Irrational Christian Bias Against Guns, Violence And Self Defense

Herschel Smith · 22 May 2016 · 28 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]

Security Must Come First in Counterinsurgency

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

From the AFP in Marjah, Afghanistan, yet another report that demonstrates that the population may not be the center of gravity of an insurgency in every situation.

When US Major James Coffman presented a plan to restore healthcare to a southern Afghan town after years of Taliban rule and weeks of fighting, he thought it was a winner.

“We need your advice on what and how to bring assistance, training, equipment,” he told four Afghan doctors and pharmacists, who stroked their beards after braving bombs and Taliban threats to meet US Marine commanders.

Too bad for Coffman that the Afghans were unconvinced.

“It’s best for us at the moment if you don’t help. At least not until security returns,” said Doctor Azim softly. His colleagues agreed.

“Crossing Marjah to get here, I was stopped three times by the Taliban who asked me where I was going, if I was working for the Americans. It’s too dangerous,” he said.

The Marines looked like they had been punched.

Last month they led 15,000 troops into Marjah in a massive effort to wipe out Taliban insurgents and return control to the government in what was billed as the biggest military offensive since the 2001 fall of the Taliban.

With the main fighting phase over, Marines are under orders to move to the next level — develop reconstruction and restore services to make it harder for the Taliban to come back, and bring a quick end to the war, in its ninth year …

Despite their best intentions, 3rd batallion, 6th regiment Marines Corp found it difficult to get healthcare workers onside in the rural settlement where homes are built of mud and poppy fields run to the horizon.

“You were brave enough to come this way. We know about the IED (improvised explosive device) threats and Taliban retaliation,” said Coffman, trying to cajole the doctors on Forward Operating Base Sharwali, the US Marine base north of Marjah.

“Afghanistan will be rebuilt by strong men like you,” he said.

US Marines recently conducted a 27-hour operation searching more than 60 farms around Marjah, looking for remnants of the Taliban and defusing bombs left behind by insurgents in the fields and on the roads.

In a small cemetery, the biggest grave contains the remains of a Taliban member killed by “American animals,” according to an inscription.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian Christmas, the Marine commander for northern Marjah, listened to the doctors’ concerns and promised to take action and continue night patrols.

“If it’s a day where we don’t find IEDs, that I don’t have my guys under small arms fire, that people go to the bazaar and my guys come back safe, it’s a good day,” he told AFP.

“The Taliban are here. They haven’t left. They look at us as well as we look at them.”

To the doctors, he said: “Security is here. There will always be a threat, but the Taliban won’t prevent you from helping your people.”

Doctor Azim appeared to disagree. “The Taliban glue pamphlets on our doors banning us from opening our pharmacies,” he said.

The four visitors were unanimous — there can be no direct contact with American forces. It would be “too dangerous.”

A suggestion that they nominate a trusted go-between to pass on messages was greeted by a polite silence.

But Christmas refused to take no for an answer.

“There are Taliban, but at some point good people from Marjah have to stand up and do something. We’ll work to help you. It’s time for you to stand up and say ‘we want clinics’,” he said.

Doctor Noor Ahmad, who studied at university in Kabul and whose long white beard and golden glasses lend him an air of wisdom, suggests the tribal leaders return. “They are the solution,” he says.

Christmas closes the meeting, acknowledging that the longer they wait to ask the elders to return, the more difficult it will be to get them to come back.

To Azim he says: “I’ll give you my number. Any time you have decided to do something, you tell me.”

Azim’s response is pragmatic: “If they know I’ve got your number, I’ll end up with my head on a spike.”

“Memorise my number then,” fires back Christmas.

“They don’t say ‘no.’ Only the fact they are here means they said ‘yes.’ We just have to find the way out,” the commander sighed.

Colonel Gian Gentile famously says that the center of gravity of an insurgency must be “discovered.”  I have pointed out that there can be multiple foci of counterinsurgency campaigns.  Security comes first in Marjah (see also “we don’t need your help, just security“).  Of course, it will be difficult to find the Taliban since they are embedded with the population and the population is so intimidated by them.  But this intimidation is the very reason that it must be done.

Since Marjah is a collection of settlements rather than an urban area, gated communities won’t work.  But if the doctor was stopped three times by the Taliban, it’s possible to find them.  It may take more Marines, heavy patrolling, snipers, distributed operations, census taking, and other techniques.  But it can be done.

Helping the population means killing the Taliban – not capturing them (and releasing them within 96 hours), not capturing and counseling, not reintegrating them into society again, not opening medical clinics, and not paying them to protect the population against themselves.  The way out is to kill the Taliban.

