This chapter chronicles modern war in Afghanistan as it was up until the time of the book's publication in mid-2001. Mr. Goodson's analysis led him to categorize specific periods of Afghanistan's modern history from the late 1970's through mid-2001 into eight stages, summarized by myself below in simple terms:
- Stage 1: From Coup de'Etat to Soviet Invasion (1978-1979)--In this phase, the Soviet Union assisted a coup de'etat of the existing Afghan leadership, and when this proved too unstable and uncontrollable from afar, the Soviets used the infighting that arose in rejection of the new, Soviet-backed leaders to launch their invasion, composing of approximately 85,000 soldiers at the start.
- Stage 2: National Resistance and Soviet Entrenchment (1980-1983)--Mr. Goodson writes, "The second stage of the war was characterized more by patterns and trends that developed than by discrete events of importance...First, the war itself quickly widened and intensified...Second, a tactical pattern emerged that would characterize the next two stages of the war. The mujahideen mounted attacks from the mounts; the Soviets responded with combined arms offensives up the valleys to relieve pressure on the cities and major roads," where they had entrenched themselves.
- Stage 3: Air War, Interdiction, and Destabilization (1983-1986)--At this point, "the Soviets made a significant change in military strategy. During the first years of occupation, Soviet priorities were to control the cities, protect the norther pipelines, keep the major roads open, and broaden the government's base of support." As further success in these efforts proved limited gains, "the Soviets stepped up their counterinsurgency campaign." In addition, "the next step for the Soviets was to intensify and widen the war and further weaken the support structure of the mujahideen. To that end, they shifted to an air war...bombing villages and depopulating rural areas that provided vital support to the mujahideen." Although this stage saw "that the mujahideen finally began to jell into an effective fighting force," in the end "the ruthless use of (Soviet) airpower was critical during this period because it increased the intensity of the war, caused widespread destruction, and provided a long-term advantage against the insurgency."
- Stage 4: Resistance Gains and Soviet Withdrawals (1986-1989)--By this time, "the lengthy conflict...was taking a toll on Soviet morale and political will to continue" despite the fact that "the Soviet combination of refocusing strategic aims and refining new tactics (in particular the increased reliance on overwhelming air power) was effectively driving the mujahideen off the battlefield." The general population supported the resistance and created continuing instability in the Soviet-backed Afghan government. During this period, "the most notable expansion of the war was the increased violation of Pakistani and Iranian territory by Soviet forces." Lastly, new weapons, such as the CIA supplied "Stinger" reduced the effectiveness and execution of Soviet air war strategy and aided in the development of military improvements within the mujahideen groups.
- Stage 5: High-Intensity Civil War (1989-1992)--After the Soviet withdrawal, Mr. Goodson writes, "Several important developments characterized this stage: continued covert Soviet involvement in the conflict and support for the Kabul regime, the resilience of the Najibullah (Soviet-backed) government, continued disunity among the resistance, and erosion of U.S. support for the mujahideen." The coup attempt in Russia against Gorbachev in August 1991 and a following agreement with the U.S. to rachet down support for respective Afghan factions ended the lifeline for the Afghan government and paved the way for victory by the resistance forces.
- Stage 6: From Victory to Fragmentation (1992-1994)--Mr. Goodson writes that "Stage six was characterized by fragmentation and warlordism, although much of the fighting centered on Kabul and several other strategic towns (i.e. the rural areas were relatively peaceful during this stage)." This stage, Mr. Goodson continues, ended as "Pakistani and Saudi Arabian fundamentalists began to support a new movement known as the Taliban (religious students) in the summer of 1994. The Taliban were Afghan refugees and war veterans based in rural Pakistani and Afghan madrasahs, or Islamic religious schools."
- Stage 7: Taliban Ascendance (1994-1998)--In this stage, the Taliban consolidated their power throughout most of Afghanistan, enabled by support primarily coming from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The minority warlords, such as Ahmed Shah Massoud of the Northern Alliance, received varied support from countries opposed to the Pakistani and Saudi influence, such as India, Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. The U.S. exhibited little influence in the region and distanced itself further after the missile attacks executed in 1998 against alleged Al Qaeda training grounds near Khost.
