Archive for the 'Pech River Valley' Category



Now that U.S. troops are leaving the Kunar Province?

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 7 months ago

From the BBC:

What happens when US forces pull out of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan? The BBC’s Bilal Sarwary, the first journalist to visit one of the areas the US left in Kunar province, uncovers a disturbing situation.

Kunar has always been a crucible of conflict. Tucked away in the north-eastern corner of Afghanistan, it borders Pakistan’s tribal badlands. It is one of the first ports of call for war-minded militants crossing the mountain passes.

But after the US-led invasion, troops began to assert their hold over the province. It is now littered with US and Nato bases and despite bloody battles there, the US invested heavily. Roads were asphalted, buildings renovated and a sense of security slowly developed. Villagers went about their business while infrastructure was put in place.

The US pulled out of parts of Kunar last year, beginning the withdrawal process. What has happened in the province since then makes for grim reading.

The new roads are now pock-marked with craters left by militants who plant bombs targeting Western and Afghan forces.

[ ... ]

When I visited the picturesque Pech valley in the west of the province, a cloud of gloom hung over it.

In Barkanday village, I found a group of tribal elders brooding over their predicament: where once US forces were a deterrent to the Taliban, the Afghan government is notable only for its absence.

“It is Taliban across the river,” one elder said. “They are lying in wait. At the first opportunity, they will descend on the village to take their revenge,” he said, refusing to give his name for fear of retribution.

[ ... ]

“When US forces left, they told us that our security was now the responsibility of the Afghan government,” Mohammad Akbar said. “But the Afghan government exists only in the district headquarters at Mano Gai.”

I did not come across a single soldier or official on my way there or during my four-hour stay. Villagers say development has also suffered.

Worthless Afghan National Army troops and corrupt Afghan National Police.  It seems that someone should have said something about the ANA and ANP – you know, how the ANA were curled up in fetal positions under blankets during the battle of Kamdesh at COP Keating.

It seems that maybe I did say something about the whole population-centric counterinsurgency thing at one point.

[The Pech River Valley is] … strategically irrelevant to the campaign planners who focused their efforts on population-centric counterinsurgency and thus withdrew troops to redeploy in larger population centers.  Not strategically irrelevant to me.  Google the phrase Abandoning the Pech and see where TCJ lies in authority.  I have supplied a surrogate conversation between flag officers when AQ returns to the Pech (which would be  now), and argued that without hitting the Taliban’s recruiting grounds, fund raising and revenue development, training grounds, and logistical supply lines, the campaign cannot be won.  I have pleaded that we not abandon the chase, and that we kill every last Taliban.  Campaign management and I just disagree.

The Marines are pulling out of Afghanistan completely in 2012, and there is a general drawdown of all troops underway.  If you’re deploying at the moment (and I know of some men who are), you have to wonder why, to what end, and whether you’re going to attempt to do anything other than survive the deployment?

New Approach in the Pech River Valley?

BY Herschel Smith
2 years, 10 months ago

From CSM:

Nestled in a lush but mean valley on the banks of the Pech River, Camp Blessing was no longer the sort of place, US commanders decided in February, that warranted the bloodshed of American soldiers.

Instead, the US war effort would benefit from focusing its limited resources on population centers, they concluded, and away from the Pech’s brutal terrain and rather xenophobic citizenry, ready and more than willing to skillfully take up arms against outsiders.

Better, they concluded, to leave this sparsely settled region – where Afghan fighters mustered to make the first successful stand against Soviet occupation – to the Afghan Army.

So soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division towed away the modern toilet trailers and stripped Camp Blessing of its amenities – air-conditioning units, flat-screen monitors, and the covered plywood porch where senior US troops convened to smoke cigars and discuss the news of the day.

In March, they rechristened the base “Nangalam” and turned it over to Afghan forces.

Today, however, US soldiers are back. The conditions at the once built-up outpost are now spartan. Troops bathe with baby wipes and bottled water and sleep on the floors of buildings that, they discovered upon their return in late July, were littered with human feces.

Insurgents had advanced so steadily since March that the Afghan Army could lose the base itself, say a new crop of US commanders.

They see the return as an opportunity to forge a new model for cooperation and mentoring with the Afghan security forces. But while the Pech is admittedly one of Afghanistan’s toughest assignments, the Afghan Army’s failed four-month attempt take the reins of security illustrates its shortfalls – and how far there is to go, US officers say, if NATO is to turn all security responsibilities over to Afghan forces by 2014.

The troops who have come back to this jagged spine of mountain peaks are under no illusions about the difficulty of the task that awaits them. Their code name for this operation: “Hotel California.”

