The Paradox and Absurdities of Carbon-Fretting and Rewilding

Herschel Smith · 28 Jan 2024 · 4 Comments

The Bureau of Land Management is planning a truly boneheaded move, angering some conservationists over the affects to herd populations and migration routes.  From Field & Stream. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released a draft plan outlining potential solar energy development in the West. The proposal is an update of the BLM’s 2012 Western Solar Plan. It adds five new states—Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming—to a list of 11 western states already earmarked…… [read more]

Prisons in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

From Reuters:

A U.S. military report on detainees in Afghanistan calls for changes in both U.S. and Afghan prison systems to prevent Islamist radicalization behind bars, U.S. military officials said on Monday.

As authorities in Afghanistan brace for a new wave of detainees from stepped-up U.S. and NATO military operations, officials said the report recommends that detention facilities separate militant religious extremists from each other and the general prison population.

The report by Marine Major General Douglas Stone also calls for vocational training for other detainees, as well as religious instruction from moderate Muslim clerics who reject the harsh theology of the Taliban.

Officials said the policy changes could help reconcile many Taliban fighters with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, a step viewed as vital for stabilizing the war-torn country.

We’ve seen it before in Iraq.  Radicalization behind prison bars.  But in Afghanistan we have noted our doubt that the hard core Taliban fighters will “reconcile” with Afghanistan.  Control it, sure.  Reconcile to being merely a part of it – no.  These bad boys are in prison, some of them, and the question now is what to do with them?

It’s gets worse.

Reports today that the U.S. military is calling for an overhaul of the Bagram prison in Afghanistan follow weeks of little-reported protests by prisoners there, who since July 1 have refused to leave their cells or participate in video-phone calls with family members, all to protest their indefinite detention, says the International Committee of the Red Cross, which informed families of the protests. Prisoners are reportedly refusing even to meet with the ICRC.

Do tell?  Protests of indefinite detention, you say?  Our position?  Same as Old Trooper who comments at Blackfive.  “Taking prisoners is not productive.”  The problem started when we took prisoners.

Scraping the F-22?

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

This commentary by K T McFarland has become typical of the current F-22 bloodsport.

If we had an infinite amount of money to spend on defense, of course, the F-22 would be great. But we don’t. We need to increase the size of the Army and Marines. We need to increase resources devoted to intelligence. So let’s do the same job the Raptor would do but with cheaper weapons systems.

The F-22 Raptor: The Air Force doesn’t want it. The Secretary of Defense doesn’t want it. Security experts say we don’t need it. And fiscal hawks say there are much less expensive and better alternatives. Yet the pork barrel spenders in Congress insist on putting the Raptor back in the Defense Budget.

Why? Because incumbents figure they can buy votes by bragging to their constituents that they brought home the bacon with defense spending in the district. That’s why the Raptor’s subcontracts were sprinkled across 44 states — to insure Congress would add it back in the the budget even if the Pentagon cut it out. They’ve figured out a simple but fundamental truth — they can bribe the public with the public’s money. The incumbents get to keep their jobs but to the nation’s detriment.

If we had an infinite amount of money to spend on defense, of course, the F-22 would be great. But we don’t. We need to increase the size of the Army and Marines. We need to increase resources devoted to intelligence. So let’s do the same job the Raptor would do but with cheaper weapons systems — pilotless combat drones like the Predator and its successor the Reaper ($8 million each) — which have proven effective and lethal in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I was in the Pentagon in the early 1980’s when we first ordered the Raptor — at $60 million apiece. But so far the Raptor has taken almost thirty years to produce and come in at $350 million per plane, with future orders at $167 million a piece.

The original plan for the Raptor was to deal with anything the Soviets could put in the air. But the Soviet Union is no more and its successor, the Russian Air Force, can be bested with something far less costly and more reliable than the Raptor.

And while no one disputes that the Raptor has lots of bells and whistles, only half of the current fleet are flight-ready, and none of them have been used in combat missions Iraq or Afghanistan.
We should scrap plans for more Raptors in favor of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft — which is cheaper, more flexible and represents the next generation of technology. It is a better investment in national security. But it’s not as good for pork barrel spending, so Congress CUT $530 million from the Joint Strike Fighter’s budget!

The only thing we should do with the F-22 Raptor is rename it — The White Elephant.

She’s just making stuff up.  The only reason that Gates has had to make the tough call to limit the production of F-22s is because at least some in the Air Force do indeed want it.  Granted, this seems to point otherwise.

It’s official: The USAF did want more F-22s and considered a 180-some force to be a high risk approach, but after the Defense Department provided the service with a new assessment of future wars, the USAF changed its mind. That’s what the service’s top leaders say in a signed piece in this morning’s Washington Post.

The most important fact about this story is that it had to be written at all. Gates said on Monday that the AF had fully supported the decision to close the F-22 line. Nobody with any great power and influence (current or retired officers, for example) has spoken against it, except for the usual suspects on the Hill. Maybe Gates is reading the all-time-record comment thread on Ares.

The second important piece is here: First, based on warfighting experience over the past several years and judgments about future threats, the Defense Department is revisiting the scenarios on which the Air Force based its assessment.

Read this in conjunction with the paragraph before it, which states that Donley and Schwartz concluded last summer that a 381-aircraft force was “low-risk” and that 243 was “moderate risk”. It’s not a huge logical leap to say that 183 was termed “high risk” – that is, likely to prove deficient against future threats.

The USAF has not changed its methodology, but the DoD “is revisiting the scenarios” – that is, changing the inputs to the process. That is of course the DoD’s job; but the Gates team seems to have done this in only one specific case. And when was it done? As we’ve reported before, the USAF in March was saying that it needed more F-22s.

Basically, this amounts to crafting a model of hybrid wars as the primary mission (along with jettisoning the two-war paradigm under the QDR), and telling the Air Force to plan for it.  This is circular, and proves little if anything regarding whether the F-22 is needed.  It may not matter, since Obama has apparently won this victory, calling the F-22 wasteful and threatening a veto of any legislation that includes more F-22s.  Sidebar comment: when the Obama administration is spending the U.S. into oblivion with waste and wealth redistribution, this claim on the F-22 is so hypocritical that it’s laughable.  It’s a tough call for Gates because he has no other option given the need for more ground troops.  Obama left him with Hobson’s choice.  Diabolical – and shortsighted.

