Winning Strategy for Afghanistan

As a former Air Force Systems Analyst Officer (1972-1976), the part of Vietnam that I remember is that in 11 days of unrestricted bombing and air dropped mines, Operation Linebacker II put all of North Vietnam's ports out of business.  This cut off all supplies, because the Red Chinese skimmed 90% plus of what was shipped overland.  If Linebacker II had been launched in 1965 instead of December, 1972, it would have saved a lot of lives and made COIN a lot more effective, a lot earlier.  We lost in Vietnam because between 1973 and 1975 Congress cut aid to South Vietnam by 75% and outlawed US air strikes anywhere in Southeast Asia.  Congress and the American people lost patience with the Vietnam War.  If we had bombed in 1965 and kept bombing, we would not have had Congress outlaw air strikes after we had won in 1967 or 1968.


The part of strategy in guerrilla war that the US has forgotten is that without supplies, guerrillas die. Guerrillas don't have the luxury of growing food or manufacturing ammunition for themselves.  They're on the run.  Rangers in the American Colonies originally got their name because they ranged through Indian territory and attacked Indian farming villages, which were the base of Indian supplies.  The US beat the Plains Indians by almost exterminating the American buffalo, which the Plains Indians used for food, clothing and shelter.  Hunting the American buffalo to extinction was an intentional strategy originally proposed by General William T. Sherman.  It was carried out ruthlessly, and it worked exactly as planned.  The Plains Indians moved onto reservations because they had nothing to eat.


Recently, we have watched ISIS go from strong to dead because we eliminated their source of income, oil sales, by bombing their tanker trucks, oil fields and oil handling facilities.  I don't mean to make light of the combat efforts it took to eliminate ISIS, but I do want to point out that ISIS was far less formidable broke than they were when they were rich.  Eliminating their financial resources made them far easier to defeat.


Which brings us to Afghanistan.  The Taliban runs on opium sales.  Everybody knows it.  To eliminate the Taliban, we need to eliminate their opium sales.  We can either legalize opium world wide, which would lower the value of the opium sold, or we can destroy all Taliban opium exports coming out of Afghanistan.  Since legalizing opium is highly unlikely, the only alternative is destroying all opium exports.  Anything less and we still have a rich Taliban who can hire soldiers and pay for food, guns and ammo.  We haven't done this because Afghanistan's main foreign exchange earning export is illegal opium sales.  However, unless we do something about Taliban opium, the best outcome we can hope for in Afghanistan is a steady state of what the Israelis call "mowing the lawn."  We can use air power and special forces to limit the Taliban to contolling 40% of Afghanistan.  We can't win in Afghanistan unless the Taliban can't sell their opium to finance operations. 


To defeat the Taliban, we would have to eradicate opium systematically, using air power, in all areas the Taliban controls or even partially controls.  If the Taliban controls your poppy field, the US will destroy your crop.  If you want to keep your crop, keep the Taliban out of your area.  Otherwise, the US puts napalm on your poppies.  Displaced farmers will move to areas under government control.  There will be no people, and no money, for the Taliban to use to support their operations.  At that point, COIN (COunter INsurgency operations) will work a whole lot better.


Original article I reacted to.


Autumn Cote Added Sep 14, 2018 - 9:41pm
Please note, it's against the rules to post articles to Writer Beat unless you comment on the work of others.  
Flying Junior Added Sep 14, 2018 - 9:49pm
Welcome to the Writer Beat oh venerable right-wing war hawk and Viet Nam apologist.
As far as your ideas being used in Afghanistan?  Certifiably insane.  I guess we should have followed your advice in 2002?  It's time to negotiate a peace.  Eighteen years we have been in Afghanistan.  Why don't we just pack it up and let the locals decide for themselves what it is that they wish to do with the tattered remains of their once beautiful country.
You're Nixon and LBJ all bundled up into one package.  The United States has never been defeated!  We cannot be defeated!
Generals gathered at their masses;
Just like witches at black masses!
