wrapped in this Narcissistic dance amongst its citizens. Wake up time will be when? As a result of what? What will we have left? Where will we go? What will we have lost? What will we win? And most importanly, what will this cost?

4/27/2007 06:21:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

At the recently concluded debate between Democrat Presidential candidates the participants were asked what they would do if al-Qaeda nuked two American cities.

In one of moderator Brian Williams' more provocative questions of the evening
about how the candidates would respond to a terrorist attack on two American cities, Obama first spoke about emergency response and then spoke of intelligence failures.

His answer was in marked contrast to those provided by Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M., and Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who began their responses with finding out who was
responsible and responding with military action.

Obama appeared uncomfortable with his initial response and came back to the issue of terrorism to add some muscle to it later on.

These are non-answers. If nobody claims responsibility for a nuclear attack what are the odds that those future Presidents will launch a nuclear attack on the strength of an intelligence estimate?

If al-Qaeda admitted responsibility then there's no one to nuke back. All these future Democrat Presidents could do would be to reprise some version of Operation Iraqi Freedom unless they plan on treating the attack as a police investigation and dispatch men to "arrest" Osama Bin Laden.

Their responses illustrate more than anything else just how bankrupt their current strategic thinking is. It amounts to criticism and withdrawal or alternatively, withdrawal and criticism.

4/27/2007 06:26:00 AM  
Blogger luagha said...

I will mention that our intervention after the tsunami in Indonesia won the US many friends and allies in that part of the world. It continues to pay dividends to this day.

I believe there is a time and a place for both the open hand and the closed fist, and we must learn to use both smartly.

4/27/2007 06:46:00 AM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

Test... because all recent attempts to comment have returned an "Invalid Password" message (for why?) and deleted a good quarter hour's work.

4/27/2007 06:50:00 AM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

Good job-- "Invalid Password" has re-validated. To Wretchard, may we say Belmont Club counts among the absolute best sites for insightful and reasoned discussion on the Web.

As a ranking military officer, General Petraeus is obviously a low-brow of elementary educational attainment, one for whom soldiering is the least-worst alternative to dishwashing in Secaucus. Unlike Comrade Kerry, he's a Princeton man.

4/27/2007 06:59:00 AM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...


Thank you for your incomparable analysis.

Daffyd at Big Lizard's Blog quoted the following interesting snippet from Joe Lieberman's speech a couple of days ago:

In his speech Monday, the Majority Leader described the several steps that this new strategy for Iraq would entail. Its first step, he said, is to "transition the U.S. mission away from policing a civil war -- to training and equipping Iraqi security forces, protecting U.S. forces, and conducting targeted counter-terror operations...."

There is another irony here as well. For most of the past four years, under Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the United States did not try to establish basic security in Iraq. Rather than deploying enough troops necessary to protect the Iraqi people, the focus of our military has been on training and equipping Iraqi forces, protecting our own forces, and conducting targeted sweeps and raids -- in other words, the very same missions proposed by the proponents of the legislation before us.

That strategy failed -- and we know why it failed. It failed because we didn't have enough troops to ensure security, which in turn created an opening for Al Qaeda and its allies to exploit. They stepped into this security vacuum and, through horrific violence, created a climate of fear and insecurity in which political and economic progress became impossible.

For years, many members of Congress recognized this. We talked about this. We called for more troops, and a new strategy, and -- for that matter -- a new secretary of defense. And yet, now, just as President Bush has come around -- just as he has recognized the mistakes his administration has made, and the need to focus on basic security in Iraq, and to install a new secretary of defense and a new commander in Iraq -- now his critics in Congress have changed their minds and decided that the old, failed strategy wasn't so bad after all.

What is going on here? What has changed so that the strategy that we criticized and rejected in 2006 suddenly makes sense in 2007?

Jamie Irons

4/27/2007 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger ricpic said...


But doesn't the Left hate the West? Isn't the internal digging out of our foundations more of a threat than the external battering that Islam could ever deliver?

4/27/2007 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 04/27/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

4/27/2007 08:11:00 AM  
Blogger JAF said...

Can we start the revolution yet?

Oops, hang on... The View is on.

4/27/2007 09:16:00 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Well, then there is this...

It seems that rational thought has left for different shores. I am not saying that the colonel is wrong, but that he is the harbinger of a decline in our prestige, if not worse...

4/27/2007 09:31:00 AM  
Blogger Brother D-Day said...

wretchard said...
If nobody claims responsibility for a nuclear attack what are the odds that those future Presidents will launch a nuclear attack on the strength of an intelligence estimate?

Need to dust off the Kennedy doctrine from the 60's with modifications.

A nice memo - sent via confidential back channels - to every muzzie .gov in every state where we have even the slightest concern, to the effect of:

"Any nuclear attack on the United States, Europe, Australia or India will be viewed as an attack by your country on the United States. We will retaliate immediately by leveling every one of your population centers, critical infrastructure sites and sites of Islamic religious signficance.

"All natural resources and financial assets will be seized as compensation for damages to the countries attacked.

"This policy is effective immediately."

