Archive for the 'Marine Corps' Category



U.S. Marine Amphibious Assault On America

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 9 months ago

From Breitbart:

With beach landings, 25 naval ships and an air assault, the United States and eight other countries are staging a major amphibious exercise on the US East Coast this week, fighting a fictional enemy that bears more than a passing resemblance to Iran.

After a decade dominated by ground wars against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, the drill dubbed Bold Alligator is “the largest amphibious exercise conducted by the fleet in the last 10 years,” said Admiral John Harvey, head of US Fleet Forces Command.

About 20,000 US forces, plus hundreds of British, Dutch and French troops as well as liaison officers from Italy, Spain, New Zealand and Australia are taking part in the exercise along the Atlantic coast off Virginia and North Carolina.

An American aircraft carrier, amphibious assault ships including France’s Mistral, Canadian mine sweepers and dozens of aircraft have been deployed for the drill, which began on January 30 and runs through mid-February.

Monday was “D-day” for Bold Alligator, with US Marines stepping on to the beach from hovercraft, near the Camp Lejeune base in North Carolina.

The American military, mindful that Marines have spent most of their time in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan since 2001, said the goal was “to revitalize, refine, and strengthen fundamental amphibious capabilities and reinforce the Navy and Marine Corps role as ‘fighters from the sea.’”

With defense spending coming under pressure after years of unlimited growth, the Marines — which devoted a brigade to the exercise — also are anxious to protect funding for their traditional role as an amphibious force.

The exercise scenario takes place in a mythical region known as “Treasure Coast,” with a country called Garnet, a theocracy, invading its neighbor to the north, Amberland, which calls for international help to repel the attack.

Garnet has mined several harbors and deployed anti-ship missiles along the coast.

The threat of mines, anti-ship missiles and small boats in coastal waters conjure up Iran’s naval forces, but the commanders overseeing the drill, Admiral Harvey and Marine Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, say the scenario is not based on any particular country.

Good grief.  Just to be clear for the thousandth time on the future of the U.S. Marine Corps, the Marines aren’t going to conduct a large scale, sea-based, amphibious assault and forcible entry to Iran.  It would be ridiculous to believe so.  In fact, the Marines aren’t going to conduct a large scale, sea-based amphibious assault and forcible entry anywhere else, ever.  Marine Corps strategic thinking that prepares them for such an exigency is geriatric.

All the while, SOCOM is planning to park themselves in the Persian Gulf region using a Marine Corps amphibious assault dock, to conduct anti-piracy operations, air-based forcible entry and other missions and operations, conduct hostage rescue, and other assignments as the President decides.

Thus they have taken up the mantle of the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps is in the process of signing, sealing and delivering its irrelevancy to the twenty first century.  Apparently the Marine Corps doesn’t care any more.

Free The Final Haditha Marine

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 10 months ago

There is disposition of the cases against all of the Haditha Marines, except for one.

The former Marine officer who gave Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich the order to “clear” an Iraqi house near the site of an explosion that had just killed a Marine testified Friday that he expected Wuterich and his squad to “kill or capture the enemy I thought was in that building.”

William Kallop, who was a lieutenant in 2005 and is now a stockbroker in New York, said he believed insurgents inside the house were firing on Marines and thus the house could be deemed “hostile.”

According to the rules of engagement, Wuterich and his Marines were justified in using any amount of firepower in assaulting a “hostile” structure without identifying whether the people inside were combatants, Kallop said.

Kallop’s testimony came at the court-martial of Wuterich on charges of manslaughter, assault and dereliction of duty in the killing of 24 Iraqis by Marines on Nov. 19, 2005, in the Euphrates River community of Haditha. Among the Iraqis killed were three women and seven children.

While Kallop, who was a platoon commander, was called as a prosecution witness, his testimony appears to support the defense contention that Wuterich followed both his orders and training in assaulting two houses after the explosion that killed Marine Cpl. Miguel Terrazas and injured two other Marines.

The jury comprises four officers and four senior enlisted personnel, all with combat experience in Iraq or Afghanistan or both, as well as experience in “clearing” houses.

A Marine lawyer, testifying after Kallop, gave a different interpretation of the rules of engagement. Maj. Kathryn Navin, who had lectured Marines before they deployed, said a house cannot be declared hostile unless the people inside are known to have “hostile intent” or have committed “hostile acts.”

But Kallop said that in training at Camp Pendleton and March Reserve Air Base, and at briefings delivered in Iraq, Marines were not told they needed to identify individual targets as threatening when assaulting a “hostile” structure.

He said that he ordered “Clear south” and Wuterich responded, “Roger that, Sir.” He did not tell Wuterich that the house was “hostile,” Kallop said.

But Wuterich, in gathering his squad for the assault, told one of the Marines that the house was hostile and that the Marines should shoot first and ask questions later, according to testimony from former Marine Stephen Tatum.

No insurgents or weapons were found in two houses “cleared” by Marines. Dozens of Jordanian passports and stacks of American hundred-dollar bills were found in another house, however, indicating the neighborhood may have been used by insurgents as a staging point for attacks, Marine intelligence officers testified at preliminary hearings.

Kallop testified that after the explosion that ripped apart a Humvee, Marines were under attack by “a few bursts of small-arms fire.” He said he ordered a Marine to fire a grenade at the house after seeing a “turkey-peeker,” military jargon for a military-age male sneaking a look at Marines in a suspicious manner.

Kallop said he expected Wuterich to lead the Marines in his squad “to conduct movement to contact and kill or capture the enemy I thought was in that building.”

Responding to a question from defense attorney Haytham Faraj, Kallop said Marines are not required to risk their lives by stopping to identify individual targets while assaulting a hostile structure.

This whole legal conversation is dancing on the head of a pin, with wrangling over wording, the specificity of orders in the middle of heated battle, and second thinking that could work to make their future more hazardous if they allowed it to become self-doubt.

We have covered this before, but it pays to revisit this now that Wuterich is finally at trial.  When my son entered the Marine Corps in January of 2006, he completed boot camp at Parris Island and School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, having been trained in both by recent veterans of Operation al Fajr.

When he entered the infantry as a fleet Marine, he was trained by men who were veterans of al Fajr or other similar combat.  It is impossible to overstate the influence and affect that al Fajr had on the Marine Corps infantry at that time, from culture to core beliefs about battle tactics, to necessary equipment, and finally to training.