Prior: Center of Gravity Versus Lines of Effort in Counterinsurgency

Empowering Iran in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

From NPR:

Relations between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the international coalition seeking to secure and rebuild his country are rocky these days, with both Afghans and Westerners questioning whether Karzai is a partner or a liability.

The visit to Kabul two weeks ago by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised eyebrows both in the country and abroad, as did the fact that Karzai stayed quiet as his guest railed at U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had left Kabul just hours earlier.

At a joint news conference at his presidential palace, Karzai called the Iranian president “brother” and said Afghans were lucky he had come. But some Afghans felt Karzai had crossed a dangerous line.

“I think he has been on this confrontational course with the West, particularly the United States, since last year,” said Haroun Mir, who heads the Afghanistan Center for Research and Policy Studies.

Mir, like many Afghans, was uncomfortable about Ahmadinejad’s visit, given that it happened at the same time the Obama administration was seeking international support for stronger sanctions against Iran.

“This could not be explained in a rational manner because the United States is our strategic ally and we are dependent on the United States for everything — for the salary of our civil servants for our security, for our survival,” Mir said. “We could not find any explanation why President Karzai did not react when Ahmadinejad gave this kind of controversial and provocative speech here in Kabul.”

Mir is just being coy – or else he is truly unable to connect the dots.  We have failed to do combat with Iran in both the covert and irregular warfare it has conducted on the U.S. in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  As for Afghanistan, we already knew that Iran was providing weapons to the Taliban.  Now we learn that Iran is formally training the Taliban.  The regional war with Iran involves more than just operations in Iraq.  Iranian operations in Afghanistan are on the rise, even if by proxy.  Iran is also providing support for AQ.

Ralph Peters sees bad things coming.

Coming perhaps as early as this year (certainly within the next few years), the Karzai Compromise will at first look like this:

* Karzai remains the titular head of the Kabul regime.

* Iran “owns” western Afghanistan.

* Pakistan replaces the United States as the Kabul government’s security guarantor.

* NATO grabs the excuse of “national reconciliation” to dash for home.

* The United States won’t be far behind NATO, although we’ll continue to pour in aid to “avoid destabilizing the situation.”

This being the Greater Middle East, the deal won’t last. Karzai holds too weak a hand; national ambitions are in conflict; the hatreds go too deep. Here’s what will come next:

* The Iranians and Pakistanis will struggle for influence. The next phase of the endless Afghan civil war will be a proxy fight between Tehran and Islamabad (alongside the internal factional warfare).

* Al Qaeda will align with Pakistan, gaining clandestine sponsorship.

* Karzai will be replaced by a tougher ruler backed by Pakistan, while the Iranian side elevates its own contender for power based in Herat.

* India will side with Iran. China will support Pakistan.

* Pakistan will find itself unable to control its Afghan proxies, after all. Another military regime will take power in Islamabad, as Pakistan finds itself bogged down in an Afghan morass and violence spreads at home.

* The Taliban will fight everybody and outlast everybody.

As our troops surge slowly into Afghanistan to save the inept Karzai government, they may already be irrelevant. We’re no longer in on the deal. Everybody knows it but us.

Is Peters using hyperbole to make his point?  Is this what’s in store for us unless we engage Iran immediately as their recalcitrance deserves?  Without answering these questions, it can certainly be observed that in all of our time in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we have yet even to begin to take on the main instigator of all (or most) things bad in CENTCOM’s area of responsibility – Iran.

Bart Stupak: The Duplicitous Plan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

This video has surfaced on Representative Bart Stupak’s position back in October of 2009.

While on the one hand claiming that life had become a living hell because of his pro-life position, his plan from the beginning was to go along with the crowd.  Since this is primarily a military blog, I am usually loath to take on social issues.  I am pro life, but have no idea what position most of my readers take.  It isn’t important for our understanding of Bart Stupak.  Occasionally it pays to understand just who leads our great country.

We all knew that he was duplicitous after he made such a commotion about his beliefs and then caved for no gain whatsoever.  But he apparently wanted to be the hero of the pro life movement.  He is not only a weasel – he is is an egomaniac too.  Or is this the end of it?  Is there something else to the account?

I was heard muttering to those around me several days ago that this was all carefully choreographed by the administration to give the appearance of having made provisions for pro life democrats and independents even though the Hyde Amendment was absent from the bill.  So with Stupak now telling us that he intended to vote in favor of the bill months ago, and with the carefully coordinated display of unction by Stupak and the resultant meaningless executive order by the administration, the question redounds to this: how much of this was part of an overarching plan set into motion before most of America was even thinking about it?

