Should The Marines In Chattanooga Have Been Armed?

Herschel Smith · 19 Jul 2015 · 42 Comments

There is in the news today a call for the Marines at the recruiting station in Chattanooga to have been armed, since "we are at war" with radical Islam.  A different take on the subject can be found (via WRSA) from Mason Dixon Tactical.  Here are some excerpts. The question is somewhat easy to answer. “Should they have been armed?” The short answer is “No.”, at least not from an “On Duty” perspective. I find it interesting that some who have been crying to high Heaven about the…… [read more]

The Logistical Battle: New Lines of Supply to Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

Following up on the recent attack on NATO supply lines through Khyber, another attack was recently launched, only this time the attackers didn’t need the winding passes of Khyber to conduct the mission.

Suspected Taliban militants early Saturday staged another attack against cargo terminals in northwestern Pakistan in the country’s restive tribal areas, destroying NATO supplies bound for neighboring Afghanistan, police said.

Military vehicles and food in 13 containers were thought to have been destroyed in the attacks outside the frontier city of Peshawar.

It follows at least five other attacks against NATO and U.S. supply lines in recent weeks.

Militants threw petrol bombs into the city’s World Logistic Terminal and the Al Faisal Terminal, police said. The terminal holds hundreds of supply containers as well as Hummer transport vehicles bound for Afghanistan.

Several containers were still burning by Saturday afternoon.

The Tehrik-i-Taliban have claimed credit for the attack and warned of more to come.  The recent work to find another line of supply into Afghanistan has yielded some significant fruit.

Nato plans to open a new supply route to Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia in the next eight weeks following a spate of attacks on its main lifeline through Pakistan this year, Nato and Russian sources have told The Times.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the former Soviet Central Asian states that lie between Russia and Afghanistan, have agreed in principle to the railway route and are working out the small print with Nato, the sources said.

“It’ll be weeks rather than months,” said one Nato official. “Two months max.”

The “Northern Corridor” is expected to be discussed at an informal meeting next week between Dmitri Rogozin, Russia’s ambassador to Nato, and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato’s Secretary-General.

The breakthrough reflects Nato and US commanders’ growing concern about the attacks on their main supply line, which runs from the Pakistani port of Karachi via the Khyber Pass to Kabul and brings in 70 per cent of their supplies. The rest is either driven from Karachi via the border town of Chaman to southern Afghanistan – the Taleban’s heartland – or flown in at enormous expense in transport planes that are in short supply.

“We’re all increasingly concerned,” Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters on Wednesday. “But in that concern, we’ve worked pretty hard to develop options.”

The opening of the Northern Corridor also mirrors a gradual thaw in relations between Moscow and Nato, which plunged to their lowest level since the end of the Cold War after Russia’s brief war with Georgia in August.

However, Nato and the United States are simultaneously in talks on opening a third supply route through the secretive Central Asian state of Turkmenistan to prevent Russia from gaining a stranglehold on supplies to Afghanistan, the sources said. Non-lethal supplies, including fuel, would be shipped across the Black Sea to Georgia, driven to neighbouring Azerbaijan, shipped across the Caspian Sea to Turkmenistan and then driven to the Afghan border.

The week-long journey along this “central route” would be longer and more expensive than those through Pakistan or Russia and would leave supplies vulnerable to political volatility in the Caucasus and Turkmenistan.

Yet, this alternative to direct reliance on Russia is smart and may prove to be quite attractive in the future should these “relations” we now have with Russia again turn sour.  Vladimir Putin and Dimitri Medvedev likely intend to push forward with engagement of what they consider to be their “near abroad,” including Georgia, the Ukraine, and other regional countries.

However, interestingly, this leaves us vulnerable yet again to Russian dispositions, even with the alternative supply route.  Georgia is the center of gravity in this plan, and our willingness to defend her and come to her aid might just be the one thing that a) kills the option of Russia as a logistical supply into Afghanistan, and b) saves Georgia as a supply route.  Thus far, we have maneuvered ourselves into the position of reliance on Russian good will.  These “thawed relations” might just turn critical should Russia decide again to flex its muscle in the region, making the U.S. decisions concerning Georgia determinative concerning our ability to supply our troops in Afghanistan.

Are we willing to turn over Georgia (and maybe the Ukraine) to Russia in exchange for a line of supply into Afghanistan, or are we willing to defend and support Georgia for the preservation of democracy in the region and – paradoxically – the preservation of a line of supply to Afghanistan?  The upcoming administration has some hard choices, and it’s unlikely that negotiations will make much difference.  The burden will rest on decisions rather than talks.

Prior:

The Search for Alternate Supply Routes to Afghanistan

Large Scale Taliban Operations to Interdict Supply Lines

More on Lines of Logistics for Afghanistan

How Many Troops Can We Logistically Support in Afghanistan?

Targeting of NATO Supply Lines Through Pakistan Expands

Logistical Difficulties in Afghanistan

Taliban Control of Supply Routes to Kabul

Interdiction of U.S. Supplies in Khyber Pass

The Torkham Crossing

Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Pirates? Call the Marines … Er, the Lawyers

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

Pirates?  Call the U.S. Marines … er, the lawyers.

Piracy off Somalia’s coast has plagued shipping companies for years, but the number and boldness of attacks has increased in recent months. While that has given fits to shipowners, cruise operators and navies, it also has kept a relatively obscure set of lawyers busy.

London’s Holman Fenwick has received more work as pirate attacks have increased off Somalia, where a French Navy frigate patrolled Saturday.

Among the most prominent is London maritime firm Holman Fenwick Willan. Partner Toby Stephens says lawyers at the firm have been awakened “at all hours” by ship owners calling the firm’s 24-hour hot line. “They’re often quite panicked, and understandably so,” he says.