“It’s like the lyrics,” says 2nd battalion intelligence officer Maj. Marcus Wright of the Eagles song: “ ‘You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.’ ”

When US forces moved back into Camp Blessing in late July, they were greeted with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, one of which hit the underbelly of a US Chinook carrying supplies for the base. That marked the first shoot-down of a Chinook this year. The pilot was able to land relatively gently without any serious injuries, though passengers were forced to sprint when thousands of rounds of ammunition caught fire and ignited, causing shrapnel injuries and destroying the helicopter.

It was a pattern of hostility repeatedly encountered by US forces. “We really had to reoccupy the base,” says Maj. Glenn Kozelka, executive officer for the 2nd battalion, 3rd brigade combat team of the 25th Infantry Division.

Security had deteriorated rapidly after US forces departed. Within weeks, the Afghan battalion commander at Nangalam could not safely get to meetings in a Asadabad, Kunar’s bustling capital 25 miles east. The Taliban overran and occupied the capital of a nearby district center.

At the same time, insurgents routinely attacked Afghan National Army (ANA) patrol routes. By May, the Afghan commander stationed at Nangalam had abandoned the outpost, along with his top staff.

“It was better before” the US left, says Afghan commander Col. Adam Khan Matin. “When the coalition forces left, the [insurgent] training camps came back.”

Stopping for a moment for some observations on insurgent bases, U.S. commanders (specifically, McChrystal and his staff) might have argued for a population-centric approach to counterinsurgency, but regular readers know that I didn’t.  Continuing with the CSM article.

Lt. Col. Colin Tuley, the top US commander at Nangalam, grappled with how to address the regression. His battalion now had responsibility for an area that had previously needed two. His 800-plus soldiers were spread out across multiple forward operating bases and command posts.

Simply holding that ground would be challenge enough. After evaluating the capabilities of the ANA at Nangalam, Col. Tuley came to a conclusion. “We needed to do something else.”

In his idea is a hope central to the American exit strategy: If US troops focused more intently on creating a workable partnership with the Afghans, perhaps the mentoring could make up for the diminished number of US troops and ensure that a decade’s worth of US battles are for not for naught.

So began what Tuley calls a “permanent embedded partnership” – or PEP – an experiment that could hold lessons for the American war effort in Afghanistan.

The PEP will revolve around 40 US troops at Nangalam working with multiple companies of the Afghan Army. Most immediately, with a stronger base here, Tuley hopes US forces “can come in and do operations as necessary,” allowing NATO to extend its reach farther into the valley. Perhaps more long-term, he adds, the PEP “is a great kind of interim phase to get the ANA to where [the transition is] not as abrupt.”

The US platoon will run workshops on basics from marksmanship to first aid – lessons that have been taught before, Tuley acknowledges, but bear repeating.

“If you think about it, this [Afghan commander at Nangalam] never had a partnership, Tuley adds. “It was. ‘Here’s your battlespace.’ ”

The first order of business – and lesson for Afghan commanders – is to bolster base defenses. When the US was here, Nangalam had early-attack warning systems, including towers with cameras that sent images to screens in a base defense center, which allowed troops to monitor the perimeter.

When Tuley returned, no vestige of those defenses remained. “The security definitely wasn’t at the level that I would ever feel too comfortable having my soldiers out there,” he says.

In response, he has assigned a US platoon of about 30 soldiers to patrol the surrounding area, and he stationed a single US soldier with night-vision goggles at each Afghan guard post along the perimeter of the base.

Beyond base defenses, Tuley must help the Afghans carry out their own missions more effectively.

The PEP’s first big test: A humanitarian mission into one of the more isolated and government-averse areas of the country.

PEP teams.  It’s permanent now, except that it’s not.  U.S. troops will be leaving, and leaving the ANA in a lurch without the cultural framework, logistical know-how, equipment or honesty to run an army.  And they don’t understand force protection.  Furthermore, historically, only Western armies can field high quality NCOs.  And it doesn’t really produce much confidence that a humanitarian mission is the first really big test of the ANA.  During the battle of Kamdesh at COP Keating, ANA soldiers were found curled up in fetal positions in bed under blankets.  We’ve got larger problems than whether the ANA can pull off humanitarian missions.  Continuing.

Afghans also lack equipment, including night-vision goggles. “That’s a pretty critical piece of equipment to provide security,” says Tuley. US officials worry, however, that if they give night-vision goggles to the Afghans, particularly with ANA attrition rates remaining high, they could fall into insurgents’ hands.

Yes, expensive equipment will end up in enemy hands.  Said one ANA soldier about his conditions, “Some of the guys wear sandals at the border because their boots have been taken by officers who sell them.”

Finally, the most important part of the report.

For now … the US troop presence at Nangalam is likely only to increase.

