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Been Winning So Long, I've Lost It - The Long War TL

By Blochead



"So we are a schizophrenic culture of sorts, a nation of amateurs that can almost magically transform itself into a culture of professional killers."
- Victor Davis Hanson

"The situation... in Central Asia is similar to that of all civilized states that come into contact with half-savage nomadic tribes without a firm social organization. In such cases, the interests... of security always require the more civilized state have a certain authority over its neighbors... The state must therefore make a choice: either to give up this continuous effort and doom its borders to constant unrest... or else to advance farther and farther into the heart of the savage lands... where the greatest difficulty lies in being able to stop."
-Chancellor Aleksandr Gorchakov

" We're Americans, and we'll never surrender. They will."
- John McCain


Outside Parachinar, Pakistan
December 2001

"We are not supposed to be here. So make every shot count."

Just a few hours ago, America had almost come away empty handed from Tora Bora. Now, watching the surviving Taliban escape across the border, the President and CIA had decided they would not squander any second chances. The Special Forces in the hills and mountains had met the enemy, but they were not theirs.

A column of slow moving Toyota trucks, braving the fierce mountain winter, had received the militants not far from the border. Once they were in Parachinar proper, they would be impossible to reach without even more severe diplomatic consequences. What was about to happen would be bad enough, acceptable only because of what victory might bring.

Nobody reached Parachinar that day.

.50 caliber rifles proved adequate for stopping the vehicles. Caught in the crossfire, the rest of the Americans advanced under cover to bring their full firepower to bear. Thousands upon thousands of tracer rounds riddled everything within the valley. Here there would be no air support, and they could move no faster than the enemy - everything worth engaging had to be stopped in the valley.

Now the teams were within range of personal arms and a proper firefight began, with the Americans leapfrogging through the remnants of the column. When the shooting finally began to quiet, the Americans began cataloguing their spoils. The caravan, at first, appeared unexceptional - truck beds of Islamist fighters and supplies. Then the video cameras were found. In the truck behind it, a dying man with an old Army-pattern woodland camouflage jacket and an AK-74SU. Some pair of classified American eyes traced its way up a long, blooded beard to meet his face, widening in surprise. The soldier took out camcorder and started taping, signalling to his comrades, with a smile of grim satisfaction. It was a macabre scene, but what little empathy for their enemies these men usually had could not have existed after what happened three months ago.

If they found some way to explain this, the American public would get an early surprise for Christmas.


PART I: 1998-2000


"Our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world."

-         George W. Bush, 2000



December, 1998

"… In other news, political consultant Karl Rove, a major figure in the Texas Republican Party and instrumental part in Governor George W. Bush's campaigns, died today after a car accident…"

-         KTBC (FOX affiliate) news


January-February, 2000


"The battle between John McCain and George W. Bush continues, with no signs of ending soon. Bush, whose early success in the Iowa caucus was soon countered by John McCain's victory in New Hampshire, has managed to take only Delaware since that defeat. Today, on the last day of February, he will need to pull off a strong victory in Virginia or Washington to remain a viable candidate…"

-         CNN News, February 29, 2000


"While we have had past differences, in the end, we must remember this party's proud tradition of doing what is right for the country. And John McCain is a man who understands that tradition. I am proud to endorse him today, and I hope you will be proud to lend him your support and your votes throughout the election year…"

-         George W. Bush's concession speech, March 8, 2000


PART II: 1998-2000


"… Despite the braggadocio of past years, we have in fact done very little – and so invited war onto our shores."

-         Victor Davis Hanson


"That's the challenge of pessimism; it's really hard to aim low enough that you're pleasantly surprised around as often and as much as you're unpleasantly surprised."

-         Eliezer Yudkowsky



There were a lot of bombings in 1998.


The first were directed against the United States – In Kenya and Tanzania, al Qaeda killed hundreds of Americans and Africans both. Perhaps most ironically of all, bin Laden cast his rhetoric in a criticism of African policy that seemed to be some exaggeration of Clinton's liberal critics – al Qaeda struck at Africa to "avenge" the invasion of Somalia, the genocide in Rwanda, and other crimes. This is not to imply al Qaeda had any particular affinity for American liberalism, but perhaps, in retrospect, it is not hard to see already in 1998 signs of the world polarization that would come in the following decades. As the US response struck Sudan's largest pharmaceutical factory and targets in Afghanistan, (followed by Operation Desert Fox), many Islamic countries began denying the use of their bases for military operations against others.


The attack against the USS Cole in 2000 was the last of the pre 9/11 attacks by al Qaeda against the United States. Though due to its military aim it did not meet the formal definition of terrorism, the attack was widely condemned as such. American concern about terrorism was growing, but Americans at this time were nevertheless more concerned about war with Iraq, Russia (after a close call at Pristina International Airport) or China than any central Asian backwater. Although there were no reprisal attacks after those on the USS Cole, this did not deter al Qaeda in any way. As the world would soon find out, their plans were about to undergo drastic escalation…


"In the fall of 1999, the ten operatives selected by Bin Ladin for the planes operation were chosen to attend an elite training course at al Qaeda's Mes Aynak camp in Afghanistan. Bin Ladin personally selected the veteran fighters who received this training, and several of them were destined for important operations…By January 20, 2000, the ten-aircraft strategy had the clear consensus of al Qaeda's command structure – the attack would be in three, coordinated phases – one against each coast of the United States, and a third targeted at East Asia."


