Losing Morale In Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 6 months ago

Michael Yon recently penned a piece entitled Stuck In the Mud, written in the same spirit as my own Doing The Same Things For Too Long In Afghanistan.  Michael details better than I did the deleterious and debilitating effects that technology has had on our war efforts.  Visit my own article, and then visit Michael’s article.  Michael adds flesh to the skeleton of my own views.  My friend John Bernard continues Michael’s thoughts by observing:

This is another important piece chronicling the perverse nature of an ill-advised battle strategy chosen by a mindless body politic and their morally defunct General Grade surrogates.

If the strategy (COIN) was such a magnificent contrivance, there would be no discussion about progress; it would in fact be self-evident. Instead we have journalists like Michael Yon, who is not of the exact same camp as I am. He and I have talked and he has held out hope for a properly run COIN operation even in the midst of the demonically possessed while I believe every iteration is doomed to failure.

This, his latest piece, provides even more insight into this nightmare called COIN, conceived in the hearts of spiritually soiled men and in meetings governed by a coward’s concern for global perceptions! This travesty of strategy, as a principle of theater-wide application ought to be outlawed by this Nation!

Readers know my own views.  I disagree with population-centric COIN as a strategy.  It is a tactic, and at that, a poor one.  But I must caveat what John says.  While I agree with John that COIN practiced the way we have in Afghanistan is doomed to failure, if it is practiced in a different way it can succeed in certain parts of the world.

To be more precise, In Fallujah in 2007, al Qaeda fighters had been driven from Ramadi, and had such control over the city that the inhabitants were persuaded to send their own children out to encircle the Marines when they patrolled, raising black balloons in order to show the insurgents where the Marines were for the purposes of mortar targeting.  FOB Reaper was built while my son and others passed sand bags over their heads, being shot at by snipers for much of the time.  Fallujah was utterly controlled by al Qaeda fighters.

Enter the 2/6 Marines for a 7 month deployment.  They went in hard, patrolling heavily, laying down massive fire at times, engaged in forced (and at times violent) searches of homes, performed census operations, locked the city down from vehicular traffic with only two checkpoints into and out of the city, shot insurgents as they attempted to boat over the Euphrates river into Fallujah (my son engaged in those operations), and other things that I simply cannot discuss.

As part of this operation, they had the assistance of the IPs who did everything they could to earn the trust of the Marines, looked up to them, and admired them and their work.  This leads me to my next point.  My son observed that the people of Fallujah were Islamic in name only.  They weren’t committed, and according to my son, were virtually as Westernized as Americans.

We can practice counterinsurgency (not population-centric per se, but a different brand of counterinsurgency like my son did in Fallujah) to an extent that is inversely proportional to strength of belief in Islam.  For example, we couldn’t conduct COIN operations in Egypt, home of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Operations in foreign countries have to be much more brief than we have done in Afghanistan, must find and kill the enemy more effectively, and must lead to the understanding that we may have to do it again within ten or twelve years, which is what the U.S. Marines are for.  The Army’s (and administration’s) notion that we can build a state that never … ever … considers itself an enemy of the U.S., and that is the only definition of success, has in part led to the debacle we have witnessed in Afghanistan.

Population-centric counterinsurgency is based largely on nineteenth and twentieth century Western psychology.  If I reject the pronouncements of those studies, and I do, then I must reject in large measure population-centric COIN and state building.

Finally, take note of Michael’s more recent piece entitled America’s Dumbest War.  Take careful note of the comments.  It’s as if a herd of PAOs dropped by to talk about how the guy who wrote the letter is an idiot and couldn’t possibly have known the full truth.

These commenters missed the point entirely.  First of all, I have reason to believe the Soldier’s comments, at least in part, based on communications with an officer currently in Afghanistan concerning travel, new directives, etc.  But second, what if only part of it is true?  A problem, yes?  Finally, what if none of it true?

Still a problem.  When we get to the point that the grunts feel this way, we have lost the campaign.  If the grunts feel this way, their parents and spouses do to.  When you’ve lost the fighters’ morale, you’ve lost everything.  Technology is useless at that point.  I have said before that one of the most debilitating effects of lousy rules of engagement is the effect they have on morale.  The same thing goes for our strategy.  If they see none (except for the exhausted talking points), they will lose hope.

No, not lose hope.  They have already lost hope.  Bring them home.  The campaign is over.


