Irrational Christian Bias Against Guns, Violence And Self Defense

Herschel Smith · 22 May 2016 · 29 Comments

Several examples of Christians opposing all violence and means of self defense have been in the news lately, and I can't deal with all such examples.  But three particular examples come to mind, and I first want to show you one example from Mr. Robert Schenck in a ridiculously titled article, Christ or a Glock. "Well, first of all you're making an immediate decision that if someone invades your home, they are going to die," Rev. Schenck replied. "So you are ready to kill another human being…… [read more]

Herschel Smith to Markos Moulitsas: I’m Here to Help, Dude

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago
from Herschel Smith
date Thu, May 6, 2010 at 11:23 PM
subject Assistance


Regarding this:

Truth is the first casualty of Kos

I had initially taken some degree of pleasure and humor in reading the exchange.  But then I felt some degree of guilt.  I am certain that you don’t actually intend to come off as a thirteen year old girl hysterically text-messaging her enemies with run-on sentences.  I am certain that you wish to be seen as less effeminate and much more manly than this, but perhaps don’t know how.

Please allow me to assist you.  I am here to help.  I can hook you up with some hard core manual labor: ditch digging, shoveling gravel, bailing hay, etc.  I can even get you hooked up with training stud horses and ‘coon dogs.  Stud quarter horses are quite a handful when trying to break them, especially in the warm weather.  And there is nothing better than watching a ‘coon dog bite the eyeballs out of a Raccoon – or, watching the dog go limping away from being torn to shreds by the ‘coon.

I think you will feel much more manly after doing activities such as this.  Let me know when you want to come down and hang out.  BTW, I am assuming that at least right now you would disagree with my brand of counterinsurgency.

What we must do to win Kandahar

Maybe after we go ‘coon hunting you will see things my way.

Very Warmest Regards,

Herschel Smith

The Captain’s Journal

Incomplete State Department Foreign Terrorist Organization List

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

Via Andy McCarthy, the State Department Foreign Terrorist Organization list is incomplete, and should include the Taliban.  It currently includes:

  1. Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
  2. Abu Sayyaf Group
  3. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
  4. Al-Shabaab
  5. Ansar al-Islam
  6. Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
  7. Asbat al-Ansar
  8. Aum Shinrikyo
  9. Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
  10. Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA)
  11. Continuity Irish Republican Army
  12. Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group)
  13. HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)
  14. Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami/Bangladesh (HUJI-B)
  15. Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
  16. Hizballah (Party of God)
  17. Islamic Jihad Group
  18. Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
  19. Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) (Army of Mohammed)
  20. Jemaah Islamiya organization (JI)
  21. Kahane Chai (Kach)
  22. Kata’ib Hizballah
  23. Kongra-Gel (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, KADEK)
  24. Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LT) (Army of the Righteous)
  25. Lashkar i Jhangvi
  26. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
  27. Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)
  28. Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM)
  29. Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK)
  30. National Liberation Army (ELN)
  31. Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
  32. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
  33. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLF)
  34. PFLP-General Command (PFLP-GC)
  35. Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (QJBR) (al-Qaida in Iraq) (formerly Jama’at al-Tawhid wa’al-Jihad, JTJ, al-Zarqawi Network)
  36. al-Qa’ida
  37. al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  38. al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (formerly GSPC)
  39. Real IRA
  40. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
  41. Revolutionary Organization 17 November
  42. Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)
  43. Revolutionary Struggle
  44. Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, SL)
  45. United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)

Yes, it should include the Tehrik-i-Taliban, the Afghan Taliban, Ansar al-Sunna (which is different than Ansar al-Islam), the Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (whom we have been fighting in Iraq for eight years now), and the Quds Force (if they called out the IRG there may be no reason to call Quds out separately).  In any case, this list is horribly incomplete.  The State Department is it’s own worst enemy, and the biggest impediment to taking them seriously.

Send Andrew Lubin Back to Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

I have looked into embedding as an independent journalist, but for those who have a mortgage and children in college, as Bill Ardolino and Michael Totten told me once, it’s financially always a losing proposition to embed.  Always.  When I had a button for donations on the web site I didn’t receive a single penny.  But Andrew Lubin is braving the odds again.  I received this from him.

I’m looking to raise money to fund a trip (my 5th) to Afghanistan. I’m an author, journalist, and independent foreign correspondent who writes on current events, which in the last few years has brought me to Beirut, Iraq (4 times), GTMO, Afghanistan (4 times), and I’ve recently returned from Haiti.

I’ve already been accepted to embed with the 1st MEF (Marine Expeditionary Force) Fwd to write a “boots-on-the-ground” series – they’ll be pushing me out into Helmand-Nimroz-Farah Provinces where are young Marines will be located.