Alignment with Losers in Counterinsurgency

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

I have long decried our irrational support of Nouri al-Maliki, who is a sectarian leading a sectarian party.  His sectarianism may be part of the reason that Allawi, a Sunni, is virtually tied in the vote count with him.  He allowed – and as Prime Minister, is accountable for – the dissociation of religious and political sects under the guise of the Iraq Justice and Accountability Commission.  In many ways, the path forward has been more difficult in Iraq because of our alignment with losers like Chalibi and Maliki.

We mustn’t make the same mistakes in Afghanistan, but it appears that we are careening headlong into the same failure there.

The Taliban, who imposed de facto rule in Marjah in 2008, appear to have scattered since the offensive, but their influence still looms. The leaders of the insurgency mostly fled, locals say, and their shadow government – complete with Islamic courts and a “police” force – has disbanded.

But the residue of nearly two years of Taliban rule remains. Most midlevel leaders and the rank and file have simply melted back into the population. “They still have spies and supporters everywhere. If they catch us talking to the troops they can behead us,” says Musa Aqa Jan, a laborer, echoing a widely shared view …

Many of those who have fled have returned, however, and say they are ready to brave the possibility of Taliban threats. But for them an even greater potential danger lurks: the new government slated to take the Taliban’s place.

The man tapped to be Marjah’s governor is Abdul Zahir, a Helmand native who has spent the past 15 years in Germany and is unknown to most of the local population. He only travels with heavy protection and has yet to visit most parts of Marjah. It may take months before his efforts can be appraised, Helmand authorities say.

In the meantime, he is helping assemble one of Marjah’s key governing institutions: the local shura, or council. This group will draw from local notables and will aid Mr. Zahir in running day-to-day affairs. The Afghan government will ultimately pick the body’s members, but with input from the local population and Western officials.

It’s the makeup of this council that stokes the most concern among locals. At the heart of the fears is whether it will include a notorious veteran mujahideen commander who has played a central role in Helmand’s politics for more than 20 years. Abdur Rahman Jan was the province’s police chief until 2006, and he heads a 34-man council of landlords, elders, and commanders that ruled Marjah until the 2008 Taliban takeover.

While in power the council became so infamous for abuse that some say it turned locals away from the government. “The main reason the Taliban grew in Marjah is because of these people,” says Qasim Noorzai, a government official in Helmand who works with tribal elders from the area. A number of other government officials, Marjah elders, and locals agree with this assessment.

Marjah elders who met President Hamid Karzai earlier in the month insisted that their backing of the new government depends on whether the old officials are excluded, authorities say. “But they [the old officials] have really good connections and backing in Kabul, so they are not out of the picture yet,” says Mr. Noorzai.

As Afghan officials work to develop a new council, the old council is angling for influence in the post-Taliban administration. “We want to convince the Afghan government and the Americans that only we can stabilize Marjah,” says Muhammad Salim, a council member, interviewed in Kabul. He and more than a dozen others have traveled to the capital several times in recent months to lobby lawmakers and associates of President Karzai

The Afghan National Police are still as problematic as ever, a continual theme at the The Captain’s Journal.

Mohammad Moqim watches in despair as his men struggle with their AK-47 automatic rifles, doing their best to hit man-size targets 50 meters away. A few of the police trainees lying prone in the mud are decent shots, but the rest shoot clumsily, and fumble as they try to reload their weapons. The Afghan National Police (ANP) captain sighs as he dismisses one group of trainees and orders 25 more to take their places on the firing line. “We are still at zero,” says Captain Moqim, 35, an eight-year veteran of the force. “They don’t listen, are undisciplined, and will never be real policemen.”

Poor marksmanship is the least of it. Worse, crooked Afghan cops supply much of the ammunition used by the Taliban, according to Saleh Mohammed, an insurgent commander in Helmand province. The bullets and rocket-propelled grenades sold by the cops are cheaper and of better quality than the ammo at local markets, he says. It’s easy for local cops to concoct credible excuses for using so much ammunition, especially because their supervisors try to avoid areas where the Taliban are active. Mohammed says local police sometimes even stage fake firefights so that if higher-ups question their outsize orders for ammo, villagers will say they’ve heard fighting.

With corrupt government and corrupt police, there is little left for the population to do other than turn to armed gangs for defense.  Enter the Taliban – again – after they have been dislodged by the blood, sweat and tears of U.S. warriors.

