Archive for the 'CENTCOM' Category

Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy III

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 3 months ago

From The New York Post:

When  President Obama made his Cairo speech two years ago, apologizing for nearly everything America had done in the Mideast since Jimmy Carter, some of us worried that the goal was nothing less than terminating US influence there. Two signal events last week at either end of that volatile region suggest that’s exactly what’s happening.

The first was the decision to pull US ships and planes out of combat operations in Libya and to leave the rest to NATO unless the rebels are on the brink of destruction. The second, even more disturbing, was the report that, at the height of the anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain two weeks ago, the Pentagon ordered our ships and personnel at our naval base there to clear out, leaving only a skeleton staff.

Our naval base at Manama is the biggest in the region. It’s the home of the Fifth Fleet, the guardians of Persian Gulf stability, and plays host to successive US carrier groups that keep watch over a hostile Iran.

Yet it seems the administration was ready to hand the place over to any anti-American or pro-Iranian demonstrators poised to take over in Bahrain, until the Saudis finally intervened and sent in troops — thus saving our strategic bacon as well as their own.

Now, let’s grant that this administration’s Libya policy hasn’t been well thought out. Our pulling back there might be cutting our political losses. Let’s also grant that the Navy says our Fifth Fleet ships were headed for naval exercises in Oman and strenuously denies any bug-out from Bahrain — all appearances to the contrary.

Is this for real?  One word: CENTCOM.  Without this basing and the Fifth Fleet, CENTCOM force projection would be impossible.  This administration apparently doesn’t even understand the most rudimentary aspects of how world peace is maintained and U.S. security is achieved.  It’s disarming, really, and one is left at a loss for words.  This is so poor, so sophomoric, so dangerous, and so reckless that the report should be false, except that it represents administration thinking.


Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy II

Rapidly Collapsing U.S. Foreign Policy

It’s fun to shoot some people

BY Herschel Smith
14 years ago

Via Federal Eye, U.S. Marine Corps General James Mattis, newly nominated to head CENTCOM, gives an unvarnished opinion of the enemy.

“Especially hard to overcome,” huh?  The only bone I have to pick with General Mattis is that the prosecution of the Haditha Marines began under his watch.  But this has worked itself out okay (except for one more Marine).

But it would seem to me that given the volatility and importance of the region and the obvious failure of soft diplomacy with Iran for 25 years, we need a moderately heavier hand at the helm.  Trust is not what is needed with the radical Mullahs or their apparatchiks in Syria and Lebanon.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I like the idea of having a general who likes to kill the enemy.  Let the politicians do the politics and let the warriors be warriors.  I like what he said five years ago, and Gates should just stuff a sock in it and let the general speak for himself.

A Blunder of Colossal Proportions in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 5 months ago

One error made in the phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom following the invasion was the foisting of a democratic form of government on the country, and even more specifically, a parliamentary form of government.  It led to the ineptitude and intransigence of the government for a protracted period of time.  The position of Prime Minister, held now by Maliki, was used as much to prevent U.S. operations against rogue Shi’a elements as it was to serve the country.  Indeed, while performing a defensive political operation for Moqtada al Sadr, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and the SIIC and others, he had no problem allowing the U.S. to go after Sunni insurgents in Anbar and in and around Baghdad.  Even recently Marine Maj. Gen John Kelly has complained about the lack of funding flowing from Baghdad to Anbar.  Having a political authority and structure to which the U.S. was reportable hindered the progress of counterinsurgency, even if in the end a political authority was necessary for turnover of control.

Hamid Karzai wants the U.S. to make the same mistake in Afghanistan.  Even worse, he wants operational and strategic control over U.S. forces.

The Afghan government has sent NATO headquarters a draft agreement that would give Afghanistan more control over future NATO deployments in the country — including the positioning of some U.S. troops, officials said Tuesday.

The draft technical agreement would put into place rules of conduct for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan and the number of additional NATO troops and their location would have to be approved by the Afghan government.

The agreement — an attempt by Afghanistan to gain more control over international military operations — would also prohibit NATO troops from conducting any searches of Afghan homes, according to a copy of the draft obtained by The Associated Press.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who met with Gen. David Petraeus on Tuesday and discussed how to prevent civilian deaths and the role of Afghan forces in U.S. missions, told legislators that his government sent the draft agreement to NATO about two weeks ago. As the head of U.S. Central Command, Petraeus oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Addressing parliament at its opening session, a frustrated Karzai said the U.S. and other Western military allies have not heeded his calls to stop airstrikes in civilian areas in Afghanistan. He warned that the fight against militants cannot be won without popular support from Afghans.

