The Totalitarians Among Us

Herschel Smith · 03 Mar 2014 · 15 Comments

Victor Davis Hanson observes: In short, Obama will always poll around 45 percent. That core support is his lasting legacy. In a mere five years, by the vast expansion of federal spending, by the demonizing rhetoric of his partisan bully pulpit, and by executive orders and bizarre appointments, Obama has so divided the nation that he has created a permanent constituency that will never care as much about what he does as it cares about what he says and represents. For elite rich liberals…… [read more]

We have to assemble a coherent narrative for Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

From The Washington Post:

The Obama administration and its NATO allies will declare late this week that the war in Afghanistan has made sufficient progress to begin turning security control over to its government by spring, months before the administration’s July deadline to start withdrawing U.S. troops, according to U.S. and European officials.

Even as it announces the “transition” process, which will not immediately include troop withdrawals, NATO will also state its intention to keep combat troops in Afghanistan until 2014, a date originally set by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The seemingly contradictory messages, in communiques and agreements to be released at NATO’s upcoming summit in Lisbon, are intended to reassure U.S. and European audiences that the process of ending the war has begun.

At the same time, the coalition wants to signal to the Taliban – along with Afghans and regional partners who fear a coalition withdrawal, and Republicans in Congress who oppose it – that they are not leaving anytime soon.

“We have to assemble a coherent narrative . . . that everyone buys into,” said a senior administration official, one of several who discussed ongoing alliance negotiations on the condition of anonymity.

You can read the balance of the report yourself.  Even as a Milblogger, I have grown weary of the strategic narrative(s) coming from Washington.  I focus now on a full court press for more troops, more resources, more support, and patience.  I also focus on the bravery of our men under fire.  I focus mainly now on the tactical level rather than the strategic.  There is nothing to cover on strategy.

Isn’t it sad to see the convolution of words, the twisting of stories, and the belief that if all they do is get the narrative right, everything else will follow?  If you’re looking for leadership in this administration, you won’t find it.  Instead, they are working hard to “assemble a coherent narrative.”

U.S. Marine Corps Combat Action in Sangin

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

From NPR:

The first time U.S. Marines went on patrol from this base in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban were ready. The militants shot and killed a 21-year-old lance corporal just 150 feet from the perimeter.

The Marines patrolling through the green fields and tall mud compounds of Helmand province’s Sangin district say they are literally in a race for their lives. They are trying to adjust their tactics to outwit Taliban fighters, who have killed more coalition troops here than in any other Afghan district this year.

“As a new unit coming in, you are at a distinct disadvantage because the Taliban have been fighting here for years, have established fighting positions and have laid the ground with a ton of IEDs,” said Lt. Col. Jason Morris, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. “You have to evolve quickly because you have no other choice.”

[ ... ]

“We kind of snuck our nose in the south to see what the south was about and we found out real quick that you don’t go south unless you have a lot of dudes,” said Sgt. Adam Keliipaakaua, who was leading the patrol.

[ ... ]

The Marines now have a better idea of where they will be ambushed around their base and have doubled the size of their patrols to increase the amount of firepower they can direct toward the Taliban. On Thursday, the Marines killed 15 militants in an hourlong firefight, according to NATO.

Those who patrol through the main bazaar in the district center now know to look to the skies. They said the Taliban often fly white kites over the local mosque to signal the presence of the Marines.

The Taliban like to attack using so-called “murder holes” — small holes carved into strong mud walls that allow the insurgents to shoot without exposing themselves …

To avoid walking into a firefight, the Marines look to see whether kids are around. Their absence could mean an impending attack, but the Taliban also use children as spotters, so the tactic isn’t foolproof.

“A little kid will run around the corner and run back, and a minute later you are being shot at,” said Keliipaakaua.

But the threat of an ambush pales in comparison to the biggest danger lurking in Sangin and much of Afghanistan: the scores of IEDs buried in roads, trails, compounds and even canals. Many are largely constructed out of wood or plastic, making them very difficult to detect.