Clearing tactics were taught to boot Marines by veterans of al Fajr, and the tactics taught were those employed in Fallujah in 2004.  So when my son deployed to Fallujah in April of 2007, he employed the same tactics and culture taught to him by veterans of combat from 2004 in Iraq.

When he and other Lance Corporals attempted to teach those same tactics and apply that same culture to their own boot Marines in 2008, they usually got into significant trouble with senior NCOs and officers.  The Marine Corps infantry culture and tactics had changed to the point that the veterans of Iraq found no home for what they knew, and most or all of them left the Marines.

If this was true of my son, who joined late in 2005, this was true in the superlative of Marines who were deployed in 2005.  Again, it is impossible to overestimate the affect of al Fajr on the Marines at that time.

The Haditha Marines were charged on the watch of General Mattis.  While Mattis has a storied history of his own in Iraq and elsewhere, I do now and have always held against him that he knew all of this and still allowed the prosecution to go ahead.  The careers of many fine Marines were ruined over this.

It is now time to put this whole ugly affair behind us.  No, not any ugliness associated with what the Marines did on that day.  The Marines didn’t wait to identify inhabitants.  In room clearing operations after Operation al Fajr, room inhabitants perished.  That’s what the Marines were taught to do.

I am talking about the ugliness of the self-hatred on display in these despicable, perverse and obscene show trials.  It’s time to free the last Haditha Marine.

Concerning Marines Urinating On Dead Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 10 months ago

Most of the DoD establishment is outraged over the recently divulged incident of Marines urinating on dead Taliban fighters.  Much of it is faux outrage, but these Marines won’t be very happy with the outcome of the inquiry.  Ever the one to point out the different standards for different people because of different political needs, I’ll mention that there is no way – no way – to square the burial of Bin Laden at sea with Islamic law (not that it really matters to me whether we followed Islamic laws concerning his burial; we could have treated him like they did Mussolini as far as I’m concerned — either way, he’s in hell.).  Additionally, the public display of Zarqawi’s bloodied and bloated body caused an outrage among Muslims across the world.  It’s okay to desecrate the dead as long as the DoD sanctions it.  It’s not okay to do it if you’re a Marine under fire in the Helmand Province.  Come back to me when you get some consistency.  Until then, I think I’ll turn my attention to other, more important things.

Speaking of Marines under fire, we should mention some recent heroics.

The secretary of the Navy next week will present the Navy Cross to the family of a Marine from Camp Pendleton killed while saving the life of other Marines in Afghanistan, officials announced Tuesday.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is set to present the medal Jan. 17 to the family of Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan in a ceremony at Camp Pendleton. The Navy Cross is second only to the Medal of Honor for combat bravery by Marines or sailors.

Hogan, 20, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, was killed Aug. 26, 2009, by a buried explosive device after pushing a Marine to safety and yelling warnings to other Marines. Hogan was on a walking patrol in Helmand province, long a Taliban stronghold.

According to the Navy Cross citation, Hogan spotted a trigger wire for a buried bomb and hurled himself into the body of the nearest Marine to push him away from the imminent blast.

Hogan then “turned in the direction of the Improvised Explosive Device and placed himself in the road so that he could effectively yell verbal warnings to the rest of his squad-mates. This desperate effort to warn the rest of the patrol bought the remaining Marines valuable seconds to begin moving away,” the citation reads.

And some recent heartbreak.

A Wilmington Marine has been seriously injured in Afghanistan.

According to a report from the Wilmington News Journal, Cpl. Josh Sams, 27, was on routine patrol Wednesday when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). He was taken to a hospital in Afghanistan where both legs were amputated above the knee.

Sams’ mother, Barbara Regan, told the Journal that Sams was serving his third and final deployment and scheduled to come home for good on Feb. 7.

Sams is currently at a hospital in Germany also suffering from a broken pelvis and arm. He is in stable condition and will hopefully return stateside by Tuesday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

He serves with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, H&S Company, Scout Sniper Platoon.

Sams is married to his wife, Lindsey, who lives in Jacksonville, N.C., where Sams is stationed.

Sams’ younger brother, Logan, died in an ATV accident in 2008.

Our men are still at war people.  Take a deep breath and recalibrate your perspective.

Negligent Discharges

BY Herschel Smith
3 years ago

Concerning one of Tim Lynch’s posts, I commented on a picture that:

Tim, the dude to your right needs to have better muzzle discipline. Tell him to stop pointing that dead blame thing at you! At least his finger isn’t on the trigger.

To which Tim responded:

That was one of the Afridi Tribal fighters and none of them have a clue about gun handling, combat marksmanship, known distance marksmanship, cleaning their weapons etc…. So you end up getting muzzle flagged often which, as I recall, earned you a 5 minute room of pain session in Bravo 1/8 back in the day. You get muzzle flagged a lot from the Brit military too – their weapons handling is also atrocious.-

Yea, I know one Marine who, when he was a Private, had a ND from his SAW, and let’s just say this “room of pain” thing … well, we’ll leave it at that.  Room of pain.  Concentrate on the word pain.  And … no ND ever occurred again from his SAW.  Not even one more time.

Recall that Michael Yon discussed an ND from Canadian Brigadier General Menard, and was deeply criticized for it?  Well, this is apparently a pattern within the Canadian military.

Officers in the Canadian military were partly to blame for lax firearms safety in Afghanistan, a military judge said as he sentenced a former reservist to four years in jail for fatally shooting a fellow soldier.

Lieutenant-Colonel Louis-Vincent d’Auteuil said on Friday that Matthew Wilcox was well trained and “should have known better” than to point a loaded pistol at his best friend, Corporal Kevin Megeney, on March 6, 2007.

However, Col. d’Auteuil also said senior officers at Kandahar Airfield hadn’t done enough to crack down on improper handling of firearms before and during the deployment of Mr. Wilcox’s unit.

“No discipline was imposed other than warning soldiers,” the judge said, referring to incidents in which soldiers failed to unload the magazines from their pistols after leaving a shooting range on the base.

“All combined brought an atmosphere … where a human being forgot to unload his weapon, pointed and fired at somebody and killed somebody. He is responsible, but the Canadian Forces must be blamed for not having the proper leadership in the circumstances.”

[ ... ]

“Leaders, section leaders, the company commanders … created an atmosphere that let soldiers think if they forget to unload their weapons, it was not a big deal,” he said.

As a civilian shooter and firearms owner and holder of a concealed handgun permit, I have more discipline than this.  Much more.  This behavior is simply atrocious and should not be tolerated in any military anywhere in the world or by civilian shooters either.  The U.S. Marines make sure that its men know better with a … well, Tim called it a “room of pain.”

