Afghanis to Marines: Don’t Leave Too Soon

BY Herschel Smith
14 years, 3 months ago

As I have said before, I think too much can be made of one of the central themes or presuppositions upon which population-centric counterinsurgency is theoretically constructed.  The will of the people, it is said, is more than just critical.  It is determinative.  To be sure it does mean something even if it doesn’t take on the position of being the center of gravity in every situation.

But the tired meme that the Afghanis don’t want us in Afghanistan just took another hard blow.  Continuing the claim to the best reporting on Afghanistan (maybe with the exception of C. J. Chivers), Tony Perry with the L.A. Times reports from Nawa, Afghanistan.

It was at the end of a recent after-lunch meeting, with the two sides sitting cross-legged on a tattered rug, exchanging pleasantries and enjoying sweet tea and stone-baked bread.

Haji Mohammed Khan, district administrator for Nawa, a government bureaucrat with three decades’ experience in war and shaky peace, had something he wanted to ask the Marines, some of whom will soon return to bases in the United States.

“Please,” Khan said in a low voice, his sad eyes looking directly at his guests, “don’t let us be here alone. You used your young people, your vehicles, your helicopters to help us. Please don’t turn around and leave unfinished your business here.”

Khan’s quiet plea echoes but one view of the hot-button issue of proper troop levels in Afghanistan, and Khan’s countrymen in Helmand province appear as divided as officials in Washington.

“There are two kinds of people in Nawa,” said Taimour Shah, a farmer. “There are those who like the Americans, but others listen to the religious leaders who don’t want the Americans here.”

There is also a third group: Those who are afraid to get too close to the Americans lest they be left vulnerable to the Taliban if the Americans leave as abruptly as they arrived.

Since a combat battalion of U.S. Marines arrived unexpectedly one hot night in July to replace a platoon of British soldiers and break Taliban dominance in the region, the U.S. mission has been a counterinsurgency operation, which is slow, incremental, labor intensive and frequently frustrating for all involved.

And with the American public agonizing over the U.S. death toll and impatient for the troops to come home, time may be the greatest enemy.

“You [Westerners] have the watches, but we Afghans have the time,” Gulab Mangal, the governor of Helmand province, has been quoted as saying at a recent gathering.

Even as the Americans are proud of the progress made here, there is a sense that all could be lost quickly if the U.S. military leaves prematurely.

“I think we’re succeeding in Nawa, but like the elders say, if we leave, it will all be wasted,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Reggie Fox, a member of an 82nd Airborne platoon assigned to mentor Afghan security forces. “The insurgents aren’t dumb. They want to outlast the American population.”

The Mosques in Fallujah also sounded off with Jihadist propaganda up until mid-2007, at least until the Marines were seen as winning.  At that point the theme shifted to one of helping the Americans.  There is no substitute for strength, force projection, and longevity.  The  District Administrator for Nawa sounds much like the elders in Garmsir in 2008 when the 24th MEU swept through killing some 400 Taliban fighters.  As the elder said when asking them to stay, “When you protect us, we will be able to protect you.”  So much for the notion that the Afghanis want the Taliban.


  1. On November 24, 2009 at 8:11 am, davod said:

    Don’t worry. The Coalition’s coming partnership with the Taliban will bolster the Afghan locals support of the troops.

  2. On November 24, 2009 at 10:49 am, Warbucks said:

    Ask Haji to hold that thought for 5 days ….. we smell fresh turkey cooking apparently coming back from our outpost. Maybe Sarge must have a surprise cooking for us.

    Actually what seems to be needed throughout the Muslim Belt is a resurgence and an integration of the true spirit of Masonry…. I am not a Mason, but thank God our founders were.

    Sorry if you can not understand me, I can’t talk with my mouth full. Somebody pass me the gravy please.

  3. On November 25, 2009 at 12:02 pm, Dawg said:

    Some Ideas For Afghanistan

    If I had anything to say about it, I would:

    Give General McChrystal everything he asked for. And support his strategy and tactics. However, with a few changes:

    1.) I would switch back to a more “robust” ROE.