As the first week of partnership at Nangalam winds to a close, Tuley is increasingly convinced that rather than the 40-plus soldiers currently taking part in the PEP, he will need closer to 200.

He knows, too, that this plan comes with opportunity costs. With US forces set to draw down across Afghanistan, he can only bolster the American presence at Nangalam by closing a combat outpost or a forward operating base.

After the PEP’s first big mission, though, he believes that expanding US forces here is key to US troops being able to one day go home for good.

This is important enough to bear repeating.  He needs more troops (or a higher ratio of U.S. forces to ANA).  The only way he can accomplish that is to close COPs or FOBs.  I repeat.  Marines to Kunar.

COP Honaker Miracle in Kunar

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 1 month ago

While the President and generals debate, the grunts still do the heavy work in the South (Marines in Now Zad, Marjah, Sangin and other locales), and remote outposts in the East.  USA Today has a must read on COP Honaker Miracle in the Kunar Province that gives us a view to the still salient importance of chasing the enemy into his sanctuaries.

COMBAT OUTPOST HONAKER MIRACLE, Kunar province, Afghanistan — Sgt. Lawrence Teza was in his barracks when the door was ripped open by an explosion, spraying his left side with shrapnel and breaking his hand.

“When the bombing started I was counting all my men … then wham!” he recalled from his hospital bed hours later.

Teza, along with Spc. Mathew Standford, who was peppered with shards from the metal door, joined the growing ranks of the wounded at this remote combat outpost in Afghanistan’s restive Pech River Valley in Kunar province, which borders Pakistan.

Since deploying in late April to this small base nestled among jagged mountains, small farms and mud-brick villages, about 10% of the U.S. troops here have been injured by Taliban mortars, small-arms fire and improvised explosive devices.

“We’ve had a lot of guys get hurt, but we have a tough AO (area of operations),” said Capt. Brian Kalaher, commander of the outpost, which was named after two servicemembers killed in action.

Much of the attention over the past year has been on southern Afghanistan, where thousands of U.S. reinforcements have been deployed and have pushed the Taliban from former strongholds in a visible effort to regain the momentum.

Here in the Pech Valley, U.S. and Afghan forces are fighting an “economy of force” mission, holding the line against the Taliban while building the capability of Afghan security forces.

It’s part of a broad coalition strategy to concentrate forces in main population centers and to scale back in remote areas. Until recently, Combat Outpost Honaker Miracle was one of four U.S. bases along the Pech, a region that was previously occupied by a battalion, Kalaher said. Battalions are typically 600 to 700 troops. Over the winter, several of the bases were turned over to the Afghan army and another U.S. position — Combat Outpost Michigan — was closed and razed.

In previous years even smaller bases were scattered deeper in remote valleys off the Pech.

The troops here at Honaker Miracle have received a regular barrage of attacks, more than a dozen in less than two months, some lasting several hours.

During one attack, a mortar round hit a crane used to tow disabled armored vehicles and set it ablaze, reducing the vital piece of equipment to a charred hulk.

“They tested us during the first part of the deployment, a lot in May,” said Kalaher from his office where an all-white Taliban flag, removed from a nearby mountainside, hangs from the ceiling. “We set a precedent that we are not afraid to shoot back.”

Following the recent attack injuring Teza and Standford, airstrikes obliterated a nearby fighting position, reportedly killing at least two Taliban fighters.

Plenty of hidden crevices and caves dotting the mountains make effective retaliation difficult. The hardscrabble terrain and a largely unseen enemy fighting from mountainside positions makes for a daunting mission, in general.

“When we first got here it was night, so we couldn’t see what was around us,” said Cpl. Ian Beard, who was injured during the first few weeks of their deployment, taking shrapnel to his arm, leg and his lip. “When we woke up the next morning and saw all the mountains around us, it was intimidating. You feel like people (in the mountains) are looking at you all the time.”

The proximity of enclaves of Afghans surrounding the outpost adds to the difficulty. The prospect of civilian casualties weighs heavily on soldiers trying to win over a populace that is largely on the fence in their loyalties.

Platoons of troops regularly patrol nearby villages on foot and interact with the local populace in hopes of winning their trust and gaining intelligence on Taliban movements in the area.

According to local leaders, the Taliban has set up impromptu checkpoints along the roadways and even donned Afghan soldier and police uniforms to “rough up the locals,” Lt. Matt Snyder said.

Haji Ajab Khan, district sub-governor, claimed that the residents of the Pech oppose the Taliban “but can’t do anything to stop them.”