Evil minds that plot destruction;
Sorceror of death's construction.
In the fields the bodies burning;
As the war machine keeps turning!
Death and hatred to mankind;
Poisoning their brain-washed minds!
Ozzie Osbourne 1970
Douglas Proudfoot Added Sep 15, 2018 - 1:54pm
You can't negotiate with the Taliban, because they refuse to negotiate.  The Taliban are sure that if the US withdraws, the Taliban wins.  The Taliban will then slaughter at least a hundred thousand unbelievers, just like the Khmer Rouge slaughtered 2 million unarmed Cambodian men, women and children after the war "ended" in Southeast Asia.  Victorious Communists also killed several hundred thousand Vietnamese and Laotians.  Leftists never count the costs of negotiating with killers, as long as somebody else dies.
Autumn Cote Added Sep 15, 2018 - 6:04pm
I see that you commented elsewhere...thank you.  Also note, this article would be a lot more readable if you added white space between paragraphs.  
Dino Manalis Added Sep 15, 2018 - 6:26pm
 We need a permanent military base in Afghanistan, while the opium has to be seized and used in pharmacology to boost the country's revenues.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Sep 15, 2018 - 8:24pm
The Taliban had virtually eliminated poppy growing before the DUHmericans arrived. Now DUHmerican soldiers patrol and defend the CIA's extensive poppy fields.
You singlehandedly put the oxymoron in Military Intelligence. 
MEFOBILLS Added Sep 15, 2018 - 9:07pm
I also want to know how it is that Taliban put a stop to Poppy Growing, and now suddenly they need it for income?
Douglas Proudfoot Added Sep 15, 2018 - 9:14pm
Jeffry Gilbert:  You are completely misinformed, and arrogant about your misinformation.  The Taliban is awash in opium, morphine and heroin cash.  See the link here, here and here.  Socialist success is the true oxymoron.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Sep 15, 2018 - 9:36pm
Taliban's Ban On Poppy A Success, U.S. Aides Say
Afghanistan: Analysts Ponder Why Taliban Banned Poppy Cultivation
Taliban destroy poppy fields in surprise clampdown on Afghan opium growers
Completely misinformed my ass. Talk about arrogant you Kemosabe are  the arrogant one. 
Hilarious how in your agent orange addled mind someone who disagrees with your MIC narrative is a socialist. 
Off you go now,
Mind the gap between train and platform. BUH-Bye.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Sep 15, 2018 - 9:40pm
Flying Junior Added Sep 16, 2018 - 2:09am
Well since their country was invaded, you can hardly blame the theocracy for allying themselves with their former foes the opium growers.
I like Dino's idea.  Not sure about a permanent base. 
Thank you Doug for a considered response.  Obviously the way forward from here is not clear.
I say get the hell out.  Support humanitarian aid in the afermath of twenty years of hell.
Jeffry Gilbert Added Sep 16, 2018 - 2:39am
Support humanitarian aid in the afermath of twenty years of hell.
Those ignorant goat herds have been fighting each other for centuries and that's not going to change anytime soon. 
As long as CIA is making so damn much money with poppies and rare earth minerals remain in the ground its going to be a shit show. 
Utpal Patel Added Sep 16, 2018 - 4:18am
I don’t know much about our military or you, except to say I trust our military knows what should be done about Afghanistan a lot more than some anonymous Writer Beat participant.  Perhaps we’re already attacking the Taliban’s ability to trade opium. I certainly don’t think the military has forgotten winning strategies.  Again, I trust the military knows how to fight this war given the resources provided to them. 
One thing you should keep in mind is that if you define winning the war as “eliminating” the Taliban, the war will never be won.  I think winning is degrading them enough so that the country doesn’t fall apart once we leave. 
FacePalm Added Sep 16, 2018 - 4:23am
Doug Proudfoot-
Jeffry Gilbert is correct.  The CIA has been transshipping drugs into other countries since it's founding, in order to a) fund their retirements and b) fund the wetworks and other black projects Congress would never authorize.  In later years, Truman - who authorized their founding - said that he'd never have done so had he known that they'd become the "American Gestapo."