    2.) I would reverse the decision to abandon the outposts in Kunar and Nuristan. Instead, I would increase them and reinforce them and set up bases close, very close to key and hostile villages. I would have both stationary Units at those villages and Units that roamed the mountains and whatever roads that exist there, and constantly hounding the enemy, keeping them away from the villages and roads. The Forces necessary for that would be provided. That would be hell on those Troops who have to do the “roaming” and hounding, but perhaps shorter deployments could help? Also, since illegal logging seems to have been their primary source of income, perhaps we could come to some kind of understanding and arrangement with the Korengalis, for instance. Lets say, start a program for forestation and pay them for planting the trees and taking care of it. Something like that. Providing, of course, that they turn on al quaeda and hekmatyar’s terrorists and any other bad guys. Make it worth their while. If not, then pain and destruction is what they get. Make them truly believe that we WILL pacify the Korengal Valley and elsewhere, and that it doesn’t matter all that much to us if they’ll be around in the valleys or not.

    3.) I would build cement- and brick-factories outside the major cities, such as Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Heart, Mazar-e-Sharif and in some key eastern towns and districts. That would enable the Afghans to produce their own building-materials. Jobs would be created building the factories and of course, manning the factories, hauling the materials to where they are to be used, and everything else that entails construction. Power plants, clinics and new roads would have to be built, etc. This way, building materials would not have to be brought into Afghanistan from the outside, something that would cut costs. The US Military would handle the money and pay the contractors and oversee the construction, thus minimizing corruption and cheating. As this would stimulate the local economies on a rather large scale, it would probably result in the locals taking ownership of the factories, cities, towns districts and the roads connecting it all, and the enemy would have a difficult time recruiting and causing destruction. They would have something substantial to lose.

    US Forces Protecting the above endeavors:

    US Forces would be based similarly to how they were during the Surge in Iraq, primarily in Baghdad, with COPs and JSSs and they would operate similarly, by patrolling together with the ANA and Afghan police, keeping a close eye on them to make sure they don’t shake down or otherwise intimidate the local populace. Other US Troops would protect the approaches to and from the cities and towns.

    Locals as Eyes and Ears

    The local Maliks would be engaged to, in conjunction with US Troops and Other Government Agencies [the CIA, FBI] create neighborhood watch-like units, primarily for intel. gathering both inside the communities as well as in rural areas. In other words, they would be spies. They would detect and report anything and anyone that was out of the ordinary to a joint US/ANA/AP and local intel. HQ. The local spies would only be armed with small arms such as pistols, for self defense, in case that would be needed. These people would be on a full time salary. Others, who provide good intel. would be paid according to the value of what they provide. The various cities, towns and districts and then provinces would become connected with one another in defense and intel. networks, making it very difficult for the enemy to operate.

    The various tribes and clans would be encouraged, urged, cajoled to cooperate and work together instead of against each other. If they do this, they would be rewarded in a way that the local US Commanders would see fit.

    Improve and Expand Agriculture and Water Sources

    Try to find new water sources, for instance, from the mountains for drinking water and irrigation. Improve and expand agriculture and try to turn barren and dusty areas into farmland, pastures and forests. All that would improve not only the economy in those communities, but also sanitation, health and quality of life in general.

    Local Governance

    There have already been several successes with good governance in primarily the eastern provinces, largely thanks to the outstanding efforts of US Warriors. This must be further consolidated and expanded. The more good governance, good solid and trustworthy intel. on enemy and other criminal activity, the more reconstruction and development. In communities where large parts of the population not only cooperates, but also take initiatives to enhance their own security, development and eliminate corruption, there should be substantial rewards, such as new and good housing, hospitals, mosques, universities, trade schools, community- and recreation- centers, libraries, literacy campaigns for adults, cultural projects, etc. All built and maintained, of course, by the local work-force. This should send a message to communities that have continued to remain recalcitrant, uncooperative and hostile. Most will want the same as the “good communities” for themselves.

    With local governance improved and appreciated by the local population, local elections will be held for a number of positions, such as governors, district chiefs, Maliks, and provincial and district representatives in the national parliament. These will eventually eliminate the old corrupt and inept officials and warlords that have existed and still remain.

