Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 9, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

AFGHANISTAN....According to the Baltimore Sun, "a U.S. Army infantry battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks in order to deploy to Iraq." Apparently this battalion is about to become a key part of President Bush's surge strategy. However, the results in Afghanistan could be dire:

According to Army Brig. Gen. Anthony J. Tata and other senior U.S. commanders here, that will happen just as the Taliban is expected to unleash a major campaign to cut the vital road between Kabul and Kandahar. The official said the Taliban intend to seize Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city and the place where the group was organized in the 1990s.

...."It is bleak," said Col. Chris Haas, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Afghanistan.

"The gains we have made over the past few years are mostly gone," said a bearded Special Operations officer, fresh in from advising Afghan army units in battle with 600 to 700 well-equipped Taliban fighters.

More troops in Iraq will almost certainly not make any noticable difference there. More troops in Afghanistan might, but they aren't available because of Iraq. It's worth keeping in mind that Bush's resistance to withdrawal in Iraq is likely to lead to the United States losing not just one war, but two. I'm not sure if any American president has done that before.

Via American Footprints.

Kevin Drum 1:19 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (53)

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Comments

Why don't Democrats insist that Bush can run the war -- but only such that all our guys are out by inauguration day '09?

Posted by: theAmericanist on January 9, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

He's clearly determined to establish a legacy for the ages.

Posted by: DrBB on January 9, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Who sold aWol the original bill of goods that said we could invade two countries with populations of 20-30 million with just a few battalions of troops?

Posted by: Hedley Lamarr on January 9, 2007 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

Hedley Lamarr: Who sold aWol the original bill of goods that said we could invade two countries with populations of 20-30 million with just a few battalions of troops?

Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Posted by: alex on January 9, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Don't worry. If we just hope for the best, it will all turn out fine. Just ask Joe Klein.

Posted by: Chocolate Thunder on January 9, 2007 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

It's worth keeping in mind that Bush's resistance to withdrawal in Iraq is likely to lead to the United States losing not just one war, but two.

We lost both those wars the day we invaded Iraq.

Posted by: Ugh on January 9, 2007 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

The people of Afghanistan want a return of the Taliban to govern their society. The people of Afghanistan are tired of the US backed War Lords, they are tired of having their male children kidnapped into serving the War Lords, they are tired of having their daughters raped by the soldiers of War Lords, they are tired of having their villages and homes bombed by the US, they are tired of having their doors knocked in by armed foreigners who have no respect for their lifesyle and religion and they are tired of having to pay the War Lords tribute. Afghanistan is lost, too, and nothing can be done militarily to save it for the geopolitical desires of war pigs.

Posted by: Brojo on January 9, 2007 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Hedley Lamarr: Who sold aWol the original bill of goods that said we could invade two countries with populations of 20-30 million with just a few battalions of troops?

Cheney and Rumsfeld.
Posted by: alex on January 9, 2007 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

I, for one, am going to keep an eye on these two scoundrels.

I can't control when 60 million dumb redneck hicks vote them into office.

But the next time either of these two bozos gets hired as an exec for a corporation, I'm selling that stock.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 9, 2007 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Take Afghanistan and Iraq, and toss in Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan...

We may lose 10 or so "battles", but only 1 war - the GWOT. And once we do, we'll be fighting them here at home as well.

Probably a blessing that our forces, and Bush's terms, are limited.

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on January 9, 2007 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

What are you talking about Kevin? All the schools in Afghanistan are painted, and their economy is booming!

Posted by: Al's Mommy on January 9, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

This President's capacity for fuckupability is seemingly unlimited.

Posted by: RT on January 9, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

our military policy used to be having an army capable of fighting a two-front war. under rummie and bush it became losing a two-front war, tho i suspect most of the credit has to go to bush.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on January 9, 2007 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq, not Afghanistan, has the oil.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 9, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

I guess taking troops from Afghanistan to send them to Iraq worked so well the first time that it's worth doing again. Deja fucking vu.

Posted by: anandine on January 9, 2007 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

Also, this news turns my stomach.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 9, 2007 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Keep an eye on the Canadian elections, which will probably happen in late spring. The Harper coalition is very shakey, and most Canadians are most unahppy about having Canadian troops in Afghanistan. If Stephen Dion (liberal leader) wins in the election, the troops will come home, which will leave Bush (and the US) even further strapped for troops.

Stay tuned....

Posted by: brat on January 9, 2007 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Extradite: "But the next time either of these two bozos gets hired as an exec for a corporation, I'm selling that stock"

A good moral strategy surely. But probably not a good financial strategy!

