Archive for the 'Force Protection' Category



Taliban and Iranian Spies Do Force Protection for U.S. Troops

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 1 month ago

From ABC News:

A scathing Senate report says US contractors in Afghanistan have hired warlords, “thugs,” Taliban commanders and even Iranian spies to provide security at vulnerable US military outposts in Afghanistan. The report, published by the Senate Armed Services Committee, says lax oversight and “systemic failures” have led to “grave risks’ to US forces, including instances where contractors have employed Afghan subcontractors who were “linked to murder, kidnapping and bribery, as well as Taliban and anti-coalition activities.” The chairman of the committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D.-Michigan, said the report was evidence that the US needs to reduce its reliance on contractors. “We need to shut off the spigot of US dollars flowing into the pockets of warlords and power brokers who act contrary to our interests,” said Sen. Levin. The committee reviewed roughly 125 unclassified Department of Defense security contracts between 2007 and 2009, and found that there are some 26,000 private security contractors operating in Afghanistan, the majority of whom are Afghan nationals. The review found “systemic failures” of the military oversight for contracts, including the hiring of what Levin called “many too many” security contractors who had been improperly vetted, improperly trained or were not provided weapons.

In some cases, companies were awarded contracts though they had no ability to provide the services needed. In those cases, companies then quickly hired local nationals without proper vetting or security checks. The chaotic system left US facilities and personnel vulnerable to attack. The report found that some Afghan security guards simply walked off their posts at remote forward operating bases.

In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the notion of hiring locals to perform force protection for the Marines would have been met with laughter and scoffing.  To be sure, the Marines embedded with the IPs, and hired Iraqis as interpreters.  They also hired the so-called Sons of Iraq to perform neighborhood watch and guard duty for gated communities.  But as for force protection proper, the Marines used Marines.

The Senator can pontificate all he wants about the need to stop the flow of dollars into the pockets of untrustworthy Afghans.  The troubled and troubling Hamid Karzai has already made illegal the hiring of non-Afghan contractors for anything except embassy force protection.  The puppet, as the Taliban call him, doesn’t very much like answering to the puppet master.  It’s almost as if he knows that the puppet master is looking for an exit.

You know there aren’t enough troops when you hire foreign spies to perform your force protection.  We should end all discussion of military doctrine surrounding force protection in our military schools.  It’s meaningless.  And no, just because I’m discussing force protection doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in force projection.  One doesn’t exclude the other, and the exercise of a little more force projection and killing the enemy while off of huge FOBs would mean the need for less force protection of U.S. troops by foreign spies.

In other words, if we were off of FOBs and if we didn’t have such a bloated support to infantry ratio, do you think this discussion would be happening right now?

Revisiting Kamdesh: The Sellout of COP Keating and What it Can Teach Us

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 6 months ago

Greg Jaffe at The Washington Post penned an article on the buildup to the disaster at COP Keating that got little attention.  The entire history is worth study, but several quotes are lifted out (and certainly out of context) in order to make important observations that aren’t dissimilar to those I have made for four years.

Just before 6 a.m., more than 300 insurgents launched a massive attack on Bundermann’s remote outpost in the Kamdesh district of northeastern Afghanistan. By 6:30 three of Bundermann’s soldiers were dead, and the Apache attack helicopters he desperately wanted weren’t going to arrive for another half hour …

The outpost, surrounded by soaring mountains on all sides, was isolated and hard to defend. “It felt like we were living in the bottom of a Dixie cup,” one of Brown’s soldiers said …

Attacks on U.S. forces had increased every year since Keating was established in 2006, and by summer 2009 Brown concluded that the presence of U.S. troops was feeding the insurgency.  His study of the local rebel factions had led him to believe that a U.S. withdrawal from the area would split the insurgency …

Brown also asked for Sadiq’s “wisdom.” “We need assistance from leaders like you that are able to reach out and encourage the people of Kamdesh to cease the violence and oust the Taliban,” he wrote. He offered to meet with Sadiq whenever it was convenient and promised him protection …

The next morning, Afghan villagers approached Keating’s main gate and asked for permission to collect their dead from the base and a nearby village. Brown gave the Afghans some body bags and told them to stay off the high ground where the U.S. forces were still dropping bombs to take out snipers.

