Thursday, April 2, 2009

In Search Of Lucidity: There Are Too Many Voices Howling About Afghanistan, Too Many Fingers Being Pointed Without Engaging The Real Bottom Line.

In Search Of Lucidity: There Are Too Many Voices Howling About Afghanistan, Too Many Fingers Being Pointed Without Engaging The Real Bottom Line.



I have made myself Gin clear as regards Afghanistan and the perils of that war zone.  What I don’t like at the moment is the failure to recognize that we are, for better or worse, a presence in the Pakistan/Afghanistan Region and that the only rational course of action as regards withdrawal from the area is aiding those governments and those peoples to become self-sufficient in dealing with threats internal to their nations, and those that can be exported in what we have become accustomed to referring to as “terrorist” acts. 

Our anti-war/pro-peace organizations have once again found a divide within our house that is only going to lead to a further “chuckle up the sleeve” by right wing factions and a media that has all but dismissed as being serious or viable, influential or a mere weekend annoyances. It is time we focus on a realistic bottom line exit strategy, withdrawal with success, not withdrawal with conquest. Check out Ralph Lopez’s site for an agenda for “success”.


As you read down this post and through the headline section; there is material there that guarantees that a majority of Americans are still going to be looking at Afghanistan through cross hairs, and if are busy forming ourselves up into that all too familiar circular firing squad; the Peace Family will neither know Peace and taste success nor   engender respect and establish our own validity as a viable movement.


There may be of ray of hope lucidity and sanity breaking through the war clouds of the Middle East. The debate that has finally been engaged in openly and surprisingly so, given the reticence of the media to engage any issue for the last eight years, has produced a serious evaluation of any escalation of American actions in Afghanistan.  Even what must be considered on-going strikes along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, residual to plans left in place, and in mind, by the Bush Administration, are not being given automatic approval or acceptance.


It has been a long while since I have heard speak in terms that indicate a genuine attempt to understanding the problems creating the conflict as opposed to indentifying a problem as a threat, as an enemy and proceeding immediately to some scheme of military annihilation.  The fact that the area has never been one of successful conquest has been repeatedly publicized. 


But more refreshing as of late has been the appearance of the words: “ Alternatives to War in Afghanistan”.   The position that the United States should explore a strategy of power extrication before they make another major decision to expand the war is being heard not only from the left but recently  from Leslie H. Gelb, a former editor and columnist for The Times, and the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the forthcoming “Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy.”, recently wrote among other things: “…Our strategy in Afghanistan should emphasize what we do best (containing and deterring, and forging coalitions) and downgrade what we do worst (nation-building in open-ended wars) … and …  We can’t defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, as the last seven years have shown. Numbers are part of the problem: most Taliban are members of Afghanistan’s majority tribe, the Pashtuns. More confounding, the Taliban and their Qaeda allies have found in northwestern Pakistan a refuge that has proved almost impregnable. These factors make overcoming the enemy in Afghanistan infinitely harder than it was in Iraq.”


Folks are beginning to understand that one of the most serious components that can and must be addressed in dealing with, and yes, I said dealing with, the Taliban is a purely economic issue.  For far too many Afghanistan men; the Taliban is the only game in town, the only way that they can support their families.  Many who find themselves in that trap, are in all other respects, “moderates”, not zealot extremists who hear only their own voices and smell only the scent of blood as a way of life.


The point is being made with increasing frequency on a daily basis that we must acknowledge that economic prison…..

Joe Biden

the Taliban insurgency was driven by economics, and that 70 percent of the Taliban are there for the jobs fight only because they get paid and there is 40% unemployment in Afghanistan.  

At Institute For War & Peace Reporting there is an account of a young Afghan Jaan Agha which makes the point in the most oblique of terms.

For 19-year-old Jaan Agha from Nawa district, the choice was stark - join the Taleban or watch his family starve.

"I couldn’t find a job anywhere,” he said. “So I had to join the Taleban. They give me money for my family expenditures. If I left the Taleban, what else could I do?”

Efforts to develop a countrywide strategy will no doubt be hampered by the confused and often counterproductive NATO command structure. A big part of the problem is that, unlike American headquarters staff members who train together for a year before deploying into a combat zone, NATO staff members from many nations come together for the first time just a few weeks before heading out to Afghanistan. And most of them rotate out after six months; a lack of continuity means a lack of cohesion. A NATO officer even admitted to us that his headquarters is “partially dysfunctional.”

To see the impact of the splintered command structure, look at the drug interdiction. NATO’s forces can’t do antidrug missions, but they can provide assistance like air support and medevac units to American military advisers embedded with Afghan Army units involved with poppy eradication. Thus NATO plays a key role in individual antidrug operations, but there is no way to integrate its forces into broader counternarcotics efforts.

American and allied officers are trying to work around such obstacles, and should be aided by the recent creation of a United States Forces-Afghanistan headquarters in Kabul to coordinate with NATO. Still, more needs to be done to develop a comprehensive counterinsurgency plan, even if that risks alienating some of the 41 coalition countries.

Such a plan will probably require American forces beyond those already on their way, but the overall requirement will remain well below that of Iraq. Seven American ground brigades are likely to be in Afghanistan by the end of the year — two of them focused on training and the rest on combat. Two or three more might be needed next year to provide security in western Afghanistan, which has almost no United States forces. That would result in 45,000 to 55,000 ground troops, plus support units, as compared to more than 160,000 (22 brigades) in Iraq at the height of the surge.           

This struggle is not just about Afghanistan. It is also about tracking and effecting what is going on in Pakistan’s tribal areas. That is where the global Qaeda leadership is. It is the nexus of terrorist groups including the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is implicated in the Mumbai, India, attacks last November; the Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi, which now has control of the Swat region in Pakistan; and Baitullah Mehsud’s Pakistani Taliban, which are said to have plotted the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister.

From their positions across the border in Afghanistan, American forces can literally see these areas. They can also gather invaluable intelligence from, and spread our influence to, the tribes that straddle the frontier. But we get that vantage point only as long as we have something to offer the Afghans — security, improved quality of life, hope for a better government. If we abandon them, we will become blind to one of the most dangerous threats to our security, and also hand our most determined enemies an enormous propaganda victory — their biggest since 9/11.

Make no mistake: there is hard, costly fighting ahead in Afghanistan if we do not exercise some very thoughtful diplomacy and planning, If we fail to persuade a rethinking of our approach in Afghanistan there will be a shrill chorus arguing that our chances of victory in Afghanistan are much better than those in Iraq, and that it is well-worth waging the war. Though they will be wrong on both counts; they will find followers.  

They will find an adversary who believes that:

We Have Walked Right Into What Many Muslim's Believe Is The End Of Days Battlefield!



 What follows is the kind of thinking we need to be prepared to combat as opposed to squabbling with each other in a “movement” that at the moment has neither cohesion nor leadership appropriate to the challenges.


