Class Discussions

The “Class Discussions” section is all about teaching and debating. It’s what got me into creating this blog. The idea was to give my students the opportunity to interact with all kinds of people with an experience on Afghanistan.


6 Responses to Class Discussions

  1. Rena says:

    This week’s reading makes reference to the insurgent strategy being one of exhausting coalition forces. One of the means of executing this strategy has been the utilization of the geography. The geography has surely been a major impediment to coalition progress. There are nearly 100,000 coalition troops in the eastern border provinces, yet the police chief of Nuristan states that the area is overrun with insurgents. “The enemy has more presence here than any other province: there are Punjabis, Arabs, Chechens … insurgents of every kind here,” he says in the following Aljazeerah article.

    • RPO says:

      We’ve talked a lot in class about the negative impact of Western customs and practices on Afghan citizens, but for many women in Afghanistan, the presence of Westerners presents an opportunity to improve their condition. The woman in the following article is a clear example. It is probably unlikely that Ms. Gulnaz’ 12-year sentence -for adultery after a rape she did not immediately report- would have been reduced. The potential for her release would certainly have been non-existent. There will always be cultural or religious “restrictions” (according to my Western understanding) on Afghanistan women, but if the Western presence can save a woman from having to marry her rapist, then perhaps some good can come of this situation?

  2. If you take into consideration that there are 2 types of military strategy — exhaustion or annihilation, it would make sense that insurgents would take the path of exhausting your enemy (after all they are limited in resources, manpower, and proper training).

    Insurgents often utilize guerilla warfare tactics which ensures that they attack in small groups. This means that a) while there may be 100,000 troops within the area – finding each small insurgent group would be akin to finding a needle in a haystack — due to the mountainous terrain that pervades this area ( and b) While 100,000 troops sounds like a large number – it is actually the bare minimum required to cover an area the size of pennsylvania with a population of 5-7 million people. I say this only because — if you take into consideration that the counterinsurgency manual (which often states to use 20 troops per 1000 people)…. and do the math … the number of troops there takes the assumption that the population in the area is 5 million (5 milllion people/1000 * 20 = 100,000).

    In addition, according to the article – it looks like they’re clearing and not concentrating on holding or building (which completely is opposite of the clear/hold/build theory that should occur with counterinsurgency). From the article — “In the past four months, troops in border regions such as Paktya and Khost have remained the same,” he said. “In fact, one of the task forces left and the new unit had about 800 soldiers less.”

    So, while I agree that the geography certainly impedes the efforts — I would say the number of troops present and not completely following the counterinsurgency strategy also impedes this effort (anyone making recommendations would say if the population estimate is 5-7 million – you should at minimum send enough troops to cover the average which would be 6 million people or 120,000 troops). I highly doubt it’s the fault of the leaders on the ground that all of this is occurring – I’d say it was more politics and they’re doing the best with what they’ve been provided; however, continuing this route may mean that the insurgents and their exhaustion tactics could work eventually….

    • patriotpaul says:

      D Shaw, I agree with your assessment, however, I would like to add this point: According to FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency (COIN), “A better force requirement gauge is troop density, the ratio of security forces (including the host nation’s military and police forces as well as foreign counterinsurgents) to inhabitants. Most density recommendations fall within a range of 20 to 25 counterinsurgents for every 1000 residents in an AO. Twenty counterinsurgents per 1000 residents is often considered the minimum troop density required for effective COIN operations; however as with any fixed ratio, such calculations remain very dependent upon the situation.” (para 1-67).

      The key point here being that the troop levels include not only International Coalition forces, which as of October 18th, 2011 are 130,638 according to ISAF numbers (, but most importantly indigenous forces as well – in this case Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). ANSF includes the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) that consists of the Afghan Uniformed Police (AUP), Afghan Border Police (ABP), Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP), and the upstart Afghan Local Police (ALP). The total troop levels of the ANSF according to NATO statistics is over 306,000 – ANA having over 170,500 and ANP having over 135,500. (

      Considering that the estimated population of Afghanistan as of July 2011 is 29,835,392 ( and that the desired ratio of troops to inhabitants is 20:1000, the required total number of security forces would be 596,708. When combining the current totals of NATO and ANSF there are currently 436,638. While that number remains below the desired amount for what theorists would prefer, it is also important to note that “such calculations remain very dependent upon the situation.” As NATO continues to develop both the ANA and ANP, those numbers will continue to rise, ideally to a point that achieves the desired levels as the U.S. commitment approaches its anticipated end in 2014.

  3. patriotpaul says:

    Today is an interesting day on NPR as far as our class is considered. Several programs are touching on the war in Afghanistan and the broader regional conflict. One is being broadcast on Worldview at 1200 noon. The hour-long special Voices from Afghanistan marks a decade of U.S. military involvement in the country. Hosted by investigative journalist Anand Gopal, the program offers snapshots of life in the war-torn nation and looks forward to new possibilities ahead. I will post the link to this after the program airs.

    Also check out these audio links from stories from earlier this morning:

    “Afghan Security Under Attack as Troops Leave” – The presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan met in Istanbul Tuesday to discuss how to stabilize Afghanistan as foreign troops leave. A suicide attack in Kabul Saturday left 13 NATO forces dead, part of a string of recent violence. Host Renee Montagne speaks with Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation about the state of security.

    “Details Unearthed On America’s ‘Ally From Hell'” – A story in The Atlantic uncovers new information about the alliance between the United States and Pakistan, including a move by Pakistan to disperse its nuclear weapons in civilian vehicles after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Host Steve Inskeep speaks to the author, Jeffrey Goldberg, about what’s been discovered.

    And here are some supplemental links from today’s news:

    I will comment later after the noon broadcast.

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