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Thread: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

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    Coffee farmer extraordinaire Member spmetla's Avatar
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    Default Re: ISIS and Afghan Taliban

    /////////////FIRST PART PROBABLY BELONGS IN GREAT POWER CONTENTION THREAD/////////////////////
    Bottom line: Is it very easy or very difficult to deter China on Taiwan, and if it's very difficult would adopting the most aggressive posture not ironically encourage China to be both more willing and more able to impose its will (this is known as "tragic drama")

    If it's very easy, just make the commitment, station a fleet or two, and call it a day - no discussion needed.
    I'd say it's difficult to deter China on Taiwan. As for making a commitment, that's part of the tragedy of the current situation with Taiwan and the flaw in the one-China policy. One-China policy was banked on the idea that opening up China would liberalize them and then allow for a peaceful rise and reunification, that was sorta working up until the early 2000s.
    China has now reversed their path of liberalization and gone back toward the path of repression, this has pushed Taiwan's youth from wanting reunification, especially in light of the crack downs in Hongkong, social credit scores, etc...
    With this, the US has now become coupled with China economically, it could break this relationship but that would be difficult and costly to the US and all the other major economies that have moved their industrial base and supply chains to China.

    The logic of an aggressive posture is that by being willing to risk war and the economic fallout in the near future, that risk is actually higher for China as they depend on sealanes for most of their trade, part of why they're investing in the new belt/road initative. A war would be economically costly to the whole world but would absolutely ruin China if it happened in present day.
    This is also tied with the fact that Xi Jinping has been the most powerful Chinese leader in 30 years and seems determined to be cemented in its memory on the same level as Mao Zedong. That type of meglamania can be unpredictable like we saw in the last four years of Trump. Granted Xi is actually smart man and calculating unlike Trump but that doesn't exclude him from wanting to accomplish the goal of reunification by force if needed.
    Just remember that the US position and that of its allies in the region is reactionary to China's new aggressive posture. They seek to change the status quo, forcibly if needed and are actively contending with the US at all levels short of conflict at the moment. Combine this with the ultra-nationalism and you get an opponent that won't negotiate on this issue leaving them with only one recourse if they want to force the issue.

    Deterring from what and in what capacity needs to be delineated. We already have a NATO commitment to mutual defense, which is the most important step.
    Mutual defense is only valuable if the members are capable and willing to defend each other. If some 'little green men' tried to overthrow Latvia's government in a Crimea type scenario are the NATO allies in the region capable of assisting? are they even willing? Trump question whether we should go to war to help Estonia was a huge hit to the idea of mutal defense.
    I personally think the major litmus test for NATO will be some crazy thing cooked up by Turkey over some Greek islands, Cyprus, Syria, or Armenia. Do we mutually defend one NATO ally against another. If one NATO ally starts a war that then draws in Russia in a limited way does that trigger article five? The Armenia-Azerbaijan war last year is fortunate in it's not expanding beyond those two countries.

