Archive for the 'Force Projection' Category



Do we need a less aggressive force posture in Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 9 months ago

From Stars and Stripes:

Coalition troops will have to accept more risk as commanders push for a major turnaround in the Afghan war over the next 18 months, according to the commander of day-to-day operations across Afghanistan.

In an interview with Stars and Stripes, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez said a renewed emphasis on developing a rapport with the Afghan people will mean an increase in the kind of “chai ops” — casual interactions with local leaders and residents, often over tea — that have been common in Iraq for the past year and a half.

This includes an emphasis on taking a less aggressive posture, removing helmets and body armor when appropriate, and living alongside Afghan security forces, Rodriguez said.

With insurgent infiltration still rife within the Afghan security forces, that’s a prospect that has some soldiers uneasy, but one Rodriguez said is necessary.

“It is certainly a risk, but the benefits are worth the risk,” he said.

That risk was underscored Tuesday, when an Afghan soldier killed a U.S. servicemember and wounded two Italian soldiers in Badghis province.

Rodriguez said that local commanders will decide what kind of posture to take and allowed that some situations still call for a stronger show of force, but he made clear that the ideal is to get as close to the people as possible.

“When you roll up into a village with one machine gunner on top of an MRAP, it’s not … too easy to interact with the people,” he said.

Analysis & Commentary

The transcript of the conversation with General Rodriguez doesn’t reveal use of the phrase “chai ops.”  That’s a function of the reporting.  But in a manner the actual transcript reveals even more troubling information about what Rodriguez thinks about counterinsurgency.

To be sure, the importance of the “awakening” in Anbar must be one of the elements of understanding that campaign, but the popular myth has grown up around Western Iraq that makes it all about drinking chai, siding with the tribes, going softer in our approach, and finally listening to them as they communicated to us.  And the leader of this revolution in counterinsurgency warfare was none other than General Petraeus.  We were losing until he appeared on the scene, and when he did things turned around.

We Americans love our generals, but this explanation has taken on mythical proportions, and is itself full of myths, gross exaggerations and outright falsehoods.  While Captain Travis Patriquin was courting Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, elements of the U.S. forces were targeting his smuggling lines and killing his tribal members to shut down his sources of income.  The tribal awakening had a context, and that was the use of force.  As the pundits talk about the tribes, the Marines talk about kinetics.

Furthermore, the tribal awakening was specific to Ramadi.  The beginnings of cooperation between U.S. forces and local elements came in al Qaim between Marines and a strong man police chief named Abu Ahmed.  In Haditha it necessitated sand berms around the city to isolate it from insurgents coming across the border from Syria, along with a strong man police chief named Colonel Faruq.

In Fallujah in 2007 it required heavy kinetics, followed on by census taking, gated communities, biometrics and heavy policing.  Even late in 2007 Ramadi was described by Marine Lieutenant Colonel Mike Silverman as like Stalingrad.  Examples abound, and as late as 2008, artillery elements fired as many as 11,000 155 mm (M105) rounds in Baquba, Iraq in response to insurgent mortar activity.

Whatever else General Petraeus did for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the U.S. Marine campaign for Anbar was underway, prosecuted before the advent of Petraeus, and continued the same way it was begun.  The Marines lost more than 1000 men in combat, and this heavy toll was a necessary investment regardless of drinking chai with the locals.

What is so troubling about Rodriguez’s remarks is that historical revisionism has make its way into strategic planning for Afghanistan.

You’ve always got, no-matter where you are and everything, you’ve got somebody to check you.  That’s what we have higher-headquarters for, no matter where you are; but a, there asked to make judgments, and again, there are supervisors and chain of command always checks everything, but this is part of the thing where you have to trust people to do the right thing sometimes because you can’t be there everywhere and there asked to make thousands of decisions but unfortunately one might not work out right but for the most part it’s gone pretty good and those leaders and supervisors are making good decisions and we think that’s the way to do it in the long run.

It’s kind of like making friends.  Whether in Afghanistan, tea is important, whether it is the 3 cups of tea, like Mortenson says or anybody else but it’s just building those relationships …

Again, when you are with them, you make sure they are not doing anything wrong; serving themselves before they are serving the people.

Try to make it easy, it’s like a war crime, you don’t stand by and allow that to happen, so we don’t stand by and allow their governance to take advantage of the people; a lot of that is relationships, it’s about leadership, and just making sure they’re doing the right thing to serve their people …

Earlier on he mentions removal of body armor.  The fact that he believes that the campaign for Afghanistan is anywhere close even to considering not wearing proper personal protective equipment is worse than preposterous – it is scary, because the lives of so many men depend upon decisions like this one.

In the transcript he does discuss pressing decision-making downward in the chain of command and allowing decisions like this to be made at the local level, but he doesn’t believe it.  He reverts to the notion of every decision being checked by someone, and even seems to lament the fact that he (or others high in the chain of command) cannot be everywhere all of the time – as if his decisions would be the right ones even if his spirit he could be ubiquitous.

As we have discussion before, this micromanagement of the campaign is modeled on Western corporate conglomerate business practices, and relies on the mistaken notion that the higher up one goes in the chain of command, the better he is able to know, see, discern, ascertain, and divine all decisions made by all people concerning every event or decision under his charge.  It assumes that promotion makes supermen, and this idea will become even more deadly on the fields of Afghanistan.

So the command situation is worse than simply mythologizing the importance of tea.  We are now admitting to micromanaging the campaign from the highest levels of command (and lamenting that we cannot do it even more), and stupidly equating the failure to hold sovereign leaders accountable to our standards with war crimes.  With leadership like this, the job of the Taliban is made even easier.

Prior concerning micromanagement of the military:

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan II

Micromanaging the Campaign in Afghanistan

Prior concerning intelligence and analysis failures of General Rodriguez’s staff:

Systemic Defense Intelligence Failures

U.S. Intelligence Failures: Dual Taliban Campaigns

Armed Social Work and Rules of Engagement in Garmsir Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years ago

Lt. Col. Christian Cabannis fully adheres to and advocates the doctrines of population-centric counterinsurgency.

Christian Cabannis met a social worker before deploying to Afghanistan. Not for his own wellbeing, but to better understand the task at hand. It was his mother’s idea.

Her son is a lieutenant colonel in the US marines and the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment.