The Captain’s Journal would feel better about the F-35 as the next generation all purpose fighter aircraft if it had seen production and flying hours.  But it is inferior in air-to-air combat and yet to be flown by U.S. AF pilots.  Also note that in spite of what the QDR might conclude, we have recommended replacement of the sea-based expeditionary model for forcible entry with a combined sea-based and air-based approach that doesn’t rely on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

We have recommended heavier reliance, not less reliance, on manned air power both from land bases and sea-based craft as an important leg of conventional, expeditionary, counterinsurgency and hybrid warfare.  We will grant the point that the VTOL F-35 will be a mainstay in the Marines’ model rather than the F-22, but if the skies are controlled by rockets and enemy aircraft, the sinking of an Amphibious Assault Dock with an entire Battalion of Marine infantry on board would end whatever expeditionary entry that was planned.  Air power is critical to the success of every form of warfare mentioned above.

It may be that the F-35 will come along in time to contribute to interim needs, and that its inferiority to the F-22 won’t do harm to the conduct of its mission.  But this hasn’t been proven to our standards.  Either way, while bashing the F-22 has become oh so posh and in vogue, we here at The Captain’s Journal don’t get into posh. We trust only in hard analysis.

Marines Meet Taliban Resistance in Garmsir

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

The Washington Post has an update on Operation Khanjar, specifically Marine Corps operations in the Garmsir District.  Most of the article will be reproduced followed by some brief commentary.

Marines pushing deep into a Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province battled insurgents in a day of firefights around a key bazaar Sunday, as an operation designed as a U.S. show of force confronted resistance from Taliban fighters as well as constraints on supplies and manpower.

Insurgents at times showed unexpected boldness as they used machine guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades to fight the advancing Marine forces. Although the Marines overpowered the Taliban with more sophisticated weapons, including attack helicopters, the clashes also indicated that the drive by about 4,500 Marines to dislodge the Taliban from its heartland in Helmand is running up against logistical hurdles.

The firefights erupted a day after the Marines raided Lakari Bazaar in Garmsir district, a market that the Taliban has long used to store and make weapons and drugs, as well as to levy taxes on civilians. The Taliban until now had free rein in the area because there had been virtually no Western or Afghan government presence.

“This has been their turf for a long time, and now we are in here, invading their space,” said Capt. John Sun, Fox Company commander, at his makeshift headquarters in a fabric stall inside the bazaar. “The bazaar was a huge financial and logistics base for the Taliban, and they want to get that back.”

The Marine advance began Friday when Fox Company, a unit of roughly 200 Marines, traveled in open-back trucks on a grueling, overnight journey east and south through the desert to avoid routes implanted with bombs. The Taliban has littered the main routes in Garmsir with roadside bombs, called improvised explosive devices or IEDs, forcing U.S. commanders to bar most travel by military vehicles on those roads. The number of IED attacks in southern Afghanistan has surged 78 percent over the past year, with much of the increase in Helmand.

Arriving at Lakari Bazaar at daybreak Saturday for the raid, the Marines went door to door, using explosives, rifles and axes to break into each store.

“Breaching!” yelled Lance Cpl. Travis Koehler, 21, of Fountain Valley, Calif., as he shot off a lock with his MK-12 marksman’s rifle and kicked open the door for a team of Marines to enter. “All clear!

Afghan soldiers advised by British troops searched the market and together with the Marines uncovered mortars, grenades, ammunition, and thousands of 100-pound bags of opium poppy and bomb-making materials, as well as facilities where the bombs and drugs were produced. They found tax receipts and recruiting leaflets calling on young men to join the Taliban and kill British and U.S. troops.

“The bazaar has been used by the Taliban as a staging area, weapons cache and profit base,” by taxing local vendors, Sun said.

The Taliban had left the market before the raid, however, and only a handful of shopkeepers were around, leaving it deserted but for a few cats and donkeys.

Late Saturday, Sun received word that the Taliban was regrouping in a nearby village across a canal to the west. At 3 a.m. Sunday, he launched 2nd Platoon, which includes dozens of Marines, on a foot patrol to investigate. At about 8, the patrol moved into an open field, where it was ambushed by Taliban fighters positioned in two tree lines to the south and east.

When Taliban fighters fired the first shot with an AK-47 assault rifle, Sgt. Benjamin Pratt thought one of his Marines had discharged a round accidentally, he recounted. “Hey, who shot?” he called back to his squad. But within seconds, the men realized they were under fire.

“Where is the . . . fire coming from?!” shouted Lance Cpl. James Faddis, 21, of Annapolis, Md. Faddis, in his first firefight, was the M-240 machine gunner for a weapons team that had advanced farther across the field than any other Marines and initially took the most direct fire from Taliban rifles and machine guns. Bullets were cracking around their heads and kicking up dust nearby.

“Get your gun up!” yelled Cpl. Jonathan Kowalski, 25, of Erie, Pa., ordering the Marines to fire toward the tree line to the south, where he saw muzzle flashes and Taliban fighters in dark dishdashas running between positions.

The insurgents began firing mortar rounds, honing their aim until one landed just 150 yards from the Marines. The Marines called in mortars of their own, which were fired from the bazaar onto the tree line, causing a few minutes’ lull in the fighting.

Faddis and his team scrambled and crawled to a better position, but on the way Kowalski dropped his radio. So he and the other machine gunners had to shout to the infantrymen to indicate they could move forward.

Sgt. Deacon Holton bounded into the soggy field along with Cpl. Clayton Bowman and other Marines, running and slipping through knee-deep mud saturated from recent irrigation.

As the Marines maneuvered, a Huey and a Cobra attack helicopter flew in low overhead, circling above to spot the fighters. Capt. Brian Hill, the forward air controller, put on a bright orange panel and wore it like a cape to identify the Marine position.

Often Taliban fighters flee when helicopters arrive, Sun said, but this time they stayed, and attempted to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at one of the aircraft. The Huey made two strafing runs with its Gatling guns over the tree lines, while the Cobra fired missiles, finally ending the firefight. The helicopter crew spotted at least two dead Taliban fighters.

