So What Does My Book Say About Afghanistan? – part 5

Unexploded Ordinance from the police station in the city of Baghlan, 30 miles south of Kunduz (photo by William A. Lawrence II, 1 April 2009)

Continuing the discussion on Afghanistan drawn from fragments of text from pages 260-262 of America’s Modern Wars:

The 2013 figure of 20,093 incidents a year does argue for a significant insurgency force. If we use a conservative figure of 333 incidents per thousand insurgents, then we are looking at more than 60,000 full-time and part-time insurgents. The number of security incidences has declined slightly since 2011. This would indicate that either we are slowly bringing the insurgency under control or that they are simply waiting until the U.S. leaves before they get more serious. Still, the level of violence is higher than it was in 2009, before the surge started, and the level of violence in 2013 is not significantly less than it was in 2011…. It certainly appears we are a long way from getting the situation under control, and leaves open the question as to what will happen once the United States completes its withdrawal.

We still do not know for sure if Afghanistan is a regional or factional insurgency or whether it is broadly based. But if it is a regional or factional insurgency, then according to our regression model, we should be winning. Yet we only appear to be winning during the surge…

…[skipped several paragraphs]

With the insurgency able to threaten and kill more civilians, the government riddled with corruption and bribery, opium poppy cultivation expanding in the areas currently being fought over, and large numbers of people displaced and continuing to be displaced, this all paints a picture of an insurgency that is not only not under control, but is actually expanding its influence.

If this is a broadly based insurgency then at the current force levels our chances of winning still appear to be low. To push the ratios up to a level where we have a good chance of winning it would require another 100,000 or more troops (almost certainly from the U.S.)  plus the commitment of time and losses for several more years while it is turned around. In effect, we would have to go back to the force levels we have in 2010.

…[skipped several paragraphs]

If our model is correct and the insurgency is indeed broadly based, then it is going to take more than time to defeat it. It is going to take more force than we currently have. Theoretically this can come from the Afghan Army, but they do need to be raised, trained, motivated, and made effective. 

If this insurgency is broadly based, then the surge we did up to 100,000 U.S. troops in 2010 and the building up of the Afghan army was probably good enough to turn the tide. The fact that incidents appear to have declined in 2012 indicates that this may have been working, but incidents are back up for 2013. The problem is if the insurgency is broadly based, then those surge forces needed to stay in place for the next ten years, with the expected continued losses and expenses. [bolding added for this post]

….

(to be continued) 

 

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Christopher A. Lawrence
Christopher A. Lawrence

Christopher A. Lawrence is a professional historian and military analyst. He is the Executive Director and President of The Dupuy Institute, an organization dedicated to scholarly research and objective analysis of historical data related to armed conflict and the resolution of armed conflict. The Dupuy Institute provides independent, historically-based analyses of lessons learned from modern military experience.
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Mr. Lawrence was the program manager for the Ardennes Campaign Simulation Data Base, the Kursk Data Base, the Modern Insurgency Spread Sheets and for a number of other smaller combat data bases. He has participated in casualty estimation studies (including estimates for Bosnia and Iraq) and studies of air campaign modeling, enemy prisoner of war capture rates, medium weight armor, urban warfare, situational awareness, counterinsurgency and other subjects for the U.S. Army, the Defense Department, the Joint Staff and the U.S. Air Force. He has also directed a number of studies related to the military impact of banning antipersonnel mines for the Joint Staff, Los Alamos National Laboratories and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation.
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His published works include papers and monographs for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the Vietnam Veterans of American Foundation, in addition to over 40 articles written for limited-distribution newsletters and over 60 analytical reports prepared for the Defense Department. He is the author of Kursk: The Battle of Prokhorovka (Aberdeen Books, Sheridan, CO., 2015), America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam (Casemate Publishers, Philadelphia & Oxford, 2015), War by Numbers: Understanding Conventional Combat (Potomac Books, Lincoln, NE., 2017) , The Battle of Prokhorovka (Stackpole Books, Guilford, CT., 2019), The Battle for Kyiv (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2023), Aces at Kursk (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024), Hunting Falcon: The Story of WWI German Ace Hans-Joachim Buddecke (Air World, Yorkshire, UK, 2024) and The Siege of Mariupol (Frontline Books, Yorkshire, UK, 2024).
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Mr. Lawrence lives in northern Virginia, near Washington, D.C., with his wife and son.

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2 Comments

  1. Well Chris, I think the sentence below is the key takeaway here:

    _The problem is if the insurgency is broadly based, then those surge forces needed to stay in place for the next ten years, with the expected continued losses and expenses.

    We never declared and sourced Afghanistan as the Main Effort, even before we went into Iraq. And while we committed enough power to topple the Taliban, we never gave it enough to win. We thought we could win on the cheap with technology.

    Now that we are out and restricted to air strikes (and probably only with drones) we will be unable to meaningfully affect Afghanistan militarily and sanctions will have no effect since there is little to sanction and one might expect Russia and China to ignore them anyway.

    • Well Chris, I think the sentence below is the key takeaway here:

      _The problem is if the insurgency is broadly based, then those surge forces needed to stay in place for the next ten years, with the expected continued losses and expenses.

      Yea, more on this thought later.

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