Men, Not Machines, Win Wars

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

As one who has argued for the involvement and importance of air power and conventional artillery, I don’t want to overplay this hand.  I say what I am about to say circumspectly.  I know the limitations of what I am about to say, and I’d rather have air power on my side than just about anything else.  That is, anything except an infantryman.

So am unimpressed with this report.

US forces are massing on the Pakistan border in eastern Afghanistan amid reports of an imminent drone missile offensive against fighters from the feared Haqqani Network, a Taliban faction which operates from safe havens in Pakistan’s North Waziristan Agency, Pakistan Army sources have confirmed.

The scale of the American build-up, including helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and hundreds of American and Afghan troops, caused panic in north Waziristan where tribal militias who feared they could be targeted gathered in the capital Miranshah to coordinate their response.

Local officials in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) warned that Pakistan’s armed forces would repel any incursion across the border by American forces, but military sources in Islamabad and Afghan officials suggested the build-up was part of a coordinated operation.

It’s not a coordinated effort, “hundreds” of troops will not significantly alter the outcome of the campaign, and sending helicopters into Pakistan will get them shot down by insurgents under the current protocol.  Not that I’m opposed, mind you, to sending helicopters into Pakistan, but this isn’t some bloodless, clinical way to run a war, any more than sending helicopters with 30+ Navy SEALS around in Afghanistan to get shot down.  Frankly, I was surprised it took as long as it did before tragedy happened with our elite troopers.

This report adds some clarity.

There were no signs of troop movement on the Pakistani side, locals and officials said, suggesting no plans for a complementary offensive in the neighboring North Waziristan region. Pakistan has long resisted U.S. pressure to launch an operation against extremists that use North Waziristan as a safe haven.

A senior Pakistani military official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said that Pakistanis hadn’t been briefed in advance about what the U.S.-led forces were up to but were “informed upon inquiring.”

Although few clear details emerged of what the U.S. and its allies were planning, rumor of the gathering forces spread a mixture of panic and bravado in Pakistan. Many North Waziristan residents believed that a surgical U.S. airstrike was imminent, while some said they were prepared to fight U.S. troops if they crossed over.

A senior NATO official dismissed the Pakistani fears, saying that the alliance wasn’t authorized to operate outside Afghanistan and wasn’t trying to threaten Pakistan.

“No, we’re not massing on the border,” said the official, who wasn’t authorized to be quoted by name.

Pakistan isn’t acting to press the Haqqani network on their side of the border, we still respect the border and won’t cross it, and thus the Haqannis still have safe haven.

I recall this depressing report on Marine Corps operations near Sangin.

It is a conversation, the military surgeon says, that every U.S. Marine has with his corpsman, the buddy who is first to treat him if he is wounded by an insurgent’s bomb.

The Marine says, “‘If I lose my manhood, then I don’t want to live through it,’” according to Navy Lt. Richard Whitehead, surgeon for 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, which is fighting in one of the most treacherous combat areas of Afghanistan.

“They ask us not to save them if their ‘junk’ gets blown off,” said Whitehead, using a slang term for genitals. “Usually, we laugh. We joke with them about it. At the same time, you know that you’re going to treat them anyway.”

This is a world of fear, resolve and dark humor that is mostly hidden from accounts of the human cost of the war in Afghanistan. American troops who patrol on foot in bomb-laced areas know they might lose a leg, or two, if they step in the wrong place. But for young men in their prime, most unmarried and without children, the prospect of losing their sexual organs seems even worse.

Whitehead said: “It’s one of the areas we can’t put a tourniquet on.”

Sangin, the district of southern Afghanistan where the Marine battalion is based, was a Taliban stronghold for years. It has one of the highest concentrations of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in the country. Robust Marine operations in the past year have weakened the insurgency in Sangin, and troops now seek to build up the authority of local government and community leaders.

But elusive fighters routinely strike with booby traps on trails and around patrol bases. Lt. Col. Thomas Savage, the battalion commander, said there was a rough average of five IED strikes, finds or interdictions a day in Sangin, in Helmand province. Estimates vary, but some Marines say roughly one in 10 IEDs hits a target.

Sixteen of the battalion’s Marines have died and at least 160 have been injured during a seven-month deployment that ends in October. Of those, about 90 were sent home because of the severity of their wounds, said Whitehead, the battalion surgeon. One lost both testicles, four Marines lost one testicle and two had penis injuries.

We’re sending “blast panties” or “ballistic boxers” to help, but that only helps to stop infection and decrease the damage of shrapnel.  It doesn’t save a Marine’s gonads.  Know what we’re also sending?  Robots.  That’s right, robots.

Listen.  I’m all for robots, and helicopters, and drones, and all manner of new-fangled gadgetry and high tech toys.  But we’ll win in the Helmand Province when we send Marines on distributed operations to sit in concealment and wait to find the IED emplacers, and we shoot them where they stand.  And we find the makers, and we take them out in their homes and in the roads.  We’ll find out who these bastards are when we enter their homes, and get in their faces – when we do census operations, when we press the villagers.  When it becomes too dangerous to emplace IEDs, the insurgents will stop doing it.  Governance and digging wells didn’t work in Iraq, and it won’t in Afghanistan.

And when we inform the Pakistanis that if they shoot at our troops chasing the Haqqani fightes in Pakistan we’ll turn the ground they are standing on into a sea of glass, then we’ll be on our way to ending the Haqqani threat, machines and ballistic underwear notwithstanding.

Night Raids, Prisons, Politics and the Afghanistan Strategy

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 2 months ago

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Over the past year, US and NATO forces say they have made considerable progress against the Afghan insurgency through the use of night raids. But a new study suggests that the long-controversial nighttime operations are doing more harm than good.

Despite a sharp rise in the number of night raids, there have been no benefits in the form of decreased insurgent attacks, and anger over the operations has continued to mount among Afghan civilians, found the report by the Open Society Foundations and The Liaison Office, a research and analysis group in Kabul.

“The dramatic increase in the number of night raids, and evidence that night raids or other operations may be more broadly targeting civilians to gather information and intelligence, appear to have overwhelmed Afghan tolerance of the practice,” wrote the authors of the report. “Afghan attitudes toward night raids are as hostile as ever, if not more so.”

