What Type of War did the US Fight in Afghanistan?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 30 Dec , 2014

Invasion Routes the US Should have taken.

It is confusing that the US fought in Afghanistan the strange type of war it fought.  For years, they had nothing more than the equivalent of one division in the whole of Afghanistan – hardly sufficient for the needs of the situation.  Then, they came up with a surge around 2009 only to quickly announce they will withdraw by 2014 without ensuring that their worst enemies, the tenacious Taliban, were out of business and out of capabilities to wage military attacks.

…the border town of Peshawar in Pakistan is a teeming arms bazaar where copycat machine guns and all type of hand held armaments are made, including weapons for export to other terror gangs and crime gangs around the world, yet the US did absolutely nothing solid to target that activity.

It is amazing that the Taliban were permitted to get support and funds from across the border south of the Durand Line and that the US was barely able to suppress their activities.  A few drone attacks don’t substitute for what ground troops can do.  That the US did not take a more stiff approach to the issue is most perplexing from a military perspective.

The fact is that the border town of Peshawar in Pakistan is a teeming arms bazaar where copycat machine guns and all type of hand held armaments are made, including weapons for export to other terror gangs and crime gangs around the world, yet the US did absolutely nothing solid to target that activity.  These arms have allegedly been finding their way into South and Central America via the tough Albanian Mafia and eventually into USA through Mexico, smuggled in by the dreaded Mara Salvatrucha crime gang.  Many of the guns used in the Mexican drug war were possibly produced in Peshawar.

In addition, these arms are used to arm terrorist outfits emanating from Pakistan’s madrasas.  Those outfits plot attacks against India, smuggle drugs and other contraband into India on the strength of those guns from Peshawar, and also export those guns to their jihadi brethren in Yemen and anywhere else they can, including perhaps to the Hezbollah and Chechen groups.  It is worthwhile recalling that the latest bombing in Boston was by a Chechen origin person who was likely influenced by the Islamist propaganda emanating from Pakistan’s frontier provinces.  So, what good has the USA done by not completely destroying the Peshawar arms bazaar, the terror training camps, and the madrasas where anti-western, anti-secular, and distorted jihadi beliefs are taught?

The Pakistan army continues to play a duplicitous role. And, to the contrary, the US literally allows the Taliban to hop across the Durand Line to Pakistan, where they refresh, regroup, rearm, and return to assault US troops.  Which strategic war-planning manual says that you should allow your enemy to regroup and rearm?  Was the USA blind, or ignorant?  Afghanistan is 100% reminiscent of Vietnam where the US tied its own hands behind its back below the 17th parallel and refrained from invading North Vietnam, from where Russian and Chinese arms were supplied to the North Vietnamese.  Again, the US hunted desperately for excuses to not enter Pakistan, implying that their diplomatic intelligence and constraints were thoroughly misplaced for the non-action they took.  These were not the signs of a brave nation whose own territorial integrity is being targeted and violated.

Compound this with the fact that the USA allowed Afghans to get away with growing poppy in their fields much, much more than they burned the poppy fields.  The income from poppy has directly fed the Taliban, and the US hasn’t realized that the ensuing hashish has found its way to the USA via Mexico, and to other friendly destinations in Europe and USA’s allies, not to mention Punjab in India where drugs have decimated the population, thus serving to destroy the youth of new generations and creating social disorder worldwide.

No army can fight by allowing the enemy to live.  As General George Patton said, “the only good enemy is a dead enemy.” But then, the USA never listened to Patton’s advice, either, to invade USSR after WW II, thus resulting in decades’ of cold war, enabling the USSR to steal USA’s nuclear bomb secrets…

