News from Afghanistan

“the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that.”
Michael Steele RNC Chair

Below, from my archives. published 8 years ago in the Spectator

And if you should fall on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to hack up what remains,
Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains,
And go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Kipling
Now that we’ve bounced the rubble, the Afghan winter is setting in and Old Glory is now available proudly emblazoned on door mats, what’s next?
What ever “it” turns out to be, don’t look for the sort of instant gratification that America is fueled upon.
If we’re fixin’ bust a move, some background might be in order.
Americans are squaring off against a hardened warrior society that endures one of the harshest climates on earth, temperatures between -20 to 110 f., from burnt dust to high-altitude snow and mud — conditions that, in the words of Richard Kidd, West Point, 86, “would kill most Americans and enervate the resolve of all but the most elite American units.” The Soviets saw results quite like two earlier British attempts (although the Reds were, of course, much better armed).
Things went swimmingly for the Spetsnaz units that led the Soviet 40th Army across the frontier on Christmas Day, 1979. The Red Army stormed the Presidential Palace, killed president Amin, seized the Salang tunnel, government communications and supplies and installed the puppet government. But before the first echos flattened out, ragged groups of men armed with the most rudimentary weapons, like fire ants, began to engage the Soviets in a war they were unprepared to fight, spontaneously attacking and sabotaging Soviet personnel, installations, depots and transport. According to a U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office paper by General (Ret) Mohammed Yahya Nawroz, Army of Afghanistan and LTC (Ret) Lester W. Grau, U.S. Army, two months afterwards, “almost the entire population of Kabul climbed on their rooftops and chanted with one voice “God is Great.” This open defiance — was matched throughout the countryside.” See, these dudes dig Jihad like we do titties and beer.
The Grau paper goes on to describe your basic superpower assault by fixed wing aircraft, helicopters, artillery, rocket launchers and tanks. The Soviets were certain that this degree pf firepower would break the Mujahedeen. Close combat was not a part of Soviet planner’s projections.
Boy, did they get it wrong. As long as the Reds hid in their mobile bunkers, there was nothing to shoot at. Eventually they had to dismount and engage — and then things got ugly. See, Afghans don’t generally traffic in infidel prisoners — slit throats and beheadings are the rule.
Retired Afghan General Matin-ud-Deen: “They (the Afghans) are very well equipped, very well armed, but only for the fighting that goes on in Afghanistan. They are, of course, no match for the US.” But, he adds… “It will be very difficult and I see a very long and drawn out battle — and very many casualites.” All to capture a handful of non-Afghan evil dewers, the primary one of which, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has said, we may not catch. Guess Rummy knows. Look at what a fabulous job ATF and FBI did with Eric Rudolph.
Another factor that hasn’t gotten much ink in the pre-ground chit-chat are the epidemiological realities of the region, described in another Army paper. By minty-fresh US sanitation standards, Afghanistan is a stinky place, home to a variety of tenacious pathogens including Shigella, Thyphus, Viral Hepatitus, Malaria, blah, blah blah. The Soviet experience was disease ravaging 415,932 troops of a total force of 620,000, far outstripping actual combat injuries and death (53,753).
If I know all this, obviously then so do the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So it seems they are trying something different. To avoid the results of what the dispiritiing, grinding conditions Afghanistan offers invading forces, the Pentagon is deploying special operations teams, getting ’em in and out before they loose their spunk or get sick.
Problem is, there are only just so many snake eaters in the US military — against a whole nation of pure bred warriors. So we are going to employ unreliable proxys (Northern Alliance) to whup up on the Taliban (’cause we can’t get the actual perps) install them as a shaky government and claim we won like we did in Iraq. And then? I guess high on the long-range plan for Bush bunch will be an to provide indefinite security for the new gang of thugs — and that planned groovy new pipeline from the oil reserves of the old Soviet Union across Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, before all this happened, sent up a red flag that due to worst drought in thirty years, 8 to 12 million Afghans are in “moderate” danger of starvation and 4 million are in “severe” danger. So while January may be icky for the US, to a great many others in Afghanistan, winter will just be the end — making “nation building” a somewhat simpler prospect.

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