The next two days were spent packing up equipment and rigging the outpost’s remaining buildings with explosives. After nightfall on Oct. 6, a half dozen Chinook helicopters flew into Keating and hauled away the troops. Brown climbed on the last bird. As he was leaving, engineers triggered the delayed fuses on the explosives. Forty minutes later Keating was in flames. A B-1 bomber finished the job the next day.

Brown typed up an e-mail cataloguing mistakes he made in failing to build up the outpost’s defenses in the months before the planned withdrawal. He sent it to his boss, his fellow battalion commanders and the two-star general assigned to conduct an investigation of the attack. The letter of reprimand the general wrote to Brown closely tracked the e-mail.

Alone in his office a few weeks after the attack Brown re-read the letter he had sent to Sadiq in September. It made him cringe.

“I was playing to his ego. But reading it over, it sounds like I was kissing his ass from a position of weakness,” Brown said months later. He paused and exhaled. “We certainly weren’t operating from a position of strength.”

The importance of terrain has been an ongoing theme in our coverage of Kamdesh and Wanat, but in spite of the experiences at VPB Kahler at Wanat, the COP Keating Soldiers were left to tough it out in terrain that almost ensured their demise.  We are not a learning organization.  Moreover, the first close air support was at least one hour from the battle, and there was no artillery.  This shows once again that the campaign is underresourced.

The  notion that coalition presence was feeding the insurgency was the horrible and cowardly excuse proffered by the British commanders when they left Basra (the follow-on activity as you will recall was of the U.S. and ISF engaging in heavy battle to defeat the Shi’a militias while the British watched from their bases).  If Col. Brown had studied the history of Iraq as he had claimed, he would have more quickly dismissed the notion of the counterinsurgents being the fuel for the insurgency as mere fodder for withdrawal and defeat.

Finally, “ass kissing” is the about the best explanation possible for this pusillanimous letter to a loser like Sadiq.  The lesson of the Anbar Province is one winning from the position of strength (see also Col. MacFarland’s comments on Ramadi).  Force Projection, the importance of terrain, the importance of close air support and artillery, and the importance of the position of strength in counterinsurgency – these things are not only common themes here at The Captain’s Journal, they are the foundations of success.

Prior:

Taliban Massing of Forces

Wanat Category

Kamdesh Category

The Anbar Narrative

Marine Force Protection in Garmsir?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 10 months ago

In the Afghanistan town of Darvishan, Garmsir District, an incident occurred between the townsfolk and the Marines.

Anti-American violence eased Wednesday in the southern Afghanistan town of Darvishan, where the Taliban fanned demonstrations following rumors of desecration of the Koran in a U.S.-led operation.

U.S. military officials said there was no truth to rumors that the Islamic holy book had been mistreated, but protests had turned deadly before U.S. and Afghan officials met with community and tribal elders to diffuse tensions and security forces discouraged potential demonstrators from entering the town.

Six Afghan civilians were killed about 20 miles south of Darvishan when a large group of villagers heading for the Garmsir District center failed to heed repeated warnings to turn back and tried to force their way through a military checkpoint, U.S. Marine officers said.

One person was shot by a Marine and five others were shot by Afghan soldiers, officials said.

An Afghan policeman was critically wounded Wednesday when suspected Taliban gunmen ambushed him on the outskirts of Darvishan as he drove to work.

“It was generally calm here today,” Lt. Col. John McDonough, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, said at a staff briefing at Combat Outpost Delhi, on the edge of Darvishan. “Let’s work to keep it that way.”