He is in charge of perhaps the most dangerous part of Afghanistan and also one of the poorest. So his mother wanted him to better understand what it is that motivates the poor and how to win their support.

He describes this mission as “armed social work”; providing hope for the needy and defence against the Taliban …

It is pure, modern counter-insurgency strategy (Coin) and what American and British generals believe is the key to winning this war. Lt Col Cabannis says that until recently the mission lacked the right focus.

Three years ago, Garmsir market was shot up and abandoned; the scene of pitched battles between British forces and the Taliban. But today UK and US troops have driven them away from the town and Garmsir is held up as a success story.

In the past three months, US marines have built on British efforts to establish meaningful local government …

He believes that many insurgents can be persuaded to put down their weapons and re-join society and there are discussions under way as to how to achieve this.

The marines’ success is in part due to sheer size; having the force strength to push into new areas, to stay there and to engage in what they call “consent-winning activities” on a much larger scale than Britain has been able to.

There is much left out of this account of the battle for Garmsir, Afghanistan.  The facts left out of the account actually causes this account to skew the interpretation and may change the context the reader places around the events, thus affecting the import of the story.

The British were unable to take and hold Garmsir, and so in 2008 the U.S. Marines 24th MEU initiated large scale operations to take it from the Taliban.  The operations relied on heavy kinetics, but was welcomed by the people of Garmsir.  The drive against the Taliban continued in such heavy military operations that the fire fights were at times described as full bore reloading by the Marines.  As if speaking to population-centric counterinsurgency experts who believe that they must win the population by nonkinetic means, town elder Abdul Nabi told the Marines “We are grateful for the security.  We don’t need your help, just security.”  The 24th MEU killed some 400 Taliban during their deployment.

In 2008 the Marines were doing the right things – they certainly didn’t lack focus.  But the 24th MEU had to leave, and they turned over to the British, who once again couldn’t hold the terrain, either physical or human.  Thus more U.S. Marine Corps operations had to be initiated in the Helmand Province in 2009.

Accompanying the fantasy-narrative that the lack of focus in the past has given way to a brilliant new strategy to win Afghanistan is a robust defense of the rules of engagement by Lt. Col. Cabannis.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

This is a big change since the spring. All U.S. forces in Afghanistan are now being told to protect civilians even if the enemy gets away. Over the last eight years, Afghans have been outraged by civilian deaths and it’s a big reason the U.S. is not winning.

“Killing a 1000 Taliban is great but if I kill two civilians in the process, it’s a loss,” Lt. Col. Cabaniss said.

Asked how many enemies have been killed so far, Cabaniss said, “I have no idea and it’s really irrelevant.”

“Body counts not something that you track?” Pelley asked.

“It doesn’t tell me that I’m being successful. It doesn’t tell me that at all. The number of tips that I receive from the local population about IED’s in the area, Taliban in the area, that is a measure of effectiveness,” Cabaniss explained.

This is an important exchange, and we should spend some time dissecting and analyzing it.  The reason the U.S. is not winning is force projection, or lack thereof.  There aren’t enough troops, as we saw with the 2008 campaign for Garmsir in the Helmand Province.  The ANP and ANA cannot possibly hold the terrain once it has been taken and won’t be ready for quite some time.  In fact, there is some indication that the locals themselves are a bit disgusted by the ROE.

But even for population-centric counterinsurgency advocates, this exchange is full of nonsense.  To be sure, the population may be one means of marginalizing the insurgents, getting intelligence on them, and then conducting intelligence-driven raids, killing or capturing them.  This was done en masse in Iraq, especially in 2007.  But in the interview Cabannis makes a leap from an enabling feature of counterinsurgency to the end or purpose of it.

If a Province has 1000 Taliban and the U.S. Marines kill them all, and along with them the Marines inadvertently kill two noncombatants, it’s preposterous to suggest that this is a loss.  This suggestion is tantamount to saying that for every noncombatant we kill greater than five hundred pop up in his place.

Further, why did Cabannis use the values of 1000 and 2?  Would it have been acceptable to have killed a single noncombatant if we had killed 1000 Taliban?  If so, is he suggesting that the ratio of generation to kill rate of insurgents is greater than 500: 1 but less than 1000:1?  Or perhaps if these suggestions sound a bit pedantic, it’s more likely that he is simply using theatrics and hyperbole to make a point.  But if one has to use theatrics, the point itself suffers from lack of credibility.

Finally, why is killing Taliban great?  If it’s great because it assures the population that they are protected, then we should endeavor to do more of it.  Killing noncombatants is never a good thing, but giving the insurgents safe haven amongst the domiciles of villages sends the opposite message than we intend.  It gives them operating space, and it tells the villagers that we won’t pursue the insurgents on their own terrain, and thus there is no protection from them once they come into your homes and villages.  The very time you need the protection is precisely the time we will abandon you to the enemy.

Force Protection in Operation Khanjar

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 3 months ago

A very good report from Matt Sanchez.

It’s the middle of the night at the east corner guard post of Fiddler’s Green, a Marine fire base in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, along the border with Pakistan.

Corporal Ryan Joseph Bernal is on perimeter security duty.

Armed with an M-4, night vision binoculars and an array of high-powered automatic weaponry, the 22-year-old U.S. Marine and several others keep watch for activity just outside the concertina wire, which conveys the powerful message “DO NOT ENTER” in a universal language Marines, civilians and the Taliban all understand …

A tiny red flare warns potential intruders not to approach — but it’s the figures you can’t see who pose the greatest threat to Fiddler’s Green, located at what commanders call a “chokepoint to Taliban activity.”

Throughout the day, redundant checks are designed to account for Marines. “Accountability. Eyes on every Marine, pre-combat checks, pre-combat inspections,” said battalion commander Lt. Chris Lewis. “Physical and visual accountability, nothing less.”

Based upon what I know from Operation Alljah, I have always rejected the dichotomy between force protection and force projection, or between U.S. troop security and population security, no matter what the in vogue “population-centric COIN” doctrine says.  The Marines are in touch with the population during constant patrols – patrols so intense and long that many are suffering dehydration because they can’t carry enough water.  There is no need to make themselves insecure during sleep in order to win the cooperation of the population, no matter what a counterinsurgency field manual says.  It didn’t work that way in the Anbar Province of Iraq.

One other report to drive home the point from the Washington Post.