-         9/11 Commission Report


"… the final results are in, and we should be expecting a concession speech shortly. We have 302 electoral votes for McCain-Thompson and 236 for Gore-Lieberman. John McCain will be the next President of the United States."

-         CNN News, November 7, 2000


PART III: 2000-2001


"Politics is an extension of war by other means."

-         Various

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

-         H.L. Menken




"The McCain Cabinet:


Internal McCain memorandum, released to various news agencies…









-         via the New York Times, December 2000


"America's next foreign policy: A look at the President-Elect's team


"… McCain's State Department seems to be rooted in the "realist" school of international relations, with famed former General Colin Powell taking the helm and Richard Armitage as undersecretary of state. This also confirms rumors that McCain would take on some of George W. Bush's advisory staff, since Armitage played a key role in Bush's foreign policy statements before his concession…


"… However, the influence of McCain's neoconservative advisors is still quite apparent. McCain has strong connections with the Kagan family, and his foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann is slated to become Undersecretary of Defense. Given America's large budget surplus, it's almost certain McCain will halt or reverse the budgetary and manpower cutbacks of the US military…


"… Potential trouble spots for the McCain administration could include Iraq, especially in light of the 1998 PNAC letter to President Clinton, which several of McCain's staff members have signed… Although many Republicans have been very critical of Clinton's foreign policy, McCain's promise to "act in concert with countries that share our values and commitment to defending them" may not be functionally different than unilateral NATO action without the explicit approval of the Security Council…"

-         Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder, January 2001


PART IV: 2000-2001
"For other nations, utopia is a blessed past never to be recovered; for Americans it is just beyond the horizon."
-Henry Kissinger

"We are living in the aftermath of something. Are we on the eve of something else?"
-Charles Morice


These were the last years of the "End of History."
In Mexico, seven decades of PRI rule ended with the election of PAN candidate Vincente Fox to the Presidency. He would be a key ally of future President McCain in the reform of American immigration law. Vietnam, the great albatross of America's Cold War experience, welcomed Bill Clinton and hoped for integration into the growing world economy. His "third way" ally, Tony Blair and his Labour Party, won a victory in British elections the next year. The People's Republic of China's economic transformation was met global recognition, winning a bid to host the Olympics in 2008. Even the Balkans seemed to be looking a brighter place – Slobodan Milosevic had surrendered to federal police and would be tried for war crimes in due course.

Recognizing hindsight, it was easy to be optimistic. But the turn of the millennium gave equal fodder for pessimists.

Not long after Israel ended its 22 year occupation of southern Lebanon, it became entangled in a new battle in Palestine. Surrounded by throngs of Israeli police, opposition Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The al-Aqsa intifada began soon afterwards, and by the next year Sharon's Likud Party would lead Israel – this tussle would not end quickly. But the Jews and Arabs had been fighting for thousands of years, thought the 21st century man; it was tragic, but the liberal democratic order could not triumph in a day.

Bombs were falling on Iraq once again. Defying the Security Council, Saddam was once again dragging out the diplomatically excruciating process of unconventional disarmament. This would be President McCain's first major international problem, and he was certainly not going to cut Saddam Hussein any slack. The RAF and USAF began tearing apart Iraqi air defenses with impunity.

"… I am sorry about the thorough search, but you know the men who tried to kill me came as reporters too… I think God was trying to keep me here, really. For the struggle that was to come… September 9th. The attempt on my life made a few papers, but I think it would have made more if it was successful. I suppose a cynic could say that if I had died, the West would have noticed more. The ISI connection, al Qaeda's involvement… I could have told them that, if they were listening."

- Ahmad Shah Massoud, in an interview with Frontline, 2002




PART V: 2001


"If economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion."

-         George Bernard Shaw


"The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics."

-         Thomas Sowell



"As the dotcom bubble collapse reverberates throughout the economy, it appears that John McCain is preparing a series of tax cuts to stimulate the economy… While McCain is not a believer in supply-side theory, it appears he will be cutting taxes not to raise revenue but for the traditional reasons of countercyclical fiscal policy... Most personal income tax cuts will be focused on the poor and middle class, with the exception of capital gains cuts which will primarily benefit the income of upper-middle and upper class Americans…"

-         Newsweek, March 2001


"The success of McCain's tax legislation has instilled confidence in the new administration… New legislation circulating through the Congress includes a compromise corporate tax reform bill that would reduce loopholes and lower the overall rate… More ambitious is his promise to begin reforming Social Security… While traditionally the left has been strongly opposed to anything that hints of private accounts, the proposed creation of universal 401(k) accounts with matching government grants has found some appeal among progressive economists…"

-         New York Times, April 2001


"Just look at the list of targets and planes downed. This is not just an attack on the United States, or even the West. This is an attack upon globalization, on the notion of capitalism itself… An attack on modernity, because wealth and prosperity are its essence…"

-         Weekly Standard, September 2001


PART VI: September, 2001


"Right now, as you read this, somebody, somewhere, is planning a war."

-         David L. Smith, The Most Dangerous Animal


"Evil is unspectacular and always human, and shares our bed and eats at our own table."

