Fewer Troops is Better: Riding Unicorns Over Rainbows

BY Herschel Smith
5 years ago

From David Adams and Ann Marlowe, via the WSJ.

From the beginning of 2007 to March 2008, the 82nd Airborne Division’s strategy in Khost proved that 250 paratroopers could secure a province of a million people in the Pashtun belt. The key to success in Khost—which shares a 184 kilometer-long border with Pakistan’s lawless Federally Administered Tribal Areas—was working within the Afghan system. By partnering with closely supervised Afghan National Security Forces and a competent governor and subgovernors, U.S. forces were able to win the support of Khost’s 13 tribes.

Today, 2,400 U.S. soldiers are stationed in Khost. But the province is more dangerous.

Mohammed Aiaz, a 32-year-old Khosti advising the Khost Provincial Reconstruction Team, puts it plainly: “The answer is not more troops, which will put Afghans in more danger.” If troops don’t understand Afghan culture and fail to work within the tribal system, they will only fuel the insurgency. When we get the tribes on our side, that will change. When a tribe says no, it means no. IEDs will be reported and no insurgent fighters will be allowed to operate in or across their area.

Khost once had security forces with tribal links. Between 1988 and 1991, the Soviet client government in Kabul was able to secure much of eastern and southern Afghanistan by paying the tribal militias. Khost was secured by the 25th Division of the Afghan National Army (ANA), which incorporated militias with more than 400 fighters from five of Khost’s 13 major tribes. The mujahedeen were not able to take Khost until internal rifts among Pashtuns in then-President Mohammed Najibullah’s government resulted in a loss of support for the militias in Khost and, eventually, the defection of the 25th Division in April 1991.

The mistake the Najibullah government made was not integrating advisers to train the tribal militias and transform them into a permanent part of the government security forces. During the Taliban period between 1996-2001 the 25th Division dispersed amongst the tribes. Many fled to Pakistan.

When the U.S. invaded in 2001, the 25th Division, reformed under the command of Gen. Kilbaz Sherzai, immediately secured Khost. But the division was disbanded by the new Afghan government for fear of warlordism.

Today, some elements of the 25th still work for the Americans as contract security forces. However, the ANA now stationed in Khost is mainly composed of northern, non-Pashtun Dari speakers, and it is regarded as a foreign body. Without local influence and tribal support, the ANA tends to stay on its bases.

Part of this is our fault. We built the ANA in our own Army’s image. Its soldiers live on nice bases and see themselves as the protectors of Afghanistan from conventional attacks by Pakistan. But to be effective, the ANA must be structured more like a National Guard, responsible for creating civil authority and training the police.

We saw how this could work in the Tani district of Khost starting in 2007. By assisting an ANA company—with a platoon of American paratroopers, a civil affairs team from the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team, the local Afghan National Police, and a determined Afghan subgovernor named Badi Zaman Sabari—we secured the district despite its long border with Pakistan.

Raids by the paratroopers under the leadership of Lt. Col. Scott Custer were extremely rare because the team had such good relations with the tribes that they would generally turn over any suspect. These good tribal relations were strengthened further by meeting the communities’ demands for a new paved road, five schools, and a spring water system that supplies 12,000 villagers.

Yet security has deteriorated in Khost, despite increases of U.S. troops in mid-2008. American strategy began to focus more on chasing the insurgents in the mountains instead of securing the towns and villages where most Khostis live.

Analysis & Commentary

Make friends with the right people, empower their men, and ride unicorns over rainbows.  Presto!  Counterinsurgency made simple.  Note that at least one strategic argument all along is that Afghanistan isn’t like Iraq and the tribal awakening may not in fact apply, so it will be harder in Afghanistan than it was in the Anbar Province.  Now Adams and Marlowe turn that argument on its head.  Not only is the tribal awakening possible, but it should be easier in Afghanistan than in Iraq, and more troops are certainly not necessary.

Grim at Blackfive has a roundup of views that complement Marlowe’s plan, but on a more sophisticated level.  But as with Marlowe’s view, Grim’s discussion relies on tribal engagement.  Regular readers know that I reject the narrative (of now mythical and magical proportions) that the campaign for Anbar was all about the tribes.  It was much more complicated than that.

In Haditha it required sand berms to prevent the influx of foreign fighters into the city, combined with a local police chief strong man named Colonel Faruq to bring the town to heel.  In al Qaim it required heavy kinetic operations by the U.S. Marines, combined with a local police chief strong man named Abu Ahmed to keep out foreign fighters and bring local insurgents under control.  In Fallujah in 2007 it required heavy kinetic operations by the U.S. Marines followed on by gated communities, biometrics, and block captains (or Muktars) and strong men police all over the city.

Whereas Captain Travis Patriquin’s outline for counterinsurgency in Anbar seems to have carried the day when it comes to narrative, even in Ramadi (where the tribal awakening supposedly got its start), Colonel MacFarland’s observations are telling concerning the tribes upon his arrival to Anbar.

… the sheiks were sitting on the fence.

They were not sympathetic to al-Qaeda, but they tolerated its members, MacFarland says.

The sheiks’ outlook had been shaped by watching an earlier clash between Iraqi nationalists — primarily former members of Saddam Hussein’s ruling Baath Party — and hard-core al-Qaeda operatives who were a mix of foreign fighters and Iraqis. Al-Qaeda beat the nationalists. That rattled the sheiks.