Over the past three months, the rise in piracy has kept about a half-dozen lawyers at Holman Fenwick working nearly full-time for clients with potentially dozens of lives and tens of millions of dollars at stake in hijackings. To some degree, the work has helped Holman Fenwick offset other maritime practices hurt by the global economic slowdown.

Through the end of last month, the waters off Somalia had been the site of 96 pirate attacks this year, 40 of which had led to pirates boarding a ship, taking control and demanding a ransom, according to the International Maritime Bureau in London. World-wide there were 83 reported pirate attacks in the third quarter, up from 53 and 63 in the first and second quarters, respectively, the bureau says. In recent months, pirates have broadened their targets to include bigger vessels, including oil tankers and, so far unsuccessfully, cruise ships. In most cases ransom demands have been in the $1 million-$2 million range. But lawyers say hijackers have demanded as much as $25 million for the release of the Sirius Star, a Saudi oil tanker captured 450 miles off the Somali coast carrying cargo valued at more than $100 million.

On Tuesday several cruise-ship operators said they would shift or cancel tours or reroute passengers by plane to avoid the Gulf of Aden off Somalia. Also, the European Union said it would station armed guards on cargo ships in the area.

Mr. Stephens says his firm is working on “over a dozen” of the roughly 20 Somalia-area attacks in which the ships haven’t been freed.

“This year we’ve seen a definite uptick in piracy work,” says James Huckle, who is in charge of business development for the firm.

Business in Holman Fenwick’s casualty practice, usually dealing with shipping collisions, and its ship-financing practice have slipped as the world economy has slowed. Mr. Huckle says piracy cases have helped “counterbalance” that downturn but he is unable to provide specific figures.

Stephen Askins, a maritime lawyer at London’s Ince & Co. says he is handling “a few” piracy cases, but that Holman Fenwick “is really leading the way” in representing shipowners in piracy matters.

Piracy expertise at Holman Fenwick, which was founded in 1883, grew out of the firm’s history representing clients following shipwrecks and collisions. The firm represented the salvage companies that cleaned up after the oil tanker Prestige broke up off the coast of Spain in 2002. The firm also represents the owners and insurers of the MSC Napoli, a container ship severely damaged in an English Channel storm last year. In addition to about 290 lawyers, the firm employs about 30 nonlawyer experts, such as former ship captains, marine engineers and naval architects.

A firm’s initial role after a hijacking often is to ease a client’s fears. “No one’s been hurt, and the ransoms have so far been small enough for shipowners to pay,” says Duncan McDonald, a lawyer at London-based Stephenson Harwood. His firm represents owners of two ships hijacked and released earlier this year.

Then, a firm moves to determining where a ship is registered and the location of the hijacking. These factors affect the laws that will govern the case and the haggling over liability that often follows. A U.N. resolution passed in June allows a navy to enter Somalia’s territorial waters to repress an attack.

Shipowners and insurance underwriters are reluctant to speak publicly about their hijacking situations. But the managing director of a large insurance syndicate in London says that when a ship partly underwritten by his firm was hijacked several weeks ago, his first question to lawyers at Holman Fenwick was whether the payment of ransom was even legal. It was under U.K. law, Mr. Stephens says, which typically applies because that’s where insurance underwriters are usually based. If a ransom payment is illegal, the firm might have to negotiate with the country exercising jurisdiction.

The insurance-syndicate executive says the negotiations, which are continuing, have been stressful. “I know we’re in good hands…but there are still times when you feel like you have no control at all,” he says.

“The lawyer’s pen and the swashbluckling pirate’s sword met with a mighty crash as all the children heard and watched the brave battle ensue” … actually, scratch that.  We’re only on good hands if the Marines are killing pirates.  The Captain’s Journal has made it known what needs to be done.

TCJ has weighed in saying:

This is easy. We tell the LOAC and ROE lawyers that they’re special and that they should go to their rooms and write high-sounding platitudes about compassion in war so that they’re out of the way, we land the Marines on the ship, and we kill every last pirate. Then we hunt down his domiciles in Somali and destroy them, and then we find his financiers and buyers and kill them. Regardless of the unfortunate potential loss of Ukrainian or Russian civilian life upon assaulting the ship, this weaponry and ordnance should never have been shipped in this part of the world without escort (and perhaps it shouldn’t have been shipped even with escort). Negotiations will only serve to confirm the pirates in their methods. It’s killing time. It’s time to turn the United States Marines loose.

Ralph Peters has weighed in saying:

Piracy must be exterminated. Pirates aren’t folk heroes or champions of the oppressed. They’re terrorists and violent criminals whose ransom demands start at a million bucks. And they’re not impressed by the prospect of trials in a velvet-gloved Western court. The response to piracy must be the same as it was when the British brought an end to the profession’s “golden age:” Sink them or board them, kill them or hang them.

Lt. Col. P at OpFor has weighed in saying:

Kill all of the pirates.

Seriously. Why do we allow a handful of khat-addled assholes to dominate one of the world’s most important sea lanes? We, the western powers, have sufficient naval units in the area to take care of the problem in very quick order. What we lack is the will. We apply an idiotically high standard of judicial due process to a situation that doesn’t lend itself well to a judicial solution. Anyone who has dealt with Somalis can tell you that they laugh at western legalisms, and what they perceive as western weaknesses. And then they redouble their violent efforts to take what they want from you. They do react very well to a boot on their necks, and a gun to their heads. Then they tend to wise up quickly.

Here’s how it needs to be done. Oil tanker sends distress call, takes evasive actions insofar as it is capable. (Or better yet, armed men aboard oil tanker defend by fire.) Coalition forces despatch (sic) vessels and boarding parties. Pirates who survive ensuing gun battle are lined up by the rail and shot in the head, then dumped overboard. Pirate boats are burned. If their bases or villages on the coast can be identified, said bases are raided and destroyed. No fuss no muss, no ransom, no hostages, no skyrocketing costs.