-         W.H. Auden


"Perhaps our cooperation has something to do with our ferocity."

-         Robert Bigelow



8:48, and the handful of Massachusetts construction workers near Otis AFB have gotten their question answered. Two minutes ago, a pair of fighter planes screamed overhead, with weapons on their pylons.


8:48, and the images of 1 WTC are just beginning to sear themselves into America's collective consciousness.


8:48, and Flight 175 is no longer under the pilots' control. Flight 77 has about two minutes before the same. Flight 93 has a ways to go. Four more heading west, and thus nominally backwards in time, were about to meet this grave new reality, too.


The second plane to go actually came from half a world away, during a summer evening in the land of the rising sun. Unable to navigate to their "primary" targets of USAF and USN bases during the night and finding the pilots uncooperative, the United 747 intercontinental was directed towards a more easily recognizable target – Tokyo, where the flight was originally headed. They simply picked the tallest building they could locate and headed towards it. At 8:55, the Tokyo Metropolitan was, for reasons no other than convenience, the second victim of the attacks that day.


A Thai flight, the only non-American airline hijacked, was headed towards Manila. After a struggle with the crew, the plane disappeared somewhere into the ocean before 9PM EST, but without any radio contact since the hijacking, conspiracy theories would surround it for quite some time. It was only after interrogation some time later of planners that anyone could confirm it was part of the attack.


By 10PM, Americans knew this much – both World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, the Library tower of Los Angeles, the Transamerica Pyramid, 555 California Street, and the Tokyo Metropolitan building had been hit. One plane had disappeared over the South China Sea, another, headed towards Naval Base San Diego, had been downed by an F/A-18 Hornet after news of the other West Coast attacks. The Capitol Building and the White House had been evacuated. McCain was airborne. At 10:14, Flight 93 hit the Capitol Building. The decision had been made to shoot it down, of course. But NORAD simply didn't have the planes in the air soon enough.


"… The rumors about McCain being a fierce temper were entirely true. But after hearing after building after building after building go down… his mood changed. By the time the Capitol had been it, his mood was a cold, purposeful, but harsh resolve… and it had spread. Perhaps this is what the men in that POW camp were like, I wish I could say… He didn't ever suggest pushing the red button and obliterate every capital of the Muslim world, like some would have you believe… 'We're under siege. They want us to cower in our own country, and flee our cities… We're going to get them all. I do not care who we have to bomb. I do not care what greasy sleazebags these people hide behind we have to depose. I do not care what borders we must cross… Bastards thought they could win with this? Well, they forgot to kill everyone on this damned plane…'"

-         Excerpted from an interview with an anonymous staffer onboard Air Force One that day, published in the New Yorker, September 2002.

"I looked out at these people celebrating in the city [of Peshawar's] streets, and I wondered, where do these people think the bombs will fall tomorrow?"

-         Unknown Pakistani from The Other Side of Terror: Pakistan's ISI and the Rise of al Qaeda, interviewed c. 2004, published c. 2005


PART VII: September, 2001


"It is difficult to even try to remember moments during which nothing is considered, foreseen, or understood, where there is nothing… but an astonishingly empty head and a pair of eyes which translate nothing more than would the eyes of an animal facing mortal danger."

-         Guy Sajer


"This is the first occasion since World War II on which we can and should use the entire arsenal of our defense."

-         Victor Davis Hanson



"… casualty estimates are highly variable, but until further notice, all staff stating casualty figures shall corroborate this report until better data is available…

            WTC: 2600+, ~90, ~60 on aircraft

            Pentagon: 100+, ~60 on aircraft

            Capitol: 130+, ~40 on aircraft

            Library Tower: 500+, ~35+ on aircraft

            Transamerica Pyramid: 300+, ~40 on aircraft

            555 California Street: 400+, ~50 on aircraft

            San Diego: ~60 on aircraft

            Tokyo: ~700+, ~300+ on aircraft…"

-         Memo circulating through CNN, ca. 9/12/01


2030, 9/11


The National Guard is on the streets in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, and Washington DC. There are no private or commercial flights. Every radio, every television seems to be tuned to the address the President is about to make, the first official public broadcast since the attacks.


Air Force One touched down with fighters buzzing around the city like vultures, and a military escort carried the President and essential staff into the heart of the city. It raced through deserted streets to the Capitol, so McCain could see firsthand what the day's events had wrought. Then, it was on to the White House, under heavy guard with anti-aircraft batteries in place. There, he would speak to the country…


But the idea of government continuity was, at the time,  mostly contrived. Congress was at Mount Weather, Virginia. The Vice President was at Raven Rock, Pennsylvania. Washington DC was a fortress. McCain's speech could be summarized in three Rs: reflection, recovery, and retaliation. He made his case in a calm, resolute manner – as Americans would expect of their President. Only behind the scenes was the extent of the coming response apparent. The War Powers Act had already been invoked, and US military forces around the world were preparing for a massive strike on Afghanistan, the scale of which would almost certainly be expanded to invasion pending Congressional approval. It was only a matter of confirming this was al Qaeda's doing, though there was little doubt by the evening this was the case.