“Al-Qaeda just mopped up the floor with those guys,” he says.

While Captain Patriquin wanted to talk to Sheik Risha, U.S. forces were engaged in heavy combat to shut down his smuggling lines, even at the expense of killing his tribal and family members.  The U.S. Marine Corps operations in Iraq are best described by diplomacy with a gun (and this is consistent with the literally countless interviews of Marines that I have conducted).  When it was all finished, more than one thousand Marines had perished in Anbar, and tens of thousands of both indigenous insurgents and foreign fighters had died.  There were no unicorns or rainbows in Anbar, popular myths to the contrary.

In spite of the sophistication of the Anbari tribes compared to the Afghan tribes, even they couldn’t hold off al Qaeda without heavy kinetics by the Marines.  The Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan were also said to have a strong sense of unity and organization, that is, until Baitullah Mehsud had some 600 tribal elders assassinated.  The Pashtun tribal structure is said to have been decimated by the Pakistan Taliban.

Upon the initial liberation of Garmsir by the U.S. Marines in 2008, the tribal elders pleaded with the Marines to join with them to fight the Taliban.  The 24th MEU did, at least until their deployment ended.  The British weren’t able to hold Garmsir, and no U.S. Marines followed up the 24th MEU into the Garmsir (in a tip of the hat to the “economy of force” campaign).  Thus did Operation Khanjar have to be launched in 2009 to do some of the same things that the Marines did in 2008.  Even now with U.S. Marines present in the Helmand Province, fear of retribution for cooperating with the Marines against the Taliban is pervasive.

There are certain elements of Marlowe’s analysis that are salient.  You cannot find more criticism of the ANA and ANP than I have lodged, and I objected to the use of ANA soldiers from Tajik areas to control Pashtun tribes before Marlowe did.  But for those naive analysts who believe that reorganization of the ANA is the answer to our problems in Afghanistan, you only need to know that the U.S. Marines are still trying to talk the ANA troops aligned with them to go on night time patrols.

There may also be some virtue to the notion of better engagement of the tribes.  Steven Pressfield has a continuing stream of conversation and analysis at his blog on this very topic (to be fair, I should also mention that Joshua Foust has another view on this, and both positions are well worth studying).  But after the tribes are engaged and the ANA has been reorganized, the tribes cannot stop the Taliban and allied foreign fighters alone, and the ANA is far from ready to take on defense of their country from internal threats.

What Davis and Marlowe are missing is the general evolution of the campaign and the warp and woof of the Afghan countryside now as compared to the utopia they describe.  The Taliban have grown stronger, and it will take heavy kinetics, patrolling, policing and engagement of the population by other-than-ANA forces to dislodge them.

There aren’t any easy solutions, but the general reluctance to send additional troops being demonstrated by this administration cannot possibly be a doctrinal or strategic basis for denying the necessary resources to complete the campaign.  U.S. troops are the currency upon which the campaign will succeed or fail.



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  • Warbucks

    If I read earlier analysis correctly, there was mention that a significant portion of any US Military force increase in country was needed to help train ANA and ANP forces. If this is the case, there seems to be general agreement regardless of the political attunment of the analysist that ANA and ANP training is needed for long term success.

    Why can we not put together a program of Air-lifting large elements of the ANA and/or ANP out-of-country for their training? It seems to me (a) we could train and motivate and (b) find a US, politically acceptable balance point of compromise without detrimental effects.

    In implementing the air-lift for training concept, we end up creating a different dimension to the war for the enemy, which would be very hard for the enemy to adapt to. The new dimension of the war would be ANA and/or ANP forces entering existing forces with a more nationalistic-oppimistic can-do spirit. We send these guys back into their war with pride not developed in them, apparently, internally through their own force structures in-country.

    Would some of you analysts put some thinking into such an air-lift training program and offer some estimates on how that might be achieved?

  • rrk3

    Well if the administration is going with counter-insurgency lite then we should pack our trash and leave. Sorry for the doom and gloom but we all know that 10-20,000 troops is not going to cut it.

    I advocate counter-insurgency only after we have killed enough of the Taliban in this case to make them pause and let us move in the civil affairs and PRT folks to work with the tribes.

    Warbucks, we airlifted and trained a lot of the Chinese Nationalist army in India during World War II. Here is my question do where do we train them and how. Do we line them up in the yellow footprints at PI or San Diego? Do we train them as conventional troops or guerrilla fighters which is more to the inclination anyway? It is not just a matter of training but capacity as well. The ANA has no where close to the air and vehicle assets it needs to engage in major operations.

    As we all do at this blog we spend a lot of time studying this area of the world and in my opinion there are Taliban and AQ commanders with big smiles on their faces this morning when they heard the news about the “new” plan.

  • Warbucks

    rrk3 you make excellent points on past failures of such a “compromise strategy of out-of-country training” for ANA and/or ANP troops. The question of where to train them does seem easy to answer on the other hand. I think where to train them will prove to be the easy part. The hard part is (a) what to train them, (b) how to re-integrate them seamlessly when returned to their own country, hyped-up and ready to build a country and aggressively fight for it.

