Monday, October 20, 2008

Craddock: Afghanistan not winnable "by military means alone"

Gen. John Craddock, a U.S. officer and one of the commanders of NATO forces in Afghanistan, has echoed, in a speech in London, earlier remarks by Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, the outgoing British commander in Helmand province. Here.

Update: For remarks by Craddock in an interview with Sky News, see here.


Tim Marshall said...

Sure, he's right, but the thrust of his speech was that he wants non fighting NATO nations to pony up some money - and enough of the '70 caveats' already.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Afghanistan is not winnable period, not with the means or time available. A big increase in troops cannot be supplied (we are dependent on too much road transport through Pakistan for supplies as well as airlift and some access through the 'stans). Moreover, we don't have enough troops available to do the job, even without Iraqi commitments - and personally, I think NATO is unlikely to supply more troops either. Besides the supply difficulties make major reinforcement strategically hazardous -- it's ludicrous to give various and sundry possible enemies (paging Tehran) that many more hostages in a remote place (Stalingrad anyone?)

In any case, the culture is too alien, the benefits of victory too miniscule to justify the effort and the neighbors too hostile to the consequences (remote though they are) of our success.

Like the French in Spain in Napoleonic times, we control no more than the ground we are camped on, and that is not going to change. There is no strategy that will work. We don't have the time to develop local elites and institutions, and pursue some kind of surgical remedy against the guerillas. We also don't have the funds such a strategy requires, let alone the cadre of advisors necessary. Similarly, for moral and cultural reasons we can't apply the classic remedy for insurgents massive quantities of force and a strategy of depopulation. We don't have the forces or money anyway.

The only other strategy we have is some kind of hybrid such as we have used on a structurally much weaker insurgency in Iraq. We don't have the time, nor the cards in the form of facts on the ground, to apply that one either.

I hope we can damage al qaeda a little more or perhaps kill Bin Laden, but the outlook in Afghanistan for our side is very dark. I think we can win in Iraq, but that Afghanistan is, and always was, a lost cause.

LFC said...

Tim M.: I'll take a look at the link you gave.

I don't whether you're right, but let's say for the sake of argument that you are. What does your position imply for the larger picture of U.S. strategy vs al-Qaeda in the medium or long term?

LFC said...

Sorry, that should read: I don't know whether you're right (etc)

El Jefe Maximo said...

Good question LFC, and which makes me want to post more fully on Afghanistan. I have reasons for thinking as I do. . .which are worth going into more fully. I'll either answer back here or post on my own blog on it (with a link), work schedule allowing, as soon as possible.