So who has the trust?  The lawyers or U.S. Marines?  Should we pay ransom or kill the pirates?  We have a poll where the reader can weigh in on this question.

Counterinsurgency on the Southern U.S. Border

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

Friend of The Captain’s Journal David Danelo has a must read concerning the situation at the Southern U.S. border.  Here is the full commentary followed by our own analysis.

On Nov. 3, the day before Americans elected Barack Obama president, drug cartel henchmen murdered 58 people in Mexico. It was the highest number killed in one day since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006. By comparison, on average 26 people — Americans and Iraqis combined — died daily in Iraq in 2008. Mexico’s casualty list on Nov. 3 included a man beheaded in Ciudad Juarez whose bloody corpse was suspended along an overpass for hours. No one had the courage to remove the body until dark.

The death toll from terrorist attacks in Mumbai two weeks ago, although horrible, approaches the average weekly body count in Mexico’s war. Three weeks ago in Juarez, which is just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas, telephone messages and banners threatened teachers that if they failed to pay protection money to cartels, their students would suffer brutal consequences. Local authorities responded by assigning 350 teenage police cadets to the city’s 900 schools. If organized criminals wish to extract tribute from teachers, businessmen, tourists or anyone else, there is nothing the Mexican government can do to stop them. For its part, the United States has become numb to this norm.

As part of my ongoing research into border issues, I have visited Juarez six times over the last two years. Each time I return, I see a populace under greater siege. Residents possess a mentality that increasingly resembles the one I witnessed as a Marine officer in Baghdad, Fallouja and Ramadi.

“The police are nothing,” a forlorn cab driver told me in September. “They cannot protect anyone. We can go nowhere else. We live in fear.”

An official in El Paso estimated that up to 100,000 dual U.S.-Mexican citizens, mostly upper middle class, have fled north from Juarez to his city this year. Only those lacking means to escape remain.

At the same time, with the U.S. economy in free fall, many illegal immigrants are returning south. So illegal immigration — the only border issue that seems to stir the masses — made no splash in this year’s elections. Mexico’s chaos never surfaced as a topic in either the foreign or domestic policy presidential debates.

Despite the gravity of the crisis, our closest neighbor has fallen off our political radar. Heaven help you if you bring up the border violence at a Washington dinner party. Nobody — Republican or Democrat — wants to approach this thorny discussion.

Mexico, our second-largest trading partner, is a fragmenting state that may spiral toward failure as the recession and drug violence worsen. Remittances to Mexico from immigrant labor have fallen almost 20% in 2008. Following oil, tourism and remittances, drugs are the leading income stream in the Mexican economy.

While the bottom is dropping out of the oil and tourism markets, the American street price of every narcotic has skyrocketed, in part because of recent drug interdiction successes along the U.S. border.

Unfortunately, this toxic economic cocktail also stuffs the cartels’ coffers. Substitute tribal clans for drug cartels, and Mexico starts to look disturbingly similar to Afghanistan, whose economy is fueled by the heroin-based poppy trade.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, Obama’s pick for Homeland Security director, has argued for permanently stationing National Guard troops along the border. That response alone will do little to assuage American border citizens. To them, talk of “violence bleeding over” is political pabulum while they watch their southern neighbors bleed.

If Napolitano wishes to stabilize the border, she will have to persuade the Pentagon and the State Department to take a greater interest in Mexico. Despite Calderon’s commendable efforts to fight both the cartels and police corruption, this struggle shows no signs of slowing. When 45,000 federal troops are outgunned and outspent by opponents of uncertain but robust size, the state’s legitimacy quickly deteriorates.

The Mexican state has not faced this grave a challenge to its authority since the Mexican revolution nearly a century ago.

If you want to see what Mexico will look like if this pattern continues, visit a border city like Tijuana, where nine beheaded bodies were discovered in plastic bags 10 days ago. Inhale the stench of decay. Inspect the fear on the faces. And then ask yourself how the United States is prepared to respond as Mexico’s crisis increasingly becomes our own.

David J. Danelo is the author of “The Border: Exploring the U.S.-Mexican Divide” and “Blood Stripes: The Grunt’s View of the War in Iraq.”

To set background in place for the analysis below, see the following video.  Mexican labor has become the new slave class for Corporate America.

The situation at the border with Mexico has become as classical an insurgency as anywhere in the world, and because of the complicity of American business fishing for cheap labor, lack of traceability of employment records, no health insurance payments, no retirement payments, and no social security payments, we are now relegated to the solution to militarize the Southern border.

Further, even militarization of the border won’t fully solve the issue unless massive changes are made to both the rules under which the military would operate and our understanding of the seriousness of the situation.  In Guardsmen Attacked and Overrun at U.S. Border we discussed the horribly failed attempt to use the National Guard to secure the border.  The National Guard had no ammunition in their weapons, could only put themselves at mortal risk in order to apprehend suspects, and weren’t even allowed to fire warning shots.

Unlike the citizens of New Orleans after Katrina who usually stopped for armed police (not realizing that the police are not allowed to use deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect), the border is infested with rogue elements who know better.  Militarization of the border would mean full scale implementation of the rules associated with the SCOTUS decision Tennessee v. Garner 471 U.S. 1 (1985) on criminals who wouldn’t respect the military and would use the rules against them.

The intrusiveness of a seizure by means of deadly force is unmatched. The suspect’s fundamental interest in his own life need not be elaborated upon. The use of deadly force also frustrates the interest of the individual, and of society, in judicial determination of guilt and punishment. Against these interests are ranged governmental interests in effective law enforcement.  It is argued that overall violence will be reduced by encouraging the peaceful submission of suspects who know that they may be shot if they flee.

