Military News Highlights: January 26, 2011

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Number of U.S. casualties from roadside bombs in Afghanistan skyrocketed from 2009 to 2010

The SFTT news team has been reporting IED lethal effects, propensity/increase of attacks, lack of effective equipment/tactics, and the claims of denial by JIEDDO since early 2010.  In fact, LTG Oates, Commander JIEDDO, predicted this past summer that by winter, IED attacks (and effects) would be marginal.  What the cold hard facts tell us is that in 2010, the number of troops killed by IED’s increased by 60% from 2009, and that the number of wounded troops almost tripled.  Fact: 268 US troops KIA by IED.  Fact:  3,360 US troops WIA by IED.  Those numbers equal an Army Brigade Combat Team or a USMC Regiment.  A BCT or a Regiment.  A BCT or a Regiment.  Marginal?   So a private with a thumbdrive downloads classified information and shares it with some Australian non-sequiter and he’s in the brig on rations, but a three-banger whose singular mission is to figure out this threat and DEFEAT it will probably be promoted.  Where is the accountability?

Report: 35% of warrior-unit soldiers face addiction

The SFTT news team and CLOSE/HOLD has reported on the failure of leadership at Warrior Transition Units in regard to improving the quality of life for our wounded, injured, and diseased troops assigned to Warrior Transition Units.  This new report that details up to 35% of soldiers assigned are addicted to prescription pain-killers is nothing new to SFTT sources – as related to us, “it’s the tip of the iceberg.”    Where is the accountability?

Petraeus Skips Drawdown Talk in New Letter to Troops

A three-page ComISAF missive  by General “Happy Talk” Petreaus failed to mention that US troops will actually begin redeploying home from Afghanistan this July.  Problem is that the Commander in Chief, you know, the POTUS, said this: “This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead [for security]. And, this July we will begin to bring our troops home.”  Now we have been here before, told one thing, then told another – so who knows how many troops will in fact begin the withdrawal process, but what bothers the SFTT news team and our readers is that the Commander, ISAF and the Commander in Chief are not in sync.  More “happy talk” with no straight talk…

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Military News Highlights: December 6, 2010

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Proposed 1.4% pay raise for military draws fire

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.

U.S. fights to open school in Taliban area

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.

Army eyes use of tanks in Afghanistan

 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).

Petraeus Not ‘Sure’ Of U.S. Victory In Afghanistan By 2014

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?

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Military News Highlights: December 3, 2010

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COIN standards for Afghanistan approved

Secretary Gates has approved a COIN skills list (COIN Qualification Standards) for troops in Afghanistan.  It is rather extraordinary for top civilian officials to approve pre-deployment tactical and operational training tasks.  Perhaps this is an effort for General Petreaus to dictate that a certain level of COIN proficiency is required prior to deployment.  Sounds reasonable, right?  But, why does this kind of guidance have to be rubber-stamped by Secretary Gates?  Can’t the uniformed service leaders and operational commanders work this out amongst themselves?  Unless of course, General Petreaus tried to work the COIN Qualification Standards through uniformed service leaders and operational commanders and they told him to get bent.   Seems that Petreaus’ brand of COIN is the only acceptable goblet at the table – all others don’t get served.  Won’t this stifle initiative and new ideas?   And what happens say, if you follow the list during pre-deployment training, and your unit deploys, and you put the task list into practice and your unit fails?  Then what?  Who then becomes accountable?

And one last thing, what the hell is “Develop a Learning Organization” as a task?

Cables Depict Heavy Afghan Graft, Starting at the Top

Are we at all surprised that the latest batch of Wikileak cables depicts unprecedented levels of graft, corruption, decadence, and lies coming out of Kabul and Afghanistan?  Are we really surprised by this?  Maybe it’s the scope and breadth of the corruption that is so startling.  Examples of a country where everything is for sale include:

  • The Transportation Ministry collects $200 million a year in trucking fees, but only $30 million is turned over to the government;
  • Bribes and profit-skimming in the organization of travel to Saudi Arabia for the hajj or pilgrimage;
  • a scheme to transfer money via cellphones;
  • in the purchase of wheat seed;
  • in the compilation of an official list of war criminals;
  • and in the voting in Parliament.

Quite staggering after all when you consider the fact that the US  military is stuck with the mission of reversing Afghanistan’s failed moral and cultural compass.