I submit the following.  First, I am sick of hearing about “economy of force” efforts.  Second, not only should these boys not have been afraid to shoot, they shouldn’t have been afraid to chase the enemy into the hills.  Third, winning the population with more patrols should take on secondary or tertiary importance to killing the Taliban.  Fourth, if the Taliban feel the freedom of movement to set up checkpoints, we are losing.  Bring in more troops and chase them and kill them … all of them.  No negotiations.  Sit snipers in the hills waiting for the checkpoints, and then rain death from above when the try to bully the population.  They must all die.

Taliban: One Day We Will Reach The Gates Of America

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

AlJazeera has an interesting video of Taliban fighters taking over bases abandoned by U.S. troops in the Pech Valley.  This is a well rehearsed theme here at TCJ.  What’s interesting about this report is what one Taliban fighter says.

Oops.  Uh oh!  “Our jihad against American troops will continue and one day we will reach the gates of America.”  Oops.  This dude didn’t follow the script.  You know.  The script that goes “We are the Taliban and you can negotiate with us if you’ll only leave Afghanistan because we aren’t al Qaeda, are interested only in local governance and an Islamic Afghanistan, and aren’t concerned with global issues.”  Yea, that script.  That’s the one.

I guess he has learned that global stuff from his ten years of exposure to al Qaeda fighters and the fact that they swim in the same waters.  I guess this also rather calls out our own narrative on the same subject as rather stupid.  Yes, I’m sure that it does.

Prior: Al Qaeda Makes a Comeback in the Pech Valley

Al Qaeda Makes a Comback in the Pech Valley

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

From The Wall Street Journal:

In late September, U.S. fighter jets streaked over the cedar-studded slopes of Korengal, the so-called Valley of Death, to strike a target that hadn’t been seen for years in Afghanistan: an al Qaeda training camp.

Among the dozens of Arabs killed that day, the U.S.-led coalition said, were two senior al Qaeda members, one Saudi and the other Kuwaiti. Another casualty of the bombing, according to Saudi media and jihadi websites, was one of Saudi Arabia’s most wanted militants. The men had come to Afghanistan to impart their skills to a new generation of Afghan and foreign fighters.

Even though the strike was successful, the very fact that it had to be carried out represents a troubling shift in the war. Nine years after a U.S.-led invasion routed almost all of al Qaeda’s surviving militants in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden’s network is gradually returning.

Over the past six to eight months, al Qaeda has begun setting up training camps, hideouts and operations bases in the remote mountains along Afghanistan’s northeastern border with Pakistan, some U.S., Afghan and Taliban officials say. The stepped-up infiltration followed a U.S. pullback from large swatches of the region starting 18 months ago. The areas were deemed strategically irrelevant and left to Afghanistan’s uneven security forces, and in some parts, abandoned entirely.

Strategically irrelevant to the campaign planners who focused their efforts on population-centric counterinsurgency and thus withdrew troops to redeploy in larger population centers.  Not strategically irrelevant to me.  Google the phrase Abandoning the Pech and see where TCJ lies in authority.  I have supplied a surrogate conversation between flag officers when AQ returns to the Pech (which would be  now), and argued that without hitting the Taliban’s recruiting grounds, fund raising and revenue development, training grounds, and logistical supply lines, the campaign cannot be won.  I have pleaded that we not abandon the chase, and that we kill every last Taliban.  Campaign management and I just disagree.

Continuing with the article:

American commanders have argued that the U.S. military presence in the remote valleys was the main reason why locals joined the Taliban. Once American soldiers left, they predicted, the Taliban would go, too. Instead, the Taliban have stayed put, a senior U.S. military officer said, and “al Qaeda is coming back.”

No, American commanders didn’t really believe that.  They fabricated the only narrative available at the time that had any hope of convincing the administration that the strategy would work.  As I pointed out, this argument was similar to the one deployed by the British to justify their retreat from Basra.  Continuing:

The militant group’s effort to re-establish bases in northeastern Afghanistan is distressing for several reasons. Unlike the Taliban, which is seen as a mostly local threat, al Qaeda is actively trying to strike targets in the West. Eliminating its ability to do so from bases in Afghanistan has always been the U.S.’s primary war goal and the motive behind fighting the Taliban, which gave al Qaeda a relatively free hand to operate when it ruled the country. The return also undermines U.S. hopes that last year’s troop surge would beat the Taliban badly enough to bring them to the negotiating table—and pressure them to break ties with al Qaeda. More than a year into the surge, those ties appear to be strong.

To counter the return, the coalition is making quick incursions by regular forces into infiltrated valleys—”mowing the grass,” according to one U.S. general. It is also running clandestine raids by Special Operations Forces, who helped scout out the location of the Korengal strike, U.S. officials said.