Without in any way disparaging the importance of these goals, we are not convinced that the use of deadly force is a sufficiently productive means of accomplishing them to justify the killing of nonviolent suspects. Cf. Delaware v. Prouse, supra, at 659. The use of deadly force is a self-defeating way of apprehending a suspect and so setting the criminal justice mechanism in motion. If successful, it guarantees that that mechanism will not be set in motion. And while the meaningful threat of deadly force might be thought to lead to the arrest of more live suspects by discouraging escape attempts, the presently available evidence does not support this thesis.

Whether MS 13, other criminals and drug runners, or foreign terrorists who enter the U.S. via the Southern border, the U.S. is in real trouble concerning national sovereignty.  David has done important work in informing us of the scope of the risk at the border.

Prior:

Danger at the Border

Guardsmen Attacked and Overrun at the U.S. Border

The Search for Alternate Supply Routes to Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

Nine months ago in Plan B for Supplying Troops in Afghanistan The Captain’s Journal addressed alternatives to the highly dangerous and unreliable passage through the Khyber pass and Torkham Crossing.  Since then our coverage and analysis of the issue of logistics has been unmatched in open source literature, including the forecasting of this very strategy almost one year ago.  If the testing for alternative means of supply have not been studied seriously for the last nine months, the studies are serious now.

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Perhaps the Taliban are observing the old military axiom that amateurs study tactics, while professionals study logistics. In a pair of attacks over the weekend in northwest Pakistan, militants destroyed more than 150 Humvees and other vehicles bound for U.S. troops and allies fighting in Afghanistan — the third attack on NATO supply lines inside a month. Those attacks have highlighted an ongoing vulnerability along the overland routes through mountain passes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan frontier that are used to transport more than 75% of the supplies sent by the U.S. to its 32,000 troops in Afghanistan. So, as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to send more troops to join the fight in Afghanistan, Pentagon planners are scrambling to figure out how to keep those already there — and the anticipated reinforcements — supplied with food, fuel, bullets and everything else a modern army needs.

“Without adequate sustainment, the operational deployment cannot maintain constant pressure on the enemy,” Lieutenant Christopher Manganaro, a young U.S. officer in Afghanistan, has written in the professional journal Army Logistics. And the Pentagon can’t do it all with airplanes. “Few airfields in Afghanistan can support aircraft larger than a C-130,” Manganaro added, “limiting the number of high-value items that U.S. Army units can transport by air.”

Militants hijacked a convoy of more than a dozen vehicles nearly a month ago, and last week 22 trucks were destroyed by fire at a truck stop. U.S. military officials downplay the impact of recent attacks, noting that about 350 supply vehicles travel the route every day. Still, they’re nervous enough to have begun looking for alternatives.

That’s because the choke point in the Khyber Pass is an attractive target for the enemy. Marine General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was asked in September how much trouble his forces in Afghanistan would be in if Islamabad shut down supply lines through Pakistan. “It would be challenging to sustain our presence,” he answered. “It is very difficult then to get to this landlocked nation in a way that would provide the quantity of resources that we need, particularly as we see ourselves growing.” Bearing in mind projected future deployments, the U.S. will need to deliver up to 70,000 shipping containers (15% of them refrigerated) a year to its troops in Afghanistan.

The U.S. has recently tested alternate supply lines, and “we’re working our way through to understand rail, pipelines, customs, what would it take, are they there in a sufficient scale to allow us to do this? And so we’re working this one pretty hard,” Cartwright added. The impact of a shutdown triggered by Taliban attacks would have the same result.

The alternatives earlier included routes such as through Uzbekistan, which is problematic in its own right since there is no means of transit of supplies to the points of dispatch in Uzbekistan except via air from Germany (Russia is not likely to allow significant supplies through its territory given the recent tensions over Georgia and the Ukraine).

Since the force projection and force size must increase if Operation Enduring Freedom is to succeed, and since logistics is problematic no matter the force size (but more problematic given a larger force size), the recommendations of The Captain’s Journal nine months ago were prescient then and even more important now.  Logistical alternatives must be found, but the surest way to pressure the Taliban in Pakistan is to engage in kinetic operations against them in Afghanistan.  Pakistan must be part of the equation for logistical supply to NATO, but they cannot be the only variable in the equation.

Prior:

Large Scale Taliban Operations to Interdict Supply Lines

More on Lines of Logistics for Afghanistan

How Many Troops Can We Logistically Support in Afghanistan?

Targeting of NATO Supply Lines Through Pakistan Expands

Logistical Difficulties in Afghanistan

Taliban Control of Supply Routes to Kabul

Interdiction of U.S. Supplies in Khyber Pass

The Torkham Crossing

Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan

Struggle for Kabul: The Taliban Advance

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

The International Council on Security and Development (formerly the Senlis Council) has issued an important update to their outstanding coverage and analysis of the security situation in Afghanistan, entitled Struggle for Kabul: The Taliban Advance.

The full report is required reading for military and anyone interested in Afghanistan, but selected citations from the situation update are provided below.

… as seven years of missed opportunity have rolled by, the Taliban has rooted itself across increasing swathes of Afghan territory. According to research undertaken by ICOS throughout 2008, the Taliban now has a permanent presence in 72% of the country. Moreover, it is now seen as the de facto governing power in a number of southern towns and villages. This figure is up from 54% in November 2007, as outlined in the ICOS report Stumbling into Chaos: Afghanistan on the Brink. The increase in their geographic spread illustrates that the Taliban’s political, military and economic strategies are now more successful than the West’s in Afghanistan. Confident in their expansion beyond the rural south, the Taliban are at the gates of the capital and infiltrating the city at will.

