War in Afghanistan: A distraction to our fight against terrorism?

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In a recent article from Foreign Policy entitled  An Unnecessary War – – Afthanistan used to be the central front in the war against terrorism.  Now it’s a distraction from it, the author argues that policy makers may be taking their eyes off the “bigger” picture and one that is more critical to US security.

Highlights

  • First as candidate and later as president, Barack Obama famously described Afghanistan as “a war of necessity:” a war the United States could not afford to lose. Obama restated the case in the speech he gave last December announcing his decision to add 30,000 troops to the battle, asserting that Afghanistan and Pakistan constituted “the epicenter of the violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda,” and adding that the threat would “only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity.” The only way to counteract this threat, Obama insisted, was to bolster American military capacity, and to adopt a counterinsurgency strategy to “increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region.” Most of the debate around Obama’s war plans has centered on that counterinsurgency strategy: Is President Hamid Karzai too corrupt and erratic, are the Afghan people too hostile to foreign forces, is institution-building too intrinsically difficult, and are Afghan security forces too inept to justify the massive and belated effort to build Afghan stability and capacity? But this is actually the secondary issue. The central question is: Is it necessary? Would withdrawal in fact gravely jeopardize American national security?
  • Marc Sageman, a CIA veteran now with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, has asserted in congressional testimony that more than three-quarters of the terrorist plots against the West executed or foiled over the last five years have been carried out by “homegrown terrorists” with no organizational connection to al Qaeda — a phenomenon he calls “leaderless jihad.” Focusing vast resources on any piece of geographical space is thus a strategic mistake. On the other hand, the terrorism expert Peter Bergen argues that “the numbers are a red herring.” Osama bin Laden only had 200 loyalists at the time of 9/11, after all, and still managed to do a great deal of damage. What’s more, he adds, since al Qaeda “has infected other groups they’re embedded with,” including the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani body which carried out the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, counting al Qaeda alone is misleading. And the lack of recent spectacular attacks hardly proves that al Qaeda central is history.
  • But all costs are relative. And against the uncertain benefits of maintaining a very large military presence in Afghanistan over the next three to four years are the very large costs of staying in such large numbers. The $100 billion a year or so in resources may be the least of it. The war is a terrible drain on Washington’s attention, and on U.S. soft power and prestige. “It’s hard to be taken seriously in Asia when we are still bogged down in Afghanistan,” as Cronin says. There are very few true wars of necessity. The Civil War was one; World War II was another. When Mullah Omar refused to give up Osama bin Laden, a war in Afghanistan became necessary. But then the war changed character, and the nature of the adversary changed as well. A war against Islamic terrorism, in some form, remains necessary. But the war in Afghanistan does not.

SFTT Analysis:

  • The threat that emanates from Afghanistan is marginal and requires a reallocation of resources and a change in strategy and policy, given the fact that recently failed operations were either born or bred in Pakistan’s tribal regions,Yemen, and western European capitols or attempted by “home-grown” operatives and confederates.
  • If it is true that AQ has metastesized into a “headless” jihad with limited global reach, then it would make more strategic and operational sense to concentrate US/NATO efforts where the threat roosts with a robust counter-terrorism strategy.
  • Afghanistan is proving history correct that to continue to engage in an economy-of-force COIN effort with limited resources only creates a never ending supply of new insurgents (and jihadists).
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Military News you may have missed: Oct 30, 2010

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Update on the Kandahar Campaign

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The New York Times reports that a NATO field commander suggests that the “fate” of the Kandahar Campaign will not become clear until June (2011).

Key Highlights:

  • A NATO offensive to secure the Taliban’s birthplace of Kandahar is putting pressure on militants, but genuine success will not be clear until next June, the region’s top commander said on Thursday. British Major-General Nick Carter’s comments were the latest by U.S. and NATO officials touting battlefield advances but also calling for patience ahead of a NATO summit in November and a White House strategy review in December. Kandahar is expected to figure prominently at both events. Thousands of U.S. and Afghan troops are engaged in a campaign to flush insurgents from districts around Kandahar city, a campaign seen as vital to turning the tide of a war now in its 10th year.
  • General Carter, briefing Pentagon reporters, said he saw “some encouraging signs, definitely momentum.” “(There is) a sense that probably the initiative is now with us and not, as it was a year ago, with the insurgency,” he said. Carter said it is impossible to gauge advances from one season to the next because fighting in Afghanistan is seasonal. Fighting peaks in the summer, when foliage provides Taliban fighters with cover and casualties are at their highest. “You, in Afghanistan, have to be very careful about not measuring progress until you match it to the appropriate season and the appropriate time of year,” Carter said.  “And I sense it won’t be until June next year that we’ll be sure that the advances we’ve made during the course of the last few months are genuinely success.”

