5 years, 3 months ago
Michael Yon has written a short note entitled Time To Leave Afghanistan. I concur, but for somewhat different reasons, or at least, I will state my reasons somewhat differently. I had been pondering going public with my counsel to withdraw from Afghanistan, and then I read possibly the most depressing entry on Afghanistan I have ever seen, from Tim Lynch. Some of it is repeated below.
Ten years ago, Afghans were thrilled to see us and thought that finally they could live in peace and develop their country …
Five years ago they watched us flounder – we stayed on FOBs and shoveled cash by the billions into the hands of a corrupt central government that we insisted, despite clear evidence to the contrary, was a legitimate government – one that had to be supported at all costs. We raided their homes at night and shot up civilians who got too close to our convoys, we paid for roads that did not exist and, because of the “force protection” mentality, most Afghans thought our soldiers were cowards because they never came to the bazaar off duty and unarmored to buy stuff like the Russians did. In fact, every bite of food our soldiers consumed was flown into country at great expense, so in a land famous for its melons and grapes our troops ate crappy melon and tasteless grapes flown in by contractors from God knows where.
Now, they want to shoot us in the face. Except for the klepocratic elite who want us to give them billions more and then shoot us in the face.
There it is; Afghanistan is toast, and what the last 10 years has taught us is we cannot afford to deploy American ground forces. Two billion dollars a week (that’s billion with a B) has bought what? Every year we stay to “bring security to the people,” the security situation for the people gets worse and worse, deteriorating by orders of magnitude. Now the boy genius has announced a “new strategy”. A strategy that is identical to the “strategy” that resulted in a hollow ground force getting its ass kicked by North Korea in 1950; a mere five years after we had ascended to the most dominant military the world had ever known.
Tim goes on to say things about Iraq and national defense policy with which I don’t entirely agree. My views on Iraq are complicated, as my readers know, and I will recapitulate (and summarize) them soon. But if anyone would know that Afghanistan is toast, Tim Lynch would.
Listen well. This is no anti-war cry. I have argued virtually non-stop for increasing troop levels, staying the course, and increased (and different) lines of logistics for support of our troops. But I have watched with dismay and even panic over the course of the last six years as we haven’t taken the campaign seriously, and good men have suffered and perished because of it.
I have watched as different members of NATO carried different strategies into the campaign without being united at the top level. I have argued for recognizing the resurgence of the Taliban, while General Rodriguez argued against even the possibility of a spring offensive in 2008. I watched as that same general micromanaged the Marines as they surged into the Helmand Province, issuing an order requiring that his operations center clear any airstrike that was on a housing compound in the area but not sought in self-defense.
We have seen General McChrystal issue awful and debilitating rules of engagement, along with personal stipulations that modified them to be even more restrictive. “If you are in a situation where you are under fire from the enemy… if there is any chance of creating civilian casualties or if you don’t know whether you will create civilian casualties, if you can withdraw from that situation without firing, then you must do so,” said McChrystal.
Those disastrous rules and McChrystal’s disastrous management played a critical role in the shameful and immoral deaths of three Marines, a Navy Corpsman and a Soldier at Ganjgal, the firefight where Dakota Meyer earned his MoH. Read the comments of the families of those warriors who perished at Ganjgal, and let the sentiments wash over you.
Study again my writing on Now Zad. I was the only writer or blogger anywhere who was following the Marines at Now Zad – how they brought more trauma doctors with them than usual due to the massive loss of limbs and life that Marine command knew they would sustain, how they lived in so-called Hobbit holes in Now Zad, two or three Marines to a hole in distributed operations, hunting for Taliban fighters who had taken R&R in Now Zad because we didn’t have enough troops to prevent them from doing so.
While I was arguing for more Marines in Now Zad, I watched as a Battalion of infantrymen at Camp Lejeune (the class entering after my own son returned from his combat deployment in Iraq) entered the Marines expecting to go to Afghanistan or Iraq. At that time we were heading for the exits in the Anbar Province of Iraq, and instead of focusing on Marines losing their legs and screaming for help in Now Zad, Afghanistan, that Battalion went on a wasteful MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit). No MEU has ever been used by a President for anything in the history of doing MEUs except for humanitarian missions.
So that Battalion didn’t deploy to Iraq, went on a MEU, and then weren’t on rotation for Afghanistan. Instead of helping their brothers in Now Zad, the Marine Corps Commandant had them playing Iwo Jima, as if we’re ever going to launch a major, sea-based forcible entry again. A full Battalion of infantry Marines with two wars going on – and no deployment to Iraq, and no deployment to Afghanistan in a four year enlistment.
I argued against night raids by the so-called “snake eaters,” with them flying back to the FOBs that night, totally absent from the locals to explain what happened and why. In addition to pointing out the wrong way to do it, I pointed out the right way to do it in lieu of night time raids by snake eaters. I have argued for following and killing every single Taliban fighter into the hinterlands of Afghanistan, while the strategists under General McChrystal withdrew to the population centers just like the Russians did.
I pointed out that withdrawal from the Pech River Valley would invite the return of of al qaeda, Haqqani and allied fighters, and that’s exactly what happened. I have been in the thick of this with my advocacy for the campaign, but again and again, it has become clear that we aren’t going to take this campaign seriously. I have advocated against nation building, and by now I think it has become clear that population-centric counterinsurgency and nation building won’t ever work in Afghanistan. Staying long enough with enough troops to find and kill the enemy has its problems, of course, including the fact that we may have to go back in eight or ten years later and do it all over again.
But that’s the Marine way. Do now what has to be done, do it quickly and violently, achieve the mission, and leave. At least I have been consistent, while always acknowledging that we cannot possibly achieve anything permanent, and will probably have to return at some point. As it is, it isn’t clear that we’ve achieved anything at all.
The Wise family from Arkansas has lost their second son in Afghanistan. For all those warriors who have given their all, and those families still suffering today because of that, America isn’t worthy of their sacrifices. To be sure, if we continue the campaign there will still be magnificent warriors who answer the call. But it’s our duty to take seriously the war to which we’re calling them if we let them go. We’re heading for the exits, releasing insurgents from prisons in Afghanistan, and instead of trying to develop better lines of logistics, we’re trying to figure out how to get all of our equipment out of Afghanistan.
Regardless of who calls for what, the President will ask the Joint Chiefs of Staff what can be done to withdraw. They will ask the flag and staff officers, and the staff officers will ask the logistics officers. Logistics will decide how and when we can withdraw from Afghanistan. No one else.
But within that framework, I am calling for the full, immediate and comprehensive withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan, and that we focus exclusively on force protection until that can be accomplished. It’s time to come home.
UPDATE: Many thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the attention.
UPDATE #2: Thanks to Michael Yon for the attention.