Paying “in perpetuity for the privilege of Afghanistan not totally collapsing”

A fairly stark assessment of the Afghanistan mess last week buried in a New York Times article:

“We need to have a conversation about how much we care about this place,” said Douglas Ollivant, a senior fellow at The New America Foundation in Washington.

“Are we willing to spend — the numbers are fuzzy — but somewhere between $10 and $20 billion per year in perpetuity for the privilege of Afghanistan not totally collapsing,” said Mr. Ollivant, who previously who worked in the National Security Council for Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush. “And we’re not talking about it being Xanadu — we’re talking about not collapsing.”

 
This phrasing, “in perpetuity for the privilege of Afghanistan not totally collapsing,” immediately called to mind a December 2009 post I wrote entitled: “Afghan Army recruitment jumps, US underwrites”

Afghanistan’s government, unlike Iraq’s, doesn’t have oil revenues to support a strong central military. The CIA World Factbook mentions very little in the way of non-poppy or foreign aid-related economic sources for Afghanistan, and notes that the poppy trade provides about $3 billion to the country’s (black market) economy.
[…]
Then, I remembered yesterday’s headline: “Karzai Says Afghan Army Will Need Help Until 2024,” referring to monetary support. Both articles are New York Times, but no mention in today’s article on pay raises. Well, connecting the dots, I made an educated guess that the US just underwrote a big pay raise for the Afghan Army, with very convenient timing. You might think this is good because now the Army will compete with the Taliban in recruiting people and thus security will improve. There’s the big problem, however. We can’t keep underwriting these pay raises forever. The United States is not going to keep fully financing the Afghan Army for fourteen years. We probably can’t afford to.
[…]
What makes 2024 the magic number anyway? There’s still no big revenue source available to the Afghan government in 2024, and so the Army would still run out of money. And then we’re back at square one.

 
Not much has changed then except that we’re further back now than in 2009 and many billions deeper in the hole. So when do we stop throwing good money after bad?

We created this money pit, but eventually the “remedy” is net-neutral at best and actively hurting at worst.

US to send military advisers & recon to Cameroon

cameroon-map

NBC News:

The Obama administration says it expects to deploy about 300 U.S. service members to the African nation of Cameroon to help stop the spread of Boko Haram and other violent extremist groups.

Roughly 90 U.S. service members are already en route to Cameroon to conduct airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations in the region.

 

Background from our prior briefing reports:

Cameroon, which is located next to Nigeria (Boko Haram’s home base) and shares a difficult-to-monitor 300-mile border with it, announced it was going to war with Boko Haram back in May of 2014 when hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped in a raid. This decision triggered a wave of Boko Haram incursions into Cameroon (including high-profile kidnappings) and retaliatory ground and air operations by the Cameroon Armed Forces.

President Paul Biya next month will celebrate his 33rd anniversary as president (after 7 years as prime minister before that). The Cameroonian military (some parts competent and some parts rickety) could probably use the U.S. military assistance, but there will be concerns as to whether the U.S. is again militarily aiding and training a military force in an autocratic African country after more than a few recent instances of political trouble or repression involving U.S.-trained local military forces.

Cameroon — a country once carved out of colonial remainders by Imperial Germany and then split at random by France and Britain before re-merging itself after independence — now finds itself as an unusually stable dictatorship wedged between the rising conflict in northern Nigeria and the aftermath of the recent genocidal civil war in Central African Republic, exposed along lengthy borders on both sides. The populations in northeast Nigeria and northern Cameroon have long had cultural and economic interchange, since the border was an arbitrary colonial one crossing through an existing society.

Oct 14, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 146

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

AFD-logo-470

Topics: How the Reagan Revolution influenced the American Left; the US airstrike on a hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan; Perkins Loans end. People: Bill, Kelley, Nate. Produced: October 11th, 2015.

Episode 146 (54 min):
AFD 146

Discussion Points:

– Generational Politics: How the Reagan Revolution influenced the American Left
– The US blew up a hospital in Afghanistan. What now?
– Why was the Perkins Loan program allowed to expire?

Related Links

AFD: “Getting trapped in Reagan’s ideological framing”
France24: “Aid workers killed in US air strike on Afghan hospital”
AFD by Kelley: “Perkins Loan program expires after 57 year run”

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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video game blog of our announcer, Justin.

Ukraine Navy remainder drills with US Navy

Arsenal Bolt: Quick updates on the news stories we’re following.

“US trains in Black Sea with Ukraine’s depleted navy” – France24.com:

The United States is co-hosting drills in the Black Sea with what is left of Ukraine’s devastated navy, which lost about two thirds of its sailors and ships after Russia seized Crimea last year.
[…]
Ukraine’s naval force was eviscerated when Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March 2014. Moscow snatched much of the fleet moored in strategic ports, and convinced thousands of sailors to jump ship.

 
crimea-ukraine

US proudly announces re-killing same ISIS guy again

WhiteHouse.gov, August 21, 2015:

Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, also known as Hajji Mutazz, the second in command of the terrorist group ISIL, was killed in a U.S. military air strike on August 18 while traveling in a vehicle near Mosul, Iraq, along with an ISIL media operative known as Abu Abdullah.