    Some of the elements of training, which I am totally incompetent to analyse would be:

    (1) Send them back after completion of their training with such high skills that their officer corp looks incompetent;
    (2) Send them back with such high skills that they expect to win and receive an NCO ranking; even grant them courtesy ranks recognized by the US as holding leadership, experience, and abilities which equate to various NCO status in the US as an “honorary” recognition.
    (3) Send back an elite small group of trained officers married to these men in spirit and purpose as well that are able to use the troops trained and argue moral and ethical support for the honorary US designations.

    You raise a vital question about lack of air power. Don’t give them air power of such advanced ability that the US is compromised. But rather, we keep out own air power and they use our air power in joint operations where their forward air controllers are calling in air strikes which our intelligence is an active partner in validating and approving, with both there people and our people in the same room approving targets. This works because the people in the same room with our people who are approving targets are trained by us as some of their elite forces.

    It seems intuitively imperative that two elements we must not loose control of would be air superiority and missile technologies. We could easily maintain such ability as long as we do not provide them with their own equally staffed air force, unless and until they become a dependable, reliable partner and even then I believe Uncle Sam needs to always maintain the ultimate in air superiority.

    So what we end up with on the ground is group of warriors able to work seamlessly with our support systems and conduct their own operations with our assistance in critical areas. If they turned on us and became an enemy we would withdraw critical air support and cut off supplies.

    But as I say, I am not competent to evaluate such an out-of-country-training program. Maybe some of you analysts would pick up on the idea and massage it so it might then work.

  • rrk3

    Warbucks,
    On the subject of airpower I was thinking more along the lines of transport, I am not advocating giving them F-16s. They will need a bunch of helicopters, and midsized fixed wing transport aricraft. Not to mention a bunch of trucks, humvees etc.

    Just a quick thought on out of country training. It takes at least three if not four years to make a decent Corpral I know current operations have increased promotions to a certain extent. When I reached my unit after 11 weeks of basic and 2 months of MOS school not counting basic infantry I was considered basically trained. It would take a minimum of 6 months to get these folks to the level of competence of a basically trained Private-PFC in the Corps. Also we have to make sure the guys we take are healthy as has been reported here a good number of the ANA has a drug problem and there is also the nutrition problem. These guys are not made to hump a 60lbs ruck all day.
    Also the cultural differences in discipline come into play you cannot treat an Afghani like you do a 18 year old kid from Texas. They are liable to come after you in your sleep. Warbucks your idea does deserve a look. The problem is we may not have the time or an administration willing to do what it takes to win.

  • Warbucks

    rrk3, “deserve a look” is a good starting point.

    I think Sam, (Uncle Sam) can figure ways to work through tiered random selection of male-only personnel with (a) 6 months training cycle, (b) humping 60-lbs rucks all day, (c) nutrition problems, which leaves us down to the issue of (d) cultural differences and coming after you in your sleep.

    Item (d) multiple phases:

    (1) We enable and encourage them spiritually to realize that at our core we are both partakers of the Abrahamic faith and worship the same God and as brothers we should learn from each other. They teach us, we listen, then we teach them, they listen in an atmosphere of two way respect. Also while Shiite and Sunni might be a war with the world in their fringes, true, inspired Sufi’s live on another plane of enlightenment altogether. They carry in the hearts what you and I might call “the personal experience of the loving Christ,” which by definition extends beyond just Muslim.

    (2) Coming after the trainer in his sleep may be the key to training them effectively. I think we can work around death even if one or two or three or more occur. There are tactics.

    You and I should continue to talk about this topic in general rrk3. There are some important people (in addition to you) that read the Captain’s site (that would never let even the Captain know they read it) and our back-and-forth banter might just plant a seed in the brain of just the right mucky-muck in just the right spot and that mucky-muck figures out a compromise that gets good results.

    One of the things that must eventually settle upon our young and inexperienced President is the emotional realization that he is in fact President of all the people. Pray that he finds that thread of truth that preserves and protects the best of what we are. I don’t think he knows that yet and that emotional content is slowly creeping into his conscience in the quiet moments where he begins to see the right answers. There is still time to awaken this President. There is strength and power and God’s light in praying for him and that he finds the inner strength to preserve the best of what we are even as there may be change ahead.

    In the mean time let’s help him fight a war that needs to be won.

  • rrk3

    Warbucks,
    I am positive there are better trainers in the group because I concentrate more on the anti-terror, law enforcement side of the fence, but I would be honored to continue this conversation.
    As far as (D) goes it is not even a Muslim thing per se as a pashtunwali thing this is a real cultural difference between the Pastuns and other Muslims. I am not sure how far this tradition goes with the Uzbeks, Hazari, and other tribes but this will be an issue. I think this can be gotten around treat them as warriors and then as soldiers and like you said they listen and we listen. This could have another added benefit as it would help both sides with the language issue. We have to keep in mind at all levels a Western solution is not always the best solution.
    Strengths:
    -The average rural Afghan male already thinks of himself as a warrior, training will have to turn them into soldiers.
    -Some will already have basic weapons training
    -The rural Afghan males can already hump hills like a mountain goat.
    -They are prideful build on that.

    Weaknesses
    -Poor education
    -Lack of national pride
    -They are not Western type recruits you cannot treat them as such
    -Lack of what we define as discipline however I do not think they need to look great on a drill field as long as they have mastered small unit tactics. You can look at the Israeli Defense Forces as an example in this regard.
    -Poor NCOs (this can be addressed by starting a formal NCO school).

