Archive for the 'Afghanistan' Category

Taliban parade new weapons seized from Afghan military as U.S. withdraws

BY Herschel Smith
2 weeks, 6 days ago


The weaponry includes 900 guns, 30 light tactical vehicles and 20 army pickup trucks, according to NBC News’ U.K. partner Sky News, which was granted access to the Sultan Khil military base in the Wardak province close to the Afghan capital, Kabul.

District after district has fallen to the Taliban. The militants have seized 120 districts since May 1, according to an ongoing assessment by the Long War Journal. The map is a moving patchwork, but at last count the Taliban controlled 193 districts and contested 130, while 75 were under the control of the government or are undetermined, according to the publication …


More Afghanistan Misadventure

BY Herschel Smith
3 weeks ago

Bagram Air Base evacuated.  Without even informing the ANA about their departure, likely because some of the ANA would have shot at them.  In those pictures I saw heavy equipment which doubtless cost a lot of money.

Well, I guess KBR made a fortune on its construction.

ANA runs for cover.

More than 1,000 Afghan soldiers have fled to neighbouring Tajikistan after clashing with Taliban militants, officials have said.

The troops retreated over the border to “save their own lives”, according to a statement by Tajikistan’s border guard.

Violence has risen in Afghanistan, with the Taliban launching attacks and taking more territory in recent weeks.

The surge coincides with the end of Nato’s 20-year military mission in the country.

The vast majority of remaining foreign forces in Afghanistan have been withdrawn ahead of a September deadline, and there are concerns that the Afghan military will collapse.

And collapse they will.

How sad.  It would have been possible to put the Marines and Rangers on the border with Pakistan to prevent the hardened fighters from escaping, kill off those who gave aid and comfort to AQ, and then put General Dostum in charge of the country to kill any additional Taliban – as he surely would have done.

But we wanted to play armed social workers.  Many perished from this misadventure, still others came home without legs, arms or eyesight.

Tim Lynch On What We Should Have Done In Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 1 month ago

Free Range International:

Killing Osama and ending our intervention in Afghanistan then and then would have been worth 10 Mogadishu’s. The only senior player in theater who recognized that was a young Marine general named Jim Mattis who was begging to throw his Marines into the mountains to block bin Laden. That he, as the current Secretary of Defense, is the guy left holding the bag is a bitter irony that is lost on virtually everyone. But not me and now not you either.

I had long ago said that the war should have been comprised of battling the Taliban and AQ out of their positions and then dropping several MAGTF of the U.S. Marines near the Pakistani border (perhaps along with the 82nd or 101st Airborne divisions if necessary, all reporting to the Marines for purposes of ensuring consistency of the task force) and blocking the escape of the worst actors and killing them all – not capturing them or making peace with them, but killing them, even if they surrendered.

But Mr. Bush had to play armed social science, so here we are today with an abject failure on our hands.  My way is vicious and brutal.  Bush’s and Obama’s way lost.  By the way, Tim has a nice video embedded in this post that is worth your time.  Again, no one knows more about Afghanistan and our war there than Tim Lynch.

Tim Lynch On Special Operations And Special Forces

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 2 months ago

Tim Lynch responds to my post on the overuse of special operations and special forces.  His post is entitled Special Forces are not the answer.  Here’s a taste.

What you are looking at is an SF A team commander who is wearing his body armor over a cut off tee shit. He is going into a village he doesn’t know searching for an alleged high value target (HVT) who is known to these soldiers as ‘Red Beard’. He is operating in Khost province where every village elder dies his beard with henna; which is red….are you getting the picture?

The only way you could offend Afghans more than showing up bare chested and forcing your way into their compounds is to walk around naked. The level of cultural tone deafness on display (from an SF guy who is supposed to understand the culture) in the linked video is beyond my ability to explain. If I had showed up in any Afghan village (especially a remote mountain village) without wearing a long sleeved shirt and long trousers I would have never returned. Failure to respect the local culture is the first step in mission failure and SOF guys like this one have a 16 year (and counting) run of mission failure.