George H.W. "Poppy" Bush didn't get his nickname because he's a great dad.
So the "Afghanistan strategy" you propose will never work unless and until the CIA's influence is completely disrupted and destroyed, FIRST.  Then, it could work.
Also, from what i understand, the Afghani mountains have been found to contain mondo resources that manufacturers want/need, so i expect that deals will be struck if/when the war is ended which can also obviate the "need" to produce opium and it's derivatives.  But it can't be ended the same way it was ended in Iraq, otherwise similar results will obtain.  At the VERY LEAST, all of the left-behind war materiel in Iraq should have been either disabled, sabotaged, destroyed, or turned into death traps for ISIS(maybe a combo of all the above) - but no.  It was simply abandoned, and fell into their hands so the terrorists could start up their war of destabilization, 100% in line with the PNAC crowd's devilish designs...with which i think D'OhBama was well-aligned, based on his craven obeisance to the Saudi king and his giving of aid and comfort to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, not to mention his antipathy toward Israel.
John Minehan Added Sep 16, 2018 - 7:35am
Couple of Thoughts:
---I was in OEF, but not in that part (OEF covers a lot more than Afghanistan).
---One big problem with Afghanistan, which has existed since my Great Grandfather served there with the Brits in the Second Afghan War, is that the return on being there never quite exceeds the cost of winning decisively.
---Put another way, it is not that the Afghans are the greatest soldiers in the World.  It is that they are the greatest Soldiers in Afghanistan and no one cares enough about the place or gets enough from doing what it takes to win to change that.
---To put this yet another way, Afghanistan is not the "graveyard of Empires" so much as Afghan is the place Empires go when they have already conquered everything that was worth having and they are over-extended.  Certainly, that is  true of Victoria's Empire in the 1st and 2d Afghan Wars and the USSR in the 1980s.
---I think the author has a good point about attacking the opium trade.
---I also think several of the people responding have some good points about why that has not happened.
---I would also add that waging war in Afghanistan for the Taliban is probably not as cost-prohibitive as waging a war might be in other places for other groups. 
---The author is right about how  decimating the buffalo herds crippled the resistance of tribes like the Sioux and the Cheyenne. 
---On the other hand, the Apache were not effected at all.  They had an economy that was not based on exploiting the buffalo, in fact, it was a very robust (resilient?) subsistence economy. 
---Other factors finally lead to peace with the Apache around 1886, such as negotiating with the Mexican Government to give both US and Mexican Forces the right of "Hot Pursuit" or Apache war bands into the other country, the use of Apache Scouts and Generals Crooke and Miles emphasis on knowing the Apache and negotiating with them to reduce the influence of hard liners like Geronimo, who was a Shaman rather than a Chief.         
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 16, 2018 - 3:27pm
re:You can't negotiate with the Taliban, because they refuse to negotiate."
 Such demonizations were also common with charlie, but they negect the basic fact that EVERYONE will negotiate if there is something to be negotiated. It appears that it is the US that refuses to negotiate. We have nothing to offer and a very good track record of not honoring our commitments.
Moreover, you seem to look at this a some sort of war/military problem. Its not. Why are we there? Does a pipeline have anything to do that ? Or rare minerals? Or an eastern front to those demon Iranians? Or a foreward base to the OBOR, Russia.  China  BTW is moving in. Just like in Syria, we have no need to be there and the locals dont want us.
re: "The Taliban are sure that if the US withdraws, the Taliban wins. "
Afraid to lose yet another war? Its already been lost.
Have we found Osama bin Laden yet?
Douglas Proudfoot Added Sep 16, 2018 - 4:12pm
Jeffrey Gilbert: Your links about the Taliban drug ban are 16 years old.  Taliban policy has changed since then.  The last link you cited contains this sentence: 
"The vast majority of Afghanistan's poppy cultivation takes place in the south, south west and east, areas where the Taliban insurgency is thriving."