Although the Marines asked to pursue the Taliban fighters south, more senior commanders denied the request. Sun said he thinks the problem was a lack of helicopters to provide air power and to evacuate any possible casualties, as well as roads that had not been cleared of bombs.

“Due to the limited numbers of helicopters available, it would not have been in our best interest to get decisively engaged,” Sun said. In addition, moving south would leave the bazaar open to attack, he said.

But some Marines voiced disappointment at not being able to track the Taliban, saying that decision may have allowed the insurgents to stage fresh attacks on the bazaar later in the afternoon. Faddis, Kowalski and their machine-gunning team were on guard duty in a mud-brick structure in the market that had a window facing fields to the south when shots broke out from a nearby compound. Faddis spotted a target and fired back. “They’re moving out of the compound!” one Marine yelled, unleashing another volley of machine-gun fire.

The gun battle was complicated by the presence of women, children and shepherds in adjacent fields. Having staked out a claim in Lakari Bazaar, Sun said, the question remains whether his company should continue to hold this relatively strung-out position or pull back, knowing such a move would allow the Taliban to return, at least temporarily. “That’s a dilemma,” Sun said.

Analysis & Commentary

We’ll cover two main points.  First, this report is remarkable in that it could have been written exactly one year ago during the tenure of the 24th MEU in the Garmsir District in 2008.  During that operation, the U.S. Marine Corps had taken over from the British who were not able to force the Taliban out of Garmsir, and after a major gun battle took over the Garmsir area from the Taliban.  The primary concern of the residents during this operation was that the Marines would leave, allowing the Taliban to re-enter the district and punish those who had cooperated with the Marines.

The Marines turned operations back over to the British, who were then unable to maintain control of the Garmsir District, and now the U.S. Marines are back again in Helmand generally and Garmsir particularly.  It’s not that the British are unable to fight, but rather that they aren’t supplied well enough, equipped well enough or provided with enough troops (we might add that their officer corps seems mostly to be sidetracked and confused with a version of counterinsurgency doctrine taken from their experience in Northern Ireland).

Second, as we have discussed with respect to the new ROE for Afghanistan, civilian casualties are strictly forbidden.  But the reluctance to chase the Taliban may prove to be the undoing of the operation.  Separating the insurgents from ther population and killing them is the ultimate goal, and when they run we must give chase because they have abandoned their main protection.  This may mean engagement in distributed operations and thus sustaining increased risk because of lack of rapid support for the chasing troops.  But we must not allow the desire to protect the population from clouding the other line of operation – killing the enemy who is the group who endangers the population to begin with.  We must remember our lines of effort and lines of operation.

House Arrest for U.S. Forces in Iraq

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

Prior: Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

U.S. forces in Iraq may as well be under house arrest according to one Iraqi Colonel.

The Iraqi military has turned down requests from American forces to move unescorted through Baghdad and conduct a raid since the transition of responsibility for urban security at the end of last month, an Iraqi military commander said Monday …

Col. Ali Fadhil, a brigade commander in Baghdad, said the transfer had occurred with minor friction in the capital where violence has dropped dramatically since the sectarian bloodletting and insurgent attacks that swept much of the country in past years.

Fadhil told The Associated Press about two occasions in which Iraqi troops turned down U.S. requests to move around the capital until they had Iraqi escorts, and one instance to conduct a raid, which the Iraqis carried out themselves.

“They are now more passive than before,” he said of U.S. troops. “I also feel that the Americans soldiers are frustrated because they used to have many patrols, but now they cannot. Now, the American soldiers are in prison-like bases as if they are under house-arrest.”

Outside urban areas, where U.S. troops are still free to move without Iraqi approval, Americans are assisting with the search and arrest of insurgents, manning checkpoints and continuing ongoing efforts to train Iraqi forces — from medics to helicopter pilots. U.S. soldiers recently advised Iraqi soldiers during a seven-hour humanitarian aid drop in Diyala province.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the highest-ranking U.S. military officer, Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, downplayed reports of tension. Both said cooperation is going well, and Gates said he has heard nothing to suggest that U.S. forces are in greater danger.

“There clearly are challenges, but I think the leadership is working its way through each one of those challenges,” Mullen said. “So I’m encouraged.”

Gates said he received a report on the issue Monday from the U.S. ground commander, Gen. Ray Odierno.

“He said that the level of cooperation and collaboration with the Iraqi security forces is going much better than is being portrayed publicly and in the media,” Gates told reporters at a Pentagon press conference.

As to whether U.S. forces are under “house arrest,” Gates offered a sly smile.

“It is perhaps a measure of our success in Iraq that politics have come to the country,” Gates said …

Hadi al-Amiri, a lawmaker and member of the parliament’s security and defense committee, said the Americans’ withdrawal from the cities went very smoothly — “like removing a hair from dough.”

Outside of cities, Americans are free to move without Iraqi approval, he said. “They have the right to respond to any attack. In Basra, the Americans have the right to return fire.”

On July 11, an American soldier shot and killed a truck driver, an Iraqi citizen, who did not respond to warnings to stop on a highway north of Baghdad. On July 9, a civilian Iraqi motorist died in a head-on collision with a U.S. Army Stryker vehicle, the lead vehicle of a joint U.S.-Iraqi convoy in western Diyala province.

But things are different under the restrictions in Baghdad.

Fadhil said an American patrol wanted to pass through an area in west Baghdad during daytime hours.

“I prevented them and told them they were not allowed unless they had approval, and even if they had approval, Iraqi forces had to accompany them,” Fadhil said. They were allowed to continue with Iraqi vehicle escorts.

Another time, Fadhil said a U.S. patrol wanted to leave the walled-off Green Zone, which houses the U.S. embassy and Iraqi government headquarters, to travel less than a mile to nearby Muthana Air Base. Again, they were allowed through, but only after Iraqi troops accompanied them.

When an American patrol wanted to arrest an enemy target in a Sunni area of west Baghdad, Fadhil said he told them: “No, you cannot.” He said he told the U.S. troops they had to hand over the tip about the target to Iraqi troops, who later made the arrest.

Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi cited three other incidents in early July when he said U.S. patrols violated the security pact in parts of Baghdad. He said these incidents were addressed at a committee of top U.S. and Iraqi officials, who meet regularly to resolve disagreements that surface about U.S. and Iraqi troop movements.

At the meeting on July 2 — two days after the new rules took effect — the Iraqis were annoyed, said al-Moussawi, who was told details of the tense discussion. The Iraqis complained that U.S. troop patrols in Taji and Shaab in northern Baghdad and Ur in northeast Baghdad were violations of the security pact, Moussawi said. The Iraqis told the Americans that they could conduct patrols only at night and only with permission from the Iraqis.

Minutes of the meeting read by an AP reporter, stated: “The Americans cannot move except from midnight until 5 a.m.”

We learned while previously addressing this issue of Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger’s (commander of the Baghdad division) indignation at these new interpretations of the SOFA.

“Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover.”

Time to stop, said we.  Let them clear their own roads, develop their own intelligence, provide their own logistics support and do their own operations management.  If the ISF fails, then their next overtures to U.S. forces won’t be so haughty.  If they succeed, then it’s time to leave Iraq.

But there is something larger in this subsequent report by Iraqi Colonel Ali Fadhil.  The reputation of U.S. forces is at stake.  If the Iraqi people see U.S. forces as weak, impotent or otherwise in a subservient role to Iraqi forces, then the future of this and all other counterinsurgency campaigns has been placed on the bartering table for turnover and subsequent withdrawal.  Eventually U.S. forces must withdraw and the ISF must take over all operations.  But in the mean time, for U.S. forces to be in a situation in which they appear to be under effective “house arrest” is not conducive to appearing as the stronger horse (harkening back to UBL’s views that the people naturally gravitate to the stronger horse).

It isn’t good for the morale of the troops, the qualifications of the Army, or the reputation of America for troops to be sitting on FOBs waiting for permission to move from place to place.  The best option is to turn over operations in these areas fully and completely (except for force protection, logistics and transit of American nationals), and let the ISF succeed or fail without U.S. air support or logistics.  U.S. forces are better off in areas where there is no dispute concerning their authority.

The upshot of this is that U.S. forces have been given a reprieve in their training.  The debate rages on concerning training in counterinsurgency tactics versus more conventional warfare.  Three U.S. Colonels have written a paper questioning field artillery’s ability to provide fire support to maneuver commanders in more conventional operations.  Rather than waste time sitting in FOBs waiting for permission to conduct operations while accompanied by Iraqi Security Forces, the solution is to redeploy to the more rural areas, inform the ISF that they are conducting training operations, and then re-train and qualify at the things that have been languishing during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Iraqi Security Forces can sink or swim on their own until they muzzle their haughty commanders.  The benefits of this approach are threefold: (1) The ISF demonstrates whether they are capable of fully independent operations, (2) the U.S. troops cross train in conventional operations that have been languishing, and (3) the reputation of U.S. forces is preserved.

Even if we don’t make the choice to train in fire and maneuver warfare and use of combined arms, U.S. forces can always better themselves by increasing their skill set in language, field medicine (e.g., combat lifesaver), marksmanship and even online college courses.  Anything is better than the damage done to American reputation by asking for permission to conduct operations in urban areas.

Finally, the lesson concerning Status of Forces Agreements is don’t enter into them, and even though the bit of history surrounding the Iraq-U.S. SOFA cannot be recapitulated, we can refuse such agreements in Afghanistan because we have seen the debacle it can become.

Prior: Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

Iraqi Commanders Move to Restrict U.S. Troops Under SOFA

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago


The Iraqi government has moved to sharply restrict the movement and activities of U.S. forces in a new reading of a six-month-old U.S.-Iraqi security agreement that has startled American commanders and raised concerns about the safety of their troops.

In a curt missive issued by the Baghdad Operations Command on July 2 — the day after Iraqis celebrated the withdrawal of U.S. troops to bases outside city centers — Iraq’s top commanders told their U.S. counterparts to “stop all joint patrols” in Baghdad. It said U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night and ordered the Americans to “notify us immediately of any violations of the agreement.”

The strict application of the agreement coincides with what U.S. military officials in Washington say has been an escalation of attacks against their forces by Iranian-backed Shiite extremist groups, to which they have been unable to fully respond.

If extremists realize “some of the limitations that we have, that’s a vulnerability they could use against us,” a senior U.S. military intelligence official said. “The fact is that some of these are very politically sensitive targets” thought to be close to the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The new guidelines are a reflection of rising tensions between the two governments. Iraqi leaders increasingly see the agreement as an opportunity to show their citizens that they are now unequivocally in charge and that their dependence on the U.S. military is minimal and waning.

The June 30 deadline for moving U.S. troops out of Iraqi towns and cities was the first of three milestones under the agreement. The U.S. military is to decrease its troop levels from 130,000 to 50,000 by August of next year.

U.S. commanders have described the pullout from cities as a transition from combat to stability operations. But they have kept several combat battalions assigned to urban areas and hoped those troops would remain deeply engaged in training Iraqi security forces, meeting with paid informants, attending local council meetings and supervising U.S.-funded civic and reconstruction projects.

The Americans have been taken aback by the new restrictions on their activities. The Iraqi order runs “contrary to the spirit and practice of our last several months of operations,” Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commander of the Baghdad division, wrote in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.

“Maybe something was ‘lost in translation,’ ” Bolger wrote. “We are not going to hide our support role in the city. I’m sorry the Iraqi politicians lied/dissembled/spun, but we are not invisible nor should we be.” He said U.S. troops intend to engage in combat operations in urban areas to avert or respond to threats, with or without help from the Iraqis.

“This is a broad right and it demands that we patrol, raid and secure routes as necessary to keep our forces safe,” he wrote. “We’ll do that, preferably partnered.”

U.S. commanders have not publicly described in detail how they interpret the agreement’s vaguely worded provision that gives them the right to self-defense. The issue has bedeviled them because commanders are concerned that responding quickly and forcefully to threats could embarrass the Iraqi government and prompt allegations of agreement violations.