We are in such a hurry to develop a legitimate government and security apparatus that we are on the verge of developing an illegitimate one.  We (or rather, the British) made this mistake in Musa Qala as well.  If we are going to appoint rulers, the least we can do is appoint men who actually care about the people under their charge.

Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

I wanted to circle around and cover a report from The New York Times about a week ago.

Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.

While it has been widely reported that the C.I.A. and the military are attacking operatives of Al Qaeda and others through unmanned, remote-controlled drone strikes, some American officials say they became troubled that Mr. Furlong seemed to be running an off-the-books spy operation. The officials say they are not sure who condoned and supervised his work.

It is generally considered illegal for the military to hire contractors to act as covert spies. Officials said Mr. Furlong’s secret network might have been improperly financed by diverting money from a program designed to merely gather information about the region.

Moreover, in Pakistan, where Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, the secret use of private contractors may be seen as an attempt to get around the Pakistani government’s prohibition of American military personnel’s operating in the country.

Officials say Mr. Furlong’s operation seems to have been shut down, and he is now is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Defense Department for a number of possible offenses, including contract fraud.

Even in a region of the world known for intrigue, Mr. Furlong’s story stands out. At times, his operation featured a mysterious American company run by retired Special Operations officers and an iconic C.I.A. figure who had a role in some of the agency’s most famous episodes, including the Iran-Contra affair.

The allegations that he ran this network come as the American intelligence community confronts other instances in which private contractors may have been improperly used on delicate and questionable operations, including secret raids in Iraq and an assassinations program that was halted before it got off the ground.

“While no legitimate intelligence operations got screwed up, it’s generally a bad idea to have freelancers running around a war zone pretending to be James Bond,” one American government official said. But it is still murky whether Mr. Furlong had approval from top commanders or whether he might have been running a rogue operation …

The contractor, Robert Young Pelton, an author who writes extensively about war zones, said that the government hired him to gather information about Afghanistan and that Mr. Furlong improperly used his work. “We were providing information so they could better understand the situation in Afghanistan, and it was being used to kill people,” Mr. Pelton said.

He said that he and Eason Jordan, a former television news executive, had been hired by the military to run a public Web site to help the government gain a better understanding of a region that bedeviled them. Recently, the top military intelligence official in Afghanistan publicly said that intelligence collection was skewed too heavily toward hunting terrorists, at the expense of gaining a deeper understanding of the country.

Instead, Mr. Pelton said, millions of dollars that were supposed to go to the Web site were redirected by Mr. Furlong toward intelligence gathering for the purpose of attacking militants.

Take a look at what Tim Lynch has to say about Eason and this whole bunch, and also don’t miss the scathing critique by Brad Thor.  Go and read the whole NYT article.  Especially take a look at the screen capture of the web site they built.  It has the look and feel of Iraq Slogger in which Eason Jordan was also involved.

So the story line is that Jordan and his cohorts were hired to build and maintain a web site similar to Iraq Slogger, except for Afghanistan.  I don’t believe that charging for content on Iraq Slogger worked out very well, and they apparently worked a deal with the DoD to fund this new web site with tax dollars.  Some of “their” money got diverted to use in actually developing real intelligence and killing the enemy, and they went to The New York Times, complaining and moaning about lost revenue.

Since I have gone on record demanding a covert campaign to foment an insurgency inside of Iran (as well as advocated targeted assassinations of certain figures such as Moqtada al Sadr and others), it should come as no surprise that I have no problem with dollars being spent wherever they are best utilized.  It’s amusing that a government official said “no legitimate intelligence operations got screwed up.”  No, to the contrary, these dollars redounded to success.  There is a lesson in this.

Aside from the issue of dollars being sent the direction of private security and intelligence contractors, there is the moralistic element to this account.  It’s an outrage: his information was “being used to kill people,” intoned the flabbergasted Pelton.  This is the same preening, holier than thou, sanctimonious crap that we heard from the anthropologists who weighed in against the use of human terrain teams – as if war isn’t a legitimate application for anthropology.  Every enlisted man and officer in war practices anthropology every day.

As I passed a car today I saw a bumper sticker that questioned “Who would Jesus bomb?”  The Apostle grants the power of the sword for the purpose of justice, and Professor Darrell Cole has done an excellent job of explaining the notion of good wars from the perspective of Calvin and Aquinas.  Certainly, not every aspect of every war America has ever fought falls under this rubric, but war can be righteous and justified, and denial of this truth can lead to ridiculous conclusions (and even more ridiculous bumper stickers).  In the end though, it’s more likely that Jordan and Pelton are offended over the money, and The New York Times allowed itself to get ensnared in a fight over income rather than ethics.