Also unaware of what the United States would unleash, there were massive groundswells of support for the United States, especially in Europe, Latin America, and of course Japan. Indeed, from day one the United States and Japanese governments were coordinating a response – there were rumors Japan would alter or bypass its pacifist constitution to contribute to the war effort, something China worried of privately, but refused to mention publicly. The ANZUS and NATO treaties were pre-approved for activation, and needed only a target to set upon.


On September 18th, a week after the attacks, McCain addressed the emergency Joint Session of Congress at Mount Weather, the first time the location of Congress had been officially revealed. McCain requested a declaration of war – which, when implemented, would be the first levied against America's enemies since that against Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania in 1942 – if the Taliban did not immediately hand over al Qaeda members and open itself to a virtual NATO occupation. They would have until September 25th to comply.


"Of course, even in moments such as these the United States government has to exercise diplomatic prudence. Afghanistan is a landlocked country, and we will not be able to strike against it without the assistance of its neighbors. American officials from the State and Defense Departments are now likely engaged, 24/7, in a diplomatic offensive to pave the way for an American intervention in Afghanistan… While many countries will be reluctant, especially Pakistan, which is the only major government that still recognizes the Taliban, it is unlikely any wish to be persuaded by other means…"

-         Newsweek, September 19th, 2001


PART VIII: September 2001


"Diplomacy: the art of restraining power."

-         Henry Kissinger


"Non-combatant, n. A dead Quaker."

-         Ambrose Bierce



"There cannot be justice without power to dispense it, and there is no virtue in refusing to bear that responsibility."


This, from McCain's Mount Weather address, had become almost cliché in the days following. This rhetoric appeared in McCain's response to the Japanese amending of Article 9 on September 24th, and in the address the day after when airstrikes against Afghanistan began. What the exercising of that responsibility entailed, however, was far less eloquent and refined than the rhetoric McCain packaged it in.


There were no paeans to democracy, friendship, and universal values to those governments the US would need to persuade.


"Powell was the good cop and Richard Armitage was the bad cop. Powell would make the appeals to the governments in Central Asia willing to help us out. If there was any resistance or hesitation, McCain would send Armitage after them, who was the verbal equivalent of shock and awe. Decorum be damned, Richard Armitage made it pretty clear that if the State Department and the President didn't start hearing nice things, your country was going to get cratered… The key to this approach was that it was directed against dictators, not whole countries. Everyone knew it was going on, but to let the people in these countries know this was our policy would be very problematic, to say the least. Eventually, it was."

-         Norman Pell [1], Present at the Destruction: A Memoir of My Service


"Japan is a nation hamstrung by its past – even as it amends Article 9 to allow for participation in the war against terrorism, diplomats in South Korea and China have expressed concerns about a Japan 'unleashed.' Though Japan does not use war as an instrument of foreign policy, it is self-restraint rather than incapacity that accounts for its pacifism. Since the 1998 test of North Korean missiles and the rise of China, Japan has faced regional security challenges in East Asia, and with 9/11 it is clear Japan cannot ignore the global challenges either. Sources with the US State Department indicate the LDP will push for an authorization not only to deploy troops to Afghanistan with NATO, but for other proposed efforts involving humanitarian and military aid and counterterrorist and counter-piracy naval operations…"

-         Foreign Policy, September 23rd


Operation Overwhelming Resolve began on September 25th. After securing airbases in Afghanistan's neighbors (save China and Iran), American submarine-launched missiles and strategic bombers began pounding Taliban military and government infrastructure.


"Al Qaeda is an organization without borders. The idea it could be engaged within them was doomed from the start, and if it did not die between Tora Bora and Parachinar it would have died somewhere else. On September 25th, the gears were already turning."

-         The Other Side of Terror: Pakistan's ISI and the Rise of al Qaeda


[1] Entirely fictional.


PART IX: September-November 2001


"You say it is the good cause that hallows even war? I tell you: it is the good war that hallows every cause."

-         Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra


"If they want eternal war, well and good; we accept the issue, and will dispossess them and put our friends in their place."

-         William Tecumseh Sherman



"According to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, bombing against Taliban targets and airdrops of humanitarian aid to refugees began on the same day… So this is how we fight: making war against governments, and providing succor to the people. The distinction in theory is obvious. Maintaining it in practice will be the great challenge of the coming years."

-         from Foreign Affairs, November/December 2001 issue


This was the war Americans liked to fight. From high above, with impunity, and consciences comforted by big planes marked USAF dropping the packages marked USAID. Strategic bombers were never under threat for a moment – the B-1s, B-2s, and B-52s attacked what they wanted, when they wanted to. What little air defense the Taliban possessed before the bombing campaign could not touch them. There were fears that Stinger missiles leftover from the 1980s might, in some suitably ironic effort, down lower flying fighters, but this never came to be. Carrier based aircraft faced nothing but small arms and a handful of crew-served guns.


The only Americans on the ground were yet to be spoken of – Special Forces, wrapped in local clothing, riding horses, but brandishing customized rifles and next-generation communications gear, were riding with the Northern Alliance, especially Massoud's "Lions." They engaged and defeated the Taliban in combat, supported from the air by NATO bombers. By the closing week of October, larger numbers of NATO Special Forces were on the ground, and an assault against the critical airfield at Mazar-e-Sharif had begun. After a one sided victory in early November, news also came of a Taliban abandonment of Kabul, ushering in their almost complete collapse save for the southeast.