[ ... ]

Last year’s surge of 30,000 U.S. forces, authorized by President Barack Obama, aimed to inflict enough pain on the Taliban that they would negotiate a peace settlement on terms acceptable to the West. Coalition commanders and civilian officials were initially bullish about the new strategy’s chances, seizing on reports from Taliban detainees that a “wedge” was developing between al Qaeda and midlevel insurgent commanders. The insurgent leaders were said to be tired of fighting and increasingly resentful of what they considered the Arab group’s meddling in their fight.

The reappearance of al Qaeda fighters operating in Afghanistan undercuts those reports from detainees. “There are still ties up and down the networks…from the senior leadership to the ground level,” said a U.S. civilian official, citing classified intelligence.

Interviews with several Taliban commanders bear out that assessment. The commanders say the al Qaeda facilities in northeastern Afghanistan are tightly tied to the Afghan Taliban leadership. “In these bases, fighters from around the world get training. We are training suicide bombers, [improvised explosive device] experts and guerrilla fighters,” said an insurgent commander in Nuristan who goes by the nom de guerre Agha Saib and who was reached by telephone.

Of course the ties are still strong.  I pointed out one and a half years ago that the ideological ties were powerful.

… they have evolved into a much more radical organization than the original Taliban bent on global engagement, what Nicholas Schmidle calls the Next-Gen Taliban. The TTP shout to passersby in Khyber “We are Taliban! We are mujahedin! “We are al-Qaida!”  There is no distinction.  A Pakistan interior ministry official has even said that the TTP and al Qaeda are one and the same.

And topping off this disturbing report is the most disarming quote of all.

The problem, say officials, is that JSOC, with a global counterterrorism mission that gives it responsibility for strikes in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and other trouble spots, is already stretched thin. Relying on it to police Afghanistan’s hinterlands as American forces pull out may be unrealistic, some officials said.

“We do not have an intelligence problem. We have a capacity problem. We generally know the places they are, how they are operating,” said the senior U.S. military official, speaking of al Qaeda. The problem “is our ability to get there and do something.”

As I have pointed out for years, the high value target program is a failure.  It won’t work.  Nor will swooping in with SOF troopers to conduct raids in the middle of the night based on poor intelligence and no local “atmospherics” whatsoever (no atmospherics because there are no U.S. troops there).  Of course we have a capacity problem.  Kinetics needs to be conducted by everyone, and everyone needs to be off of FOBs, living among the locals, including SOF troopers.  We have discussed this at great length.

But the same, tired, worn out paradigms of SOF troopers conducing raids, general purpose forces serving as policemen, most of the troops tied to huge bases, and begging the criminals Hamid and Wali Karzai to go groovy on us are still employed, hoping that good governance can turn Afghanistan into Shangri La.

But it isn’t working, and AQ is returning to the Hindu Kush.  Can we jettison the failed strategy in time?

Prior:

Taliban Massing of Forces category

Abandoning the Pech Valley Part III

Abandoning the Pech Valley Part II

Abandoning the Pech Valley

Korengal Abandoned, Pech River Valley Still Problematic

Fighting in Barawala Kalet

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

From an ABC News Report:

This appears to be in Kunar near the Pech Valley.  We seem to be of two minds, with our abandonment of the Pech Valley, and our simultaneous boasting of clearing operations (thanks to reader Šťoural for the reference).  We want to turn over FOB Blessing to the ANA, but send in U.S. troops because they can’t clear insurgents.  There is a paradox in the narrative because there is a paradox on the ground, and there is a paradox on the ground because there is a paradox in the strategy.

Regular readers know exactly where I stand.  We chase the insurgents into their safe havens, kill them and stay there to prevent their return.  We do it with enough troops to accomplish the objective, and we don’t pretend that bringing governance will cause the Taliban to cease and desist from their nefarious aims.  Then we send more troops to chase the ones who remain alive into their safe havens, and we kill them.  We don’t capture them because that’s ineffectual in counterinsurgency, everywhere and every time it has been tried.  We kill them – all of them.

But our strategy just hasn’t matured enough to know what our aim is.  I’ve decided on a strategy – and ISAF management hasn’t.  I may be wrong, but at least I’ve decided.

Prior: See Taliban Massing of Forces Part III for smart, knowledgeable and insightful comments from my faithful readers (some of who have been in the Kunar Province).  I am truly thankful for them.  They make this site worth reading, and certainly my prose does not.

Taliban Massing of Forces Part III

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

The Waygal district in Nuristan has been seized by Taliban forces.

The Taliban seized control of a district in eastern Nuristan Province on Tuesday, chasing the governor and the police from the district capital, according to both Afghan officials and a spokesman for the Taliban.

It was the second Taliban success in recent days in the general area of the strategic Pech Valley, which American troops are in the process of withdrawing from and turning over to Afghan authorities.