Two Marines on a road-clearing crew were killed Monday in Helmand’s Garmsir District, after they traced the wire of a suspected bomb into a house that was rigged to explode, according to an officer with their unit. Since the U.S. launched its Helmand operation, Western troops in Afghanistan have been dying at a rate of three a day, far higher than the normal rate.

The bomb attacks have slowed or obstructed the Marines’ use of the network of narrow, unpaved dirt roads that link farming villages in the river valley. The bombs have already disabled several vehicles which are further hampered by their bulk in navigating the primitive roads. The Marines’ mine-resistant armored protection vehicles “are just too big for those roads,” said Col. Eric Mellinger, operations officer for the Marine
brigade.

Commanders have made some roads off limits, instead requiring slow-going travel through adjacent deserts, or foot marches through fields and canals. Many of the supplies for the troops are being flown in by helicopter.

If, at the present time, the force presence isn’t enough to fully secure the physical terrain and thus IEDs remain a serious threat on the roads, then adapt.  It’s what Marines do.  Stick to the deserts, trenches and untraveled areas.  Slower, sure.  But do you think the Marines will be exposed to the population and meet some Afghanis during these treks?  And do you think the Taliban have the manpower or ordnance to mine the entire countryside with IEDs because of this adaptation, or will they get frustrated?

Postscript: Is “Fiddler’s Green” a cool name for a fire base, or what?  I want to go there.

Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 7 months ago

Following are some related but disaggregated thoughts on the upcoming U.S. Department of Defense budgetary cuts, along with some very good required reading on this subject.

Gates Readies Big Cuts in Weapons

As the Bush administration was drawing to a close, Robert M. Gates, whose two years as defense secretary had been devoted to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt compelled to warn his successor of a crisis closer to home.

The United States “cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything,” Gates said. The next defense secretary, he warned, would have to eliminate some costly hardware and invest in new tools for fighting insurgents.

What Gates didn’t know was that he would be that successor.

Now, as the only Bush Cabinet member to remain under President Obama, Gates is preparing the most far-reaching changes in the Pentagon’s weapons portfolio since the end of the Cold War, according to aides.

Two defense officials who were not authorized to speak publicly said Gates will announce up to a half-dozen major weapons cancellations later this month. Candidates include a new Navy destroyer, the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet, and Army ground-combat vehicles, the offi cials said.

More cuts are planned for later this year after a review that could lead to reductions in programs such as aircraft carriers and nuclear arms, the officials said …

Gates is not the first secretary to try to change military priorities. His predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, sought to retool the military but succeeded in cancelling only one major project, an Army artillery system.

Former vice president Dick Cheney’s efforts as defense chief under the first President Bush, meanwhile, are cited as a case study in the resistance of the military, defense industry, and Capitol Hill. Cheney canceled the Marine Corps’ troubled V-22 Osprey aircraft not once, but four times, only to see Congress reverse the decision.

And we’re glad that the V-22 Osprey program was completed.  It is already making an impact in the Marine Corps expeditionary concept.  The Captain’s Journal is still a supporter of Secretary Gates, but these defense cuts are both unnecessary and ill-advised (although not of Gates’ choosing in a perfect world).  Beginning in 2011, Russian armed forces will undergo a comprehensive rearmament to refurbish and replaces weapons systems.  While the U.S. is disarming, one of the only two near peers in the world is increasing and rearming its military.  No, wait.  Make that both near peer states.

Beijing Considers Upgrades to Navy

China’s top military spokesman said it is seriously considering adding a first aircraft carrier to its navy fleet, a fresh indication of the country’s growing military profile as it prepares for its first major naval deployment abroad.

At a rare news conference Tuesday, Chinese defense-ministry officials played down the importance of Beijing’s decision to send warships to the Gulf of Aden to curb piracy — China’s first such deployment in modern history — saying it doesn’t represent a shift in defense policy. The two destroyers and supply ship are to depart Friday for the Middle East.

But officials also made clear that China’s navy, which has been investing heavily in ships and aircraft, now has the capability to conduct complex operations far from its coastal waters — and that Beijing is continuing to expand its reach and capability, perhaps with a carrier.

It’s unclear what parts of an aircraft carrier China would build itself and what parts it might need to acquire from abroad. China has bought carriers before, but none ended up in the country’s fleet.

In some of the most direct public statements on current thinking behind Beijing’s naval policy, defense military spokesman Col. Huang Xueping said Tuesday that “China has vast oceans and it is the sovereign responsibility of China’s armed forces to ensure the country’s maritime security and uphold the sovereignty of its costal waters as well as its maritime rights and interests.”

At Information Dissemination, Galrahn makes a good observation on the importance of the expeditionary concept.

As we have noted many times on the blog, the amphibious ship is the hardest working type of ship in the US Navy in the 21st century. The data says all that needs to be said regarding the requirement.

They are flexible platforms that bring together a wide variety of capabilities that can effectively perform the range of mission profiles from soft power to forward afloat staging bases to even assault roles when necessary. They are the rapid responders when crisis breaks out on land, and best fit the most often called upon requirements of the US Navy when problems occur, whether it is Hezbollah/Israel or a natural disaster, the amphibious ship, not the aircraft carrier, is the type of platform sent into to help out people … The biggest problem with the sea basing concept isn’t the idea regarding how to get troops to land, but how to sustain troops from sea once we get them on land. The single largest factor that limits support is fuel.

The Captain’s Journal agrees with Galrahn and the importance of force projection – whether hard or soft power – with the Marines Expeditionary Units (including the “combined arms” concept of multiple naval vessels with various defensive and offensive capabilities.  But with us it isn’t a matter of either-or.  It’s both-and.  We need both the carrier battle groups and the MEUs.

We will learn the lesson, again, the easy way or the hard way.  But we must be prepared to fight both near peers and counterinsurgency campaigns.  As for China, when they want to expand their global influence, the first big ship they go after is the carrier.  Concerning Galrahn’s warning on the need for fuel, this highlights all the more the need for ports and air superiority for refueling tankers.  Concerning overall air superiority, if the sole focus of our national defense dollars is in counterinsurgency, littoral combat and small wars, the MEUs will be left to the slaughter once the ordnance begins raining down from the sky.

Concerning this issue of being able to fight two wars at one time, the current administration is toying with this age-old doctrine.

The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.