Army Working on Lightweight .50 cal

The XM806 is a new version of the M2 Heavy Machine Gun undergoing a “fundamental redesign” to cut its weight in half, increase its accuracy, and improve its tactical application.  The M2’s basic items of issue including the tripod will also be lightened.  The intent behind the program is to enhance the current stock of M2’s and not replace the M2.  Perhaps the programs efforts can share its results in future redesign of other critical equipment and armaments in order to improve tactical firepower and survivability.

Somber ritual as slain soldiers are returned to U.S.

Hopefully the VIPs (Pentagon and White House officials) that recently attended and observed the dignified transfer of remains recently at Dover Air Base will keep in mind the “human cost of a long-running, faraway war” as they deliberate over the next few weeks reviewing the Afghanistan policy.

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Coalition Ramps Up Afghanistan Air War

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While General Petreaus attempts to get Afghans to sign a social contract while operating in a state of nature, he continues to hammer the countryside with increasing air bombings and missile strikes.   In October alone, his . We would strongly recommend you to consult your doctor before taking a medication.

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Military News: November 18, 2010

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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.”

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Military News Highlights:

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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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Military News Highlights for November 15, 2010

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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.

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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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Military News you may have missed – Oct 21

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Policy — Taliban’s Elite, Aided by NATO, Join Talks for Afghan Peace

Key highlights:

  • Taliban Quetta and Peshawar Shura and Haqqani Network are participating in Afghan peace talks
  • NATO/ISAF is providing transport and security to delegates from safe-havens to Kabul
  • Delegates are senior members

Analysis:  These talks have become a necessary component of an overall strategy to obtain a political solution because a viable military solution does not exist – we cannot “kill/capture” our way to victory in Afghanistan.

Policy — Petraeus rewrites the playbook in Afghanistan

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/10/18/AR2010101803596.html

Key Highlights:

  • Ignatius argues that Petreaus is applying a two-part approach to his Afghan strategy – “shooting more, increasing special operations raids and bombings on Taliban commanders, but talking more by endorsing peace talks and providing security for participants.
  • Ignatius argues that Petreaus is putting distance between COIN ethos of protecting the populace and actually conducting a more enemy centric fight. (I.E.  Less COIN, more CT and begs the question, then why the surge?)
  • Ignatius argues that Petreaus will finesse a way to add more time to the clock past July 2011.

Analysis:  If Counter-terrorism (CT) operations are the key to success, then why is ISAF/NATO still fighting COIN?

Policy — Troops chafe at restrictive rules of engagement, talks with Taliban

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/politics/Troops-chafe-at-restrictive-rules-of-engagement_-talks-with-Taliban-1226055-105202284.html#ixzz12taWBBqF

Key Highlights:

  • “If they use rockets to hit the [forward operating base] we can’t shoot back because they were within 500 meters of the village. If they shoot at us and drop their weapon in the process we can’t shoot back,” said Spc. Charles Brooks, 26, a U.S. Army medic with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, in Zabul province.
  • “I don’t think the military leaders, president or anybody really cares about what we’re going through,” said Spc. Matthew “Silver” Fuhrken, 25, from Watertown, N.Y. “I’m sick of people trying to cover up what’s really going on over here. They won’t let us do our job. I don’t care if they try to kick me out for what I’m saying — war is war and this is no war. I don’t know what this is.”
  • “If we walk away, cut a deal with the Taliban, desert the people who needed us most, then this war was pointless,” said Pvt. Jeffrey Ward, with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, who is stationed at Forward Operating Base Bullard in southern Afghanistan. “Everyone dies for their own reasons but it’s sad to think that our friends, the troops, have given their lives for something we’re not going to see through.” Other soldiers agreed. They said they feared few officials in the Pentagon understand the reality on the ground.

Analysis:  Critical game-changing top-level strategic and operational decisions and actions are taking place in Afghanistan, and it appears, at least in Zabul Province, that some troopers are not being kept informed, nor being provided the purpose behind their current mission.

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“Young Officer”

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 A young officer I once served with recently changed command and is now attending the Army’s Intermediate Level Education course for field grade officers; when he graduates he’ll report to a new unit and redeploy. His tedious ride from the east coast to Kansas coincided with the sacking of McChrystal. Remember him? After the storm broke and his pension was paid, follow up analysis of the “crisis” revealed that the majority of attributable quotes and “off-the-record” background was provided by a score of “young officers” and not necessarily the General himself. Nevertheless, the collateral effect of their untimely and heartfelt Parisian disclosures to the Rolling Stone embedded reporter resulted in an Inspector General investigation of these young officers’ actions and statements. Imagine that, an investigation. Really? For what purpose? And as we’ve all learned by now, after the Wanat reversal, even if they’re found culpable of some level of insubordination or violation of policy, they won’t be held accountable they’ll simply be “Wanated,” yep, as in “to be Wanated,” the non-accountability finesse of a failed leader by his self-protective superiors.