“The white flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is flying over the Want district center, while some policemen of the puppet administration flee toward the provincial capital after slight resistance,” said the Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, in a statement to news organizations circulated by e-mail. He was referring to the district more commonly known as Waygal.

The Nuristan Province police commander, Gen. Shams-ul-Rahman Zahid, confirmed that the police had fled their barracks and district government buildings in town of Waygal, the capital of Waygal district, leaving the Taliban in what he said was temporary control of the district. The district governor, Mulavi Zia-ul-Rahman, was also said to have fled.

“Police forces have tactically withdrawn from the district center early this morning about 5 a.m. following harsh fighting and due to lack of ammunition, and to avoid civilian casualties,” General Zahid said in a telephone interview.

“We are planning a counterattack to retake the district,” he said. “We will reinforce and retake the district soon from the insurgents.”

On Saturday, 40 police recruits had been returning to their homes, also in Waygal district, when they were kidnapped by Taliban insurgents as they crossed through Capa Dara district in the Pech Valley area, which is in Kunar Province close to the Nuristan border.

Analysis & Commentary

It is reported that the Taliban massed forces of up to 300 fighters.  I had previously reported that there have been at least eight instances of massing of forces against coalition troops.

In Taliban Tactics: Massing of Troops, I detailed no less than six instances of Taliban forces massing from 100 to 400 troops for engagements (approximately half-Battalion), including at the fated Battle of Wanat.  The Battle of Kamdesh is a seventh instance of massing of forces, in this case up to 300 troops.

The Germans have experienced yet another example.  “Germany says three of its soldiers were killed and five severely wounded in heavy fighting with Taliban insurgents today in northern Afghanistan.

The German military said the detachment was patrolling near Chahar Dara, southwest of the city of Konduz, when it was attacked by militants.

District government chief Abdul Wahid Omar Khil estimated there were about 200 Taliban fighters involved in the attack.”

This report from Waygal is no less than the ninth report of massing of forces of up to 300 fighters.  It is noteworthy that the insurgents were facing only Afghan National Security Forces and not U.S. troops, and it’s equally noteworthy that U.S. forces at Kamdesh and Wanat were never overrun.  But the tactic remains the same.  Taliban fighters like to fight asymmetrically by overpowering their foe.  They want a ten to one troop ratio or they won’t face down our forces in classical battle – or it would seem in this case, neither will they face down the ANP.

It’s also noteworthy that this is generally in the region of the Pech Valley, something that only The New York Times article mentions.  We are paying a high price for our abandonment of the Pech Valley, as the insurgents have safe haven, human terrain for recruitment, an area for R&R, and safe passage from one region to another.

Prior:

Taliban Massing of Forces category

Abandoning the Pech Valley Part III

Abandoning the Pech Valley Part II

Abandoning the Pech Valley

Korengal Abandoned, Pech River Valley Still Problematic

Population-Centric Counterinsurgency: Abandoning the Pech Valley Part III

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 4 months ago

The ISAF has released a statement on “repositioning” troops from the Pech Valley:

Coalition forces are repositioning from the Pech Valley to locations along Highway 7 to block insurgent infiltration along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

“Afghan forces will take the lead in the Pech Valley,” said German Army Gen. Josef Blotz, spokesman, International Security Assistance Force Headquarters, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, during a weekly update.

Repositioning forces is a normal task for military operations as new strategies and counter-strategies are enacted to win the war. The repositioning of coalition forces also shows an increase in the abilities of Afghan National Security Forces.

“Afghan Security Forces are able to take responsibility of Pech Valley,” Blotz continued. “This is testimony to our confidence.” Blotz highlighted that while the numbers of ANSF have increased, their skill and abilities have also improved.

C. J. Chivers also discusses this at The New York Times.

After years of fighting for control of a prominent valley in the rugged mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the United States military has begun to pull back most of its forces from ground it once insisted was central to the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

The withdrawal from the Pech Valley, a remote region in Kunar Province, formally began on Feb. 15. The military projects that it will last about two months, part of a shift of Western forces to the province’s more populated areas. Afghan units will remain in the valley, a test of their military readiness.

While American officials say the withdrawal matches the latest counterinsurgency doctrine’s emphasis on protecting Afghan civilians, Afghan officials worry that the shift of troops amounts to an abandonment of territory where multiple insurgent groups are well established, an area that Afghans fear they may not be ready to defend on their own.

And it is an emotional issue for American troops, who fear that their service and sacrifices could be squandered. At least 103 American soldiers have died in or near the valley’s maze of steep gullies and soaring peaks, according to a count by The New York Times, and many times more have been wounded, often severely.