    What I would like to see is the trainers also deploy with them in country as their embed trainers. This calls for a long deployment cycle but following up with them for another 6 months in country would do wonders in my opinion. Also standardize the training make it a NATO school but with the same standards whether the training is coming from French, German, US, British. Now the training is un-even due to the diffferent ways each army operates.

    This could be a start.

  • Warbucks

    The noble Pashtun. We might agree that Queen Elizabeth did no one a favor when she honored the dividing line between the Pashtun culture drawn down the middle of their 5000 plus year old mountain top, battle secure, culture over 100 years ago.

    I think of the Pashtun as a beautiful, noble people. They survived over 5000 years in the isolated Cush in conditions I doubt I would last 72 hours. Here are the few positive (and possibly negative) things I’ve heard about the Pastun which seem relevant in building a strategy:

    (a) They are survivors who have 5000+ years of belief in their core security brought about by their remote, mountainous terrain. This has never failed them in the past. Armies come and go. They believe ours will too.

    (b) Their hospitality is rumored to be a absolute, unbreakable bond, that if you are formally granted “hospitality” by agreement of the senior jurga (spelling), that becomes an unbreakable blood oath, i.e. their very lives will be given in your defense. I can not help but admire this quality even as the dedicated abilities of modern armies are tending to render this tribal trait as unwise to be practiced on a continuing basis without tribal review. By and large the only way to evaluate the merits of high-jurga granted hospitality is to see it fail on a scale that makes them pause and reconsider. That has never happened before, they probably believe that even though the time may some day come that “hospitality” may have to be reconsidered, that day has not yet arrived, and we (US presence) will be history soon enough, leaving them to deal with the devil we leave behind.

    On a footnote to our own US history, in the authentic era of the cowboy out West in the period following the US Civil War and running only about 20 years (late 1860′s to late 1880′s), our “Code of the West” was more than just a romanticized code. One of the elements of the code was a similar form of “hospitality.” A traveler would either indicate he was just passing through the trail on his way, or he would indicate he was interested in “joining up,” i.e. being granted protection and hospitality and participating with the group. A traveler never followed a group uninvited. That was a sure way to find yourself dead in the morning. It was important to catch-up and pass through or join. Only two choices were deemed acceptable. If the group agreed you stayed otherwise move on or die. This aspect of the rugged frontier conditions of our short-lived real old West (ended by railroads and barbed wire and the glamour and comforts of town living), tended to develop some similar characteristics as the Pastun including not only hospitality but chewing tobacco and guns, both of which are reported to represent very important aspects of the Pastun culture.

    (c) Beyond that there seems to be a strong belief that they should not marry out of their culture when they migrate outside the culture and live elsewhere in the world. Marriages or arranged affairs.

    One your important point of nationalistic spirit, there may be more than one way to view their nationalistic spirit. While it may appear the Pashtun do not have a nationalistic spirit, I would rate that as a misconstruction of the deepest truth and prize they hold to the contrary most dear: that they are a nation formed by a 5000+ year old culture that was recently and wrongly divided down the middle by Queen Elizabeth over 100 years ago.

    Our current US strategy offers them little reason to change a 5000+ year old reality of waiting out the foreign army. I would only imagine, as they see it (Captain’s Journal, Interview with Lt. Col. Allen West: http://www.captainsjournal.com/2009/10/29/interview-with-lt-col-allen-west/) waiting out a nomadic army (US forces) camping in tents remains a logical long term solution (from their current prospective) to their 5,000+ year old wisdom of experience.

    I found a very relevant photograph some while back (a couple of weeks ago) on the Captain’s Journal of a squad of men, lightly outfitted, jogging through the Appalachian trail system on some sort of training exercise. This open my eyes to a new breed of mountain training, when combined with modern weapon’s technologies, that would “perhaps allow” the Pashtun to reevaluate the wisdom of a permanent hospitality granted to the Al Qaeda and/or Taliban and/or persons committed to terrorism. You may recall that photo.

    It seems to me that such a fast moving, lightly armed, on-foot, then pick-up and move in-the air, then back on-foot-soldier, now you see them now you don’t, combined with communication resources to call in any level of weapons needed from the air, harbors the ability to make the Pastun high jurga rethink their 5,000+ year old system of hospitality and possibly update it. This would represent a major victory in thinking but in and of itself it would only be partial victory without lasting effect. Another element calls for education and literacy and of course — nothing new in that concept.

    Scotland had 85% literacy hundreds of years ago, when the rest of the Island was still running around illiterate, maybe 15% literate, if that. The Scots taught their children to read in order to study the bible, both male and female were literate. Obviously literacy empowers, changes, and enlightens… and takes a long, long time.

    There will probably be no long term success without literacy on a scale that does not yet exist. If one needs a powerful example of how compelling this aspect is to people of the cush, read “Three Cups of Tea,” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. A New York Times Best Seller. But we already know that at great cost to our national treasure, don’t we?

    You raise a lot of really interesting and important issues. You and I should continue to build this posting and not let it die. God bless.

  • rrk3

    Warbucks,
    While our conversation has centered on the Pashtuns we are going to have to intergrate the rest of the tribes if the goal is to build a national army. Training and arming the Pashtuns only would be a huge mistake. As this would only turn the rest of the country against us and the Pashtuns.