For more than six years now, the United States has in fact been fighting two wars, with more than 170,000 troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The military has openly acknowledged that the wars have left troops and equipment severely strained, and has said that it would be difficult to carry out any kind of significant operation elsewhere.

To some extent, fears have faded that the United States may actually have to fight, say, Russia and North Korea, or China and Iran, at the same time. But if Iraq and Afghanistan were never formidable foes in conventional terms, they have already tied up the American military for a period longer than World War II.

A senior Defense Department official involved in a strategy review now under way said the Pentagon was absorbing the lesson that the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns likely to be part of some future wars would require more staying power than in past conflicts, like the first Iraq war in 1991 or the invasions of Grenada and Panama.

In an interview with National Public Radio last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made it clear that the Pentagon was beginning to reconsider whether the old two-wars assumption “makes any sense in the 21st century” as a guide to planning, budgeting and weapons-buying.

Be careful here.  This seems like a prelude to deep cuts in the men and materiel necessary for air superiority, Naval superiority and force projection.  Wait, we’ve already discussed this above, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Finally, you will note that the cuts also target both nuclear refurbishment and development and the F-22 program.  The Captain’s Journal has already weighed in on these issues.

Just Build the F-22, Okay?

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

The three links above are required reading, as are the two links below (for those readers who aren’t convinced of the need to refurbish our existing nuclear weapons stockpile or continue further development).

Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management

National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century

Finally, read this:

Remember Near Peer Threats?

Special Operations Forces Navel Gazing

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

In what might be the clearest tale to date about SOF narcissism over the Afghanistan high value target campaign, we see that the gaming goes nearly to the top in a recent report at the Army Times (hotel tango SWJ Blog).

Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ plan to deploy three additional combat brigades to Afghanistan by the summer has superseded a contentious debate that pitted the Bush administration’s “war czar” against the special operations hierarchy over a proposed near-term “surge” of spec ops forces to Afghanistan, a Pentagon military official said.

The National Security Council’s surge proposal, which grew out of its Afghan strategy review, recommended an increase of “about another battalion’s worth” of troops to the Combined and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, or CJSOTF-A, said a field-grade Special Forces officer, who added that this would enlarge the task force by about a third.

Several sources said that the “SOF surge” proposal originated with Lt. Gen. Doug Lute, the so-called “war czar” whose official title is assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan policy and implementation. The rationale behind deploying more special ops forces to Afghanistan was that any decision to deploy more conventional brigades to Afghanistan would take at least several months to implement, whereas special ops units could be sent much more quickly, the Special Forces officer said.

Not likely.  Afghanistan has been a SOF campaign from the beginning, and the lack of force projection and confused mission have led us to where we are.  It’s hard to believe that the power structure suddenly decided on a SOF surge, since SOF surging is what has been happening for seven years.  Furthermore, there is always CENTCOM ready reserve which is usually comprised of a MEU.  But continuing:

… the proposal sparked a fierce high-level debate, with special operations officers charging that Lute and his colleagues were trying to micromanage the movement of individual Special Forces A-teams from inside the Beltway, and countercharges that Special Forces has strayed from its traditional mission of raising and training indigenous forces and become too focused on direct-action missions to kill or capture enemies.

Most major special operations commands were opposed to the proposal, special operations sources said. The sources identified U.S. Special Operations Command, U.S. Army Special Operations Command and the office of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, Low-Intensity Conflict and Interdependent Capabilities, headed by Michael Vickers, as all resisting the initiative.

Special operations sources said that those opposing the “SOF surge” were generally against the idea on two grounds: that the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, has not requested them, and that the CJSOTF-A does not have enough “enablers” — such as helicopters and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets — to support the forces it has in-country now, let alone another battalion’s worth.

Strayed indeed.  Kinetic operations against high value targets – for whatever worth this has been – don’t require SOF.  It might be that there is something deeper here.   Lt. Gen. Lute certainly must know that Afghanistan cannot continue to be a SOF campaign against HVTs, and the SOF command must certainly know that the beast of Operation Enduring Freedom has grown far beyond what they are able to bear.  If it’s a question of who will break first and say these things, then such gamesmanship over serious military operations is loathsome and detestable.  But it gets even better (or worse).

The short supply of helicopters in Afghanistan has been a constant problem for conventional forces and CJSOTF-A, the “white,” or unclassified, task force in-country. Unlike the secretive, “black,” Joint Special Operations Command task force, which is directly supported by elements of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, “white” Special Forces groups do not have their own dedicated aviation units and have to compete for helicopter support with the rest of the U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. CJSOTF-A is commanded by a colonel, whereas the other organizations are all commanded by flag officers.

The Pentagon military official said that the planned deployment of an additional 20,000 conventional U.S. troops, including three brigade combat teams, to Afghanistan would also include a lot of “enablers” that the special operations forces could use.

The Pentagon plan includes more helicopters being sent to Afghanistan, as well as the possibility of a one-star special operations flag officer to command “white” SOF forces in country, which would obviate the need to have “O-6s arm wrestling with O-7s and O-9s,” he said.

More politics, and make sure to take notice of what SOF command sees as the mission for these additional “enablers.”  They would go to SOF (‘a lot of “enablers” that the special operations forces could use’).  Finally:

A field-grade officer in Washington who has been tracking the debate said that the “white” SOF leaders’ argument that their forces need more ISR assets and helicopters is a reflection of how Special Forces has veered from its traditional mission of “foreign internal defense” — training host nation forces to conduct counterinsurgency — in favor of the more glamorous direct-action missions.

The officer said Lute believes that special operations forces, particularly Special Forces, “are the right force” to send to Afghanistan because of their skills at teaching foreign internal defense.

This might explain the special operations hierarchy’s opposition to Lute’s surge proposal, the field grade-officer in Washington said. “This is an implicit criticism of what SOF has done for the last five years,” he said. “They haven’t been training indigenous forces. That may be what SOCOM is objecting to, is it’s implicitly a critique of SOF’s over-fascination with direct action.”

It has come full circle, from Lute’s belief that training some Afghan soldiers can solve the problem – or so says the source – to the potential that this proposition is a critique of the evolved SOF mission and a charade, to the campaign that has grown beyond anything that the SOF can possibly handle alone.

Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know our position, and we believe that this political maneuvering is disgusting and despicable.  The SOF navel-gazing is embarrassing, and it’s time for both the SOF and the American public to graduate beyond the Rambo understanding of irregular warfare where a SOF operator or two is turned loose in the jungles or deserts and the whole world changes in a day or two because of the thousands of rounds discharged from his weapon.

Really.  This is the stuff of children, adolescents and un-reformable movie-goers.  Can’t we be more serious about our military strategy than this?  Afghanistan will require political and financial investment, force projection (Army and Marines), and – yes – SOF too.  SOF performs an invaluable role in small footprint international force projection, with their special skills in language training and similar “enablers” for their mission.  But the daydream of creating a few extra SOF operators to do the dirty work and returning the Army and Marines stateside is just that.  A daydream.  A small footprint for seven years is why OEF looks the way it does.  We need more serious reflection than that to build the strategies for the future.

Prior:

Concerning Turning Over Afghanistan to Special Operations Forces

60 Minutes and the Special Forces Hunt for Bin Laden

The Cult of Special Forces

Another Disappointing RAND Counterinsurgency Study

Please take time to answer the poll question:

Talking with the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 11 months ago

Via the Small Wars Journal Blog, Paul McLeary’s Talking with the Taliban at Aviation Weekly has an interesting quote.

I recently spoke with Nathaniel Fick, a former Marine officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught at the counterinsurgency school in Kabul, and who is currently a Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, who thinks that negotiating with the Taliban right now is a bad idea. “If we open negotiations with the Taliban right now, we will be doing so from a position of weakness,” he says. “The trick for the next administration is to take the tactical and operational and strategic steps to get us into a position of strength where negotiation is an option.”

Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal will notice a familiar theme. Five months ago we published The Failure of Talking with the Taliban concerning our deal with Mullah Abdul Salaam for the town of Musa Qala. We said:

The history of negotiations with the Taliban has been disastrous, and every time they have been tried, the losers end up being Afghanistan and the ISAF because the “negotiations” are not occurring from a position of strength.

This theme has been periodically repeated ever since. From On Negotiating with the Taliban:

As for the mistaken effort to get the Saudis to collaborate and win the peace, the Taliban clearly aren’t interested. Why should they be, since they are winning? Negotiating in this instance is a sign of weakness.

Hamid Karzai recently continued his boyish, pathetic swoon over Mullah Omar, saying that he would go to “any length” to protect Omar during negotiations. But how does the Taliban reciprocate this unseemly display by Karzai? “Taliban spokesman Qari Yousif told CNN that Karzai’s offer is meaningless because he has to rely on the British and the Americans to provide his own security.” In other words, Karzai is offering to negotiate from a position of weakness rather than strength, says the Taliban – the same thing we said five months ago.

So Nathaniel Fick is right, but of course, so were we.

Defeating IEDs and Bombs: The Lessons of Iraq for Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 3 months ago

Jcustis of the Small Wars Council recently started a SWC discussion thread that should have gotten more attention than it did.  He linked a previously unknown (to the SWC) Wikipedia entry on suicide bombings in Iraq since 2003.  Right behind this entry, Schmedlap made the following observation:

One thing that I would point out, that is illustrated well by the article if you look for it – note the suicide attacks in the summer of 2007, particularly July and August. Contrary to the narrative that the dip in violence after August was due to a Sadr militia “ceasefire,” the dip was actually due to a significant drop in the number and effectiveness of AQI mass casualty attacks. In particular, note that hundreds of those victims were in northern Iraq (Kirkuk, Tal Afar, predominantly Sunni Arab areas of Diyala, etc), not in Sadrist strongholds. Violence from Sadr’s militia dropped two months prior to him calling the “ceasefire.” The only thing that kept the death toll high in the interim between June/July 07 and the “ceasefire” in late August was the rate of murders by AQI. Take out the AQI murders and you have a steady drop in civilan deaths beginning in June/July, not late August. The credit for this reduction goes to MNF-I and the ISF, not Sadr.

This is an interesting and important point, one that bears detailing a bit more.  The EXCEL graph below shows the suicide bombings per month based on the Wikipedia entry (click to enlarge).

One possible defeater argument for the hypothesis would be that the discussion so far only deals with suicide bombings and not overall security incidents.  Care of the Mudville Gazette, an EXCEL graph of the weekly security incidents is found in the June 2008 Multinational Force Report to Congress.

The look of the trends is basically the same.  In 2006 and into 2007, the tribal revolt against al Qaeda was in full swing, with AQ losing badly in the Western part of Anbar, most importantly in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar.  AQ was pushed Eastward towards Fallujah, and had made this area (and into Baghdad) their final stand in Anbar.  Operation Alljah (which began in April of 2007 and ended in the late summer of 2007) essentially ended the AQ presence in Fallujah, at which point they were on the run Northward into the Diyala Province and towards Mosul.

Along with this evolution, the Baghdad security plan was implemented early in 2007, pressuring AQ in and around the capital city.  This continual pressure on AQ caused a precipitous decrease in not only suicide bomgings, but overall security incidents (the basic trends mirroring each other).  The point is that while good body armor is desirable against snipers, it can only accomplish so much.  While MRAPs are desirable to ameliorate the affect of IEDs, they are only so good – dismounted patrols have to be conducted as well.

In the end, one of the most important lessons of Operation Iraqi Freedom is that presence with the population, intelligence-driven raids, and pressure on the enemy are the best tools against IEDs and bombings.  Military pressure is proactive, while all other tools are defensive and reactive.

There has begun to be a steady flow of horrific reports of bombs, IEDs and Marines who have perished or become wounded in Afghanistan.  Four Marines deployed out of Twentynine Palms died from a roadside bomb.  Marine Sgt. Justin Clenard – badly wounded – was on foot patrol with his platoon when they were hit by a mortar round or a land mine. Clenard lost his right leg from the knee down and his lower left leg as well.  Lance Corporal Justin Rokohl entered his ninth hour of surgery in a military hospital in Germany on Monday night, being wounded from a roadside bomb.   Navy Corpsman Dustin Burnett died from a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.  And Lance Cpl. Andrew Francis Whitacre has died in Afghanistan.  He had one last wish.

“I want to take a second and thank all of you who support us in what we do,” Andrew wrote two months before his death. “I know many of you do not believe in the wars we are fighting in. Just remember that all the men and women who are here are here because at one point they took an oath to protect and serve YOU. The support of the citizens of the country we fight and die for is all that we ask.”