The Health Care Fiasco Will Affect the U.S. Military

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

From Mark Steyn:

Well, it seems to be in the bag now. I try to be a sunny the-glass-is-one-sixteenth-full kinda guy, but it’s hard to overestimate the magnitude of what the Democrats have accomplished. Whatever is in the bill is an intermediate stage: As the graph posted earlier shows, the governmentalization of health care will accelerate, private insurers will no longer be free to be “insurers” in any meaningful sense of that term (ie, evaluators of risk), and once that’s clear we’ll be on the fast track to Obama’s desired destination of single payer as a fait accomplis.

If Barack Obama does nothing else in his term in office, this will make him one of the most consequential presidents in history. It’s a huge transformative event in Americans’ view of themselves and of the role of government. You can say, oh, well, the polls show most people opposed to it, but, if that mattered, the Dems wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. Their bet is that it can’t be undone, and that over time, as I’ve been saying for years now, governmentalized health care not only changes the relationship of the citizen to the state but the very character of the people. As I wrote in NR recently, there’s plenty of evidence to support that from Britain, Canada, and elsewhere.

More prosaically, it’s also unaffordable. That’s why one of the first things that middle-rank powers abandon once they go down this road is a global military capability. If you take the view that the U.S. is an imperialist aggressor, congratulations: You can cease worrying. But, if you think that America has been the ultimate guarantor of the post-war global order, it’s less cheery. Five years from now, just as in Canada and Europe two generations ago, we’ll be getting used to announcements of defense cuts to prop up the unsustainable costs of big government at home. And, as the superpower retrenches, America’s enemies will be quick to scent opportunity.

Longer wait times, fewer doctors, more bureaucracy, massive IRS expansion, explosive debt, the end of the Pax Americana, and global Armageddon. Must try to look on the bright side . . .

I think that Mark is basically right.  You will see a gradual waning of the ability to project force abroad.  It will have at its root the health care fiasco we witnessed tonight – the socialization and nationalization of the greatest health care system on earth.  I may as well take my car in for minor maintenance, only to watch the mechanics beat up my engine bay with sledge hammers, hand the car keys back to me, and tell me that the problem is fixed.  Indeed, very consequential days we live in.

Battlespace Control and Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

In Reigning in SOF in Afghanistan I addressed the issue of General McChrystal having brought Special Operations Forces under his direct control in Afghanistan, or in other words, putting into place a structure that would ensure unity of command over all U.S. troops in Afghanistan.  The ostensible reason given for this was continuing noncombatant casualties and the need to reduce them by making SOF accountable to someone directly inside Afghanistan.

I demurred, rehearsing the idea once again that the attempt completely to end noncombatant casualties had contributed to the unnecessary deaths of U.S. servicemen.  Pristine, riskless war is a preening moralists dream and a warrior’s nightmare.  But I did support the idea of organizing all troops under a singular command structure.

I support the consolidation of forces because SOF shouldn’t be operating out of the chain of command.  If there is a direct action raid and a father or a son is killed in the middle of the night, the infantry (or those attached to the infantry, i.e., SOF) should have done it, under the direction of the immediate chain of command, and they should all be present the next morning to explain to the village why it happened.  If you don’t harbor insurgents, this won’t happen.  There is nothing like a little time with the villagers by those who did the killing … expending effort policing, teaching and admonishing.

But this isn’t the end of the story, and it appears that the reason given for the reorganization is mere cover.  First, consider what the always interesting and knowledgeable Tim Lynch tells us about Marine Corps operations in the Helmand Province regarding their use of Special Operations Forces.

While the Marines handled the close fight around Marjah they used the varsity Special Operations assets to go deep. Getting those organizations to work for you in a subordinate role is not just hard; it is one of the most impressive accomplishments of the Marine deployment to date. I’ve known General Nicholson and the senior members of his operations staff all my adult life and this last accomplishment impresses me more than anything else they have done since arriving in Afghanistan. That’s how hard it is to get the big boys to play nice.  One of the consistent complaints concerning the Joint Special Operations forces in Afghanistan is their penchant for running operations without informing or coordinating or even talking to the battle space commander responsible for the area they were working. Tim of Panjwai once got a call from the Canadian HQ in Kandahar back in the day when he was on active duty and in command of a company deployed deep inside the Panjwai district:

“Why are you currently fighting in the town of XXXX?” he was asked.