SFTT Analysis:

  • More mixed signals from Kandahar on whether current progress is being made or whether it is too early to assess effects.  British Major General Carter chirps that “we won’t know if we are making progress until June 2011.”
  • Either NATO lacks a coherent and coordinated strategic communications plan – not very plausible given Petreaus’ background and modus operandi.  But perhaps this is simply a very sophisticated strategic communication effort designed to:
    • 1) sow confusion within policy makers as they contemplate how to begin reducing troop strength next July or
    • 2) provide some breathing room for NATO capitals while they consider the “next steps” in Afghanistan.  Regardless, imagine trying to explain “progress” to a rifleman before he leaves the wire for the umpteenth time – he can see right through all this.
  • Major General Carter also cautions matching any progress to “seasons,” prattling on about foliage, etc, and how this impacts an effective measure of progress until June 2011.  Unfortunately that logic doesn’t square.  Perhaps there are some lingering frictions and

    bruised feelings between the US and our British allies post-Basra, Iraq on who lost Basra and now that has carried over to Afghanistan proper.  Maybe the remarks are meant to support a future blame-game on who lost the south in Afghanistan?

  • Or maybe Major General Carter took umbrage with US Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills’ recent comments that Regional Command Southwest would not rest during the winter and press the fight to the enemy.
  • As for winter and the “seasons”, someone should remind the chap that over 25% (82 of 341) British casualties suffered in Afghanistan since 9/11 have come during the winter “season” (November through February).
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USMC passes on Army upgrades to M4

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The Marine Corps Times reports that the USMC has decided  to pass on the US Army upgrades to M4

Key Highlights:

  • As the Army moves to field more than 10,000 conversion kits designed to make the 5.56mm M4 deadlier and more reliable, the Marine Corps says it has no plans to update its inventory. Upgrades will integrate a heavier, more durable barrel, strengthened site rails, a piston-charged operating system and the ability to fire in full automatic mode — fixes designed to address complaints about the weapons’ lethality and reliability. The plan calls for distributing 12,000 conversion kits in the short term, effectively turning existing M4s into improved versions of the special operations M4A1, said Army Brig. Gen. Peter Fuller, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier. An additional 25,000 M4A1s and 65,000 conversion kits would be purchased through additional contracts.
  • “We’ve been looking at our small arms for a long time, you know,assessing the effects on the battlefield, knock-down power, killing power, those types of things,” General Conway, Commandant of the Marine Corps said. “We are never going to be a carbine Marine Corps, OK. We’re never going to go completely to the M4. We’re a rifle Marine Corps. We believe in long-range shooting skills, and those skills are just not as resident in a carbine as they are in a service rifle.”
  • U.S. combat troops have complained about the stopping power of both the M16A4 and M4 in recent years, particularly in Afghanistan, where combat is frequently in open fields and valleys that require powerful, long-range shots. In response, the Corps began replacing its conventional Cold War-era 5.56mm M855 ammo this spring with an enhanced 5.56mm Special Operations Science & Technology round that uses an open-tip design common in sniper ammunition. The Corps also is considering a new, lead-free Army round fielded recently, the M855A1, and will evaluate both options in coming months.

SFTT Analysis:

  • This article pre-dates the Army’s recent decision to retro-fit all of the Army’s M4 inventory, but at least here, we get the rationale on why the Marine Corps passed on this conversion.
  • If this report is accurate, the Marine Corps has ceded the argument that they want to replace the M16A4 due to “cost”.
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M4 gets overhaul and upgrade

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The Stars and Stripes reports that the M4, the rifle that is the mainstay of our troops in Afghanistan will get a significant upgrade.

Key Highlights:

  •  Calling it “the biggest overhaul of service rifles in nearly 50

    years,” the Army soon will send soldiers to Afghanistan with new M4A1

    carbines.  Upgrades to the M4 include a more resilient barrel,

    ambidextrous controls and a full-automatic setting. Add better

    ammunition, and soldiers will have a more lethal weapon to fight

    insurgents, according to Program Executive Office Soldier, which

    introduced the improvements.  The new carbines are expected to be

    integrated into the force starting next year. Going fully automatic

    would definitely give each soldier more firepower, Specialist Jake

    Barnhill said. “But being in a firefight will also use ammunition more

    quickly.”