Of the four doors leading out of Kabul, three are now compromised by Taliban activity. The roads to the west, towards the Afghan National Ring Road through Wardak to Kandahar become unsafe for Afghan or international travel by the time travellers reach the entrance to Wardak province, which is about thirty minutes from the city limits. The road south to Logar is no longer safe for Afghan or international travel. The road east to Jalalabad is not safe for Afghan or international travel once travellers reach the Sarobi Junction which is about an hour outside of the city. Of the two roads leaving the city to the north only one – the road towards the Panjshir valley, Salang tunnel and Mazar – is considered safe for Afghan and international travel. The second road towards the north which leads to the Bagram Air Base is frequently used by foreign and military convoys and subject to insurgent attacks.

By blocking the doors to the city in this way, the Taliban insurgents are closing a noose around the city and establishing bases close to the city from which to launch attacks inside it. Using these bases, the Taliban and insurgent attacks in Kabul have increased dramatically – including kidnapping of Afghans and foreigners, various bomb attacks and assassinations. This dynamic has created a fertile environment for criminal activity, and the links between the Taliban and criminals are increasing and the lines between the various violent actors becoming blurred. All of these Taliban successes are forcing the Afghan government and the West to the negotiating table.

There are themes throughout the report consistent with those at The Captain’s Journal, such as the conduct of counter-terrorism rather than counterinsurgency (page 19 of the report, see The Captain’s Journal, Concerning Turning Over Afghanistan to Special Operations Forces and The Cult of Special Forces).

Furthermore, the concern over Kabul happens to coincide exactly with Twenty Minutes from Kabul, which we published just one day prior to ICOS study.  The security situation in and around Kabul is degrading, as the visual below shows.

Finally, as if to put the exclamation point on the concern over Kabul, it has been announced that the upcoming additional troop deployments to Afghanistan will go to the Kabul area of operations.

Most of the additional American troops arriving in Afghanistan early next year will be deployed near the capital, Kabul, American military commanders here say, in a measure of how precarious the war effort has become.

It will be the first time that American or coalition forces have been deployed in large numbers on the southern flank of the city, a decision that reflects the rising concerns among military officers, diplomats and government officials about the increasing vulnerability of the capital and the surrounding area.

It also underscores the difficult choices confronting American military commanders as they try to apportion a limited number of forces not only within Afghanistan, but also between Afghanistan and Iraq …

The new Army brigade, the Third Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., is scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan in January and will consist of 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers. The “vast majority” of them will be sent to Logar and Wardak Provinces, adjacent to Kabul, said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for the American units in eastern Afghanistan. A battalion of at least several hundred soldiers from that brigade will go to the border region in the east, where American forces have been locked in some of the fiercest fighting this year.

It doesn’t bode well for the campaign when the seat of government – such as it is – is in danger of collapse, and it is yet another sign of the need for additional troops in Afghanistan, as well as transition from the high value target counter-terrorism campaign to one of full-orbed counterinsurgency.

Large Scale Taliban Operations to Interdict Supply Lines

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

There has recently been significant combat by the Taliban to interdict lines of supply through the Khyber pass.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistani militants attacked a parked convoy of trucks carrying military vehicles for Western forces in Afghanistan near Peshawar early on Sunday, destroying 96 trucks, police said.

Security guards said they were overpowered by more than 200 militants who attacked two terminals on the ring road round the northwestern city of Peshawar, where the trucks carrying Humvees and other military vehicles were parked.

“It happened at around 2.30 a.m. They fired rockets, hurled hand grenades and then set ablaze 96 trucks,” senior police officer Azeem Khan told Reuters.

Most of the fuel and other supplies for U.S. and NATO forces in landlocked Afghanistan are trucked through Pakistan, much of it through the mountainous Khyber Pass between Peshawar, capital of North-West Frontier Province and the border town of Torkham.

Khan said one private security guard was killed in an exchange of fire between police and the militants.

“They were shouting Allah-o-Akbar (God is Great) and Down With America. They broke into the terminals after snatching our guns,” said Mohammad Rafiullah, security guard at one terminal.

Militants destroyed 22 trucks carrying food supplies in the same area a week ago.

Last month the government closed the main supply route to Western forces in Afghanistan for a week after militants hijacked more than a dozen trucks on the road through the Khyber Pass.

The Captain’s Journal has weighed in on this issue beginning almost one year ago, and there isn’t much more than can be said about the difficulties except that only when the pressure of kinetic operations is put on the Taliban will the trouble on the lines of logistical supply ease.

But there is one troubling aspect to this recent attack.  Note the number of Taliban engaged in the operations, i.e., 200.  This is similar to the number engaged in the Battle of Wanat, and it shows a confidence in large scale operations that doesn’t bode well for the campaign.

Twenty Minutes from Kabul

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

The Asia Times has an important article on the security situation near Kabul, Afghanistan.

If there is an exact location marking the West’s failures in Afghanistan, it is the modest police checkpoint that sits on the main highway 20 minutes south of Kabul. The post signals the edge of the capital, a city of spectacular tension, blast walls, and standstill traffic. Beyond this point, Kabul’s gritty, low-slung buildings and narrow streets give way to a vast plain of serene farmland hemmed in by sandy mountains. In this valley in Logar province, the American-backed government of Afghanistan no longer exists.

Instead of government officials, men in muddied black turbans with assault rifles slung over their shoulders patrol the highway, checking for thieves and “spies”. The charred carcass of a tanker, meant to deliver fuel to international forces further south, sits belly up on the roadside.

The police say they don’t dare enter these districts, especially at night when the guerrillas rule the roads. In some parts of the country’s south and east, these insurgents have even set up their own government, which they call the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the name of the former Taliban government). They mete out justice in makeshift sharia courts. They settle land disputes between villagers. They dictate the curricula in schools.

