Get PJ Media on your Apple

Belmont Club

Retreat From Kaboul

May 27th, 2014 - 4:26 pm

President Obama unveiled his plan to return American troop levels in Afghanistan to the level they were during Bush’s term in 2003.  Here is a chart, with his planned numbers in red.

What did it achieve?

What did it achieve?

Obama wants to keep 10,000 troops in country by 2015 tapering down to an ‘embassy security force’ by the time his term ends.  ”Obama called for 9,800 U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, along with some allied forces,” Jake Tapper at CNN says. “The number would get cut roughly in half by the end of 2015, and by the end of 2016 – shortly before Obama’s presidency concludes – the U.S. military presence would scale down to an embassy security operation, he said.”

“We will bring America’s longest war to a responsible end,” Obama said in the White House Rose Garden in detailing the strategy to have virtually all U.S. forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016 — shortly before his presidency ends … if the Afghan government signs a security agreement.

Getting Afghan permission may not be easy.  Karzai wouldn’t even meet with Obama when he flew there a few days ago. “The Afghan president refused to visit the Bagram military base when US President Barack Obama made a surprise visit there to meet troops on May 25. Similarly, the American president turned down a proposal for talks at Karzai’s palace in downtown Kabul.”  Obama did, however, speak with Karzai for 20 minutes by phone from Bagram airbase.

But while US troops are now at the level at the end of the Bush administration and Obama plans to lower them to 2003 levels, there are thousands of ancillary personnel whose security ultimately depends on Western combat forces.  Thousands of contractors, many of them from Africa or Asia — some of them ex-Western soldiers — are scattered through Afghanistan doing aid and support jobs that have been outsourced to them.

Interpreters who worked for Coalition forces are especially at risk.  Two hundred and eighty are being resettled in Australia alone.  Many thousands more worked for America and as yet have no place to go. “As our troops pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re abandoning fixers and translators to the dangerous countrymen who view them as traitors. Asylum in the U.S. could be their last hope. If only we’d let them in,” writes Paul Solotaroff.

Withdrawal consists not only of pulling out US troops proper, but the Afghan and foreign nationals whose association with the coalition might be regarded by the Taliban as reasons to slit their throats.

One of the under-reported aspects of a drawdown are the problems inherent in “withdrawal in contact”.  Exiting a country under potential fire is one of the hardest things to plan.  The British Army, perhaps motivated by memories of the 1842 Retreat from Kabul planned to fight their way out of Helmand if necessary.

In January, British journalists wrote, “Army chiefs have drawn up plans for British troops to fight their way out of Afghanistan amid fears the Taliban will attack as they leave the country. Intelligence officers have warned insurgents may strike as our forces exit Helmand after the 13-year conflict …  top brass fear coming under fire while pulling out of Camp Bastion and General John Lorimer, the head of British troops, is overseeing contingency plans to minimize the risk.”

They were ready to shoot their way out. In the event they didn’t have to. But as American combat forces dwindle — assuming they do not have to pull up stakes peremptorily if no agreement with Afghans is reached — the problems of “withdrawal in contact” will re-emerge.  The US troops will have to protect with less and less. They have to secure their line of march, line of departure and both flanks all the way to the airhead or port.

The Soviet withdrawal provides a yardstick of the dangers inherent in retreat. When the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989, they only had to travel to Uzbekistan which had a border with Afghanistan to get out. Nevertheless,  ”the whole time, during the withdrawal over the border, troop convoys were coming under attack by Afghan fighters. In all 523 Soviet soldiers were killed during the withdrawal.” Widespread infighting broke out after the Soviet withdrawal as factions presumably settled scores.

America has much far further to go than the Soviets. The help of Pakistan — recently home to Osama bin Laden — is less than certain. One of the wrinkles is “How Ukraine Spillover Could Complicate the US Withdrawal From Afghanistan,” as Akit Panda in the Diplomat puts it.

The key to pulling off a successful and manageable withdrawal is the Northern Distribution Network – a route established in 2008 to get supplies in and out of Afghanistan while bypassing the risky (but cheaper) Pakistan-based routes entirely. Unfortunately, despite its massive defense R&D spending, the U.S. never quite figured out a way to teleport its equipment in and out of landlocked war zones. The original Pakistan-based routes provided a quick, sea-based route into Afghanistan, over the Durand line….