International forces rely heavily on night raids to capture or kill high-level insurgents. Night raids are a critical component of NATO’s strategy here, but a growing number of Afghans, including President Hamid Karzai, have condemned the raids as disrespectful to Afghan culture, and say they undermine the authority of the government and security forces …

Even in the face of heated political debate about the night raids, there was fivefold increase between February 2009 and December 2010. Though newer statistics are unavailable, military officials indicated to Open Society Foundations that international forces still conduct a large number of night raids, possibly at higher rates than those previously documented. By one estimate, up to 40 night raids occur daily throughout Afghanistan.

“The night raids are perceived by the people, by the government, by Afghans as an insult. It’s a very big insult because they are insulting our privacy … so people hate them from the depths of their hearts,” says Rahim Khurram, deputy director of The Liaison Office …

The US and international forces have made a number of changes to their night-raid policy that have, by many measures, improved their accuracy and addressed Afghan concerns. Among other changes, Afghan officials are now incorporated in the planning process, and 25 percent of night operations are led by Afghan forces.

Presently, International Security Assistance Force officials say that they get their target 80 percent of the time during night raids. The report does not state what portion of the remaining 20 percent escaped or if they mistakenly arrested the wrong person. ISAF officials also point out that the night raids account for less than 1 percent of civilian casualties and that 85 percent are conducted without any shots fired.

“Night operations are an effective method of maintaining the pressure on the enemy while minimizing risk to innocent civilians,” says US Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, an ISAF spokesman.

Many of the improvements have been overlooked or gone unnoticed by Afghans, however, due to the sheer quantity.

Despite pervasive disapproval of night raids among many Afghans, if conducted properly, they are a valuable tool against the insurgency, says Mirwais Yasini, a member of parliament from Nangarhar Province, where night raids have been a serious point of contention.

“We cannot do without them, because if we do away with the night raids it means we are cutting [ISAF’s] operational capacity to the day, and if we do that it means we’re cutting their operational capacity to less than 50 percent,” says Mr. Yasini.

He suggests that instead of raiding houses during the night, international forces should try surrounding a village at night and make arrests during the day time.

Analysis & Commentary

Of course many of the Afghan people don’t like it.  But the edifice upon which this whole objection is built is population-centric counterinsurgency, with its adage that “if you kill one insurgent you create ten more.”  There isn’t a single shred of evidence that killing an insurgent creates ten more – that’s just a doctrinal mantra, and if repeated enough times it begins to be taken as science.  However, while the objection lodged by the Afghans to high value target raids may not be salient, there is a much more important reason that these raids are not as successful as they are purported to be.  Prisons.  Many or most of the HVTs are not killed, but captured and sent to prisons.  These prisons have become not only a laughingstock of the Afghan culture, they have become dangerous.

Cell Block 3 was in flames as prison riots continued in the next block over. The Taliban had grown too powerful, and the confinements of Afghanistan’s Pol-e-charki prison became little more than protective walls rendering them untouchable from the war raging outside.

The December 2008 riots at Pol-e-charki prison on the outskirts of Kabul served as a wake-up call to the severity of the corruption that had crept in through padded pockets and turning blind eyes. Captured Taliban commanders and radicalized prisoners had formed an operating center within Cell Block 3—armed with weapons, and with their own Shura Council to hold trials, vote, and eliminate those who refused to cooperate.

“The guards were not even allowed to go down into the cell block because they would be killed or kidnapped—I mean, its the Wild West out there,” said Drew Berquist, a former U.S. intelligence agent and author of “The Maverick Experiment,” in a phone interview.

Attention fell on the prison after the riots, and rebuilding efforts became focused on increasing security. This included eliminating cells for large groups, and replacing them with cells for smaller groups of between two and eight.

“You had a prison that was run by the Afghan government, but really, entire facilities within that prison were being used as training and education grounds for insurgent elements,” said Drew Quinn, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs director at the U.S. Embassy Kabul, on the NATO Channel in Nov. 2009.

Resolving such issues is no simple matter, and the battle behind prison walls continues to this day.

A rare news conference in Kabul, held by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security intelligence service in February, highlighted the breadth of the problem—noting that despite efforts to root out operations at Pul-e-Charkhi, it is still going strong.

Taliban commander Talib Jan, a prisoner at Pul-e-Charkhi, is one of the more extreme cases. He organizes suicide bombings across Kabul from within his cell—including the Jan. 28 suicide bombing of a supermarket that killed 14 people.

“Most of the terrorist and suicide attacks in Kabul were planned from inside this prison by this man,” said National Directorate of Security spokesman, Lutfullah Mashal, at the conference, New York Times reported.

The problem, according to Berquist, runs deep.

“The prison systems are corrupt,” Berquist said. “The safest place for the Taliban is the prisons because they can’t get caught again.”

But if killing an insurgent doesn’t in fact create ten more, imprisonment of one may in fact do just that.  To coin a phrase, “imprisonment one insurgent creates ten more.”  Remember that phrase.  Since HVT raids focus so much on imprisonment of insurgents, they are counterproductive.  Killing the enemy isn’t counterproductive, but because we place so much value in not doing that in the campaign, it has affected the entirety of the effort.

And this clouds the whole strategy.  Thus, Presidential candidate Rick Perry is not clear yet in his proposed strategy for Afghansitan.

Rick Perry is still laboring to articulate a clear position on Afghanistan. At Monday night’s Republican debate, Perry–who has no real foreign policy experience beyond flying Air Force cargo planes abroad–seemed to endorse Jon Huntsman’s call for a major drawdown from Afghanistan. Yesterday, an unnamed Perry adviser revised and extended the gentleman’s remarks for Foreign Policy:

“If increasingly the Afghans can do this kind of work, then of course we want to bring our people home. It’s good for us, it’s good for them. But Gov. Perry is not confident in the Obama policy, which seems to be driven largely by politics, and he’s not confident in the 100,000 troops number. He’d like to know if it’s possible at 40,000,” the advisor said, explaining that the rationale for the specific number of U.S. troops on the ground has never been clearly explained by the administration.”He would lean toward wanting to bring our troops home, but he understands that we have vital strategic interests in Afghanistan and that a precipitous withdrawal is not what he’s recommending.”

This position is incredibly tortured. A presence of 100,000 troops seems too high to Perry, but he opposes Obama’s plan for a modest withdrawal of about 30,000 troops because it’s apparently driven by “politics.” He’s against a precipitous withdrawal, yet he’s interested in a 60 percent reduction in forces–to a level that would make David Petraeus bang his forehead on his desk.