Just three years ago, the central government still controlled the provinces near Kabul. But years of mismanagement, rampant criminality, and mounting civilian casualties have led to a spectacular resurgence of the Taliban and other related groups. Today, the Islamic Emirate enjoys de facto control in large parts of the country’s south and east. According to ACBAR, an umbrella organization representing more than 100 aid agencies, insurgent attacks have increased by 50% over the past year. Foreign soldiers are now dying at a higher rate here than in Iraq.

The burgeoning disaster is prompting the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai and international players to speak openly of negotiations with sections of the insurgency.

Who exactly are the Afghan insurgents? Every suicide attack and kidnapping is usually attributed to “the Taliban”. In reality, however, the insurgency is far from monolithic. There are the shadowy, kohl-eyed mullahs and head-bobbing religious students, of course, but there are also erudite university students, poor, illiterate farmers, and veteran anti-Soviet commanders. The movement is a melange of nationalists, Islamists, and bandits that fall uneasily into three or four main factions. The factions themselves are made up of competing commanders with differing ideologies and strategies, who nonetheless agree on one essential goal: kicking out the foreigners.

Analysis

It isn’t surprising that this hodgepodge of rogues would only have one thing that holds them together. After all, NATO forces – and in particular – U.S. troops, are the main barrier between them and their other goals, whether it be wealth, control, power or Islamic rule.  The indigenous Sunni insurgency and al Qaeda initially had the goal of ousting U.S. forces too, and the Sunni tribes eventually turned on al Qaeda.

The assessment that the “Taliban” is not a monolithic group is also tired and rather passe. It is neither new information nor valuable analysis. Coverage and commentary at The Captain’s Journal has focused over the past months on the cloistering of NATO forces onto FOBs and in urban centers (except for some U.S. and British forces), as well as the focus on the high value target initiative rather than the application of counterinsurgency tactics.

The countryside has been left to the Taliban because, quite simply, there aren’t enough troops to conduct counterinsurgency. This had thus far led to the logistical problems we have faced with supplies to NATO forces, but more important than this is the situational milieu for which the lack of security had been a catalyst. The mistakes are not new, and we have had the benefit of learned wisdom if not the wisdom to hear the learned words.

Mr. Kabulov, 54, is no ordinary ambassador, having served as a K.G.B. agent in Kabul — and eventually as the K.G.B. resident, Moscow’s top spy — in the 1980s and 1990s, during and after the nine-year Soviet military occupation. He also worked as an adviser to the United Nations’ peacekeeping envoy during the turbulent period in the mid-1990s that led to the Taliban’s seizing power.

Now he is back as Moscow’s top man, suave and engaging, happy to talk of a time when the old Soviet Embassy compound was the command center for an invasion that ended in disaster and speeded the collapse of the great power that undertook it …

“They’ve already repeated all of our mistakes,” he said, speaking of what the United States has done — and failed to do — since the Taliban were toppled from power in November 2001 and American troops began moving into old Soviet bases like the one at Bagram, north of Kabul.

“Now, they’re making mistakes of their own, ones for which we do not own the copyright.”

The list of American failures comes quickly. Like the Soviets, Mr. Kabulov said, the Americans “underestimated the resistance,” thinking that because they swept into Kabul easily, the occupation would be untroubled. “Because we deployed very easily into the major cities, we didn’t give much thought to what was happening in the countryside,” where the stirrings of opposition that grew into a full-fledged insurgency began, he said.

Mr. Kabulov goes on to say that the real problem is the irritant that is a foreign occupation, and that the solution is to leave as quickly as possible. Not all of his counsel is sensible, and the absence of U.S. troops would mean the fall of Kabul to the Taliban within a week.

However much Western sensibilities might feel revulsion at the treatment of women under radical Islam, or disgust at the corruption of the government, the goal of the campaign cannot and should not be the implementation of democracy or perfect governance. Further, the population is only a key to the extent that the are the interstitial tissue upon which the cancer of the insurgency feeds.

The goal should not be ending Islamic rule, for this would surely fail. The goal is to isolate and kill the globalist elements among them, those elements which gave safe haven to al Qaeda and which would no doubt be allied with the Tehrik-i-Taliban in the future. Every tactic should be oriented towards this end as one of many lines of effort.

There is robust debate in professional military community as to how we must implement a surge, with the admonition common to these debates that Afghanistan is not Iraq and the precise strategy used in the Middle East will not necessarily work in the far East. Those who give this admonition are wasting words by repeating the obvious.

But it is a non sequitur to claim that the necessary difference in strategy means that more troops are neither needed nor appropriate. No strategy can be implemented without troops, and the notion that the countryside can be left to the Taliban but Afghanistan converted into a location that doesn’t give safe haven to globalists is preposterous, no matter how many experienced and wise souls declare it to be true.

There is no magic, no special incantation to utter, and no learned discourse to speak. Troops are needed no matter what strategy is implemented, for in order to effect an end, there has to be an effect.  Proper Counterinsurgency is “Plan A.”  There is no “Plan B.”

Prior:

Logistical Difficulties in Afghanistan

Taliban Control of Supply Routes to Kabul

Degrading Security in Afghanistan Causes Supply and Contractor Problems

Piracy Poll

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

In addition to being a scourge on intercontinental commerce and transit, piracy on the Somalian coast has now take the next step.  A passenger liner – note, cruise ship – was recently the target of pirates.

An example of legal hand-wringing over law of the sea issues, rules of engagement and general reluctance of address the issue can be found at Opinio Juris.  Mr. Anderson at one point states that “No use of force question is ever truly easy.”  Of course, this is wrong, and the question is very easy to answer.  The Captain’s Journal has already done so (while also noting concurring opinions).