Three days after Ceniceros was killed, another member of 3rd Platoon, Cpl. David Noblit, stepped on an IED in a compound located in dense vegetation across the street from Patrol Base Fulod. Noblit survived the explosion but lost both his legs (for a discussion of Ceniceros, see portions of the article edited for length).

The battalion has been hit with about 40 IED attacks and has found more than 100 other bombs before they exploded.

“You want to vary up your routes to go where the enemy doesn’t expect you to travel,” said Esrey, 33, of Havelock, North Carolina. “I can walk through water ankle-high, but the bad guys probably know that’s where I want to go, so I want to go somewhere the water is chest-high.”

But the Taliban are always watching and adapting as well. One of the last Marines from the battalion who was killed stepped on an IED buried underwater in a canal.

“The tactics keep changing because they’re smart and they watch us,” said Esrey. “They don’t have TV here. We’re their TV.”

Analysis & Commentary

First, spotters and signalers are a common problem with the Taliban, as they were in Ramadi, Iraq.  They have not been dealt with as harshly as I have recommended.  A spotter or signaler is no different than a combatant, and they were treated as combatants by Marines in Iraq whether they held a weapon or not.  Then again, dealing with the spotters as I have recommended (and the Marines actually did in Iraq) would require a change to the rules of engagement.  Our generals are smarter than those successful Marines in the Anbar Province, and so we don’t do things like that anymore.

Second, having a “lot of dudes” is the equivalent of my recommendations in previous coverage of Marine combat action in Sangin.  There are many locations in Afghanistan that need attention and additional troops, from the Paktika province to Kunar and Nuristan, and indeed, the whole Pech River Valley area.  The border needs more mentored ANP, and even the North is coming under increasing Taliban attention.

I have made no secret of my full court press for more troops.  But in this case, the U.S. Marines have the Helmand Province, and it makes no sense to have Marines on MEUs pretending that they are going to conduct a major, full scale, water-borne amphibious assault against some unknown (or non-existent) near-peer enemy while their brothers lose their legs in Afghanistan.  In fact, I would suggest that it is immoral to send Marines into harm’s way without the requisite support and manpower.  The support and manpower exists.  It’s currently located at Camps Lejeune and Pendleton preparing to board amphibious assault docks and waste millions of dollars floating around the seas and stopping at every port so that Marines can get drunk.  We can do better than that for the Marines under fire in Afghanistan.

Finally, it makes sense to fight the Taliban where they are.  If we don’t they will simply relocate to the areas we are trying to secure (such as Kandahar) and fights us there.  It is conducive to minimum noncombatant casualties to conduct combat operations in Sangin rather than in Kandahar if possible.

Operation Dragon Strike and the Taliban in Kandahar

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

From NPR:

In an operation called Dragon Strike launched more than two months ago, the U.S. military has been hunting the Taliban in the fields and vineyards outside Kandahar, birthplace of the Taliban.

The operation, now winding down, has included artillery barrages, strafing runs and helicopter assaults in the dead of night.

“The last couple of months after we started our clearance ops, it’s completely emptied out. And we haven’t seen any activity,” says Capt. Brant Auge, a company commander with the 101st Airborne Division operating just west of the city of Kandahar.

But there have been unintended consequences. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of refugees are fleeing into the city. Taliban fighters are streaming there, too, and now are stepping up a terrorism campaign.

A group of men standing in central Kandahar are among the displaced from Arghandab and Zhari districts outside the city. They refuse to share their names, but they tell stories of the war ruining their farmland and prompting them to flee.

One man says the Taliban filled the orchards and roads with land mines and booby traps. When an American convoy would hit one of the massive bombs, U.S. helicopters and jets would rocket the area. Explosions destroyed his vineyard and his water pump, he says. After he lost a son and nephew, the man packed up his family for the city.

Now, he says he takes work as a laborer when he can get it and is paid about $4 a day.

Others tell similar stories. They seem to fear the Americans and the Taliban equally. Reconstruction aid is going only to the cronies of the government, they say.

But these poor men looking for day work are not the only newcomers on Kandahar’s streets.

Taliban fighters are here, too.