A spate of high-casualty suicide bombings in Shiite neighborhoods, attributed to al-Qaeda in Iraq and related Sunni insurgent groups, has overshadowed the increase of attacks by Iran-backed Shiite extremists, U.S. official say.

Officials agreed to discuss relations with the Iraqi government and military, and Iranian support for the extremists, only on the condition of anonymity because those issues involve security, diplomacy and intelligence.

The three primary groups — Asaib al-Haq, Khataib Hezbollah and the Promised Day Brigades — emerged from the “special groups” of the Jaish al-Mahdi (JAM) militia of radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, which terrorized Baghdad and southern Iraq beginning in 2006. All receive training, funding and direction from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force.

“One of the things we still have to find out, as we pull out from the cities, is how much effectiveness we’re going to have against some of these particular target sets,” the military intelligence official said. “That’s one of the very sensitive parts of this whole story.”

As U.S. forces tried to pursue the alleged leaders of the groups and planned missions against them, their efforts were hindered by the complicated warrant process and other Iraqi delays, officials said.

Last month, U.S. commanders acquiesced to an Iraqi government request to release one of their most high-profile detainees, Laith Khazali. He was arrested in March 2007 with his brother, Qais, who is thought to be the senior operational leader of Asaib al-Haq. The United States thinks they were responsible for the deaths of five American soldiers in Karbala that year.

Maliki has occasionally criticized interference by Shiite Iran’s Islamic government in Iraqi affairs. But he has also maintained close ties to Iran and has played down U.S. insistence that Iran is deeply involved, through the Quds Force, in training and controlling the Iraqi Shiite extremists.

U.S. intelligence has seen “no discernible increase in Tehran’s support to Shia extremists in recent months,” and the attack level is still low compared with previous years, U.S. counterterrorism official said. But senior military commanders maintained that Iran still supports the Shiite militias, and that their attacks now focus almost exclusively on U.S. forces.

After a brief lull, the attacks have continued this month, including a rocket strike on a U.S. base in Basra on Thursday night that killed three soldiers.

The acrimony that has marked the transition period has sowed resentment, according to several U.S. soldiers, who said the confidence expressed by Iraqi leaders does not match their competence.

“Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover,” Bolger noted in the e-mail.

A spokesman for Bolger would not say whether the U.S. military considers the Iraqi order on July 2 valid. Since it was issued, it has been amended to make a few exemptions. But the guidelines remain far more restrictive than the Americans had hoped, U.S. military officials said.

Brig. Gen. Heidi Brown, the commander overseeing the logistical aspects of the withdrawal, said Iraqi and U.S. commanders have had fruitful discussions in recent days about the issue.

“It’s been an interesting time, and I think we’ve sorted out any misunderstandings that were there initially,” she said in an interview Friday.

One U.S. military official here said both Iraqi and American leaders on the ground remain confused about the guidelines. The official said he worries that the lack of clarity could trigger stalemates and confrontations between Iraqis and Americans.

“We still lack a common understanding and way forward at all levels regarding those types of situations,” he said, referring to self-defense protocols and the type of missions that Americans cannot conduct unilaterally.

In recent days, he said, senior U.S. commanders have lowered their expectations.

“I think our commanders are starting to back off the notion that we will continue to execute combined operations whether the Iraqi army welcomes us with open arms or not,” the U.S. commander said. “However, we are still very interested in and concerned about our ability to quickly and effectively act in response to terrorist threats” against U.S. forces.

Analysis & Commentary

The General said “Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover.”  Very well.  Then don’t clear the roads, provide them with air cover, supply them logistics, or give them vehicle parts.  It’s time for daddy to take away the car keys and see just how far junior thinks he can get without his old man’s money and stuff.

Seriously though.  This is both remarkable and dangerous.  A short review shows that The Captain’s Journal was dead set against the Iraqi-U.S. SOFA in any form and under any construction.  The SOFA already prohibits any kind of military operations against any of Iraq’s neighbors, even if the neighbors are guilty of supplying weapons and fighters to undermine the Iraqi government.  This isn’t surprising, given that Maliki sought Iran’s approval of the SOFA.

We also warned that the SOFA would make for reduced security for U.S. troops, and we were right.  The notion that the U.S. would be restricted to logistical operations only during certain hours is outrageous, and a manifest increase in risk to the force.  When the fundamentals of force protection are being targeted by Iraq, it has come time for some hard lessons.

Lesson #1: The stupid desire for “legitimacy” on the world stage created the situation in which we were seeking the approval of both Iraq and the U.N. for our continued presence in Iraq.  The mistake was in ever agreeing to a SOFA to begin with.  Too much national treasure (in blood and wealth) has been invested to allow Iraqi politicians to determine the disposition of U.S. forces in Iraq.  History has taught us the lesson that we cannot even fully trust U.S. politicians with the safety, troop strength and mission of U.S. troops.  A fortiori, the Iraqi politicians can be trusted even less.

Lesson #2: Legal agreements are always subject to “interpretations.”  Neither agreements nor interpretations should take priority over force protection of U.S. troops and the right of self defense.  Restricted lines of logistics is by its very definition an infringement on force protection.  When such demands are made by the ISF, they must be ignored.

Lesson #3: The support for the ISF must cease.  If the ISF wants to take on any remaining insurgency on its own, we should oblige them.  The only way to ascertain whether the ISF is ready to defend the nation is to allow them to take the training wheels off.  This part of it is a good sign.  Let them tackle problems of discipline, logistics, parts and supplies, intelligence and operations management without U.S. assistance.  If they fail they will back off of their demands.  If they succeed, then it’s time to leave Iraq.

However these lessons play out, we cannot and must not allow any agreement to threaten the safety of U.S. troops.  Any commander who does that should be relieved of command.  Finally, since Hamid Karzai has made his desired for an Afghanistan-U.S. SOFA known, this should serve as a harbinger to the way we should address Afghanistan.  The U.S. should not agree to an Afghanistan SOFA, no matter what international pressure is brought to bear.

Force Protection in Operation Khanjar

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

A very good report from Matt Sanchez.

It’s the middle of the night at the east corner guard post of Fiddler’s Green, a Marine fire base in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, along the border with Pakistan.

Corporal Ryan Joseph Bernal is on perimeter security duty.