Much as Peshawar is the headquarters of military-industrial complex of the Taliban, the Baluch border town of Quetta is their veritable financial capital, where transactions for Afghan marijuana are executed, which bring in an estimated $6-10 billion annually into the Taliban coffers that go to fund the Taliban war machine, partly by starving Pakhtun women behind veils of ignorance.  Their madness is matched only by that of the US forces who didn’t fully burn poppy fields in Afghanistan for fear of causing a rural groundswell and backlash.  To the contrary, Karzai, reportedly in the pay of the CIA by up to one million dollars per year, strongly chastised the USA for burning poppy fields.  Self-interest is still the prime motivation of leaders in South Asia.  At one time, Karzai’s own brother, since assassinated, was considered complicit in the silent drug trade.  It seems that the US is more scared of Afghan words and politics than Afghan bullets that it didn’t care to push through with its poppy-burning plans.  I’ve never known a strong army to willfully allow an enemy to gain wherewithal to replenish its stores to return to fight.  You think Chengiz Khan or Sikander would have allowed anything like this?  It shocks me to think about the type of war the US fought, which has led to no conclusive military result.

The US should have taken a page or two from the history books.  Ever since the onslaught of Islam, only the Mongols, Sikhs, and British – in that order — were ever able to subdue the Afghans.  But, they did it in the only way the stout and proud Afghans understood: surrender or die.  Genghis Khan personally led the attack on Balkh, one of the largest population centers of the world at the time, and masaccered 400,000 citizens because the city dared to fight him[1].    Thus, when the ruthless Mongols came to the gates of Herat in Western Afghanistan, the 12,000 soldiers of Herat and their multitude of citizens, decided to surrender when given the ultimate choice, learning of the fate that had befallen Balkh.  So, the Mongols spared the city of Herat, but true to the military spirit of conquest, they still speared the 12,000 soldiers.  No army can fight by allowing the enemy to live.  As General George Patton said, “the only good enemy is a dead enemy.”

But then, the USA never listened to Patton’s advice, either, to invade USSR after WW II, thus resulting in decades’ of cold war, enabling the USSR to steal USA’s nuclear bomb secrets, and till even today have Russia to counter American democracy by propping up Syria, construct for Iran a nuclear plant, not to mention the aid Russia gave to North Vietnam against the USA, and to the Arab dictators against democratic Israel.

After entering into an agreement with the Afghan king in 1818 to invade Kashmir and be given Rs. 9 lakhs for the effort from the treasury of Kashmir, Maharaja Ranjit Singh discovered that the treasury had been discretely emptied by the Afghans under instructions from their king with further instructions to withhold payment to Ranjit Singh.  Not batting an eyelid at the Afghan’s reneging on their contract, Ranjit Singh quietly withdrew his forces to Attock, near Peshawar, where he waited patiently for the Afghan forces to return via the Khyber to Kabul.  Not having intelligence of the movement of the Sikh army, the unwary Afghans under the command of Dost Mohammad, the vizier’s brother — with their 9,000 strong army – charged the superior, 16,000 forces of Ranjit Singh, and were decimated.  The oncoming forces of the vizier of Afghanistan were also miserably clobbered.  Finally, not only did the Afghans lose the treasury to Ranjit Singh, but lost the entirety of Kashmir to the Sikhs.  After that, the Afghans only experienced the strong boot of the Sikhs on their neck, and that is what kept the Afghans subdued.

The lesson in these two examples: strong arm tactics succeed in Afghanistan. The US is NOT using strong arm tactics, but comes in preaching liberty and democracy to a people who understand only Islam and jihad, who laugh and scoff at American liberalism, and end up showing that their boys are better cowboys than the American variety.  The Rambo of America is only in Hollywood movies, but the Afghan nationals sacrificing their lives for their pride have shown the world who the real Rambos are.