The Taliban has found plenty of support in Kandahar, which allows its operatives to slip in amid the civilian population. Young men have been encouraged to wage jihad against foreign forces in Afghanistan by preachers in the mosques and via popular cell phone videos.

The sound of motorcycles has become more frightening with a wave of assassins on motorbikes. Abdulrizak Palwal, a Kandahari writer, says no one feels safe. “The writers do not express themselves quite openly because they are afraid. Even the religious people, they are shot in the mosques — inside — if they say anything against the Taliban,” he says.

[ ... ]

Now that the military operation outside the city is nearing an end, the U.S. military plans to spend the winter building up local governments and providing jobs and services to the people as a way to blunt the insurgency.

Analysis & Commentary

This is an interesting report on several levels.  First of all, it isn’t clear why the U.S. Army would be performing clearing operations anywhere – including outside the city – when the insurgency merely relocates to another place (in this case, down town Kandahar).  The tools we have learned via such hard and costly efforts in Iraq appear to have been learned to no avail.  In order to have made this push successful, heavy, around-the-clock, and ubiquitous patrolling, gated communities, census and biometrics should have been implemented.  The U.S. Army needs to know who everyone is in and around Kandahar.  The insurgency isn’t some amorphous, faceless entity.  It consists of people.  We need to know who they are.  A Battalion of Marines accomplished this in Fallujah in 2007.  Kandahar is larger than Fallujah – and the U.S. Army presence in Kandahar is much larger than a Battalion.  There is no reason that this approach cannot work.  None.

Second, it’s remarkable, isn’t it, how we still treat this as a classical insurgency, viz. Algeria and David Galula.  It’s all about providing jobs for the young folk, and given enough largesse and representation in local government, the insurgency will just evaporate.  Presto.

But it isn’t that simple when religious motivation is involved.  It’s also not that simple when a neighboring country harbors the very insurgency we seek to eliminate, all the while calling us friend.  Citing Michael O’Hanlon and others, Michael Hughes observes:

The Pakistan army consists of 500,000 active duty troops and another 500,000 on reserve. If Pakistan truly wanted to capture the Haqqani Network they would be able to drag them out of their caves by their beards within a few days.

Pakistan worries that President Barack Obama’s promise to start reducing U.S. troops in Afghanistan come July will lead to anarchy and civil conflict next door, and it is retaining proxies that it can use to ensure that its top goal in Afghanistan — keeping India out — can be accomplished come what may.

Pakistan would rather have the Taliban and the Haqqanis back in power, especially in the country’s south and east, than any group like the former Northern Alliance, which it views as too close to New Delhi.

It is this strategic calculation, more than constrained Pakistani resources, that constitutes Obama’s main challenge in Afghanistan. And it could cost him the war.

Just to be clear, while I oppose almost every decision Mr. Obama has made since taking office, this isn’t Obama’s war.  This is America’s war.  If we lose it, it will be America’s loss.  We need to do a bit better than throwing jobs at the locals to even begin to make a serious dent in the problem.  Local tactics, techniques and procedures need to reflect what we learned in Iraq, while our regional approach needs to deal much more harshly with Pakistan.  Both of these changes require the will and motivation to win.  I don’t currently see that in this administration.

U.S. Marines More Aggressive in Sangin Than British

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

From the Los Angeles Times:

SANGIN, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. Marines who recently inherited this lush river valley in southern Helmand province from British forces have tossed aside their predecessor’s playbook in favor of a more aggressive strategy to tame one of the most violent places in Afghanistan.

U.S. commanders say success is critical in Sangin district — where British forces suffered nearly one-third of their deaths in the war — because it is the last remaining sanctuary in Helmand where the Taliban can freely process the opium and heroin that largely fund the insurgency.

The district also serves as a key crossroads to funnel drugs, weapons and fighters throughout Helmand and into neighboring Kandahar province, the spiritual heartland of the Taliban and the most important battleground for coalition forces. The U.S.-led coalition hopes its offensive in the south will kill or capture key Taliban commanders, rout militants from their strongholds and break the insurgency’s back. That will allow the coalition and the Afghans to improve government services, bring new development and a sense of security.