[ … ]

Want to know something our ‘elite’ SF guys don’t seem to know? Afghans don’t cuss. To call an Afghan a motherfucker (a word used frequently in every conversation by the American military) is a grave insult that would, in the local context, need to be atoned by blood. I cannot stress this point enough and if, during my frequent forays into the tribal bad lands, I used that word even in jest I would have been killed long ago. One of the secrets that I and my fellow outside the wire expats use in the contested areas is respect for local culture coupled with big confident smiles;  that’s why we are able to do what every USG expert contends cannot be done.

When I said these things it was just me saying these things.  When Tim says these things it means that man who is the longest lasting English speaking man alive in Afghanistan (more than a decade) says these things.  It means it comes with authority – authority I simply cannot give this subject.

After sending this link to a military reader who deployed in Afghanistan, he responded this way.

So imagine an unarmored SUV with a 40mm grenade launder mounted on Pedestal and the gunners chair was a red velvet arm chair, crewed by a bearded buffoon who looked like a bad extra from a Spaghetti western. Furthermore, their fearless leader refused to sync ECMs, so our more advanced systems would negate their “SOF” equipment, so no one had coverage.

After these many years, the U.S. still doesn’t have a clue how to wage small wars or counterinsurgency.  Still.  How sad.  And after all of these years, SO and SF are still an entitled group who thinks that only they are capable of DA raids.  So all of that bluster by gun controller Stanley McChrystal was just bull shit.

As for Tim, he has tried to raise the money to embed back in Afghanistan.  He sent me a note and thought I didn’t know that, but I follow Tim religiously.  I knew it but had not said anything because I don’t want him to go.

Considering his time in the Marine Corps along with his decade in Afghanistan, Tim knows enough to be a five star military reporter, security analyst or consultant to the military or security contractors (please don’t ever work for DynCorps, Tim) without ever going back to Afghanistan.  I don’t want Tim to get killed because I care about him.

Tim Lynch On The Art Of Tactical Listening

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 2 months ago

Occasionally one makes dear friends for life, even among men whom he has never met.  That’s the case with Mike Vanderboegh, and it’s also the case with a man named Tim Lynch.  I have more respect and fondness for those two men than they can possibly know.  For my readers who were not with me when I covered the debacle that was/is OEF, and conveyed my utter contempt for the likes of Stanley McChrystal and David Rodriguez, my friendship with and support of Michael Yon when jerk-bloggers attacked him, my problems with the rules of engagement, and so on, Tim Lynch was a contractor who was in theater for nearly a decade.  He has spent more time in Afghanistan than any white man alive.  He knows everything – and I mean everything, about Afghanistan.

Tim had a difficult time decompressing stateside, and he paid a huge price financially and personally for being in theater, but I’ll let him tell you his story.  It’s at the same time enlightening, exciting, troublesome, breathtaking, joyful and sad.  He previously blogged, and is blogging again, at Free Range International.  He recently pointed to a post I made on Operation Red Wings concerning tactics, planning, logistics and execution, here and as a guest blogger on another blog.

In my son Daniel’s assessment he takes a classic Marine view of the operation, but if you can wade through the Marine Corps way of doing things versus other branches of the military, his views are still salient and on-point.  Many of the comments are agreeable, many of them violently disagreeable.  The disagreements come mainly from the notion that we (Daniel and I) just don’t understand the nature of recon missions or the kit carried for said insertions, etc., etc., blah blah blah.  And the whole point of the post was that it should never have been a recon mission of that sort or like that to begin with.  Read it if you wish, but you don’t have to to get the point Tim Lynch makes now.  Tim observes the following in his post on this operation.

On June 28, 2005 a Marine battalion working out of Jalalabad launched Operation Red Wing. They lacked their own helicopters so they went to JSOC to ask for helicopter support.  JSOC was game but only if they could play too so they sent a 4 man SEAL detachment to do the recon piece instead of the 6 man STA platoon unit the Marines had planned to use. With that change came a change in the recon insertion plan; instead of sneaking in on foot like the STA platoon had planned the SEALs opted for a helicopter insert using several dummy landings to fool the AOG as to their true location. The SEALs also ignored the Marine snipers warnings that sat phones and light weight PRC148’s would not work and that they needed to lug a PRC 119 in with them.