There was always a high degree of probability that Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan or Pak-occupied Kashmir.  Yet, the US refrained from going after bin Laden there with the full force of its army soon after October 2001

In a strange assessment of the situation, the US allowed its enemies in Afghanistan to not only live, but regroup, rearm, and return.  In a surprise move, the US returned captured prisoners, such as a few they had in Guantanamo, who then went back to Pakistan and promptly launched new attacks against the US and US forces.  This is not a sign of the terrorists gone mad, but of the US losing wisdom.  The only consolation the US can have is that it’s not half as crazy as India.  Whereas the US just let go a few dozen prisoners, India let go of 90,000 in the aftermath of the 1971 war.  As the popular Hindi saying goes, “Hindustan ko chulloo bhar paani me doob jana chahiye.”  Now, Pakistan threatens and teases India at every opportunity, castrates Indian soldiers, and India acts impotently.  India is reaping what it sowed by returning the prisoners.  Somehwat similarly, the US has been much too soft on the Afghans.

There was always a high degree of probability that Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan or Pak-occupied Kashmir.  Yet, the US refrained from going after bin Laden there with the full force of its army soon after October 2001[2].  Pak-occupied Kashmir does not even belong to Pakistan, as many will argue, so the US could scarcely have been accused of committing international aggression by going in there.  Pak-occupied Kashmir is de virtuoso no-man’s land, so it seemed advisable for the US to get in there, especially before the Chinese get in in full force, which they are already beginning to do in the province of Baltistan.

Now, the USA is 100% bent on withdrawing from Afghanistan, but it isn’t after securing a convincing victory.  The Taliban stand to surge back to power, propelled by a vindictive ISI bent on taking revenge for past reversals.  Karzai may be deposed, or worse, lose his life as Najibullah did, though one can only hope that a torturous fate doesn’t await Karzai.  Consequently, after 13 years in Afghanistan, and approximately one trillion dollars later, Afghanistan is on track to return to square one, with the Taliban suppressing women rights and girls’ education, pushing poppy everywhere it can, and supporting jihadi attitudes throughout the middle-east that will only find their way to be exported to India, Europe, and wherever the resistance is least.

By now, the US should have launched a three-pronged invasion to the towns of Quetta, Peshawar, and Gilgit.  See the map with this article.  By capturing Quetta, they would have quashed the financial power of the Taliban; by grabbing Peshawar, they would have saved the world from much of the scourge that is an export arms bazaar for crime gangs and terrorists; and by putting in a footprint in Kashmir, they could have been where they want to be – in the center of Asia – with a base they could call their own – with an ability to check China’s expansion westward to the oilfields of the middle-east.  The war could have potentially been over by 2003 or 2004.  But, the USA didn’t have the will or the mental energy.

India is stuck with these neighbors forever.  If India cannot live with them, it must learn to live without them, which means that India must gear for war. Even if India does not want war, I am quite certain that war wants to find India, and India does not appear to be ready.

So, the net result is that the war on terror will not have reached a fulfilling conclusion.  Instead, this war will be extended to haunt the world for an indefinite amount of future time.  USA’s allies in democracy – India particularly – stands to bleed by another thousand cuts thrust on them by the Taliban and ISI-supported terrorists who would have the time and purpose then to continue their jihad against India, having patted themselves on the back for ejecting yet another superpower from their country.

But India has no place to go across the oceans, like the US has.  India is stuck with these neighbors forever.  If India cannot live with them, it must learn to live without them, which means that India must gear for war. Even if India does not want war, I am quite certain that war wants to find India, and India does not appear to be ready.  So, this puts an added burden on India to fill in the shoes that USA leaves behind, who are running as if with their tail between their legs, as if they didn’t have any power between them.

The US simply needed to think realistically, and have fought this war at the enemy’s thinking level to crush their will, if they wished to prevail.  Add to such fighting the technological superiority of the US, and victory was guaranteed.  But with the US fighting “diplomatically,” hoping to cut a deal with the Taliban, no technological superiority can even be conceived to prevail, and, in that event, only defeat of the US purpose is guaranteed.