“Sir, I’m on my COP and were I not here and engaged in some sort of fight I assure you sir, that you would be the first to know.”

“Then who the hell is in XXXX wearing Canadian uniforms shooting the place up?”

It was the varsity SF guys running their own mission with their own assets for reasons known only to them.  Tim and his troops had to deal with the mess they created after they were long gone.  To this day they have no idea what went on or if the mission which cost them in lost credibility, lost cooperation, and the loss of hard earned good will was worth it.

The Marines made a deal last summer – which went something like this: “We want you guys operating in our AO and we will give you priority on our rotary wing, intelligence and fire support assets, but you have work with us integrating everything you do with our campaign plan.”  It was not an easy sell and at first there was reluctance from the varsity to cooperate.  But they gave it a shot, and they started chalking up success after success and nothing attracts more talent into the game like success.  While the Marine snipers and their recon brothers have been bleeding the Taliban around Marjah, the varsity has been going deep and going deep often.  All the big boys have joined the game now, the SAS, the SEAL’s, The Unit and other organizations who you have never heard of and never will hear about.   It is true that killing lots of fighters is not that relevant in the COIN battle.  Yet you still need to target and kill competent leaders along with any proficient logistic coordinators who pop up on the radar screen.  The varsity SOF guys have been doing that for months.

The Marines handled SOF differently than does Army, Navy or Air Force.  Unity of command is essential to the MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) and MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) mission oriented approach.  Having SOF in their battle space without knowing, approving and integrating their efforts into a unity of approach isn’t the Marine way.  And given McChrystal’s appreciation for unity of command in Afghanistan, he surely approves.

Or does he?  First, there was this comment on the Small Wars Journal blog (regarding this Washington Post article about Army complaints concerning Marines’ autonomy in Helmand).

The rumor is that the Commandant, Gen Conway, spoke to Gen Petraeus and McChrystal and asked them, “What are you not getting that you want?” In other words, if you want some other result, tell the Marines what you want and they will change course. But let us handle it our way. The problem is that McChrystal does not respect, appreciate, or want the MAGTF. He wants to use the Marines in piecemeal fashion in suppport of Army forces.

I heard it second hand. Someone should ask this question of the Commandant.

I followed up reading this comment with a letter to General McChrystal’s Public Affairs Officer, asking the following question(s).

I would like to pose a question for General McChrystal.  If he would like to respond, I will post his response without any editorial comment, remarks or redaction.  Here is the question:

As you are no doubt aware, there is apparently a push to exert more control over the Marine Corps operations in the Helmand province.

Furthermore, there are indications – however reliable or not – that the MAGTF concept (philosophy and organization structure) is under-appreciated.

But mission-based, strict Marine Corps chain of command philosophy is the cornerstone of the MEU and MAGTF approach, and it has redounded to significant successes wherever it has been implemented, from the Anbar Province to Helmand (and many engagements prior to those).  Can you give us your perspective on the Marine Corps operations thus far in Helmand, and speak to the issues raised in the subject article?

Thank you.

This letter was written five days ago and to this date there has been no response (and the commitment to post the response in full with no redaction or editorializing still holds).  Still another source tells me that I have missed the real point behind the reorganization of SOF.  Briefly, there is a desire not to have second-guessing going on with CENTCOM when commanders in Afghanistan made a decision to use SOF for some particular purpose or mission.  The reorganization of SOF into the chain of command in Afghanistan moves them out of the chain of command at CENTCOM, and directly into the chain of command of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Furthermore, commanders in a particular battlespace do not have operational control over SOF or their missions.  They may not, in fact, have any knowledge of such actions until they are dealing with the consequences after the missions.  The degree of control and the unity of command that the Marines have exercised in Helmand is seen as a lesser version of the same problem as CENTCOM controlling SOF.

To be sure, there may be reasons that the chain of command in Afghanistan would want direct control over the SOF, given that they are the most timely and responsive units that any military in the world can deploy.  But just as surely, the Marine Corps doesn’t want control over SOF (excluding perhaps MARCENT), as much as it wants them matrixed to their chain of command during missions if and when they participate.

There are several very important issues with which we are faced.  First, while Tim Lynch may be lauding the Marine Corps philosophical approach to warfare – and while I may agree – there are some very powerful commanders who apparently do not have that same appreciation.  Second, there is apparently internecine warfare within the U.S. military, and just as apparently the Army doesn’t appreciate at all the degree of autonomy afforded the Marines in Helmand.  Third, the Marines have been highly successful in Helmand, just as in Anbar.  Success has nothing whatsoever to do with politics.

