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Despite Gains, Afghan Night Raids Split U.S. and Karzai

Senator Lindsey Graham believes that if night raids end then this would be a “disaster” for  General Petreaus’ strategy – that in effect, he will fail.   The raids, he said, were crucial to the military strategy.   Now wait a minute, night raids run counter to COIN principles, so why all the drama?  Pull out FM 23-4, the COIN bible Petreaus authored and waxes soothingly to elected officials and policymakers, and review its core principles.  To win, you need the support of the populace.  Both the insurgent and the counter-insurgent need the support of the populace to win.  COIN doctrine obviously allows for targeted kinetic operations that are nested to COIN operations, but if you begin to lose support of the population, to the point where their elected leaders condemn a particular targeted kinetic operation (i.e. night raids), then it is time to swallow the truth and adjust accordingly.  Unless, at this point, you really can’t adjust your operational tempo (i.e. over-reliance on CT) because the seeds of COIN and the requisite scrip paid to the death merchant won’t take hold in Afghanistan until after the July 2011 (or for that matter 2014).  Or maybe Petraeus can’t change or adjust night raid tactics, because the truth is, the much heralded COIN strategy is simply a chimera, and he knows it. 

What we do know is that Petreaus will provide metrics of success to the White House during its ongoing policy review, but it will be hard to square the fact that the real successes on the ground these past 10 months have been a result of Counter-Terrorism operations and not the application of Counter-insurgency doctrine.   I can see his first Power Point slide now, an amended opening quote from George Orwell that reads, “No one in Afghanistan sleeps safely at night, because rough men visit violence on them, sometimes as often as 17 times a night . . .”. 

MARSOC to purchase more powerful pistols

More proof that the 9mm Beretta lacks the punch in combat.  Marine Forces Special Operations Command operators will officially be issued .45-caliber semi-automatic pistols and replace the 9mm Beretta because the .45 larger caliber provides more stopping power.  The exact M45 Close Quarter Battle Pistol will be determined by a competition that began in October.  The open question that remains unanswered is when will the entire stock of 9mm Beretta’s issued to all services be replaced with a higher caliber semi-automatic pistol?  Why train troopers to fire two rounds of a lower caliber to defeat a threat when one .45 round is oftentimes sufficient?  SFTT will continue to monitor this development and inform the public, elected officials, and policy makers that troops deserve a side-arm with real stopping power.

GIs testing ‘smart’ weapons that leave nowhere to hide

The XM25 Counter Defilade Targeting Engagement System will certainly compliment Infantry squads and Special Operations units.  If the system works as designed, troopers will have the ability to place an air-burst 25mm round over the threat hiding behind a wall or other cover out to 700 meters.   While being touted as a “smart weapon”, in reality this system will add to the arsenal to apply critical fires where the current inventory of weapons can’t engage.  The program manager states that the XM25 is a “game changer” and that it will “essentially take cover away from the enemy forever”.  But before we place a stamp of approval on the XM25 we still have to take into account: the basic load and weight of the system, maintenance requirements, batteries, spare parts, contractor support issues, training, tactical adjustments, collateral damage, and overall costs – these are issues that SFTT will monitor as the XM25 is fielded and put into active operation across the base force.

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Equipping the Soldier of the Future

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The Army Times had an interesting article on Equipping the soldier of the future.  Found below are key highlights of the article and SFTT’s analysis.

Key Highlights and SFTT Analysis:

  • The Army has been pushing to identify gear soldiers need or want, find the best solutions and field them quickly. The result is state-of-the-art gear going from idea to inventory in less than a year. Some of these projects have made their way into the ranks; others are just around the corner. 
  • SFTT is encouraged that progress is being made to develop and field new and improved equipment to front line troops.  More encouraging is that feedback from the deployed force was used to bring about change.  In many respects, SFTT has maintained the leading edge in keeping specific items of equipment on the front burner (i.e. Body Armor, the Advanced Combat Helmet, the M-4 Carbine, the 9mm Beretta, and Combat Boots) and credit is due for applying pressure on policymakers while informing the public on the critical need to improve and/or replace them.
  • SFTT supports the following common-sense improvements:
    •  Tactical Assault Panel – This panel is another key piece of the new combat load. It enables soldiers to carry more magazines with wider distribution – and mobility equals survivability. Eight single pouches can be configured to carry either 10 M4 magazines or six magazines with other gear such as the Multiband Inter/Intra Team Radio, or MBITR; the Defense Advanced GPS Receiver, or DAGR; or M14 magazines. The design also reduces the soldier’s profile.
    • Medium ruck – Countless troops gave the same report: The assault packs are too small for longer missions and the 72-hour ruck is too big. The new ruck provides a midsize solution – with added benefits. Its detachable harness allows paratroopers to access the pack after they are rigged for jumping without compromising pre-jump inspections. The ruck is one of more than a dozen pieces of gear that comprise a new combat load issued to troops in, and headed to, the ‘Stan.
    •  New boots – Soldiers headed into theater also get two pairs of Danner boots. But Army officials are expected to select a new boot any day. Three lighter, stronger boots are being evaluated, and the Army is expected to take delivery early in 2011. The modular boot will be optimal for Afghanistan’s rugged terrain, and will have a sock device that can be pulled over it to keep the soldiers’ feet warm without causing them to sweat.
    • ‘Green ammo’ – A 2006 survey of combat vets found enemy soldiers were shot multiple times but were still able to keep fighting. One in five U.S. soldiers polled recommended a more lethal round. The answer is the M855A1 enhanced performance round, also known as “green ammo.” It provides more stopping power at shorter distances. The older round had to get into a yaw dependency for maximum effect. If it hit the enemy straight, it would punch right through them. The new ammo is not yaw dependent. If it hits the enemy, he is going down. The Army plans to produce more than 200 million rounds in the coming year.
    • SFTT will continue to highlight concerns with the current strategy to improve and replace Body Armor and the M4 Carbine – specifically, the need to replace the “plate carrier” which the Services currently aren’t planning to do, and for the services to issue a “better carbine altogether” versus continued modification to the current M4 Carbine platform.
  • The Army Times’ updates on these two programs include:
    • 2nd-Generation Improved Outer Tactical Vest – The 2nd GEN IOTV uses a plate carrier to allow soldiers to shed up to 15 pounds while keeping vital organs protected from 7.62 caliber, armor-piercing rounds. The IOTV still provides protection from flame and shrapnel. The side plate carrier is adjustable to provide better comfort and protection. The soldier’s quick-release cable is covered to prevent it from being caught during egress. The medic cable is contained in a canal to keep it in a comfortable position. This cable enables a medic access to a wounded area without completely removing a soldier’s body armor.
    • New carbine — Soldiers will soon get either an improved M4 or a new, better carbine altogether. The first part of the Army’s dual strategy is to radically overhaul the M4 to give grunts an improved version of the special operations M4A1. This offers a heavier barrel, automatic fire and ambidextrous controls. The next 12,000 M4s will be A1s. Another 25,000, as well as roughly 65,000 conversion kits, will be purchased. The second path challenges industry to come up with a better carbine. No caliber restriction has been placed on a new design. The Army simply wants the most reliable, accurate, durable, easy-to-use weapon. It will be at least a 500-meter weapon and have a higher incapacitation percentage. This weapon also will be modular and able to carry all the existing attachments soldiers use. The winner will selected by the end of 2011, depending on funding.
    • In regards to improvements being made to the Advanced Combat Helmet, which the Army Times did not mention, SFTT is following the industry as it continues to develop prototypes, and will provide updates as they become available.  For the tech-science reader this article from “Composite World” describes a recent effort to develop a prototype that could meet the survivability standards SFTT advocates for.  One caveat is that this prototype is specifically for the shell and does not address padding and the helmet harness, areas that must be improved to mitigate the concussive effects resulting from blast injuries. 
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