    When I think of building an effective Afghan Army I think of the things that we did with the CIDG units in Vietnam. These were both used as a guerrilla force and and regular forces that protected the base camps and proved to be very effective. This calls for close training and living with the people. It also is very kinetic in its operations something that the current strategy is not calling for but I can see the same program being used. We taught these forces airborne operations, radio usage, and how to use the weapons organic to company sized units and these tribesmen were also illiterate for the most part.

    The force I would envision would be light AKs, RPKs, RPGs, and Mortars for the most part however they will have airpower and QRF back up for big fights or if the Taliban tried to take a village. The CIDG Mike teams in Vietnam performed these same roles and like I said were very effective at it. This is some Lt Col. West brought up in his interview the Marine Corps Hamlet program was effective and it was the big war Generals in Saigon that killed it.

    The type of forces we need can be be built but the US and our NATO allies need to stop training them in conventional methods. US Army Special Operations and MARSOC are trained on how to build a guerrilla army and should be doing that.

    That also give me a thought on where to train this army put them out at San Onofre at Camp Pendleton it is hilly and is already home to the West Coast Infantry school for the Marine Corps. The facilities there could be enlarged to handle the Special Forces guys based in WA, and any NATO trainers we decided to bring in.

    Rotate Afghans in for 6 months, house them with their trainers and put them through their training. Then redeploy them and their trainers to Afghanistan for six months. The scheduling details could be worked out by others but that would be a way to start.

    Semper Fi

    If you would like to see the work I did on the FATA let me know and I can e-mail it to you.

  • Warbucks

    Indeed yes. If you would be so kind as to email your paper to dtrn@pacbell.net

    That should reach me. In the subject line of the email please say: Captain’s Journal. That email dumps incoming into trash bin and I have to search through and carefully salvage. Once we hook up I can privately transfer over to my primary email.

    LOL, after I posted the prior missive, I realized it would likely be read as though it was an all Pastun affair. That would place an interesting new power element into this world now wouldn’t it? I have a hunch the first thing they’d do is declare indpendence and start their own country.

    Thanks for keeping this discussion going. I will wait to hear from you on that email.

  • rrk3

    You should have the paper now bear with me it is very long.

    A fully armed and trained Pashtun nation would be a scary thought in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. I think that might be something that would unite the lowland Pakis and the other tribes in Afghanistan. A scary thought indeed.

    I do hope that clear heads prevail and that our current administration does the right thing and by that I mean not surrendering the countryside to the Taliban. I am all for anyway possible to create a more effective Afghan army and police and if it is taking them somewhere else to train then so much the better.

    I appreciate this conversation and look forward to more.

  • Warbucks

    rrk3 Thank you. I will dig for it and report back. As a Sunday morning recreational diversion in the meanwhile, my community is having a Veterans’ Parade this morning at 11 am. I accepted an invitation from a friend to ride “shotgun” on his “fully restored and authentically armed” historic army jeep.

    The only part of my uniform that is authentic and barely fits, is my old flight jacket. “My personal war” is the daily battle to remain ready, willing, and able, to fit back into my old freaking leather flight jacket. Can somebody help me with this zipper?

    Okay….. On the count of three….

  • rrk3

    Well Have a good afternoon I am getting ready for another semester to start and having a quiet day at the house while the kids go into sugar detox.

  • Warbucks

    Intuitively military planners tend to get the future right. The larger question is, do we create our own self-fulfilling prophecy…. speaking in general terms, as I am not qualified beyond that.

    Just like most of us, our intuition, when we listen to it, tends to be right on.

    Who among us, did not see this push to the boarder coming in through Afghanistan who follows Herschel’s blog. We tend to get it right when we look ahead. We see the most likely scenarios.

    While we all want to be peacemakers isn’t it true that we all end up usually creating more war not less. And it’s not like having to have the last word. Oh no, this is far greater and deeper. It’s having to win because loosing is unthinkable.

    Loosing means being perceived as weak and laying ourselves open to attack as a nation because we seem weak, and that’s where would-be enemies always, always, always misjudge Americans.

    It’s that Christian culture-thing we lug around, wanting to give a second and third and fourth and fifth chances to would-be enemies.

    At first we are seen as naïve, weak, over-weight, self-indulgent, materialistic, decadent, without will or backbone and they attack us as they try to be just like us and find for one reason or another it doesn’t work out for them. They say every generation has to learn. When it is realized they can’t be just like us, they hate us. They wouldn’t think of changing anything in their own culture, it’s easier to hate.
    But Americans, we have the Christian-thing we lug around. Yes, it’s still pretty much a Christian country. Step outside the big city lights sometimes not more than 200-feet, and you enter a different culture with old country values still hold, where oral contracts and a hand shake still count, where little congregation churches and old grave yards line the country road sides. When the country is at war these are usually the backbone people that builds our forces.

    Sometime I don’t like what intuition tells me is the most likely scenario. Pakistan has to deliver credible results against the Taliban. No more of this playing the dumb-Americans for Pakistan’s quarterly payoff from our over-paid entrenched, professional politicians living inside the beltway….God do we need term limits…. It’s down to the live or die phase for Pakistan as a country. They just don’t know it yet. Either they fight terrorism or they loose their country to a UN sanctioned invasion force as the Taliban captures nukes in Pakistan control.