This is a critical time in the war. President Obama has tripled American troop strength, most of it Marine, and the troops are fighting with and training Afghan forces as well as dealing with Afghan leaders. It’s important to chronicle and document how our troops are performing.

With my prior embed experience, I’ll be out on the front lines as our Marines deal with Taliban, locals, and Afghan government officials. My writing is totally non-political. I’ll be writing two to three stories weekly, plus gathering info for a piece on U.S. military counterinsurgency tactics.

Funds are needed for round-trip airfare and miscellaneous expenses in Afghanistan.

Length of the embed is approximately six weeks — mid-May through the end of June. I already own my own flak, kevlar, boondockers, and other equipment.

But the first step is getting there, and corporate and other sponsorship has dried up. I need your help in traveling to Afghanistan in order to document what our brave young men and women are doing!

Send Andrew Back to Afghanistan

Please click on the above link to contribute! And feel welcome to email me with any questions or comments you might have at

Thank you for your support!!

Andrew is a top notch journalist.  Donate if you can.

SECDEF Gates on the Navy and Marines

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

Before we address the issue of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ position on the sea services, let’s debunk the mythical notion that either the military or the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan is bankrupting the country (or even demanding the lion’s share of money).  From CATO (h/t Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit).

That’s quite enough said about that.  On to the sea services.

“Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040,” Gates said. But a look at the facts is warranted, he added. The United States now has 11 large, nuclear-powered carriers, and there is nothing comparable anywhere else in the world.

“The U.S. Navy has 10 large-deck amphibious ships that can operate as sea bases for helicopters and vertical-takeoff jets,” he said. “No other navy has more than three, and all of those navies belong to allies or friends.”

The U.S. Navy can carry twice as many aircraft at sea as the rest of the world combined, Gates said. Under the sea, he told the group, the United States has 57 nuclear-powered attack and cruise-missile submarines – more than the rest of the world combined, and 79 Aegis-equipped surface ships that carry about 8,000 vertical-launch missile cells.

“In terms of total-missile firepower, the U.S. arguably outmatches the next 20 largest navies,” Gates said. “All told, the displacement of the U.S. battle fleet – a proxy for overall fleet capabilities – exceeds, by one recent estimate, at least the next 13 navies combined, of which 11 are our allies or partners.”

The United States must be able to project power overseas, Gates said. “But, consider the massive overmatch the U.S. already enjoys,” he added. “Consider, too, the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries. Do we really need 11 carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?”

The Marine Corps is now 202,000 strong. It is the largest force of its type in the world, and exceeds in size most nations’ armies. Between the world wars, the Marine Corps developed amphibious warfare doctrine and used it to great effect against the Japanese during World War II. Whether that capability still is needed, however, is worthy of thought, the secretary said.

“We have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious landing again – especially as advances in anti-ship systems keep pushing the potential launch point further from shore,” Gates said. “On a more basic level, in the 21st century, what kind of amphibious capability do we really need to deal with the most likely scenarios, and then how much?”

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) will take a particularly tough beating over the course of the next several months and years, but the Marines have rolled out their case.

The Marine Corps unveiled its new $13 billion landing-craft program on Tuesday, a day after Defense Secretary Robert Gates questioned the Pentagon’s need for it …

“Secretary Gates has placed his marker, and he’s not in favor of continuing the program,” said Dakota Wood, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a retired Marine officer. “The Marine Corps is going to have to come up with a whale of a rationale to convince him otherwise.”

The need, the Marines say, stems from their need to replace its Nixon-era Amphibious Assault Vehicles. The new vehicle will allow Marines to land on a hostile shore, a capability needed, for example, in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Somalia in the 1990s and civilians from Lebanon in 2006, said Lt. Gen. George Flynn, who leads the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. The amphibious capability also forces adversaries to undertake “costly defensive measures,” Flynn said.

Analysis & Commentary

The issue of expense of military hardware, systems and size has nothing to do with overspending.  It pertains to the relative commitment of this particular administration to national defense as opposed to government-run, government-administered programs and subsidies.  We have the economy to support an even larger military than we currently have.  What we don’t have is the national will.

Aircraft carriers, as much or more than any other military hardware, is a way of projecting power across the globe.  My support of them is well known, and my support for the F-22 program has been made clear.  In fact, I have proposed an increase rather than a decrease in Carrier battle groups.  The size of the Marine Corps is not a problem for the national economy, and it’s easy to question expenditures for a strong national defense while comfortably enjoying the peace and security that it has brought.