Fourth and finally, consider how badly the main stream media missed this.  Not a single MSM reporter performed further research into why this reorganization took place or what motivation brought it about.  This speaks poorly about our ability to trust their reports.  A corollary, of course, is that the Milblogs are providing increasingly salient and incisive analysis.


Reigning in SOF in Afghanistan

Abolish SOCOM

The Cult of Special Forces

What I Saw Today on Capitol Hill

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

From Keith Smith:

I am writing this message to you from the parking deck of a Metro station just outside Washington, DC.  I just witnessed one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen in my life.  By my estimate, there were more than 50,000 of average Americans like me gathered on the west side of the Capitol, yelling and screaming, because we feel that our elected representatives in that very building are ignoring us. The most popular sign that I saw today simply said, “Listen to Me!”  What were we yelling about?  A terrible piece of legislation, and a terrible idea known as ObamaCare.  50,000 people is not a bad turn-out, considering that the event was planned less than 48 hours in advance.  I found out about it late Thursday night.  And on Friday evening after work, I started driving, and kept driving.

Why did I do it, and was it worth it?  I did it because after having written my Senators and Congressman (multiple times), after having researched the policy issues and forwarded to many of you the results of my research, after having been to Tea Parties and Town Halls, after having contributed to organizations fighting this terrible legislation, well, after all of that, attending today’s protest was the only thing left for me to do.  Will our efforts today pay off, and will Congress do what we asked them to do, “Kill the Bill”?  I honestly don’t know.  Did my presence today make a difference?  I honestly believe it did.  At the very least, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have now done everything that I can do to stop this.  Was it worth it?  Absolutely!!!

Many of you have talked to me, or emailed me, or even called me on the phone, to express your frustration and helplessness and to ask me what can be done to stop a tone-deft and tyrannical President and Congress.  I have several ideas, and I promise a long answer in the future.  But for now, the short answer is that we all need to be more INFORMED, ENGAGED, VOCAL and ACTIVE than we have ever been before.  It’s up to us to make a difference.  I saw today, first hand, what a difference ordinary citizens can make.  There’s nothing like seeing a line of Congressman exiting a House office building with voters on both sides cheering their demands.  Go America!  Go democracy!

Other interesting things I saw today:  I saw Congresswoman Michelle Bachman literally sprint up the Capitol steps . . . in high heels!  I thanked John Voigt for coming.  Congressman Tom Price thank ME for coming and wished me a safe drive back home to Georgia.

TCJ Editorial Comment: Thanks to Keith for being there when I couldn’t.  En loco protestari, or something like that?

Wanat Officers Issued Career-Ending Reprimands

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

Regarding the Battle of Wanat that has received so much attention here at TCJ, it appears as if the field grade officers involved in the planning and decision-making for the outpost have been issued career-ending reprimands.

Myer, along with two of his superior officers who were not at the battle, have received career-ending letters of reprimand for failing to prepare adequate defenses in the days leading up to the attack.

Forty-nine Americans and 24 Afghan soldiers had been ordered to set up the outpost deep in enemy territory.

It was July of 2008, and according to Sgt. David Dzwick, they were short of not just troops, but basic necessities.

“The second day we were extremely low on water,” Dzwick said. “When you start running out of water it’s very hard to continue working through the heat of the day.

Despite warnings from villagers that an attack was imminent, an unmanned surveillance drone which had been watching over the troops was diverted to a higher priority mission.

“Not having surveillance was the concern for me,” Dzwick said. “Part of the planning is that we would have some.”

The first Apache helicopters got there an hour and five minutes after the Taliban opened fire. By then, Captain Myer was the only officer still alive.

Myer can still appeal but right now he has been both decorated and reprimanded for the same battle.

I am no fan of witch hunts, and in general I think such things are destructive of any organization which implements such tactics.   Furthermore, we must allow our military to be a learning institution, and if errors cannot be silently addressed, then intransigence will win the day.

Yet … the failures at Wanat are severe.  We have discussed them in detail: failure to believe local intelligence, lack of timeliness in setting up the Vehicle Patrol Base (almost one year of negotiating with the local elders to obtain their approval) allowing Taliban to plan, deploy and mass forces, lack of force protection, lack of logistics, awful terrain problems with the VPB and especially Observation Post Top Side, lack of adequate forces, and so on the list goes.

But why stop at Colonel?  The same kinds of expectations are still customary in other parts of Afghanistan.

BALA MURGHAB, Afghanistan — The gunfire came as no surprise, several short volleys smacking the dirt as soldiers bounded across an open field.