Should the political situation between Putin and the U.S. and NATO continue to deteriorate, the U.S. road out of Afghanistan could get complicated. The U.S. would still find a way to get its hardware out of Afghanistan but at a massively increased cost. Airlifting heavy equipment out of Afghanistan would have massive fuel costs. The possibility of heading back south to Karachi is also on the minds of many at the Pentagon. One official notes that Karachi is still the “preferred method” of shipping everything out of Afghanistan. The problem is getting the equipment there and tolerating the risk of traversing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Given these problems, a “withdrawal in contact” could certainly result in a loss equal to the Soviet and to which perhaps thousands of civilian contractors could be added. Even a fraction of the loss would be regarded as a military catastrophe.  ”Thomas Ruttig, expert at the Afghan Analysts Network, is not convinced that Afghan security forces will be able to provide security and stability throughout the country after the NATO withdrawal.” They may even turn on the people they are guarding as they did in 1842.

“The main problems with the Afghan military are its internal fault lines,” he says. The ethnic composition is imbalanced, leading to people coming to areas where they don’t feel at home and are regarded as strangers,” he added.”

At this writing, fighting between pro-Russian and pro-Kiev factions in the Eastern Ukraine has reached pitched-battle proportions.  Can Obama count on the Northern Distribution Network? Does he think so? And yet the dangers mount, all Obama has to offer is what the Christian Science Monitor called a “half-full, half-empty Afghan plan”.

Perhaps the better word is “half-assed”.

A president who flies to Afghanistan on Memorial Day for what is essentially a photo-op; who is unable to meet to Afghan president and then announces a plan to leave 10,000 men in country — to do God knows what — ‘if the Afghans agree’ is thinking more like Axelrod than the Napoleon he affects to be. For Obama it’s politics, talking points and optics all the time. Times, distances, relative forces — all the mental baggage of strategy — seem absent from his mind. There is nothing American troops can achieve between 2015 and 2016 except to cover the incumbent president’s political behind.

Obama is approaching the problem of withdrawal with the same vapid incompetence that seems to infuse everything he does. The press should call him on the specifics of his withdrawal. But given that Jay Carney will give the answer, what’s the use?

What a waste of time.

Recent items of interest by Belmont readers based on Amazon click-throughs.

Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
Hill 488
Sincerely Nuts Macadamia Nuts (Roasted, Salted) 2 LB
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created
Ten Years That Shook the World: The Gorbachev Era As Witnessed by His Chief of Staff
To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the Belmont Club

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Yea, the most dangerous part about riding a tiger is the dismount.

Back in the old days, before ribbons and bows, rows and rows, commanders understood why victory and defeat in detail were essential factors in warfare.

You can bet that none of the academy whiz-kids who put their beloved troops in this position will be personally leading the way out. No, they will be doing color commentary for CNN or whomever - just as arrogantly confident as ever.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
The American forces in Afghanistan and the contractors are what are technically known as "hostages": a person or entity which is held by one of two belligerent parties or seized as security for the carrying out of an agreement, or as a preventive measure against certain acts of war. Or it means some person or group who are seized by an abductor in order to compel another party such as a relative, employer, law enforcement, or government to act, or refrain from acting, in a particular way, often under threat of serious physical harm to the hostage(s).

If Obama withdraws American forces from Afghanistan there are three major downsides from his point of view. First, it will put an end to American combat deaths, which passed the total casualties in the Bush years during Obama's second year, and the deaths in Afghanistan are now approaching 3 times those of the 8 Bush years in only six years. All for no perceptible gain.

Second, the hostage status of American forces in Afghanistan, whose supply and withdrawal lines are through Russian territory, gives Obama the perfect excuse for him to "exercise more flexibility" as he publicly promised Russia before the election.

Third, the return of thousands of combat trained and experienced Americans, for whom the Oath is not meaningless, to the continental US may adversely affect any political plans he has for the future.

There is no reason in the American interest for our troops to remain in Afghanistan for a moment longer than necessary. We have already announced that we are leaving, the local government is on the side of the Taliban, and one of the main causes of American deaths is being killed by supposedly allied Afghans we are training. Bring our heroes home.

Remember the word "lustration".

Subotai Bahadur
(show less)
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yet another example of Obama's Woodstock foreign policy...he did "bilge" that.

He always does.

Obama's sinking ship is a garbage scow.