But this isn’t the same thing as questioning the need for the EFV and the forcible entry doctrine of the Marine Corps.  I have taken the doctrine to task.

I do not now and have never advocated that the Marine Corps jettison completely their notion of littoral readiness and expeditionary warfare capabilities, but I have strongly advocated more support for the missions we have at hand.

Finally, it occurs to me that the debate is unnecessary.  While Conway has famously said that the Corps is getting too heavy, his program relies on the extremely heavy Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, that behemoth that is being designed and tested because we want forcible entry capabilities – against who, I frankly don’t know.

If it is a failing state or near failing state, no one needs the capabilities of the EFV.  If it is a legitimate near peer enemy or second world state, then the casualties sustained from an actual land invasion would be enormous.  Giving the enemy a chance to mine a beach, build bunkers, arm its army with missiles, and deploy air power, an infantry battalion would be dead within minutes.  1000 Marines – dead, along with the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock and its associated EFVs.

No one has yet given me a legitimate enemy who needs to be attacked by an EFV.  On the other hand, I have strongly recommended the retooling of the expeditionary concept to rely much more heavily on air power and the air-ground task force concept.  It would save money, create a lighter and more mobile Marine Corps (with Amphibious Assault Docks ferrying around more helicopters rather than LCACs), and better enable the Marines to perform multiple missions.  I have also recommended an entirely new generation of Marine Corps helicopters.

This is not suggesting that the Marine Corps in any way needs to have its funding cut or decrease its size.  It is to suggest that the money might be more wisely spent in other areas.  The mission still isn’t clear.  Above it has been suggested that the Corps needs the EFV for withdrawal of forces (such as from Somalia) or evacuation of civilians (such as from Lebanon).  But this explanation doesn’t comport with the facts of the program.  “The Corps aims to buy a total of 573 EFVS. This would give it the capacity to amphibiously transport eight infantry battalions of about 970 Marines and sailors per battalion, the Congressional Research Service said in a report dated August 3, 2009.”

We don’t need 573 EFVs and eight infantry Battalions to evacuate civilians from Lebanon.  The Corps obviously plans to replace its amphibious transport of Marines (currently with the LCAC) with the EFV.  The Corps also plans to continue its doctrine of amphibious-based forcible entry.  But as I have pointed out, there is no reason that this cannot be done via air and a new helicopter fleet.  If the plan is to be prepared to invade a near-peer via an amphibious landing, this is lunacy and madness.  If the plan is to save ships by allowing them to be 25 miles offshore, this is naive and sophomoric.  The Navy had better be designing better counter-measures.

While there is every good reason to be more efficient in both military spending and non-defense spending, there is no good reason to cut funding to the Corps.  But the Corps needs to rethink its basic doctrine and reassess the real need for the EFV.  Going in the direction of a lighter, air-sea-based, rapid reaction force has its merits, and should warrant some attention.  Gates should hear fresh thinking from the U.S. Marine Corps, not warmed over 60 year old doctrine.  It’s too bad that the QDR, that brainchild of Michelle Flourney,  is such an incredible waste of ink and paper.  It would have been a good repository for fresh thinking.

What we must do to win Kandahar

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

Joshua Foust, writing for PBS, gives us an interesting analysis of the upcoming battle for Kandahar.  The entire analysis is highly recommended, but several quotes will be reproduced below.

The current plan to “retake” Kandahar from the Taliban is loosely modeled after this year’s earlier operation in Marjeh, in neighboring Helmand Province. While in Marjeh the campaign began with a massive incursion of military forces, followed by a small cadre of civilian reconstruction specialists, in Kandahar there is a concerted effort to make the push more political and less militarized — General McChrystal calls it a “process” now instead of an “offensive.” Part of the campaign involves warning citizens of Kandahar that they need to report Taliban activity, or, if they can, flee the areas most likely to be mined or bombed, thus sparing innocent casualties.

To this end, there have been a series of low-key Special Forces raids into the city proper, attempting to identify and either capture or kill known Taliban commanders. To supplement this push into the city, hundreds of troops are being arrayed in the vast farming areas around Kandahar in an attempt to “choke off” the Taliban’s supply lines. At the same time, General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, has been meeting with local elders and politicians in an attempt to gin up popular support for the coming offensive.

[ … ]

ISAF faces a number of political challenges as well. A majority of Afghan watchers point to Ahmed Wali Karzai as one of the biggest barriers to smooth operations in the city—he demands a cut of most commerce that takes place in the area, and the DEA alleges he has ties to the illegal narcotics industry. However, because he is the President’s brother, there is no chance of removing him from power. Similarly, Kandahar is, in effect, run by a group of families organized into mafia-style crime rings. They skim profits off almost all reconstruction projects in the city, and have developed a lucrative trade ripping off ISAF initiatives. They sometimes violently clash with each other.

