Patrolling the boondoggling Kajaki Dam
Armed Forces Journal posted this Letter to the Editor in December 2012. It is a concise, nuts-and-bolts argument for what I believe should be done: Declare the defeat of COIN, get out of Afganistan ASAP, and hold Congressional hearings to determine who was responsible for the strategy, and why they were permitted to procede in failure unchecked. Maybe that would help prevent such lunacy from taking hold again, although I doubt it. Still, the deceptions and self-deceptions should not slip away unrecorded by history.
The letter is headlined "Get out of Afghanistan":
I cannot believe that anyone in their rational mind would believe that there is anything to salvage out of the Afghanistan fiasco as described by Joseph Collins in “No time to go wobbly” [September]. The thought of even staying there until 2014 is dangerous, and we should not continue to support them financially until 2014.
Afghanistan is a tremendous liability. We have passed the “let’s drink tea together” cultural awareness and COIN nonsense phase of our relations, and should be able to see them as corrupt, dishonest and unchangeable people who will never come around to our way of thinking. The recent and ongoing surge of terrorism and violence during the “Arab Spring” should teach us that, as should our failed efforts in Vietnam to change those people 40-plus years ago.
Progress in Afghanistan is being defined by a bunch of Marine Corps officers who want to keep the war going forever. The Marines have finally got the area of operations that they always wanted and by staying there, they can save the Marine Corps for many more years. It was said that the Inchon landings in Korea in 1950 kept President Truman from doing away with the Marine Corps and prolonged its life for 50 more years. The Persian Gulf wars and Afghanistan will do the same thing.
Yes, the letter-writer is a retired Army officer. I can't speak to this point, but it's certainly something to think about.
Now, for a really burning, tip-top-logical question:
How we could ever have been so stupid as to buy off on a plan that would train, equip and pay for an Afghan uniformed force of 350,000 soldiers and police is mind-boggling. That is a larger force than any of our NATO allies, and far exceeds anything the Afghans can pay for themselves. Even if it is reduced by 120,000, the Afghans still cannot afford it. (How could we be so stupid as to pay for a force of 350,000 and then, before it is fully ready, cut it back by 120,000?)
The letter-writer never gets into the US strategy to ignore the teachings, law and culture of Islam -- and how it is thoroughly antithetical to our own -- but that is a root cause of our "stupid" strategy if ever there was one.
The letter continues, referring back to the "wobbly" article it is responding to: "Collins was right when he said, “We overbuilt the infrastructure” for that force." At which point I offer Exhibit A (one of a thousand Exhibit A's), the Kajaki Dam, an almost River-Kwai-bridge-like and Sisphyusean US public works project in A-stan overseen by, yes, the Marines. This fiasco, which itself should be investigated by Congress, is updated today by the AP (read and weep/gnash). Over the years, I've tried to keep an eye on both the Kajaki dam and doings around the town of Kajaki in Helmand Province as a hub of hubristic, obfuscating and fatal COIN, also citing the clear history of pointless failure of our earlier, more sustained if little-known attempts to infuse Afghanistan with money and know-how and infrastructure.
Back to the letter:
The Afghans will never figure out how to support it, and they don’t care as long as we are paying for it. As an example, we are about to transfer a billion-dollar fuel program to them, which means that money for their fuel will go directly to the corrupt Afghan government. An audit of that fund shows that the records for the past five years have been lost or destroyed. No doubt millions have been diverted to other purposes.
Afghans are a tribal society, and whatever force they end up with will be co-opted by warlords, crooks and thugs so that it will never be a truly national force. Also, it will be a serious threat to the U.S. and its own government. Witness the number of U.S. and NATO soldiers being killed by the people that we have trained.
The idea of giving the Afghans our 100 A-10 “Warthog” close-air support aircraft is also ridiculous. Even though they are 1970s/1980s-era planes, anything better than a Sopwith Camel biplane is too much for the Afghans.
Finally, the “forlorn hope” that our allies will continue to help us and provide billions of dollars to support the failed state of Afghanistan is equally ridiculous. Unless Afghanistan can strike gold or oil soon and become as wealthy as Saudi Arabia or Iraq, our allies will lose interest fast once our troops are gone and they have to fight a real insurgency without our help. Don’t think for a minute that our allies, with the exception of the British, are really doing any real fighting now. They just don’t have the stomach for it. I cannot believe that the Pakistani disruption of our overland supply lines did not do us real damage. It cost us billions of dollars, as Collins mentions, and now the Northern Route is becoming more expensive as those crackpot countries are putting the financial squeeze on us. We will be hard-pressed to get all of our heavy equipment out of there when the time comes, and I bet that the transportation planners in the Pentagon are already coming up with sleight-of-hand tricks to make U.S. taxpayers think that we can really recover all our equipment there. The fact is, we will end up abandoning a lot of expensive equipment under the guise of it being worn out already, or that we are leaving it for the Afghans to use. Fat chance! They cannot perform maintenance on anything more complicated than a motorcycle.
I agree with Collins; this is no time to go “wobbly.” We need to quit wobbling on to 2014 and get out quick, before it costs us any more money and lives.
— Lt. Col. Thomas D. Morgan, Army (ret.), Steilacoom, Wash.