How to Surge the Taliban


Published: March 12, 2009

Kandahar, Afghanistan


“DONT worry, we are not going to lose this war.”

These were the parting words to us from Brig. Gen. Sher Muhammad Zazai, commander of the 205th Corps of the Afghan National Army in Kandahar. He was echoing the sentiments of a group of village elders we had met days before in Khost Province, who assured us that they would never allow the Taliban to come back.

It is odd that the Afghans felt it necessary to reassure American visitors that all was far from lost. It reflected the fact that even in a country where electricity and running water are scarce, word of the defeatist hysteria now gripping some in the American political elite has spread.

No one in Afghanistan — from the American commander, Gen. David McKiernan, to those village elders — underestimates the difficulties that lie ahead. But no one we spoke to on an eight-day journey (arranged for us by Gen. David Petraeus, the head of the military’s Central Command) that took us from Kunar Province on the Pakistan border to Farah Province near the Iranian frontier doubted that we can succeed, or that we must do so.

The main challenge is to overcome years of chronic neglect in terms of economic development, government services and above all security, which has allowed the insurgency free access to large swaths of the country. The good news is that the Taliban holds little appeal for most Afghans — a BBC-ABC News poll last month showed only 4 percent desired Taliban rule. The Sunni and Shiite insurgencies in Iraq, by contrast, maintained much greater support in their respective communities until they were defeated.

Even without much popular backing, Afghan insurgents are staging an increasing number of attacks, but major cities like Kabul and Jalalabad, which we visited, are relatively safe and flourishing. The civilian death toll in Afghanistan last year was 16 times lower than that in Iraq in the pre-surge year of 2006, even though Afghanistan is more populous.

There is no question that we can succeed against these much weaker foes, notwithstanding the support they receive from Pakistan and to a lesser extent Iran. President Obama’s recent decision to send 17,000 additional troops is a good start. While increased security operations will result in a temporary increase in casualties, that spike should be followed by broad reductions in violence, just as with the Iraq surge.

Efforts to develop a countrywide strategy will no doubt be hampered by the confused and often counterproductive NATO command structure. A big part of the problem is that, unlike American headquarters staff members who train together for a year before deploying into a combat zone, NATO staff members from many nations come together for the first time just a few weeks before heading out to Afghanistan. And most of them rotate out after six months; a lack of continuity means a lack of cohesion. A NATO officer even admitted to us that his headquarters is “partially dysfunctional.”

To see the impact of the splintered command structure, look at the drug interdiction. NATO’s forces can’t do antidrug missions, but they can provide assistance like air support and medevac units to American military advisers embedded with Afghan Army units involved with poppy eradication. Thus NATO plays a key role in individual antidrug operations, but there is no way to integrate its forces into broader counternarcotics efforts.

American and allied officers are trying to work around such obstacles, and should be aided by the recent creation of a United States Forces-Afghanistan headquarters in Kabul to coordinate with NATO. Still, more needs to be done to develop a comprehensive counterinsurgency plan, even if that risks alienating some of the 41 coalition countries.

Such a plan will probably require American forces beyond those already on their way, but the overall requirement will remain well below that of Iraq. Seven American ground brigades are likely to be in Afghanistan by the end of the year — two of them focused on training and the rest on combat. Two or three more might be needed next year to provide security in western Afghanistan, which has almost no United States forces. That would result in 45,000 to 55,000 ground troops, plus support units, as compared to more than 160,000 (22 brigades) in Iraq at the height of the surge.

1  2  Next Page » 

Max Boot is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Frederick Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Kimberly Kagan is the President Of The Institute For The Study Of War.








Over strong criticisms from many in its antiwar constituency, the Obama administration last week announced a second increase in the number of US troops in Afghanistan. The announcement came as part of its new, broader strategy to "disrupt, defeat and dismantle Al Qaeda and its safe havens in Pakistan and Afghanistan and prevent its return," using a variety of tactics beyond just military means. 

In a televised speech Friday, March 27, President Obama sharply distinguished his policy in Afghanistan from the past administration. "Many people in the United States ... have a simple question," he said. "What is our purpose in Afghanistan? After so many years, they ask, why do our men and women still fight and die there? And they deserve a straightforward answer." 

"I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future," Obama stated. 

Military side 

In outlining this new strategy, Obama explained that the military mission of US troops would shift from combat to training Afghan military and police units. Further, the administration identified regular military units, rather than National Guard or Reserve units, to make up the surge of 17,000 troops announced last January. The units for the 4,000 new troops announced this week have not yet been selected. Some expect this final group to be selected from the 10th Mountain and the 82nd Airborne US Army Divisions, many of whose soldiers would likely be on the fifth combat deployment since 2001. 

According to some media reports, Obama resisted calls by some in the Pentagon for a massive surge of 30,000 troops to go to Afghanistan. 

The administration has set a goal of boosting the Afghan army to 134,000 members and the national police to 82,000 to take control of the country's security needs by 2011. 

Obama emphasized the security mission of US troops as the starting point of their return home. "That's how we will prepare Afghans to take responsibility for their security, and how we will ultimately be able to bring our own troops home," he said. 

Civilian efforts 

On the diplomatic and economic side of the efforts in the region, the Obama administration has identified the struggle against Al Qaeda and to stabilize the region as one that links Afghanistan and Pakistan together. 

Denis McDonough, a White House national security affairs spokesperson, stated, "The president underscored very clearly today that this is a regional challenge that we have to confront together." The two countries "present one challenge," he added. 

A coherent strategy is the fundamental difference between the Obama administration's policy for the region and Bush's. "We saw, when we came into office, a situation adrift, a strategy that had not been clearly annunciated over the course of several years and a lack of focus on this central challenge," McDonough emphasized. 

The previous administration had been diverted by Iraq, but now the president will be able "to bring all elements of our national power to resolve this situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan," said McDonough. 

The administration created a "contact pool" of regional and international powers, including Iran, Saudia Arabia, China, India, Russia and the UAE, in addition to the two countries concerned, it hopes will be a part of talks to resolve questions of financing, diplomacy and economic development. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met with representatives from a number of these countries this week to open the channels of communication. 

Obama called for passage of a bipartisan measure currently in the Senate that will boost aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion for the next five years. "Pakistan," McDonough said, "is a democratic country worthy of our support." The goal is to strengthen Pakistan's central government, enable it to fight corruption and help shift the focus of its military apparatus away from India and the Kashmir question towards controlling its borders with Afghanistan and joining the fight against Al Qaeda. 

For Afghanistan, the administration also urged the passage of a bill in the House that would create Reconstruction Opportunity Zones so that goods exported from that country would be treated as "duty free" goods. The aim is to boost economic development of the country apart from the pervasive illegal drug trade. The administration has also proposed "significant" amounts of money in its budget for economic development and other civilian projects in Afghanistan aimed at stabilizing the country. 