  1. On October 2, 2012 at 10:15 am, TheOddAngryAnalyst said:

    Afghanistan, in my opinion, was largely lost during the criminally stupid and misguided adventure our nation engaged in, in Iraq. Once we shifted the military/intelligence focus (and weight of our military personnel and material) to the completely unnecessary 2003 expedition to remove Saddam Hussein, we essentially lost the momentum, and thereby the war, in Afghanistan.
    My current understanding of certain US Army units’ ROE is that it’s purely defensive, and along the lines of “you may not fire unless you are DIRECTLY fired upon, and can verify the location of the OPFOR”. This, to me at least, is a recipe for needless American deaths, and failure. If we’re truly at this point, we need to own up to our mistakes and withdraw our forces immediately, instead of continuing to place our soldiers and Marines in harm’s way for reasons of national prestige and “face”. Obviously the people on the ground pick up on this, and their morale is understandably negatively effected.
    The fact is that the stated missions of training up the ANA and Afghani police forces to a level of competency which would be even remotely up to the task of quashing a Pakistani supported Taliban insurgency by 2014 is an absolute mountain of insane gibberish, and completely devoid of credibility.
    There are even rumored intelligence estimates that put the survivability of the Kabul government, after a complete American/NATO withdrawal, at anywhere from 48-hours to 2 weeks.
    I don’t know about the Corps, but the Army is now at a point where there are no-longer enough deployable infantry platoon commanders and NCOs to send to Afghanistan to assist in said training missions. They are actually “volunteering” staff officers to fill the void. I personally know of a Major (pilot/aviation), who is a Latin American FAO, with no Pashto, Dari, or even Russian language skills, who has been “volunteered” in this way. He has a wife and a small child. With the recent and increasing “Green-on-Blue” attacks, I’ve become of the opinion that the mission, such as it is, is hopelessly broken, with too many shallow thinkers and egos in the way, and we need to get our people the fuck out of there will all due haste.
    Just my $.02. I could be wrong.

  2. On October 2, 2012 at 10:43 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Well, I must demur. I don’t think Iraq had anything to do with it. I have written many times about the fact that in the last years I have seen so many Marines at Camp Lejeune that they literally couldn’t house them all, and were building housing as fast as they could.

    But what did we do with those Marines, other than send them to Iraq? We sent them on wasteful MEUs that were never used for anything other than humanitarian missions. They could have been sweeping through Afghanistan. But we didn’t do this because our Afghanistan strategy wasn’t to sweep through and find and kill the enemy. It was to build a state.

  3. On October 3, 2012 at 7:02 pm, Jim Keats said:

    First off, let me admit that I have no military experience. I’m simply a “student” of history (particularly military history…and, recently, er, recent military history).

    I’m greatly saddened by the loss of all of our troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I believe that both missions were worthwhile…but I believe that both of them would take a GENERATION to be successful…and the USA can’t really afford the price (in either blood or treasure). Both of these “countries” are formed of various clans and tribes…and don’t really have a sense of “nationality” (they are “family/clan” first). I think that the only way to successfully create workable nation-states in these areas is to re-draw national boundaries and let the “countries” break up ala Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia (hopefully more like the former than the later!!). Of course this solution creates it’s own problems (e.g. who gets what land, do neighboring countries want a Kurdistan, etc.??).

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You are currently reading "Losing Morale In Afghanistan", entry #9181 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Michael Yon and was published October 1st, 2012 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (704)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (40)
Air Power (10)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (22)
Ammunition (277)
Animals (285)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (373)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (86)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (28)
Australian Army (7)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (3)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (219)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (18)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (3)
Blogs (24)
Body Armor (23)
Books (3)
Border War (18)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (38)
British Army (35)
Camping (5)
Canada (17)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (16)
Christmas (16)
CIA (30)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (3)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (218)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (210)
Department of Homeland Security (26)
Disaster Preparedness (5)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (15)
Donald Trump (27)
Drone Campaign (4)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (2)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (39)
Featured (189)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (1,767)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (44)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (9)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (1,638)
Guns (2,307)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (16)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (3)
Horses (2)
Humor (72)
Hunting (33)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (108)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (4)
Infrastructure (4)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (171)
Iraq (379)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (64)
Islamists (98)
Israel (19)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (3)
Jihadists (81)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (7)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (6)
Lawfare (14)
Leadership (6)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (280)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (68)
Medical (146)
Memorial Day (6)
Mexican Cartels (41)
Mexico (61)
Michael Yon (6)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (5)
Military Equipment (25)
Militia (9)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (25)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (25)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (95)
NATO (15)
Navy (30)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (3)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (62)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (221)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (7)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (72)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (4)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (648)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (970)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (492)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (37)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (668)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (28)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (23)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (52)
Survival (185)
SWAT Raids (57)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (38)
Tactical Gear (14)
Taliban (168)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (21)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (96)
Thanksgiving (13)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (24)
TSA Ineptitude (13)
TTPs (4)
U.S. Border Patrol (6)
U.S. Border Security (19)
U.S. Sovereignty (24)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (10)
Uncategorized (98)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (3)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (412)
War & Warfare (41)
War Movies (4)
War Reporting (21)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (79)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (21)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

April 2024
March 2024
February 2024
January 2024
December 2023
November 2023
October 2023
September 2023
August 2023
July 2023
June 2023
May 2023
April 2023
March 2023
February 2023
January 2023
December 2022
November 2022
October 2022
September 2022
August 2022
July 2022
June 2022
May 2022
April 2022
March 2022
February 2022
January 2022
December 2021
November 2021
October 2021
September 2021
August 2021
July 2021
June 2021
May 2021
April 2021
March 2021
February 2021
January 2021
December 2020
November 2020
October 2020
September 2020
August 2020
July 2020
June 2020
May 2020
April 2020
March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2024 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.