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NATO official: Afghan leader affirms NATO mission  

Not sure how much arm-twisting went on to get Afghan President Karzai to change his mind, but yesterday NATO reported that he was actually on board with NATO’s military campaign and “reluctantly” in support of nighttime SOF raids.  President Karzai nor his staff could be reached for comment, but if the old adage of “the first report is a false report” holds true, we can expect some additional clarifying statements over the next few days as NATO, President Karzai, and regional partners meet in Lisbon to discuss an end state for the NATO mission.  Secretary Gates yesterday affirmed that there was no distance between President Karzai and General Petreaus.  So NATO, the Secretary of Defense and President Karzai are finally all on the same sheet of music.  Finally.

U.S. Must Sustain Military Might, Gates Says

Secretary Gates took on the recommendations to cut defense procurement by 15 percent and its research and development by 10 percent yesterday when he met with the WSJ’s CEO Council.  He called the recommendation to slash the defense budget “math, not strategy” and that the Departments intent was to “figure out how to kill programs that aren’t working.”   Given this position, any effort to review and replace individual equipment and small arms in the near future will compete directly with big-ticket weapons programs and sustaining personnel and manpower requirements.  Yes, it is about strategy, but it is also about math.  Especially if you consider the fact that the Department has embraced a strategic shift to COIN doctrine (and its application), which requires an endless calculus of “counter-insurgents” and proper individual equipment and small arms to support these endeavors.  Unfortunately you can’t have it both ways when trying to sustain US military might under the threats and circumstances that we face.

New Equipment Brings Greater Mobility in Afghanistan

This Youtube video provides some insight into the conundrum troops face when trying to lighten their combat load to improve mobility – a clear sacrifice of safety for survival in higher altitudes.   These troops in the Korengal are now wearing plate carriers instead of the Improved Outer Tactical Vest (IOTV).  Note that there is an underreported deficiency in the IOTV and the pull tab which sometimes, when used “might get caught on something and fall apart”.  If the plate carrier is being used to give troopers mobility – no issue, understand, and that is a commander’s risk assessment call.  But if the plate carrier is being used to replace the IOTV because it “falls apart”, then fixes to the tab need to be addressed immediately. 

Bugle Calls

“Taps” is played everyday at funerals for our fallen heroes…

“Fading light dims the sight,

And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.

From afar drawing nigh — Falls the night.

Day is done, gone the sun,

From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;

All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Then good night, peaceful night,

Till the light of the dawn shineth bright;

God is near, do not fear — Friend, good night.”

Karzai wants U.S. to reduce military operations in Afghanistan

In the starkest terms to date, President Karzai said that the visibility and intensity of US/NATO operations must be reduced and that US SOF night raids end. “It’s not desirable for the Afghan people either to have 100,000 or more foreign troops going around the country endlessly,” he said. These were not off the cuff remarks, but instead provided to reporters in an hour-long sit-down interview (an exasperated General Petreaus responded – see associated news report).  Karzai continues to highlight that US/NATO operations are exacerbating the war fatigue Afghans experience daily.

While US/NATO continues to make the claim for a 2014 transition date for full security and the end of combat operations, Karzai increasingly appears to support accelerating the pace of withdrawals and the transition.  His avowed “skepticism” of US policy in Afghanistan will only complicate the next two weeks of debate and the ongoing review, while ground commanders and SOF units continue “endless” operations (to include night raids). 

Karzai did express gratitude for the American support Afghans have received, but questioned the administrations motives.  If this is the “status” of where the US/NATO-Afghanistan relationship, where the President questions “motives”, we have failed in our strategic communications. 

 Petraeus Says Karzai Comments Hurt War Effort – Report

“Astonishment and disappointment”?  Hurting the war effort?  “Undermining General Petreaus?” Hypothetical references to “an inability to continue US operations in the face of Karzai’s remarks”?  The remarks were not a “no-vote confidence of General Petreaus.”    

It is becoming increasingly harder to see the path to any positive outcome in Afghanistan after this recent public rift (of many) between President Karzai and General Petreaus.  The bottomline is that US/NATO policy objectives are at odds.  The US/NATO mission of COIN, with its requisite resources and timeframe, cuts against the grain of Afghan sensibilities, while the reality on the ground is that any progress is not only not welcome but appears counter-productive. Worse yet is that the senior commander and President Karzai continue to raise the stakes of any effective outcome with increasingly public disagreements.  Nothing good can come of this.

Marines Learn Lessons From Tragedy in Afghanistan

Marines deploy for seven-month stints and rotate in and out Afghanistan under a tight set of conditions and protocol.  It has become clear that the most dangerous time for any unit is during this transition period as the new unit adapts to the situation on the ground and the redeploying unit thins their lines.  As this report highlights, even after repeated deployments, this transition often leads to tragedy – but in this instance the Marine unit applied lessons learned to overcome their losses and improve their tactical posture.

As in every conflict, the enemy gets a vote.  Here, in vicinity of Patrol Base Fulod, the enemy has shown its ingenuity and tenacity by improving their tactics and procedures while engaging Marines – and this should not be a surprise.

Future soldiers may be wearing ‘Iron Man’ suits 

Raytheon has developed a XOS-2 exoskeleton “Iron Man” suit, which they hope to deploy to the field no later than 2015 – the initial application is to support material handling and logistics.  It’s incredulous the amount of science and technology creative energy being expended on this project when the obvious emphasis should be placed on improving core soldier platforms (i.e. Body Armor, Helmet, Carbine, Side Arm, and Combat Boots) of which we have seen little improvement?

 Consider smaller Afghan force: US panel 

A Council of Foreign Relations task force released its anticipated study on the war in Afghanistan – bottomline, these experts recommend that if the US reaches a point this summer in 2011 where there is not significant progress and “not working”, then a “more significant drawdown will be warranted.”

Key highlights:

  • “The task force endorses strategies for Pakistan and Afghanistan that place severe demands on the American people. The task force does so knowing that, at best, the margin for US victory is likely to be slim.”
  • “If progress is being made, the United States should be able to draw down its forces starting in July 2011, based on conditions on the ground.”
  • “However, if US efforts are not working, a more significant drawdown to a narrower mission that emphasizes counter-terror objectives with fewer US forces will be warranted.”

The new date to watch in Afghanistan: 2014

 July 2011?  Forget about it…

Stamp released in honor of Beetle Bailey

 If you still use snail mail and you are writing a letter to a deployed trooper, brighten up his day and use a Beetle Bailey stamp.

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