Wednesday, August 6, 2008

General Barry McCaffery's Report On Afghanistan - "2009 Will Be The Year of Decision"

Gen Barry McCaffery (ret) is currently serving as adjunct Professor of International Relations at West Point. He has previously issued overviews of the war in Iraq at various critical junctures that proved to be highly accurate. He has now visited Afghanistan and issued a report on the situation in that country, including therein his assessment that the next year will be the most critical period of this war.

This from Gen. McCaffery:


􀂃 Afghanistan is in misery. 68% of the population has never known peace. Life expectancy is 44 years. It has the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world: One of six pregnant Afghan women dies for each live birth. Terrorist incidents and main force insurgent violence is rising (34% increase this year in kinetic events.) Battle action and casualties are now much higher in Afghanistan for US forces than they are in Iraq. The Afghan government at provincial and district level is largely dysfunctional and corrupt. The security situation (2.8 million refugees); the economy (unemployment 40% and rising, extreme poverty 41%, acute food shortages, inflation 12% and rising, agriculture broken); the giant heroin/opium criminal enterprise ($4 billion and 800 metric tons of heroin); and Afghan governance are all likely to get worse in the coming 24 months.

􀂃 The magnificent, resilient Afghan people absolutely reject the ideology and violence of the Taliban (90% or greater) but have little faith in the ability of the government to provide security, justice, clean water, electricity, or jobs. Much of Afghanistan has great faith in US military forces, but enormous suspicion of the commitment and staying power of our NATO allies.

􀂃 The courageous and determined NATO Forces (the employable forces are principally US, Canadian, British, Polish, and Dutch) and the Afghan National Army (the ANA is a splendid success story) cannot be defeated in battle. They will continue to slaughter the Pashtun insurgents, criminals, and international terrorist syndicates who directly confront them. (7000+ killed during 2007 alone.) The Taliban will increasingly turn to terrorism directed against the people and the Afghan National Police. However, the atmosphere of terror cannot be countered by relying mainly on military means. We cannot win through a war of attrition. The economic and political support provided by the international community is currently inadequate to deal with the situation.

􀂃 2009 will be the year of decision. The Taliban and a greatly enhanced foreign fighter presence will: strike decisive blows against selected NATO units; will try to erase the FATA and Baluchi borders with Afghanistan; will try to sever the road networks and stop the construction of new roads (Route # 1 -- the Ring Road from Kabul to Kandahar is frequently now interdicted); and will try to strangle and isolate the capital. Without more effective and non-corrupt Afghan political leadership at province and district level, Afghanistan may become a failed state hosting foreign terrorist communities with global ambitions. Afghan political elites are focused more on the struggle for power than governance.

􀂃 US unilateral reinforcements driven by US Defense Secretary Bob Gates have provided additional Army and Marine combat forces and significant enhanced training and equipment support for Afghan security forces. This has combined with greatly increased US nation-building support (PRT’s, road building, support for the Pakistani
Armed Forces, etc.) to temporarily halt the slide into total warfare. The total US outlay in Afghanistan this year will be in excess of $34 billion: a burn rate of more than $2.8 billion per month. However, there has been no corresponding significant effort by the international community. The skillful employment of US Air Force, Army, and Naval air power (to include greatly expanded use of armed and reconnaissance UAV’s : Predator, Reaper, Global hawk, and Shadow) has narrowly prevented the Taliban from massing and achieving local tactical victories over isolated and outnumbered US and coalition forces in the East and South.

􀂃 There is no unity of command in Afghanistan. A sensible coordination of all political and military elements of the Afghan theater of operations does not exist. There is no single military headquarters tactically commanding all US forces. All NATO military forces do not fully respond to the NATO ISAF Commander because of extensive national operational restrictions and caveats. In theory, NATO ISAF Forces respond to the (US) SACEUR…but US Forces in ISAF (half the total ISAF forces are US) respond to the US CENTCOM commander. However, US Special Operations Forces respond to US SOCOM…..not (US) SACEUR or US CENTCOM. There is no accepted Combined NATO-Afghan military headquarters. There is no clear political governance relationship
organizing the government of Afghanistan, the United Nations and its many Agencies, NATO and its political and military presence, the 26 Afghan deployed allied nations, the hundreds of NGO’s, and private entities and contractors. There is little formal dialog between the government and military of Pakistan and Afghanistan, except that cobbled together by the US Forces in Regional Command East along the Pakistan frontier.