In one sentence Tim explains what we all needed to know about the attitudes of the SEALs.  This tidbit could have been in a book, or not, or it could have been said before by someone official, or not, or it could have been tribal knowledge, or not.  It doesn’t really matter to me.  The fact that Tim has said it gives it authority.  Tim will know, and that’s the end of it.

This article isn’t really about communications gear.  It’s about who you are and whether you can “sit at the feet” of someone else and learn.  As for my line of work, I was an average engineer until I learned to listen to others, from technicians to PhDs.  Then I became a really great engineer with the help of others.  The SEALS had the attitude that they were SEALS, and so no one could tell them anything.

If you have the attitude that you have nothing to learn from those around you, then regardless of how much money has been spent on you, regardless of how highly regarded you are, regardless of how good you are, regardless of how much you know and what you can do, you have no business leading other men and you will never excel at your station in life.

“We have individuals that we’ve needed to debrief in Pashto/Dari”

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 9 months ago

Coming soon to a church, school, mall, place of work, or neighborhood near you:

The Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw expressed concern over the possible infiltration of ISIS through the border during a visit to Laredo this week. The comment came during the annual Texas Border Coalition meeting when a member of the audience asked the director if any suspected ISIS members had ever been apprehended on the Texas/Mexico border.

McCraw said: “Individuals that come across the Texas/Mexican border from a countries with a known terrorism presence and the answer to that is yes. We have individuals that we’ve needed to debrief in Pashto/Dari. Not a lot of Pashto and Dari speakers around. But you can’t think about the last attack; you have to think of the next attack and where our vulnerabilities are. So, we’re concerned about that.”

From the heart of the pre-historic world in the Hindu-Kush, where the only functioning machines were sold to them for drug or gem money because they don’t know how to build them, to the Texas border.  That’s quite a trip, yes?

Why?  Why do you suppose someone would do that?

A Middle East Foreign Policy for the 21st Century

BY Glen Tschirgi
8 years, 9 months ago

After watching the third and final presidential debate on Monday night, I was disturbed to hear the two candidates talk about foreign policy with such lack of focus or context.   Admittedly, Obama was intent on baiting Romney into a game-changing gaffe and Romney was intent on not committing any, such error.   Presidential debates, ironically enough, are the last place to hear what a candidate actually thinks about any particular subject.

Both candidates, for example, endorsed the comic notion that the Afghan Army will be able to take over the fight against the Taliban by 2014 as the precursor to an American retreat.  Both candidates vowed that Iran will not be allowed to field a nuclear weapon (Romney actually drew the line at “nuclear capability” which is better), but neither one mentioned that the deeper problem with Iran is its current, Islamist government and not their pursuit of nuclear weapons per se.    So, for instance, Romney seemed to accept the continuation of the Iranian Regime so long as it did not have nukes.

Reflecting on this event further I am reminded of  a post by Walter Russel Mead which is an excellent springboard, summarizing all that is wrong with the current American approach to the Middle East:

The anti-American riots that have been rocking the Muslim world since 9/11 have shaken the establishment out of its complacency. Increasingly, even those who sympathize with the basic elements of the administration’s Middle East policy are connecting the dots. What they are seeing isn’t pretty. It’s not just that the US remains widely disliked and distrusted in the region. It’s not just that the radicals and the jihadis have demonstrated more political sophistication and a greater ability to organize and strike than expected and that the struggle against radical terror looks longer lasting and more dangerous than thought; it’s that the strategic underpinnings of the administration’s Middle East policy seem to be falling apart. A series of crises is sweeping through the region, and the US does not—at least not yet—seem to have a clue what to do.


The Israeli-Palestinian problem, for example, cannot be settled quickly; the consequence of the region’s lack of democratic traditions and liberal institutions cannot be overcome in four or eight years; the underdevelopment and mass unemployment afflicting so many countries has no known cure; the ethnic and sectarian hatreds that poison the region will not soon be tamed; the deep sense of grievance and injustice that shapes the attitudes of so many toward the Christian or post-Christian West will not soon fade away; the radical and terror groups now roaming the region cannot be easily stopped or mollified; the resource curse will continue to corrupt and poison large parts of the region; the resurgence of Islam, even in less radical forms, inevitably heightens a sense of confrontation with the US and its western allies; and Iran’s ambitions are hard to tame and impossible to accept.