The administration further appears to be launching a project not dissimilar to that promoted in Iraq with the "awakening councils." While this term has not been used specifically, McDonough told reporters that the administration believes that many fighters who have joined the so-called Taliban groups have done so mainly out of financial motives. A program of "political reconciliation," he indicated, might be able to sway them to shift loyalties to the Afghanistan government and the project of stabilization. The administration is looking for ways to split these groups and individuals from "the hardcore elements of the Taliban in an effort to ... divide and conquer," McDonough added. 

Metrics and benchmarks 

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, whose committee will oversee funding for many of these projects, stated this week that he sees the administration's plan as being "on the right track." After talks with the White House and Pentagon, Levin added that any new funds, troops or efforts should be accompanied by specific benchmarks for success, otherwise they could lose his support. 

This week, Levin added that he could not support increased financial aid to Pakistan without more detail about how the money will be spent and what kind of accounting and transparency would be made to ensure the money is well-spent. 

In a teleconference with reporters Friday, March 27th, McDonough said, "Chairman Levin is someone with whom we consulted very closely on this issue. He's obviously a real leader in the Congress. He's been a real leader in focusing in on our challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and has been a real leader in addressing our military families and our troops so that they have what they need. He's a terrific ally for the troops." 

McDonough added that there are five "metrics for success" in Afghanistan and Pakistan: 

1) Making progress in disrupting and defeating Al Qaeda and its safe havens. 
2) Aid to Pakistan to convince that country's government to "dedicate resources to fighting the insurgency." 
3) "Metrics that we put on ourselves, that is to say how we are spending taxpayer resources," i.e. transparency of how US resources are used. 
4) stated goals about increases in Afghan military and police forces. 

Other than these "metrics," McDonough could not yet provide detailed benchmarks of success. These "metrics" have huge holes that could allow for an indefinite occupation. For example, does an increase in security forces in Afghanistan automatically translate into real security? Do the creation of "duty free" zones translate into sustainable economic development? Does aid for Pakistan translate automatically into its commitment to shared goals in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. 

A new quagmire? 

The vagueness of these so-called metrics for success could also pose problems for the Obama administration in sustaining congressional and or rebuilding popular support for continued US military involvement in Afghanistan. Already, a majority of Americans disapprove of what once popular military action in that country. Without specific benchmarks for success, Levin has suggested, the US could get mired indefinitely in the conflict with no end in sight and no means of getting out. Such goals should be defined at the outset. 

Core forces that supported Obama in the election have already expressed opposition to an expanded US military role in Central Asia. In a press statement for United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) released immediately following the president's announcement last week, Jim Fine said, "President Obama's new strategy includes constructive commitments to regional and international diplomacy and civilian development, but the President has also committed the US to aggressive new military tactics and a wider war that could easily spiral out of control and overwhelm the constructive elements of the plan." 

Leslie Cagan, national coordinator for UFPJ, added, "With the $2 billion a month already being spent on the war in Afghanistan, the administration's proposals endanger the ability of the Obama administration to respond to the intensifying financial crisis. We must flood the White House with calls today to voice our opposition to sending more troops to Afghanistan, when just the opposite is needed – our troops should be brought home now." 

UFPJ, the country's largest coalition of peace organization, called for rejecting the expansion of military efforts in Afghanistan and for the return of US troops. Instead, the administration should focus on civilian and diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis in Afghanistan, the group urged. As part of this effort, UFPJ has organized a "march on Wall Street" scheduled for April 4th to demand cuts in military spending, an end to military action in Afghanistan and refocusing resources on the collapsing US economy. 

Tom Andrews, who heads the Win Without War Coalition, which opposed the US invasion of Iraq, also stated last week that "We want to be able to support the president and his efforts to protect the American people from the threat of al Qaeda. But the policy announced today will fail to do so and instead takes a significant step toward a perilous quagmire.” 

In Andrews' view, while many of the non-military efforts to resolve the crisis in Afghanistan are laudable, it is likely that the military side of the strategy will undermine them. For example, why would Russia, China or Iran be too interested in supporting US-led military efforts that increase the number of US troops near their borders? If the presence of foreign troops and the actions that they take that have caused the deaths of many hundreds of Afghan and Pakistan civilians over the past months promote the Taliban-aligned insurgency, why would boosting those numbers promote political reconciliation in Afghanistan, Andrews wondered. 

Needed: national dialogue 

Other important national groups that took a strong stand for bringing and end to the war in Iraq, such as, Veterans for America, and, have either remained silent on Obama's Afghanistan policy or have urged support for it. 

It is possible that many groups and individuals fear that differing with the president on this policy would be disloyal in a time when broad support for much of the president's agenda is needed. It is possible to urge the unity of all democratic forces and people's movements behind the president's domestic agenda, while opposing a short-sighted and costly adventure in Afghanistan. 

Now is not the time for silence. Because so many American now oppose the war in Afghanistan, a national conversation on which direction to go in Afghanistan is needed more than ever. Civilian efforts that include expanded diplomacy and economic aid are laudable goals, but the US simply has no practical ability or ethical right to continue, let alone escalate, its military presence in Afghanistan or Pakistan. a national conversation
 in Promoting Congress, the major media and in our communities that figures out a new direction to lead the US military out of Afghanistan as soon as possible should be a major goal of the peace movement. 


And That Is The Responsible Bottom Line!


The Soviet Experience in Afghanistan: Lessons Learned 

by Major James T. McGhee 


On 24 September 1979, lead elements of the Soviet 40th Army were ordered to cross the border into Afghanistan. Three days later, Soviet Airborne forces had seized the airfields in Kabul and Bagram, and the Afghan President H. Amin had been executed. This was the beginning of a political and military disaster for the Soviet Union that lasted for nine years with a cost of almost 15,000 troops reported killed or missing in action.[1] Thousands of additional Russian soldiers were wounded or died of disease, and millions of Afghanis were either killed, wounded or became refugees. The most important lesson that the Soviets learned from their experience in Afghanistan was, according to Cordesman and Wagner, "that it never should have been fought".[2] There are however, a number of other political, strategic and tactical lessons that may be learned from the Soviet-Afghan conflict. 

Author Milan Hauner stated, "The immediate political aim of Soviet policy after the invasion was to salvage the Saur Revolution of April 1978 by installing a dependable leadership in Kabul."[3] The political justification may be also be placed within the responsibility of the Soviet leadership to uphold the "Brezhnev Doctrine", described as, "the Soviet view that if any of its client communist regimes is threatened, it has the right to intervene."'[4] The Soviets had successfully confronted this type of threat before, 1956 in Hungary and 1968 in Czechoslovakia. There was no reason to believe that the operation would cost them a great deal or not end with a swift Soviet victory. While they were correct in their assumption that the United States was unwilling to prevent the Soviet incursion, they made miscalculations at both the political and strategic levels regarding the responses of the United States, Pakistan, and the Afghan people. 

