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New Afghanistan Strategy Targets Insurgents

Posted on Aug 1, 2010
soldier in Afghanistan
Flickr / U.S. Army

Sgt. David M. Pooler patrols the Kunar River in the Noorgal district of Afghanistan’s Konar province in May.

With the resignation of Gen. Stanley McChrystal and (we hope) the waning of the notion of counterinsurgency, the U.S. is looking toward another Afghanistan strategy—“counterterrorism”—one that focuses on targeted killing of insurgents, rather than the whole “hearts and minds” thing.

The phrase counterterrorism clearly carries problems, as insurgents aren’t necessarily “terrorists.”

The shift comes almost exactly a year before the self-imposed deadline (July 2011) for the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops from the country. —JCL

The New York Times:

When President Obama announced his new war plan for Afghanistan last year, the centerpiece of the strategy — and a big part of the rationale for sending 30,000 additional troops — was to safeguard the Afghan people, provide them with a competent government and win their allegiance.

Eight months later, that counterinsurgency strategy has shown little success, as demonstrated by the flagging military and civilian operations in Marja and Kandahar and the spread of Taliban influence in other areas of the country.

Instead, what has turned out to work well is an approach American officials have talked much less about: counterterrorism, military-speak for the targeted killings of insurgents from Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, August 3, 2010 at 4:59 am Link to this comment

I agree that Afghanistan may be a turning point. The place “where empires go to die” is not a cliche. I also have concluded that George Bush made a mistake attacking Iraq.

Having said that, I still firmly believe that there is a necessity for a strong US military. Like it or not, there are bad people in the world and it’s not the US’s fault. Pacifists, while nobly motivated, can, paradoxically, only survive under the watchful eye of a soldier with a gun.

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By ofersince72, August 2, 2010 at 11:33 pm Link to this comment

I want to kill,,,,kill,

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By gerard, August 2, 2010 at 8:19 pm Link to this comment

rico:  Simple observation would tell people something very close to that.  Not satisfied to have made Japan bite the dust, we persisted into Vietnam (not counting several Central America encounters) the on to the Middle East twice or three times, depending on who’s counting. Disastrous for the millions of people involved on all sides, 
  In none of these places did we bother to learn anything, but plunged on and are still plunging on, your 32 years of service wasted, I fear, on attempts to make other people think like we do, act like we do, buy the things we do, worship the gods we do. Disgraceful for a country that pretends to merciful and democratic values and a respect for human rights and justice.  If and when we get our comeuppance, it will not be anyone’s fault but our own—which will be small satisfaction, I guarantee you.
  I am a heart-broken patriot anguished to see our once-great country betrayed by the worst of human instincts, greed and violence against the weak.

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, August 2, 2010 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment


“Military motto: wars are not to be won, only sustained by insane strategy and tactics.”

Is that a military motto? In my 21 years of service I never heard anything even close to that. Where did you find that?

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By samosamo, August 2, 2010 at 3:36 pm Link to this comment


It is speakese for going back to the tactic of gunning down
civilians because the shooter just doesn’t like the way that 5 year
old kid looks.

American military strategy: if something new doesn’t work go
back the old tactics. Ergo we go back to hunting the ‘ghost’

Military motto: wars are not to be won, only sustained by insane
strategy and tactics.

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By Altered_States, August 2, 2010 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

Obama campaigned AGAINST the “status quo”.  He said, that will no longer do.  It’s too bad he turned out to be a pathological liar and such sop for Wall Street and the “status quo”.

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By Aarky, August 2, 2010 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Over 30 years ago The FBI wanted to give me a polygraph test. At that moment I had a great distrust of the FBI and opted to have it performed by a expert who came highly recommended. As I was leaving his office in San Diego I saw a small plaque on the wall. It read “Best wishes to XXXXXXXXXX, Deputy Director, Phoenix Program, Viet Nam. I turned around and looked at the man before I left. He was one of the architects of a program that targeted and killed at least 50,000 South Vietnamese based on just a tip that they were probably part of the Viet Cong cadre. At first they were captured and if the lie detector showed they were lying, they were killed, Later on, the suspects were targeted and killed without the benefit of a polygraph test.
  So it looks like the Phoenix program rises again, but 40 years later and in a country called Afghanistan.  If you are wondering, I must have passed the polygraph test, cause I’m still here, a lot older and more cynical.

