The View From Olympus: Get Out While We Can

The American position in Afghanistan is not just deteriorating, it is deteriorating at an accelerating rate.  Historically, that is the last stage before a military collapse.

The November 3 New York Times reported in detail how a Taliban infiltrator penetrated a top-level meeting in Kandahar, killed one of Afghanistan’s top generals and almost got the American general commanding our forces there, General Austin S. Miller.  Our reaction made the bad situation worse.  The Times wrote,

The scramble to get the Americans out of the governor’s compound after General Raziq was killed led to a brief firefight between Americans and Afghan security forces, with the Americans crashing through a gate and shooting at least one Afghan officer dead as they left, American officials said.

Now, in the days that have followed, the Americans are being accused of General Raziq’s death, rattling the relationship between the allies.

 Perhaps not surprisingly, the November 4 Times reported another “green on blue” shooting, with one American soldier dead.

Afghanistan has a long history of being a place easy to get into but hard to get out of.  Successful retreats are perhaps the most difficult of all military operations no matter where they are conducted.  Conducting a successful retreat from Afghanistan is near the top of the list of daunting military tasks.

Everyone knows we have lost and will be leaving soon.  We are trying to obtain a peace deal from the Taliban which will permit us at least an orderly withdrawal.  That is wise on our part, and the Taliban are showing some interest.

If that does not happen, what we may face is a widespread realignment within Afghanistan in which everyone tries to get on the good side of the victor, i.e., the Taliban, with American forces still there.  Afghan government soldiers and police will have a tempting opportunity to do that by turning their weapons on any nearby Americans.  In that part of the world, “piling on” the loser is a time-honored way of changing sides to preserve your own neck.

The apparently widespread rumor that the Americans were responsible for General Raziq’s death illustrates the high level of distrust and dislike already present between U.S. and Afghan government forces.  This is one of the strategic factors that are almost always present when an outside power intervenes in someone else’s civil war.  We are foreigners, we have a different religion, our soldiers get far better pay, food, living conditions, and medical care than do Afghan soldiers and police, and we think we know what we are doing in a place we do not understand.  Add to that volatile mix the growing realization that the Taliban are winning and we will soon be leaving, and the incentive for Afghans to change sides grows.

It does not help matters that of our two exit routes, one goes through Pakistan and the other eventually goes through Russia.  Thanks to the usual idiocies from the Washington foreign policy establishment, we have bad relations with both countries.  Pakistan probably won’t slam the door in our face because they want the Taliban to win.  Why?  Because we stupidly allow the current Afghan government to align with India.  Does anyone in Washington know how to think strategically?  Apparently not.

What is needed most now is detailed planning by the Pentagon for a fighting withdrawal.  I am not saying we want to get out that way.  It is contingency planning in case we have to.  I fear that planning will not be done because it will be politically incorrect, since the military leadership still pretends we are winning.  Subordinates will be afraid to initiate planning that contradicts their superiors’ public statements.  But if we have to put a fighting withdrawal together on the fly, a difficult situation will become a great deal more hazardous.  I hope some majors and lieutenant colonels are developing the necessary plan now, even if they can’t tell their bosses what they are doing.


Interested in what Fourth Generation war in America might look like? Read Thomas Hobbes’ new future history, Victoria.

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