There are more than mentioned above.  The support of our warriors means the proper resourcing of the campaign.  Germany is deploying more troops to Afghanistan, but their rules of engagement are not changing and they will not be allowed to participate in combat except in self defense, and they will not be deployed to the most violent parts of Afghanistan.

This isn’t enough.  There will continue to be a dreadful flow of reports from the Afghanistan theater until force projection is applied.  Common sense suggests it, and the data proves it.  This means more troops, and more robust force presence with the population and the enemy, including the ROE to get the job done.  This is the last wish of one Marine and his parents who have given everything.

Kilcullen on Footprint in Counterinsurgency

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

In Concerning the U.S.-Iraq Security Arrangement we discussed the ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq over exactly what the U.S. force presence should look like in the future.  We concluded with the position that an empowered Iran would result from a rapid stand-down of U.S. forces in Iraq, and that a once-in-a generation opportunity existed to impede Iranian intentions of hegemony by our continued existence in Iraq.

David Ignatius recently had an article where he discussed the “right Iraqi footprint,” citing David Kilcullen.

I’ve been helped in thinking about the future of Iraq by conversations over the past week with Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, a retired Australian army officer and an expert in counterinsurgency. He was a key member of the team that drafted Gen. David Petraeus’s Iraq campaign plan. He was speaking in a private capacity at an academic conference sponsored by the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies — and he stressed that he was offering ideas about the future, rather than a critique of past or present strategy.

Kilcullen’s key point is that we need to use the breathing space the surge has created to transition to a presence in Iraq that is less costly and more sustainable. By congressional estimates, we’re spending about $400 million a day on the war; at that rate, we are walking into the trap Osama bin Laden described in 2004, when he said he wanted to draw us so deep into conflict that we would eventually leave the region exhausted and bankrupt, the way the Soviets departed Afghanistan.

Kilcullen argues, as Abizaid did, that our heavy military occupation of Iraq has created enemies unnecessarily. It’s human nature: People don’t like to see another country’s army patrolling their streets. It’s the “antibody response,” he says. “Our large-scale presence, although essential for current stability, also creates an angry reaction — and therefore can’t be a permanent solution. We need to focus on what General Petraeus has called ‘sustainable security.’ ”

The alternative to our big, uniformed force in Iraq is a lighter, smaller, more nimble residual force. This force could concentrate on the tasks that most Iraqis and Americans seem to think are sensible — fighting al-Qaeda terrorists and training the Iraqi military and other proxy forces. “Over the long run, we need to go cheap, quiet, low-footprint,” argues Kilcullen.

Is The Captain’s Journal out of accord with Kilcullen?  Not by a long shot.  In fact, we heartily concur with Kilcullen’s position, as any regular reader knows (see Observations on Timeliness from the Small Wars Manual, where we feared that the protracted operations were leading to the perception of the U.S. as occupier rather than liberator).

There are seasons in counterinsurgency, and a finite period of time in which to accomplish certain important milestones and results.  We were advocating the “surge” and “security plan” from the inception of The Captain’s Journal.  We have also been among the first to raise warning flags about Operation Enduring Freedom, advocating vigorously for more troops, a change in rules of engagement for NATO troops, and a comprehensive strategic approach.

This buildup of troops, we have known for some time, could only come from a decrease in troop presence in Iraq.  But we also know that after pacification of parts of Iraq and standing up the internal Iraqi system, further troops presence would only cause a diminution of the view of the U.S. mission among Iraqis.  The Marines in Anbar should be standing down very soon, if they haven’t already.  The season of combat is over, the season of transition teams and proper governance is in full swing, and even that will be standing down soon.

We advocated more rapid confrontation of the problematic Shi’a South for the same reasons that we advocated a rapid buildup in Afghanistan.  Seasons run their own course, and cannot be repeated or slowed.  Kilcullen is right on the money concerning footprint.  It should have started large in Iraq, and had to wait on the surge.  It will end small, but the very concerns we are addressing here speak volumes about the campaign in Afghanistan which is older than Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It is necessary to end with the right force size and mission in Iraq, and this doesn’t mean complete withdrawal any more than it means continued heavy force projection.  The campaign in Afghanistan has yet to see the right size force.

Force Projection as the Precondition for Security in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

The Guardian recently carried an important story of a tribal meeting in Afghanistan, and while the tribal elders were not in communication with Fort Leavenworth, it was nonetheless a laboratory for counterinsurgency.

Shura is the Pashto word for a meeting. Every week the local elders gather at the Bermel district centre for a shura, where they discuss their problems, grievances and anything else that comes up. I was at one last November, on Thanksgiving, and I wanted to go along and see what progress had been made.

At the outset the leader of the Bermel Shura thanked the Americans for their help with development in the area. “Security is improving,” he told the room, full to capacity, and “the Taliban do not like what you are doing”.

Regardless of his opening statement about security, he highlighted the ever-present fear of the Taliban, and of reprisals.

“Maybe what I say will be reported to the Taliban after two hours. There are a lot of Taliban in the mountains,” he said.

“It is my request that the coalition forces put pressure on the Pakistan government, because without the support of the Pakistan government, the Taliban cannot cross the border.”

I felt like I was listening to a broken record. Here, again, Pakistan was being blamed for the troubles of Afghanistan. He went on to say that he felt the Taliban were weak, too weak to attack properly this year, but they “have power to shoot rockets at us, to replace the IEDs.”

 An Afghan National Army commander addresses the elders of Bermel district, Paktika province at their weekly Shura. Photograph: John D McHugh Then an Afghan National Army commander stood up to speak. He told his countrymen that his goal was for security and peace.

“When somebody is doing bad things in your village, you should correct him,” he told the men, and “if that is no good, you must report him to coalition forces.”

He spoke at length, as seems to be required at a shura. He reminded the villagers that they must be active in the fight against insurgents.

“We have suffered for 30 years. When some foreigners come, you should stop them. If I go to your village, all the people will know I am not from your tribe. When I am talking to you guys you will recognise immediately that I am not from the Waziri tribe. Why don’t you follow the Taliban day and night?”

He insisted that the people must support the Afghan army in their battle against the Taliban.

Next it was the turn of Captain Rivaux of the civil affairs team. He started by expressing his disappointment with the week. He spoke of problems with contracts, elders encouraging their villagers to disrupt work on roads and flood protection. “I hear a lot that the security is improving, but it’s really not,” he said.