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, August 2, 2010 at 12:42 pm Link to this comment


I think what he means is, “We can’t tell if he’s ready to cry uncle.”

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By felicity, August 2, 2010 at 12:34 pm Link to this comment

When will we ever ‘get’ that it’s easy to kill people
while it’s impossible to kill an idea, a belief, a
movement. Kill one, another takes his place, the
belief continues.

As of now, we are staying in Afghanistan in order to
defeat those who do not want us in Afghanistan.  If
that makes sense to the generals and politicians
calling the shots these days, we’re in serious
trouble because their belief is a tautology, a
redundancy, empty of reason.

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By gerard, August 2, 2010 at 10:46 am Link to this comment

Speaking of the importance of language:  “We’re not ready to make the qualitative judgment that the cumulative effects of what we are doing are enough to change their calculus yet,”
  Above quote from one of the “spokespersons” in this Afghanistan fiasco. What, exactly, does this mean, if anything?  “not ready”—When will “we” be “ready”, and what will cause “us” to be “ready”?
  “the qualitative judgment”—what is a “qualitative” judgment?  Whose “quality” or “qualities”?  Who is “qualified” to make a “qualitative judgment” about who dies and who lives?
  “the cumulative effects”—accumulating for how long, under what circumstances?  What “effects”?
  And by the way, what ARE we doing?  Do we even know?  Or admit?  And to whom?
  As to “their calculus”—do we have the remotest idea what “their calculus” is or has become?  And what it would take to change it, even if we knew what it was?
  This kind of double-talk adds immeasurably to the problem—which, of course, it is meant to do.
  HumptyDumpty lives!

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By diman, August 2, 2010 at 10:30 am Link to this comment

Wait,what? Whom have they been targeting before? Civilians? It is time for you americans to follow the advice of Lewis Black, and take your entire government, including the commander-in-chief for an afternoon of electroshock, just to put them back on track.

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rico, suave's avatar

By rico, suave, August 2, 2010 at 7:36 am Link to this comment


Do you mean target business and government leaders for assassination?

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By Altered_States, August 2, 2010 at 3:37 am Link to this comment

Every time I see an American patrol in the Afghan countryside, they seem to be looking at empty space. 

Fighting an army like the Taliban army (what army?) reminds me of fighting the Viet Cong.  The Viet Cong were the “wil-o-the-wisp”; hit hard then, flee to their underground bunkers.  Or, in some longer engagements like the battle of Kason, where our troops were caught by surprise and completely surrounded in mountainous terrain. Or, the “Battle of Hamburger Hill (or hill 937) which was a severely fought up-hill battle that caused hundreds of American troops to be killed or wounded - only to be given up a few days later.

Both, the military and the public were outraged at the stupidity of that battle and the Viet Nam War, in general, by then, and soon after called for the cutting off of funds to the war.

Maybe that’s what will happen in Afghanistan to cause us to think of an early withdrawal.

Just in case anyone didn’t know, there is nothing to win, there!!!

What’s the difference between losing now or, losing later?  Hundreds or, even, thousands of American deaths and hundreds of billions of wasted dollars.

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By MeHere, August 1, 2010 at 9:44 pm Link to this comment

Imagine for a moment if all those efforts and strategies could be used to clean up
our own governing and financial systems.

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By Hammond Eggs, August 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm Link to this comment

Counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, granite top counters, counterclockwise - it makes no difference what anyone calls this shit.  It makes no difference what the Ivy League educated boutique assassins of the Pentagon and various clandestine services or Obama’s inner circle of Bushian asskickers and miniature George Rafts and Chuck Norrises do.  All of this will continue to fail, as it has already failed.  The multiple delusions of all these fools always ends in the same places - the graveyard and the garbage dump of history.

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By gerard, August 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm Link to this comment

Significance of words:  The US has to keep the term “counter-terrorism” rather than adopting the term “counter-insurgents” because Americans generally are so illiterate they don’t really “get” what “insurgent” means, but “terror” inspires immediate fear and hatred and so, keeps the war going.  So sad.  It’s not only the lies that keep the status quo functioning, but the manipulation of ignorance and fear, and for all this the mainstream media are culpable.  They deal in words; they know what they are doing and should not be doing.

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