    Communities and individuals, who refuse to go along with what I have described above, will get nothing at all. They will have to continue to subsist in isolation, They would continue to like the Taliban or whatever, and continue to have absolutely nothing. Eventually they would probably have an increasingly tough time explaining to their people why so many others are thriving while they are dirt poor.

    Our Warriors will pretty much guarantee protection for the population – as long as they keep their end of the deal, so to speak.

    Force Projection and Kinetic Ops.

    Meanwhile, as all of the above is going on, other US Warriors would be “hunter-killer” Units and continuously hunt down, harass, hound and destroy the enemy, in the mountains, in rural areas, along the borders to Pakistan, Iran and Turkmenistan, relentlessly and without mercy, keeping them away from the population centers. Eventually, this will drive what is left of the enemy out of the country into Pakistan or Iran. From there it would be more difficult for the enemy to plant IEDs and terrorize the interior of Afghanistan, especially as it becomes more secure and more US and Afghan Troops would be freed up to move towards the borders of the above mentioned two countries, blocking attempts by the enemy to infiltrate. The Hunter-killer Troops would have shorter deployments than those who protect the population centers.

    There must not be any question who is the Strongest Tribe. US Warriors. This must be made clear to everyone. I am convinced that this has long been established. It is the staying power and stamina of the “leadership” (if one can call it that) and the US public, that is in doubt.

    Other ISAF personnel

    As for protecting the rural roads, the other ISAF troops could be given that task exclusively, (unless they have caveats against that, as they have with pretty much everything else) as most of them will not do combat. So, road protection and route-clearance could be their primary task in Afghanistan. If they refuse, they should leave. America has to call the shots. It is either our way or the highway.

    Civilian Personnel

    Primarily engineers, medical professionals, agriculture experts, legal experts, governance experts, teachers, etc.

    We are not to try to hammer the Afghans with our way of doing things, but to find ways to incorporate into or enhance their own traditions and ways of going about their business.

    Whatever works, works, so to speak.

    Upward spiral Accelerates

    Each success will of course produce more successes and eventually the Afghans themselves across the entire spectrum of society will begin to protect and sustain and develop. At that point in time, the ANA will have to be trained and fitted to be able to protect Afghanistan from foreign armies. It is then, and only then, that the US should start to draw down our presence, leaving only those that are to train the ANA further in territorial defense, and Troops that protect those Units. Best would be if we have at least a couple of permanent bases there, both Air and Ground Troops, but not too big.

    In Conclusion

    I am guessing that a lot of what I have written has either been tried or is being done or is planned.

    Obviously all this will take time, money, A LOT of money and A LOT of US Warriors, 45 00 + would not be enough for that. Our Warriors will have to fight hard and fiercely and for a long time. It will take more sacrifices. But with the right Troops doing the right things, tax-payer money paying for the right things, then a lot can be done. There isn’t anyone on this planet that understands COIN better than American Warriors. And I mean – Nobody else. That is just a fact. American Warriors can and will bring the Afghan Campaign to a Victorious conclusion. But they must be allowed to.

  4. On November 28, 2009 at 12:07 am, DesertPete45 said:

    Big words by dorks who have no investment. McChrystal is worthless. Robust ROE, what damn planet have you been on???? The ROE are embraced by the pantywaste mcchrystal and all the sheads up the chain. So you would do this and that!!! Then let our young men kill the damn enemy. what is the goal?? a stable astan that will be a friend and allie?? it isn’t going to happen. ISAF bull. The only ones doing anything there are the US and UK. Screw karzai he is a hill bandit just as is obama and karzai’s bro is a damn drug runner. You want to win ths war??? Get rid of the ROE, hang karzai by his thumbs, he is a shead. he is a tribal thug. This country is not worth one american life. Screw everyone who has no investment and thinks it is. Impeach and jail obama and the other thugs I mentioned. Get rid of all muslims in our military. It is unity that has made us a great nation not the bullshit diversity. Dammit I can’t take this crap any longer. Where are the men???????????????? Where are the men????????????????????????????????????? We have a group of girls running this country. China, Russia, Iran, N Korea are doing back flips and most Americans know it. Get real!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wake up dammit!!!!!!!!!!!

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You are currently reading "Afghanis to Marines: Don’t Leave Too Soon", entry #4249 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Marine Corps and was published November 24th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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