Mr. Mead challenged both Obama and Mitt Romney to articulate a policy or at least initiatives that might address these problems.  Neither has done so.

At the risk of being what Mr. Mead terms “an armchair strategist” offering simple solutions, I believe that the U.S. needs to fundamentally reconsider its approach to foreign policy and the methods and tools used to pursue that policy.

First, it is not enough, unfortunately, for the United States to be in favor of “democracy” or “freedom” for those around the world.  These terms are simply too amorphous and chameleon to be useful in building a coherent foreign policy.   Instead, the U.S. should be an ardent advocate for the foundations of civil society:  respect for individual rights;  free exercise of religion; freedom of speech; respect for the rule of law rather than resort to rioting and violence; the orderly transition of political power free from intimidation.   This is a sampling of the bedrock, Anglo-American traditions that are prerequisites  for a democratic republic.    As Mark Levin argues in his latest book, Ameritopia, you cannot hope to have a real democracy without the foundations of a civil society.

The Middle East is bereft of genuine democracies (with the notable exception of Israel) because it is bereft of the foundational traditions of a civil society.   That is why it was unforgivably foolish of George W. Bush to insist on the hasty installation of a “democracy” in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Neither of these societies had the foundations needed for democracy to take root.   Yes, Iraq and Afghanistan may have the outer trappings of democracy with parliaments and elections, but form is not substance.  Iraq is headed back towards civil war as the ethnic and sectarian factions escalate violence against one another.   Afghanistan is a cardboard cut-out of democracy propped up with billions of dollars of U.S. aid and military assistance.   Once the props are removed in 2014 (or sooner), the facade will collapse.

So then, it is a tragic and self-defeating mistake for the U.S. to blindly push for elections.   In Gaza, for example, such elections mean nothing.    They mean less than nothing since they serve to legitimate blood-thirsty ideologues, putting the U.S. in the untenable position of undermining what we previously declared to be a “freely elected” government.    No matter that said government throws its political opponents off of rooftops.

Rather, the U.S. must be very specific, unapologetic and insistent about the type of democracy and “freedom” we are talking about– an Anglo-American civil society that can support the pressures of representative government and tolerate religious diversity and dissenting opinions.

Furthermore, the U.S. must take a hard look at the nations as they are and not how we wish them to be.   It took hundreds of years for civil traditions to develop in the West.   It may take much longer in the Middle East, burdened as it is with Islamic notions of subjugation, subservience and nihilism.

As an example of this, consider this piece by Robert Kagan in The Washington Post.   Kagan argues in favor of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt mainly because it was “democratically” elected:

The Obama administration has not been wrong to reach out to the popularly elected government in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood won that election, and no one doubts that it did so fairly. We either support democracy or we don’t. But the administration has not been forthright enough in making clear, publicly as well as privately, what it expects of that government.  (Emphasis added)

First, it is not beyond dispute that the Muslim Brotherhood won the election “fairly” when it is essentially the only, organized political party in the country.   There is evidence that a sizable number of Egyptians do not support the Muslim Brotherhood but no, unified opposition party could be organized in the relatively short time allowed before the vote.    In any event, to say that an Islamist party received the most number of votes in an election does not lead ineluctably to the conclusion that it is a “democracy” that we are obligated to support.   In fact, Kagan goes on to point out that the U.S. must make it clear what a “democracy” entails:

Out of fear of making the United States the issue in Egyptian politics, the Obama administration, like past administrations, has been too reticent about stating clearly the expectations that we and the democratic world have for Egyptian democracy: a sound constitution that protects the rights of all individuals, an open press, a free and vital opposition, an independent judiciary and a thriving civil society. President Obama owes it to the Egyptian people to stand up for these principles. Congress needs to support democracy in Egypt by providing aid that ensures it advances those principles and, therefore, U.S. interests.