Finally, the Taliban: in part because of the miserable performance of the government, and ISAF’s inability to stem the growing insecurity around the city, the Taliban have been steadily building support. It is likely they will enjoy a lot of popularity when the big troops push finally arrives, even if it is grudging — it’s probably a safe bet that Kandaharis don’t especially like the Taliban, they just happen to be a safer, more reliable bet than the Coalition. Judging by the way all the initial meetings about the Battle for Kandahar have shaped up so far, ISAF hasn’t yet figured out how to address the concerns of regular people or present the campaign in a relatable way.

There are reports that the rules of engagement in place in Afghanistan has given the insurgents enough space to operate that they have been seen laying down their weapons, walking to another location (where a weapons cache is located), picking up another weapon, and then firing again.  There are even reports that Taliban fighters have been seen forcing women and children to carry their weapons to the next fighting location, all the while peering at U.S. troops without fear because they know that they cannot be fired upon due to the ROE.  The Strategy Page explains why the ROE has not lead to decreased casualties.

The majority of civilian combat deaths are at the hands of the Taliban or drug gangs, and the local media plays those down (or else). It’s a sweet deal for the bad guys, and a powerful battlefield tool. The civilians appreciate the attention, but the ROE doesn’t reduce overall civilian deaths, because the longer the Taliban have control of civilians in a combat situations, the more they kill. The Taliban often use civilians as human shields, and kill those who refuse, or are suspected of disloyalty.

Our view towards substantiation of the national political authority as part of the COIN effort causes us to work for the legitimization of the local authorities as part of that framework.  But rather than being the solution, it is part of the problem.

In order to win Kandahar, we must not run from fights; we must destroy the drug rings (not the local farmers), and especially destroy the crime families, including killing the heads of the crime families; we must make it so uncomfortable for people to give them cuts of their money that they fear us more than they fear Karzai’s criminal brother; we must make it so dangerous to be associated with crime rings, criminal organizations, and insurgents that no one wants even to be remotely associated with them; and we must marginalize Karzai’s brother.

I am (as a perusal of my posts will show) opposed to the special operations forces driven high value target campaign as being ineffective.  Anyone associated with drug rings, criminal activity or the insurgency must be a target, from the highest to the lowest levels of the organization, and this without mercy.  Completely without mercy.  There should be no knee-jerk reversion to prisons, because the corrupt judicial system in Afghanistan will only release the worst actors to perpetrate the worst on their opponents.  This robust force projection must be conducted by not only the SOF, but so-called general purpose forces (GPF).  The population needs to see the very same people conducting patrols and talking with locals that they see killing criminals and insurgents.  This is imperative.  This is imperative.

We can revert to the softer side of counterinsurgency if all of this seems too barbaric.  We can run from fights with the insurgents, we can continue to pour tens of millions of dollars into a failing and corrupt system, and we can continue to prop up a parasitic government.  But in the end, we must count the costs in lives, lost limbs, lost reputation, and national wealth.

Mark my words, do it clearly, and do it now.  We will go in and stay in as the strong horse, and we will force the conclusion that suits our interest, or we will lose the campaign.  If this is too brutal for some, then withdraw, but don’t send our warriors on a fool’s errand.  The leftist web sites will call me a war mongering, barbaric brute and sociopath who wants our Soldiers to violate the rules of war.  All manner of venom may come my way.  I don’t care.  I really don’t care.

Rarely are things so clear cut and measurable by metrics as this.  Again, count the costs.  Start now, and keep the data.  Count the men who die, the men who lose arms, legs, hearing and brain function due to IEDs, and take measure of the situation in Kandahar in the future (how “legitimate” is the government after our costly efforts in Kandahar?).  I will be proven right or wrong, but the best thing about putting prose down on paper is that it can be judged in the future.

Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy Part II

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

Iran is attempting to move to higher Uranium enrichment, and Ambassador John Bolton is warning us to get ready for a nuclear Iran.  The CIA has already warned us.  Unless Israel acts unilaterally, the Obama administration will be in the difficult position of trying to explain why so much energy was invested in the prevention of a nuclear Iran, when it was acceptable all along for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon.  In other words, it must explain why containment would have worked all along, thus making fools of those who tried to forestall that otherwise acceptable condition.