A significant political mistake was the Soviet misperception of the Carter administration and the belief that there would be only token objections to action in an area of traditional Soviet influence. The United States President Jimmy Carter took "serious" measures against the Soviets, canceling grain deliveries to the Soviets, prohibiting the sale of high-technology and boycotting the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.[5] He declared, "The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War. It's a sharp escalation in the aggressive history of the Soviet Union."[6] 

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) received presidential approval to begin a covert weapons program to the Afghan resistance. This later included in 1986, under great pressure from members of the Departments of State and Defense, the delivery of the first 150 U.S. made Stinger Missiles to the Mujahideen. These new weapons in the hands of Mujahideen fighters with only limited training proved to be a most effective weapon against Soviet aircraft.[7] 

U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who defeated Carter in the 1980 presidential election, was a committed anticommunist who believed that Soviet gains in the third world had to be rolled back. His "Reagan Doctrine was an aggressive initiative designed to increase the cost of Soviet support for Third World socialist governments."[8] He reversed U.S. policy towards Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan. The United States began shipping large quantities of supplies, weapons and munitions through Pakistan to the different Mujahideen factions fighting the Soviets. A huge six-year economic and military aid package to Pakistan elevated the country to the third largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid.[9] This was a major change in U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. was now openly supporting a dictatorial Islamic regime that was aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapons program. 

Pakistan, like Cambodia during the U.S. war in Vietnam, was a Mujahideen sanctuary from Soviet forces that were unwilling to cross the international border into the country. These sanctuaries provided the Afghan resistance with a safe area to train recruits, plan combat operations, and build a logistics support structure. Arguably the most important factor in the overall failure of the Soviets to achieve a strategic victory in Afghanistan, Pakistan, according author and scholar Milan Hauner, "was vital for the continuation of the Mujahideen resistance."[10] Military supplies and weapons were supplied from Egypt, China and the United States with additional funding coming from Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) coordinated with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) to distribute aid to the resistance. Soviet style weapons such as AK-47 rifles and SA-7 anti-aircraft missiles were delivered, as these "Soviet" weapons were similar to those captured from the Russians and could not be directly traced back to the United States.[11] Eventually, more sophisticated weaponry and equipment such as Stinger missiles, advanced communications equipment, and heavy weapons were funneled through Pakistan to the Afghan resistance. 

Brutal Soviet "scorched earth" tactics drove thousands and eventually an estimated three million Afghans into makeshift tent villages in the Northwest Frontier Province and Baluchistan in Pakistan. Pakistan "hosted" these large numbers of refugees, although this area was only moderately controlled by the Islamabad government. These refuges provided what Mark Urban called, "the vital human reservoir for the resistance."[12] Located among these camps, the Mujahideen were able to recruit, arm and train new "holy warriors" to fight the Soviets. One firm, possibly funded by the CIA, even employed former British army soldiers who trained Mujahideen in Pakistan.[13] 

The refugee camps also provided the United States and other pro-Afghan resistance organizations with an opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance. The U.S funneled significant amounts of aid through Non-governmental organizations (NGO) to help the refugees in Pakistan. Much of this also went to aid and support the resistance groups. By sending large quantities of humanitarian assistance, the U.S. gained favorable press and alleviated some political and economic pressure on Islamabad.[14] 

In addition to the political miscalculations towards the United States and Pakistan, the Soviet leadership equally miscalculated the strength, motivations, and will of the Afghan resistance organizations. The Mujahideen were never a united force fighting for a common goal or centrally led. The resistance in Afghanistan consisted of a variety of ethnic groups who often had very different and conflicting political and military objectives. They were however united against a common enemy, the "Godless Communists". The greatest strength of the Mujahideen and the Afghan people was their remarkable resilience. The resistance fighters and the Afghan people who supported them carried on the conflict despite heavy civilian casualties, millions of refugees, poor communications, weapons, and equipment, and the overwhelming technical superiority of the Soviet Army. Despite all their efforts, the Soviets, according to Lester Grau, "did not understand who they were fighting."[15] 

The main forces of the Soviet 40th Army were positioned in Afghanistan by January 1980. They were completely unprepared for the kind of guerrilla war waged by the Mujahideen. "It was felt that the mere presence of Soviet forces would serve to 'sober up' the Mujahideen."[16] The 40th Army was organized to fight using the traditional Soviet military doctrine of executing large-scale offensive operations followed by an exploitation and pursuit. Inherent in Soviet command structure was the attitude that, "the success of offensive combat is directly dependent on the level of training of commanders and staffs: the lower that level the greater must be the degree of centralized control."[17] 

Early attempts by the Soviet leadership to deploy large, combined arms formations to conduct a classic offensive and pursuit against Mujahideen guerillas proved ineffective in a war that stressed the vital importance of small unit operations. Most engagements were fought at the tactical level where as the Soviet army was trained to operate at the operational level.[18] At the tactical level, battalion commanders needed instant support. Most Soviet combat support elements however, such as artillery, engineers, signals, and aviation, were organized at the divisional or higher levels. These lessons forced a major reorganization within the 40th Army. 

Perhaps the most significant consideration during the reorganization was the difficult Afghan terrain. Soviet General Yuri Maksimov provides a good insight into these considerations, "Combat operations in mountains are characterized by a number of features conditioned by the nature of mountainous terrain, such as its extremely rugged character, scarcity of roads with poor traffic ability, and a great number of natural obstacles. All of this forces troops to operate sometimes in comparatively small sub-units and in separate sectors. These peculiarities make it more difficult to coordinate, control, and maneuver the resources at hand. The lack of close cooperation among the motorized infantry, artillery, and aviation in mountainous areas may result in the failure to fulfill the combat mission assigned."[19] 

The Soviets reorganized their forces from highly centralized armor-heavy elements into integrated combined arms battalions, brigades, and division task forces. Special emphasis was placed upon the need for reconnaissance, aviation, engineer, air assault, and special forces organizations. Soviet leadership also recognized the requirement for greater firepower for its infantry formations. 

The main battle tanks of the Soviet army were ineffective in the mountainous Afghan terrain due to the limited elevation capability of both the main tank gun and the coaxial machine gun. Used early as part of the large but unsuccessful sweeping operations. The Soviets learned quickly that, "the practice of massing a large number of regular forces against a small group of irregular forces to fight guerrilla war on rugged terrain was bankrupt."[20] As a result, Soviet tanks often became stationary pillboxes positioned at Soviet base camps.[21] 

Greater emphasis was placed on the use of light armored, wheeled vehicles such as the Soviet family of BMDs. These vehicles proved to be well suited for Soviet operations in Afghanistan. They were twice as light, and shorter than the Soviet BMP. They were well armed with a 73mm cannon, a coaxial machine gun, and two bow-mount machine guns. They had a low silhouette, which enabled them to hide in terrain folds or behind rock formations. Their lightweight proved desirable in a war where there was a wide use of mines, and it allowed the vehicle to be air transportable by a variety of aircraft to include helicopters. 