Armed with an M-4, night vision binoculars and an array of high-powered automatic weaponry, the 22-year-old U.S. Marine and several others keep watch for activity just outside the concertina wire, which conveys the powerful message “DO NOT ENTER” in a universal language Marines, civilians and the Taliban all understand …

A tiny red flare warns potential intruders not to approach — but it’s the figures you can’t see who pose the greatest threat to Fiddler’s Green, located at what commanders call a “chokepoint to Taliban activity.”

Throughout the day, redundant checks are designed to account for Marines. “Accountability. Eyes on every Marine, pre-combat checks, pre-combat inspections,” said battalion commander Lt. Chris Lewis. “Physical and visual accountability, nothing less.”

Based upon what I know from Operation Alljah, I have always rejected the dichotomy between force protection and force projection, or between U.S. troop security and population security, no matter what the in vogue “population-centric COIN” doctrine says.  The Marines are in touch with the population during constant patrols – patrols so intense and long that many are suffering dehydration because they can’t carry enough water.  There is no need to make themselves insecure during sleep in order to win the cooperation of the population, no matter what a counterinsurgency field manual says.  It didn’t work that way in the Anbar Province of Iraq.

One other report to drive home the point from the Washington Post.

Two Marines on a road-clearing crew were killed Monday in Helmand’s Garmsir District, after they traced the wire of a suspected bomb into a house that was rigged to explode, according to an officer with their unit. Since the U.S. launched its Helmand operation, Western troops in Afghanistan have been dying at a rate of three a day, far higher than the normal rate.

The bomb attacks have slowed or obstructed the Marines’ use of the network of narrow, unpaved dirt roads that link farming villages in the river valley. The bombs have already disabled several vehicles which are further hampered by their bulk in navigating the primitive roads. The Marines’ mine-resistant armored protection vehicles “are just too big for those roads,” said Col. Eric Mellinger, operations officer for the Marine

Commanders have made some roads off limits, instead requiring slow-going travel through adjacent deserts, or foot marches through fields and canals. Many of the supplies for the troops are being flown in by helicopter.

If, at the present time, the force presence isn’t enough to fully secure the physical terrain and thus IEDs remain a serious threat on the roads, then adapt.  It’s what Marines do.  Stick to the deserts, trenches and untraveled areas.  Slower, sure.  But do you think the Marines will be exposed to the population and meet some Afghanis during these treks?  And do you think the Taliban have the manpower or ordnance to mine the entire countryside with IEDs because of this adaptation, or will they get frustrated?

Postscript: Is “Fiddler’s Green” a cool name for a fire base, or what?  I want to go there.

Obama Administration Searching for an Exit Strategy in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago


Raising expectations for scaling back military operations in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama said Tuesday he hopes U.S. involvement can “transition to a different phase” after this summer’s Afghan elections.

The president said he is looking for an exit strategy where the Afghan security forces, courts and government take more responsibility for the country’s security. That would enable U.S. and other international military forces to play a smaller role.

Obama made his remarks after an Oval Office meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. Talks between the two leaders included discussion of the Netherlands’ help with the U.S.-led effort to defeat Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Dutch combat troops have been a mainstay among the allied forces fighting in the volatile southern reaches of Afghanistan.

After taking office in January, Obama reviewed U.S. progress in Afghanistan and announced in March a new approach that included sending an additional 17,000 combat troops, including Marines who have just kicked off an offensive in Taliban strongholds in the south of the country …

In remarks in Moscow last week, Obama said it was too early to judge the success of his new approach in Afghanistan because “we have just begun” to implement it. Obama also installed a new U.S. ambassador, Karl Eikenberry, in May and a new U.S. military commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, in June.

On Tuesday, however, the president emphasized an exit strategy.

“All of us want to see an effective exit strategy where increasingly the Afghan army, Afghan police, Afghan courts, Afghan government are taking more responsibility for their own security,” he said.

If the Afghan presidential election scheduled for Aug. 20 comes off successfully, and if the U.S. and its coalition partners continue training Afghan security forces and take a more effective approach to economic development, “then my hope is that we will be able to begin transitioning into a different phase in Afghanistan,” Obama said.

Analysis & Commentary

This is a remarkable report for one particular point we learn about this administration’s view of Operation Enduring Freedom.  But before we get to that point, let’s pause to reflect on the context.

Operation Iraqi Freedom proved to be much more difficult that we originally thought it would be for a whole host of reasons.  There have been many lessons (re)learned about counterinsurgency and nation-building, including the need for national and institutional patience.  It takes a long time and is costly in both wealth and blood.  There is a never-ending need for highly functional lines of logistics, and the chances of an acceptable outcome is (at least in the early and even middle stages) proportional to the force projection, one factor of which is the troop levels.  We have relearned that it is very difficult to rely on Arabic armies in large part because of corruption, incompetence and the lack of a Non-Commissioned Officer corps that is equivalent to the NCO corps in the U.S. armed forces.  It has been documented that this has directly affected the degree of success of the efforts to build an Iraqi Army.

For reasons of difficulty and cost, many believe that the U.S. should not engage in counterinsurgency and nation-building.  As the argument goes, when an existential threat is judged to exist, forcible entry is conducted, the regime is toppled, and U.S. forces leave to let the population sort out the balance of its history.  If this threat returns or another is perceived, then do it all over again.  While the cost of this approach is likely to be greater in the long run (in our estimation), there are a great many who hold this view, even among field grade and staff level officers (based our own on communications).

But when a counterinsurgency campaign is begun, not only does the doctrine say that it will be protracted, but this doctrine is exemplified by our experience in Iraq.  While continually adjusting strategy and tactics to press forward to a conclusion is appropriate, it doesn’t work to assume that it will be easy or shortlived.

But there are differences in campaigns for which the doctrine must be maleable.  As we have discussed before, General Petraeus has said that of the campaigns in the long war, Afghanistan would be the longest.

I did a week-long assessment in 2005 at (then Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld’s request. Following our return, I told him that Afghanistan was going to be the longest campaign of what we then termed “the long war.” Having just been to Afghanistan a month or so ago, I think that that remains a valid assessment. Moreover, the trends have clearly been in the wrong direction.