    I don't see why the UK and France and Germany need to be militarizing for offensive operations into Eastern Europe. Today we know that Russia's strategic position in its near-abroad is weak, and not getting any stronger, as the (to some surprising) failure to check Ukrainian post-Russian ambitions demonstrated. Putin has a hard time trudging through his priorities for even Belarus. A massive armament campaign for NATO to achieve the capability to credibly strike against a hypothetical Russian occupation of Ukraine or Estonia would be socially corrosive and horrendously costly both before and during (any) deployment, in the latter case in terms of lives and materiel. It would also, naturally, incentivize further hostility from the Russian regime (if you think Europe can recommit to an arms race, Putin certainly can too - to hell with the domestic economy - in order to negate European augmentation).
    Who's talking about offensive operations? No sane person wants to start shit with Russia much less go on an offensive against them. It doesn't need to be a massive armament campaign, no one is advocating for a quarter million US troops back in Germany and its allies having dozens of armored divisions standing by.
    As for Putin being able to afford an arms race, I don't think he can. There's a reason why India has more modern T-90 tanks than Russia, Russia can't afford them. Russia is so cash strapped they still sell the Chinese jet-engines and air defense systems fully knowing that they will eventually be reverse engineered and that the Chinese will overtake Russia in most of its overseas arms sales.
    Russia is currently a threat that needs to be contained, it may not be a long term threat as who knows what it will be once Putin leaves. He certainly doesn't share the lime light, that tends to leave the successors to popular dictators vulnerable to infighting and domestic power plays.
    Europe needs to be capable to play the long game against Putin and deter more action on his part in the bordering states. The long-term should be to try and do what failed in the 90s and finally bring Russia home into Europe (not the EU or NATO). China is not a good partner for Russia and never has been, it's been a good source of cash at the expense of Russia losing it's military edge and secrets but China's ambitions in the far east and central asia will lead to their becoming enemies again at some point.
    https://www.foreignaffairs.com/artic...ina-and-russia

    Getting NATO allies to at least get their readiness levels up so they could commit the few forces they have to a crisis if needed would be the most useful. No point in an air force if lack of spare parts means they can't be used when needed.
    https://www.dw.com/en/german-militar...ion/a-42603112

    Core European sealanes, borders, and airspace are secure from foreign powers as far as I know (not that there's a contender other than Russia here). If you mean that the EU needs more ships to shoot at Ivory Coast pirates or Mediterranean migrants, I don't see why. It might be more helpful to get a handle on what role Turkey is going to play in the region.
    As most of European/EU issues center around trade then Naval power is actually one of the best investments they can make. You may scoff at piracy but it is a problem that naval patrols have helped to mitigate. The core causes of piracy exist but short of nation building Somalia, Yemen and plenty of other countries the easier and more cost effective solution is sealane protection. Warships are expensive but if you're going to build ships then ideally they're capable of more than just deterring pirates, probably best to have the capability to lauch and support SOF too, or perhaps fly the flag where free navigation is threatened (South China Seas). Strategic lift capability and reach is extremely useful by air and sea and has uses for humanitarian aid as well moving troops ,there's a lot more to defense spending than tanks and troops though those are necessary too. Building NATO logistical and cyber-warfare capabilities that were independent of the US would be hugely useful and have uses beyond conventional warfare too.
    As you mention migrants though the EU seriously needs a lot more investment in FRONTEX. Belarus, Russia, Turkey, and Morocco all use migrants as a weapon, opening and closing the flow over the border as needed to punish the border nations of Europe and create European domestic infighting. It's like a modern day reverse Barbary-pirates scenario, give these concessions or we let thousands more over the border to become your problem. Just look at Lithuania bearing the brunt from Belarus in response to their raising diplomatic status of Taiwan's office.
    European sealanes and interests go a bit farther than just Europe's periphery though, the blockage of the Suez was hugely costly to European trade. The arctic is melting and Canada, Norway and Denmark/Greenland aren't exactly poised to stop Russian resource exploration when that eventually happens. Ice breakers and artic capable coast guard and aerial patrols will be a necessity as the Northwest passage becomes more common for Europe-East Asian trade (shorter and therefore cheaper for Northern/Western Europe).

    Do you mean cruise missiles? My knowledge of the relevant systems is limited, but I recall that a modern navy will have strong countermeasures against any such systems, as best demonstrated by the Coalition naval forces during the Gulf War. Wouldn't the best practicable option be quantity rather than superior technical sophistication? Dozens to hundreds of missiles against landing craft close to shore (with the caveat that the entire Chinese sealift would never all be exposed at a single moment) seems like the only option.
    It's a fair bit more complicated than that, the weapons and defenses have moved a long way from the Gulf War. If we're relying on line of sight weapons against landing craft then the invasion is already a success. In short though, Taiwan needs what you've mentioned before, good area-denial capability and we should help build it. Taiwan doesn't have much strategic depth so relying on defense to fend off the PLA in the face of drone swarms, ballistic missiles, electronic and cyber warfare can only do so much. Given the geographic, qualitative, and numerical advantage of China that's only a method to buy time. The deterrence is in the capability to come to the aid of Taiwan if needed, this deterrence must not be vulnerable to a Chinese first strike either (a modern day Pearl Harbor in another form) which is why the US has been moving Marines out of Okinawa and to Guam and hopefully now to Australia too. With the Philippines not being available the US has lost a lot of strategic depth too and is relying on only a few major bases to cover and project power into a very large area.