  •  Not everyone is convinced that the upgrades are necessary. Adding

    full-automatic fire mode to the M4 is a huge mistake, said Staff Sgt.

    Lincoln Dockery, a combat engineer stationed in Bamberg. “The whole

    purpose of having riflemen is to accurately engage the enemy,” Dockery

    said. “With full auto, soldiers will stop aiming and just point, shoot

    and hope, like the enemy does.” Tamilio, an infantry officer, said

    it’s up to leaders on the ground to ensure soldiers are trained on

    when to use the full-auto option.  And Army officials said the ability

    to fire on full-automatic is less about a higher rate of fire than

    providing a consistent trigger pull in both the semi-automatic and

    fully automatic modes — something soldiers had requested.

  • In July, the Army began issuing new ammunition because soldiers

    complained that the old M855 round was not effective at close range.

    Enemies often would endure several bullet strikes before falling.  But

    the M855A1 has been designed with more stopping power, no matter the enemy’s distance, Tamilio said. “The problem with the [old] M855 round was that it was yaw dependent,” he said, meaning the bullet flew in a straight path at close range, lowering its efficacy. If the round is tilted when it strikes the target, it causes the round to break up more quickly, making it more lethal.

SFTT Analysis:  These upgrades will add more weight, increase the basic

load, displace marksmanship as a core infantry task, and fail to

address the reliability and maintenance issues associated with the

currently issued M4.

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Insurgent Lose Momentum in Helmand Province, Afghanistan

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According to a recent article published by the Department of Defense, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills says Nato and Afghan forces are seeing a reduction in violence in Helman Province in Afghanistan.  

 

Key Highlights:

  • Insurgents in Afghanistan’s Helmand province have lost the momentum to NATO and Afghan forces, and those forces will continue to take on the Taliban all through the winter, the commander of NATO’s Regional Command Southwest said today.  Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills said NATO and Afghan forces already are seeing a reduction in violence, but that the plan is to give the Taliban no rest.
  •  Historically, fighting in Afghanistan dies down during the tough winters and insurgent groups use the time to rest and refit, but Afghan and NATO forces plan to weigh in on that matter, the general said. “The ‘off-season’ takes two to tango,” he said during an interview at his headquarters. “[The enemy is] not going to get an off-season. He’s not going to get to go home and relax. He’s not getting two weeks in Florida.” “When the fighting season begins in April, it isn’t going to be the same stadium – it’ll be a different playing field,” he said.

SFTT Analysis:

Indeed, credit is due for the marginal results in Regional Command Southwest.  But, the fact that NATO had to establish a two-star headquarters and create a new Regional Command to counter the insurgency in that area of operations is a clear indicator of the strength of the Afghan insurgency.

General Mills needs to re-consider his “off-season” and “when fighting season begins in April” because the fight in Afghanistan has always been a 24/7/365 day fight.  A simple check of casualty rates since 2001 in Afghanistan during the “winter months”, November through February confirms that 30% of all coalition troops killed in action occurred during these months.  The data is readily available – since 2001 there have been 453 coalition troops killed in action during the months of November through February.  While there might be a reduced presence and lower level insurgent unit led operations during the period, it might be naïve to say that the enemy “rests” during this period – not sure the families of the fallen with the months November-December-January-February etched on their tombstones would agree with the General that the enemy “rests”. 

But, good on the General that his command will be pressing the fight during the winter.  Just don’t say that the enemy rests because it can lull the public to believe that everyone is on the sidelines during the winter when in actuality the death merchant never really rests.

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Admiral Mullen Warns of Impact of Conflict on US Troops

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In a penetrating analysis reported by the  Department of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen warns of the long-term impact of the current conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq on US troops. 