But I digress, so back to my “young officer” driving to the brain-shed at Leavenworth for the consumption of more COIN kool-aid. As we commiserated over the amount of Galula theory he would have to suck down, I asked him to imagine for a moment being on the McCrystal staff still in Kabul tasked with General Petraeus’ transition and the integration of his new brain-trust of soon-to-arrive COIN-dinistas. For those who’ve never experienced the ins and outs of transitioning a four star commander while politely showing the door to the outgoing commander and his immediate staff, suffice to say, it’s a painful exercise. We’ll probably never know the behind-the-scene dynamics of the arrival of King David until Bob Woodward or Tom Ricks writes another breathtaking insider account of the administration or the war. However, we can safely assume that a new master of strategic communications is firmly in place in Kabul and a new brain-trust is arriving to assist the effort. If you want more proof, check out what was reported earlier this week by the New York Times coupled—not coincidentally—with the announcement of General Petraeus’ pending media blitz in the coming weeks. Here it is: “Meanwhile, a rising generation of young officers, who have become experts over the past nine years in the art of counterinsurgency, have begun quietly telling administration officials they need time to get their work done. “Their argument,” said one senior administration official, who would not speak for attribution about the internal policy discussions, “is that while we’ve been in Afghanistan for nine years, only in the past 12 months or so have we started doing this right, and we need to give it some time and think about what our long-term presence in Afghanistan should look like.”

So let me get this straight—the administration is soliciting advice from “young officers” on whether to continue the effort in Afghanistan after next summer when the US is going to begin withdrawal? And they are “experts” as well? For sure we’ve been down this road before, in 2006 when General (Retired) Jack Keane, the American Enterprise Institute and a couple of Army majors and captains from the Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (who subsequently retired) with recent expertise in Anbar province/Iraq drew up a Power Point plan for the “surge,” which was then sold by Keane to John Hannah in Cheney’s office, and well, the rest is history.

Maybe that example is too remote (or simply a footnote to hubris) to apply to this master stroke of strategic messaging wrapped in a soft pitch to the public that “young officers…want more time.” My money is on Petraeus as point man preaching next summer on why the 2011 withdrawal timeline needs to be extended in part because the administration and the public should listen to the “troops”—i.e., these “young officers”—for a change. It’s brilliant.

No doubt the new “experts” are a group of planners from the services “Jedi-knight” programs to plan contingencies and back up plans when the current COIN mantra begins to die down. They are probably joined by other “young officer” staffers assigned to the Joint Staff or the National Security Council who’ve somehow wedged themselves into preparing slides, position papers or might even have a seat at the table at very low-level planning meetings. Regardless, I would also bet they’re Petraeus acolytes or COIN enthusiasts from a different father committed to re-validating their previous deployment successes by pushing the COIN theory as the remedy to whatever threatens US interests. In any case, the word is you best be a Petraeus COIN follower or you’ll be placed in the slow lane. After all, Petraeus was flown back to Washington in 2008 to supervise the Army’s Brigadier General promotion board…

Bottomline, the simple statement that a rising generation of young officers are calling for more time to complete the mission will deeply influence the now-rigged debate. For starters, it will serve as a green light on the battlefield for other young officers to inform VIP’s, respond to the media and brief their troops that “they need more time to get the job done”. Unfortunately, it will also serve as a blanket statement that the entire Army stands behind this call.

What is truly shameful here is the total disregard for those officers and leaders who know the gig is up but aren’t allowed to report the truth—veiled censorship by a master of strategic communications suspending us all in disbelief for at least the time being.

I was tempted to call my “young officer” when I figured out what was going on and wish him luck because he’s the type who’ll tell his superiors that no amount of time, resources or troops will change the dynamics on the ground in Afghanistan. But he beat me to the punch and sent me a short note expressing his hope that the Chief of Staff will visit the brain shed soon so he can tell him directly that a small cadre of the “rising generation of young officers” doesn’t speak for the rest of the Army. Let’s all hope my guy gets to talk.

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