“Sangin has been an area where drug lords, Taliban and people who don’t want the government to come in and legitimize things have holed up,” said Lt. Col. Jason Morris, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. The unit took over responsibility for Sangin in mid-October nearly a month after the British withdrew.

That withdrawal — after more than 100 deaths over four years of combat — has raised concerns among some in Britain about the perception of U.S. Marines finishing a job the British couldn’t handle. Many claimed that happened in the Iraqi city of Basra in 2007.

U.S. commanders denied that’s the case in Sangin and said the withdrawal was just the final step in consolidating British forces in central Helmand and leaving the north and south to the Americans. Sangin is located in the north of the province.

But one of the first things the Marines did when they took over Sangin was close roughly half the 22 patrol bases the British set up throughout the district — a clear rejection of the main pillar of Britain’s strategy, which was based on neighborhood policing tactics used in Northern Ireland.

The bases were meant to improve security in Sangin, but the British ended up allocating a large percentage of their soldiers to protect them from being overrun by the Taliban. That gave the insurgents almost total freedom of movement in the district.

“The fact that a lot of those patrol bases were closed down frees up maneuver forces so that you can go out and take the fight to the enemy,” Morris said during an interview at the battalion’s main base in the district center, Forward Operating Base Jackson.

As Morris spoke, the sound of heavy machine gun fire and mortar explosions echoed in the background for nearly 30 minutes as Marines tried to kill insurgents who were firing at the base from a set of abandoned compounds about 500 feet away.

The Marines later called in an AC-130 gunship to launch a Hellfire missile, a 500-pound bomb and a precision-guided artillery round at the compounds, rocking the base with deafening explosions that shook dirt loose from the ceilings of the tents. Tribal elders later said the munitions killed seven Taliban fighters.

The battalion has been in more than 100 firefights since it arrived, and the proximity of many of them to FOB Jackson illustrates just how much freedom of movement the Taliban still have in Sangin.

The Marines have worked to improve security by significantly increasing the number of patrols compared to the British and by pushing into areas north and south of the district center where British forces rarely went. That process started when the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment deployed to Sangin in July and fought beside the British until the current battalion took over.

Even though the battalion has slightly fewer forces than the 1,200-strong British Royal Marines unit that was here previously, commanders say they have been able to step up the number of patrols because they have far fewer Marines stuck guarding bases.

But some analysts have speculated that the coalition would need at least one more battalion in Sangin if it wanted to clear and hold the whole district. Some Marines said privately that more forces would be necessary, especially in the Upper Sangin Valley where coalition troops had not gone in years until recently.

The battalion’s current area of operations is roughly 25 square miles and contains a mix of lush fields around the Helmand River, dense clusters of tall mud compounds and patches of barren desert. It contains some 25,000 people, but many of Sangin’s residents live outside the area in which the Marines operate. The entire district is roughly 200 square miles, and district governor Mohammad Sharif said it houses about 100,000 people.

The battalion has gotten help from a pair of Marine reconnaissance companies operating in the Upper Sangin Valley and a company of Georgian soldiers based on the West side of the Helmand River. There are also several hundred Afghan army and police in Sangin, but they are fairly dependent on the Marines for supplies and logistics.

In addition to conducting more patrols, the Marine battalion has adopted a more aggressive posture than the British, according to Afghan army Lt. Mohammad Anwar, who has been in Sangin for two years.

“When the Taliban attacked, the British would retreat into their base, but the Marines fight back,” said Anwar.

Insurgents fired at members of 1st Platoon, India Company, during a recent patrol near the battalion’s main base, and the Marines responded with a deafening roar of machine gun fire, grenades, and mortars. They also tried to launch a rocket that turned out to be a dud.

“The Taliban like to engage us, and I like to make it an unfair fight,” said India Company’s commander, Capt. Chris Esrey of Havelock, North Carolina. “If you shoot at us with 7.62 (millimeter bullets), I’m going to respond with rockets.”

But Taliban attacks have taken their toll. Thirteen Marines have been killed and 49 wounded since the battalion arrived. Most of those casualties have come from IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, that the insurgents hide in compounds, along trails and in dense fields where they are hard to detect.