Posted by: Gex on January 9, 2007 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

"a U.S. Army infantry battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks in order to deploy to Iraq." Apparently this battalion is about to become a key part of President Bush's surge strategy.

I think I just found Hannity's "Enemy of the State"

Posted by: ckelly on January 9, 2007 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

Not one person can make a valid argument that somehow more troops could create a victory in Afghanistan, which is suffering many of the same issues as Iraq, but cannot possibly do so in Iraq.

Why is a rugged, mountainous nation of dope-growing warlords, infested with IEDs, Taliban, and al Qaeda based in Pakistan next door, somehow winnable by military force, while Iraq, with a more advanced population and government, is not?

The only completely consistent position is that either we must quit both wars, or win both wars. Deal with it.

Posted by: bobwire on January 9, 2007 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

Theocracy at work,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6245463.stm


Air pollution is estimated to have killed nearly 10,000 people in Tehran over a one-year period, including 3,600 in a month, Iranian officials say.


We don't have to do a thing to this country.

Posted by: cld on January 9, 2007 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

bobwire: "The only completely consistent position is that either we must quit both wars, or win both wars. Deal with it."

We don't need to argue how more troops will help in Afghanistan. You must argue how fewer troops will help, while at the same time arguing how more will help in Iraq.

Posted by: Gex on January 9, 2007 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

Gex:

That wasn't what Kevin said.

Posted by: bobwire on January 9, 2007 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Can't I am all surprised. Once again Iraq is more important that Afghanistan. It's like deja vu all over again.

Posted by: ET on January 9, 2007 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Bobwire:

Lots of people have been making just that argument. Bill Clinton has. Anthony Cordesman has. Barnett Rubin has. The secretary-general of NATO has. The NATO commanders on the ground in Afghanistan have. Presidents Karzai and Musharraf have. The British and Canadian prime ministers both have.

It should be obvious that adding 8,000 troops (the Clinton recommendation) to 40,000 in Afghanistan would likely have a greater proportionate effect than adding those same 8,000 troops to the 160,000 already in Iraq will, irrespective of all the other innumerable differences between the two situations.

Posted by: BruceR on January 9, 2007 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo, only one question. Do you know what a Hazara is?

Follow up: If so, why would you be happy to see them exterminated? If not, why the hell should anyone care what you think about the Afghan situation?

Posted by: BruceR on January 9, 2007 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Agreed, that isn't what Kevin said. That's why I quoted and responded to you, not Kevin.

You argue more troops won't help if Afghanistan. Fine. But what's being proposed is the removal of troops from there, not the addition of. I ask how that is supposed to help. Just because more won't help, it doesn't follow that fewer would.

You also argue that Iraq is in a better position to benefit from more troops. How so? The "surge" is intended to be of limited duration, and will only bring troop levels to levels previously deployed in Iraq. If those levels didn't work then, how will they work now, when the chaos is much more entrenched?

Posted by: Gex on January 9, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

a U.S. Army infantry battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks in order to deploy to Iraq

Shades of the runup to Bush's invasion of Iraq, when he pulled intel assets tracking al Qaeda for a wild goose chase over Iraq's phantom "WMDs".

You simply can't trust this crowd with national security.

Posted by: Gregory on January 9, 2007 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

BruceR:

Where's the logic behind those statements?

I am supposed to believe that 8,000 more troops can win in Afghanistan, which is half again larger than Iraq, and has a greater population, but 150,000 troops or 20,000 more, cannot possibly make a difference in Iraq? Both places have power struggles and violence, similar issues of struggling governments, and the same tactics are being used against us in both places.

Incidentally, we never did "remove" a bunch of troops from Afghanistan. The number of U.S. troops there is near an all-time high.

Posted by: bobwire on January 9, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

Empires march into Afghanistan. Defeated shells of empires limp out.

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 9, 2007 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone ever told Bush that a legacy is not just a way to go to a school your daddy went to?

Posted by: R.L. on January 9, 2007 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

From the article:

NATO's 30,000 troops in Afghanistan are supposed to have taken responsibility for security operations across the country. But Taliban attacks have risen sharply, and senior U.S. officers here describe the NATO operation as weak, hobbled by a shortage of manpower and equipment and by restrictions put on the troops by their home capitals.

Maybe this is the problem, not a lack of U.S. troops.

It is funny that suddenly everybody thinks Afghanistan is "winnable."

Posted by: harry on January 9, 2007 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

All comments originating from your IP number since the blog started have been deleted, and they will continue to be deleted. Alternative viewpoints are welcome here. You are not.

Posted by: on January 9, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Harry, what part of "shortage of manpower" didn't you understand?