Perry isn’t the only Republican to send mixed signals on Afghanistan. That’s because the GOP candidates are torn between two powerful forces. One is the general public’s loss of patience with the Afghanistan war. Especially now that Osama bin Laden is shark food, a clear majority of Americans want us out–regardless of whether Afghan troops can execute jumping jacks. But Republican voters are still on board: As of June, 53% of them still favored fighting on until Afghanistan has been stabilized (whatever that means).

Even Andrew McCarthy, writing for NRO, observes that Perry’s answer was muddled (although McCarthy parrots the usual stuff about killing and capturing a lot of people which makes his case rather odd).  Since we have tried population-centric counterinsurgency and nation-building in the most backwards place on earth, the last ten years has seen a groundhog day rinse and repeat of the same thing, over and over again.  Of course our strategy is confused.  The people who implemented it were confused.

Mr. Obama has been content to go along with a confused strategy and cut his losses as soon as possible.  In challenging him, the GOP needs to see their way clear to a revised strategy and a justification for said approach.  This needs to fit within the framework of the larger war against the transnational insurgency, in which AQ, the Taliban, the TTP, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., are just manifestations of the militant side of Islamism, with the Muslim Brotherhood being the manifestation of the more political side of (what will ultimately become the forcible implementation of) sharia law.

Whatever is decided, let’s be clear.  A small footprint, HVT raid-based approach by 10,000 – 15,000 troopers, mostly SOF, won’t work.  When there are no troops to provide security for the people who supply intelligence for the raids, the raids will dry up.  When logistics cannot get supplies to the troopers, it will take SOF missions to rescue the SOF troopers remaining in Afghanistan.  A small footprint is a silly, juvenile cop out, and a poor excuse for actually thinking through the difficult issues of the war.

The troops exist for the proper execution of the campaign.  The CJCS could tell the Commandant of the Marines to stop playing Iwo Jima, give up the ridiculous EFV, settle for a mission that includes air-based forcible entry capabilities, and send Marines all over the world in distributed operations (similar to SOF).  There are missions for the Marines to do, surely.

And as for what to do with the insurgents, they must be killed or released.  Prisons are not only not helpful in counterinsurgency, they are counterproductive.  As I have said before, prisons … do … not … work … in … counterinsurgency.

UPDATE: From The Washington Post:

Even as U.S.-led forces draw down in Afghanistan, U.S. officials expect the number of detainees at their main prison to increase — and by a significant margin.

Officials had already announced that they would retain control of the Parwan Detention Center north of Kabul well beyond the planned 2012 transfer date because of concerns that the Afghan legal system is still too weak. But U.S. officials recently said they intend to solicit contractors to help expand the facility’s capacity from about 3,500 beds to 5,500 beds.

Parwan, which has been expanded previously, holds about 2,500 detainees. Those detainees include high-profile insurgents as well as Afghans who are suspected of playing more of a peripheral role in the conflict.

The construction project “is part of our established and ongoing transition efforts” with the Afghan government, Capt. Kevin Aandahl, a spokesman for the U.S. task force that oversees detention operations in Afghanistan, said in an e-mail. Aandahl said the expansion was necessary to “accommodate an increase in the number of suspected insurgents being detained as a result of intelligence-based counter- terrorism operations, which we conduct with our Afghan partners.

There is a massive amount of hope in this plan.  It is being planned in order to “accommodate an increase in the number of suspected insurgents being detained as a result of intelligence-based counter- terrorism operations …”  All of which means that the U.S. wants to turn this even more into a SOF High Value Target campaign.  In other words, take that which hasn’t succeeded thus far, and intensify it without the troopers on the ground to supply logistics and security for those who supply intelligence.  This exemplifies the bankruptcy of our military thinking on Afghanistan.

Prior:

The Long Term Effects of Prisons in Counterinsurgency

The Great Escape – in Afghanistan!

Because Prisons Work So Well In Counterinsurgency

Afghan Prison An Insurgent Breeding Ground

Prisons Do Not Work In Counterinsurgency

Hamid Karzai: Defeater of the High Value Target Program

The Ineffectiveness of Prisons in Counterinsurgency

Jirgas and Release of Taliban Prisoners

Prisons in Afghanistan

Prisons in Counterinsurgency

Dakota Meyer to Receive Congressional Medal of Honor

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

It’s now official.

A Marine who braved intense enemy gunfire in Afghanistan to recover the bodies of four fallen comrades will receive the Medal of Honor for his heroism, defense officials said Wednesday.

Dakota Meyer, who left the service last year, will be the third living recipient of the award for actions in Afghanistan and the tenth man recognized for exceptional bravery in the current wars. He’ll also be the first living Marine to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.

White House and defense officials have not released details of the award or the timing of its presentation.

The 22-year-old’s heroics came while serving with an embedded training team from the II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Okinawa, Japan. In September 2009, his team was ambushed in controversial battle of Ganjgal, which claimed the lives of five Marines and nine Afghan allies.

A Defense Department investigation released five months later said that negligent leadership and a command refusal for artillery support directly contributed to the deaths of Meyer’s fellow fighters, and reprimanded three Army officers.

Contrary to the statement above, the warriors who perished included three Marines, a Navy Corpsman and a Soldier.  Readers might remember this as the engagement where a team was repeatedly refused airtillery support because it violated the rules of engagement.  Dakota fought his way through enemy fire, on foot, multiple times, to retrive his brothers from the field of battle.  The real delay in this had to do with the Marine Corps, which is notoriously exacting in things like this.

There are some loved ones who still grieve, and one particular article I wrote on the reprimands of field grade and staff officers who refused them support gathered their attention.

I have felt from the beginning that General McChrystal is ultimately responsible for the death of my son, his unit and SFC Ken Westbrook in Gangjal. I have written to President Obama for answers, as one father to another, to no avail. Seventeen months and 10 days later, we still greive for the loss of our sons. We feel the pain, and are engulfed in waves of grief with each each new casualty (and various other emotional triggers).

Our sons suffered Death by Incompetence, knowing at the end that those they considered brothers-in-arms abandoned them on the battlefield.

I have no wish to meet General McChrystal or hear his apology or condolences. I only hope that he lives a long life and is always tormented by the ghosts of those he called his brothers-in-arms.

Nothing will bring our boys back, so we move forward in life to honor thier (sic) sacrifice and cherish thier memory. To that end, I would like to voice support (and hope that others will too) for awarding the Medal of Honor to Dakota Meyer for the exceptional bravery that brought our boys home to rest. Thank you Dakota.  Semper Fi

I am Charlene Westbrook, widow of a United States Army Combat Veteran, SFC Kenneth Westbrook. My husband, Sergeant First Class Kenneth Westbrook, was grievously injured and later passed away from what was explained to me as graft vs host disease associated with whole blood, a rare blood disorder which doctors say he contracted while at the battlefield hospital in Afghanistan.

