Winning the war in Afghanistan. How?

The counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan is under serious strain. More U.S. troops are very likely to be sent there in the near future to stem the tide of insurgent attacks on U.S., U.N. and NATO forces. The strategic objectives of this 9-year war are coming under scrutiny in the public domain.

We are not all military experts (although some of you seem to be very well versed in military tactical history) but the politicans and media have brought issue into public discourse: What is the strategic way forward for the use of the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan?

Based on what I’m reading, the war thus far has been mis-managed. A strategic overhaul is imminient. If I was asked for an opinion, this is what I would suggest:

Strategic objective #1 - Deny the enemy the Pakistan border and abundant food sources while using the natural terrain to protect against large scale attacks by concentrating all U.S troops in the western region from Qonduz to Kandahar.

-Setup large bases (Brigade strength) just outside the major population centers in proximity to large airstrips (Mazari Sharif, Qonduz, Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar) that also can be used for local militia and police training.

-Setup smaller bases (Batallion strength) strategically along the path between Kabul and Kandahar. These should be provisioned for a sustained engagements against a well armed enemy and serve as the base of operations for hundreds of Squads that would patrol the areas between the bases, the Pakistan border, and along the main supply route.

-Reduce the primary use of UAVs to reconnaissance platforms. UAV strikes should be limited to close air-support for ground forces.

Strategic objective #2 - Frequent and productive face-to-face contact with individual clans/villages to win and build trust.

-Supplement miltary base food supplies with food purchased locally at market prices

-Teach building techniques and assist with the construction of appropriate shelter (especially for the monsoon and Winter seasons) with indigeneous materials.

Strategic objective #3 - Create an environment where trans-national and non-governmental organizations can work safely with the native population to build social and physical infrastructure.

-Access to medical-aid

-Construction of schools

-Massive literacy effort
Is this lunacy, feasible, inevitable, etc? If so why and, more importantly, what would your recommendations be if asked?

Let’s go back a step further: what’s our ultimate objective in Afghanistan? And is attainment of that objective worth the hundreds of billions we’re sinking into it?

One justification: we’re trying to kill or capture bin Laden. But that’s best done with special forces and drones, and otherwise letting Afghanistan be Afghanistan. Not to mention, he’s probably across the border in Waziristan anyway.

Another justification: we need to deny bin Laden a safe haven. But there’s many places in the Third World where the national government has only nominal authority over its territory, so there’s plenty of possible safe havens, and we can’t get rid of them all by traditional means of occupation, puppet governments, or getting the locals on our side. Not to mention, our current generation of drone aircraft enables us to keep a close eye on anyplace that we think bin Laden might be active, as long as we control an airbase somewhere close enough to launch the drones from.

A third justification: we want to keep the Taliban from reinstituting 13th-century rule over Afghanistan. A worthy objective, but not sufficiently important to justify the cost. Besides, while victory over the Taliban will undoubtedly be expensive even if possible, we can probably stalemate them pretty cheaply, letting them control the parts of Afghanistan they control, but denying them the rest of the country.

Everything comes back to what we hope to accomplish by being there.

Yes. What does “winning the war” mean here?

In addition, whatever happens in Afghanistan will have an effect on relations withe three countries that are more important to the US: China, Iran and Pakistan, particularly the last two. If your aim is to impose a US-friendly regime in Afghanistan, but that makes relations with those other countries significantly worse, then it’s a Pyrrhic victory: losing the war might be better than winning the war.

Ditto RTFirefly. I hear the false assertion on cable news programs that we’re doing this to support the present Afghan government, and sometimes somebody will correct this and say it’s for #2, the “deny safe haven” argument. But I haven’t yet heard experts discuss whether it’s practical to do this worldwide, or why doing it in just one country is useful. Though there may be some argument for these, which would explain why so many people with privileged access to information are supporting continued battle.

I hope you’ve got answers in this thread because the only strategic options Obama is getting from his military advisers is more troops or more troops, and that’s not making enough sense to him.

You simply cannot win when the population does not recognise the system of Government itself - a nominal democracy based faraway in Kabul, leyt alone the politicians.

They will resist its imposition until hell freezes over and tell you all day long how they support your efforts. Walk the fuck away.

US paying the Taliban:

We’re not in a position to deny the enemy anything. The Pakistan border couldn’t be policed with half a million troops.

The Afghans hate the police more than they hate the Taliban.

It sounds good to do typical counterinsurgency stuff, face to face contact, building roads etc. but in reality it’s all undermined by the fact that we’re propping up a criminal government with no legitimacy. All we’re actually doing in Afghanistan and what the new Obama plan is about is basically holding the fort till after the 2012 election when Obama can then withdraw with no consequences. Of course if the GOP win, and they’ll have won claiming Obama is weak in Afghanistan, we need to send more troops etc., the war will continue until somebody gets a second term and we can withdraw.

But in reality we already lost, we’re having to pay the Taliban to let us keep supplying our army. No way we can win when we’re doing this, relying on a kleptocratic/drug-dealing government, etc. etc. Just hold the fort till 2012 then bugger off is the plan.