Winnability is a probability estimate. At the track you can put your dollar on the 2-1 horse or the 20-1 horse. The fact that both bets could well end up losing doesn't mean you've don't have a better chance at still being able to afford the bus ride home with the former.

Posted by: BruceR on January 9, 2007 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote:
I'm not sure if any American president has done that before.

Well, this isn't just any president we're talking 'bout here. GWB is setting the bar so low, there won't be any future president able to slither under it.

OT: What's with all the deleted comments?

Posted by: josef on January 9, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yes, I am certainly having fun. Banishing you to hell is a pleasure like few others.

Posted by: on January 9, 2007 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Bobwire: what i've heard from my brother, who has been on the ground as a soldier in both countries, is that the Afghanis, by and large, like us, are glad we are there, and want us to stick around, while the Iraqis, by and large, detest us, want us to go away, and can't be trusted to do what they say.

Take that for what you will; I think it makes a case that one war is winnable and the other not.

Posted by: aphrael on January 9, 2007 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

I really had to deliberate charlie - first I deleted your comments one-by-one, feeling a little thrill each time I hit "delete" then, like a drug addict, I wanted more. I started deleting entire sheets - 125 at a time - and that felt so good, that I decided to go for it - I pulled up all of the remaining 1077 comments and deleted them all at once!!!And then, I needed a cigarette.

Posted by: on January 9, 2007 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

I know who the Hazara are. I do not know what a Hazara is.

Extermination is what is done to vermin. Extermination of people never makes me happy. Quite the opposite, when people are being killed by nationalist forces I usually become frightened and anxious because mass murder is horrendous and there is very little I can do to stop it.


Posted by: Brojo on January 9, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Pulling US troops out of Afghanistan is a betrayal of allies who really want to stop terror. You folks are looking at it only from the US point of view.

It is a stab in the back.

Posted by: Bob M on January 9, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Not to mention it'll torpedo NATO for all time, Bob M. Leaving those who feel U.S. unilateralism is an inappropriate way to frame a foreign military intervention with few remaining options.

The alternative to an Iraq-style intervention is an Afghan-style one. Absent unilateralism, the alternative to the Afghan method is staying home. Not that that's necessarily a bad idea, but those are the options.

Posted by: BruceR on January 9, 2007 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Not one person can make a valid argument that somehow more troops could create a victory in Afghanistan, which is suffering many of the same issues as Iraq, but cannot possibly do so in Iraq."

This may come as a shock (you may want to sit down), but Afghanisan and Iraq are different countries, with different people, different cultures, and different histories. They have different views of America and our presence in their respective countries.

Oh, and I almost forgot one small difference between Iraq and Afghanistan, where OSAMA BIN F-ING LADIN AND THE F-ING A*HOLES RESPONSIBLE FOR 9/11 ARE STILL THERE BREATHING AIR AS FREE MEN BECAUSE OUR ENTIRE MILITARY WAS DIVERTED TO IRAQ IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Posted by: Matthew C on January 9, 2007 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK
NATO's 30,000 troops in Afghanistan are supposed to have taken responsibility for security operations across the country. But Taliban attacks have risen sharply, and senior U.S. officers here describe the NATO operation as weak, hobbled by a shortage of manpower and equipment and by restrictions put on the troops by their home capitals.

Maybe this is the problem, not a lack of U.S. troops.

The US is part of NATO. So "a shortage of manpower" in the NATO operation isn't a different problem than "a lack of US troops".

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2007 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

bobwire wrote The only completely consistent position is that either we must quit both wars, or win both wars. Deal with it.

What utter crap. A ridiculous false equivalency. Maybe from Yankeeland all other countries look the same but that don't make it so. Deal with it.

1. The most important factor by far is one of the politics within each nation, how many people are willing to work with you. In this Afghanistan and Iraq are not the same. Bad prosecution and management (and abetting the resurgence of the warlords) may have frittered much of it away, but the coalition in Afghanistan started off with a far more cooperative Afghani population (wracked by over thirty years of war) than was ever the case in Iraq. Afghanistan may well now be lost too but it was not ever inevitable.

2. There are lots of non-Yank troops at work in Afghanistan. Us Canucks have lost close to fifty there. Had the main theater of operations been restricted to Afghanistan, a far larger number of outside troops were available.

Posted by: snicker-snack on January 9, 2007 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

The illusion of competency is vanished and the president is looking quite like Nixon. Converging crises, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Do you know that George W Bush once said "There is no doubt in my mind that we should allow the world worst leaders to hold America hostage, to threaten our peace, to threaten our friends and allies with the world's worst weapons." Stated by the commander in chief in South Bend, Indiana,
on 9/5/02, and it was on the official white house web site.
Freudian slip? Truth in jest? Dyslexia?