- Stage 8: Endgame? (1998-?)--Once the Taliban had a hold on most of Afghanistan, its support from Pakistan become more public and overt, with increased migration from western Pakistan of fighting men from the madrasahs and military resources provided by agents of the Pakistani military and intelligence forces. The Northern Alliance had weakened further and hope for reconciliation of differences between the Taliban and minorities diminished as the ideology and barbaric atrocities of the Taliban spread throughout the country.
At this point, Mr. Goodson offers some speculation of the future and where Stage 8 would possibly end:
"The ethnic minorities of the center and north of Afghanistan continue to reject Taliban control over their areas, and it can be expected that resistance to Taliban hegemony will continue in these regions during the new century. Largely because outside powers continue to supply all the warring parties, both the Taliban and their opponents continue to seek a military solution to the question of who should control Afghanistan and what manner of government the country should have. Thus the foundation for continued conflict is in place...
"Transition from the current conflict to peace can occur only if the United States and interested regional powers exercise sufficient leverage on their Afghan clients to put in place and maintain a broad-based government. For this to happen, the outside actors would have to agree to curtail their support for their Afghan proxy forces, and a mechanism for power sharing between the intransigent groups would have to be devised--both daunting prospects."
We all understand now that Stage 8 ended with 9/11, giving start to a new stage in Afghanistan's struggle. What is clear is that Afghanistan has experienced a devastating series of destruction and degradation in all the aspects of society that would normally provide the foundation for a healthy, national government. It is upon this shaky foundation that Afghanistan sunk again into conflict after 9/11 and that a national government was reconvened under the leadership of Hamid Karzai.
Understanding this history, it is without much surprise that the Karzai government and other operations in Afghanistan have faltered since 9/11. The greatest investments in the country during this new stage have most often come from actors far outside the region, such as the U.S., Canada and Europe, where political will and commitments are volatile and fleeting. Little is heard of any positive efforts and commitment by actors in the immediate region around Afghanistan in coordination with the above mentioned Western powers. From Pakistan's failure to come to a lasting solution in its Northwestern Frontier region to the indecisive and less-than-strategic commitments by NATO and the U.S., current efforts have been more of a patchwork of bandaids than a holistic and 100% effort by all interested actors to restore Afghanistan's national health.
Examining a recent spate of articles out of the Wall Street Journal illustrate the difficulties and tendency to let failure in managing the details determine overall success. On December 15th, the Journal published the article, "For U.S. Troops in Afghanistan, Supplies Are Another Battle." Below are some key excerpts to focus on:
"At this phase, Afghanistan is a logistics war as much as any other kind of war," said Mr. Carter, whose formal title is under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, in a recent interview.
Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan has no modern infrastructure. Critical supplies such as fuel must be imported. The country is landlocked and has just three major overland routes. Enormous distances separate bases and outposts. High mountains and valleys, as well as extreme weather, make air travel difficult.
This latter is the obvious reason logistics has been made a targeted focus, and the base of a solid logistics organization begins with people, equipment and infrastructure, and financing. Because of these requirements, it is easy, as is inferred below, for those in command to get caught up in details. Without a clear, regional strategy, it will be easy for anyone to nitpick and find ways to bring down an existing operation:
"Mr. Carter says he stays in close contact with the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, about urgent issues such as finding ways to protect troops against improvised explosive devices.
"That is partly a reflection of Pentagon officials' top concerns: the risk that public support for the war is fading, and the rise of roadside bomb attacks on U.S. troops by Taliban and al Qaeda-affiliated forces. Any major hiccups bringing in troops and armored vehicles -- let alone staples such as ammunition and fuel -- could derail the escalation of a military mission that is becoming the defining wartime test of the Obama administration.
"Another pressure: Senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers are chafing at the high cost of operations in Afghanistan.
""As you transition operations to Afghanistan, you find that the cost of doing business is two to three times as expensive as Iraq," said Dakota Wood, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. According to the think tank, the annual cost of a U.S. soldier is about $1 million in Afghanistan, with fuel costs associated with supporting that soldier accounting for between $200,000 to $350,000 of the total."
When you pump goods and resources, no matter how good or how many, into a supply chain with deficiencies in either people, equipment and infrastructure, or financing, speed, quality and cost are going to all be affected in the negative. If we are to succeed in Afghanistan, these need to be constantly improving and making progress and must include involvement from regional actors. For example, if the cost of supporting each additional U.S. soldier is that much more than elsewhere, then the activities of our leadership should be focused on reducing the total overhead cost over time, rather than focused on simply reducing head count. That leads us to the next article.
