Sergeant Ellis is spot on, it is “absolute garbage” that troops in 2011 will earn the lowest pay raise in almost 50 years. True, we are entering an era of austerity and deficit-reduction economic policies, but streamlining pay for the troops at historic lows, is another example of “taking care of the troops” lip-service. The House of Representative authorized increasing pay 1.9%, a meaningful effort above the average private-sector-wage growth level (i.e. recognizing the sacrifice troops make although only marginally above the private-sector). But the Senate declined to add an additional half-percent and support the administration’s pay increase of only 1.4 percent. Regardless, 1.4% or 1.9% is truly a pittance given the fact that the maximum outlay for increased pay would amount to only $1.4 billion. Absolute garbage.
Six months of effort and treasure has been expended to open up one school in Senjeray, Zhari District, Afghanistan, the “premier development project” in this district, to little effect or finality. It is clear that support is lacking by a “war-weary” population, and efforts to improve good governance and develop Afghanistan’s security forces in this little corner of the war-front will not take root. Perhaps the shadow of the Taliban’s birthplace will always make this endeavor difficult, but some shadows can disappear with enough exposure to sunlight. The problem for Senjeray and this small “brick and stone complex” is best captured by the company commander who is responsible with giving the locals a different option than that offered by the Taliban. “These people don’t give a damn about us … and quite frankly, why would they? We’re strangers, we’ve been here for a few months, we walk around the town with guns, 40 pounds of body army and (a lot of) grenades.” True indeed, hard to build trust and lower the temperature when you are operating under a constant war footing.
It is more likely than not that the US Army will follow suit and promptly deploy M1 tanks to support operations in Afghanistan. It would be a prudent measure to have these assets operational before the “spring fighting season” begins, but any deployment needs to be realistic so that expectations are not set too high as the terrain would limit tank capability (i.e. FYI, an M1 would not have helped in “Wanat” or “Keating” because the terrain was too restrictive and inaccessible).
In a recent interview by General Petreaus, more frank talk: “I think-no commander ever is going to come out and say, ‘I’m confident that we can do this.’ I think that you say that you assess that this is– you believe this is, you know, a reasonable prospect and knowing how important it is– that we have to do everything we can to increase the chances of that prospect. But again, I don’t think there are any sure things in this kind of endeavor. And I wouldn’t be honest with you and with the viewers if I didn’t convey that.”
The question is whether this type of frank talk will be repeated during this months Afghanistan policy review, and if so, will it prompt any adjustments to the current COIN strategy?