Afghanistan has become the good war and Iraq the war with issues. Neither characterization is relevant. Both candidates to be the US Commander-in-Chief have been placed in awkward stances by the political dynamics of the debate. They have been perhaps unfairly caricatured by sound bites of who will send the most reinforcing US Army combat brigades to Afghanistan. Afghanistan will not be solved by the addition of two or three more US combat brigades . . .

. . . The battle will be won in Afghanistan when there is an operational Afghan police presence in the nation’s 34 provinces and 398 Districts. The battle will be won when the current Afghan National Army expands from 80,000 troops to 200,000
troops with appropriate equipment, training, and leadership and embedded NATO LNO teams. (Afghanistan is 50% larger than Iraq and has a larger population.) The battle will be won when we deploy a five battalion US Army engineer brigade
with attached Stryker security elements to lead a five year road building effort employing Afghan contractors and training and mentoring Afghan engineers. The war will be won when we fix the Afghan agricultural system which employs 82% of the population. The war will be won when the international community demands the eradication of the opium and cannabis crops and robustly supports the development of alternative economic activity.

6. NATO:

Without NATO we are lost in Afghanistan. The next Administration must have a major diplomatic commitment to strengthen the capabilities and commitment of our 26 NATO allies. . . .

Current non-US NATO forces deployed in Afghanistan are in many cases woefully inadequate for the task they face. They have serious restrictive caveats to their military employment. They are casualty adverse in a very dangerous and brutal environment. They are in many cases lacking the force enablers that are a prerequisite to effective COIN operations. (Helicopter and UAV support, intelligence, logistics, engineers, civil affairs and special operations units, precision artillery munitions, trauma medical support, cash for nation-building economic activity, etc.) Some are badly trained and equipped. The Germans as an example have an enormously professional military with superb officers but make a marginal contribution in Afghanistan because of the crippling political restrictions on their employment.

The US has until recently sadly neglected to adequately nurture, shape, and sustain the capabilities of NATO to deal with the new realities of the post-Cold War security environment. This is a challenge to the NATO political leadership of all 26 nations. NATO is a political alliance not a military headquarters.


Pakistan is a state of four separate nations under a weak federal government. The Pakistani military is the central loadbearing institution of the state. It is the most respected institution in Pakistan. The Army has severe military limitations in its ability to control the FATA and Baluchistan frontier areas.

A major US intervention across the Pakistan border to conduct spoiling attacks on Pashtun and criminal syndicate base areas would be a political disaster. We will imperil the Pakistani government’s ability to support our campaign. They may well stop our air and ground logistics access across Pakistan and place our entire NATO presence in severe jeopardy.

This is a 25 year campaign. We must be patient in our expectations. We must do no harm dealing with Pakistan. We clearly can strike directly and covertly across the border in self-defense. We must never publicly put the Pakistani military in political peril with their own people.


The Taliban, Al Qaeda, war lords, and Afghan criminal enterprises are principally funded by what some estimate as $800 million dollars a year derived from the huge $4 billion annual illegal production and export of opium/heroin and cannabis.

Production of both opium and cannabis has surged throughout the country. (Opium up from 198,000 acres in 2003 to 476,900 by 2007.) This criminal enterprise employs 3.3 million workers, addicts the population (perhaps 900,000 drug users), distorts the economy, and corrupts justice and government.

The international community to include the United States has provided small sums to develop alternative economic livelihood aid. ($111 million in 2007 and only $655 million since 2002). The US has a handful of courageous DEA agents in Afghanistan joining a symbolic and largely ineffective international counter-drug program.

The international community has been fearful of confronting this issue. Unless we deal head-on with this enormous cancer, we should have little expectation that our efforts in Afghanistan will not eventually come to ruin.
. . . .

We cannot allow ourselves to fail in Afghanistan.

NATO is central to achieving our purpose.

This is a generational war to build an Afghan state and prevent the creation of a lawless, extremist region which will host and sustain enduring threats to the vital national security interests of the United States and our key allies.

Read the entire report.

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