Analysis & Commentary

The point of citing this report is not for embarrassment of the British forces, and regular readers know that full well.  But there are a few common themes from this report with my own advocacy over the last several years.

First, take measure of what I have noted concerning the British philosophy of counterinsurgency, namely that its roots and doctrinal basis comes from a locale which had basically the same religious roots, the same general heritage, a shared dedication to Western values, and an institutionalized security apparatus – Northern Ireland.  Of course, this was nothing like Basra, and even less like Afghanistan.  The officer corps of the British Army took this doctrine into Basra, and lost (as my coverage conclusively demonstrates).

They took this doctrine into Sangin (and much of Helmand), and in the main weren’t successful.  It has nothing whatsoever to do with the bravery of the enlisted man, as I have discussed.  It has to do with an officer corps which cannot escape the gravity of its own narrative, taken exclusively from Northern Ireland.  For a much better model to follow, the British could have chosen to follow their work in Malaya (See Karl Hack, “The Malayan Emergency as Counterinsurgency Paradigm,” Journal of Strategic Studies, 2009.  Thanks to Colonel Gian Gentile for pointing out this fine study to me.).  The problem is one of leadership, not the ability to follow or follow up.

Second, note that this approach (i.e., the more aggressive stance by the U.S. Marines) requires force projection, and among other things, this requires troops.  More are needed, and unless U.S. leadership is willing to stand in the gap and advocate the same thing, the strategy is hopelessly mired because of under-resourcing.

Finally, note that the more aggressive stance yields immediate fruit, at least among the indigenous forces.  The ANA naturally takes heart when they see the enemy being dealt a significant blow.  Nothing is better for morale than success.

Gates Pushing for Lame Duck Ratification of START Treaty?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

Mr. Obama has stated that we wants the lame duck Congress to ratify the START treaty.  A commenter at NRO’s Corner observes:

The Russian Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee just today revoked its previous ratification of START, citing amendments made by our Senate stipulating that the treaty does not cover missile defense systems or ballistic missiles with conventional warheads.

Hopefully this will increase the likelihood that the treaty is not ratified, but regardless, it shows how unacceptably sweeping, burdensome, and one-sided the Russians intend and expect it to be on our systems.

Then again, given the horrible panic that besets this administration, it’s entirely possible that this lame duck Congress will undo the stipulations they have placed on the treaty.  Frank Gaffney weighs in with his own views of START.  John Bolton also has salient points.  Suffice it to say that the case is clear and simple.  Nuclear weapons have contributed more to the safety and health of the public and general peace among nations than anything in the second half of the twentieth century.  Without them, hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of people would have died in wars of all types.

But now Secretary Gates has hopped on the band wagon.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Gates joined Obama and Clinton in urging the Senate to approve the treaty during the lame-duck session, but denied that the appeal was being made “because of some political calculus that it may stand a better chance of passage during that time.”

“I think we’re advancing it at this time and pushing for ratification because we need this and we need it sooner than later,” he added.

No political calculus.  Right.  The most damning part of Gates’ participation in this defense debacle is that his counsel directly and profoundly contradicts the counsel of his own Department of Defense when applying the best military analysis to the circumstances.

This is a sad sellout.  I am very disappointed in Secretary Gates, and I simply cannot understand why he would be taking such a dangerous position.  I would resign before jumping in bed with START.  But I am not Secretary of Defense, and Mr. Gates will answer for his own actions.  To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

Prior:

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

Obama Reverses Nuclear Weapons Rhetoric

India: America’s Natural Ally

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

More than two years ago when I (correctly) outlined the Taliban strategy for attacking lines of logistics, Steve Schippert and I were discussing (via e-mail) one potential alternative to my recommended logistical line through the Caucasus, namely India, from port (there are several capable of handling the flow of supplies) to Kabul, admittedly across terrain that is both Pakistani and Pakistani-claimed portions of Kashmir.  Nonetheless, if we were serious about the campaign in Afghanistan, it was an option if combined with strong political and military pressure on Pakistan to accept such an arrangement.  Furthermore, it would have been more conducive to security than the existing lines through Torkham and Chaman have been.