However, with the onset of winter, the war against the Taliban had to be paced. Such stunning success had left NATO and the Northern Alliance with 75% of the country to care for. As thousands of NATO regulars began landing in Afghanistan, humanitarian assistance became the primary operation throughout much of the country. But for the pocket around Kandahar and the Pakistani border, search and destroy was still NATO's modus operandi. McCain wanted the Taliban wiped out before 2002, knowing they would reorganize in the Pakistani Federally Administered Tribal Areas.


"We can hear the bombs falling across the border, on our brothers. They are waging a war against Pakistan's people too, on Islam. And the Western puppets can shoot at us, but in every city in Pakistan the people are making their true feelings apparent."

- Unknown Pakistani, Islamabad rallies, October 3rd, 2001, as reported on BBC News


PART X: September-December 2001


"Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the value of that which is put at hazard. Games of chance require a wager to have meaning at all. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But the trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of war for here that which is wagered swallows up the game, player, all."

-         The Judge, in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian


"Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles."

-         Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary



"The inevitability of trans-national conflict was apparent months before the December offensive. Two days after American aircraft crossed Pakistani airspace to bomb Afghanistan, Musharraf began a major reorganization of his military and security leadership, reassigning of forcing the resignation even of officers who had helped him gain power in the 1999 coup d'etat against Sharif. However, in those uncertain days, Musharraf feared the rhetoric of Armitage… more than his former comrades… The most vital removal was that of Mahmud Ahmed [the DG of the ISI], who, then unbeknownst to the US, had been financially linked to the 9/11 hijackers… Deputy Chief of Staff Muzaffar Usmani also prematurely 'retired,' though he was less popular among the fundamentalists and less involved in any compromising activity. The biggest challenge for Musharraf was then-Corps Commander [and pre-coup ISI Deputy Director] Muhammad Aziz Khan. Khan, of the influential Sudhan tribe, commanded the loyalties of many fundamentalist Pakistanis… His removal was particularly problematic because of his role in the Kargil War and his heroic status among the Jammu and Kashmir lobby. Musharraf initially refused Powell's request for Khan's removal and was able to keep him in power until October 20th, when Armitage threatened again to bomb Pashtun fighters crossing into the Southeastern Pocket from the FATA… Musharraf decided it would be better to administer the bitter medicine of secularization than threaten the collapse of the Pakistani state. Realizing the collapse of the Taliban as a useful ally, Musharraf could not condone going to war so his citizens could fight for them… It is unclear whether Musharraf could have avoided angering the fundamentalists while acceding to US demands. What is clear is that Musharraf did not adequately prepare for the backlash that was to come."

-         The Other Side of Terror: Pakistan's ISI and the Rise of al Qaeda


November's end brought a resumption of major combat operations. As NATO and the Northern Alliance digested their conquests, the Taliban regrouped around Kandahar, greatly bolstered by large numbers of Pakistani volunteers. The US, in the meantime, had been bombing the area round-the-clock with B-52s, hoping to level what it thought was a massive underground cave complex.


In truth, Tora Bora's defenses were far less elaborate. What made Tora Bora truly special were reports by captured insurgents from Yemen and reports from NATO troops scanning VHF frequencies indicated this had been the holdout of Osama bin Laden since November. Such a prize could not be given up, and the White House watched Tora Bora fully aware of the opportunities at hand.


"On December 4th, US troops spearheaded the final assault on the Tora Bora complex… Resistance was stiff but futile: the panicked full-automatic fire of the insurgents sharply contrasted the controlled bursts by American troops… They fired mortars with little regard for accuracy… By December 5th, CIA and Special Forces operatives received word that bin Laden and his entourage were headed south towards Parachinar, a major center of support for the Taliban… Around the time of direct ground-to-Washington communications at 3AM on December 6th, all press staff were pushed behind the original lines of battle… What was said is still unknown, but that evening, while meeting with a truck convoy in Pakistan, US forces engaged bin Laden's entourage… there were no survivors."

-         Christian Science Monitor, December 10th, 2001


"I authorized our men to find, capture, or kill bin Laden… Pakistan was aware of our presence in the border area, but we could not disclose the nature of our operations until they had succeeded."

-         John McCain, press conference on December 8th, upon the announcement of bin Laden's death


"The engagement occurred at the border, and our troops were not in a position to respond. The cooperation of the United States is vital to Pakistan's security and that of the globe, and to suggest Pakistan should obstruct the serving of international justice is absurd."

-         Pervez Musharraf, December 8th, to the Dawn newspaper


"Our own government was tricked and wants to pass off this embarrassment as a triumph. Pakistan receives no respect from foreign countries or its own people for a simple reason: Musharraf's submission to the United States and the abrogation of its own sovereignty… He has betrayed our brothers in Afghanistan, the heroes of its army, and its rightful role as a country founded to defend the Islamic faith… There can be no compromise, no recourse but force, to restore our dignity… Our government must serve none but Allah."

-         Declaration attributed to various fundamentalist groups and al Qaeda, first found printed in Peshawar, December 15th, 2001


PART XI: September 2001-January 2002


"War is God's way of teaching Americans geography."