The U.S., Italian and Afghan soldiers were keenly aware that by venturing just a few miles south of their base, they’d crossed into enemy territory. Taking fire was almost a given.

“They always shoot at me,” Staff Sgt. Jason Holland said in mock bemusement afterward. “I like this country, but they always shoot at me.”

Since November, the men of the 82nd Airborne’s 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment have fought pitched battles in Bala Murghab to take a small bubble of key terrain in this Taliban-controlled valley in Afghanistan’s remote west.

But the mission here is hamstrung by a shortage of forces. And except for these show-of-presence patrols, that security bubble is as far as they can go until Afghan reinforcements arrive.

Insurgents sit to their north and to their south, ready at the trigger.

For the men of Company B’s second platoon, it feels like being on the front lines of the wrong war.

“We are not doing anything right now,” said Sgt. Alfred Seddon, 24, from St. Petersburg, Fla. “All we hear is we want to push south but we don’t have enough people. So why not just stay where we are and accomplish something?”

“I was excited when I heard we were doing a COIN (counterinsurgency) mission,” he added. “I thought, ‘Yeah, great, we are gonna achieve something.’ But now it feels like a facade.”

Bala Murghab is not a priority under Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy of focusing on main population centers to combat the insurgency. So unlike in the south, where a new surge of U.S. forces is pouring in, the 82nd Airborne soldiers here are stretched thin, manning this valley that they like to describe as a Taliban vacation spot with a small contingent of forces and just barely enough supplies …

“This is just no man’s land crawling with Taliban, and one small platoon sitting right in the middle of it,” said Hand.

“There’s a definite line,” said Holland. “The minute you cross it, they open fire.”


While it appears that they have dealt with the terrain issues, they are ready-fodder for a massed assault.  So where does the accountability end up the chain of command, and how does this get balanced with the need to be a learning institution?  Expectations clearly continue to point in the direction of insufficient troops to meet the demands being placed on them.

Prior on the Battle of Wanat and Kamdesh:

Second Guessing the Battles of Wanat and Kamdesh

Taliban Tactics: Massing of Troops

Kamdesh: The Importance of Terrain

Attack at Kamdesh, Nuristan

Wanat Video 2

The Battle of Wanat, Massing of Troops and Attacks in Nuristan

The Contribution of the Afghan National Army in the Battle of Wanat

Investigating the Battle of Wanat

Analysis of the Battle of Wanat

Reigning in SOF in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 5 months ago

From The New York Times:

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has brought most American Special Operations forces under his direct control for the first time, out of concern over continued civilian casualties and disorganization among units in the field.

“What happens is, sometimes at cross-purposes, you got one hand doing one thing and one hand doing the other, both trying to do the right thing but working without a good outcome,” General McChrystal said in an interview.

Critics, including Afghan officials, human rights workers and some field commanders of conventional American forces, say that Special Operations forces have been responsible for a large number of the civilian casualties in Afghanistan and operate by their own rules.

Maj. Gen. Zahir Azimi, the chief spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defense, said that General McChrystal had told Afghan officials he was taking the action because of concern that some American units were not following his orders to make limiting civilian casualties a paramount objective.

“These special forces were not accountable to anyone in the country, but General McChrystal and we carried the burden of the guilt for the mistakes they committed,” he said. “Whenever there was some problem with the special forces we didn’t know who to go to, it was muddled and unclear who was in charge.”

Spencer Ackerman seems to support McChrystal’s consolidation of forces into one chain of command because of the need to protect the population as the center of gravity of the campaign.  I do not.  To be clear, I do not support the consolidation of forces into one chain of command for the reason that the population is the center of gravity (see Center of Gravity Versus Lines of Effort in COIN).  I do indeed support the consolidation of forces.

Ending the silly high value target campaign (capturing mid-level Taliban commanders, only to release them 96 hours later) won’t end unintended noncombatant casualties.  The attempt to completely end noncombatant casualties has already contributed to unnecessary deaths of U.S. troops.  I support the consolidation of forces because SOF shouldn’t be operating out of the chain of command.  If there is a direct action raid and a father or a son is killed in the middle of the night, the infantry (or those attached to the infantry, i.e., SOF) should have done it, under the direction of the immediate chain of command, and they should all be present the next morning to explain to the village why it happened.  If you don’t harbor insurgents, this won’t happen.  There is nothing like a little time with the villagers by those who did the killing … expending effort policing, teaching and admonishing.


Abolish SOCOM

The Cult of Special Forces

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