How Fast Can NATO Surrender to the Taliban?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

In a little known and poorly publicized report on the Danish part of the NATO effort in Afghanistan, they have begun to negotiate with the Taliban on their own.

Danish soldiers in Afghanistan have begun negotiating with the Taliban to try to break the deadlock there, a newspaper reported Monday, as a poll suggested most Danes considered the war unwinnable.

Troops had been holding talks with the Taliban as wiping out the insurgency was proving so difficult, a Danish officer told the Jyllands-Posten daily.

“We have already held several meetings with local chiefs where the Taliban were represented,” Lieutenant Colonel Bjarne Hoejgaard told the paper after a six-month mission in Afghanistan.

“We cannot get around it. We must intensify the dialogue and the negotiations with the Taliban if we want to have peace in Afghanistan, because we cannot eliminate the enemy,” he said.

This report was also picked up by the Globe and Mail.  Oh, and Hamid Karzai saw it as well.  The report apparently got his panties in a wad, because he responded that only the “government” in Kabul would be allowed to surrender to, um, negotiate with the Taliban.

Talks with Taliban insurgents must only take place through Afghan government channels, President Hamid Karzai’s office warned Tuesday after reports surfaced of dialogue led by Danish soldiers.

Presidential spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told reporters he was unaware of a report in a newspaper, which cited a Danish officer saying that Taliban were represented at soldiers’ talks with local chiefs.

“We must intensify the dialogue and the negotiations with the Taliban if we want to have peace in Afghanistan, because we cannot eliminate the enemy,” the lieutenant colonel was quoted as saying on Monday after a six-month mission.

Asked about the report, Hamidzada said he had not seen it.

“But the policy of the Afghanistan government is, any talks or dialogue should take place through government, not by the friendly countries who have a presence in Afghanistan,” he said.

Remember, Karzai is the one who said directly to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar ‘My brother, my dear, come back to your homeland. Come back and work for peace, for the good of the Afghan people. Stop this business of brothers killing brothers’.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recently said that the NATO effort must be expanded in Afghanistan, and that this effort must not be seen as an “American” war.  But with such attitudes among the NATO “warriors” who serve there, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which it won’t become America’s campaign, good or bad.

Prior: Petraeus on Pursuing the Enemy

  • rykehaven

    CJ said: “In a little known and poorly publicized report on the Danish part of the NATO effort in Afghanistan, they have begun to negotiate with the Taliban on their own.”

    If true, I think this’s what you call “formalizing the obvious, long-standing reality on the ground”.

    CJ said: “Oh, and Hamid Karzai saw it as well.”

    Going through the motions of faux outrage and inevitable resignation…

    I’m not sorry for Karzai after he followed the British lead in expelling the Marines, embarrassing the 26th and other elements. It was an unnecessary pot-shot but he played political opportunist even though he had little to do with the decision.

    If he fought the British, he might not have been able to prevent the Marine’s departure, not to mention sending back the overall Afghan “surge” (I hate that word) by a full year, forcing it to enter the Obama years with all the setbacks we now have in P and K’stan. But at least we’d know that he had the long-term foresight of his “country’s” survival in mind rather than the typical myopic tribal leader who couldn’t see past his own political viability.

    And one other “un-important” detail: it would have meant alot to some Marines, officers and enlisted, Riflemen and Navy Corpsemen, if the Brits were stripped of their political cover in those days (it was the bloody Afghans who told them to leave old boy!).

    F*ck them all.

    CJ said: “Remember, Karzai is the one who said directly to Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar ‘My brother, my dear, come back to your homeland. Come back and work for peace, for the good of the Afghan people. Stop this business of brothers killing brothers’.”

    Don’t knock it: we’ve got Obama as CINC for the next four years, remember?

    CJ said: “Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recently said that the NATO effort must be expanded in Afghanistan, and that this effort must not be seen as an “American” war.”

    Again, he’s going through the motions…

    Everybody in the US armed forces (including and especially the NATO armed forces) understands that the Afghan war is the same as OIF: it has ALWAYS been an “American war”. The NATO troops know this deep down. So does everybody in the US Military. Heck, the British in Afghanistan never stopped complaining about it (the same was true in Iraq).

    The real danger in Iraq and Afghanistan, the thing that really got us into trouble, was to pretend otherwise; believing that we could leave things to others rather than doing it ourselves. McMaster mentioned a while back that the greatest mistake the US made was to push things onto other parties who weren’t ready for the job. He was talking about his own experience with MiTT and some of the Iraqi units that were sent into [I think] Baghdad too soon. I also think his target was specifically vague to include the so-called “allies”; he knew as well as any of us that the Brits and others were worthless, no matter what public praise we gave to the “coalition”.