Light infantry formations such as the elite Soviet air assault, airborne and special forces units proved to be the most effective against the guerrilla tactics of the Mujahideen operating in the rugged Afghan terrain. Typically, the tactical operations of these units were the raid, blocking positions and search, and ambush. Since these formations executed the bulk of Soviet offensive operations, these formations often received the best weapons, equipment and training. 

Soviet leadership placed a new emphasis on the firepower of their infantry formations. The older 7.62mm AK-47 rifle was replaced in many units by the new 5.44mm AK-74 rifle. The lighter weight of the new rifle and its ammunition proved to be better suited for operations in Afghanistan. Large numbers of light machine guns, AA guns, automatic grenade launchers, flamethrowers, sniper rifles, and mortars were also provided to the infantry units. The need for longer range, portable and lethal firepower was a key lesson learned by Soviet leadership.[22] 

The Soviets required a large number of helicopters for their light infantry formations such as the Soviet air assault or special forces to be effective. Helicopters were essential in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan. They were used to attack enemy forces and equipment, gather intelligence, target artillery fire, insert assault troops, evacuate wounded, deliver supplies, and transfer weapons and equipment. Operating helicopter assets in Afghanistan however proved to be very difficult. Temperatures in Afghanistan can fluctuate from extremely hot in the summer to well below freezing in the winter and at high altitudes. Strong winds are often present, which can limit flying operations, and reduce visibility by creating dust storms. Combat operations were significantly effected at higher altitudes, where the lifting capacity of helicopters was reduced causing the aircraft requirements during an air assault in the mountains to double.[23] Although a recognized shortfall, "the Soviets never had enough helicopters in Afghanistan to meet their requirements."[24] 

Surface to air missiles acquired by the Mujahideen from covert U.S. weapons programs proved problematic for Soviet aviation operations. The introduction of more effective surface to air missiles including the Stinger in 1986 significantly affected Soviet air operations in Afghanistan. The Stinger, a U.S. made man-portable system, weighs 34 pounds, is 5 feet long, and has a maximum range of 5,800 meters and maximum altitude of 3,500 meters. Their use forced the Soviets to greatly increase attack air speed and stop spending time over target. Fighters and bombers were forced to increase attack height from 2,000-4,000 feet to around 10,000 feet.[25] The Mujahideen, despite not having received a great deal of training on the missile, were able to hit Soviet aircraft out to a distance of 4,800 meters and up to 2,000 meters in elevation.[26] The greater altitudes forced upon Soviet close air support aircraft due to the effectiveness of the Stingers significantly reduced the accuracy of their bombing. The added danger of flying over target areas thought to have Stingers as part of their air defense arsenal increased the threat to Soviet pilots. As a result, "Soviet pilots proved far less willing to fly as many missions or as demanding high-risk sorties".[27] The sharp decrease in the ability of fixed-wing aircraft to find and kill targets allowed the Mujahideen to move through the country far more easily and restore their supply lines. 

The main targets of the Mujahideen were Soviet helicopters, which also proved to be vulnerable to the Stingers. This meant according to author and historian Lester Grau, "The Soviet Command had to severely limit the employment of helicopters, especially during daylight".[28] The forced changes in Soviet aviation tactics had profound effects on the battlefield. Helicopters were less effective in providing direct fire support as pilots reduced the amount of time over targets thought to have Stingers. 

More than just combat missions were affected. Casualty evacuation, once predominantly executed by helicopters, was significantly reduced. A Soviet combatant remembered, "Until 1987 all of our wounded were evacuated by helicopter to the hospital in Kabul. The arrival of Stinger missiles put an end to our massive use of choppers. We were forced to cram the injured into armored carriers-fifteen in each one-and send them down the local roads to Kabul."[29] Certainly, the fear of being wounded and not having adequate casualty evacuation capability had a negative effect on the soldiers fighting on the ground. 

The rugged terrain combined with the guerrilla tactics of the Mujahideen called for the application of new methods of conducting offensive operations by the Soviets. "Combat showed that, as a rule, frontal attacks by Soviet and Afghan forces did not succeed."[30] Mujahideen forces were able to retreat into the mountain passes when attacked. The Soviets were able to displace the Mujahideen but unable in most cases to inflict significant casualties on the elusive guerilla fighters. Among the new methods tried by the Soviets was the cordon and search. The cordon and search was designed to trap the Mujahideen in a valley between a main Soviet force and a tactical envelopment of the enemy by air assault forces. This combination action when conducted correctly prevented Mujahideen from maneuvering or escaping into the mountains.[31] These cordon and search operations were however routinely unsuccessful as they were often compromised by Mujahideen intelligence sources who warned of Soviet units departing base camps or the insertion of the blocking forces.[32] 

The lack of a professional NCO corps represented a critical problem in the 40th army; especially an army fighting counter insurgency operations.[33] Soviet sergeants were conscripts who had to attend a six-month NCO course and Lieutenants were inexperienced having been recently commissioned. Counter insurgency, defined by the British as, "an NCO war", was directly opposed to the well know aspects of Soviet military doctrine, which discouraged independent action by junior officers.[34] At the tactical level, the Soviet small unit leaders were hard pressed to match the Mujahideen. Soviet experience showed that success at the tactical level often involved small unit maneuver at night with the use of night vision goggles and applying discipline to achieve surprise. 

Junior officers were in many cases negligent in maintaining discipline and morale within many of their units. Due to poor leadership, the 40th army suffered from a lack of discipline that resulted in low morale. Many soldiers suffered form depression and turned to abusing narcotics or alcohol. There was racism, theft and violent crime both within units and against the Afghan population. Many soldiers murdered civilians or destroyed villages in retaliation to an ambush or fallen comrade. 

Throughout the Soviet war in Afghanistan, up to 33% of the personnel in the Soviet 40th Army were affected by an infectious disease every year. Of the 620,000 Soviets deployed to Afghanistan during the conflict, 415,932 or 67% were hospitalized for some kind of serious illness or disease. These illnesses included infectious hepatitis, typhoid fever, plague, malaria, cholera, diphtheria, meningitis, dysentery, heat stroke, and pneumonia.[35] A great number of these casualties were directly related to poor hygiene, poor waste removal, or poor drinking water. 

Active leadership by a professional Non-commissioned officer corps could have prevented many of the sources of disease. For example: Soviet troops were often forced or chose to drink from natural water sources or local wells. The quality of these sources in many cases was very poor and contained high bacteria levels, typhus, and amoebic dysentery.[36] To combat the spread of illnesses caused from drinking from local sources, the Soviets issued a pantocide water-purification tablet. These tablets were effective when used properly. However, soldiers in many cases failed to wait the required 30 minutes for the tablet to purify the water while others simply found the taste of the treated water to be repulsive and refused to use them.[37] Many of these casualties may have been prevented if small unit leaders had enforced discipline in their soldiers regarding such disciplines as field sanitation and drinking from approved water sources. 