I was afforded the opportunity to review the redacted Investigating Officer’s Report. The eyewitness accounts of the unbelievable horror our American Warriors endured that day is unimaginable, unbearable and should have been avoided by all costs. The Investigating Officer’s findings and recommendations state that the officers appointed over those men were found to be negligent and derelict in the performance of their duties. The Investigator further recommended that the officers receive an administrative reprimand or a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand (GOMOR), however, no further information on whether those actions have been initiated and/or completed have not been provided.

My husband dedicated 22 years of his life proudly serving in the US Army with complete trust and honor to the very institution that in the end abandoned him and the other men who died that fateful day, September 8, 2009. I do, too hold McChrystal as the coward who has the blood of my husband on his hands.

“The American soldier is a brave one and he demands professional competence in his leaders. In battle, he wants to know that the job is going to be done right, with no unnecessary casualties. The non-commissioned officer wearing the chevron is supposed to know how to perform the duties expected of him. The American soldier expects his sergeant to be able to teach him how to do his job. And he expects more from his officers.” – General Omar N. Bradley.

I am Susan Price, the Mother of Fallen Hero Gunnery Sgt Aaron M Kenefick, USMC, killed that day on Sept 8th 2009. Like the Westbrook, Johnsons & Layton families, there are no words yet invented to share with you our sense of loss and void from our families lives!!!!!! Loosing a child or a spouse to WAR is one thing, loosing that special someone because of the deriliction and negligence of another, ESPECIALLY a “BROTHER IN ARMS” is something else.

We the families of the fallen five, have read the 15-6, Investigation report over and over and over again….It is unbelievable to read how many times my “BELOVED SON” called for help, and it is Beyond Human comprehension to read on further some smart ass remarks by some of these officers who discounted American Human Life, Special American Human life, front line Valor, not some back office cant get ahold of white gloved officer!!!

You cannot equate a piece of paper to the loss of human life, word has it that nothing came of this supposed reprimand!!!!! The word is that an order from a higher source told them not to answer the call for air support and artillery back up….The question is? Who gave the order and why?

So many unanswered questions this day. The actual mission was not even suppose to take place this day. Intel saids they were told that this would be a day filled with Taliban activity on the 8th. Who wanted my Son and the other Fallen Heroes put into this position? Why? So many unanswered questions!!!!!!!!!!!

McChrystal is responsible as well as the contributing 3 Officers who got off and those others who were a party to this knowledge. These men had families, they had a place in society besides the battlefield, they made differences in the lives of so many and for so many, who would want to scapegoat them out??????

Another comment made while my son called for 2 hours was “is this for Marines or is this for Army” I dont understand when you are at war what difference does it make what uniform you wear, all blood is the same color, and all I know is that my family and the other families of the fallen live in emotional pain every day of our lives due to this neglence. Where is Justice, does anyone really care about our men, really!!!!!!!!!!

As the father of James Ray “Doc” Layton, killed that day in Ganjgal, Afghanistan I will say this: This was the greatest loss a parent could endure. We all know the inherent risks our men and women take and to a point, we prepare for the worst. Knowing that our men were put into a situation in which they relied on help and were denied repeatedly, this is in-excusable. I have said before as a retired law inforcement officer, we rely on each other for back-up and know that when that call goes out our “backs” are covered. To know James, Aaron, Mike, Edwin and Ken lost their lives due to “inadequate” leadership in the operation center among several other cited incidents of “Negligence” on Sept 8th is sickening and unfortunately nothing new.

The post comments in the 15-6 investigation clearly states one of the Army officers in charge believed the Marines to be under “light, harrassing fire.” At 0530 hrs, the first shots rang out and the team said that they had been ambushed and were facing approx 150+ insurgents calling for help. At what point was this “light harrassing fire?” The 15-6 also states that what intelligence they gathered via intercepted radio traffic the day before from Ganjgal that they knew the team were going to be ambushed but thought by only approx 30 and yet knowing this they were sent into a “kill zone” a four man team including my son who were killed approximately two hours into the ambush still calling for air and artillery along with the rest of the unit, TWO HOURS!!!!!! The entire ambush lasted for hours.

It took 1,800 rounds of 50 Cal and two Hellfires to just get our son’s bodies, hours into the battle. The report clearly says the mission was compromised, the insurgents were well placed, even had recoilless rifles. The insurgents were well trained by military, wore uniforms similar to the ANA, even were mistaken as our counterparts by our own at one point, A clear setup. The mission was to take place the day before but was changed to the 8th “Oddly?” I think not. This whole ambush stinks of corruption and ass covering but by the enemy only, I also think not.

Brent Layton, proud father of fallen hero HM3 James Ray “Doc” Layton “Corpsman to the Core.” KIA 09/08/09 Ganjgal, Afghanistan

 There is no way to assuage the anguish of the loss of a son or husband.  But maybe with the CMH being awarded to Dakota, some small sense of righteousness may be brought to bear on a horrible, awful engagement where our warriors were abandoned.

Getting the Narrative Right on Southern Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 7 months ago

The Small Wars Journal has an interview of Professor Theo Farrell and MG Nick Carter in which the following summary statement is provided:

There were very high hopes for Marjah. General McChrystal was looking for a ‘strategic accelerator’, something dramatic that would restore momentum to the ISAF campaign. He was looking in Helmand to inflict a strategic defeat on the Taliban, and to demonstrate the virtue of his new approach to local and home audiences. This explains the ill-advised term that there would be “government in a box” for Marjah, implying that shortly after the Marines pushed in, you would have a government established almost immediately. The Marines were perfectly on board with the idea that they could achieve such quick progress.

When the ISAF pushed in Marjah, they discovered a very different picture. What they expected to find in Marjah was a relatively wealthy population of mostly land owners, many involved in drug trade, but confident people with pretty good economic resources. And as long as you got them on board by demonstrating the virtues of the Afghan governance, they would help keep the Taliban at bay. What ISAF discovered was that those working the land were not owners but down-trodden tenants. Also the local infrastructure was far worse than anticipated. Thus the problem was twofold: first, it was going to take some time to deliver governance and improve infrastructure; second, it was very easy for the Taliban to intimidate the locals. So whilst the Marines cleared Marjah quickly, the hold proved more troublesome.