Key Highlights:

  •  The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff today offered a warning of what to expect for veterans, the military services and the nation after a decade of war. “This decade of persistent conflict has had an impact that we are just beginning to come to terms with, … an impact of untold costs and an undetermined toll,” U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told an audience at the 2010 Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition here.
  • Admiral Mullen called the Army and Marine Corps the “center of gravity” of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and said their “enormous adaptability and courage” have made them the best counterinsurgency force in the world – something they perfected in less than three years. But, Mullen said, the military and the nation as a whole should be prepared for the war’s costs: physical, mental, family and financial problems among veterans; diminished noncombat capabilities; expansion of the veterans health care system; high unemployment rates; and homelessness.
  • “There are many soldiers and veterans coming home for whom the battle hasn’t ended,” he said. “For many, it’s just the beginning.” Soldiers and Army veterans already are experiencing these problems, Mullen noted, and he added that “what we can see today is truly just the tip of the iceberg.”
  •  Soldiers and their families will benefit from increased “dwell time” at home between deployments, Mullen said, but he warned that some problems are more likely to arise with the reduced structure and leadership on the home front. The chairman called for the return of “good old-fashioned garrison leadership,” which he described as “engaged, focused, and in some cases, intrusive,” to deal with the profound operational shift following a decade of war.

Analysis:  

  • To be fair to Admiral Mullen, he has served as the military’s Cassandra these past few years harping on the long term impact of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But a shrill voice in the chamber is not enough. Statutory authority and obligations require more than raising the flag in public forums.
  • Dwell time for the Army has improved from 12-15 months to 15-18 months on average. 90 days. Still not enough time to recapture the essence of predictability and stability. Admiral Mullen and the Chiefs can do better.
  • Admiral Mullen claims the Army and the Marines are the best “counter-insurgency force in the world” and something that was “perfected” in three years. I think the jury is still out on that one.
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Quibbling Officials defend broken Military Procurement Process

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On the Army’s effectiveness testing of body armor for the troops, a 2009 GAO report concluded: “Overall reliability and repeatability of the test results are uncertain.” To that, Army Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, Program Executive Officer of the Soldier Systems Center at Ft. Belvoir said:

“The challenge we are having with this GAO audit report is they are challenging our processes, and I think what we are really identifying is we have had an evolution of processes and we need to better articulate what we are doing there.”

He has insulted men of valor and action with empty words.

BG Fuller said that despite the GAO finding irregularities in body armor testing, “We have the best body armor by far.” He added that he appreciated the GAO because it helped the Army insure that the troops get the “very best.”

Without responding to the GAO report’s findings, Gen. Fuller had preemptively framed the issue as a failure to communicate, not a real problem with testing.

Then he asserted that the body armor was the best.

Were that true, why would the House Armed Services Committee have published these words in its 2010 FY National Defense Authorization Act Summary?

Body Armor

The committee requires DOD to establish specific budget line items within the procurement and research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) accounts for body armor. This will improve accountability and increase transparency into long-term investment strategies as well as facilitate the advancement of lighter-weight technologies. Additionally, the committee strongly encourages the standardization of the requirements and test and evaluation processes for body armor. (p. 24)

The Committee’s directive clearly implied that accountability and transparency in body armor testing, in evaluation, and in contracting fail to meet appropriate standards.

Now read this gem in the same report, which really hits home considering the above statement of the House’s expectation that Gen. Fuller act, not just speak on the issue:

Prohibition Relating to Propaganda

The committee prohibits DOD from engaging in propaganda activities except as otherwise authorized by law. The term “propaganda” includes materials such as editorials or other articles prepared by an agency or its contractors at the behest of the agency and circulated as the position of parties outside the agency. (p. 46).

The prohibition could include assertions of unverified facts about body armor safety made by Brig. Gen. Fuller on Army.mil that appear to agree with proprietary claims of existing body armor contractors. Such statements raise serious questions about the objectivity of the testing processes.

The Soldier Center took another hit for failing to insure quality control on the testing of helmets, according to a CNN report in May. The Department of Justice had to inform the Pentagon that Armor Source, LLC, the helmet contractor, was under investigation for violating standards for making helmets withstand ballistics. In an Army ballistics re-test of the helmets, the helmets failed and 44,000 were recalled.

But, it was another recent example of poor Pentagon oversight of its suppliers that caused me to review the body armor and helmet procurement problems. While reviewing press on the rare earth element and trade imbroglio heating up between China and the West this week, I found a classic quote about the Pentagon’s procurement awareness. Christine Parthemore, fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told the Washington Independent’s Andrew Restuccia, “In defense equipment, because stuff is manufactured by the private sector, and [the private sector] is not involved in the end-use of these products. … There’s sort of a detachment of information that happens..”

