Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's Great Being Surrounded by Smart People

For starters, it makes you look smart. Gulliver and Alma, of whom I refer to in the title, have great posts on what a more CT (or enemy-centric COIN) fight would be like, or at least the implications and efficacy thereof, in Afghanistan. They came at it from different directions with very valid points and I think these two posts show the brackets for what that option actually looks like.

So what do I have to add to this? Not much other than suggest a change in strategic context in which these posts could be used effectively. Alma is 100% on as far as HUMINT requirements go (at least per my experiences in Iraq). Gulliver is 100% on with the fact that you can kill some really bad dudes with this method without significant ground forces and really stick the enemy in the eye. (To be sure they both present many more arguments and questions than that, but for our purposes here...) So the question becomes (to me at least), in what strategic context would these operational forms take place?

The last eight years in Afghanistan suggest that these operations have no hope of defeating the Taliban or al Qaeda in and of themselves. To suggest that it suddenly could in the future is absurd based on historical precedence. But I don't think these operations are useless, they're just useless to thus far poorly defined ends (that is the defeat of the Taliban and al Qaeda).

At the operational or high-tactical level, we would make an area like this a disruption zone (for all of you engineers out there, I'm not talking about the term in the doctrinal-complex-obstacle sense). In a disruption zone, you're just trying to make it hard for the enemy to do what it wants. I guess it could be called a "hassle zone", but that just doesn't have the same ring to it. The disruption zone would allow us to harass al Qaeda and the Taliban to the point that while they probably exist in the region, it would be hard for them to organize effectively or govern. For other examples of this, look at JTF-HOA. This is pretty much what those guys are doing - a huge disruption zone.

So let's be realistic here. We will not drone ourselves to "victory" in Afghanistan. But we'll make life hard for them to be there. Which isn't too much less than what we're doing there now with tens of thousands of soldiers and marines on the ground.


  1. Yes, precisely. And indeed, one can make a case it is exactly this sort of disruption that we have been able to impose on AQ in Pakistan over these past 8 years. And while I am skeptical of the utility of defining the category of "spectaculars" as an analytically useful category, we do have to deal with the fact that AQ has not been able to pull off a Embassy bombings/Cole/9-11 level attack against the U.S. in 8 years.

    Is that because of disruptions? Homeland security measures? Intelligence cooperation? Dumb luck? I don't know. But we can't dismiss the utility of an off-shore disruption strategy out of hand. It almost certainly won't work as a COIN measure... but may work as a CT measure.

    But what I do know is that if I hear one more person glibly assert that it is obvious that our CT efforts have failed over the past eight years, I'm gonna pitch a fit.

  2. Just to give a shout-out...Pat Porter has been saying this at Kings of War for a while.

  3. Thanks, RA. You're right of course and I'm sure there are others, too. But did PP have such detailed graphics?

  4. But did PP have such detailed graphics?

    When I saw your sophisticated graphical representation of the problem, I thought of that bit from Tommy Boy after he gets whacked in the face by the two-by-four:

    My shoulder doesn't hurt very much, but my face does. Right here. Not here, or here so much, but right heeeeeeeere.

  5. It's no doubt that the Afghan war is a huge question mark right now, with people for and people against its continuation. Have you heard of Asia Chronicle News? They offer knowledgeable input and good analyses on whether the troops should leave or stay. Check out the site at asiachroniclenews.com

  6. Tommy likey. Tommy want wingy.