Providing adequate logistics support in Afghanistan was a constant problem for the 40th Army. The harsh climate and rugged terrain quickly wore out vehicles and equipment. Vehicle fuel systems, cooling systems, and road wheels were particularly susceptible to the harsh conditions. As a result, Soviet maintenance personnel were forced to accelerate scheduled maintenance and services on a variety of weapon systems and vehicles. Although the 40th Army had a Material support Brigade and separate tank, motor vehicle, and artillery repair battalions, it still "lacked sufficient maintenance personnel and facilities during the entire war."[38] The inadequate support resulted in poor readiness, poor maintenance procedures, unsafe repairs, cannibalization of repair parts and a tendency not to conserve the use of vehicles.[39] 

Many Soviet units were stationed in remote locations or far from supply bases. Logistics units within the 40th Army were woefully lacking in their ability to supply the troops. As a result, combat units often had to endure significant supply shortages. In addition to fresh water, the most significant supply shortage was the shortage of fresh, perishable foods.[40] 

The hot climate made it extremely difficult to provide fresh foods such as meats and vegetables, which require a refrigeration capability for storage and transport. Units were routinely supplied with a mixture of canned goods and food concentrates. Dry rations consisted of 200 grams of rusks, 250 grams of canned meat, 250 grams of canned fish, 30 grams of sugar, and four grams of fruit extract.[41] Hot meals were provided by the unit cooks when available but were often according to Grau, "a mixed blessing, since a primary source of infection was the cooks."[42] 

The mountainous terrain combined with the dry desert climate created special conditions for Soviet soldiers who had to endure both exhausting heat during the day in lower altitudes and freezing temperatures at night in higher altitudes. Special uniform requires were needed in order to protect soldiers from the extreme weather conditions. The standard Soviet issue of uniforms and equipment was designed for the European theater and proved inadequate for operations in Afghanistan.[43] 

The climate and terrain of Afghanistan demanded uniforms made from rugged, lightweight materials capable of protecting soldiers from the cold, wind, and moisture. The Soviets developed and issued special uniforms and accessories but the quantity and quality were insufficient. The Soviet issue sleeping bag for example did not provide enough warmth or protection from moisture. Pakistani or English sleeping bags were a highly prized find. As a result, Soviet soldiers were often exposed to the elements. 

One of the most notable shortfalls was the issue of an acceptable mountain boot. The mountainous terrain destroyed the standard issue boots in a short period of time. Soviet soldiers improvised, utilizing alternative sources to acquire acceptable footwear. "All of us walk in virtually indestructible sneakers. They are far more reliable than even the best 
Adidas. Soldiers pay for them out of their own pockets; a pair costs 24 rubles in the commissary."[44] 

The major lessons the Soviets learned during the war in Afghanistan were according to Cordesman and Wagner that, "It is virtually impossible to defeat a popular guerrilla army with secure sources of supply and a recovery area; it is extremely difficult-if not impossible –to use modern weapons technology to cut off a guerrilla force from food and other basic supplies; and the success of pacification techniques depends on the existence of a popular local government, and the techniques must be seen as the actions of the local government and not of foreign military forces."[45] 

The Soviet leadership completely miscalculated the political and military situation in Afghanistan. They were unable to anticipate the anti-Soviet reaction that was generated in the United States and around the world. They failed to understand their enemy and the power Islamic Nationalism had on the will of the Afghani people to endure extreme hardships. They were unable or unwilling to prevent the Mujahideen from operating from sanctuaries in Pakistan. 

The 40th Army itself deployed into a theater of operations woefully unprepared for the war they had to fight. Constantly short of the required number and trained personnel, and adequate equipment, the 40th Army was forced to fight a limited war with limited objectives against an extremely resilient and capable guerrilla force. Over the years however, the Soviets did improved their tactics in conducting counter insurgency operations. They were able to introduce and test new weapons and new combat formations, and record many lessons learned regarding Soviet doctrine and leadership. In the end however, the Soviets failed to reach their political or military objectives in Afghanistan. 

Show Footnotes and Footnotes 

Copyright © 2008 James T. McGhee. 

Written by James T. McGhee. If you have questions or comments on this article, please contact James T. McGhee at:

About the author: 
Major James T. McGhee is a native of Dexter, Missouri, and now serves in the active Army as an Operations Officer assigned to the 101st Sustainment Brigade, Ft. Campbell, KY. He studied history at Southeast Missouri State University, is a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, and holds a Maters Degree in Military Studies from American Military University. In his spare time, Todd enjoys researching and writing military history with emphasis on World War II on the Eastern Front. 

Published online: 06/14/2008.

Headlines And Additional Relevant Regional News


Taliban official killed in Afghanistan

Afghanistan conference concludes with offer to Taliban

Zardari, Karzai vow to cooperate to combat terrorism

Drone strike, militant attacks kill 17 in Pakistan

Multiple suicide bombers kill 10 in Afghanistan

 Tehran denies Iran-US talks at The Hague

Suspected US drone strike in Pakistan kills 12

Swat deal an unlikely model for reconciliation with Taliban

Why NATO is not winning in Afghanistan

Pressure on Karzai to scrap controversial Afghan women

Obama AFPAK strategy has potential to backfire, says US Senator

India favours wait and watch on Afghanistan-Pakistan initiatives

Luxury hotel, government buildings were next on Manawan attackers hit list

Nato snubbed over request for 4,000 troops in Afghanistan

Establishing Clear Goals May Prove Key to New Afghan-Pakistan Strategy

Afghan War Needs More Time, Cash

 U.S. looks at Pakistani Taliban threat on Washington

Tories, Grits decry return of policies from

Afghan commanders expect rise in violence

 Taliban in policy shift on beards and burqas

Taleban: we will launch attack on America that will amaze world 

Taliban Leader Vows to Attack D.C. "Soon" 

Taliban Leader's Washington Threat Is Credible, Analysts Say –

U.S. Seeks New Afghan Supply Routes, Even in Iran (March 12, 2009)

U.S. General Says Allies 'Not Winning' Afghan War (March 10, 2009)

U.S. Halted Some Raids in Afghanistan (March 10, 2009)

Dreaming of Splitting the Taliban (March 8, 2009)

Iran Offers Help on Afghan Drug Trade

  Militants Regroup in Iraqi Cities as U.S. Prepares to Withdraw


  Afghanistan is the main topic of the day as the papers previewed and reviewed the announcement President Obama  made  about changes to the American strategy to decrease violence in the war-torn country that will place lots of emphasis on Pakistan. Obama  announced plans to send 4,000 military trainers to Afghanistan in the fall, which will be on top of the additional 17,000 combat troops the president authorized last month, and "hundreds" of U.S. civilian officials. USA Today points out that sending additional aid workers "follows Obama's previous statements that Afghanistan can't be tamed by military forcealone." For the first time, the U.S. government will explicitly tie future aid to certain benchmarks that will measure how much the Afghan and Pakistani governments are doing to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban. In demanding concrete results from the two countries, Obama "is replicating a strategy used in Iraq two years ago," notes the New York Times. The Los Angeles Times highlights that the new strategy comes at a time when Afghanistan's former Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, "is pursuing a determined effort to reclaim power." The Wall Street Journal notes that the Pentagon is considering setting up "a new U.S. military command in southern Afghanistan," which would "signal increasing American control over the war effort." The Washington Post highlights that the new strategy will involve a significant increase in the financial commitment to both Afghanistan and Pakistan and increase U.S. military expenses in Afghanistan by around 60 percent this year.