And the lapdog media has to keep portraying it as a luxury cruise liner. Count on it, they are married to the crewmen, literally and figuratively. Incestuous and mendacious propagandists have nothing but the stench to carry back to shore.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (78)
All Comments   (78)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Here ya go, Walt & Buddy:

You who hear the sound, in scattered rhymes,
of those sighs on which I fed my heart,
in my first vagrant youthfulness,
when I was partly other than I am,

I hope to find pity, and forgiveness,
for all the modes in which I talk and weep,
between vain hope and vain sadness,
in those who understand love through its trials.

Yet I see clearly now I have become
an old tale amongst all these people, so that
it often makes me ashamed of myself;

and shame is the fruit of my vanities,
and remorse, and the clearest knowledge
of how the world’s delight is a brief dream.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
--nice, if a wee bit rotten with guilt. Contrast to this guy who hates the political aristocracies of mid-19th century Europe. Swinburne, the last two/thirds of "A Song in Time of Order -1852" (i have no idea who are the three men or the three kingdoms, wish i did):

Good hap to the fresh fierce weather,
The quiver and beat of the sea!
While three men hold together,
The kingdoms are less by three.

Out to the sea with her there,
Out with her over the sand;
Let the kings keep the earth for their share!
We have done with the sharers of land.

They have tied the world in a tether,
They have bought over God with a fee;
While three men hold together,
The kingdoms are less by three.

We have done with the kisses that sting,
The thief’s mouth red from the feast,
The blood on the hands of the king
And the lie at the lips of the priest.

Will they tie the winds in a tether,
Put a bit in the jaws of the sea?
While three men hold together,
The kingdoms are less by three.

Let our flag run out straight in the wind!
The old red shall be floated again
When the ranks that are thin shall be thinned,
When the names that were twenty are ten;

When the devil’s riddle is mastered
And the galley-bench creaks with a Pope,
We shall see Buonaparte the bastard
Kick heels with his throat in a rope.

While the shepherd sets wolves on his sheep
And the emperor halters his kine,
While Shame is a watchman asleep
And Faith is a keeper of swine,

Let the wind shake our flag like a feather,
Like the plumes of the foam of the sea!
While three men hold together,
The kingdoms are less by three.

All the world has its burdens to bear,
From Cayenne to the Austrian whips;
Forth, with the rain in our hair
And the salt sweet foam in our lips;

In the teeth of the hard glad weather,
In the blown wet face of the sea;
While three men hold together,
The kingdoms are less by three.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment

--PLAN springing the trap. USN to send one hunter-killer to dog these three. Hope they don't read this report, or they'll split up.

These guys are MIRVd and can cover west side of CONUS from their own waters.

This is the system that Clinton's reelection monetary needs allowed to skip a generation or three. The scandal from which Monica Larynxsky saved the Clinton bacon. Remember, the iced tea defense? Gore didn't see the money bag change hands because he was in the bathroom, unloading iced tea from his Second Chakra. "Sounds reasonable" said we-the-people, unaware that in May of 2014 we were gonna stagger out of the frying pan into the fire.

Here's the fire (full book online):
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I take your point, but what really grates about it all is that the GOP never mentioned it during the 1996 campaign.

I remember watching endless commercials attacking Bob Dole before he was even the GOP nominee. I wondered where Clinton was getting all the money to pay for it.

Turns out from China.

I'd have thought the GOP would have wanted to make sure the public knew where Clinton was getting his campaign cash but it seems not.

I suspect now that they wanted some of that cash for themselves, and didn't want to end the gravy train.

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
remember poor old Dole's "Where's the outrage?"

The question of the century.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
I didn't like the Bushs helping to rehabilitate the b......
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Certainly haven't gotten better since.
Except for Cruz and maybe one or two more.

Scott Walker for President!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
"This is the system that Clinton's reelection monetary needs allowed to skip a generation or three."
We all have needs.
Most of us have some shred of a conscience.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sadly, it seems that the only thing that has changed with newspapermen is that they have more [pervasive] forms of media to work through.

From the linked book (Thanks for linking that):

"The conversation turned naturally to the mystery of the
bomb. Then he said he knew what kind of a bomb
it was; he had the secret on the best authority
that of a Japanese newspaperman who had dropped
in at the Novitiate. The bomb was not a bomb at
all ; it was a kind of fine magnesium powder sprayed
over the whole city by a single plane, and it exploded
when it came into contact with the live wires of the
city power system. 'That means,' said Dr. Fujii,
perfectly satisfied, since after all the information came
from a newspaperman, 'that it can only be dropped
on big cities and only in the daytime, when the tram
lines and so forth are in operation.
' "
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment memory of Maya Angelou...
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Celebrity as competence.