Parthemore was explaining that the US military had “very little sense” of its own dependence on rare earth minerals used in its most sensitive smart weapons, guidance and communications systems because the metals’ usage is proprietary information.

Considering the context, a Chinese monopoly on magnetic components that help provide the “shock & awe” for which the US military is renowned, Parthemore’s observation suggests that the Pentagon will sacrifice national security to protect corporate privacy, even if the corporations are state-owned Chinese firms or their agents!!!

In response, the 2010 Pentagon scratches its collective head and effectively says, ‘We didn’t know that was a national security issue; let’s study our dependence on rare earths.’ This is despite Deng Xiaopeng’s famous boast that China would use its leverage in rare earths against the West’s domination in oil.

Rare metal supply is a troop safety issue too, since magnets manufactured from rare earths make bombs smart enough to miss friendly forces during air support to ground troops.

Is there really a ‘detachment of information’ because the Pentagon wants to honor the proprietary secrets of its contractors? Or is there collusion with contractors to keep proprietary vulnerabilities a secret? Such facts beg for DOJ probes into possible illegal influences between procurement officials and contractors. Perhaps these security problems may be deterred in the future by putting dishonest and corrupt officials in jail.

Michael Woodson
Contributing Editor
Note from SFTT Editor:  SFTT is thankful to the vigilant Michael Woodson for bringing this information to our attention. The GAO and other other investigative bodies have unearthed many examples of flawed test procedures and an unhealthy relationship between private contractors and military officials responsible for the procurement of protective gear and combat equipment for our troops.  It is patently clear to all who have followed this bizarre and incomprehensible display of Beltway spin that the “Emperor has no clothes!”  When will there be sufficient public outrage to bring this seriously flawed and possibly corrupt military procurement process and incestuous relationship between procurment officials and their suppliers to an end.  Support SFTT and help to bring light to the shoddy and shady processes that appear so ingrained in our military procurement system. The lives of our brave young men and women who serve in harm’s way may very well depend on it.
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Military News you may have missed: Oct 27, 2010

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Policy – Corruption Perceptions Index 2010 

Key Highlights

  • The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption in 178 countries around the world.

    Afghanistan is 176 of 178 and scored a 1.4 on the index.

  • Iraq is 175 of 178 and scored a 1.5 on the index.

 

Analysis:  After almost 10 years of war in Afghanistan and almost 7 years after the US toppled the Saddam regime we have these lovely achievements to pass on to future generations – puts things into perspective. 

Policy — Four More Years of War

Key Highlights:

  • The secret date for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan has been hiding in plain sight for months. It’s certainly not the much ballyhooed July 2011 date, which will only begin withdrawals. It’s not even July 2012 to smooth President Obama’s reelection campaign. It’s the end of 2014. The plan, NATO diplomats say, is for NATO leaders to formally announce this date at their Lisbon summit on November 19-20. Their thinking is to do this soon to reassure worried, friendly Afghans, to signal resolution to the Taliban, and to use their allied unity for political cushioning at home. NATO emissaries are still bargaining over exactly how many troops will remain after departure day and for what purposes.
  • Details aside, the devastating truth is that U.S. forces will be fighting in Afghanistan for at least four more years.

Analysis:   The fact of the matter is that we are looking at being stuck in the Afghan tar-baby for an additional four years without effectively deterring the threat of global terrorism or knowing what the outcome in Afghanistan will have on Pakistan.   This reality will impact the viability of beginning to reduce the current US footprint (and troop strength) in July 2011 as called for by the President – while the NATO summit decisions are critical, they will be superimposed by the December 2010 policy review ordered by the President – maybe at this juncture in July 2011, the costs of COIN in perpetuity will become evident and a realistic strategy will take hold.  In the mean time the Army’s patchchart continues to upload Brigade Combat Teams for Deployment-Dwell-Deployment.