  The NYT placed Obama's plan as one piece in its two-story lead. The paper's main story reveals that Taliban leaders in Pakistan and Afghanistan have decided to set aside their differences and work together in a new offensive in Afghanistan to greet the buildup of American troops. In an impressive feat of reporting, theNYT talked to several Taliban fighters along the border region who say a group of younger commanders have recently been promoted to carry out a stepped up campaign of attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.


The Direction We Need To Be Heading; The Exit Strategy We Need To Be Thinking About: The Attitude We Need To Explore!

The Emails I have received from Danielle Kleinman as of late truly reflect what the majority of Americans desire, a reasonable, common sense approach to resolving the myriad of problems that face this nation and the world as a whole at the moment.  I don’t really believe that any rational being, and that excludes neocon extremists, wants to be either a party, or bear witness to the senseless slaughter, genocide, and infliction of abhorrent misery on any of our brothers and sisters in our common humanity.  Most may feel impotent to affect meaningful change, brushed aside by systems of non-responsive governments and corporations who feel entitled to do whatever they will and be rescued from their excesses and failures by mortgaging our futures and the futures of generations yet unborn.

All good folks want is an environment free of the shrillness of accusation, divisions and self-serving political posturing that plays well to emotions but brings not one wit of solution and lucidity to the table of dialog and the halls of governments.

Let me just share with you the sentiments of someone who cares, someone who is thinking above all the howling, plotting and misdirection of political manipulation and the mediocrity of today’s “Media”….


In my opinion, Obama isn't really escalating the war; he's deploying 4000 troops to train the Afghan army & police to safeguard their own country.  The real danger & threat to us is in Pakistan.  I have listened & read & this is my humble opinion.  I'm not sure that everyone gets this.

I want all of our troops home; I've protested in the streets for 2 yrs.  I also want to be responsible.... 


“I’m just not that Cynical”…..(anymore) 

-Danielle Kleinman, St. Davids, PA 

After the election of 2008, I began to realize that people, for the most part, want the same thing; they want change to come to our government.  I live amongst a Republican stronghold in Eastern PA along what they refer to as “The Main Line”.  Being a Democrat has been difficult in the past, especially given my Anti-War and Bush Impeachment stance.  I was among the few who really saw what was happening to our country (even as far back as 2000).  I was not very popular with my neighbors for a very long time.  My next door neighbor ran a local Senate race here in Radnor and her husband is a large contributor to the NRA (he is a big game hunter)! So, as you might imagine, neighborhood events were a bit strained during the election. 

I did see a paradigm shift in the fall of last year after the announcement of Palin and her failed interview with Katie Couric.  The people who had been some of the staunch Republicans had changed their minds.  After the election, they confessed to me that they voted for Obama; nearly 4 to 1 here!  It restored my faith in humanity.  I began to believe that people do see things for what they are and do want more from their government than our continued demise.  

I read everything I can get my hands on and I notice a lot of finger pointing going on within the GOP.  They have lost their way.  Bush has nearly brought down an entire party with his antics of the past 8 years. Michael Steele has become the “Gaffer-in-Chief” of the GOP and continues to harm his party instead of help (instead they are all like Hansel and Gretel lost in the woods with no breadcrumbs to guide them back).  The thing that I find most interesting is the evolution of the media.  The Right may declare that there is a “Left-Wing” bias conspiracy but I believe that they have it all wrong.  The internet has brought about a different view of the world to us.  I see people speaking out on “Twitter” and other message boards and we now have a voice that can no longer be ignored or squashed. 

The GOP has undersold the value and reach of the internet.  A lot of the old ideals of the Right are just what they are O-L-D!  They haven’t evolved or even tried to understand that we are a nation of moderates.  There may be 20% Far Right and 20% Far Left, but there are the middle 60% that see the future of this nation differently.  The most difficult part of the puzzle to understand is that the GOP is just never happy unless they are in complete control (and we see how affective they weren’t).  The Democrats appear to be more open to other ideas and people are listening.  I may not agree with everything that President Obama does but he is our President; elected fair and square.  If the Democratic officials had complained this much with Bush in office, we would have never seen or heard the end of it; “criticize and you hate the country” or you were” unpatriotic!” 

These are the toughest times that we will endure in our lifetime and we need to support our President.  I’m not asking for blind trust, I’m asking for a chance to get things turned around.  Don’t we owe him that?  We didn’t get here in 65+ days, it’ll take us longer than that to see our real recovery.  I will stay strong and continue to fight to support the country and our President.  Will you join me?  It’s not too late; let’s stay positive and we will work it out; just like the Beatles sang back in 1965: 

We can work it out, Life is very short, and there's no time For fussing and fighting, my friend…..”

Op-Ed Contributor: How to Leave Afghanistan (March 13, 2009)

Bottom of Form

Op-Ed Contributor

How to Leave Afghanistan


Published: March 12, 2009

ONLY if our troop levels hit 100,000 and fighting floods over into Taliban havens in Pakistan will Washington be likely to look hard at the alternative policy for Afghanistan — withdrawing most American forces and refocusing our power on containing, deterring and diplomatically encircling the terrorist threat. But by then it will be too late.

President Obama is now confronting the classic problem from hell: either do more to stave off defeat and hope to get lucky, or withdraw and face charges of defeatism and perhaps new terrorist attacks. Mr. Obama’s goal is to “ensure” that Afghanistan is not a sanctuary for terrorists, which effectively restates his campaign call for victory there. Thus, he recently decided to add 17,000 American troops to the more than 35,000 already in Afghanistan. But his goal of eliminating the Taliban threat is not achievable.

Mr. Obama needs to consider another path. Our strategy in Afghanistan should emphasize what we do best (containing and deterring, and forging coalitions) and downgrade what we do worst (nation-building in open-ended wars). It should cut our growing costs and secure our interests by employing our power more creatively and practically. It must also permit us — and this is critical — to focus more American resources and influence on the far more dire situation in Pakistan.