But partnership with India would serve many more useful purposes than mere logistics.  Austin Bay weighs in.

President Barack Obama’s looming post-election state visit to India is another indication of evolution and maturation — the incremental but genuine change measured in decades that marks the coalescing of U.S. and Indian global interests.

Media coverage has thus far portrayed the trip as either a presidential escape from an anticipated midterm electoral defeat or a multibillion dollar weapons-peddling expedition with the president as salesman in chief.

These near-term interpretations both contain a grain of truth, but they shouldn’t obscure the truly compelling story: the great U.S.-India rapprochement is one of the early 21st century’s major historic events. To illustrate, let’s go to the 21st century map of India, and view it and President Obama’s visit from the perspective of a Chinese admiral sitting in Beijing.

The Indian subcontinent physically dominates the Indian Ocean. China, seeking to assure a steady supply of raw materials and energy for its expanding economy, has invested a lot of time and money in Africa and the Middle East. Tankers carry oil from Sudan and merchant vessels cobalt from the Congo to Chinese ports. These ships pass through waters patrolled by the Indian Navy, which is a rather formidable and increasingly modern force.

Our Chinese admiral knows his history. China’s 1950 invasion of Tibet riled India. China’s military support of Pakistan and its clandestine encouragement of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program also irritate New Delhi. In 1962, India and China fought the Sino-Indian War along their Himalayan frontier. That war remains something of a “frozen” conflict politically, and given the altitude, literally. Despite negotiations, the border dispute is not quite resolved.

Should another conflict erupt, the Indian Navy is positioned to damage if not strangle China’s economy. Moreover, India just might have America on its side. For over two decades, American strategists have touted the logic of an Indo-American alliance based on linguistic and cultural connections, accelerating economic cooperation and — well, here’s the gist of it — an increasing interest in curbing Chinese hegemony in Asia.

Sept. 11 and Islamist terrorist attacks in India forge another common cause. As for mutual economic interests, an Indian technician fixing an American computer from a call center in Bangalore is a telling indicator. The Indian government, unlike China’s, does not fear global connectivity.

Chinese admirals aren’t the only ones who see the implications of this strategic merger. Diplomats in New Delhi and Washington are quite aware of it.

Mention “alliance” and the U.S. in the same sentence, however, and India’s left-wing parties go berserk. Indian ultra-nationalists who still rail about British colonialism remain deeply suspicious of political entanglements with the U.S. — though there seems to be little objection to cooperating with other former British colonies like Australia and Singapore.

So “alliance” is a word Indian and American diplomats intentionally avoid. Three years ago, I interviewed James Clad — at the time the Department of Defense’s deputy assistant secretary for South and Southeast Asia — about the prospects for a formal U.S.-India defense alliance. Clad demurred. “We’re not looking for an alliance with anyone. … It (the word “alliance”) sends a wrong signal,” for alliances “figure a real or potential opponent.” It was a deft answer. Why provoke the Chinese admiral?

Clad now teaches at the National Defense University. This past week, he told a Reuters reporter, “The maturation of U.S.-India defense ties is steady … .” That was another deft answer, and accurate.

The relationship between India, the developing giant, and the U.S., the developed giant, is maturing — and Obama’s presidential visit is part of this long, involved and delicate diplomatic process that began developing as the Cold War ended. It is in both India’s and America’s long-term interest that this process continue.

Mr. Bay has it right concerning the natural ally that India makes, but he is wrong about Mr. Obama’s visit to India.  This visit is entirely in response to the poor mid-administration elections, and if the elections had gone differently he would have been stateside preening and pushing his agenda forward.  Don’t doubt it for a second.  Truth be told, India should be rather offended that this is Mr. Obama’s rebound choice rather than being an initial focus when he took office.

Michael Yon is wiser, more measured and less fawning:

After much travels through India, I believe we are natural allies. We have much to learn and gain from each other. India and the United States should do what is natural. We should deepen our ties. Our relationship must be sincere and bonded.

