Military News Highlights: December 7, 2010

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War’s Progress Measured By Commanders In Afghanistan

Two points of interest in this interview with Major General John Campbell, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division and Regional Command East – Afghanistan:

[The interview is timed at 7 minutes, 48 seconds; the points of interest are at 5:38 and 6:15 respectively]

5:35 of 7:48  “Cricket?” “Roger that Sir…and we suck sir…” (A young captain’s remark to General Campbell on his units attempt to bridge the cultural Afghan gap and play cricket with the locals) and;

6:15 of 7:48 General Campbell’s view on the likely adjustments and troop dispositions (i.e. refocusing where the 101st can protect the populace) and the withdrawal of forces from the Pech River Valley [vicinity of Korengal Valley].

Infantry automatic rifle is Afghan-bound

Designated Marine Corps units will be issued the new M27 infantry automatic rifle which fires a 5.56mm round from a 30 round magazine.  The M249 SAW may see its final days if the M27 performs as advertised.  Problem is, it’s tough to go “automatic” at the cyclic rate when you have to change magazines every 30 rounds.  Kind of defeats the purpose of establishing fire superiority, and if the plan goes forward there will be less light machine guns in a rifle company limiting tactical options.  Go figure.

For Invaders, A Well-Worn Path Out Of Afghanistan

National Public Radio has posted a handy online report of Afghanistan for reference.

Key highlights:

  • Many observers remain pessimistic about the administration strategy. History does not offer encouragement. What do the armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, the British Empire, the Soviet Union and now the United States all have in common? They all shed blood and tears in the indomitable mountains of Afghanistan.
  • Afghanistan became a “bleeding wound” for the Soviets, as President Mikhail Gorbachev said in 1986. He decided to pull his country’s troops out, a process that took another three years. “All foreign forces invading must learn it’s easy to enter Afghanistan,” Seraj says. “It’s very difficult to leave Afghanistan.”
  • Population: 28.4 million; Religion: 80% Sunni Muslim, 19% Shiite Muslim, 1% other; Literacy: 43% male, 12% female; GDP per capita: $800; Population 14 and under: 44%; Population 65 and older: 2.4%; Life expectancy: 44.7 years
  • Karzai has proven to be a problematic ally for the U.S., with his administration widely accused of corruption and mismanagement. Karzai, in turn, has criticized U.S. strategy and methods with increasing frequency in recent months. Diplomats who have encountered him and others who know him say Karzai has a conspiratorial streak, can be emotional and lashes out when he feels he is being criticized.
  • A year ago, President Obama announced a new strategy for Afghanistan, committing 30,000 additional troops to the effort. Those were on top of a 21,000-troop increase he’d announced shortly after taking office, bringing total U.S. force levels above 100,000.Obama’s strategy calls for the beginning of troop withdrawals in July 2011. In recent weeks, the administration said it will maintain a major military presence in Afghanistan until 2014 — more than a dozen years after the initial invasion.
  • Obama and his generals are arguing that the more engaged and aggressive strategy put in place a year ago needs more time to succeed. In recent weeks, the administration has laid out a new timetable, which calls for a continuing Western military presence in Afghanistan until 2014. In an interview with ABC on Monday (12/6/10), Gen. David Petraeus, the top military commander in Afghanistan, refused to say that he is “confident” that the Afghan army will be prepared to take over control by 2014.
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Coordinated Bombings in Baghdad

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The New York Times reported yesterday on the coordinated bombings that are appearing on a more frequent basis in Baghdad. 

Highlights:

  • Insurgents unleashed attacks across Baghdad on Tuesday night, setting off more than a dozen coordinated bombs in a bloody declaration of their ability to thwart the government’s efforts to secure Iraq’s largest and most important city.   It was among the fiercest assaults on the capital since the United States invaded in 2003, and one that tore across divisions of sect and class. The explosions — devastating car bombs and roadside blasts — struck the huge Shiite enclave of Sadr City, a Sunni mosque, public squares, a crowded restaurant in the north of Baghdad and middle-class shopping districts.
  • At least 63 people were killed and about 285 were wounded, and the local police said they were under orders to enforce an emergency curfew — the first such measure in years. But some police officers told residents that the curfew had not yet taken effect, while government officials would not confirm that one had been imposed.  “It was just storm and fire,” said Ahmed Said, 22, who said he was stirring his tea and ordering flavored tobacco at a cafe when he was hurled into the air.  Coming two days after a deadly siege of a Christian church in Baghdad, the attacks added to a creeping sense that security in the capital was teetering as Iraq prepared to complete eight months of political stalemate without a new government.  Ministers and spokesmen from the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki quickly appeared on television to assure Iraqis that they were in charge and that the capital remained under control. State-run television said Mr. Maliki was touring the attack sites and visiting victims in the hospital.
  • There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, but the United States military said the bombings were characteristic of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. A spokesman added that the Iraqi military had not asked for American assistance.   In an interview hours before the attacks, Brig. Gen. Ralph Baker, the deputy American commander in Baghdad, expressed concern that the lingering deadlock could undermine popular confidence in the government at the same time that militant groups continued to try to draw fresh blood.  “We’ve seen the insurgent groups and the terror groups step up their attack against the people,” he said. “The motive is intimidation.” Still, he noted that violence over all throughout the country had fallen sharply from its worst days, and said, “We haven’t seen a degradation in the security environment.” The United States ended its formal combat mission over the summer, and plans to continue to withdraw troops over the next year.  

SFTT Analysis:

  • Church massacres, indiscriminate bombings, and coordinated attacks targeting all sects and class in Iraq is not a “degradation of the security environment” in Iraq.   That’s what the US deputy commander in Baghdad said.    Maybe there is a new definition of “degradation” that we are not aware of?  But maybe it is because US troopers are not being currently targeted by AQM.  I guess when that new calculus returns the General will be able to properly use the term “degradation” again.
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