In a stark testimony to the fact that the Middle East has no confidence in our stomach for doing whatever is necessary to contain Persian hegemony, Kuwait and France have signed agreements on nuclear cooperation, and Saudi Arabia has established a new national agency to take the lead role in nuclear activities.  These countries do not need commercial nuclear power for purposes of energy infrastructure.  Commercial nuclear power is the first step to having the infrastructure, QA, training and protocols to control a weapons program.  Even the UAE is planning a nuclear site with four reactors.

Iran has made no attempt to hide its lack of fear of U.S. presence in the region.  Iran has been at war with us in Iraq since the inception of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and there are dead U.S. servicemen whose lives were sacrificed to the altar of avoiding the necessity of addressing the regional conflict.  Just recently an Iranian reconnaissance aircraft buzzed the U.S. aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, coming within 1000 yards of the ship.  This kind of aggression has become fairly routine.  During the 2008 deployment of the 26th MEU, an Iranian helicopter all but landed on the deck of the USS Iwo Jima.  The Marines could almost touch it from a standing position on the deck, but no actions were taken.  The Navy refused to allow the Marines to fire on the aircraft.  Iran has made its presence known in the recent Iraqi elections, and Moqtada al Sadr is trying to emerge as a legitimate political power after having been trained in Iran for the last several years.

Things don’t look much better to the North.  In spite of recommendations to seriously engage the Caucasus region, we have snubbed our allies in Georgia (in spite of their having sent the Georgian 31st Infantry Battalion to assist us in Afghanistan)  and most recently it appears that we are losing Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan’s long-standing alignment with the United States is rapidly unraveling in the wake of Washington’s recent policy initiatives. As perceived from Baku, those US initiatives fly in the face of Azerbaijan’s staunch support over the years to US strategic interests and policies in the South Caucasus-Caspian region.

Current US policies, however, are seen to favor Armenia in the Karabakh conflict resolution negotiations, curry favor with Armenian advocacy groups in domestic US politics, split Turkey and Azerbaijan from one another over the Karabakh issue, isolate Azerbaijan in the region, and pressure Baku into silent acquiescence with these policies.

Key actors in the region tend to share Azerbaijan’s perceptions in this regard. During last week’s nuclear safety summit in Washington, Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili, and Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke frankly in this regard. They told US interlocutors at every step that the refusal to invite Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, to the summit was a mistake, counterproductive to US interests in the region, and confirming perceptions that Washington was attempting to isolate Baku.

US President, Barack Obama’s, meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan during the Washington summit (while failing to invite the Azerbaijani president) confirmed perceptions that Armenian issues in US domestic politics distort Washington’s policy on the Karabakh conflict and toward Azerbaijan.

Ankara had cautioned Washington against such moves ever since Erdogan’s December 2009 visit to the US. At least from that point onward, Turkey has closed ranks with Azerbaijan, instead of distancing from it and opening the Turkish-Armenian border promptly and unconditionally at the Obama administration’s urging. The administration insists on de-linking the border opening from the continuing Armenian military occupation of seven districts beyond Karabakh, deep inside Azerbaijan. The administration had, instead, hoped to link the border opening with the April 24 US anniversary of the 1915-1918 Armenian events in Ottoman Turkey.

Washington’s summit miscalculation is the latest in a year-long series of blows to US-Azeri relations. This trend continues amid an apparent US strategic disengagement from the wider region (rationalized as a “strategic pause” to assuage pro-US governments there). In Azerbaijan’s case, Washington seems unable even to fill the long-vacant post of US ambassador in Baku. The vacancy deprives the United States of steady high-level access to Azerbaijan’s leaders (which had never been a problem previously), while making it more difficult for Washington to grasp the crisis in US-Azerbaijan relations and its region-wide implications.

Addressing an April 14 cabinet meeting in front of TV cameras, President Aliyev criticized the US policy of pushing Turkey to open the border with Armenia, despite the latter’s occupation of seven Azeri districts beyond Karabakh. This move pulls the rug from under Azerbaijan’s carefully constructed negotiating position for a stage-by-stage peaceful solution to the conflict. It also seems designed to separate Turkey from Azerbaijan. Accordingly, Aliyev complained about “certain countries that believe that they can meddle in everything…by exerting pressure and blackmailing. This is how we see it. This policy clearly runs against Azerbaijan’s interests, and the Azeri state is taking appropriate steps.”

It isn’t clear if the U.S. policy regarding Azerbaijan is malicious or merely inept.  What is clear is that we are still witnessing the collapse of U.S. foreign policy, a fact both easy and sad to catalog.