Your last link also had an interview with a poppy farmer who said the Taliban taxes his crop by taking a 10th of it.  If you follow all three of my links you will find they date from 2017 and 2018. They all say the Taliban is heavily involved in opium, heroin and morphine trafficking. 
The need to finance the war overcame the Taliban's religious scruples. 
John Minehan Added Sep 16, 2018 - 5:49pm
"We have nothing to offer and a very good track record of not honoring our commitments."
 "'The Taliban are sure that if the US withdraws, the Taliban wins.' 
That is why they have no interest in negotiations.  "You have a watch.  We have a calendar."
"Moreover, you seem to look at this a some sort of war/military problem. Its not. Why are we there? Does a pipeline have anything to do that ? Or rare minerals? Or an eastern front to those demon Iranians? Or a foreword base to the OBOR, Russia.  China  BTW is moving in."
But those factors WOULD make this a "war/military problem."  All you would need to do is control those resources, which you could do by a massive application of fires around those areas, as the author states.  However, it is more complex than that.
In a sense, we have already won. 
Bin Ladin is dead and we used our presence in Afghanistan as a kind of operational economy of force; a screen to cover our actual main effort, the JTF that found and killed him.
Probably the only reason we remain there is the fear that when we withdraw, something worse will arise, as with IS in  Iraq and Syria. 
I see the argument, but then we should WANT the PRC, Russia and Iran to get involved against the Salafist Movement, just as Great Britain was glad to see the US get involved in the World Wars. 
It would be a natural hand-off of generational threats, not unlike the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire inheriting dealing with the threat from Persia from the Hellenic City States and the Hellenistic Successor States.  It is also exactly how I envisioned this ending 17 years ago. 
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 16, 2018 - 7:00pm
re:"But those factors WOULD make this a "war/military problem." "
The use of Afghanistan as a staging ground for "our wars" certainly  has military value but a huge loss of credibility value as a force for anything other than its material and military interests. If we are to accept this general approach that this whole world is our oyster, the remainders  will align against us, and that is materializing as we speak. IMO, there is only ruin in this path. It does have the benefit of continued destabilization of the ME as a service to the AngloZionists,
but Im pretty sure that is not in my interest. Certainly not the great suckiing sound of our treasury going to the MIC. 
re:"I see the argument, but then we should WANT the PRC, Russia and Iran to get involved against the Salafist Movement"
They are, it is the CIA and its history with the muslim extremists that is the problem. See e.g. Mosque in Munich If we got out of Syria, ISIS and Al Qaeda would be dead with in moments. 
John Minehan Added Sep 16, 2018 - 7:57pm
"They are, it is the CIA and its history with the muslim extremists that is the problem. See e.g. target="_blank">Mosque in Munich If we got out of Syria, ISIS and Al Qaeda would be dead with in moments."
You probably give them vastly more credit than is due.
Salafism has a degree of legitimacy.  As Obama said of the US in 2008, in times of trouble "people cling to their guns and their religion."  The Westphalian Nation State Model has not really served the Dar-al-Islam in the almost 100 years since the Sublime Porte was dissolved, neither in the form of Arab Monarchies nor Arab Socialist Republics.
However, what has happened with te Transitional National Government in Somalia (which incorporates Salafist elements from AIAI and the ICU) gives me hope that eventually some sort of stable governance will emerge, especially as Central Asia, Africa and the ME are incorporated into the post-One Belt/One Road Afro-Eurasian Heartland.      
MEFOBILLS Added Sep 17, 2018 - 11:14am
The Salafist movement is part of the Great Game.  Saudi was funded and maneuvered into existence by MI6.  All of the subsequent movements such as Nassar's pan Arabism fell prey to the Great Game.
Basically anything that is antithetical to the construct gets subordinated:  1) Suez is to stay open and allow trade.  2) International banking is to intermediate international trade.  This international seat of bank money is in both London and Wall Street and is the source of Zion's money power.  3) Control of resources of the middle east, especially Oil.
