No Light In The Afghan Tunnel - David Hackworth


Jeff White
May 15, 2003, 10:40 AM
The question is, how much of this is true and how much is Hackworth's hate of everything Army?

DefenseWatch (
May 13, 2003

No Light In The Afghan Tunnel

By David H. Hackworth

Operation Enduring Freedom – launched in Afghanistan a month after 9-11 – is now officially over. But despite Pentagon spin to the contrary, our casualty count from that war-torn land won't be winding down anytime soon.

Last month, the increasingly bold Taliban forces took and held two district towns along the Pakistan border for a week – right under our commanders’ noses – and now a day doesn’t pass without terrorists assaulting Afghanis, international aid workers or soldiers. In the past month alone, four American warriors were killed in Afghanistan, bringing our occupation terrorist-inflicted combat losses to 30 deaths.

The dollar tab is mounting, too. The bill for 8,000 U.S. military personnel running what the Pentagon euphemistically calls “stabilization operations” is costing the U.S. taxpayer $9 billion a year.

Many of our troops pulling duty over there say their big concern is that the situation might well develop into a long-term running sore. And they see ominous similarities to the pitiful attempts at pacification that turned the Vietnamese people off during that 20-year, guerrilla-driven war.

Then there’s the parallel of the same indiscriminate use of the big U.S. firepower hammer that killed hundreds of thousands of innocents in Southeast Asia. A recent U.S. airstrike in eastern Afghanistan that was meant for the terrorist bad guys killed 11 civilians from one family alone. As we keep learning the hard way, these sort of errant explosives are major recruiters for the insurgents.

In Afghanistan, as in Asia, our forces are finding that their vastly superior superpower advantage – firepower, mobility, electronic intelligence gathering and communications – can’t do the job against a lightly equipped, hit-and-run guerrilla force with the cunning to attack only when it believes it can win and that knows the ground like Cameron Diaz knows her body.

More bad news is that there’s ample evidence that Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden’s good buddy, is making a big comeback in southern Afghanistan. The Taliban thugs under Omar might no longer rule the land, but they’re still in the terrorism business and have the run of a fair chunk of the countryside, especially along the wild and woolly border Afghanistan shares with Pakistan.

A Special Forces soldier says, “When I first got here five months ago, the attacks were patchy, but today it’s a whole new ballgame.”

A recent Taliban attack on a U.S. platoon actually occurred during broad daylight. The terrorists boldly killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded five others before scooting across the border to their safe haven in eastern Pakistan.

And while the Taliban are displaying renewed guerrilla prowess, our forces seem to be getting nowhere fast. Six weeks ago, a large and costly short-term exercise in futility – Operation Valiant Strike – was launched to hunt down and destroy the terrorists. At the end of this op, when cost was weighed against return, we were way in the red.

Civilian aid workers have even become targets. A Red Cross representative was shot and killed several months ago after being stopped by a terrorist gunman. A Taliban commander said the terminate-with-extreme-prejudice order came from Omar himself and was aimed at destabilizing the U.S.-supported government. Since the murder, more than a dozen international aid agencies have pulled out because the risk of operating in that area is simply too high. No aid workers means no aid – except what those friendly folks from the Taliban provide.

“What's more disturbing is that our senior commanders will not press attacks against the Taliban out of fear of U.S. casualties,” says another Special Forces warrior. “Our forces are under guidance to only attack when there's the least amount of risk to U.S. personnel. For the most part, we sit on our bases and get sniped at and rocketed.”

“U.S. cash and food are given to the warlords to keep their allegiance,” he says, “but they use it to finance the private armies with which they run this country. And the only way the warlords will give up power is if they're killed.”

“War” or “stabilization,” Afghanistan is our tar baby, and we’re stuck fast. Too bad the policy-makers who put our soldiers at risk didn't brush up on their Brit/Soviet/Afghan History 101 beforehand.

Let’s hope Iraq doesn't become Harsh History Lesson II, even though it, too, sure seems to be moving in that direction.

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May 15, 2003, 10:49 AM
Hackworth doesn't even bother offering solutions any more, he just whines.

I own all his books, I have vast amounts of respect for the man's accomplishments, I read his website faithfully, but his schtick is really getting stale.

