5 years, 12 months ago
Following up a few odds and ends, and responding to several well-formulated comments, please take another look at Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns. I’m exceedingly proud of my readers, and I don’t think you could find what I have at many other places on the web. Note all of the learned comments posted after I merely pointed out Breyer’s logical blunders. Expect more coverage and commentary on Second Amendment rights in the future (as well as a new contributor to The Captain’s Journal!).
Next, concerning my commentary regarding no longer giving pens and stationary away in Afghanistan, DirtyMick comments:
I was on the previous two PRTs in Kunar. They need to jettison the navy element and make it an army effort. Previous two Navy commanders (especially the one with the Nevada National guard in 2009/2010) focused too much on the soft aspect of coin, were in overall charge of the army manuever element at camp wright (like army running a ship), had a hard on for wanting to take non essential navy personnel (ie anybody not engineers) into places like the pech river valley and north of asadabad, and passing out badges and awards like candy on Halloween (so navy guys can be just as stacked as an 0311 marine cpl.). Torwards the end of this summer did my higher chain of command do things like cancel projects in the pech only after many months of us getting shot up in the pech. Why build a school for assholes when they’re shooting RPGs at us? I will never work on a PRT again.
You assume the default state in the absence of U.S. troops is a Taliban takeover. I don’t see it. The ANA I worked with may be hapless in fighting a sensitive Western-style pop-centric coin fight in Kandahar province, but they will fight for their homes in the centre and north of the country. Their deeper thinkers see this whole last decade as a tactical pause between civil wars. Just because they’re not very good adjuncts to us doesn’t change that. Sebastian Junger made this point a couple days back, as well, and everyone who’s spent any real time with the ANA tends to agree. But the Hazara and Tajiks in particular face mass death if the Taliban come back, and lots of Kabuli Pashtuns like their new freedoms thank you very much. They will all fight, and fight hard; they just won’t fight well in the way we define for them in the meantime. (Having seen their working conditions and how little we actually invest in keeping them alive, I have trouble blaming them sometimes.) …
But they’re certainly not going to “kill off the ANSF in six months.” They might drive them out of Kandahar City and KAF, wouldn’t put that past them. But Bagram should basically be secure until the money runs out. If you want it, you’re likely always going to have that BAF “foot on the ground” from which to keep whacking Taliban, or any international terrorist camps that crop up in the places they control for that matter.
Herschel, not saying you have to agree with me, but if you take the previous as assumed for just a sec, wouldn’t it change your calculus above at all? If we said after 2014 our aim was to just stay engaged on the side we favour in their civil war until it stalemates of its own accord, why would SOF + FID + Fires/ISR not be enough? And if that’s the case, why not move as quickly as possible to that endstate?
And then Bruce comments concerning Kandahar:
Look, I’ve been in Zhari. It’s been as rough a warzone as there is in Afghanistan for 4 1/2 years. We haven’t killed as many actual Taliban as some might think, but we’ve certainly killed hundreds in that time. Probably thousands. And this article is just the latest indication it really seems to have made no discernible difference at all.
Maybe elsewhere in Afghanistan you could make the argument that a lack of bad-guy killing was the problem. But you can’t in Zhari.
As usual, Bruce thinks deeply about these things and poses the most difficult questions to address. But I at least must try to defend myself from the onslaught. The calculus. We hang on by a thread. The ANA and Taliban fight each other to a draw in the cities, the Taliban takes the countryside. Bagram is secure until the money runs out. Withdraw to Bagram, put some SOF troopers there, and focus on force protection. Since there will be no infantry to collect atmospherics, and all cooperative intelligence assets would have been killed and our intelligence network strangled, there will be no HVT raids; and since there would no security at all on the roads, leading to logistics by air alone, we can pretend to care about the campaign until … the money runs out, with SOF troopers sitting inside Bagram Air Base. (Oh, and this thing about the noble savage who will fight to the death to defend his loved ones from harm? Remember that Baitullah Mehsud, in solidifying his power over the TTP and population, killed some 600+ Pashtun elders. They are all dead now. The Pashtun population is submissive to the TTP.)
Yes, we could choose to do that, but the question is why? I could also choose to place my fingers in a table saw and cut them off, or stick a knife in my belly, or hit my testicles with a hammer. But the question is the same on all accounts. Why would anyone voluntarily choose to do something like that if they are in their right mind (and not suffering from some sort of mental disorder)? Note that I have granted Bruce his point, i.e., that the ANA hangs on. I don’t necessarily believe it, but I have granted the point in order to argue.
As for choosing, I can always choose to attribute the lack of progress in Kandahar to not killing enough bad guys. Bruce’s point is not that I can’t choose to do that (although that’s the way it’s posed), but that I wouldn’t be correct in doing so.
Well, in order to place Kandahar alongside a comparable city, one could consider Fallujah (comparable prior to Operation al Fajr, about twice the size of Fallujah after al Fajr). Many, many more insurgents were killed in Fallujah than have been in Kandahar, regardless of how it feels to those who might have suffered through or be suffering through the campaign in Kandahar right now. We are not yet at the tipping point, and have not yet reached troop saturation.
And finally I would argue that it isn’t that work until now has done no good in Afghanistan, any more than sacrifices in 2004 and 2005 in Iraq were in vain. Those sacrifices laid the groundwork for what happened in 2006, 2007 and 2008 in Iraq.
Patience, please. And robust ROE, troop saturation, and an administration that will resource the campaign.