Establishment media has become so wrapped up in the meaningless minutiae of the presidential campaign (Are Hillary's tears real? Why won't Huckabee quit?) that all real news is getting lost in the shuffle. Never mind the media's myopia with the economy I already noted today; there's the fact that the war in Afghanistan is now officially, completely, unquestionably, a lost cause. The head of NATO forces over there says he needs 400,000 troops for the job. Obviously, 400,000 troops won't be forthcoming, from the United States or any other NATO member. It's over. Done. Forget it.
How exactly did you miss this story? The 400,000 figure was buried last week in coverage about the cost of fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq next year — you know, the costs that aren't included in the Pentagon's budget. I only learned about it by reading the weekly dispatch of Eric Margolis, the veteran foreign correspondent who covered Afghanistan about as thoroughly as anyone in the 1980s, and who interviewed Osama bin Laden in the 90s:
…the commander of the 40,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, US Gen. Dan
McNeill, landed a bombshell of his own. If proper US military
counter-insurgency doctrine were followed, said McNeill at a Washington
conference, the US and NATO would need 400,000 troops to defeat Pashtun
tribal resistance to western occupation of Afghanistan.
When the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, they deployed 160,000 troops and
about 200,000 Afghan Communist troops – yet failed to crush the mostly
Pashtun resistance. Now, the US and NATO are trying the same mission
with only 66,000 troops, backed by ragtag local mercenaries grandly
styled the Afghan National Army. Of these 66,000 western soldiers, at
least half or more are non-combat support troops.
Now this isn't exactly a revelation for anyone who's aware of the usual formula for a conventional force to defeat guerrilla fighters: It takes a ratio of at least six-to-one, or even ten-to-one. But for Gen. McNeill to lay it bare at a Pentagon news briefing is pretty remarkable. That it wasn't front-page news the next day and I needed Margolis to bring it to my attention says something about the state of establishment media even worse than its insistence on calling the debt crisis a "subprime" phenomenon.
Here's something else I also didn't know, that Margolis does, and that further seals the fate of the Western effort in Afghanistan:
A primary reason for [Defense Secretary Robert] Gates’ recent request for Islamabad to `invite’ US
troops to begin assaults against pro-Taliban Pashtun tribesmen inside
Pakistan is due to their growing attacks on US/NATO supply lines to
As this column has previously reported, over 70% of US/NATO supplies
come in by truck through Pakistan’s tribal belt known as FATA,
including all of their oil and gas. Attacks by pro-Taliban tribesmen
against these vulnerable supply lines are jeopardizing western military
operations inside Afghanistan.
The hunters are becoming the hunted. Cutting off invader’s supply lines
is a time-honored Pashtun military tactic. They used it against
Alexander the Great, the British, and Soviets, and are at it again.
I had no idea the Western forces in Afghanistan were just as reliant on a single supply line as U.S. troops in Iraq. No wonder Gates is in a panic.