Prior: Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy

Language Training in Counterinsurgency: Is it Enough?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

My son was involved in robust kinetic operations in Fallujah in 2007, but that isn’t the sum total of counterinsurgency.  He was also involved in heavy contact with the population, including aggressive policing.  Policing involves language, and while the Marine Corps included fundamental (phonetics based) language training over the course of the pre-deployment workup, I always lamented the fact that it wasn’t enough.  He had to learn Arabic by immersion.

The entire 101st Airborne Division is soon to deploy to Afghanistan, marking the first time an entire Army division has deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom within one year.  Also interestingly, language training is part of the workup.

He that converses not, knows nothing. The soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), understand that well as they plan to converse time and again with the Afghan people as they continue to ready themselves for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

The Strike Brigade currently has 300 of its soldiers involved in language training courses teaching the basics in Afghanistan’s two national languages, Dari and Pashto. With the goal of breaking the communication barriers when deployed, the 2nd BCT realizes the importance of interaction among soldier and local nationals.

“The Strike Brigade has initiated a language training program based on General [Stanley] McChrystal’s Counter Insurgency Training Guidance,” said Maj. Basel Mixon, the brigade’s intelligence officer. “We provide actual and relevant information to soldiers so they can have a better understanding on the battlefield and are better able to interact with the people in Afghanistan on more pro-active terms.”

McChrystal, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, directed there to be at least one soldier in each platoon deployed to Afghanistan with the capabilities of speaking the basics of Dari, which in turn means units will be able to articulate and understand conversations involving initial contact discussions, introductions and greetings, questions and answers to go along with other forms of simple dialogue.

These perishable skills have more than just a purpose of interacting with the local Afghan people, but the Afghan military as well.

“Dari is also the professional language of Afghanistan and the soldiers in the Afghan military all speak Dari,” said Mixon. “So for the soldiers partnering with Afghan soldiers, Dari would be the language predominately used. For soldiers who go to the tea shop or into the bazaar, they’ll hear Pashto, but most Afghans understand Dari.”

But one problem is that the language training that the 2nd BCT is going through last two weeks.  Much more is needed.  I am a proponent of conventional training, i.e., combined arms, company level maneuver warfare, squad rushes, room clearing, fast roping and rapid insertion (yes, including for GPF, not just for SOF), heavy emphasis on the range and weapons technology, and so forth.  Such an approach makes us better in both conventional and irregular warfare.

But where we have badly fallen behind is language training.  We (the counterinsurgency community) argue incessantly about what training differences should obtain for the operations in which we are currently engaged, but arguing aside, there is one simple truth.  If you speak their language, you can communicate with them.  Nothing can increase the effectiveness of the campaign better than being able to communicate.  The sad fact of the training for the 2nd BCT is that the training only last two weeks.  This simply isn’t enough.


Lessons in Counterinsurgency

Lousy Excuses Against Language Training in Counterinsurgency

The Enemy of My Enemy

COP Bari Alai

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

We have discussed the difficulty of combat outposts in the mountainous Eastern part of Afghanistan, and the tactical problems caused by attempting to defend low terrain.  This contributed in no small part to the casualties at Wanat and Kamdesh.  A fire fight around Kamdesh typically looked something like this (the scene is of COP Keating from OP Fritschie).

The terrain surrounding COP Bari Alai is different.

Hostile sniper and automatic weapon fire is a normal part of life here, provided by an enemy who strains to dislodge Afghan National Army and International Security Assistance Forces from the mountaintop in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province.

For example, in a 74-day period starting in February there were more than 50 recorded attacks against the base, U.S. Army officials said. The Soldiers who live here are well aware of how contested the base is.

“If you freeze up in combat, you’re either not ready to be a leader or you aren’t ready for a place like this,” said U.S. Army Spc. Shawn D. Hufford, of Evansville, Ind., the mortar noncommissioned officer attached to 2nd Platoon, Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, Task Force Destroyer.

The base was set on its high summit in the Ghazibad district in March 2009 and manned by the Afghan National Army. Officials named it for an ANA Soldier killed earlier that year.

It has been almost a year since a subsequent attack killed five Afghan soldiers, five ISAF advisors and a civilian interpreter, causing a fire that levelled much of the post. Despite persistent efforts, the enemy has not been able to duplicate that act since.

The base – 3,000 feet above sea level – oversees three valleys and at least ten major villages, providing a vast overlook of the surrounding territory, according to U.S. Army 1st Lt. Richard R. Rowe, 2nd platoon’s leader.

“It’s all about terrain,” Rowe said. “It’s a pretty volatile stretch.”

This position helps provide protection for neighbouring communities, the nearby district center and Afghanistan National Security Forces – as well as ISAF – as they conduct business with area residents.

