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Drawdown in Afghanistan; Recipe for disaster?

Updated on October 31, 2014
Afghanistan Casualties by Region
Afghanistan Casualties by Region | Source

Camp Leatherneck

Some of the most fierce fighting in Afghanistan has been in and around the Helmand province. Ask any Marine or Soldier that has been to Marjah, and they will tell you that the area is far from secure. As you can see from the picture to the right, there have been over 900 casualties in Helmand province since the start of the War on Terror.

Recently the 'last' of the U.S. forces left Camp Leatherneck and turned it over to their ANA (Afghanistan National Army) counterparts. I was there as recently as 2013 under a DOD contract, and can tell you the Marines then were involved in pretty heavy fighting. That was also when 15 armed fighters breeched the parameter of Camp Leatherneck undetected and were able to destroy 9 aircraft and kill two Marines. Even though this was the worse aircraft loss since Vietnam, the Marine reaction to that was spot on, text book, and in my mind could not have been better performed. (The Marines were not responsible for parameter guard.)

I find it extremely hard to believe that from 2013 to the end of 2014 they were able to secure the province to the point they were willing to say "Mission Accomplished".

Please if you are a Marine that took part of the turnover let me know if you disagree! I'd love to hear it!



No relation to the story, but hub recommended a picture of me! So Christmas Afghanistan style!!

Christmas Afghanistan Style 2012
Christmas Afghanistan Style 2012 | Source

What next?

The question that came to mind when I first heard about the turnover is ok.. how can we ensure that a rogue group does not overthrow the Afghanistan troops currently installed.

As I mentioned before, Helmand has been contested ground from the start. There has not been a year since the initial invasion that we have not lost troops there. While the ANA has had training for years in preparation for the turnover, in my experience they are far from ready. A co-worker and I were sitting on the airfield in Leatherneck less than 2 years ago watching them train, and it was worse than a JROTC team. Nothing at all against JROTC, I love it when I was there, but I wouldn't expect a high school training team to fight off a paramilitary force! Nor do I expect the ANA to do anything except be a minor speed bump for the force that is coming.

ISIS In Afghanistan

I was asked the other day if I foresaw ISIS becoming an issue in Afghanistan after the drawdown. I really don't think so. The geography and culture does not support an ISIS like organization. There is just not the infrastructure to support an actual army.

Afghanistan was a great hub for Al Qaeda because of their antiquated and decentralized nature. ISIS is different; ISIS is fighting the social media war on line with the US. Al Qaeda, from its name, wanted to be the foundation of the jihad, with networks and branches throughout the world. By the way, Al Qaida was formed from the Mujahideen which we helped train to fight the Russians. Their training bases would be called Al Qaida (The base) and from there the name stuck for the organization.

Anyway, back on topic. ISIS on the other hand, view themselves as a state. One centralized expanding society that they see reaching throughout the world. This is a very different view which leads to very different methods of fighting. If you refer to another post I wrote, IS has methodically expanded their influence throughout Syria and Iraq until we took notice of them.

However, just because ISIS is not a threat in Afghanistan doesn't mean there isn't a threat. Unless we maintain a large special operations presence in Afghanistan, it will fracture within a year. There is already massive amounts of corruption throughout the country. Police chiefs will fracture and become warlords, individuals will create armies and take over warlords, and another extremest group will take advantage of the turmoil.

If extremest muslims offer nothing else, they offer organization and order which societies crave in a disordered environment.

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    • nadia asencio profile image

      nadia asencio 3 years ago from miami, fl

      We cannot "hold ground" forever; it is neither possible nor desirable.There are very good reasons why no army, however powerful, has never been able to defeat Afghan forces. We would be wise to brush up on history, and question what is driving terrorism at its core, instead of merely throwing more money, resources, and American lives at the problem.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Let me suggest a "perhaps" solution that might have worked in Afghanistan.

      Drive the enemy from key locations. Build up those key locations with some infrastructure of clinics, schools, modern markets, library, police, post office, you get the idea. Then let the second-level locations know that they can have what these key locations demonstrably have, but the price is being a civil society of law and order. The cost? Far less than what we spent in places like Vietnam (where we built little unless it had a demonstrable military component,) Iraq (where we ignored the infrastructure which already existed, letting it be looted and dismantling it with nothing better put in its place), and in the Afghanistan we are leaving (except for a fig leaf presence.) The locals in any area have to see a dream they can desire enough to sacrifice for, to throw out the undesirables to achieve the desirable. In effect winning the hearts and the minds of the majority enough for them to turn their backs on the undesirables and face the better future.

      In short, don't fight the undesirables everywhere, now here, now there, holding little, and promising only fighting that only ends with our eventual departure and the abandonment of those who thought we meant to win something real and tangible, even safe, secure, and stable.

    • Tanner Cheek profile image
      Author

      Tanner Cheek 3 years ago from Chesapeake, Virginia

      No, I don't think so. And I think that is the war of the future, attack, give way and harass the enemy instead of holding ground.

      I think it will take much greater minds than mine to find a way to minimize the threat. They will have to fight the enemy overseas, on the Homefront, on the internet, and fight for resources in DC...

      I wish we had the answer, but time will tell..

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Pondering your reply and weighing its efficacy in response to ISIS, I see little cause to be hopeful that we have a lasting solution in mind, nor any reason why any future enemy should adopt any other tactic than the Taliban's in Afghanistan (harass, give way, and return, over and over until the Americans go home.) Partly our own "political short attention span" seems to doom lasting solutions short of all out occupations which are not in our nature as a people. Am I wrong?

    • Tanner Cheek profile image
      Author

      Tanner Cheek 3 years ago from Chesapeake, Virginia

      Thank you Perspycacious. While I agree with your first comment, I respectfully disagree with your second. A safe secure and stable Afghanistan was a secondary goal which was set after the initial invasion, the the goal was to eradicate Al Qaida. On this, we were extremely successful.

      Our military does not train to be a sustainment force. Quite frankly we suck at it... I saw it over and over again where we would fight and take ground in Afghanistan only to turn it over and lose it again. I was part of the 2/503d during the push into the Korengal Valley (If you have seen/heard of Restrepo or the book War). It is a prime example of how great our military is at fighting and how bad we are at holding ground.

      So did we achieve our primary goal, absolutely. Al Qaida is in tatters. Have we done anything to actually help Afghanistan? Some. but far from getting our 'bang for our buck' from it.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Apparently our initial goal in Afghanistan was not to insure "a safe, secure, and stable Afghanistan." So what was it that we sacrificed precious American blood and national treasure to achieve, and did we achieve that?

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 3 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      I have grave doubts and high skepticism that we can continue going into countries, convince people there to work with us, and then simply say goodbye and have no responsibility for what happens to those who worked with us. We (Congress) abandoned them to execution and re-education camps in Vietnam and Laos. He (the President) abandoned them to murder in Iraq, and now he is doing it again with only a fig leaf for cover in Afghanistan.

      If we persist in this disgraceful manner, the day will come when we should not be able to find anyone, even for money, to work with us in another country knowing as they must that we will simply blow them a kiss and wish them God's speed as we speed away in the name, not of victory, but of politics at home and degradation abroad.

      "There is no substitute for victory." But wars run by the politicians have demonstrated that there has to be a substitute for politicians deciding where and when we go, and when we return, and who we leave behind.

      Speaking of not leaving behind, how is our deserter doing when it comes to seeing justice for his actions? It seems the Commander In Chief would like to see that fade from public view as quickly as possible.