On December 17th, the Journal published "Surge Focus Is Roads, Police." In the title itself, infrastructure and people are mentioned as cornerstones to the "surge," with police being just one division of labor in the supply chain as a component of an overall security program. Essentially, the below is discussing the goal of building a critical mass of secure supply chain infrastructures between key locations:
"The troop surge in Afghanistan will focus on expanding and connecting safe areas of the country, and on revamping the troubled Afghan police, the U.S.-led coalition's day-to-day commander said in an interview.
"U.S. Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez outlined Tuesday how the surge would unfold, in the most specific terms since President Barack Obama authorized early this month the dispatch of 30,000 extra American troops to Afghanistan. Asked how he would measure success a year from now, he said the crucial marker would be opening up insurgent-infested roads between Afghanistan's agricultural heartland in Helmand province and the Pakistan border."
""There are pockets of security -- but they are not connected," Gen. Rodriguez, who heads the newly established International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, said during a visit to Herat. "Afghan people need, in addition to being secure, to be able to move to places that are important to them, such as to sell farm produce. We've got to be able to expand the secure areas for the people, and improve their freedom of movement.""
The existing reality of the people available in Afghanistan to support a security program to run parallel in any infrastructure improvements is mentioned later in the article. Having an improved police force will ideally reduce that total overhead cost mentioned earlier without any significant, negative impact on quality:
"The second major U.S. unit deploying in coming months will be a 4,000-strong brigade combat team of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, Gen. Rodriguez said. The brigade's artillery battalion will focus on running a police-training school, while much of the remaining three battalions will be scattered throughout the country at joint outposts where platoon-size American forces would live and operate together with Afghan police units.
"Turning the Afghan National Police -- seen as corrupt and lagging behind Afghanistan's army in performance -- into an effective law-enforcement and counterinsurgency force is key to rolling back the Taliban and restoring government authority, U.S. officials say.
""We've got to improve the police significantly," Gen. Rodriguez said. "We've built the army basically from scratch and sent it out. The police was already there, and we've been trying to train it on the job, which is significantly harder. We're a couple of years behind.""
Because the role of people in rebuilding the underlying infrastructure of Afghanistan can not be underestimated, I want to also mention an article from the Journal on December 18th titled, "Training for the Civilian Surge." Designed to run in parallel with the security programs mentioned above, these civilians are being trained to act as hands-on professional advisors to Afghan communities aiming to re-establish the required infrastructure for a health local, and by extension, national economy:
"American military personnel have complained in the past that State Department staff stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan were ill-equipped to operate in areas outside of Baghdad or Kabul. U.S. diplomats, meanwhile, have argued that the Pentagon in recent years has developed a disproportionate influence over U.S. foreign policy.
"To bulk up the capacities of civilian personnel, the program gives trainees a taste of "what they experience in the field," said Jim McKellar, an administrator of the Muscatatuck course. Trainees should arrive in Afghanistan feeling "very, very comfortable," he said."
Because the systems in the U.S. are antiquated or just plain non-existant to support such an effort, it needs to be innovative and look beyond the standard stock of existing government employees:
"The State Department and U.S. development agencies are short of employees conversant in Dari, Pashto and other languages spoken in Afghanistan. Civilian agencies in Washington also have less flexibility than the Pentagon to mobilize staff -- such as diplomats and farming experts -- for duty in war zones. More seasoned U.S. bureaucrats also are wary to part from their families for prolonged overseas missions, said U.S. officials.
"As a result, the civilians taking part in security and cultural exercises at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center are often private contractors with extensive experience working overseas."
Overall, the state of modern war in Afghanistan has shifted from a focus on simply defeating the enemy to one of ensuring that a positive foundation fills the vacuum left when the enemy has dissipated, surrendered, or been destroyed, a foundation upon which the national health of Afghanistan can be restored. The U.S. cannot do it alone and will fail if at least a majority of Central Asian countries on Afghanistan's border have not bought in to the strategy and programs being deployed. Over the next year, we will observe first hand, month-by-month how this plays out.