The relative isolation of the post is an illusion, as ANA Soldiers at the post maintain contact with Afghan National Police who secure the communities below.

“We have a good partnership between the ANA and ANP,” Rowe said. “Now that it’s established, I can’t imagine not having it.”

Although there are taller mountains nearby, the post’s position is high enough to protect the Soldiers and low enough to help protect the community, Rowe said.

But recall that this is also the scene, approximately one year ago, of around 100 Taliban fighting uphill towards the COP, resulting in the deaths of three U.S. Soldiers due to collusion between the Taliban and Afghan National Army soldiers.  Terrain is important, but it cannot overcome treachery.  When possible though, the physical positioning of COP Bari Alai is an example of a wise tactical choice.

Marine Corps Distributed Operations in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

Those who follow military doctrine closely know about Commandant Conway’s push to distributed operations within the context of smaller units.  Heretofore, the Battalion Landing Team was the smallest unit fielded from ship to shore for which the Corps was prepared to provide logistical and communications support.  The combined arms concept has generally been applied at the Marine Air Ground Task Force level.  Defensetech recently had an interesting article on The Incredible Shrinking Marine Air Ground Task Force.

The Marines appear to be leading the innovation and thought experimentation on adapting small units to battle hybrid enemies – state and non-state armed groups mixing guerrilla tactics with advanced weaponry.

Down at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, they’re fleshing out an emerging warfighting concept called “distributed operations”: small units operating independently, at a fast paced, fluid tempo when either dispersed or concentrated. Think here of German sturmtruppen tactics from World War I, or, more recently, Hezbollah fighters operating in small dispersed, yet highly lethal, groups in the 2006 Lebanon war.

The director of the Marine’s thought lab, ret. Col. Vincent Goulding, has a piece in the new Proceedings (subscription only) discussing the experimental Marine company landing team (CLT), a reinforced rifle company intended to be the “centerpiece” of future Marine operations, along with a good TO&E. Although, missing from the chart is a 155mm M777 towed howitzer platoon.

The CLT is off to Hawaii in July where it will maneuver from the sea onto some lush, tropical simulated battlefield to conduct distributed operations against a hybrid threat. Tests will look for capability gaps and whether the company headquarters can handle calling in fires, handling logistics and directing the company’s platoons.

[ … ]

Marine Lt. Col. Roger Galbraith asks whether the CLT is the right size, and has a good comments going in the comments thread. “This is a big deal for us because we normally think only of battalion-sized units as being able to operate independently. In addition, we’ll be launching the CoLT from over the horizon (20+ miles out), that’s the first time we’re doing this over the horizon thing, although we first talked about it in 1997.…what took us so long?”

Looking at the TO chart, there does appear to be a glaring lack of direct fire weapons; it doesn’t include a Javelin anti-tank missile section. Perhaps the idea is that on-call fires will substitute for direct fire capability. It’s hard to see how that pans out though. Engagement ranges in complex terrain are often too close to effectively use artillery or air strikes.

In reality, teams smaller than a company are now being distributed throughout the battle space in Helmand, whether doctrine has caught up with the idea or not.

From inside of a small compound, known as Patrol Base Khodi Rhom, the Marines of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, alongside a section of Afghan national army soldiers, patrol an area once known for large amounts of enemy activity in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Marines sleep inside of one-man tents perched on top of cots, some stand post at different corners of the compound. One of the Marines pulls a tab on a unit ration to heat up the squad’s breakfast of biscuits, gravy, ham and raspberry swirls-the same breakfast they’ve been eating the past few days. Some Marines conduct physical training on a makeshift pull-up bar made from a tent pole; they do push-ups and jump rope on a cardboard mat.

On April 20, the Marines, along with their regular duties of post and patrol, had a simple mission; to walk two M-240G machine guns to a nearby observation post known as observation post two.

Normally vehicles would be used to move the machine guns from post to post, but because the road nearby Khodi Rhom had not yet been cleared of roadside bombs, the Marines must move most supplies by foot.

“If something happens like communication gear goes down, we need more batteries or need to move things like crew-served weapons, we have to hump it out there,” said Cpl. Aukai I. Arkus, a team leader for Easy Company, 2/2.

Helicopters have brought in food and water lately, but before they made the landing zone safer, the Marines had to carry it in.

To get the machine guns to the OP, the Marines have to move across rough fields full of wheat and poppy and through canals. There are bridges to cross the canals, but the Marines don’t use them due to greater risk of encountering an improvised explosive device.