-         Ambrose Bierce


"All that wells up from the depths of the young soul is cast in the old moulds, young feelings stiffen in senile practices, and instead of expanding its own creative power, it can only hate the distant power with a hate that grows to be monstrous. This is the case of the Arabian Culture."

-         Oswald Spengler, Decline of the West [1]


"Every Muslim, from the moment they realize the distinction in their hearts, hates Americans, hates Jews and hates Christians. For as long as I can remember, I have felt tormented and at war, and have felt hatred and animosity for Americans."

-         Osama bin Laden


"All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is send two mujahedeen… to raise a piece of cloth on which is written Al Qaeda, in order to make the generals race there…"

-         Osama bin Laden



"This is a world problem, and that means this war does not end in Afghanistan. We must assist our allies in their own struggles against terror, wherever they may be."

-         John McCain


"60 years after Japan came to the Philippines as conquerors, they're returning – as allies in the new war on terror. As part of Overwhelming Resolve – Philippines (OOR-P), Japanese naval and ground forces will provide humanitarian and military aid in concert with the US and Australia… In addition to combating the insurgency in the Southern Philippines, OOR-P will provide valuable training exercises for JSDF forces, which had not conducted major operations on foreign soil until 2001… Prime Minister Koizumi says the deployments in Afghanistan and the Philippines are 'crucial to the new global reality' and 'important to Japan's reputation as a responsible country.'"

-         International Herald Tribune, December 29th, 2001


"Several Russian officials, including Vladimir Putin, expressed disapproval at US plans to deploy military advisors to Georgia next month… The Georgian government requested US aid to fight Islamic insurgents in the Pankisi Gorge region… While Russia considers its war against Islamic militants like the Chechens as its own role in the war on terror, many Russians are concerned that with a major US presence in Central Asia, and an increasing one in the Caucasus, that the West may be exploiting its operations for geopolitical gain against Russia…"

-         New York Times, January 3rd, 2002


"America's Reluctant Allies: The first part in a continuing series

… While publicly, Saudi Arabia has condemned the 9/11 attacks and tried to improve its international image, private diplomatic communication tells a different story. Sources inside the FBI and State Department told the Journal that Saudi Arabia is stalling cooperation with Western law enforcement agencies in the investigation of the 9/11 hijackers and al Qaeda funding, much of which comes from Saudi Arabia… The 2000 carbombings of two British nationals the Saudis claimed were 'illegal alcohol traders' is also a sticking issue… The use of a hand grenade to kill an American and injure several others in Al Khobar in the wake of Operation Overwhelming Resolve has lead the US to demand thorough investigations into terrorist activities in Saudi Arabia – a demand with which the Saudi government is not eager to comply… If the Saudis do not reach a compromise, proposed arms deals for counterterrorist funding and the maintenance of the Saudi regular military may not go through…"

-         Wall Street Journal, November 5th, 2001


"US officials refused to comment on growing instability in Uzbekistan, currently providing basing for NATO forces in the war in Afghanistan… Fearing the Western onslaught, many Islamist insurgents from neighbouring countries fled Afghanistan, returning to wage campaigns against the autocrats of their own countries… Former Soviet republics like Uzbekistan have not seen a change in leadership since independence was thrust upon them in 1991… Rampant corruption and political repression have helped fuel both violent movements such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and larger, nonviolent groups such as the Islamic Party of Liberation, which US analysts fear may radicalise into a terrorist movement… Given the turmoil's impact on the strategically important Fergana Valley, many defence analysts believe that continuing unrest may prompt a military deployment…"

- The Guardian, December 5th, 2001


PART XII: December 2001-January 2002


"You are mortal men. You are capable of error."

-         George F. Kennan


"Honor has not to be won; it must only not be lost."

-         Arthur Schopenhauer


"Carry on any enterprise as if all future success depends on it."

-         Cardinal Richelieu



There was a world before 9/11. It was still there afterwards, if you looked for it. If you didn't, it had a tendency to intrude at the most inopportune moments.


"BREAKING NEWS: INDIAN PARLIAMENT ATTACKED BY ISLAMIC TERRORISTS… Five terrorists with suicide vests and automatic weapons launched an assault on the Indian Parliament in New Dehli today… Among the victims are Minister of State Harin Pathak along with six policemen, two Parliament guards, and at least three staff members were killed. Sources say the gunmen shot their way into the building before detonating their bombs in various rooms… This just in, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been wounded and is in critical condition… Lal Krishna Advani, Minister of Home Affairs, has taken control of the government."

-         CNN, December 11th [1]


"Washington called for answers – Pakistan needed to crack down on the Kashmiri militants immediately. Coming just days after Osama bin Laden's death, and in the wake of mass public unrest, Musharraf found himself friendless… He could have appealed to the hero of the Kashmiri fighters, Aziz Khan, but the Americans had forced Musharraf to sack him. With the Line of Control militarizing again and potential enemies on both sides, Musharraf turned to the only option that remains for most army strongmen – he sent in the troops, this time, against his own people."

-         The Other Side of Terror: Pakistan's ISI and the Rise of al Qaeda


Pakistan was under martial law. It could not be specifically directed against the Kashmiri – this would be a recipe for certain disaster – so Musharraf essentially justified it as part of a national effort to prepare for war with India. Nevertheless, the opposition was angry and the fundamentalists were wary. Critically, Musharraf moved several hundred thousand soldiers from the Afghani frontier to Kashmir. Nuclear missiles on both sides were readied for action. The Indian navy loomed ominously near Pakistan.