This is just horrible analysis.  Generals McChrystal and Rodriguez did indeed believe in the “government in a box” theory, but the U.S. Marines came from Anbar, Iraq.  They know exactly what it takes to effect counterinsurgency.  But Michael Yon tells me that to a man the officer corps of the British Army believes in the government in a box theory of counterinsurgency, probably leading in no small part to the friction between the Marines and their British advisers (it still isn’t clear to me why the Marines have British advisers).

A somewhat clearer narrative is emerging.  Our friend Gian Gentile argues that what’s happening in Helmand is different, and points to a “story running today by Rajiv C in the Washington Post on “progress” in South Afghanistan. His article to be sure shows that progress has been made, but it has come about at the barrel of a gun through death and destruction, and not through the winning of the trust of the local population. If there was any success in Vietnam during the latter years of that war with pacification it was from the same thing; combat produced massed movements of people from rural hamlets and villages into government controlled areas. But again the point is that persuading the people to side with the government and against the communist enemy never happened.”

Gian is referring to this report on signs of progress in Southern Afghanistan at The Washington Post.

SANGIN, AFGHANISTAN — Signs of change have sprouted this spring amid the lush fields and mud-brick villages of southern Afghanistan.

In Sangin, a riverine area that has been the deadliest part of the country for coalition troops, a journey between two bases that used to take eight hours because of scores of roadside bombs can now be completed in 18 minutes.

In Zhari district, a once-impenetrable insurgent redoubt on the western outskirts of Kandahar city, residents benefiting from U.S.-funded jobs recently hurled a volley of stones at Taliban henchmen who sought to threaten them.

And in Arghandab district, a fertile valley on Kandahar’s northern fringe where dozens of U.S. soldiers have been felled by homemade mines, three gray-bearded village elders made a poignant appearance at a memorial service last month for an Army staff sergeant killed by one of those devices.

Those indications of progress are among a mosaic of developments that point to a profound shift across a swath of Afghanistan that has been the focus of the American-led military campaign: For the first time since the war began nearly a decade ago, the Taliban is commencing a summer fighting season with less control and influence of territory in the south than it had the previous year.

“We start this year in a very different place from last year,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top coalition commander in Afghanistan, said in a recent interview.

The security improvements have been the result of intense fighting and the use of high-impact weapons systems not normally associated with the protect-the-population counterinsurgency mission.

In Sangin, Zhari and Arghandab — the three most insurgent-ridden districts in the south — the cost in American lives and limbs since the summer has been far greater than in any other part of the country. More than 40 Marines have been killed in Sangin in the past nine months, and three dozen more have lost both legs. The Army brigade responsible for Zhari and part of Arghandab has lost 63 soldiers since July.

Read the entire report.  The Marines have been learning their way through Sangin and other parts of Afghanistan, but they have been in Helmand a long time, and already had a bloody history in Now Zad by the time Marjah rolled around.  No Marine seriously believed that he could bring Shangi La to Helmand by toting along a governor to adjudicate disputes and get largesse.  Answering for why McChrystal and Rodriguez believed in the government in a box view of counterinsurgency is the same thing as answering why the British believe it.   But don’t drag the Marines into this dispute.  It isn’t their debate.  They do things differently.

But Rajiv’s account weapons not normally used in counterinsurgency is odd and inexplicable.  Remember Marine combat action in Fallujah?

It’s important to get the narrative right so that we know what worked and what doesn’t.  Making excuses for McChrystal’s “ill advised term” and blaming the U.S. Marines or some other exigency for Marjah or Sangin or some other part of Helmand isn’t adding anything to the discussion.  And connecting the use of heavy weapons with something other than counterinsurgency is selling a “bill of goods” to the reader.

Marines do not bleed!

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 8 months ago

From DVIDS:

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — “Marines do not bleed. They do not eat, they do not sleep. They are not human.”

Afghan citizens voiced these words in December after watching Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 3, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward) conduct a route repair operation for three consecutive days near Durzay, a rural community in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. Until recently, certain communities throughout southwestern Afghanistan have not witnessed coalition operations.

This perception of Marines as heartless, impersonal figures stems from their meticulous work ethic and discipline, said Sgt. Kyle Ekblom, combat engineer, Engineer Company, CLB-3, 2nd MLG (Fwd). Though Marines pride themselves on their warrior persona, the perception of the Marine Corps as an inhuman, militaristic force will hinder their ability to succeed in Afghanistan.

While conducting military operations in Afghanistan, coalition forces instruct their personnel to maintain a personable and professional relationship with the Afghan community. Since beginning operations in Afghanistan nearly 10 years ago, coalition personnel established themselves as a security force determined to eradicate the Taliban and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

“We’re trying to break that perception,” said Ekblom, a native of Brandon, Fla. “Communication limitations in this country make [the Afghan citizens’] knowledge based solely upon what they see. We’re not trying to impose our culture or beliefs upon the Afghan people. We’re just trying to provide them with a country, which isn’t governed, oppressed or threatened by the Taliban. We’re here to help these people live their lives in the manner they see fit. By developing a rapport with the Afghan community, we can earn their trust and accomplish our mission.”

According to Khliq Daad, a 57-year-old resident of Haji Hanif Khan, Afghanistan, Marines must continue to develop strong relationships with Afghan citizens if they want to distance themselves from the perception as an invading force, such as the former Soviet Union. Though younger generations of Afghans may not recall the Soviet occupation, they could easily view any foreign military in the same negative manner. However, in the time since coalition forces began their operations, Afghanistan and its citizens have experienced many positive changes.

“Once the Marines showed up, Taliban activity in my village ceased,” said Daad, through an interpreter. “The Taliban here were preventing construction and rehabilitation of this area. When the Marines first showed up, they were only fighting to bring us peace. But now I see them conducting many projects and my village is much more secure. I want this knowledge to spread throughout Afghanistan – the knowledge of the good things Marines are doing for this country. Without this knowledge, those who are not educated will continue to make bad choices.”

Daad believes coalition forces will continue to find success in his country if they continue to influence those who may perceive them as inhuman – a perception as damaging as it is insulting. Stripping Marines of their humanity denies the sacrifices they’ve made.

Forgive me if I don’t share in the happy thoughts of the good things that the Marines are doing for Afghanistan.  Neither will I cover, comment on or press for international “humanitarian” missions for the U.S. Marine Corps.  The Marine Corps is for shock troops, for rapid deployment, for distributed operations, for quickly-devolving security situations across the globe where there is an inherent U.S.-self interest.

