Thursday, June 09, 2016

Romanticizing Afghanistan - An idiotic way of looking at Afghanistan

I just watched a segment from Rory Stewart's documentary "Afghanistan: The Great Game".

The segment brought into vivid focus what happens when you romanticize Afghanistan.

A lot has been said about the way in which Afghanistan is the beautiful "unconquerable" land with mystical powers which has brought empires to their knees.

It is all nonsense.

Afghanistan is a mountainous region with very few stable supply routes. In any such region (such as Kashmir, India's North East, Switzerland, and so on) it is very difficult to sustain a military presence. The supply chain is simply too twisted and too fragile to provide the most basic sense of security.
The local populations that inhabit this land have built up local supply and storage options over hundreds of years and they know the land better than any invading entity would. This puts these local defenders at a position of strategic advantage over anyone who transgresses their land.

That is all there is to it - it is a supply chain problem. You don't have to read thousands of breathless Brit accounts of "Awesome Warrior Pathans" and their fearsome "prowess" to get this fact.

Most empires that have successfully occupied Afghanistan for large stretches of time have done so with local collaborators because in each case (Mughal or Persian or Kushan) the supply chain to the nearest stable agriculturally productive region - has always been about 1000 miles long.

Maintaining supply chains inside Afghanistan has become easier with the advent of airpower - but you still have to maintain a fuel and arms supply line - either through Bukhara to the Russian oil fields, or through Pakistan to Indian refineries, or through Iran to various ME oil sources or through the Pamirs to Chinese controlled oil sources in Xinjiang.

The present American posture relies on a Pakistan based transit line for fuel and arms. The ATF in particular comes from one Indian refiner.

The Soviets relied on a supply chain out to Bukhara. Again the entire military posture was sustained based on the output of one refinery in Uzbekistan.

The Brits had a supply chain that ran into the Indus plains and beyond.

And so on.

Unless you think about Afghanistan in clear logistical terms you will become overwhelmed by the irrelevant data about Afghan culture or national myths.

I am saying Afghan culture is neither superior nor inferior to those its neighbors but that like every other culture - All aspects of Afghan culture are malleable - the logistical reality of Afghanistan is not!


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