    If Roosevelt needed a Pearl Harbor on top of his not-on-my-watch peace pledge, this tele-promted President may need a captured nuke inside Pakistan. Oh well, that changes things now, and I need to go to war and get into this fight.

    Most likely we are not going to tolerate another cease fire while Osama bin Laden cuts deals with warlords, packs up his mules and hustles out of town again.

    Here’s the bad part of the most likely scenario, we are going to have to arm and materially support Pakistan to a degree that will make India nervous and risk a greater war and the only way Americans will buy into such a scheme is if the Pakistani’s intentionally allow the Taliban to reach nuclear weapons facility.
    Pakistan seems well on the way to allowing just that. That will trigger then end game on a much larger scale.

    Our young President needs to get into this fight in such a way that he ups the anti without nukes being captured. Not only give the Generals their 40,000 men, but demand battlefield body-counts of enemy dead from Pakistan and arm them to the hilt. We press in from the west through Afghanistan and Pakistan presses in from the East into the Frontier region. And we are “invited” to into Pakistan to help and validate.

    The Taliban body count will need to be so high that the otherwise admirable and noble Pashtun people and their 5000+ year old culture will be jarred so deeply at its core, that their senior Jurga will rethink their noble, ancient, cultural practices of granting hospitality to the likes of terrorists…. a custom which has never failed them before over the past 5000 years and they do not anticipate the weak American will prove to be more than a short term nuisance of perhaps a year or two longer. The Jurga must be given pause to reconsider.

    Intuitively, that’s the most likely scenario. Are there others? Maybe. We need to think on it.

  • rrk3

    Warbucks,
    It is documented that we will need to kill 10,000 a year just to cut into their males coming a military age. Is our young President willing to commit that type of violence in a war that I am not sure he entirely supports? If this is acceptable to him and the American people the ROE need to be changed.

  • Warbucks

    How do we break away from the most likely war scenario and bring forth peace and understanding and reach through to the hearts of “the enemy” in a renewed peace effort on a global scale?

    Thought ONE: Is there a role for high tec? Of course, but how and what?

    Regarding: Micro Air Vehciles (MAVs)

    http://video.designworldonline.com/video/vid=0f7d1e1689b1472a83149c3c5d822235

    Here is what I think might be true. A lot of the promo surrounding MAV’s is technologically already on-line. The brains and mechanics all work except one thing… sound level controls. These devices need more stealth in the level of sound their little motors generate while airborne. Everything I’ve ever seen is too noisy. There are many applications where they are applied even still. Hovering over a doorway above the enemy’s head is not one of them currently.

    However, a very useful protocol includes massive networking and sensing and movement tracking in the use of resident units each stationed in discrete gps-confirmed-spots alone the suspected enemy route where the units have much longer life expectancy while in passive-mode and able to recharge in changing weather conditions; sunlight keeps them ticking. The trouble with this technology is that it is quickly compromised and used back on us through reversed-engineering, thus giving up the unique advantage. Six month’s after it used once, it’s probably greatly compromised as to that specific use and configuration.

    It’s utility may have several levels of “one-time application” that are quickly compromised through reverse engineering (even with self-destruct built into the device) and should not be wasted on less than strategic moves, thereby limiting some of their general utility.

    The airborne units for example have very short life in cloudy weather conditions. The enemy will quickly realize this and start developing bad weather tactics… not something we want them to focus on. Better that we master bad weather, not them. To insure survivability and continuous flow in information you must saturate the area with several levels of redundancy because the equipment loss ratios will be significant.

    Infrared laser (and line of sight wave projection devices) with pinpoint tracking accuracy (just as we use on office computers talking to printers on the other side of the room) will however enable passive communications that are very difficult to track, thus insuring a level of stealth and hiding the equipment from radio triangulation and location by the enemy.

    Where various levels of MAV’s could be very effective would be to add another dimension to internal country transparency.

    Internal Country Transparency is something I’ve been arguing we need to engage world wide as one of our diplomatic tools used in our quiver of tools.

    We need to think through a new passive “communication dimension” of foreign policy initiative that initially seems to serve most free-world interests: task military grade communication and observation satellites and drone platforms (including MAV’s) to enable “public and/or media access” to observe events and or report out information in sealed off societies that refuse to allow the media to do their free market reporting of observations.

    While this might prove embarrassing from time to time it would only apply to countries that restrict or prohibit the free market media from doing their job. Rules of engagement would obviously need to be carefully thought through. This should be a tool the President can deploy at will….. C’est moi?

    “Free the media to do its job” or we will enable your suppressive actions to speak for themselves to the world. There is nothing more compelling to change tyrants than 4 or 5-billion wittiness’s. Would this serve only the agents of change and not the agents of freedom and liberty? C’est moi?

    Yes it could be used against or for, our goals. There would be no guarantee it would work for our national interests at all time. On the other hand, it’s not as though we concede any heretofore unknown spy technologies, and with low level drones flying above 55,000 feet, we have a virtual 27/7/365 bird’s eye view of every bloody nose, license plate, and untied shoelace. At least engage the idea and give it a trial run.

    Don’t see the application of this idea? Okay, then let’s keep looking. Maybe we can break the most likely scenarios to war by higher level events involving the churches on a global scale with elevated political profile. Can we bring about the global spiritual tipping point yet? It is coming and just a matter of when not if. What’s this have to do with a war strategy?