 
Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2014:

Defense officials said the operations to kill senior and midlevel Islamic State commanders are beginning to weaken the group’s leadership structure in Iraq.
[…]
U.S. military strikes between Dec. 3 and Dec. 9 killed Abd al Basit, the head of Islamic State’s military operations in Iraq, and Haji Mutazz, a key deputy to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the group’s top leader, officials said.

 
If he “dies” in a U.S. airstrike one more time, he’ll hold the same honor recently taken in Syria by Muhsin Al-Fadhli (similarly named but from a rival group), who has now “died” in U.S. airstrikes three times to much fanfare. Unlike the ISIS fellow killed in Iraq, the other guy is the leader of the probably fictional terrorist organization the US has labeled the “Khorasan Group” (see previous link for more on that).

It’s almost like we’re not being presented with accurate information to be able to assess the progress of our various interminable and boundless wars!

h/t @DavidKenner

Op-Ed | “Saudi Arabia and the US: More military misfires”

A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft, May 1992, Operation Desert Shield. (Credit: U.S. Department of Defense / TECH. SGT. H. H. DEFFNER)

A Royal Saudi Air Force F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft, May 1992, Operation Desert Shield. (Credit: U.S. Department of Defense / TECH. SGT. H. H. DEFFNER)

Excerpts from “Saudi Arabia and the US: More military misfires” — my August 13, 2015 op-ed with Stephan Richter for Al Jazeera English.

The Saudi way of handling the crisis in Yemen shows they are following in the US’ footsteps far too closely:

No concept has proven to be as strategically short-sighted as the assumption of military superiority.

It leads powerful nations to give in to the temptation to bomb their way out of a problem – as if anyone could.

While in Washington this lesson is still sinking in, Saudi Arabia, the United States’ major ally in the Gulf region, seems to have learned nothing from the ill-fated US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
[…]
The presumed wealth of advantage of the US and Saudi Arabia over Iraq and Yemen does not serve either country well.

This “abundance” tempted them to go for broke – all out attack mode – and continues to delude them into believing they have “won” the battle, while they ignore that the war is being lost.

The US at least had the excuse of being an outsider to the region, the Saudis, who live on the Arabian Peninsula with their Yemeni neighbours, can’t tap into that (weak) excuse.

Read the full piece.


Recently from AFD on this topic:

“Yemen War Update: Still an inhumane catastrophe”

A new Syria “red line”: No Kurds in the Turkish-backed zone?

Regional View: July 24, 2015 map estimation of the perimeter of a potential Turkish occupation zone and U.S. no-fly zone in northern Syria. Enlarge Image. [See also our close-up detail map of the potential Turkish occupation zone perimeter.]

Regional View: July 24, 2015 map estimation of the perimeter of a potential Turkish occupation zone and U.S. no-fly zone in northern Syria. Enlarge Image.
[See also our close-up detail map of the potential Turkish occupation zone perimeter.]

The Wall Street Journal last week reported that the “U.S., Turkey Agree to Keep Syrian Kurds Out of Proposed Border Zone”:

The U.S. and Turkey have reached an understanding meant to assure the Ankara government that plans to drive Islamic State militants from a proposed safe zone in northern Syria won’t clear the way for Kurdish fighters to move in.
[…]
However, [YPG leaders] said they had made no commitment not to cross the Euphrates.

“The initial plan is to move to liberate the western side of the Euphrates once the areas to the east have been cleared of ISIS,” said Idres Nassan, a senior Kurdish official in Kobani. “But the YPG is acting in coordination with the local groups, such as the FSA and other groups fighting ISIS, as well as the coalition members.”

Preventing Kurdish forces from taking advantage of U.S. and Turkish airstrikes in the area is “red line” for Turkey as it steps up to play a greater role in battling Islamic State, a Turkish official said Monday.
[…]
Keeping Kurdish fighters from moving farther west restricts America’s ability to work in northwestern Syria with a Kurdish militia that has proved an effective fighting force. And it puts more pressure on the U.S. and Turkey to find an alternative capable of filling the void.

 
The United States promptly denied this report. However, the New York Times is still backing up the Wall Street Journal’s version as late as today.

The Turkish deal with the United States sets up an “ISIS-free” bombardment zone along a 60-mile strip of the border region that features another exclusion: At Turkey’s request, it is also explicitly a zone free of the Kurdish militia, even though the Kurds had begun advancing toward the area to start battling the Islamic State there.

Despite cooperating with American forces for months, the Syrian Kurds are now starting to worry that their success might not outweigh Turkey’s importance to the United States.

 
I’m sorry, but if these reports of a rule excluding Kurdish fighters are actually true, this is bad policymaking. Pure impulse and incoherent nonsense. It has little strategic foresight or unifying logic, and it’s probably tactically unenforceable at best.

As we argued in our recent op-ed in The Globalist, to recruit Turkey against ISIS, the United States lost sight of its true friends (the actually effective anti-ISIS — and non-salafist — Kurdish militant groups). This scattershot obsession with the crises of the moment has destroyed any U.S. attempts to form a coherent policy for Syria (or Iraq). We just flail aimlessly from one thing to the next — reacting, reacting, reacting.


Previously from AFD on this topic:

U.S. agrees to clear a “safe zone” in northern Syria
Mapping the projected Turkish occupation zone in Syria