U.S. Marines were pelted with rocks and sprayed with gunfire Tuesday in Darvishan as Taliban-led rioting roiled the town, which is located in southern Helmand province. One Afghan gunman was killed by a Marine sniper. No Marines were killed or seriously injured.

Pelted with rocks and sprayed with gunfire.  A followup Reuters report was a little more specific concerning the circumstances surrounding this event.

The incident, which took place on Wednesday but was not reported until Friday, was the second demonstration to turn violent in two days in Helmand’s Garmsir district, suggesting mounting civil unrest in a part of the country where U.S. Marines under NATO command made major advances last year.

“ANA and ISAF forces warned a crowd of between 200 and 400 assembled civilians to keep its distance from the outpost,” a NATO statement said, referring to the Afghan National Army and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

ISAF is manned in the area by U.S. Marines.

“A number of civilians in the crowd disregarded instructions, resulting in forces firing warning shots. Deliberative escalation of force procedures were followed, but one individual continued to ignore instructions, striking members of the combined force with a stick,” the statement said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Todd Breasseale said both Afghan troops and the U.S. Marines subsequently fired at the crowd. An investigation was under way to determine which force’s bullets had struck each the five people who were wounded.

Civilian casualties caused by NATO troops are one of the most emotive issues in Afghanistan’s eight-year-old conflict.

The incident came a day after another violent demonstration in Garmsir. During that earlier demonstration, U.S. Marines say they fired only at a sniper, who had shot into their base. Afghan officials say Afghan troops killed eight protesters and wounded 13 who were trying to storm a government building.

Afghan and U.S. officials say the initial unrest was prompted by rumors that U.S. troops had defaced a holy book during a raid. U.S. and Afghan officials met with locals in the area to restore calm and deny the rumors in strong terms.

“A lot of this came from a massive Taliban-initiated hoax,” Breasseale said. “People started behaving dangerously and unfortunately things like this happen.”

Dawood Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand governor Gulab Mangal, said Wednesday’s demonstration had taken place outside a base where U.S. and Afghan officials were discussing the unrest from the day before.

He said Taliban infiltrators in Wednesday’s crowd fired at the U.S. and Afghan troops, prompting the Afghans to return fire. The NATO statement made no mention of shots fired from the crowd.

Or more correctly, it appears that there were at least two different incidents similar in nature.  Either way, several things jump out of the reports and I would offer the following observations concerning the events and the Marines’ reaction.  First, there is nothing new about insurgent-instigated chaos.  This kind of thing occurred in Iraq too, and in the Anbar Province, it was dealt a quick blow whenever and wherever it happened.

Second, the Taliban feel utterly protected by being amidst the population.  While it may be backed with all of the nice intentions mankind can muster, the unintended consequences of less robust rules of engagement are that more noncombatants die.  Many, if not most, of these townsfolk would never have been there if they had believed that they were in mortal danger, and the Taliban wouldn’t have been there to instigate the event(s) if we were giving chase to them and they were running for their lives.

When townsfolk can pelt the Marines with rocks and Taliban fighters can run amok in the crowds, U.S. forces are not respected.  It’s an ominous sign – that the most feared fighting force on earth, the 911 forces of America, the most deadly, rapid and mobile strike forces of any nation anywhere, can be pelted with rocks and hit with sticks without any fear whatsoever.  This isn’t likely to ensure belief by the population that they will be “protected” by our forces.  So much for effective counterinsurgency viz. Field Manual FM 3-24.  Oh, and as for attempting to find out who actually shot who in this “investigation,” we have yet another instance of flag and staff level officers trying to micromanage the campaign.  Let me state in the clearest possible terms – IT DOESN’T MATTER.

As for more robust rules of engagement, hearken back to Recon by Fire and the informative video I posted more than two years ago.

Marine Force Protection in Garmsir Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 3 months ago

Via DVIDS.