Policy – The Afghan War: Why the Kandahar Campaign Matters

Key Highlights:

  • Late last month, the push began to move insurgents back from the critical roadway, and U.S. Army scouts, who are relied upon as a flexible, quick response unit, assaulted the area by helicopter. Within minutes of securing a compound, they came under heavy fire from fighters on all sides and hiding in the tree line. The gun battle raged for more than 12 hours the first day, 10 hours the second, with soldiers nearly going “black,” or out of ammunition, before a resupply chopper bailed them out. Air support, in the form of helicopter gunships, fighter jets and bombers that loom overhead with devastating weapons at the ready, is a crucial U.S. advantage. Indeed, when the engagement ended, officers estimate that close to 20,000 lb. (9,000 kg) of ordnance was dropped.
  • Since then, it has been a steady grind. In the latest phase of the operation, the scouts were tasked with supporting another company engaged in house-to-house clearing aimed at extending the security belt further away from the highway, while armored vehicles plowed up roads for bombs. Massive booms erupted in the distance over the first few days, some going off beneath the hulking vehicles, but mostly from air strikes against various IED-placement teams spotted by the balloon cameras and unmanned drones that also prowl the skies. The crescendo peaked at around noon on Day Two, when a 500-lb. (230 kg) bomb crashed to earth less than a half-mile from where the scout platoon was holed up, instantly killing a pair of Taliban bombmakers.
  • But, as one Scout bluntly put it, “We have air support. The Taliban has IEDs.” Of the dozens of casualties suffered by 101st Airborne Division so far, more than 80% have been caused by IEDs. They come in every conceivable form, spanning the ordinary (pressure plates, trip wires, remote control) to the elaborate (directional fragmentation devices, which might be triggered on the ground and explode sideways, and crush boxes that can be stepped on multiple times before finally detonating). The dizzying array of booby traps demands that soldiers keep an eye on the ground even as they survey the badlands around them for signs of trouble. A fatal pop could happen anywhere. “If you get lazy, you can be sure an IED will be there. It’s a minefield,” says Captain Bill Faucher, 25, who cited hypervigilance and good fortune as reasons why no one in his platoon has gotten hurt.

Analysis:

  • The IED threat has mushroomed and it appears that there is very little that US/NATO forces can do about it except to report the data.
  • Anytime you have to rely on a scout/reconnaissance unit for real-time objective intelligence, you are in fact conducting a kinetic operation with very little local support – so to that end, throw out the COIN manual and dust off your Operations manual.  Oh, and by the way, being cut off for 12 hours in a raging firefight never bodes well for any unit or operational plan – something FUBAR was up the minute the insertion of the scouts was complete.
  • SFTT added a Time Magazine Photo array titled “R&R at Kandarhar Airfield” for your viewing pleasure.  Imagine the organizational energy and contractor upkeep required to maintain this level of “R&R”.  Now compare it to the comfort items deposited to the Scout Platoon that was almost “black on ammunition”…bet the Scouts had a door bundle of re-supply water and MRE’s, batteries, 5.56/7.62, but no “Salsa” music.
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Military News you may have missed: Oct 26, 2010

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Policy – A Firefight Exposes Afghan Weakness

(Wall Street Journal – Pay to View: Article Obtained via OSINT) 

Key Highlights

  • An account of the six-hour siege on the U.S. agency on July 2, drawn from interviews with witnesses and survivors and an internal investigation by the aid agency, shows an Afghan force that appears ill-equipped to take over national security from their foreign counterparts.
  •  About 15 to 20 minutes after the attack began, the Afghan army and police occupied a four-story hotel about 30 yards across the street from the DAI compound. Afghan soldiers started launching rocket-propelled grenades at the DAI building, according to an Afghan witnessand government officials. Some of these RPGs hit the roof. Shrapnel from one hit an expatriate in the face, causing serious injuries, according to internal DAI briefings.
  • “There were at least two different shooters wearing camouflage on two different levels of the hotel,” the Western survivor recounted. “Maybe about 90% of fire on the compound” came from the hotel, he said. He said he counted dozens of RPG blasts.”
  •  At about 4:30 a.m., Shaun Sexton, a British EI employee, was told by the Afghan army on-scene commander to come down from the roof because the building had been cleared of Taliban militants, according to the survivor and accounts of incident briefings received by DAI staff. Mr. Sexton, another EI guard and two DAI employees left their colleagues on the roof and went down the stairs. Two Taliban fighters hiding between the fourth and third floors opened fire, killing Mr. Sexton on the spot and injuring a DAI female staffer in the arm. Another EI employee shot and killed one of the insurgents. The second fighter retreated. The three survivors fled back to the roof and again called the German military for help. The Germans didn’t come. At 7 a.m., a DAI survivor managed to get through to an American unit on the phone. Forces from the U.S. 10th Mountain Division arrived soon after, and the building was cleared. As is frequently the case in joint operations, the U.S. said Afghan forces led the rescue.