This is true for numerous reasons, including the difficulty in logistics, lack of a strong central government, corruption, an increasingly problematic security situation, etc.  If Hamid Karzai wins the election, the very head of the government in which the U.S. administration is placing its hope is the man who recently pardoned five heroin smugglers, at least one of them a relative of a man who heads Karzai’s campaign for re-election.

The administration’s plan falls heavily into the lap of the Afghan National Army.  This is the same Army that is believed to have colluded with Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops at the Battle of Bari Alai, and which, according to U.S. Marine embedded trainers, would lose as much as 85% of its troops if drug testing was implemented.  Fully independent ANA Battalions are targeted, but this is many years down the road, in the year 2014 at the earliest.  Even this may be wishful thinking.

It wouldn’t have been surprising if Obama had advocated complete withdrawal, although we would have disagreed with this decision.  It wouldn’t have been surprising if he had advocated long term commitment, since this is the nature of counterinsurgency.  When we pressed for the resignation of National Security Advisor Jim Jones, we noted that he had stated that the new strategy had the “potential to turn this thing around in reasonably short order.”

Nothing happens in counterinsurgency in short order, we observed, and thus his counsel to the President is poor.  The Generals are indignant, and have retained the right in their mind to request the troops they believe to be necessary for the campaign.  But this view has not been heard in Washington, and not only does Obama’s counselors and advisers believe that the campaign can be turned in short order, but we now learn that Obama believes this – contrary to doctrine, contrary to the views of General Petraeus, contrary to the Generals, and contrary to the lessons of Iraq.  Everyone wants an exit from war.  No one likes to see the human cost of battle.  The question is not one of exit – it is of when and how?

While issues of life and death play themselves out in Afghanistan and sons of America continue to lose limbs and lives, the administration blythely continues to believe in myths and fairly tales concerning war and peace, and fashion plans for Afghanistan that have no chance to succeed.  The plans must change, but until they do, the question is what the cost will be in national treasure and blood?

Prior Featured:

Calling on National Security Advisor James L. Jones to Resign

Marines Take the Fight to the Enemy in Now Zad

Taliban Tactics: Massing of Troops

The Coming War in the Caucasus

Combat Action in Nuristan and Now Zad

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

Two videos, the first from the Nuristan Province of Afghanistan.
Watch CBS Videos Online

Next, this video was posted a few weeks ago, and is a followup to our article Video of U.S. Marine Operations in Helmand and Now Zad (see second video).  This video is low resolution and looks as if it was taken with a helment camera.  Bear with it.

Taliban and Security in the Wardak Province

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

World Politics Review gives us a glimpse into operations in the Wardak Province of Afghanistan.

The most surprising thing, initially, is how difficult and time-consuming even the most basic tasks are — like getting around between coalition camps, for instance.

I had left Forward Operating Base Airborne — where I am based with U.S. Army units from the 10th Mountain Division and a French army training team — for a short trip to a nearby combat outpost, only a few miles away. The objective had been to take water, food, and building materials to the new outpost. The trip, which had promised to be relatively easy and painless, ended up consuming the entire morning, and was both inordinately tiring and far more dangerous than I had expected for such a minor mission.

The problems started as soon as the convoy of armoured vehicles and trucks left the camp’s gate. A suspicious object was spotted nearby on the road, and a group of Afghan soldiers — mentored by the French — was sent to investigate. Because the Taliban and other insurgent groups cannot take the Coalition on in a straight battle, they have multiplied roadside bomb attacks. These now cause the most Western casulties, leading Coalition convoys to proceed with extraordinary care.

When the road was eventually declared clear, the convoy turned onto it, rumbling along at little more than 10 mph. Army vehicles and trucks beat up the dust and shook painfully, the French-made VABs (véhicule de l’avant blindés, or armored vanguard vehicles) struggling against the unpaved Afghan road.

A French machine-gunner leaned out of the gunner’s window next to me at the back of the vehicle, his hands resting impassively on his gun. The only thing that gave away his excitement was the trembling of his voice as he occasionally translated the chatter coming over his crackling radio into English for me.

The convoy stopped repeatedly as the French, who are supposed to be here only in an advisory capacity, kept sending the Afghans ahead to check out an area before the convoy could roll on. Locals, whether passing by or standing outside their shops and fields, looked on, occasionally giving a nod, a wave or even a smile. Some just stared — impassively, sullenly, perhaps even with some hostility: Wardak province has been very violent since things started to fall apart in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007.

My gunner still waved at almost everybody, evidently very aware that this campaign is now about winnings hearts and minds. He seemed less aware of the scorching heat, or else he had grown oblivious to it, to say nothing of the clouds of dust the VAB churned up in his face, and the violent shaking of the vehicle that kept bumping my helmet-covered head against the roof.

Upon reaching the combat outpost — perhaps the size of a soccer field surrounded by three-foot-wide walls — the soldiers quickly unloaded the supplies off the VABs. They then stopped for a cigarette break, during which their focused professionalism quickly dissolved into playfulness, chatter, and a happy performance of Happy Birthday for one of the sergeants.

Then the atmosphere quickly reverts back into soldiering, as the French commander explains to the American team returning with us how we are to proceed and how the convoy should respond should it be attacked.

Which is precisely what happens almost the moment the vehicles are out of the gate. The whoosh of an incoming rocket, then two more, is followed by a burst of crackle over the radio. The machine-gunner shouts to me — “Get down, get down!” — his head turning back towards the front of the vehicle, his hands ready on his gun. I automatically lower myself inside the VAB, wondering numbly whether I should perhaps take at least a few photos.

We aren’t hit and neither is the base, but the convoy is now stuck. There is no more firing, but mortars are soon launched from inside the base, and the two A-10 bombers covering the convoy are called in. We sit there for minutes as nothing seems to happen. And then we rumble on. We do not stop anywhere on the way back, and in fact take a different route than the one we used to come. It is unclear where the rockets were fired from, or even who fired them.

Stepping out of their vehicles, some of the soldiers begin to enthusiastically discuss the events. “Did you hear how they came?” they ask one another. “Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh: one, two, three!”

A French officer walks over. “You okay?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I nod, exhausted, black from the dust, my skin badly sunburnt on my neck.