Welcome to the wartime contracting bazaar in Afghanistan. It is a virtual carnival of improbable characters and shady connections, with former CIA officials and ex–military officers joining hands with former Taliban and mujahideen to collect US government funds in the name of the war effort.
In this grotesque carnival, the US military’s contractors are forced to pay suspected insurgents to protect American supply routes. It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban.
“It’s a big part of their income,” one of the top Afghan government security officials admits. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10% of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts – hundreds of millions of dollars – consists of payments to insurgents.*

The Taliban has no designs on conquering the world. That would be Al Queada. They are not in Afghanistan. The war is a stupid mistake. The Taliban has control over almost all of the country, well over 80 percent. It would be a long and expensive process to dislodge them assuming it is posible. Then what would a win be? Would we have to conquer every hamlet and valley town? It is a mountainous area about the size of Texas. The Afghanis have been fighting for generations. They not only are skilled and practiced warriors but they are dug in with tunnels and escape routes.
The generals always want more troops. If one time a general would say we have too many send some home, I would be thrilled. The military always thinks they can do the job with more soldiers and bigger bombs. Why do we need a few million more people to hate us? To make us safer? What a joke.

To win the war in Afghanistan, you declare victory and leave.

Kind of like ‘Mission Accomplished’?

Except with the leaving part.

Or like “Peace With Honor”?


Pretty much.

It’s weird to know that has to happen, and that there are years and maybe a decade or two to get through first.

First, a correction to the OP:

My apologies. :smack:


Good question. As I remember it the war (Operation Enduring Freedom) was launched with Coalition Forces to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and members of Al-Qaeda. The Coalition also enlisted the aid of the Northern Alliance to overthrow the existing Taliban government that was giving Al-Qaeda safe haven.

The overthrow of the (for lack of a better word) official Taliban government has been acheived. Many high-ranking members of the loosely organized Al-Qaeda have been killed or captured. Osama bin Laden is either in hiding in the border region of Pakistan or dead. (The taped audio messages are not proof-of-life IMO. Bin Laden would not have passed up an opportunity to publicly humiliate the U.S. with visual evidence of his survivability against the “Zionist”). The installation of a U.S. friendly government (albeit an unstable and corrupt one) is also complete.

Therefore, has the initial U.S. military objective in Afghanistan (not to be confused with the expanded NATO-led ISAF mission) been accomplished? Should the U.S. military, as begbert2 suggested, “declare victory and leave”.?

This is essentially the strategic objective that I was thinking of: Commit all U.S. forces and resources to secure the Eastern half of the country and make it difficult for the insurgents to be resupplied from Pakistan or across the Northern borders. The military will be 9-years behind schedule on this and thus would need additional forces just to acheive a status quo within 2-3 years.

I’m not proposing the U.S. military attempt to secure the entire Pakistan border, but instead keep a highly visible and well-supported presence in the border region. Judicious use of observation platforms (UAVs, satellite imagery, etc.) should reveal where the insurgents are crossing the border so that ground assaults could be coordinated and effective with minimal civilian impact. Naturally the military would not be able to attack every group crossing, but knowing where they are would allow intel to pick and choose valuable targets. Somewhat like a counter-insurgency using insurgency tactics.

Although I was not aware of the extent of this situation as reported in your cite, I did realize that the supply lines from Bagram AFB to the rest of the country (particularly in the South) was long and exposed. This is why I suggested setting up larger bases near regional airports. Although this would require additional funding and for set up and support, it would reduce the distance that supplies need to be hauled across the country-side. But the strategy should not end there. The U.S. military should actively monitor likely ambush areas along the supply lines and randomly target and eliminate ambush teams (lured by dummy convoys) with ground forces and close air-support.

Political pressure should also be mounted on Karzai to use his family contacts and connections (like Commander Ruhullah) to bring more of the stakeholders to a negotiating table where broader rules and the distrubution of fees can be worked out or face a Summer 2012 withdrawal of all non-NATO U.S. forces.

These should all be combined with concerted efforts to increase regular face-to-face (non-combat) contact with clans/villages in the Eastern region.

Announce the withdrawal of American and Nato forces within two years, hard date. Start pullback operations to reduce the footprint of casualties, announce that Pakistan is capable of securing its own frontier and run its own country, regardless of it can or not.

Send mission to Karzai, with a no shit , this is how its going to be, you have two years to get your shit together and give us a reason to engage in further nation building. Same with Pstan, present a plan to secure the control of the nukes and leave them to their own devices (no pun).

For afganis peace is not profitable, they need the American and Nato forces to stay so they can continue to extort money in the guise of nation building.


Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
– Sun Tzu

Do they? I suspect this might be news to them.

I absolutely second that.

With this plan, in the event that Karzai did “get his shit together” and American and NATO troops stayed on in Afghanistan, wouldn’t President Obama then be called a liar for practically promising the withdrawal of troops, with a date certain to boot, and then completely turning around? In fact, that would be the worst of both worlds as he would be castigated from the right for announcing a withdrawal from Afghanistan and then castigated all over again by going back on his word to withdrawal.