Analysis:   SFTT has recently provided comment on the disconnect between the effectiveness of Afghanistan National Security Force (ANSF) trumpeted by General Caldwell and the stark reality on the ground — the ANSF is not a competent fighting force and when they lead they fail.

The fight in Afghanistan, geographically speaking is a 360 degree fight and encompasses every province. The current troop-to-task list for NATO and ANSF prevents effective operations 24/7 throughout the entire Afghan battle space, and so in effect, we are fighting in a whack-a-mole fashion – hit the enemy where they emerge, but as you “whack” one another comes up else where – it’s an endless cycle.

After almost 10 years of fighting in Afghanistan, NATO forces are still unable to coordinate operationsand security for non-governmental agencies that are filling the gap left wide open by ineffective Afghan  governance and services.

Policy – U.S. operations in Kandahar push out Taliban

Key Highlights:

  •  The Taliban departure from some areas could be a strategic response to an operation NATO has trumpeted for months. Or insurgents could be lying low, developing new avenues of attack. NATO forces have cleared villages before, including in Kandahar province, and failed to hold them. Whether insurgents can be kept away this time, or prevented from grabbing new parts of the city or its surroundings, remains to be seen.
  • Afghans who live in these areas, and have witnessed earlier clearing operations give way to Taliban comebacks, often do not share the U.S. military’s optimism. And some believe insurgents may be moving into the city to avoid U.S. troops on the periphery. “Security in the city is now drastically worse,” said Samsor Afghan, 27, a university student who runs a computer software store downtown, across the street from where a suicide bomber attacked the day before. “The Taliban are everywhere. We don’t feel safe even inside the city.” American commanders have nevertheless been buoyed by changes in areas where the bulk of their forces are located. Among the shifts is what they describe as a new assertiveness from Afghan security forces, which now outnumber NATO troops in this operation.
  • The Afghans, who took 72 hours to capture 50 detainees, five large bombs and 500 pounds of explosives, required only advice and air support from the Americans, said Lt. Col. Rodger Lemons, the battalion commander at the Argandab district center. “We basically sat in here and monitored the fight,” Resnick said, referring to his outpost at the village of Sarkari Bagh. “They essentially cleared this entire place out.” U.S. military officials acknowledge that it is not ideal to have the border police leading the operation, because the goal is for the Afghan army and police to provide security in their own areas. “We need to make sure this is not undermining the legitimacy of the Afghan government,” said a senior NATO military official in southern Afghanistan.

Analysis:  Read carefully, while there are near-term successes, the brunt of success in this area of operations has been a combination of Special Operation Force actions and an ad-hoc Afghan Border Police unit cobbled together when ANSF units weren’t up to the task.  Legitimacy of local/national security forces is a key cornerstone of COIN doctrine. It appears operations in Argandab valley sidestepped this doctrinal underpinning, because ANSF legitimacy is non-existent.  Creating “parking lots” can be performed by the Air Force at 30,000 feet – no need to commit a Brigade to the area of operations if that is the intent.

Policy — Karzai Rails Against America in Diatribe

Key Highlights:

  • “The money starts in the name of the private security companies in the hallways of the U.S. government ,” Mr. Karzai said. “The profits are made and arranged there.” The money then goes to private security firms, he said, adding, “then they send the money to kill people here.” “When this money comes Afghanistan, it causes insecurity in Afghan homes and causes the killing of Afghan children and causes explosions and terrorism in Afghanistan,” said Mr. Karzai in the news conference.
  • His calm tone contrasted with the explosive accusations he leveled at Western interests in Afghanistan and the news media, even going so far as to say that the security companies were interchangeable with the Taliban. “In fact we don’t know how many of the explosions are the fault of the Taliban and how much by them,” said Mr. Karzai, referring to the security companies. Mr. Karzai’s distrust and alienation from the Western alliance has increased over the past several months even as more soldiers have flowed into the country and more civilian development workers have begun to carry out projects, leaving diplomats and military officials increasingly frustrated and confused.
  • The accusations followed a stormy meeting he had on Sunday night with the NATO commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, as well as other senior Afghan and western officials in which Mr. Karzai stormed out, saying that he did not need the West’s help, according to people knowledgeable about the confrontation. 

Analysis: Not much to add here except to say that NATO is in bed with an irrational, disrespectful, and unappreciative national leader – maybe Petreaus should return the protocol and have our troops stormout of the country. Enough said.

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