The Captain’s Journal has weighed in saying:

This is easy. We tell the LOAC and ROE lawyers that they’re special and that they should go to their rooms and write high-sounding platitudes about compassion in war so that they’re out of the way, we land the Marines on the ship, and we kill every last pirate. Then we hunt down his domiciles in Somali and destroy them, and then we find his financiers and buyers and kill them. Regardless of the unfortunate potential loss of Ukrainian or Russian civilian life upon assaulting the ship, this weaponry and ordnance should never have been shipped in this part of the world without escort (and perhaps it shouldn’t have been shipped even with escort). Negotiations will only serve to confirm the pirates in their methods. It’s killing time. It’s time to turn the United States Marines loose.

Ralph Peters has weighed in saying:

Piracy must be exterminated. Pirates aren’t folk heroes or champions of the oppressed. They’re terrorists and violent criminals whose ransom demands start at a million bucks. And they’re not impressed by the prospect of trials in a velvet-gloved Western court. The response to piracy must be the same as it was when the British brought an end to the profession’s “golden age:” Sink them or board them, kill them or hang them.

Lt. Col. P at OpFor has weighed in saying:

Kill all of the pirates.

Seriously. Why do we allow a handful of khat-addled assholes to dominate one of the world’s most important sea lanes? We, the western powers, have sufficient naval units in the area to take care of the problem in very quick order. What we lack is the will. We apply an idiotically high standard of judicial due process to a situation that doesn’t lend itself well to a judicial solution. Anyone who has dealt with Somalis can tell you that they laugh at western legalisms, and what they perceive as western weaknesses. And then they redouble their violent efforts to take what they want from you. They do react very well to a boot on their necks, and a gun to their heads. Then they tend to wise up quickly.

Here’s how it needs to be done. Oil tanker sends distress call, takes evasive actions insofar as it is capable. (Or better yet, armed men aboard oil tanker defend by fire.) Coalition forces despatch (sic) vessels and boarding parties. Pirates who survive ensuing gun battle are lined up by the rail and shot in the head, then dumped overboard. Pirate boats are burned. If their bases or villages on the coast can be identified, said bases are raided and destroyed. No fuss no muss, no ransom, no hostages, no skyrocketing costs.

The inability to deal with pirates properly is a 21st century phenomenon, entirely a function of legal problems, rules of engagement, rules for the use of force, and the impossible desire to be infallible and utterly perfect and pristine in the application of force.

At any rate, this is what we have previously stated to be the manifest solution to the problem.  But now, readers get a chance to weigh in by answering the easy poll below.  Remember – your heart may be telling you to vote the last bullet, while your head is telling you to vote something else.  But we expect the proper donation and we’ll know if you haven’t dropped coins into the coffers.

What should be done about the Somali Pirates?
Tell the lawyers to go home and then kill all of the pirates!
Turn the lawyers loose! They’re righteous and will show us the way.
What pirates? Where’s Johnny Depp?
The author of this poll is an ass. He can go kill them himself. Here’s $100 for travel expenses.
  
pollcode.com free polls

Thanks for taking the time to vote.

Vector Calculations at U.S. Military Academy

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

Nice school spirit here, but it’s now time for all cadets at West Point to go back and repeat statics and dynamics (Physics and Engineering Professors, nothing like seeing your young students perform, is there?).  Just too far off the mark.  Sigh … too far.

Robert M. Gates on a Balanced Strategy for the Pentagon

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 7 months ago

In the January / February 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has a paper entitled A Balanced Strategy: Reprogramming the Pentagon for a New Age. It is a lengthy paper, and some selected quotes are extracted below, followed by a brief analysis.

The defining principle of the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy is balance. The United States cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything. The Department of Defense must set priorities and consider inescapable tradeoffs and opportunity costs.

The strategy strives for balance in three areas: between trying to prevail in current conflicts and preparing for other contingencies, between institutionalizing capabilities such as counterinsurgency and foreign military assistance and maintaining the United States’ existing conventional and strategic technological edge against other military forces, and between retaining those cultural traits that have made the U.S. armed forces successful and shedding those that hamper their ability to do what needs to be done.

The United States’ ability to deal with future threats will depend on its performance in current conflicts. To be blunt, to fail — or to be seen to fail — in either Iraq or Afghanistan would be a disastrous blow to U.S. credibility, both among friends and allies and among potential adversaries.

In Iraq, the number of U.S. combat units there will decline over time — as it was going to do no matter who was elected president in November. Still, there will continue to be some kind of U.S. advisory and counterterrorism effort in Iraq for years to come …

It would be irresponsible not to think about and prepare for the future, and the overwhelming majority of people in the Pentagon, the services, and the defense industry do just that. But we must not be so preoccupied with preparing for future conventional and strategic conflicts that we neglect to provide all the capabilities necessary to fight and win conflicts such as those the United States is in today.

Support for conventional modernization programs is deeply embedded in the Defense Department’s budget, in its bureaucracy, in the defense industry, and in Congress. My fundamental concern is that there is not commensurate institutional support — including in the Pentagon — for the capabilities needed to win today’s wars and some of their likely successors.

What is dubbed the war on terror is, in grim reality, a prolonged, worldwide irregular campaign — a struggle between the forces of violent extremism and those of moderation. Direct military force will continue to play a role in the long-term effort against terrorists and other extremists. But over the long term, the United States cannot kill or capture its way to victory. Where possible, what the military calls kinetic operations should be subordinated to measures aimed at promoting better governance, economic programs that spur development, and efforts to address the grievances among the discontented, from whom the terrorists recruit. It will take the patient accumulation of quiet successes over a long time to discredit and defeat extremist movements and their ideologies …

The recent past vividly demonstrated the consequences of failing to address adequately the dangers posed by insurgencies and failing states. Terrorist networks can find sanctuary within the borders of a weak nation and strength within the chaos of social breakdown. A nuclear-armed state could collapse into chaos and criminality. The most likely catastrophic threats to the U.S. homeland — for example, that of a U.S. city being poisoned or reduced to rubble by a terrorist attack — are more likely to emanate from failing states than from aggressor states.