Captain Rivaux should be congratulated and advised to continue his good work.  To use an expression by Michael Yon, The Captain’s Journal has been on PAO “happy tours,” and we don’t like happy tours.  He isn’t a PAO, yet he is in contact with someone other than his military counterparts (as a civil affairs officer).  He is willing to engage in truth-telling, and then to point to disappointing behavior.  The Captain’s Journal likes field grade officers who tell the truth.  Continuing:

“You are all part of the plan for security,” he pointed out. “When you let the enemy move through your village, you might as well pick up a gun and go with him, because you are helping them.”

Then he went on to tell them a story. “The people in Bandar, the Taliban came to their village, and they picked up rocks, and they said, you have your guns, but we will protect our country with stones. And the Taliban were outnumbered by the people with rocks. And they left. No one was injured.”

Just as the last time I was here, the Afghans did not look impressed. They listened, but there didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm for attacking the Taliban with rocks.

After the meeting, I stayed behind to talk with some of the elders. They spoke freely to me, but still the Taliban fear was present. One of them asked me not to show his face in my photographs, or use his name. They told me of their hopes for Afghanistan. They are tired of fighting they said.

I asked about their feeling towards the American troops, whether they really thought that they were helping, or if they were contributing to the problems. They told me that they were “very, very thankful” for the support of the US troops. One of them said: “If the Americans leave Afghanistan, we will be left with a lot of suffering.”

It seems to me that there is plenty of suffering in Afghanistan already, so I hate to imagine what he thinks would happen to make things worse.

But if Captain Rivaux is disappointed, the problems in Afghanistan are in a way the same as they were in the Anbar Province, and in a very important way different.  The Sunni tribes in Anbar were heavily armed and very stubborn.  The U.S. Marines had their hands full for many months, and al Qaeda never had a chance when they embarked upon their campaign of brutality.  But when Shiekh Abdul Sattar Abu Risha finally began his fight with al Qaeda he had the protection of U.S. forces day and night (such as an M1A1 tank parked in his front yard).  Force projection (and population protection) was and still is a precondition for the population standing on their own.  Captain Rivaux’s disappointment is real and energetic, but misplaced.  Afghanistan needs U.S. troops.

Another related report comes to us from Reuters.

The Taliban in Afghanistan are getting weaker, the U.S. ambassador tells local councillors in the eastern city of Ghazni, but he is met by a wall of shaking heads and tutting noises; ‘no, no’, some reply.

While Afghan government and international forces point to some success in restricting Taliban guerrilla attacks across the south and east, suicide bombs — 140 last year — roadside bombs, kidnappings and threats have created an atmosphere of fear.

“We don’t want food, we don’t want schools, we want security!” said one woman council member.

“Ok, let me ask you,” replied U.S. ambassador William Wood. “Are the Taliban weaker now?”

“No,” the councillors said, shaking their heads.

“But are these Taliban or criminals?” Wood asked.

“Taliban,” they replied.

This is a stupid conversation.  Just stupid.  We should be asking the population whether security is better rather than telling them it is so.  The conversation heads even further down hill when the word ‘but’ is used, and frankly, it makes no difference to the people whether the troublemakers are criminals or Taliban (or both), because winning hearts and minds doesn’t apply to the troublemakers whether their motivation is religion or wealth.  They’re either jihadists or members of organized crime.  They must be killed.

Force projection is the precondition for the population being able to stand on their own.  They cannot fight the Taliban right now.  They must see safety come to their towns and villages, and they must be armed, trained, and convinced that the U.S. won’t desert them.  Oh, and by the way, did you take note of what they say that they need?  Food?  Schools?  No.  Security.  We have a long way to go.

International Doubts about the Afghanistan Campaign

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 6 months ago

The Canadians are having misgivings about the Afghanistan campaign, even as Canadian Brigadier General Denis Thompson is preparing to take over head of NATO forces there.  The disagreement is over the very nature of the mission and how to ensure the departure of Canadian forces as soon as possible.

Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan was looking murky as the week began. On Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier told news reporters that Canada felt it was time to replace Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid, who has been linked to persistent reports of torture and corruption.

Then, on Tuesday, Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier announced his retirement after three years as Canada’s top soldier.

By the end of the week, opposition MPs were calling for Bernier’s resignation. “The minister still doesn’t understand that he put the government of Afghanistan in an impossible situation,” said Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae.

Nobody articulated it, but Bernier was acting and talking like he worked for the U.S. State Department, not Canada’s Foreign Affairs department. Americans have no hesitation about telling other countries what to do and how to do it. Their meddling is renowned, right down to plotting coups and takeovers and attempting assassinations. Bernier was, indeed, trying to influence an internal Afghan matter, albeit in softer tones.

Many feel that his leadership made the Afghanistan mission possible. In his three years as chief of defence staff, Hillier skilfully changed the perception of the Canadian Forces among Canadians. Their first job, he told us, was to kill. He boosted morale among the troops with his unreserved support and respect for them. He got them the funding and equipment they needed to be, for the first time since the Korean War, full-fledged combatants.

Between the foreign affairs faux pas and the general’s departure, could Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan collapse? That’s not likely, according to journalist and author Linda McQuaig, who was in Kingston this week to talk about how Canada, since marching into Afghanistan, has become complicit in U.S. militaristic designs.

McQuaig says we’ve made a big mistake trading in our famous blue United Nations peacekeeping helmets for the khaki desert camouflage of a U.S.-led NATO conflict. She believes Canadian troops will always be viewed by Afghans as an invading force and, as such, will always be held in suspicion and subjected to attacks.

The political reality of the mission’s future, McQuaig argues, is that even should the Liberals oust the Conservatives in an election, the deal the Tories struck agreeing to extend the mission to 2011 will be honoured. Liberal leader Stephane Dion, she says, was “bullied by [MPs Michael] Ignatieff and [Bob] Rae” into cutting a deal with the Conservatives.

The deal cut between the Liberals and Conservatives calls for the pullout of Canadian soldiers by the end of 2011. But will we be able to do that in good conscience knowing that the vacuum left by a withdrawal would be filled by either the return of the Taliban or the warlords who have historically divided and conquered the nation? Of course not. That’s why Canada must open the way for negotiations between the current, democratically elected Afghan government and the Taliban. Detente is the only hope for peace and progress in Afghanistan after 2011.