We can’t defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, as the last seven years have shown. Numbers are part of the problem: most Taliban are members of Afghanistan’s majority tribe, the Pashtuns. More confounding, the Taliban and their Qaeda allies have found in northwestern Pakistan a refuge that has proved almost impregnable. These factors make overcoming the enemy in Afghanistan infinitely harder than it was in Iraq.

What we can do is effectively reduce the risk of terrorist attacks from Afghanistan against its neighbors, the United States and its allies. We can do this in a way that would allow for the withdrawal of American forces, though economic and military aid would continue.

The first step is to provide significantly increased economic support, arms and training to friendly Afghans as United States combat forces gradually depart over, say, three years. We could use the intervening time to increase present counterinsurgency operations to better protect Afghans and give them a boost to fight on their own, if they have the will.

The second step is to try to separate less extremist elements of the Taliban from their leadership and from Al Qaeda. Mr. Obama is already considering reaching out to Taliban moderates, and he could do this through the Afghan government and covert contacts. No group is monolithic once tested with carrots and sticks, as we saw in Northern Ireland and Iraq.

The Taliban are no exception. While most of them want to drive America out, they have no inherent interest in exporting terrorism. As nasty as the Taliban are, America’s vital interests do not require their exclusion from power in Afghanistan, so long as they don’t support international terrorists.

Third, while we should talk to the Taliban, Washington can’t rely on their word and so must fashion a credible deterrent. The more the Taliban set up shop inside Afghanistan, the more vulnerable they will be to American punishment. Taliban leaders must have good reason to fear America’s military reach. Their leaders could be hit by drones or air strikes. The same goes for their poppy fields, from which they derive considerable income. Most important, Mr. Obama must do what the Bush team inexplicably never seemed to succeed in doing — stop the flow of funds to the Taliban that comes mainly through the Arab Gulf states. At the same time, he could let some money trickle in to reward good behavior.

Fourth, President Obama has to ring Afghanistan with a coalition of neighbors to show the Taliban they have no place to seek succor, even after an American departure. The group would include China, India, Russia, NATO allies, and yes, Iran. They all share a considerable interest in stemming the spread of Afghan drugs and Islamic extremism. China and Russia should be more willing to help in this anti-Taliban effort as the American military presence recedes from their sensitive borders.

1  2  Next Page


Leslie H. Gelb, a former editor and columnist for The Times, is the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the forthcoming

“Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy.”



Video Reporting From The Real News Network:


Obama's Afghan plan: Gutman: If you don't put Afghan development at the centre of a strategy then things will get worse


The secrets of Obama's surge: The President is not exactly telling all that’s going on in AfPak


The rights of women in Afghanistan

Mavis Leno of Feminist Majority on the need for Obama to focus on the rights of Afghan women 


Another Bottom Line Is Being Written!

G20 leaders craft crisis response

By David Ljunggren and Lesley Wroughton


LONDON (Reuters) - World leaders are set to declare an end to unfettered capitalism at a G20 summit on Thursday after France and Germany demanded they act fast on promises to prevent a repeat of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

A communique drafted for release at a G20 summit in London, obtained by Reuters, signaled that leaders would submit large hedge funds to supervision for the first time and enhance regulation through a new agency and a beefed-up International Monetary Fund.

It included a pledge to deliver "the scale of sustained effort necessary to restore growth" without making any commitments beyond the trillions being spent to stabilize banks, shore up demand and limit job losses.

Keen to secure a confidence-boosting message for voters and frazzled financial markets as the world succumbs to recession, U.S. President Barack Obama said there were no substantive differences with Europe, despite the hardball stances taken by the French and German leaders.

Washington wanted tougher regulation too, he told a news conference on Wednesday with Britain's Gordon Brown, summit host, saying he was at the summit not just to lecture but to listen and to help lead the way out of trouble.

It was not clear whether the flashpoint, which appeared to focus primarily on Sarkozy's demands for blacklisting of tax havens, would be enough to derail a message of unity from the meeting.

The draft communique said tax havens would be identified and sanctions could be deployed.

"The era of banking secrecy is over," it declared.


Several hundred demonstrators clashed with riot police and smashed bank windows in London's financial center ahead of the summit on Wednesday.

Police said one person died during the protest. The man was found in a street near the central bank where he had fallen down and stopped breathing at around 7:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. EDT), they said.

It was not immediately clear what caused the man's death and a police source said he likely died from a medical condition, although that would not be confirmed until after a post-mortem.

More protests were planned for Thursday, the main day of a summit involving the world's biggest economies, developed and up-and-coming, in all accounting for more than 80 percent of world trade and economic output.

Global economic output is expected to contract more in 2009 than any year since World War Two, dropping between 0.5 and 1.0 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund, whose head, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is calling it a "Great Recession."

The International Labour Organization says the crisis could cost 50 million jobs by the end of the year.  Continued...


Video From The Real News Network

Noam Chomsky On The Economy And Democracy

Noam Chomsky on the economy and democracy Pt.3

Chomsky: It should be remembered that Germany went to the depths of barbarism in 10 years


G20 - Make or Break?

Engdahl: The question in the EU is - will they go down with the dollar system or find their own way?  March 31, 2009

G20 protests rock London's financial area

Thousands crowded into London's financial centre to make their protests heard  April 2, 2009



Firearms instructor Ron Herman can't seem to keep enough ammunition on hand for his monthly National Rifle Association pistol-training class.

An increase in demand for ammo and resulting shortages have caused the group for the first time to re-evaluate whether it will be able to hold the gun classes, he said.

"The ammo is being snapped up as soon as it comes in," the North Side resident said. "The potential for new gun laws has the Average Joe saying, 'I've got to get mine before the gun laws change and I can't get (ammunition).'

"It's kind of like that run on Elmo dolls. People are in a frenzy."

Bullets are running low throughout central Ohio as a nationwide ammunition shortage hits the area.

The shortage is the result of a confluence of events, industry observers say: a run on guns by consumers since the election of President Barack Obama, more ammunition being sent to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the increased cost of raw materials needed to make bullets.

Shelves are almost bare at some gun ranges and Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods locations. The demand is such that some retailers have begun to limit ammo sales.

"In the first three months of the year, we've already sold what we typically sell in an entire year," said Rex Gore, owner of Black Wing Shooting Center in Delaware. Sales now are limited to a few boxes at a time, depending on the caliber, he said.

"We've never seen anything like this before," Gore said. "We've had spikes in demand before with other administration changes, after 9/11 and when people were preparing for Y2K, but nothing like this.

"It's taken us by surprise."

Reports are coming in from all over the country of a shortage of supplies as manufactures struggle to keep up with the increased demand, said Alexa Fritts, a spokeswoman for the NRA………..


No comments:

Post a Comment

Fair Use Notice: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.