Withdrawal deadlines - it depends on the point of view

The removal of McChrystal from command in Afghanistan has inspired a renewed debate about the Westerners' Afghanistan strategy. It seemed for a while as if a new commander could apply a new strategy, but that doesn't seem to be what's going to happen in the next few months.

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One proposal for such a new strategy was to set a deadline for withdrawal.

Well, the pro-War faction didn't exactly prove its intellectual prowess in this debate (surprise!). It seems as if warmongers simply push for war and after war begun they push for more resources (men, money). Pouring more resources into a conflict is the trivial answer to all problems, and as history shows it's not even nearly as promising as it seems. Nevertheless, adding resources and just staying the course seem to be the only two real strategy ideas of pro-war people in the current wars. Oh yeah, that and motivation tricks such as hyping personalities, hyping concepts ("COIN" doctrine) and the "Friedman Unit".

A withdrawal deadline would have numerous consequences, and some of them really do seem to be disadvantageous. One such disadvantage is that in a conflict that was at times portrayed as a staying contest (who can keep fighting longer? Foreign troops or indigenous & foreign insurgents?) you don't want to tell your opponent that he's going to win if he keeps going for just another year or two.

Well, a withdrawal of (most) foreign troops would not actually equal a defeat, and that's where the often omitted complexity comes into play.

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Excursion: Let's look at the mayor of Kabul and his regime. This war isn't only about us Westerners, after all!

Huge sums of money are being poured into the country, and de facto the same sum leaves the country (either as payment for exports and transport services or as stolen money that's being moved to safety for potential kleptocratic soon-to-be exiles).

They don't even need to fight against the (few thousand or few ten thousand) Taliban or the almost entirely absent (= less than 50 to less than 200 depending on U.S. intelligence statements) Al Qaida.
The foreigners do the fighting for them. That suffices, for the effects of that civil war in rural areas are of little interest if there's no reconstruction happening where you could steal foreign money.

Actually, more troubles in rural areas can even be an advantage, for one of the foreigners' approaches is to pour resources into the region for civil reconstruction (and bribing), in order to win "hearts & minds" (Thanks, pro-war people. This is where much of your additional funds are going to!).

In short: The mayor of Kabul and his kleptocratic mafia-like organisation (a.k.a. the central government) doesn't really seem to have an incentive to build up military and paramilitary (police) power for an "Afghanisation" of the conflict. This "Afghanisation" is of course the official mission of ISAF and the strategy of most if not all involved Western governments!

"Staying the course" will not succeed; ISAF & OEF-A are not going to defeat the Taliban actively, for the latter can simply switch to even more elusive modes of operation.
"Adding more resources" is not going to succeed either; additional money means happier kleptocrats, additional soldiers means more elusive Taliban and additional trainers means more (yet still unmotivated) indigenous "central government" security forces that will nevertheless not be allowed to become powerful enough to take over much responsibility from foreign troops.

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Now let's look at what a withdrawal deadline would cause:

a) A "short" withdrawal deadline
The central government would probably not have enough time to pull its act together and get real about security forces. There's a real possibility that the central government's forces would collapse as it happened a while after the Soviet withdrawal. This would most likely mean that some generals would turn into warlords (again?) and keep fighting the Taliban (dependent on foreign assistance and/or drug money).

b) A "far" withdrawal deadline
The central government would begin to do its best (aside from additional looting of riches) to get the security forces ready for taking over from the foreigners. It would be their only chance to stay in their extremely advantageous (power, riches and certainly also enough women and if they want booze) positions.
They could as well fail despite the best possible motivation to succeed and enough time; and resources. In this case we would have the evidence that they would almost certainly fail in every scenario. "Staying the course" and "adding more resources" would therefore have failed as well.

The border between "short" and "far" is probably about two years, maybe three. Maybe it' as little as six months..
The Western forces should have left Afghanistan in 2002, but even with the stupid nation building (=despised by Neocons as Clinton-like until they did it themselves!) the Western troops should have been reduced to almost none by 2005. It's such a waste.

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In short; I dislike the non-intelligent pro-war stance that relies on simple slogans. I'm on record for being against the whole stupid war, but a (long) withdrawal deadline should bode well even for a pro-war guy! Well, it should work out like that at least if pro-war people did thought much about the war instead of typically clinging to slogans and primitive, superficial ideas.


P.S.: A "deadline" in this context means to me that more than 90% of the troops would be out of the country by that time.


  1. Ein guter Beitrag, zu dem ich nur noch eine Ergänzung machen möchte. Der Rückzug der sowjetischen Truppen wurde 1985 beschlossen und 1989 beendet (wenn man von ein paar Militärberatern absieht, die noch länger im Land blieben). Der damalige "Bürgermeister von Kabul", Nadschibullah, konnte sich danach immerhin noch drei Jahre halten, bevor die Mudschaheddin ihn 1992 gestürzt haben.

  2. Where shall I send your white flag to?

    The moment the western forces are out of A-stan Karzai and the rest will be hugging the Taliban.

    We should have dropped a nuke on them. They kill almost 3,000 innocent people, we nuke one of their cities. They attack us again, we nuke them again until they've learned their lesson that attacking us is stupid. Why not? Because it's morally not acceptable or some other crap?

  3. I ask you to not visit this blog any more.
    Your preconceptions are free of thought and ridiculous caricatures. Your worst case scenario is extremely unlikely.

    Your defeatism implication with the "white flag" remark is primitive as well.