KOSHTAY, Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – The mission for Marines here is to seize ground controlled by Taliban insurgents, hold that ground and build on it. Building in this case means fortifying their exposed position on the very front lines of this conflict. However, Marine infantrymen are not known for their carpentry and construction skills. That responsibility falls on the engineers.

Marines from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, Combat Logistics Battalion 8 and 8th Engineer Support Battalion rolled out in a 20-vehicle convoy full of heavy equipment and building materials, Aug. 16, to construct a semi-permanent position for Company G, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, which often receives enemy fire.

“This will provide Golf Company an overwatch for their resupply routes,” said 2nd Lt. Mark H. Tetzel, platoon commander with Co. D, 1st CEB. It has been difficult to get supplies to Co. G’s position since they arrived here in early July. Overwatch will give the Marines a better vantage point to scan the area for approaching enemy fighters or IED implanters.

Construction started immediately upon arrival late in the evening and continued round the clock. The engineers’ built two observation posts, Patrol Base Khanjar and Combat Outpost Koshtay, as well as a medium girder bridge. These builds include creating a berm, filling metal, mesh barriers called Hesco with dirt, and constructing security posts high on the walls. While they were in the area, they also repaired a damaged culvert along the resupply route to allow provisions to safely arrive at Co. G’s position.

Changing the subject for a moment, after observing that the Army had “negotiated” with the village elders for almost one year, while the elders were under constant threat from the Taliban who were watching for any sign of collusion with the U.S., please recall what we said about the Army approach to VPB (Vehicle Patrol Base) Wanat, and Observation Post Top Side.

Under different circumstances, i.e., rapid base construction and deployment of the troops, VPB Wanat might have been much more successful and would have been advisable.  It might have been things that occurred one year prior to manning the base that doomed it.  I also believe that the physical location of OP (Observation Post) Top Side with its lack of control over the surrounding terrain, was extremely ill advised.  Had an OP been needed and a good site not located, VPB Wanat might have had to be constructed in a different location.  Remember that eight of the nine who perished that fateful night did so either defending or attempting to relieve OP Top Side.

We also pointed out the same thing in Opening a Combat Outpost for Business.

“Ultimately I was surprised,” said Staff Sgt. Chris O. Ross, platoon sergeant. “The COPs were built quickly, and the Marines were working overtime to do it.”

Ross also said the timing and coordination required to conduct the operation came together well.

Second Lt. Juliann C. Naughton, 2nd Platoon’s convoy commander, explained it’s shocking for the locals to wake up the next morning to see that a military outpost has appeared from nowhere during the course of the night.

“The logistical support was a success, and we delivered the materials in a timely manner,” Naughton said. “We’ve also been interacting with the villagers and letting them know why we’re here.”

Subsequent commenters have weighed in saying that the difference between the Farah Province and Wanat makes this comparison (or contrast) irrelevant.  Wanat was logistically difficult and the terrain forbidding, and so there is nothing to be learned from the lessons of the Farah Province, or Anbar, Iraq, for that matter.

I don’t think so.  There is much that can be learned, and terrain wasn’t the point.  Terrain may have been more difficult at Wanat, but however long it took to construct the VPB is however long it took.  While better logistics should have been pursued, the real problem was that the locals were courted at Wanat for 11 months to get their approval for a VPB, while the Taliban had time to deploy in force to kill American troops.

In the Farah Province and at Garmsir, the Marines did it around the clock and didn’t ask for permission from the locals or anyone else.  This is the way it should be done - quickly and in the backyard of the insurgency.  There is another lesson learned from all of this.  Contact with the locals and the enemy is a requirement for good counterinsurgency, and the Marines will do this all day, every day.  But that doesn’t mean that we can jettison the doctrine of force protection.

Rather than sitting at the large bases, the forces should be in the field like the Marines at Now Zad.  But the Marines in Now Zad are in hobbit holes at night protecting themselves and their fellow Marines.  Force protection is a fundamental doctrine that, if lost, will tell the sad and unecessary tale of men lost.


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