Afghanistan: We Don’t Have That Much Time!

BY Herschel Smith
8 years ago

Stateside military command has been kicking the Afghanistan can down the road for a while now, and the belief seems to be that the next President will figure out priorities. January, or February, perhaps, and the new administration will begin to sight in on a comprehensive strategy, which itself will then be months away from being implemented.

Recall that wonderful movie Apollo 13, where both the Astronauts and the engineers were heroes? One part of the dialog keys in on that pivotal moment when the crew finally realized their real predicament. It’s right after unsuccessful isolation of the oxygen leak, and goes like this:

Jim Lovell: Freddo, how long does it take to power up the LEM?
Fred Haise, Sr.: Three hours by the checklist.
Jim Lovell: We don’t have that much time.

They actually had only minutes to transition to and power up the lunar landing module, or die. The Captain’s Journal has been arguing for more than half a year for focus and force projection in Afghanistan. Somewhat belatedly, the U.S. force command and NATO might have had a similar moment to Apollo 13. “How long does traditional COIN takes? Why, ten to twelve years by the book, sir! We don’t have that much time!

Senior British commanders are to warn ministers that unless thousands more troops are sent to Afghanistan the Taliban will win back control of the country.

They are recommending a rapid reduction in the 4,000 troops in Iraq so that more can go to Afghanistan. American and British commanders in Afghanistan want an Iraq-style surge “within months” to fend off a Taliban victory before next year’s presidential election there.

One senior officer said the Taliban were now operating in areas where they had not been since the allied invasion in 2001.

“Unless the West commits serious numbers of extra troops soon, we are looking at a Taliban victory,” another officer said.

Commanders in Helmand need at least one more infantry brigade, which would increase British numbers from 8,000 to about 12,000, he added.

British officers fear that having been accused of failing in Iraq, they will face a second defeat caused solely by the failure to provide sufficient troops.

They have already begun lobbying to persuade Gordon Brown to back the idea of a surge. The prime minister, however, is looking for a “peace dividend” from the Iraq withdrawal that would cut the £1.7 billion annual cost of the two operations.

Des Browne, the defence secretary, ordered his officials last week to deny that there were any plans to send more troops. Nato chiefs in Afghanistan, however, including General David McKiernan, the American commander, and his British deputy, Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley, are “screaming out” for more troops, sources said.

They see the presidential election as a strategic “tipping point” and are concerned that worsening security will make it impossible to hold a meaningful vote. They are said to be backed by senior British officers in charge of planning Afghanistan operations, including Lieutenant-General Nick Houghton, chief of joint operations.

Browne insisted last week that he had always increased troop numbers when asked by commanders, pointing to a 230-man increase in June. Commanders say that is nowhere near enough.

One senior officer said: “We can beat them face to face; we just can’t be everywhere, and that has allowed them to gain ground.”

The Captain’s Journal has weighed in before that “Properly resourcing the campaign will require at least – but not limited to – three Marine Regimental Combat Teams (outfitted with V-22s, Harriers and all of the RCT support staff) and three Brigades (preferably at least one or two of which are highly mobile, rapid reaction Stryker Brigades). These forces must be deployed in the East and South and especially along the border, brought out from under the control of NATO and reporting only to CENTCOM. Finally, NATO must implement a sound, coherent counterinsurgency strategy across the board in the balance of Afghanistan.”

So even now NATO is being timid regarding the true requirements of the campaign, in our opinion. But at least they have encountered their “we don’t have that much time” moment of truth. Des Browne, being the weakling that he is, continues to equivocate. But at least the truth is out there. The Taliban have been clever.

They want to disrupt and/or make the elections meaningless. No end to the corruption, they want the people to think. That paves the way for Sharia courts and Taliban justice, and thus an empowerment of the Taliban. Unlike the delays in the U.S., the Taliban are working towards a target, and unfortunately the election will not occur in time to deploy a comprehensive strategy after the U.S. election in order to save the Afghan election.

Regarding delaying any sort of increased commitment to Operation Enduring Freedom until a new administration takes over, “we don’t have that much time.”


You are currently reading "Afghanistan: We Don’t Have That Much Time!", entry #1234 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Taliban and was published August 10th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

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