    The Iraqis were the future and the very fact that it was their turf meant that they had promise. They just needed more time (and Bush bought the time; good for him). But I don’t think anyone understood why certain people held onto the fantasy of the Brits in Basra for so long.

    If NATO leaves Afghanistan (Germans, Brits, Danes, French, Canadians, non-Natos like the Aussies, et al), nothing changes.

    But if America leaves, the game’s over.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Well, the extent to which we game the campaign and leave inept troops in place will be equal to the danger to our own campaign. It’s all connected. I think you get the picture.

    I’m up with you right until you discuss Marines and the 26th. The 26th MEU wasn’t there, the 24th MEU was. And Karzai has never “forced” Marines out. The 24th did their full 7 month deployment.

    I am also not aware of him having “forced out” any other troops, including the Brits.

  • rykehaven

    CJ said: “I’m up with you right until you discuss Marines and the 26th. The 26th MEU wasn’t there, the 24th MEU was.”

    Negative.

    I’m not talking about the 24th MEU that took Garmser last Spring in 2008.

    I’m talking about the elements of the 26th MEU that got kicked out after committing so-called “atrocities” in a Taliban ambush in 2006. A buddy in Cedar Point mentioned that the unit leaders were canned after being told that they should have withdrawn rather than direct fire; the real issue, of course, was CYA leadership in Afghanistan. The way he described it, it was not simply a matter of ROE interpretation BS; it was a matter of aggressive tactics – it was the attitude, whether the commanders would back them up under fire or hang them out to dry, stuff like that.

    CJ said: “And Karzai has never “forced” Marines out. The 24th did their full 7 month deployment.

    I am also not aware of him having “forced out” any other troops, including the Brits.”

    Read the paragraph again: I never said Karzai expelled the Marines or the British.

    I said that the BRITISH led the way in expelling the Marines and that Karzai (in the opinion of many, including myself) went with the flow and took advantage by publicly denouncing them after it was decided that they would leave Afghanistan.

    Everybody at the time (not just the 26th) suspected that Afghanistan was primed for a larger Marine contingent. All the Marines were buying their own personalized (perhaps unauthorized) gear and asking for information on how to send packages, e-mail, etc. Christ, some were even buying that Dragon Armor garbage at the time (the Air Force still allows it apparently) Alot of them thought the elements of the 26th (and some other elements I have no clue about) were the lead elements (call it a fact-finding mission) for what would be a larger Marine deployment. You know how it is: the Marines inherently don’t trust what they’re told by the Army – they don’t even trust what they’re told by us, the Navy – they wanted to test the waters themselves.

    In Marine terms, perfectly understandable.

    That’s where the British who “control” Helmand come in. Who’s area do you think the Marines were primed to overtake? The British were well aware of Marine plans at the time. And everyone (including the Brits) knows the Marines aren’t going to let anyone (especially the Brits) call the shots, tactically, operationally – not in this lifetime.

    You’ve covered the Garmser operation. You know as well as anyone that the Brits were less than enthusiastic about the Marines coming into “their” AOR. I’d venture the guess that they were humiliated. Nevermind how feckless the Brits are, we can argue that a different time. The reasons why they’d want the Marines out would take a book to describe, but I’ll say: “embarrassment”, “fraud” and “exposure”.

    Apparently, the Brits were apopoleptic in 2006. They knew OEF was on the verge of being “Americanized”. If the Marines weren’t aware that the British would do anything to get them out of A-stan, they knew it by the time the British brass siezed on the ambush and claimed the Marines were too aggressive (and people wonder why the US military won’t give open access of SIPRNET to the “allies”).

    The guys could tell that the pressure was coming from the Brits because their Command staff were couching their objections to the incident as if those objections weren’t their own (spineless). You know the type: NATO-centric let’s all get along BS. That, and the fact that the British officers went straight to the media and didn’t even bother concealing their identities blabbing about a frickin’ ongoing investigation. I don’t know all the details, but I guess the unit leaders had it; I’m not sure whether the CO dumped them or whether the unit leaders dumped their CO. The bottom line is that nobody wanted them canned. They certainly didn’t want the entire company expelled!

    Granted, some of the jerkwads were American officers; I hear one of them just got nominated to become ambassador to Afghanistan. You were agonizing about the mealy-mouthed pronouncments of Karzai, right? Thank God he had no control over the 24th’s operations when things came around in 2008.

    The fact is that the brass [and Karzai] went with the flow to be “diplomatic”. Those idiots are always worried about their country’s (read: their own) image in the presence of “allies”. But it was the Brits who strategically sabotaged the Marines in 2006. It hasn’t been forgotten either. I think it was the British officers that sat the marines down and started lecturing the 24th about how to conduct combat when they first got into A-stan. I can’t imagine the look on their faces, especially for those that knew about what happened in 2006.