Meanwhile, the domestic response provided the raw complement to the abstract, hypothetical war that could be. Anti-Muslim riots broke out in Gujarat and several other border states in January, as sweeping government anti-terror laws lead to the detention or relocation of "suspected terrorists," and the disruption of their businesses. Muslim terrorists responded with grenade attacks, train bombings, and a variety of other attacks throughout January. By the close of the month, a process that many foreign reporters and human rights observers described as a "pogrom" coordinated between Hindu militants and local officials was in motion.


On January 10th, several NATO countries began a frantic effort to prevent the escalation of the standoff…


[1] Roughly based on an OTL event, with a slight alteration in the date.


PART XIII: December 2001-February 2002


"… The intensity of war coverage tends to have a larger impact on support for war than the evaluative tone of that news coverage. We conclude that the dominant opinion process underlying support for major American wars seems to be neither information updating nor attitude reinforcement, but rather the tendency for war news to activate latent patriotism… The tone of war news matters, but the loss of support for war seems not so much a function of the amount of critical coverage as whether the war is receiving any prominent coverage at all."

-          Althaus & Coe, "Priming Patriots," 2007


"These armies are not substitutes for war – they are for war, and they want war."

-         Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West




"… Troop numbers in Afghanistan are extremely low given the expected intensity of future operations… Even in a best-case scenario without transnational interventions, we recommend a 10-20,000 overall strength increase, focused in southern Afghanistan… Given recent developments in Pakistan, however, it would be best to have at least 35,000 US troops in-theater with an additional 100,000+ ready for deployment…"

-          Internal NSC memo to the President, January 9th, 2002


"… After attempts at mediation by Vladimir Putin, Colin Powell, and the United Nations, the standoff between India and Pakistan continues… While Powell assured the press that "catastrophe can be averted," there is growing speculation that the major source of instability may come from within Pakistan itself rather than international tensions… Musharraf, under pressure from both the US and Indian government [2], has begun an extremely unpopular campaign of counterinsurgency against militants in Kashmir…"

-          CNN, January 15th


"Given the dislocation of Pakistani forces due to the COIN operations in Kashmir and the military buildup against India, we advise the authorization of airstrikes and CJSOTF[1] incursions into the Pakistani frontier, in order to disrupt the potential of a Taliban spring offensive… We expect the majority of Taliban strength in such an operation to consist of Pakistani insurgents and foreign fighters from the wider Islamic world infiltrating via Pakistan… We are confident Massoud and the Northern Alliance [2] can deal with minor upsurges in violence in the rest of the country, but the southeast should be primarily the domain of ISAF forces…"

-          Internal NSC memo to the President, January 14th, 2002


"The Northwest Frontier has erupted into violence this week, as the fundamentalist response to repeated US incursions and missile strikes grew into a full-blown clash between tribal militias and government troops… Meanwhile, Musharraf's unpopular campaign against the militants of Jammu and Kashmir has provoked massive protests in several major Pakistani cities… Nationalist retired officers such as Muhammad Aziz Khan have even criticized their former ally publicly…"

-          The New York Times, January 17th, 2002


"Hopes that the confrontation between India and Pakistan may have dissipated were shattered in Jammu yesterday, when fundamentalist gunmen attacked an Indian army barracks. At least 30 have been killed, not including the 3 gunmen, and diplomatic relations between the two countries may reach their lowest point since the crisis began in December… Pakistan's government has demonstrated an increasing lack of control over militant operations in Kashmir, and it is likely the US and India will once again force Musharraf to conduct a counterterror campaign against his own people…"

-          LA Times, February 2nd


"Death to the betrayer of Afghanistan! Death to the betrayer of Kashmir! Death to the betrayer of Aziz! Death to the betrayer of Pakistan!"

-          "Martyr tape" of Pakistani suicide carbombers, before the "8 February Operation" in Rawalpindi


[1] Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force

[2] Massoud is the de facto leader of Western-aligned forces in Afghanistan


PART XIV: January 2002-February 2002


"Refusing to accept a life of submission, the suicide bomber turns life itself into a horrible weapon."

-         Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Multitude


"He who blinded by ambition, raises himself to a position whence he cannot mount higher, must thereafter fall with the greatest loss."

-         Niccolo Machiavelli


"Nobody likes the man who brings bad news."

-         The Guard, Sophocles's Antigone




"Where Journalists Fear to Tread: Reporting in Pakistan

… With the assassination of Najam Sethi and attempts on the lives of reporters from the Wall Street Journal and Times, America's partner in the War on Terror is becoming a dangerous place for journalists… Many reporters say that they feel 'safer in Afghanistan' rather than the streets of Karachi or Peshawar…"

-         Time Magazine, January, 2002


"Much to the dismay of the Indian government and UN, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf indicated today that he does not intend to launch another counterterror campaign in Kashmir after the February 1st attack on Indian soldiers in Jammu… While Pakistan's neighbors and the United States are disappointed, Musharraf has chosen to risk international estrangement over internal upheaval. Before the first campaign against Islamic fundamentalists in Kashmir ceased on January 20th, Pakistan had to cope with demonstrations in many of its major cities and growing dissent within its military ranks…"

-         International Herald Tribune, February 3rd, 2002


Nobody besides a few fanatics wants Pakistan seriously destabilized. The Taliban need a figurehead of some sort to protect their safe haven in the FATA from attack. The US needs that figurehead to manipulate. China wants a client. India wants a common enemy for its people.