    That latter outcome is too high a risk for the CCP, as it would lose enormous quantities of domestic legitimacy, international standing, economic stability, military readiness, and so on, all for the sake of empty posturing; Taiwan would be further out of reach than ever. Since the CCP has demonstrated its rationality many times, assuming it retains that rationality we keep returning to the principle that any overt measure to reduce Taiwan's independence has to be projected to be rapid and decisive from the Chinese point of view.
    China's record for rationality has been slipping a lot as of late, they take much more risk for much less gain than the previous three generations have. When you keep telling your population that 'our time is now and the US must step back and allow us to take our rightful place' they eventually expect their leaders to act on it. A generation raised on propaganda eventually results in people ruling that believe that same propaganda.

    //////////////////HERE STARTS ISIS/TALIBAN GWOT TALK////////////////////////////

    The degradation of the state system in the Middle East has set up some social and humanitarian consequences that will reach throughout the century, which go without elaboration, and has in fact altered strategic relationships: see the drift of Turkey and Pakistan, the comparative loss of Influence of Saudi Arabia, Arab-Israeli rapprochement, the permanentish alienation of Iran from the West, Russian reentry to the region, indeed the continuing (I would say accelerated) spread and escalation of terrorism to full-blown internal conflict around the Islamic world...

    Back to the issue of deterrence, the War on Terror made China and Russia intrinsically much less friendly to the American order ("And when the band plays "Hail to the chief", Ooh, they point the cannon at you"). This is almost as profound as it gets in the contemporary period. Whaddaya want for to call it world change, the collapse of the EU and a return to armed territorial conflict between Continental states, the reemergence of a true Caliphate, the final disappearance of American primacy - uh?
    GWOT didn't degrade the state system in the middle east, it's always been teetering. The only stable governments in the region over the last 50 years has been Israel and Saudi Arabia, each with significant issues too.
    Turkey has been adrift for a long time, it's issues with Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, the Kurds have ensured that it would never be a real European nation. Erdogan's actions and spur toward dictatorship haven't been because of GWOT.
    Pakistan is in the same boat as Turkey, were they ever really a US ally? Only when it looked like India would go from non-allied to Soviet bloc and as a base to funnel weapons to the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan but that didn't happen and India opened up so no need for Pakistan and it's perpetually causing problems for every one of its neighbors.

    True on the effect of making China and Russia less friendly. I'd say that NATO actions against Serbia and the dangling of NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia together with our cozying up with Azerbaijan are what really turned Russia against the US. GWOT just provided opportunity while the US was tied down in quagmires.
    Of course China would oppose US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Afghanistan is right next door and if the history of the US establishing permanent bases succeeded there then there'd be a threat to China's strategic depth. The Bush 'axis of evil' and policy of regime change in Iraq is what really pushed China into firm opposition.
    World changing events tend to affect the whole world. GWOT was significant for the middle east and parts of Africa. It's affects on most of Africa, Asia, the Americas, and most of Europe (apart from the troop contributing nations) weren't all that significant. The collapse of the Warsaw pact and then Soviet Union had an immediate far reaching effects. The Suez Crisis essentially ending France/UK great power status and leading to France's divorce from NATO and the expedited policies of France and the UK to decolonize changed the makeup of the world leading to huge social, economic, and political upheavals in all former colonies over the next 30 years. So yeah, your later examples are far closer to the mark though you took them to a another extreme degree.