    And today, we’re paying for it now. Who knows what might have happened if everything in 2006 had gone smoothly? Who knows what might have happened if the Brits were displaced a little earlier?

    The problem has always been time. And a year’s a long time to lose now that Obama is CINC. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Russians and the Pakistanis are pushing our buttons right now. Worst of all, I don’t blame them – I’d be doing the same thing if I saw this kind of weakness.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    YES! Good Lord, I had forgotten about the lectures in 2006. How could I?

    I’ll tell you what. There isn’t a single Marine alive who would have been moved by that lecture.

    As for the Brits, I have said before that the enlisted man is as good as any, but up the chain of command it gets bad (at what rank this starts, I don’t know). Their views are too shaped by the so-called COIN experiences in Northern Ireland. Thus, Basra.

  • rykehaven

    CJ said: “YES! Good Lord, I had forgotten about the lectures in 2006. How could I?”

    I’m sure those lectures were recurrent in 2006 and beyond too; yes, they’re beyond famous though I’ve never suffered through one.

    Actually, I was talking about an e-mail sent to me last year 2008 regarding the 24th MEU. It was written by a British journalist I think and the officers were quite clearly lecturing the 24th Marines that “nobody has killed more terrorists in Afghanistan” than they had. The journalist himself was taken aback by the boasting.

    CJ said: “As for the Brits, I have said before that the enlisted man is as good as any, but up the chain of command it gets bad (at what rank this starts, I don’t know). Their views are too shaped by the so-called COIN experiences in Northern Ireland. Thus, Basra.”

    I’ve never heard of US enlisted men eagerly converging on a media correspondent for the seemingly sole purpose of ripping into US servicemen. As I’ve said before, talking to media journalists and giving them ammunition against other servicemen is a faux pas in the US military but apparently not the British military.

    I’ll have to say that I have deep reservations about what you might call the good enlisted Brit or how high up the chain you can go before the rot shows up. I’ve got one particular story if you’re interested:

    There was one story on the island of Diego Garcia in early 2002. One ship in the US Navy, a frigate I believe, was stationed there to provide ATC for the B-52s flying in support of OEF.

    Like any US ship they had a VBSS team, pretty good one apparently, considering I knew one of a security team members pretty well.

    Diego Garcia, of course, is a British atoll in the Indian Ocean and served as a major base for US bombers and Ammunition ships.

    There was a platoon of Royal Marines on the atoll and they wanted to get some training alongside the US Navy’s “best”. Well, the “best” on that ship was the VBSS but let’s be clear:

    1) The Royal Marines were stationed on beaches with their only duty being Physical Training the entire time. They’re the equivalent of the US Navy SEALS.

    2) The VBSS team of the frigate were originally stationed in San Diego and had made the trek from halfway around the world. They lived in a tin can with no room to run “5 miles” a day. Furthermore, their jobs did not simply include PT all day, every day, but they had hours of what amounted to command and control drills, maintenance, studying, and just keeping the ship in good shape. These weren’t Marines, and they weren’t anywhere near SEALS. They knew their tactics in sweeping ships and VBSS operations like the back of their hand but…

    The Royal Marines challenged them to a foot race. Not “asked”. “Challenged”. And it wasn’t on asphalt either; it was on the island’s beach sand, back and forth for what seemed like forever. Again, while the Royal Marines might be used to this, sailors on a tin can couldn’t hope to cope with it for long…

    And the Royal Marines from the lowest enlisted to the frickin Platoon Leader KNEW that.

    It was infuriating, but I’m glad to say that the guys bore the brunt of it as best they could.

    Professionally.

    Which is more than I can say for the vaunted Royal Marine jackasses. Fine, the US crew needed to get back into shape, but NOT like that.

    There’s one last thing I’d like to note: I’ve never heard of a US Navy VBSS Team, never mind a SEAL team, surrender to an under-gunned (and the Iranians WERE under-gunned), undermanned, group of boghammers without a shot being fired.

    I have never heard of such craven cowardice ever happening in the US Navy as that displayed by that particular British VBSS team, that Royal Marine platoon, and that ship, the Cornwall, up AND down the chain; from the lowest enlisted to the Skipper himself.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    I know, and you don’t have to refer to an e-mail for the “lecture.” I had it covered in my very first post on the Marines in Helmand.

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2008/04/13/marines-mired-in-nato-red-tape-in-afghanistan/

    From my friend and great reporter David Wood at the Baltimore Sun.

    Thanks for the perspective.


You are currently reading "How Fast Can NATO Surrender to the Taliban?", entry #2185 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,NATO,Taliban and was published February 17th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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