I would differ with Kagan to the extent that U.S. aid money is provided directly and up front to an Egyptian government that is showing every indication that it intends to implement its Islamist beliefs.  Egyptians must see that voting in an Islamist government will have certain and severe consequences.   In any event, the United States cannot be in the business of funding our enemies and, regardless of Kagan’s view that the Muslim Brotherhood is not clearly against us, a weak or failing Islamist regime in Egypt is better than one that is buying up the latest weapons systems (e.g., German submarines for example) with U.S. tax dollars.   Kagan and those like him are desperate to see a civil society where none exists and, so, are easily taken in by democratic happy talk that Egyptian President Morsi (and other Islamists in the region) are all too adept at feeding to willing dupes.

The second, radical change to U.S. foreign policy must be to view everything in terms of U.S. national interests and the tactics and lines of effort that best advance those interests.

For example, for the better part of four years, the Obama Administration has confused the agenda of the United Nations with that of the United States of America.   While it would be hoped that the international body that the U.S. founded at the end of World War II and funds disproportionately would be at least sympathetic to U.S. national interests, this is decidedly not the case.  The U.N. has largely been subverted and overrun by authoritarian member states with interests that directly conflict with those of the U.S.   In an ideal world, the U.S. would explicitly repudiate the U.N., evict it from its expensive quarters in Manhattan and rent out the space to a new organization made up of democratic U.S. allies.   Alas, the best we can hope for is to limit the damage of the U.N. by ignoring it, working around it and forging coalitions of allies to negate the U.N.’s malign influence in the world.

In the Middle East and around the globe, the U.S. needs to re-evaluate its position in the light of our national interest.  We must, for example, reconsider our relationship with Saudi Arabia in light of their unrelenting funding of Salafist and Wahhabist ideologies directly hostile to the U.S. and the West in general.   We cannot elevate the Saudis to the high status of ally or even “friend” when they are bankrolling our enemies.   This need not mean open conflict with them, but it surely must mean a reduction in relations.  (The fact that the U.S. is set to soon surpass the Saudis as the world’s largest oil producer should translate into tangible, state leverage).

Syria is another example where the U.S. must evaluate the opportunities and risks for involvement based primarily upon national interest rather than the threat of a “humanitarian crisis” or “instability.”  Even a Syria riven by civil war and instability will stalemate Iran’s ability to fund and support Hezbollah and bring greater opportunities for U.S. influence in the region as a whole.   The U.S. has been at war with Iran since 1979 and rarely have we had an opportunity to deal the regime in Tehran such a critical blow as exists in Syria.

Throughout the Middle East U.S. policy is plagued by a lack of a driving force.  The U.S. intervened in Libya under the pretext of potential civilian casualties but recoils from Syria with actual casualties.    The U.S. dithers over supporting former President Mubarak in Egypt while supporting the  no-less tyrannical Saudi royal family.   The U.S. spends tens of billions of dollars on a corrupt government in Kabul but argues whether to pull funding from Israel if it does not halt new housing settlements or show enough “flexibility” on Arab demands for land.   It is high time to clarify who our friends and enemies are and why.  Israel is not merely a kindred democracy, for example.   They are a vital ally because they directly serve U.S. interests in the region as a bulwark against Islamists.  There is, perhaps, no greater return on U.S. investments than Israel given the plethora of hostile, Islamist states in the region.   But here again, the U.S. policy is to adopt the hectoring, self-righteous tone of the international community, treating Israel and the Palestinians on equal terms for no good reason.

It is my hope that Mitt Romney wins the election and does so in convincing fashion.   The next four years could be pivotal as a showdown with Iran cannot be delayed beyond the next term in office.  War is everywhere in the Middle East and the next President will need to have a clear-eyed view of what America’s interests are and how to achieve them.   The last 11 years have certainly taught us that “nation building” and “elections” are not effective tools of American power.   May President Romney absorb the lessons and chart a better course in 2013.

Court Throws Out Conviction Of Bin Laden Driver

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 9 months ago

From The Seattle Times:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday threw out the conviction of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden who served a prison term for material support for terrorism.

In a 3-0 ruling, the appeals court said that material support for terrorism was not an international-law war crime at the time Hamdan engaged in the activity for which he was convicted.