Thus, the US is returning home with the full knowledge that the aftermath in Afghanistan is not going to be anything like the aftermath in Iraq.  The status quo in Iraq that the US imposed has an assurance to succeed because there was no major external threat to Iraq.  Any adventure by Shia Iran had an assurance of retaliation by Sunni Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, thereby maintaining a power balance because both these opposing forces have equal access to Iraq’s borders.  In Afghanistan, only Pakistan has direct border access, with China a close ally of Pakistan, while India shares no physical border.  The role that Iran may play is still a wild card, largely because Iran has been relegated to a wannabe nation after economic sanctions with little effective military power.  Therefore, the power distribution in Afghanistan is far different from the one in Iraq.  And, we will see if the USA rues the day it left Afghanistan.  For sure, the Afghan environment is very likely to be far from stable.

[1] Peter Tomsen, “The Wars in Afghanistan,” 1st ed., Public Affairs, Perseus Group, pp. 28, 2011

[2] In fact, President Bill Clinton, in his asininity, gave information to Pakistan in 1997 that it had launched missiles from the Indian Ocean to Osama bin Laden’s camp in Afghanistan.  Within the one hour it took the missiles to travel to Afghanistan, the ISI had transferred this information to Osama bin Laden and helped him evacuate immediately.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Dr Amarjit Singh

is an independent security analyst.

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9 thoughts on “What Type of War did the US Fight in Afghanistan?

  1. The main objective of USA was to fill pockets of their war industry, who control the real power structure of USA. To achieve their objective they hide Osama in the military area of Pakistan and they have spend close to a trillion dollars, which directly goes in to the pockets of their war industry. After fulfilling their objective of filling the pockets of war industry they needed safe and just exit and they killed Osama and declared that their objective has been achieved to return back.

  2. The USA had good reasons to lose in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was in the heat of 9/11 to appease the anger of US citizens. But then, as questions began to be raised about the true origin of 9/11 which was Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Petro Dollars began to be poured into the coffers of NATO opinion and decision makers to distract by covering up. The war profiteers quickly saw that Afghanistan was irrelevant compared to Iraq which the Saudis dangled before them in terms of Oil Money that could be impounded and blown up. Billion sof Dollars in Iraqi cash was flown into Iraq, ostensibly for “Nation Building” and vanished. Unaccounted. Apart from the fortunes made by Tweedle Bush and Tweedle Blair’s cronies. Notably Dick Cheney and his boys. Most importantly, the secular, prosperous modern Iraq with its thriving discos, bars, and communities of Jews, Christians, Yazidis and other which was such an eyesore to the US’ Sunni Arab could be toppled. Once Iraq became the principal object, Afghanistan became a side show.

  3. Dear Dr. Amarjit Singh, your article is excellent but a question haunt us as you explained Sikhs are more brave than Pathans, then why the small Sikh empire lasted only 35 years, @ present Sikhs have majority in only thirteen districts of our Punjab and this is also due British empires sinister plot to detach sindh valley from wrest of India because strategically an important area. British Empire used religion to achieve their goal it is a great crime done by them. In this global village supremacy game is being played between USA and Muslims, only two teams are visible, and Israel is a big tool in American hand to checkmate the Muslims, Sikhs are not visible anywhere, Hindus are wise people they will support the wining team. This is 21st century and on this globe a lot of Muslim majority countries are just west to us and Pakistan is just one of them, while one fourth of Muslim population of the world lives in Muslim minority countries and most significant is Independent India, followed by China , Russia etc. there are some countries where Muslims are not significant. Sikhs remained significant in India also or not is also qusetionable. Several years back a group of British Muslims were discussing ghetoization of Indian Muslims, they were comparing Indian Muslim with British Muslim, I replied them this is because Indian Muslims are very significant so they are facing troubles, and you are not significant be first significant then we will listen your plights, Euorup is more hostile to Islam than the sub- continent, see what is the condition of 18% Muslim population of paris, Moscow’s more than two million Muslims has only six mosques, etc. lot storeys are now to listen. Every where injustice with Muslims are being noticed, I think you are also noticing these happenings, when injustice would be adressed peace will come automatically. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  4. It is clear, (to me), that the Americans are not presupposing, that they understand what is happening in Muslim societies, around the world, or at least, they are not trying to. It seems, that Muslim community has spread over the world, and the only nation, where no Muslim wants to question govt., is Saudi Arabia. The Afghan society, varies from tribe to tribe. In Afghanistan, an act of aggression, is treachery, itself, and the idea is unusual, that the Taliban tried to be an organized govt., like the Soviets tried to introduce. Just like India were reticent, about the Indian armed forces not being strong, after the Sino-Indian military exchange, It seems , that the Taliban were an attempt to not let the invasion happen again. It appears, that the Afghans didn’t know, there was an invasion of what was previously the Shah’s realm, until they had unpleasant differences with the Soviet armed forces, in their villages, and habitat. The Soviets tried to rule the tribes, or perhaps the term is ‘attempted’ instead of tried. The idea of the military being a political tool ,or agent, failed, because it was rejected by the people.
    The Afghan tribe is not supposed to be governed by very complex laws. The Soviets must have had very bad dreams, trying to convince the Afghan ‘worker’, about communism.
    The twin tower disaster at the date 9/11, seems to suggest, that the political differences within organized political Islam, was the cause of the situation. It seems, Osama bin Laden found no support in Saudi Arabia, that American troops stationed there, was not what was good for his nation. It appears, they were supposed to be in a holy city, stationed there, as one of their camps. The history of organized political Islam, is of conflict, among the followers of Islam, and among non-Islamic identities, and the followers of Islam. It seems, that the U. S., was mediating, among groups, Islamic, and having nothing to do with ideological, or practical issues, relevant.