    The deciding factor is that our decisions on the basic form of the Afghan government we would recognize - a unitary, centralized republic - restricted plausible forms for the Afghan milsec establishment to what we would recognize as a conventional, centralized, milsec establishment. But the point that the Taliban had no need for air support is a suggestive one; could different governmental and social forms for our endorsement have produced more resilient native anti-Taliban operations under a less complex and costly organization? And I don't mean fomenting a permanent war of all militias and ethnicities against all. But that requires creativity, cultural sensitivity and responsiveness to local conditions, and a willingness to supercede path dependence that the US - more fairly states in general - has shown little aptitude for.
    Well, yes, different government, military, and social forms could have worked. The idea that we could ever impose the needed ideal state even given the creativity and sensitivity we lack is just not gonna happen and never was. There's no such thing as a perfect government, all governance is a compromise of some sort. The GIROA experimient was apprantly too centralized, perhaps more power in the districts and provinces would have been more successful.
    I get what you're saying about about air support not being necessary but that's always been an issue in all counter-insurgencies. The insurgent can hide in the population, doesn't wear a uniform so is able to only strike when he's got the advantage and so on. Separation the insurgent from the populace is the way to win; we evidently failed to do that from some combination of fear or at the minimum neutrality toward the insurgent or support for the insurgent. The areas that support the Taliban support what the Taliban stand for, a modern representative liberal for the region nation state of any form was not going to get their short term support. Giving them a status like the northwest frontier tribal region (Pakistan) might have been a solution but that's too large an area of Afghanistan to break up, it'd be essentially balkanizing the country. The failure of GIROA to win over the population doesn't necessarily mean the population supports the Taliban either, they just don't care enough to oppose the Taliban or risk their life for GIROA.
    Air support is only useful if it's supporting troops on the ground, seeing as the ANA didn't even bother fighting the Taliban once we left it makes no difference if they had one plane or a million. If the ANA had fought the Taliban then air support would have given an edge in firepower and mobility as it has for the past seven years in which the ANA did most of the fighting and dying and NATO mostly just advised from the sidelines.

    The GIROA was a flawed beast but it had far more of the elements you advocate for than the Taliban government did in the past and looks to have in the future. The Taliban are primarily Sunni zealots and Pashto tribesman, they don't have a history have much cultural sensitivity towards the Hazarras (they're Shia too), Tajiks, Iranians, or Uzbeks.

    There's currently a moment of opportunity for the Taliban to be the government that you advocate but I'm positive that they will not do that. They are a hardline extremist organization. Twenty years of fighting and a 'god given victory' will not temper that too much. The formal world organizations will likely keep the bank accounts closed as the Taliban won't make the concessions to human rights needed to allow 'the west' to morally deal with them as an equal nation. The Taliban will then just like you allude to go the path of pariah state like Iran. Those organizations could just open up and deal with the Taliban but then they'd be possibly bankrolling Taliban oppression too. Is legitimizing and funding their oppressors helping Afghans? Is it to be another permanent UN aid mission?

    You've said enough that we should try and act on behalf of what's best for the Afghan people. I still think in the long run that would have been supporting the flawed state that was GIROA. Hindsight being what it is we clearly needed to somehow fight corruption as our primary effort. What will Taliban governance bring Afghanistan though? Half of the Afghan people (the women) have just lost most of their access to human rights. All Afghans have just lost access to a modern legal system, corrupt and slow yes, but at least not resulting in public stoning to death. Yes, there's no fighting as the war is done, only time will tell if the peace ends up more repressive and deadly than the war (now that the Taliban can focus on ruling rather than just killing other Afghans) or if the Afghans prefer today's Taliban security or yesterday's liberties.
    Last edited by spmetla; 09-19-2021 at 09:19.

    "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?"
    -Abraham Lincoln

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