Salafism and its adjunct Wahabism is encouraged by MI6 and now CIA.  Why?  Because it capitulates Saudi Kings as the leader of Islam.
All of the Takfiri wars in the post WW2 age are in alignment with these globalist zionist banking interests. 
The same goes for Afghanistan.   There are numerous reasons Zion wants to stay there.  The latest is as a spoiler for China's OBOR initiative.  
Britain (and its City of London Masters) has long used RIM theory and Atlantacist doctrine.  OBOR is the connection of Eurasia, and this connecting is antithetical to Atlantacism.  
Zionism, Atlanticism, Rim Theory, Salafi Wahabism - these are all connected and different arms of the same Octopus. 
Anti-Limey Added Sep 17, 2018 - 1:01pm
So, Curtis "Bombs Away" LeMay was right all along..."Bomb them back into the Stone Age." Problem is, they're not too far out of the Stone Age to start with, and aren't going to significantly change any time soon. We've smoked Bin Laden and pretty much smoked most of the rest of them, so it's time to go.
George N Romey Added Sep 17, 2018 - 6:27pm
They seem very content to beat their women and rape their boys. We are not going to ever change their “values”. Yes time to go.
Douglas Proudfoot Added Sep 17, 2018 - 7:44pm
The problem with just leaving Afghanistan is that it will be taken as an indication of a miraculous victory over the US by the forces of radical Jihad.  The withdrawal will be seen as a vindication of the 9/11 attacks and encourage more such attacks on the US.
Obama thought we could just leave Iraq.  So we just left.  ISIS, formerly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq, overran about half of Iraq.  ISIS also overran about 1/3 of Syria.  Abandoning Iraq, and not enforcing the "red line" against chemical attacks, killed at least 400,000 people and displaced over a million refugees.  The refugees have destabilized the European Union as well as all of the surrounding countries.  Obama had to order US troop back to Iraq an also into Syria because ISIS was committing genocide.
If we just leave Afghanistan, the Taliban will probably kill at least 100,000 unbelievers.  There will be at least 500,000 refugees.  There may be a lot of revenge killings of people who supported the current government and armed forces.
To me, it seems a much better strategy to fight Jihadist forces on their home turf, rather than on our home turf.  It limits our casualties and allows us to use our strengths, like air power, against them.  Foreign fighters from all over the world go to Afghanistan to fight the US.  We kill them there, where US casualties are minimal.  If we leave Afghanistan, we will be fighting Jihadist forces on US soil.  We will be fighting them on even terms, using rifles and pistols, not A-10 Warthog airplanes.
When Jihadist forces are defeated, like ISIS was in 2017, it's often taken as an indication that Allah doesn't favor their cause.  When the US bugs out, like Obama did in Iraq in 2011, it's taken as an indication the Allah favors their cause and has miraculously caused the US to make a mistake. 
We are not loosing in Afghanistan.  We aren't being forced to leave militarily.  We are not winning in Afghanistan either.  That's why I'm suggesting a different strategy.  Leaving because we're bored would be a disaster.
Douglas Proudfoot Added Sep 17, 2018 - 8:05pm
Mustafa: Afghanistan was the origin of attacks on American soil.  The 9/11 attacks killed almost 3,000 people, and injured another 6,000. The Taliban picked a fight with us.  We didn't decide to invade Afghanistan at random, just for fun.  The Taliban has ideological reasons to approve new attacks on the US anytime.  They are a clear and present danger to the US.  For that reason, the Taliban are a legitimate military enemy of the US.  If we focus on what gives the Taliban power, their opium sales, and try to eliminate that source of their revenue, we can greatly reduce the influence the Taliban has.  This is not a neo-colonial exercise to aid Israel.  The US wanted to wipe out both the Al Qaeda organization directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks and to remove the Taliban government that allowed Al Qaeda to launch the attack.  The US hasn't achieved our goal yet.  It's still just as simple as that.