May 15, 2003, 05:07 PM
Me thinks he views Ashcanistan through his Vietnam glasses. He really oughta clean them boys off.

That said, playing defense, border sanctuaries, and big firepower displays is all a bit familiar and disburbing.

I know a man who spent an entire career playing in that part of th world fighting drug distribution, unpleasant personalities, and dangerous people. His opinion is the war in terror in general and the war on terror in that part of the world in particular will turn on 1>bribery
2>cutting the flow of funds
3>human intelligence

There are lots of ways of playing offense. Sitting in a base ain't one. . . . . assuming what Hack said is fact.

May 15, 2003, 06:07 PM
Did anyone else notice that once the fighting in Iraq began, Hackworth was no longer seen on his old standby network, Fox, but that he moved over to CNN?

rock jock
May 15, 2003, 06:25 PM
knows the ground like Cameron Diaz knows her body.
Boy, this guy's got a fixation.

Bruce H
May 15, 2003, 07:12 PM
Ole I'm perfect, why didn't I get my star sore loserman is just at it again.

D.W. Drang
May 16, 2003, 01:31 AM
What makes me laugh about Hackworth is that he basically made his rep by bashing SLA Marshall, and he's fallen into the same trap SLAM did--"Hey, I'm a celebrity, my opinion means something."
Look, Hack, CLinton is gone--and we didn't even have to stage a coup, which your minions were starting to hint at--so SHUT THE @%^*&$ UP!!!

May 16, 2003, 01:45 AM
“War” or “stabilization,” Afghanistan is our tar baby, and we’re stuck fast. Too bad the policy-makers who put our soldiers at risk didn't brush up on their Brit/Soviet/Afghan History 101 beforehand.

Actually, we did brush up on our history before we went. When the 101st deployed, we took copies of after-action-reviews and lessons learned garnered from several former Soviet commanders involved in the invasion and occupation. We knew all along that putting a sizable, conventional force on the ground would make us look like an occupier. We also knew to keep our supply lines in the air and off the ground, which reduced the risk of ambush. For the same reason we didn't conduct ground patrols too far from our bases, but used air assault infantry instead. Also, we (the 101st) didn't bring in our artillery assets because the area fire nature of such systems limits their ability to be used effectively while keeping collateral damage to a minimum.

Just some of my 2 cents.


May 20, 2003, 01:26 PM
Hackworth doesn't even bother offering solutions any more, he just whines.

Well, you can call it "whining" if you'd like. I think it's more like Hackworth pointing out that "he told you so".

He is correct. Afghanistan is a mess.

Kharzai's government doesn't control much outside the capital of Kabul. He can't even collect customs duties from many provinces. The warlords and drug smugglers are still in control of most of the country.

Kharzai has even been threatening to resign (but US won't allow that to happen).

Hackworth offers no solution? Well, I don't know if anybody can offer a good solution. We've already buried our fist in the tar baby.

Since we're already committed, we have only two choices:

1. Provide more money and military support to keep the Kharzai regime propped up........... or

2. Withdraw our troops and let the country slip back into chaos.

I don't see us doing the latter, so whip out your wallet!


May 20, 2003, 01:49 PM
Since we're already committed, we have only two choices:Don't forget option #3. Cry ourselves to sleep each night, while wetting the bed.

May 20, 2003, 03:25 PM
Update Afghanistan: Millions Of Tax Dollars Handed Over
May 20, 2003

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has managed to get the governors of various provinces to hand over to the central government hundreds of millions of tax dollars, the BBC reports. The governors acquiesced to Karzai's demand after he threatened to resign. This development comes at a time when the writ of the Karzai regime has been increasingly seen as limited to the capital city of Kabul.


Hmmmm! I see the US stepped in and twisted a few arms. I wonder...... carrot or stick??? I bet carrot! Or more accurately .... threat of withdrawal of carrots!


PS - jmbg29, if your option #3 works for you, drive on! I don't think it's a workable policy in Afghanistan. However, The Department of Homeland Security might consider your recommendation (they're currently wetting the bed at level ORANGE). It would be much less expensive and far less dangerous to our individual rights than the ideas they've come up with (Patriot I & II)!

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