And again:

Why should we want an even playing field between India and Pakistan? Pakistan exports terrorism. India does not. Pakistan is sliding backward. India is moving forward. India is a natural partner with the United States. Pakistan will stab us in the back.

Well, and indeed has stabbed us in the back many times.  Pakistan is an unnatural ally.  More to the point, Pakistan is no ally at all, and the tenuous relationship is founded upon largesse.  A relationship with India would be natural.  In fact, a reciprocal defense relationship (i.e., U.S. comes to the aid of India, India does the same for the U.S., weapons and intelligence is shared, etc.), is the only solution to Chinese regional hegemony.  A security agreement with India would be in my estimation far more valuable than even the relationship we currently have with NATO.

Mr. Obama’s trip to India, which stupidly and arrogantly  involves a platoon of Marines in the Taj Mahal, is only significant in its usurpation of India for a “feel good” drug after a poor election cycle.  India deserves more respect than that, and the U.S. deserves a President that will understand allies and enemies for who they are.

Afghan National Security Forces: Promise or Problem?

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

Jim Foley gives us a little room for hope in the Afghan National Army.

… this was the first time the Afghans attached to HHT 1-75 had decided they were going after a bad guy.  It shows the importance of getting native soldiers who can speak the language and know the culture, off the Forward Operating Bases and out into the problem towns etc.  Captain Krayer said it was the first patrol the ANA had gone on without the U.S.  Also the first one they’d acted on their own intelligence gathering.

I’ve seen U.S. forces try to place Afghans in critical areas in Kunar and down in Kandhar after larger offensive operations.  In most cases the ANA/ or Afghan Police failed to hold the area- following Eagle Strike in Kunar the ANP supposedly abandoned their positions after a few weeks.  And in one of the most contested clearing operations in a heavily IED-ed strip called Macwan here in Kandahar, where two U.S. have been killed and many more wounded, the ANP are still dragging their feet on putting up an outpost.

Still, I can’t forget the speed and control the ANA were able to use in apprehending the suspects.  Some U.S. guys later joked they still would be out there trying to blow through grape walls if it had been done jointly.  The U.S. would surely have done it safer, but probably wouldn’t have been able to identify the suspects, much less nab them.

Read Jim’s entire writeup.  In this case the ANA showed some promise.  In other areas, the ANP is showing how bad things are in parts of the Afghan National Security Force.

An Afghan police unit cut a deal with insurgents to torch their own police station and defect, government officials said yesterday, in a bitter parody of the Government-led effort to bring rebel fighters in from the cold.

The incident triggered hours of pillaging as insurgents swept into a remote district south-west of Kabul, burnt government buildings, stole weapons, food and pick-up trucks, and escaped along with 16 policemen who were in on the plot. Nato and Afghan forces re-took the district in the volatile province of Ghazni the same morning.

The reintegration programme, one of the main planks in the Government’s efforts to make peace with the Taliban, offers low-level fighters amnesty and vocational training if they switch sides-or rejoin the “national mainstream”, in President Hamid Karzai’s words.

The programme has met with some success: yesterday 15 insurgents in western Afghanistan handed over their weapons and promised to lobby other insurgents to do the same.

But despite pledges from the international community of millions of dollars to the programme, there have been consistent reports of promises of training and support being broken. And many potential defectors are thought to be too scared of Taliban retribution, and doubtful of the Government’s ability to protect them, to make the change.

In Ghazni, provincial governor Musa Khan Akbarzada said that police stationed in Khogyani had handed over the district to the militants without a shot being fired, contradicting some earlier reports that the rebels had seized the area by force. When coalition forces arrived three hours later the attackers simply melted away.

A Taliban spokesman claimed that the police had switched sides after “learning the facts about the Taliban,” according to The New York Times.

“We never force people to join us,” he said. “The police joined us voluntarily and are happy to work with us and to start the holy war shoulder to shoulder with their Taliban brothers.”

Some news articles are focusing on astoundingly stupid things like whether ANP stations are being constructed according to seismic design criteria (yes, seriously).  Still short of answering the all-important question of whether the stations are able to withstand earthquakes, there is the question of whether the ANP should even be there.  If they are loyal to the Taliban (or only to themselves), then they have no business being employed.