Talent, ability, wisdom are inconsequential. Vision! As in "wouldn't it be cool if" the US had it's chickens come home to roost?

Our self-Esteemed president is caught in the age old dynamic of any system any project: The tension between the impulse to re-invent the wheel and we've always done it this way.

No slave to math, he cuts the baby into thirds. The Chicago wayz are honored and implemented as the drawing board is used to configure a drawing down wheel of unknown parameter. Except I am certain it isn't round.

And the Congress basks. In their inalienable right to make pay while the sun shines or not. No time to look after that pesky National Interest. Not interested.

Yee Hah.....
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
--root word of 'competence' is 'compete', as in, 'due to competition, poor little me had to cry'.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Afghanistan (With apologies To Kipling)
- anonymous British soldier

When you’re lying alone in your Afghan bivvy,
And your life it depends on some MOD civvie
When the body armour’s shared (one set between three),
And the firefight’s not like it is on TV,
Then you’ll look to your oppo, your gun and your God,
As you follow that path all Tommies have trod.

When the gimpy has jammed and you’re down to one round,
And the faith that you’d lost is suddenly found.
When the Taliban horde is close up to the fort,
And you pray that the arty don’t drop a round short.
Stick to your sergeant like a good squaddie should,
And fight them like satan or one of his brood

Your pay it won’t cover your needs or your wants,
So just stand there and take all the Taliban’s taunts
Nor generals nor civvies can do aught to amend it,
Except make sure you’re kept in a place you can’t spend it.
Three fifty an hour in your Afghani cage,
Not nearly as much as the minimum wage.

Your missus at home in a foul married quarter
With damp on the walls and a roof leaking water
Your kids miss their mate, their hero, their dad;
They’re missing the childhood that they should have had
One day it will be different, one day by and by,
As you all stand there and watch, to see the pigs fly

Just like your forebears in mud, dust and ditch
You’ll march and you’ll fight, and you’ll drink and you’ll b!tch
Whether Froggy or Zulu, or Jerry, or Boer
The Brits will fight on ‘til the battle is over.
You may treat him like dirt, but nowt will unnerve him
But I wonder sometimes, if the country deserves him.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Just terrific!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
--that's really GOOD!
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
It sure is....Twas making the email rounds a while back.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."

James Madison
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Afghanistan will end like Vietnam did. Democrats since Korea have always failed at foreign affairs.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
--define ''failed'', please. Remember you're talking about the Democrats.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
There's a photo of Barack and Michelle watching a Judo demonstration at the White House. He's standing and it is clear one judoka has just thrown his opponent for a full point. Barack's body language is that of an almost girlish cringe. I don't think the man ever engaged in a contact sport (no basketball is not a contact sport). Too bad he never studied boxing or he'd know telegraphing punches is a weakness Krauthammer is right. We're pulling out of another country simply so lameduck Obama can meet one campaign promise. Now we're telling American citizens to get out of Libya. Will the press EVER acknowledge this guy is a total disaster?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
--how do you say ''sissy'' in Esperanto?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Google offers up: Prezidento femɪnət samseksemon
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment

Latest example: Their treatment of the outing of our CIA Station Chief in Afghanistan


How they treated the phony Plame/Joe Wilson affair.

39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
The fighting retreat will be to the port of Konorak on the south coast of Iran. Everyone might as well start planning on that basis.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
That's how we should have evacuated Iraq.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
scratch that --i found it --in a large bay with Chabahar at the narrow mouth. Down Highway 93 from Nikshahr --said to be the southern nuclear site --solidly Baluch --very close to the Chinese build-up on the Port of Gwadar, Pakistan.

Looks like air supremacy would be necessary, for starters. That place looks bad for USN. Kerry will be delighted. Not to mention Hagel.

How fast can we restart that F-22 line?

How many carriers are waiting on orders to refuel?
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
Given the current trajectory, by the end of 2016 the citizens in the US may be trying to escape to Afghanistan for safety and security.
39 weeks ago
39 weeks ago Link To Comment
1 2 3 4 Next View All

One Trackback to “Retreat From Kaboul”