Military officials say they are sensitive to those perceptions. “People say, ‘You are coming out of the Pech’; I prefer to look at it as realigning to provide better security for the Afghan people,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander for eastern Afghanistan. “I don’t want the impression we’re abandoning the Pech.”

Abandoning the Pech?  Who said anything about abandoning the Pech?  This is just a “repositioning” of assets.  But wait.  The ANSF, despite the high praise from the ISAF, doubts their ability to hold the Pech.  They don’t appear too keen on the idea of going it alone in the Pech River Valley, and they shouldn’t be after watching the Taliban go after the outposts in Eastern Afghanistan such as at Wanat and Kamdesh.

They probably know that as soon as they are alone in the Pech, the Haqqani network will mass forces up to 200 or 300 fighters to go against the ANSF, and while the U.S. troops weren’t overrun at Wanat and Kamdesh, the ANSF will be in short order.  After all, we have seen what they do when left alone in large scale, high stakes, high profile operations.

And then there will be the investigations, maybe beginning something like this:

Flag officer A: So did we abandon the Pech Valley?

Flag Officer B: No sir, we repositioned to large population centers so that our operations comport with the doctrines of population-centric COIN.

Flag Officer A: So there isn’t any population in the Pech Valley?

Flag Officer B: Not nearly like in Kandahar, Jalalabad or Kabul.

Flag Officer A: So why did we leave the ANSF there if the population isn’t there?

Flag Officer B: Well, we thought it might be important to consider the fact that the insurgency would have safe haven in Pech and all along the Hindu Kush if we didn’t have troops there, and so we decided to …

Flag Officer A, interrupting: What do you mean insurgency and safe haven?  I thought you said the doctrines of population-centric counterinsurgency informed your judgment?  What difference does it make about the fighters if we protect the population?  Isn’t that our doctrine now?

Flag Officer B: Well, yes sir, but … um … you see, we thought that, um …

And I would love to be a fly on the wall for the rest of that conversation.  Can we put it on YouTube?

Prior:

Korengal Abandoned, Pech River Valley Still Problematic

Abandoning the Pech Valley

Abandoning the Pech Valley Part II

Abandoning the Pech Valley Part II

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 5 months ago

In Abandoning the Pech Valley Operator Dan of This Ain’t Hell said:

Surrendering ground and outposts provides a propaganda victory for the Taliban. In conventional military terms, it provides them terrain from which they can rest, refit, and launch attacks. First it was the Korengal, now its the Pech, and next they will be knocking on the door of Abad and then Kunar is truly lost.

Remember, the Muj took control of the Eastern Provinces first and eventually used them to attack Kabul in the early 1990s’ against the Afghan Communists. A few of them (most of the Muj from then actually have aligned with us) have done this before.

And Dirty Mick, who has been there before, said:

I’m curious if 1/327 Battalion commander has a short memory. I was in Kunar when 2/12 infantry left the Korengal last April/May during the spring offensive when 1st and 2nd Battalion 327 took over Kunar. We got slammed all summer. The Taliban took it as a victory and scores of soldiers were killed and wounded during the summer. So what happens if we pull out of the Pech. Well I can gaurentee it will be another victory for the Taliban and every COP south of Asadabad will get attacked more frequently (fortress, joyce, penich, and badel already get attacked often) and it will eventually flow into nangahar province (where Jbad is).

By his rational if the insurgents in Sadr City, Mosul, Baghdad, Tal Afar, Ramadi, and Fallujah didn’t want us there then I guess we should have pulled out and left. By his way of thinking we should have never done the surge in Iraq in 2007. In order to Achieve Victory (yes I said it) we need to be aggressive and kill Taliban wherever they hide and lurk. It amazes me with these senior officers in the Army and Marine Corp it’s like they’re constantly reinventing the wheel or discovering fire for the first time. Disgraceful.

Just to pile disgrace on top of disgrace, reporter Harry Sanna who was embedded with the 101st Airborne Division, gives us this perspective based on his recent time there.

“Many parts of the east are still highly unstable. In the Pech Valley, it’s not uncommon for firefights between the U.S. soldiers and insurgent groups to break out five or six times a day. If they go ahead with their planned withdrawal from area, there are obvious ramifications that must be addressed. Namely, are the Afghan forces ready to take over security and, if not, who will step into the power vacuum created?

“I suppose what struck me the most from my time in Kunar was the widespread lack of knowledge as to what outcomes the withdrawal would create. Many Afghan soldiers expressed skepticism in their own army’s ability to hold the ground without international assistance. Many locals, including the scores of contractors hired from nearby villages that work on U.S. bases, did not know what to expect after foreigners left the valley. Anxiety is running fairly high, that much is obvious,” he said.