He grins. “Monsieur, c’est normal ici, tu sais?” (“Mister, that’s normal here, you know?”) Apparently they come under attack every day.

Did this report impress you the same way it did me?  Good men all around, but bad strategy.  What’s missing in this account is something like the following:

Following the desire to protect the population as well as provide for force protection, the 10th Mountain had sent several squads out on what they termed “distributed operations” to find and kill the enemy.  The dispatching of troops occurred during dark so as to preclude direct observation by insurgents.  The Soldiers were deployed with night vision gear, and had found concealment prior to combat operations beginning.

Upon initial mortar fire, the squads from the 10th Mountain Division went into action, having observed the terrain for the last eight hours.  They apparently knew where the fire was coming from, and had not only prepared to initiate offensive combat operations upon detection of insurgent movement, but had also called in close air support in anticipation of the kinetic engagement.

Six insurgents were killed in the ensuing operations, and two were captured.  Subsequent interrogation revealed information that led to the discovery of an extensive weapons cache.  PAO “so-and-so” remarked that subsequent aggressive patrolling by the 10th Mountain Division in the AO was intended to assure the population that their security was improving and would make further gains upon cooperation to find and kill or capture the Taliban fighters who were causing the instability.

Why is it that we’re reading accounts of the 10th Mountain squirreling away in FOBs and logistics routes which are regularly subject to mortar attacks?  Why does the Taliban have the initiative rather than the 10th Mountain Division?

Concerning Marines and Mules

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 9 months ago

Yes, there is many a Marine NCO out there who after reading the title of this post, is asking himself “what’s the difference?”  Well, Starbuck at the Small Wars Journal Blog has written about the recent Marine Corps training in mule handling as a means of transport of heavy supplies, including ammunition, ordnance, and the other things that weigh the Marine down while patrolling and travelling.

With 75 pounds of military gear cinched on her furry back, Annie was stubborn the whole way.

The two Marines assigned to her pushed, pulled and sweet-talked her up the steep, twisting trail on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada.

“C’mon, girl, you can make it,” Lance Cpl. Chad Campbell whispered in her ear.

“Only one more hill,” promised Lance Cpl. Cameron Cross as he shoved Annie’s muscular hindquarters.

The red-hued donkey snorted, nibbled on grass and let loose that distinctive braying, which begins with a loud nasal inhalation and concludes with an even louder blast of deep-throated protest.

She also dropped green, foul-smelling clumps, which the Marines carefully sidestepped.

On the rocky, uneven path, Annie never stumbled. A good donkey, Marines say, knows three steps ahead where it wants to walk.

For Campbell and Cross, the day with Annie could be a preview of days to come. The two may soon deploy to Afghanistan, where donkeys and mules have been the preferred mode of military transport for centuries — and remain so.

With the U.S. shifting its focus from the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Central Asia, this course on pack animals at the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center has become critical to the new mission.

I just have one bone to pick.  I dealt with this almost four months ago in Marines, Animals and Counterinsurgency.  I also linked and embedded the video of the Big Dog, a mechanized set of processors, servos and other components that will malfunction, have no power when the batteries degrade or die, and require constant maintenance due to dust, mud, and overuse.  Brandon Friedman at the SWJ has it about right.

The BigDog seems pretty ridiculous. We could probably buy a mule for every infantry squad in Afghanistan and feed it for a year for well under the price of one BigDog. How does the BigDog work in the rain? Can it make a water crossing? How many batteries does it require? How heavy are they? How are they charged? Who’s trained to do maintenance on it? Will he or she have to accompany the BigDog on missions? I really love the stealthy buzzing sound it makes, too.

Yes, the thing sounds like a million angry Africanized bees.  I am all in favor of weight reduction for warriors, and have constantly advocated R&D for ESAPI plates to reduce body armor weight.  But the low hanging fruit has been picked, and any further weight reductions will come at high expense and hard work.

I can’t escape the feeling that some of the drive at DARPA to build mechanical beasts to support logistics has to do with the eradication or neutralization of gender differences.  We have dealt with this issue before in:

Marines, Beasts and Water

Scenes from Operation Khanjar II

Where we discussed the fact that Marine infantry and Army Special Forces don’t allow females to occupy billets.  Females have different PT requirements than males, and suffered an inordinately high number of lower extremity injuries compared to males in the Russian Army while they conducted their campaign in Afghanistan.

When the average Marine Infantryman leaves the line at greater than 120 pounds, it’s obvious that gender differences become pronounced, as do differences in conditioning and training.  If one supposes that this load is reduced to 90 – 100 pounds, how does that allow for the eradication of gender differences?  In fact, suppose that the Marine is only carrying his body armor, hydration system, weapon (let’s suppose a SAW), ammunition (let’s suppose several drums of ammunition), and a few other essentials for a daily patrol.  How does a reduction in the weight to 60 – 70 pounds eradicate gender differences when the Marine needs to sprint from compound to compound in order to avoid sniper fire?

As for the mules and donkeys, I have previously described my view of what fathers should be doing with their sons.  My Marine knew how to train Quarter horses and care for dogs before he ever went into the Marines because I taught him.  He eventually became better than me.  Every Marine should know something about how to handle dogs, mules, horses, and other animals, and should also know something about the anatomy of animals (e.g., how do you prepare a snake to eat after you have killed it, how do you care for horses in the absence of a farrier, and so on).

As we pointed out before, the discussions about animals in the Small Wars Manual doesn’t seem so far fetched in this day and age, does it?  The Afghanistan terrain and climate that would kill most machines is ready made for beasts of burden.

In summary, weight reduction ought to be pursued with available funds to reduce the burden on the Infantryman.  But Marine infantry is for young men, and the push to eradicate gender differences, if that’s what this is about, makes the DoD and DARPA look stupid.  Marine Infantrymen must be males for a whole host of very good reasons.  The push to eradicate gender considerations should stop, as the money is needed elsewhere.  All Marines should know something about the proper care of animals, and there is no excuse for leaving this out of pre-deployment training.  The Marines aren’t so busy that they can’t rotate through a week long course with another Marine instructor who has himself been more thoroughly trained on animals.

Seriously.  What could possibly be controversial about what I have said?

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