  • Warbucks

    World Class Dramatic Impacts

    Battle flags have been used throughout the ages to rally and guide human will in the most difficult of times.

    The brace of common religious icons have been used throughout the ages on the other hand are used to reach through human will and touch the uncorrupted human soul.

    The ancient Chinese were among the earliest practitioners to realize and incorporate rituals in all the affairs of state.

    Former nun and author Karen Armstrong, in her book “The Great Transformation – The Beginning of Religious Traditions,” carefully walks us through the history of religious traditions from 1600 B.C. to modern times. See concludes by saying “The sages demanded that every single person become self-conscious, aware of what he was doing; rituals had to be appropriated by each sacrificer, and individuals must take responsibility for their actions. Today we are making another quantum leap forward. Our technology has created a global society, which is interconnected electronically, militarily, economically, and politically. We now have to develop a global consciousness, because, whether we like it or not we live in one world. (My emphasis) …… If religion is to bring light to our broken world, we need, as Mencius (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mencius) suggested, to go in search of the lost heart, the spirit of compassion that lies at the core of all our traditions.”

    We seldom know where we sit on the continuum of evolutionary processes of spiritual development as a global society. How many times has your intuition told you, in this life, in the last few years especially, we are on the verge of something important? One group says it’s the second coming, another group says essentially the same thing, look to astrology they say, we are entering the Age of Aquarius and on the morning of December 26, 2012 we step off into the new age and leave the remnants of the Age of Pisces behind us. Hollywood tells us it’s the end-times and scares the hell out of you for $10 plus a bag of popcorn and a great surround-sound audio system. Still others, Andy Basiago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwE8m50sbWk) would suggest, it’s the age of disclosure, an age of great revealing, that we are not alone and perhaps never have been and have the Tesla technologies to see our likely futures. Peace and Conflict Resolution.Org (http://peaceandconflictresolution.googlepages.com/peaceandconflictresolution.org) believes personal revelation can start right on the internet! Every generation seems to have its collection of people who intuitively believe we are on the edge of something important. This is nothing new.

    Karen Armstrong is not a lady to brush off easily or ignore. Here book’s conclusion places the true challenge of our age before us: “If religion is to bring light to our broken world, we need, as Mencius suggested, to go in search of the lost heart, the spirit of compassion that lies at the core of all our traditions.”

    Notice she does not say just “lies at the core of Christianity,” but rather, “lies at the core of all our traditions.” She is writing in global terms outside the constraints of any one religious system, a former nun, no less, how is blessed with a mind able to recall and trace spiritual growth of the human species from its origins to its current state and place it in common everyday, understandable language.

    There may be some dramatic symbols or rituals which we may be able to rally around as a species that may be useful to bring forward in these times of war, that will help break the vision of the most likely war scenarios we men of war harbor. Just as dragging both ends of a horseshoe shaped magnet across metal filings, a lot of the files stick, and the rest are left behind. Rituals and icons that can might be created among us today that can pull alone a sizeable core of followers may be good enough to effect change. Not everyone needs to agree.

    Task you mind to think of dramatic religious events that might alter the trajectory of our future path. I am one of those who has slowly come to believe that as we think, so we become, that we literally create our own national futures by our collective energies of our individual thoughts.

    I have my own set of notions on what type of peace policy alternatives might be tried and if this website allows, and we keep this blog alive, perhaps we can develop those notions …. Initiatives that were recommended in the bipartisan reports under a paragraph #38 which gave brief mention to: ecumenical outreach among religions, four little words that wall-paper over the core issues that now need to be brought to the forefront and addressed and given a dramatic platform from which religions reveal themselves without pointing accusatory fingers. Now there’s the rub. Any ideas?

  • Warbucks

    Possible Dramatic Symbols with Positive Global Impact:

    Assumption and operating premise:

    A. In conflict resolution, results matter and a leader’s actions can make a difference.

    Theorizing in practical terms —- local level searches.

    Actions of religious and political leaders could actually alter the methods our troops use in neighborhood searches. Consider The Captain’s Journal review (Nov 5, 2009, “Dangerous Precedents in Afghanistan”: http://www.captainsjournal.com/2009/11/04/dangerous-precedents-in-afghanistan/) of the perceived offensiveness caused by our canine teams, where dogs are considered, apparently, within the local Islamic religious belief system as “unclean” and thus offering an historic-based, emotional response offense and presumably deep personal offense on various spiritual levels to both the Afghan officers, the Afghan troops conducting the inspection, and the local populace who’s hearts and minds we are trying to win over, religious leadership perhaps should be tasked to serve in this cause through a more constructive role.

    When I read the Captain’s report on “Dangerous Precedents in Afghanistan” my intuition suggests complaints issues by the Afghan officers are all a ruse in an obvious attempt to defeat US efforts. That’s the first response from me as it probably is in most readers.

    Taking a step beyond my first emotional response requires of me to first understand more about my partner’s religious traditions.

    What if we drew in religious leaders at the highest levels to sanction and bless actions in the field? Is there any way a canine can breath the air off the Quran and not defile the Quran? Say for example, if we first placed a blessed and purified cloth over the Quran as the dog sniffed it? Doesn’t such an act demonstrate respect. Each day in the field a fresh cloth would be brought forth for any sensitive areas where the canine group operated. Even to the point that the fresh cloth could be made into a convenient pop-on and pop-off mussel for the canine. Sound silly?