The kinds of capabilities needed to deal with these scenarios cannot be considered exotic distractions or temporary diversions. The United States does not have the luxury of opting out because these scenarios do not conform to preferred notions of the American way of war.

The military and civilian elements of the United States’ national security apparatus have responded unevenly and have grown increasingly out of balance. The problem is not will; it is capacity. In many ways, the country’s national security capabilities are still coping with the consequences of the 1990s, when, with the complicity of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, key instruments of U.S. power abroad were reduced or allowed to wither on the bureaucratic vine. The State Department froze the hiring of new Foreign Service officers …

Yet even with a better-funded State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, future military commanders will not be able to rid themselves of the tasks of maintaining security and stability. To truly achieve victory as Clausewitz defined it — to attain a political objective — the United States needs a military whose ability to kick down the door is matched by its ability to clean up the mess and even rebuild the house afterward.

Given these realities, the military has made some impressive strides in recent years. Special operations have received steep increases in funding and personnel. The air force has created a new air advisory program and a new career track for unmanned aerial operations. The navy has set up a new expeditionary combat command and brought back its riverine units. New counterinsurgency and army operations manuals, plus a new maritime strategy, have incorporated the lessons of recent years in service doctrine. “Train and equip” programs allow for quicker improvements in the security capacity of partner nations. And various initiatives are under way that will better integrate and coordinate U.S. military efforts with civilian agencies as well as engage the expertise of the private sector, including nongovernmental organizations and academia …

The United States cannot take its current dominance for granted and needs to invest in the programs, platforms, and personnel that will ensure that dominance’s persistence.

But it is also important to keep some perspective. As much as the U.S. Navy has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, for example, in terms of tonnage, its battle fleet is still larger than the next 13 navies combined — and 11 of those 13 navies are U.S. allies or partners. Russian tanks and artillery may have crushed Georgia’s tiny military. But before the United States begins rearming for another Cold War, it must remember that what is driving Russia is a desire to exorcise past humiliation and dominate its “near abroad” — not an ideologically driven campaign to dominate the globe. As someone who used to prepare estimates of Soviet military strength for several presidents, I can say that Russia’s conventional military, although vastly improved since its nadir in the late 1990s, remains a shadow of its Soviet predecessor. And adverse demographic trends in Russia will likely keep those conventional forces in check.

All told, the 2008 National Defense Strategy concludes that although U.S. predominance in conventional warfare is not unchallenged, it is sustainable for the medium term given current trends. It is true that the United States would be hard-pressed to fight a major conventional ground war elsewhere on short notice, but as I have asked before, where on earth would we do that? U.S. air and sea forces have ample untapped striking power should the need arise to deter or punish aggression — whether on the Korean Peninsula, in the Persian Gulf, or across the Taiwan Strait. So although current strategy knowingly assumes some additional risk in this area, that risk is a prudent and manageable one.

Analysis

The entire paper is worth studying, but Secretary Gates continues to build upon the theme of maintaining a balance between arming and training for near peer conflicts and irregular warfare. The theme is in keeping with his history, as he has convinced the current administration that the 183 F-22s already purchased are enough to fill the gap between now and the advent of the F-35 (which by all accounts is far outperformed by the F-22). The Air Force wants more, but will likely have to settle for 183. Gates’ pragmatic view is also in keeping with our own advocacy of the A-10 (which we believe to have been prematurely retired and entirely capable of performing another decade or two), but our advocacy is not entirely based on its performance in COIN. It is also a very capable tank killer, and can still function as originally designed. Not every aerial weapon has to be new, and outfitting the A-10 to bring it up to the digital age is quite enough for now.

Gates even goes to lengths that The Captain’s Journal isn’t prepared to go, in allowing money for the ill-conceived and (soon-to-be) ill-fated Army future combat system with its exoskeleton. We’ve made our desires know, i.e., lighter ESAPI plates with the same ballistic stopping power are a worthy investment, the exoskeleton is not (and is suited merely for erasing gender, strength and fitness differences in combat, not a laudable goal anyway). Kill the program, Secretary Gates.

Gates also pushes the notion that investment in almost-failed states is a worthy goal compared to the risk, i.e., the next attack that levels a city or kills civilians is more likely than not going to come from almost-failed states rather than stable ones. So far, so good. The Captain’s Journal has always been an advocate for Secretary Gates and will be so into the future.

But one cannot escape the sinking feeling that Gates is on another level in his understanding of things compared to the team that will surround him (excluding General Jim Jones). Gates clearly delineates between the army of State Department employees, foreign operatives and NGOs that are necessary for the proper engagement of almost-failed states and such notions for large state actors. The delineation is that while Gates works hard on the former, he doesn’t mention the later. The incoming administration appears by all accounts to believe that negotiations will suffice to dissuade bad state actors from their intentions. We have gone on record disagreeing with this.

One cannot escape the reality that Russia just might push for some version of its former global empire, that China might just decide that it has lost patience with Taiwan, and that Iran, no matter the size of the army of negotiators, will continue its push for nuclear weapons grade material. At some point we must consider that in addition to the ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s prudent to have fleets in the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden along with Marines for CENTCOM ready reserve.

It’s going to be a difficult four years, we believe, but we feel certain about one thing. President-elect Obama couldn’t do any better than Secretary Gates, and his team is stronger for having him there, and would be profoundly weak without him. For those who have opined that the U.S. military is losing focus on conventional warfare with the institutional focus on counterinsurgency and stability operations, the argument is settled for the moment. We’ll do both, but we’ll focus for now on the campaigns we have at hand. And that’s that.



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