At this point, like Nixon, he should resign the presidency in the interest of our country and to save our young people from certain death in his illegal and immoral war-without-end.
How could they have elected him either time?
Voter fraud, negligence by states, and tampering in the form of unacceptable political advocacy by voting machine companies who decided election outcomes.

And I can't help but go back to our broken elections, the debacles in Florida (George's brother's state, where James Baker of Poppy Bush administration fame served as lawyer when Bush the son wanted to stop the vote count in Florida, with the unprecedented meddling by the US Supreme Court) Too bad we cannot have a referendum by citizens on what to do in Iraq and Afghanistan--it will remain to be seen if our mid-term elections of 2006 prove to be that referendum.

John Dean, author of "Conservatives Without a Conscience" and from the Nixon administration, sees this adminstration as "worse than Watergate." He is on Keith Olbermann's show right now, talking about the White House timing reeking of trying to stop us from knowing who goes to the white house. He says the white house lawyer has been sipping some of the kool-aid

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 9, 2007 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

We should get all of our troops out of Afghanistan before one of them accidentally finds Osama bin Laden.

Posted by: JHM on January 9, 2007 at 9:03 PM | PERMALINK

Bush is facing opposition and has to face Congress. 20,000 new troops into the region by the end of this month?
Judd Legum on Scarborough Country tonight says the only momentous thing about the escalation is that they choose to do it now, says Americans are way ahead of even the Congress, and have heard enough of war from this president.
Only 26% approval rating for Bush's war----, and in today's poll--only 12% of Americans support this plan: Clearly the wrong direction for America. Scarborough asks Pat Buchanan if he is saying that Americans should be ignored as Buchanan thinks Bush has his rights here.
Buchanan is literally screaming on my tv. He says Congress lost the war in Vietnam. (Huh?) Huffington Post's guest on the show says this war isn't authorized any more in 2007--but the panel on the show isn't giving the female commentator time to make her points. They did not even show her name, so I can't quote it.
Ted Kennedy said today that Iraq is Bush's Vietnam. Referencing Vietnam, Ted noted the state dept.back then kept assuring us that each escalation would be the last one--but it kept on and on. Sarborough says there is a divorce now from Bush and the American public. Buchanan is hogging the show, says you don't let 500 congress people decide war policy. (They let Pat orate way too much) Judd says what the president says tomorrow will not be all that significant.
Rachel (last name still unknown) says the president doesn't listen when people talk, his numbers will get lower, and people are fed up. At least Pat finally admits we are heading for a real disaster in Iraq.
Scarborough feels Rove and Bush are scheming to back dems into the corner, framing this escalation so dems look weak. I agree with Scarborough on this matter. It is a scheme.

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 9, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Iraq and Afghanistan are two fronts in the Global War on Opinion Polls. Any public opinion stupid enough to think Bush can win in Iraq will be stupid enough to forget about Afghanistan, which after all is a four-syllable word and too difficult to pronounce anyway.

Posted by: Ross Best on January 9, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

Another defeat for the U.S. presided over by the U.S. General Staff.

Have the generals led us to victory in any major war since World War II?

Korea? Vietnam? Iraq and Afghanistan?

Posted by: thomas on January 10, 2007 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

Now that he's joined in on the Somalia party he'll have the chance to lose a third, and we all know that W just loves them trifectas!
http://www.davidcogswell.com/Political/BushTrifecta.html

Posted by: Brian Boru on January 10, 2007 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

This is happening because it's incredibly (and incredulously) all about Iran now. All the tea leaves I'm reading, and between the lines analysis of Bush Administration messages, is that our new and greatest enemy is Iran, not Al Qaeda, not insurgents targeting American troops, not repressive governments denying democracy. With this lens, all the latest moves make perfect sense, including the absurd notion that Shiite citizen militias in Iraq are the biggest threat there.

Posted by: Jimm on January 10, 2007 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

If we just hope for the best, it will all turn out fine. Just ask Joe Klein.

Actually Mr. Klein said if all don't acquiesce and hope for the best, we are "rooting for failure."

... and he won't post comments to his blog post where that was uttered ... only five have been "allowed" this far ...

Posted by: Douglas Watts on January 10, 2007 at 4:20 AM | PERMALINK

No draft?

Advertising for mercenaries who will be fast-tracked into citizenship?

Is that legal?

How is that different from COYOTES?

Posted by: Jamaica on January 10, 2007 at 6:59 AM | PERMALINK

What happened to
"our generals on the ground determine the course?"

When those generals don't toe the line --- they are replaced.

When will YOU be replaced?

Posted by: Jamaica on January 10, 2007 at 7:02 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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