Well, Harry, here’s the deal.  We won’t have to wait until 2014 to find out what will happen to the Pech Valley when we withdraw.  In a tip of the hat to the doctrines of population-centric counterinsurgency, we intend to leave it well before then and head for the cities, just like the Russians did.

Here is a tip for future reading, study and, well, let’s be frank – wading through the misdirects that both the MSM and military PR sends your way.  When you hear the reflexive, tired, worn out mantra that we are having difficulty defeating the Taliban and those forces aligned with AQ because Pakistan simply won’t go into their safe havens and root them out, this is a nothing but a magic trick, a sleight of hand, a smoke screen, a ruse.  The issue is fake.  It’s a well-designed farce.

Oh, to be sure, the U.S. would indeed like for the Pakistanis to go kill all of the Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban and AQ affiliated groups so that we don’t have to deal with them in Afghanistan.  But we have the ideal chance to address the problem head on in the Pech Valley and other areas near the AfPak border – that Durand line that exists only as a figment of our imaginations.  Essentially, much of the Hindu Kush is available for us to do the same thing we want Pakistan to do, and in fact, if we began actually doing this, Pakistan might be persuaded to allow readier access to Pakistani soil (once they see we are serious about the campaign).

Instead of going after them in their safe havens, we want to focus on the population centers, set up governance, and assume that the criminals and thugs we leave in charge will be a better choice to the people than aligning themselves with the Taliban.  How’s that plan going?

Abandoning the Pech Valley

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 6 months ago

Regular readers know my position on abandoning the Pech River Valley in Afghanistan, and chasing the insurgents into their havens to kill them, so there is no need to rehearse that issue.  Now comes James Foley’s report on the Pech River Valley area.  As an aside, Jim has done and is doing some of the best reporting coming out of Afghanistan.  I have exchanged mail with Jim, and find him to be not only learned about the situation in Afghanistan, but friendly and open minded as well.  Any time you can catch his reporting you should do so.  You will be richer for it.  Now for his report.

Did you catch Lt. Col. Joe Ryan’s views on our presence in the Pech Valley?  Our presence helps the insurgency by giving them an enemy to fight.  Do regular readers remember what other situations we have discussed where the same claim was made?

Think for a moment.  Who else regurgitated these talking points?  What army was it, and where were they located?  Think hard.

For the astute readers, you’re right.  The British failure in Basra is storied, and covered in painful, lengthy, gory detail here at The Captain’s Journal.  Recall their final justification for retreat (with flags waving proudly)?  It was this:

Rather than being – as the anti-war brigade claimed – a humiliating retreat, the tactical withdrawal from Saddam’s old summer palace on the banks of the Shatt al-Arab was undertaken on the basis that the continuing presence of British troops was exacerbating, rather than helping, the local security situation.

Goodness yes.  Best to let the Sadrists take full control of things, executing whomever they wish, destroying infrastructure, and generally wreaking havoc until the ISF and U.S. forces finally wrested control of Basra from them with stiff-armed kinetics.  At least we aren’t being shot at.  The brutish Yankees are doing the labor.  Time to go home.

We now sound like the British in Basra – the talk is now about full-on retreat.  The end cannot be far off.


26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (675)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (28)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (6)
Ammunition (12)
Animals in War (4)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
AR-15s (34)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (34)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (24)
Australian Army (5)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (43)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (15)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (4)
Body Armor (16)
Books (2)
Border War (6)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (25)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (1)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
CENTCOM (7)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (5)
CIA (12)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (214)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (113)
Department of Homeland Security (9)
Disaster Preparedness (2)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (5)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (1)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (1)
Featured (159)
Federal Firearms Laws (14)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (238)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (14)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (38)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
GITMO (2)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (185)
Guns (493)
Guns In National Parks (2)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
HAMAS (7)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (7)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (11)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (13)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (27)
India (10)
Infantry (3)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (22)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (377)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (33)
Islamists (37)
Israel (17)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (70)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (8)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (2)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (2)
Lawfare (6)
Leadership (5)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (1)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (11)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (7)
Logistics (46)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (229)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
MEDEVAC (2)
Media (22)
Memorial Day (2)
Mexican Cartels (20)
Mexico (21)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (3)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (3)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (9)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (16)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (13)
NATO (15)
Navy (19)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (1)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (53)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (203)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (16)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Police (98)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (131)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (70)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (73)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (27)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (133)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (22)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (17)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Survival (9)
SWAT Raids (46)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (1)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (16)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (86)
Thanksgiving (4)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (10)
TSA Ineptitude (10)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (4)
U.S. Border Security (11)
U.S. Sovereignty (13)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (2)
Uncategorized (38)
Universal Background Check (2)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (2)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (210)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (2)
War Reporting (17)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (5)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (57)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (11)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2014 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.