Unfortunately, "a few fanatics" is a decent descriptor of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. While they cannot achieve their broader geopolitical goals, they surely can tear up the landscape in the process.


Hence the 8 February Operation. In the last command of the "betrayed" Muhammad Aziz Khan, two men, two cars, and a few hundred pounds of explosive threw Pakistan into dire straits. The first vehicle blocked off the Presidential convoy by detonating itself in the middle of the street. In the ensuing chaos, a second vehicle dove into the middle of the convoy and exploded its own payload.


Musharraf's armored SUV absorbed some of the blast, but not enough. His guards rushed him to a hospital, but before the day was done, Pakistan's strongman was dead.


"February 8th was the worst day I'd had since 9/11. There was not as much of a visceral or emotional pull, of course, but it was utter confusion. We did not know what was going on. Nobody was talking to us. Nobody was talking to the Generals, and they weren't talking to the Indians. We did not know who was going to succeed this guy – obviously it wasn't going to go by the constitution. It was a question of which General it was going to be, but there were a lot of hungry dogs in Pakistan that day."

-         Norman Pell, Present at the Destruction: A Memoir of My Service


"50,000 troops? I don't think we're talking about just fighting guys in caves anymore, are we?"

-         Unknown reporter, White House Press Conference, February 9th


PART XV: February-March 2002


It makes no difference what men think of war, said the judge. War endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. War was always here. Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way is was and will be. That way and not some other way.

-         The Judge, in Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian


"War is wretched beyond description, and only a fool or a fraud could sentimentalize its cruel reality."

-         John McCain




"Due to the extraordinary circumstances of this present crisis, I am assuming emergency leadership of Pakistan. The Constitution will be temporarily suspended until the situation is resolved."

-         General Yusaf Khan


Khan's succession to leadership of Pakistan was not the worst possible case – at least the country was not in complete anarchy. However, this man was a hawk, one of the strongest voices urging the present confrontation with India. His theory to unify the country was quite simple – end American breaches of Pakistani sovereignty, throw government support behind the freedom fighters of Kashmir, and bring Pakistan together against its traditional enemy of India.


It was a decent plan, except it was formulated with little knowledge of the diplomatic situation between the US and Pakistan. Musharraf had suppressed knowledge about Armitage's bellicose calls to avoid appearing weak to his countrymen. He'd done his job a bit too well. When Yusaf informed the Americans they'd no longer be allowed violate Pakistan's territory, they did not receive his decision well. Spring was coming, and militants were crossing the mountain passes in an attempt to break out of the Kandahar pocket.


"This jackbooted motherf----r thinks he can play hardball with the United States? We're taking them down. Let's throw the book at them. We're going to start releasing as much as we can on these guys. We're going to make the case for war."

-         Norman Pell quoting John McCain in Present at the Destruction: A Memoir of My Service


The numbers looked good. After a week of "leaks," releases, and public statements to Pakistan, at least 70% supported a resumption of counterterrorist operations. Many now believed that Pakistan was a state sponsor of terror that needed to be dealt with. The mania caught on. Some in the media even began speculating that Musharraf had been assassinated in concert with the new government to push out the US. The intervention was making a case for itself.


Operation Anaconda began in March, 2002. It thoroughly disproved the idea that killing bin Laden would break the spirit of al Qaeda. Instead, American forces encountered higher numbers of foreign fighters than expected – al Qaeda had become a martyr cult, not just a terrorist organization. The fact that insurgents were flocking to the battlefield also indicated Pakistani complicity to this new phase of the war.


McCain resumed bombing on March 13th, striking insurgent targets in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Meanwhile, the first brigades of the 50,000 troop surge to Afganistan were apparently all destined for the border, with NATO picking up most of the slack in the rest of Afghanistan.


CJSOTF forces crossed the border for the first time since operations ceased on March 15th, attacking command positions in the FATA. Meanwhile, American intelligence services began making outreaches to Pakistan's more secular members of the officer corps – expecting they'd need to be able to put pressure on Yusaf from within. All of the aforementioned operations were done in secret, and while Yusaf accused the US of violating his borders, he could prove nothing – even the ground forces were using local weapons and tribal dress.


In retaliation, Pakistani soldiers began firing across the Afghan border at UAVs and aircraft, downing a Predator drone on March 18th. In response, Americans began jamming Pakistani communications.


On March 20th, the straw broke the camel's back. Pakistani soldiers began firing on CJSOTF soldiers in tribal dress and Northern Alliance soldiers, operating on the Afghan side of the border. They returned fire, and the Pakistani troops pursued. Since Pakistani electronics were being jammed, a company inadvertently crossed the Afghan border. After continuing the firefight, the Pakistani soldiers were wiped out by gunships and heliborne regular troops from the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. It was officially the end of Operation Anaconda. It was the beginning of something worse.


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