“In that area, explosive ordnance disposal exploited lots of IEDs,” said Lance Cpl. Derek A. Tomlin, a designated marksman with Easy Co., 2/2. “They went to town blowing up and collecting IEDs.”

Once the Marines have moved the weapons, they return to the PB, crossing over the same kilometer of rough terrain that it took to get there.

The Marines quickly launched another patrol, this time to a small village near the PB, where they had established relationships with local shopkeepers before.

The Marines buy goods from the local shops, which pays off in other ways, since the relationships have been useful for gathering information on the area. They are willing to help out the shopkeepers who are more cooperative by buying more goods from them.

The Marines bring the rice and potatoes they purchase back to the base where a cook from the ANA prepares it, allowing the Marines to take a break from their usual unitized group ration dinner of chicken breast.

“It’s a nice change,” said Tomlin. “What we’ll do is get rice and potatoes and then we’ll have the ANA cook for us since none of us know how to cook.”

The Marines had manned the position for approximately five days and had planned to be relieved the next.

Though the landing zone has been declared safe, the Marines are rarely moved by air, so they have to walk back to Combat Outpost Koshtay once relieved of their duty by another squad.

They are returning to the relative comfort of Koshtay; though that is not to say that they hated their time spent at Khodi Rhom.

“The best thing about being out there is operating at our own pace,” said Arkus. “We can be as aggressive with it as we want. It leaves time for the squad leader to know what’s going on and make decisions. Also, being isolated like that allows the squad to pull together in more instances.”

The PB has allowed the Marines to saturate the surrounding area causing a significant decrease in enemy activity and an increase in locals’ willingness to assist in improving of their villages.

This is a squad-size unit operating away from the FOB.  In Fallujah 2007 squad-size units (and even smaller, fire team-size units) were in operation alone.  Squads would safely deliver a Scout sniper to his location and pick him up several days later, and a fire team would routinely embed with the Iraqi Police in Fallujah for weeks at a time.  This is small – four men.

I don’t think any of this means the end of the Battalion Landing Team or MEUs. but it does mean a lighter Marine Corps.  For those who would claim that this is a focus on counterinsurgency in lieu of conventional warfare, I would argue that it is a return to what the Marines have always been.  World Wars I and II were anomalies in the history of the Corps.

Over at Defensetech, a commenter named Sven Ortmann shows his ass and makes completely useless, asinine and combative comments.  After reading them, I know nothing more about anything, and I want that five minutes of my life back.  Sven owes me, and if I ever see him I’ll take it from him.  It’s called being pedantic, and commenters like this is why I don’t frequent Defensetech.  But commenter Byron Skinner gives us some useful information after suffering through Sven’s hysteria.

This is the Marines getting back to being Marines and not Army clones. Before WWII this is what the marine looked like, small, fast and light. The current enemies are using speed, mobility and terrain knowledge and are winning in Afghanistan.

Technology is the force multiplier here not heavy iron. The Corp. knows that it’s going to be losing personal as the war in Afghanistan winds down. The Corps best NCO’s and Officers are now being cycled through Afghanistan, already 1,300 enlisted and 115 officers have been told they don’t have a career slot in the post Afghanistan Corps, those that don’t go voluntarily, will be RIF’ed.. General Conway is being up front and very Marine about what he is doing.

If some enterprising Marine Corps officer wants to send me a confidential note explaining whether this is on the level, that would be good.  Finally, take particular note of this one man tent in Patrol Base Khodi Rhom.

I want one.  I really, really want one.  Can this be purchased down at the Marine Corps Exchange (MCX) at Camp Lejeune?  Anyone?  Anyone know of a civilian version of this same tent?  I really, really want one.

Update on Afghan National Army Water Polo

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

Note in my in-box concerning Counterinsurgency and Water Polo.

I thought your blog was very interesting and I enjoyed reading it.  I have seen many different sides to the war and many other things in Afghanistan.

The program in Shorabak was what I did in my off duty time (The few hours that I had since I worked many hours every day).  It is not something that was planned or a set job, it was just something that I did on my own.  It is my own outreach into the local community.

Please call me if you ever want to chat or get more insight into the program.

The only correction to your blog I would suggest that you make to your blog is that there are Marine officers (Not NCOs) working this project…

Keep on writing!


Jeremy B. Piasecki
Executive Director/Head Coach
Afghanistan Water Polo
(760) 451-1783 (USA) Office

I stand corrected.  These were officers and not NCOs.  Also, in the original article I wasn’t knocking Water Polo.  I have never played and know nothing about it.  But I maintain by disappointment in the ANA, and still believe that sports are a poor replacement for good training, discipline and esprit de corps.

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