    What if in doing this and being extraordinarily aware to these religious based sensitivities (we might other see as contrived ruses to defeat our strategies) we go out of our way to show an extended degree of understanding?

    How do we get top religious leaders to face this task of helping?

  • Warbucks

    Continuing the hypothetical and make-believe world in which we currently find Warbucks frolicking, seemingly oblivious and naïve to the death, mayhem, and evil surrounding him, we venture into his wonderland rabbit hole and peak once again, at the risk to our own sanity, into his continuing thoughts: “Fewer Troops is Better: Riding Unicorns Over Rainbows” (http://www.captainsjournal.com/2009/10/28/fewer-troops-is-better-riding-unicorns-over-rainbows/) on The Captain’s Journal.

    The sane thing to do is to pray for the soldiers and their families at Ft. Hood. That would be the normal, healthy, psychologically balanced mind, functioning in the here and now. The sane thing to do would be to cry and let it all out, then dig in and remind yourself you’re still a warrior, there is a duty on your shoulders, others need your help. At least pray.

    Warbucks has done all that, and he’s read today’s column from Victor Davis Hanson’s Private Papers (http://www.victorhanson.com/articles/hanson110409.html), he’s listened to more episodes of Andy Basiago in stunning amazement starting with his favorite part (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQskUx20MeM).

    When we last left Warbucks in wonderland he was desperately grasping at straws drifting between two realities of compassion and understanding wondering about the Second Coming on the one hand and seriously unleashing the Dogs of War upon the entire Muslim world in a blind rage of total annihilation down to their last born.

    Ah ….. Finally enlightenment! Now Warbucks understands the mind of the fundamentalist-violent jihadist. They have unleashed their Dogs of War in their final act of rage. Now I understand. Victor Davis Hanson was right after all, it is their own failures that cause them to project their own deepest fears onto the rest of the world. Their self-contempt and envy of western society’s accelerated materialist and scientific advancements appears to be at the root.

    When the nomads of the desert sit in the quiet of the night along the ancient dessert trade routes, sip their hot brews and peer peacefully into the clear calm air of the night skies, they experience nothing but God’s truth. How could there be any other truth? Surely, God is Great.

    Meanwhile, Western man is sitting on his back suburban patio, looking into the calm night skies and thinking, science and it’s God …Darwinism…is failing the West. We are creating a society no longer open to the Jeffersonian imperative of freedom, the inherent right of open inquiry in science. Hard science is rapidly approaching the metaphysical emotional-barrier of the Entanglement Problem and many theorists are closing their eyes to its implications. What’s on the other side of the barrier? Does it imply intelligent design? Without freedom to ask meaningful questions and explore alternative answers, where does this lead the West? My job and my research grant depend on not asking embarrassing questions about the nature of reality. God is Great … but I can not say that openly……

    Possible Dramatic Symbols with Positive Global Impact:

    Assumption and operating premise:

    A. In conflict resolution, results matter and a leader’s actions can make a difference.

    The Muslim and the Christian come in all different types. The only one’s I truly can say, I think understand, are the mystics. We all seem to blindly touch the elephant of reality in its different parts and still describe the elephant and not hate the rest of the people doing the touching.
    Even still there are a growing series of ecumenical movements and out-reach (I hate that word for some reason) in the East and the West with growing numbers facilitated by the internet.

    The 77+- year old, One Hundredth and Eleventh (111th) Pope, Pope Benedict XVI, sits on top of a vault full of secrets beyond our imagination. His carefully choosing words over the few months of office have nonetheless quickened the minds of thinking men (and quiet women) in the East to organize into new ecumenical groups to begin to hammer out commonalities with the West. How are we alike? How are we different?

    The goal of these groups need organization on a global level. Not even the Pope seems to be able to direct these confronting powers. For the first time ever, ordinary people, enhanced through the power of the internet are communicating with greater impact thnn the religious leaders themselves. A live YouTube Video of a lone man standing in front of a Chinese Army Tank in Tiananmen Square (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-nXT8lSnPQ) in seen and understood by multiple millions in the west… liberty, truth, justice…. qualities not likely “perfectly derived” from any form of government. Iranian youth defy corruption within their own government not with bullets, but with YouTube Videos…. and their drama continues even to this day….giving hope to the West that maybe our salvation still lies ahead, maybe there is still hope, ….. maybe.

    In this state what type of dramatic act might (Western or Middle Eastern) might galvanize and give pause to our worst impulses?

    Has Warbucks drifted into the same trap as Nevil Chamberlan?

    “My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour.

    I believe it is peace for our time…

    Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”

    No, not this time. This time there seems to be more on the table. Power has somehow devolved into the hands of average people. The internet seems to be playing a vital role beyond anything we have known in the past.

    So I ask again, what type of dramatic leadership might redirect the trajectory of history, might redirect the most probably war scenario we all see, from happening Is this moment yet upon us?

  • Warbucks

    Possible Dramatic Symbols with Positive Global Impact:

    Assumption and operating premise:

    Theorizing in practical terms: Will we follow?

    In conflict resolution results matters and a leaders actions can make a difference. http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=tCAffMSWSzY#t=28


You are currently reading "Fewer Troops is Better: Riding Unicorns Over Rainbows", entry #4115 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Counterinsurgency,Tribes and was published October 28th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

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