The solution, it is claimed, it to negotiate with the Taliban.  These calls for negotiations are well worn and not limited to Canada.  The new Pakistani regime has been negotiating with the Taliban ever since taking authority.  These negotiations, or jirga, may soon reap rewards, but not for the Pakistani government.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Wednesday claimed a breakthrough in talks with the government for restoration of peace to the restive tribal areas and militancy-hit Swat valley.

“Our talks have entered into a crucial phase and there is a possibility of signing a peace accord next week,” remarked Maulvi Omar, a TTP spokesman.

The TTP is an association of all the militant groups operating in the seven tribal regions as well as 24 settled districts of NWFP.

The TTP is a conglomeration of tribal warlords and fighters led by Baitullah Mehsud, whom we profiled in Baitullah Mehsud: The Most Powerful Man in Waziristan.

Talking to ‘The News’ from an undisclosed location, he avoided disclosing identity of the jirga members brokering the deal between the government and militants.

Omar said both sides had forwarded their respective demands and proposals to the negotiating team for restoration of peace in the region.

“We have been showing maximum flexibility in our stance and strictly stand by the ceasefire that we announced earlier for success of our talks,” the spokesman said.

About some of their demands forwarded to the jirga members, Omar said they wanted an end to military operations, which according to him caused numerous hardships to the common tribes people including release of their people being held during military actions and compensation for those suffered losses.

Sounding optimistic about their negotiations, he claimed the talks could make a breakthrough next week and could pave the way for signing a peace deal.

About the government’s stand for not including foreign militants in the negotiation process, Omar strongly denied presence of foreigners in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and alleged that government had killed innocent people in the name of war on terrorism and foreign elements as, according to him, all the important al-Qaeda members like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and Abu Zubeda were arrested from Islamabad and Faisalabad.

“There is no need for foreign militants in the tribal areas as we have the strength to fight our common enemy which is the United States and its allies,” said the militants spokesman.

Omar, however, made it clear that their war against the US-led forces would continue till their complete withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“US forces’ presence in Afghanistan is dangerous for the entire region in general and Pakistan in particular. They must be forced to leave the region at all costs,” Maulvi Omar said.

Asked that Baitullah Mehsud’s name had appeared in the Time magazine’s list of world’s 100 most influential people, Omar said Baitullah got worldwide reputation by his love for Islam and spirit for jihad.

Like every year, Time magazine is inviting reader to vote for leaders, artists, entrepreneurs and thinkers who shape the world and deserve a spot on its annual list. There are currently 207 finalists and the list will be published in the magazine’s next issue.

“Baitullah Mehsud got this reputation because of his services for Islam who played crucial role in uniting all Mujahideen factions in Pakistan and bringing them under the single banner of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,” explained Maulvi Omar, who was not aware that Baitullah’s name has been published in the magazine.

The pathway of negotiations is even being pursued within the Afghanistan administration.  Counterinsurgency campaigns have an ebb and flow.  Timeliness is critical, as is convincing the population that those who wage COIN are committed to the effort.  The commitment has been evident in Iraq where negotiations with Sheikh Sattar Abdul Abu Risha occurred from a position of military strength in the Anbar Province, thus leading to continuing peace and alliance with the U.S. in Anbar.

The Pentagon is showing an understanding of the need for force projection in Afghanistan with the recent deployment of Marines to the theater.  However, the mission for the Marines involves a bit of myth-telling.

More than 1,000 American troops from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit will take control of the border between Helmand and Pakistan later this month. They will concentrate on providing the firepower to kill Taliban leaders as they cross the border from their base in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

The US marines will work with the British Special Forces Support Group and Special Boat Service commandos who are tracking Taliban crossing the border. They will use the firepower of their M1A1 Abrams tanks and AH-1W Cobra helicopter gunships to launch a frontal assault on the hardliners.

Note the focus on “hardliners” and border region crossings by “Taliban leaders.”  The presuppositions are that [a] the leaders are all crossing the border on a regular basis and are subject to interdiction, and [b] those who are not so-called “hardliners” are amenable to negotiations, a British tactic utilized since the failure of the same at Musa Qala.

Being missed in this strategy is that without the appropriate force projection within Afghanistan itself, there would be a reason for the balance of the Taliban to negotiate with the administration.  The jirga in this region of the world has never and will not in the future lead to results that are helpful to the war on terror.  One final example serves as an exclamation point.

We had previously noted that the Khyber agency would become a focal point for insurgent actions, being a vulnerable pass through which NATO supplies passed.  Law enforcement in Khyber has proven almost impossible due to the jirga.

 

A jirga of Zakhakhel and Qambarkhel elders and Taliban leaders from Waziristan succeeded in arranging the release of four detained Taliban commanders on bail, participants said.

The Taliban commanders from the South Waziristan Agency had been held for destroying tankers carrying oil for coalition troops in Afghanistan, and abducting their drivers.

In exchange, the Taliban commanders handed back 50,000 gallons of petrol and two oil tankers to complainants in Landi Kotal (Khyber Agency) and released two abducted drivers.

Sixty people were injured and 40 oil tankers burnt after two explosions near the Torkham border four weeks ago.

Javed Ibrahim Paracha, chairman of the World Prisoner’s Relief Commission of Pakistan, headed the jirga at his residence. He told Daily Times he had been directed by Interior Affairs Adviser Rehman Malik and Interior Secretary Kamal Shah to organise the jirga to resolve the issue peacefully.

He said the jirga consisted of Waziristan’s Taliban commanders Mir Qasim Janikhel and Ishaq Wazir, and Zakhakhel and Qambarkhel elders including Nasir Khan and Khyber Khan.

Paracha said the Zakhakhel and Qambarkhel tribes had charged the four Taliban commanders from the Janikhel tribe, including Khalid Rehman, for destroying the oil tankers and abducting the drivers.

He said Karak police had arrested the Taliban commanders a few weeks ago and charged them with terrorism.

Paracha said the jirga had ruled that the Qambarkhel and Zakhakhel tribes would take back their testimony against the Taliban commanders in the anti-terrorism court of Kohat, to allow their release on bail.

Force projection is needed quickly in the Afghanistan campaign.  Force projection includes military action, but the greater the force projection, the less need there will be to exercise that force in the long run.  Turning to the jirga means failure of the campaign.


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