  5. The author has correctly noted the US strategic confusion in fighting the Afghanistan war. Part of this arose because the US was not, for many years, interested in the Taliban but only in suppressing Al Qaeda. When it was realized in around 2005 that the Taliban were also a threat, US found itself with no resoruces to spare for Afghanistan,

    This was on account of the Rumsfeld Doctrine, which requires small numbers of ground troops to find and fix the enemy ground forces, which are then destroyed from the air. This works well in the case of conventional war and is utterly unsuited for CI warfare.

    The US’s total available ground forces at peak consisted of just 43 brigades, each with an effective 2 1/2 battalions (10 companies) worth of troops and 8 Marine infantry regiments, which are proper sized brigades. Aside from US permenant deployments overseas and a startegic reserve, 20 brigades/regiments were deployed at peak in Iraq. This left very little for Afghanistan.

    Aside from the startegic failure, US CI tactics and training of the Afghan Security Forces were incompetent to the point Indian officers would shake their heads in disbelief. That is, however, another story.

  6. Question is What transformed India from the India of 1980’s where she was capable of calling Pak-China Rats nibbling at our borders and still send troops to maldives on a successful operation, to Todays India that makes excuses to defend herself.

    What transformed in these years that makes India only yap and cry foul , literaly begging but not ACT . What made India come to a position where she is not in a position to Act.
    On one hand cry foul at the Chinese , on the other allow her to dictate terms when in comes to Indian armed forces personell belonging to Arunachal Pradesh.
    Cry foul at Pakistan, on the other hand let her go scot free after beheading Indian soldiers in Indian territory. ..was it apathy that made India not feel embarass to having her troops beheaded and supreme commander of Indian armed forces hibernate, the same as let China dictate where and how Indians should patrol her borders?

    Indian leaders have often quoted that ‘war is not an option’ How can one deliver such a promise when the start of war lies beyond ones control. Is it that the Indian administrative staff are telling us that there will be no war as India is ready to compromise on every step as long as there is stability of power in the political party in power. For that the will device strategies that make chiefs of those who will obey to the IAS Political nexus and to make double sure by un or ill arming Indian military so that even if the Chiefs wanted to ,they couldnt go to war but close their eyes to the dysfunctional supreME commander, the MOD and lastly ditch his soldiers and country.

    What India needs is not crying on what USA or any one is doing but getting in order her own house that enables her to be able to act and react to changing scenarios. Each country has a right to forward their goals and play their game…India cannot cry foul just bcause she has no wherewithal to play hers

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