I continue to oppose the doctrines of population-centric counterinsurgency, as I have done before.  If we want the local population to entrust to us their security by divulging Taliban identities and whereabouts, why wouldn’t we want at least to allow the myth to exist that the Marines don’t bleed, eat or sleep?  Why on earth would anyone want to destroy this notion with the people?  In fact, I know of similar ones believed by the people and IPs in Fallujah.  The myth was left alone to exist in the minds of the locals because the Marines there didn’t believe in population-centric COIN.  And … they won Fallujah.

Reprimands in Marine Deaths in Ganjgal Engagement

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 9 months ago

Recall that in 2009 three Marines and a Navy Corpsman approached the remote Kunar village of Ganjgal where they were ambushed in what was surely a planned incident.  At the time even the women and children could be seen firing weapons, spotting or carrying munitions.  The Marines made repeated calls for artillery and air support over the next couple of hours, with support denied due to the fact that the authorizing Army officers could not verify that noncombatants wouldn’t be harmed.  We know this because a McClatchy reporter was with the Marines.  In other words, whatever obfuscation that the Army can throw at this incident cannot supersede the conclusions that we can draw directly from McClatchy’s report.

And obfuscation came.  The Army did an investigation that concluded, among other things, that the officers were out of the command center for decision-making during this engagement.  But in fact they were out only some of the time, and did indeed refuse on multiple occasions to authorize supporting fires.  They also had the presence of mind to authorize white phosphorus rounds to provide smoke and thus give cover for retreat, so they knew about the danger.  They just didn’t authorize support.

The families have pursued a conclusion to this, and they may have finally gotten it.

The Army “severely reprimanded” two of the three officers cited for negligence after a flawed mission in eastern Afghanistan resulted in five U.S. deaths, according to a congressman who pushed for the information’s release.

The Army officers were cited for poor planning and oversight of a Sept. 8, 2009, operation in Ganjgal, a remote village near the Pakistan border with Kunar province. Three Marines and a corpsman were killed on the battlefield after they were repeatedly denied air and artillery support while pinned down by more than 100 insurgents. A soldier died the following month of medical complications related to wounds he suffered in the ambush.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Army recently shared with him documents indicating two of the three officers cited last year in a joint Army-Marine Corps investigation were deemed primarily responsible for the mission’s failures and given reprimands, likely career killers.

“There was nothing else we could do,” Jones said of the discipline. “This was a very tragic situation that never should have happened.”

Jones, whose congressional district includes thousands of Marines at Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps air stations New River and Cherry Point, got involved in October after family members of the fallen troops expressed disgust that the Army refused to disclose whether anyone was held accountable for mistakes that led to their loved ones’ deaths. On Jan. 28, he sent letters to the families of each service member informing them what he learned.

Army officials declined to comment on the disciplinary action. The officers are entitled to privacy unless they are charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, said Col. Thomas Collins, an Army spokesman.

The Ganjgal investigation, conducted by Army Col. Richard Hooker and Marine Col. James Werth, determined that the “negligent” leadership of three officers at nearby Forward Operating Base Joyce contributed “directly to the loss of life which ensued.” They refused direct calls for help from U.S. forces on the ground and failed to notify higher commands that they had troops under fire, the investigation found.

The officers were members of Task Force Chosin, a unit comprising soldiers from 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y. The military has not released their names, but they are likely captains or majors.

Killed in the battle were four members of Marine Embedded Training Team 2-8, out Okinawa, Japan: 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, 25; Gunnery Sgts. Aaron Kenefick, 30; and Edwin Johnson, 31; and Hospitalman 3rd Class James Layton, 22. Hours after the battle began, they were found in a ditch shot to death, stripped of gear and weapons.

A former corporal, Dakota Meyer, is nominated for the Medal of Honor for charging into the kill zone to find the four military trainers and carry them to safety.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook, 41, survived the battle despite suffering several gunshot wounds. He died Oct. 7, 2009, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington after his body rejected a blood transfusion he received in Afghanistan, said his widow, Charlene.

Charlene Westbrook questioned why the third officer cited for negligence wasn’t reprimanded, and said she is frustrated the Army hasn’t explained the rationale for its disciplinary decisions.

“We were searching for answers, not for the same thing we’ve been told before,” she said. “It’s very frustrating and, again, another betrayal, I feel.”

Collins said the families were provided complete, redacted copies of the investigation report last year. There is no indication they were ever promised an update on disciplinary actions, he said.

Reprimands in the Ganjgal case were delivered after similar discipline was rescinded last year for mistakes made in Wanat, Afghanistan, during an ambush July 13, 2008. Nine soldiers died and 27 were wounded in the battle.

Perhaps the families have partial conclusion (and I confess, I didn’t know until this report that Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth Westbrook had also perished) .  I had previously recommended that the Army field grade and staff level officers involved in this incident find a different line of work.  And now they must do exactly that.  I had said that the source of this problem – rules of engagement and micromanaging the military – would not be targeted, and General McChrystal wouldn’t even so much as be mentioned in the AR 15-6.  I was right on all accounts.

When he took over the campaign in Afghanistan, McChrystal quickly issued a severely debilitating tactical directive, but in fact added to the cultural milieu with his own interpretation:

“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.”

As for micromanaging the military, when the Marines first entered Marjah in the Helmand Province, General Rodriguez, then second in command in Afghanistan, decided that he wanted to micromanage a completely separate command structure, that of the Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF).  “Less than six hours before Marines commenced a major helicopter-borne assault in the town of Marja in February, Rodriguez’s headquarters issued 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.”

The officers on duty that fateful day the Marines were killed in Gamjgal were responsible for their decisions.  It gives me no joy to report or comment on their demise as officers in the U.S. Army.  But the climate of micromanagement of forces in theater set in motion by Generals McChrystal and Rodriguez was also responsible for the incident at Ganjgal.  Incidents can (and in fact most often do) have more than a single root cause.

I will forever hold General McChrystal responsible for the deaths of three Marines, a Navy Corpsman and a Soldier in this incident.  Until he admits to the debilitating nature of his command and visits these families to watch them weep, this incident is unresolved, and the families have no closure.  He can join as many boards of directors as he likes.  There is unfinished business, and the ghosts of four Marines and a Soldier are watching.

Prior:

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

More Thoughts on Marines and Rules of Engagement

AR 15-6 Investigation of Marine Deaths in Kunar Province


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