Your argument that "If we got out of Syria, ISIS and Al Qaeda would be dead with in moments," is malarkey. We got out of Iraq in 2011, and that's what allowed Al Qaeda in Iraq to become ISIS.  Power vacuums create opportunities for Jihadist groups to expand.  We've already done the experiment.  Your theory didn't pan out.
MEFOBILLS Added Sep 17, 2018 - 9:09pm
Mustafa: Afghanistan was the origin of attacks on American soil.  The 9/11 attacks killed almost 3,000 people, and injured another 6,000. The Taliban picked a fight with us.  We didn't decide to invade Afghanistan at random, just for fun.
Doug, you are profoundly wrong and have been imbibing on cool-aide.  Stop watching mainstreeeet media news, it is all owned and speaks with one voice.  This was purposeful output of Clinton's 95 telecommunication act.  
The 9-11 attacks were a false flag designed to galvanize the sheep.  It was a new "pearl harbor" to then transform the united states.  
Afghanistan is just one stepping stone on a long list of countries that were identified for attack IN ADVANCE of 911.  Rewriting the map of the middle east was also part of the agenda.
Mustafa Kemal Added Sep 17, 2018 - 11:11pm
re:"Your argument that "If we got out of Syria, ISIS and Al Qaeda would be dead with in moments," is malarkey. We got out of Iraq in 2011, and that's what allowed Al Qaeda in Iraq to become ISIS. "
:"Your theory didn't pan out."
Thats not my theory. Russia and Syria will kill ISIS when we leave.
It is not a VACUUM..
I watched this from Kobane, Turkey. For a whole month ISIS laid siege and we had aircraft carriers within striking distance that could easily have taken them out with Jets,..... Nada. Then after a month, ISIS gets inside and then it is hell. 
For 2 years the US made no progress in Syria with ISIS,  nada.  The minute Russia enters the fray, ISIS starts dying and running. It is not a VACUUM.!  Syria will fill it within days...
Now Afghanistan is a little diffferent, I agree. 

Why are we there? 
Lindsay Wheeler Added Sep 18, 2018 - 3:28am
Thanks for the article Proudfoot. Thanks for you service in Vietnam. Yes, we won the war in Vietnam and the Democratic Congress betrayed our military and South Vietnam. You are completely right about the Taliban; they will go one a killing spree. Just as in Vietnam, anybody that collaborated with the Americans will be killed. 
After the attack on 9/11, we should've just killed Osama instead of invading Afghanistan. You can't change a backward Muslim country. 
John Minehan Added Sep 21, 2018 - 5:43pm
In B-School, they call what we are doing an "escalation of commitment error."  At Army C&GSC, I believe they call it a "target="_blank">bus ride to Abilene"  (I attended, but did not compete, Marine Corps Command and Staff College by VTC in a combat zone, so I'm not sure.)
In 2001, we probably stayed in Afghanistan because our presence there masked our Blackside Special Forces Operators fighting a "back alley war" against AQ in Afghanistan and contiguous areas, which would have been harder to do from Tampa. 
Our conventional troops there also essentially served as an Operational-level "cavalry screen" or "covering force." to deceive the enemy as to our main effort and intent.  In 2009, Pres. Obama and the DoD agreed to wind down the effort, something more than justified by bin Ladin being killed in 2011.
However, in 2014 (after our withdrawal from Iraq) IS had its big run, capturing most of  Sunni Iraq and threatening Baghdad.  
Our plans to withdraw from Afghanistan in an orderly way sank in a big tide of fear of "Who Lost Afghanistan" from both parties.
To get back to the "bus ride to Abilene," fighting a war entails all kinds of enabling and implied tasks.  Unfortunately, losing a war tends to involve those enabling or implied tasks becoming an end in themselves or, in Mil-Speak a "slf-licking ice cream cone." 
John Minehan Added Sep 21, 2018 - 5:48pm
MEFOBILLS, I think we almost agree on something.
The PRC can get something useful out of Afghanistan that can help stabilize the country and we can't.  It would make sense to get out of the way.
Now, the rest of what you are saying went out when we figured out The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was a forgery.