And that’s the root of at least one problem.  The U.S. has made it clear that we want more ANP, even more than doubling the current size.  I advocate exactly the opposite approach.  We need a smaller Afghan National Security Force, both ANA and ANP.  Since the U.S. controls the purse strings, it doesn’t work to say that we don’t have authority over this process.  That “dog won’t hunt.”

We need a smaller, more reliable, well trained, force that will do the things that Jim Foley observed, and even more efficiently.  U.S. troops should be working hard to ferret out those who will and those who won’t, send home those who won’t, and give the extra pay to those who will.  Incentive is a common motivator for all mankind.

Ganjgal Ambush Congressional Probe

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

From the Marine Corps Times:

A member of the House Armed Services Committee is calling for the Army to divulge what punishment three officers received for failing to respond adequately to an ambush in Afghanistan that killed five U.S. troops.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., asked Army Secretary John McHugh to explain the “consequences” the Army officers faced following a joint Army-Marine investigation of the Sept. 8, 2009, ambush near the village of Ganjgal, he said in an interview with Marine Corps Times.

Army Lt. Col. Anne Edgecomb, a spokesman for McHugh, declined to comment on what punishment was delivered, but said the Army planned to respond to Jones’ inquiry.

“Clearly, the deaths at Ganjgal were tragic,” she said. “But as is standard practice in the Army, we apply the lessons learned from all reviews and investigations … to prevent repeating mistakes of the past.”

The attack occurred as 13 U.S. military trainers and about 80 Afghan security forces made an early-morning trip to the remote village in Kunar province to meet with village elders.

Three Marines and a Navy corpsman were found shot to death and stripped of their gear and weapons in a ditch after being pinned down for hours, without air and artillery support, by more than 100 insurgents wielding rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, according to witness statements obtained by Marine Corps Times. A U.S. soldier wounded in the ambush died the following month at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

“I believe that they are seriously looking into the facts as to what happened during that fight,” said Jones, who served in Congress with McHugh, a former New York representative. “I have a great respect for Secretary McHugh, and I believe he will get to the bottom of it, and once a decision is made … he will release his findings.”

Two investigations were launched following the Ganjgal attack. The first was headed by an Army major in the first days after the attack. The second, in November, focused primarily on command-post failure, and was overseen by Army Col. Richard Hooker and Marine Col. James Werth, military officials said. The colonels found that there was a failure of leadership in the operations center, and that the troops on the ground were promised air and artillery support before the mission if it became necessary.

The investigating colonels recommended that three Army officers — likely captains or majors — receive letters of reprimand for failing to provide adequate support from a nearby operations center at Forward Operating Base Joyce. The officers were part of Task Force Chosin, an Army unit comprising soldiers from 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

… the reprimands (Editorial Note: For the Wanat engagement, not Ganjgal) were rescinded in June by retiring Gen. Charles Campbell, who commanded U.S. Army Forces Command, out of Fort McPherson, Ga. He shared his decision with the families of the dead soldiers June 23, and the meeting ended abruptly when several of them walked out angrily, family members told Army Times.

Regular readers know my position on this ambush.  I had predicted that no investigation would find that General McChrystal’s tactical directive and associated guidance played a role in the lack of fire support during the engagement.  I had (correctly) predicted that the field grade officers involved in this incident should watch their six.  I also don’t see much value to the AR 15-6 investigation into the ambush.

But I maintain one fact.  McChrystal’s rules of engagement was directly responsible for three Marines and one Navy Corpsman perishing that fateful day.  Their blood is on his hands.

The Marine Corps Times has apparently obtained witness statements, and I have requested them but have not yet received any word concerning the statements.  The next step will be a contact to Representative Walter Jones.  We’ll eventually have full disclosure on the circumstances surrounding these deaths.

Prior:

Taliban Ambush in Eastern Kunar Kills Four U.S. Marines

More Thoughts on Marines and Rules of Engagement

AR 15-6 Investigation of Marine Deaths in Kunar Province


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