Just need to put the word out. No UN approval, no "consultation." One attack by any terrorist organization on the Core will mean the end of the muslim Gap.

Three Conjectures in Effect. Eh, Wretchard?

4/27/2007 10:22:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...


re: LTC Paul Yingling. A failure in generalship. ARMED FORCES JOURNAL

LTC Yingling has said nothing novel. His having said it and the publication venue are novelties. It seems that rather than meekly resigning commissions or retiring, some officers are determined to fight. In the light of Vietnam and Iraq, that is a good thing.

Among myriad other complaints, LTC Yingling rightly points to the incestuous promotion culture through which field grade and flag officers pass, saying,
“Neither the executive branch nor the services themselves are likely to remedy the shortcomings in America's general officer corps. Indeed, the tendency of the executive branch to seek out mild-mannered team players to serve as senior generals is part of the problem.”

By way of supplementation, consider the Officer Performance Review (OPR).

In rating a subordinate, the rater is given two options, with no means of elaboration: “Meets Standards” or “Does Not Meet Standards”. In the absence of a lengthy “Unfavorable Information File, something extremely difficult to create without risk of accusations of harassment, nearly all officers “Meet Standards.” Moreover, unfavorable information, almost by its nature, must address some breach of regulation; and sadly, other than Darwin, there is no law against stupid.

Additionally, the questions on the OPR are purposefully constructed to elicit positive responses, disallowing negativity.

Instead of saying a subordinate is a chronic malingerer, it must be said the subordinate appears fit for duty 75% of the time.

It may not be said that an officer is a fat slob (5’ 7” at 198lbs), who finds the retrieval of a fallen paperclip a nearly insurmountable physical exertion. Instead, one must say the officer has been enrolled in a physical fitness program at the Health and Wellness Center for the past five years.

One may not say that an officer is dumb as a post, having no business in command. Rather, one must say that the officer is working with the Education Officer to hone his officership skills.

A failure of generalship


How long before LTC Yingling comes under attack from the usual suspects?

4/27/2007 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger allen said...


re: How long before LTC Yingling comes under attack from the usual suspects?

Well, it didn't take long. Jules Crittenden has a thread on morons and LTC Yingling's article has a link.

March of the Morons

Partisanship will be the death of America.

4/27/2007 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

brother D-day,

The effect of the Three Conjectures is only guaranteed in the long run. If the statements of the Democrat Presidential candidates is any guide it will kick in sooner rather than later.

But the real message of the Three Conjectures is that we cannot afford to reach a state where two American cities are leveled by nukes and we enter a retaliatory contest against a force with no ability to feel deterrence nor any command and control to call of their attacks. If we reach Three Conjectures territory the game can be technically won, but all the payoffs, even for the "winners" will be hugely negative.

4/27/2007 02:37:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

I am afraid I would have said that I would not retaliate. Retaliation is what you threaten to do if someone attacks you; it is part of deterrence.

One you are attacked there is no such thing as retaliation, not if you have a shred of strategic sense. We never retaliated for the Pearl Harbor attack. What we did do was proceed to eliminate the threat revealed by the attack by destroying the Japanese Empire.

Once you are attacked, you do what you need to do to win the war. Whatever that is. Including inviting hundreds of thousands of enemy civilians to the world’s biggest Bar-B-Que.

The alternative – “retaliation” - is just a version of what a Taliban spokesman said in October 2001: “Okay, we killed 3000 of you and you now have killed 3000 of us. You can go home now.”

4/27/2007 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Mitch said...

Pakistan denies that there were any Taliban on their territory, and they had nothing to do with any attacks. OK so far. Now we go in, kill whatever bad guys we find, and deny that we were ever there and if we were, we didn't do anything. Everybody is either happy or dead. Sounds pretty straightforward to me.

4/27/2007 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger Brother D-Day said...

wretchard said...

brother D-day,

But the real message of the Three Conjectures is that we cannot afford to reach a state where two American cities are leveled by nukes and we enter a retaliatory contest against a force with no ability to feel deterrence nor any command and control to call of their attacks. If we reach Three Conjectures territory the game can be technically won, but all the payoffs, even for the "winners" will be hugely negative.

Point well taken and I fully agree. I guess I find myself taking a very harsh view of things lately.

I am distressed with the outcome of the US 2006 federal elections and the democrats blantant calls for retreat.

My only hope now is that the permanent bureaucracy that keeps our government going is able to get the harsh message of retaliation to the muslim governments of the world, with our without the blessing of the administration of 2009.

I find myself storing water, dry goods, money, arms and ammo with a certainty now than I never had in my younger days when annihilation was to come from the USSR.

4/28/2007 09:30:00 PM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

Who's lookin' out for you, baby?

4/29/2007 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger allen said...

mike h,

May I add

Talking about the use of air power:

US aircrews show Taliban no mercy

H/T Small Wars Journal

Do watch the video provided by the telegraph.

"‘When you are on top of the enemy you look, shoot and it's, 'You die, you die, you die.
The odds are on our side. I really enjoy it. I told my wife, if I could come home every night then this would be the perfect job.’"
___Lt. Denton

4/29/2007 05:29:00 PM  

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