Hamdan was sentenced to 5 1/2 years, given credit for time served and is back home in Yemen, reportedly working as a taxi driver.

“If the government wanted to charge Hamdan with aiding and abetting terrorism or some other war crime that was sufficiently rooted in the international law of war at the time of Hamdan’s conduct, it should have done so,” wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. All three judges on the case were appointed by Republican presidents.

The war crime for which Hamdan was convicted was contained in the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

“The government suggests that at the time of Hamdan’s conduct from 1996 to 2001, material support for terrorism violated the law of war referenced” in U.S. law, said Kavanaugh, but “we conclude otherwise.”

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the department is reviewing the ruling.

Hamdan met bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1996 and began working on his farm before winning a promotion as his driver.

Defense lawyers say he only kept the job for the $200-a-month salary. But prosecutors alleged he was a personal driver and bodyguard of the al-Qaida leader. They say he transported weapons for the Taliban and helped bin Laden escape U.S. retribution following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Not much more needs to be said about this.  Pause and consider: ” … and is back home in Yemen, reportedly working as a taxi driver.”  Really, is it any wonder that our boys currently in Afghanistan don’t know why they’re in theater, and consider it a successful deployment when they don’t even fire a weapon at the enemy?  If everyone has lost the will to defend the homeland, why would we expect any different from our warriors?

Lara Logan, Attack In Benghazi, And My Readers

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 9 months ago

I’m sorry for the scatterbrained post title, but there are several things we need to cover.

First, note what Lara Logan says about Afghanistan (and the more sweeping issue of the state of Islamists in Asia and Africa).

Eleven years later, “they” still hate us, now more than ever, Logan told the crowd. The Taliban and al-Qaida have not been vanquished, she added. They’re coming back.

“I chose this subject because, one, I can’t stand, that there is a major lie being propagated . . .” Logan declared in her native South African accent.

The lie is that America’s military might has tamed the Taliban.

“There is this narrative coming out of Washington for the last two years,” Logan said. It is driven in part by “Taliban apologists,” who claim “they are just the poor moderate, gentler, kinder Taliban,” she added sarcastically. “It’s such nonsense!”

[ … ]

Our enemies are writing the story, she suggests, and there’s no happy ending for us.

It must come as a shock to hear a main stream reporter say these things to the Obama administration.  I’m sure those in attendance were shocked.  Lara Logan (reporting on Afghanistan) and Sharyl Attkisson (on Fast and Furious) working for CBS have done good work (although David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh were the sources for Sharyl’s work and haven’t received enough credit for it).  Jake Tapper with ABC is also a very good reporter, but there aren’t many in the MSM that have earned the respect they demand.

But I have a problem with Lara’s account.  She says, “Our enemies are writing the story,” as if the Taliban are some sort of honorable warriors who have outwitted the U.S. with all of its heralded might.

No, we have abandoned the battle space.  The Taliban are a bunch of ignorant child molesting abusers and seventh century vandals and ne’er-do-wells.  Our loss is our fault and we beat ourselves, and as long as Lara’s prose is interpreted that way, she has added to the conversation.

But of course, readers of The Captain’s Journal didn’t have to wait on Lara to give us this information.  I have been singing this song for five or more years now, calling Generals McChrystal, Rodriguez and others on the carpet for their failures and propaganda (recall where I called out Rodriguez and his stupid claim that the Taliban weren’t able to launch a spring offensive in 2008).

Speaking of things that my readers already know, it’s almost amusing to see how the administration and their detractors have done this kabuki dance over who knew what when on the Benghazi attacks.  This was all totally unnecessary and so much wasted time.

All one must do to figure out what happened is visit this web site and study the educated comments posted in reply to the articles.  For example, study the comments from Dirty Mick and Jean from one month ago (right after the attack happened) and you will learn about a complex ambush, the use of combined arms, no real QRF, enemy fighters already in position, etc.  We knew then that this was a preplanned attack whether they admitted it or not.  The only thing that wasn’t clear at this point was that the existing security team included contract employees (former SEALs), and that more security had been requested.

Again, you know it from reading it here almost as soon as the smoke clears.  You don’t have to wait on the spin.

Losing Morale In Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 10 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.

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