The Afghan president urged the U.S. and NATO to follow a new military strategy in Afghanistan that would increase cooperation with Afghan forces and officials to prevent the killing and maiming of civilians.

“We will not accept civilian casualties on our soil during the fight against terrorism and we cannot tolerate it,” Karzai told parliament.

In addition to strategic control, he wants tactical control over the actions of U.S. troops.

“The president has said there is a need to review our relationship and the way we move forward and we need to make sure that Afghans, particularly on the issue of searches and arrest, are in the forefront,” Hamidzada told The Associated Press during an interview at the heavily fortified presidential palace.

“We have to make sure that in the villages we don’t burst into people’s houses, we don’t arrest people arbitrarily and we don’t act on intelligence that is not verifiable,” he said.

He blames many of the problems on air power, and while it’s true that The Captain’s Journal has advocated increased troop presence with the population in Afghanistan (which should lead to more accuracy in the application of air power), this would most certainly mean an increase in intelligence-driven raids.  U.S. troops don’t need the hindrance of the ineptitude of the Afghan Army during such raids.  More correctly, the Afghan troops are still learning and being mentored.  In the battle of Wanat, of the nine dead and twenty seven wounded, all casualties were U.S. Army.  None were Afghan troops.

This is all from one Karzai who prostrated himself before Mullah Omar, beseeching him to return to the fold. On the first day of Id al-Fitr, President Hamid Karzai had a great treat in store for his people. In a speech he said: “A few days ago I pleaded with the leader of the Taliban, telling him ‘My brother, my dear, come back to your homeland. Come back and work for peace, for the good of the Afghan people. Stop this business of brothers killing brothers’.”

Karzai is facing an election soon, and some of this may be posturing in front of the Afghan people.  Regardless of his motivation, he essentially wants the equivalent of the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement in Afghanistan, while he is begging Mullah Omar to return to Afghanistan and promising him protection.  The campaign is nowhere near this phase.

Given the state of affairs in Afghanistan, to give operational, strategic and tactical control of U.S. troops over to a foreign president would not only work contrary to the unity of command sought by placing U.S. troops back under CENTCOM with Petraeus in charge.  More to the point, it would have disastrous consequences for the campaign.

We haven’t yet made this colossal blunder in the campaign, but Karzai has made it clear that he wishes us to.  If Karzai presses this issue, he could become not just a hindrance to the campaign as he is now with his corrupt government.  Rather, he could become a very real enemy of the peace and stability of Afghanistan.  The U.S. might have to cut its ties with and support of Karzai.

Finalized Command Structure Changes for Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
15 years, 9 months ago

Regular readers of The Captain’s Journal know that we’ve been critical of NATO. As far back as five months ago we were discussing and advocating a reorganization of NATO to report to U.S. CENTCOM, or at a minimum, removing U.S. troops from NATO command in Afghanistan. We also pointed out the red tape and utter confusion in NATO in everything from strategy to radio frequencies. As characterized by one Marine officer prior to operations in the Helmand Province, they had to “wait for the Elephants to stop dancing.”

Four months ago The Captain’s Journal continued to advocate realignment of forces, saying that “promotion of General Petraeus to Commander of CENTCOM without a realignment of U.S. troops to his direct command (they currently report to NATO command) removes the possibility for any strategic changes needed to make the campaign successful.”

One week ago we discussed the potential realignment in the works for the campaign, but continued to advocate more U.S. troops since many NATO troops are bound by overly restrictive rules of engagement. Now we learn that the realignment we have recommended is underway.

The BBC has learnt that a new-look command structure will drive the continuing fight against the Taleban in Afghanistan. will (sic) now be led by a change in the existing command structure.

US General David McKiernan will now command both the US and Nato forces who are currently based in Afghanistan.

General McKiernan told the BBC’s John Simpson that the move would create “a greater unity” among the forces. But the British Army has criticised the move, arguing that any big decisions will now be taken primarily by the US.

As we recently said, “Petraeus must have access to resources that will operate with regard to unity of command, unity of strategy and unity of mission. Time is short in the campaign, Pakistan’s intentions cannot be trusted, and the security situation is degrading.”

We’re thrilled that what we have advocated has come to pass.  Does CENTCOM read this blog?  As for the overall command structure change, regular readers of The Captain’s Journal heard it advocated here first, heard it announced here first, and studied the reasons for our advocacy.

On Point II & Lack of Planning for Iraq: Preliminary Thoughts

BY Herschel Smith
16 years ago

The U.S. Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth has produced a comprehensive study of the failure to plan for the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq.  It is entitled On Point II, Transition to the New Campaign: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom May 2003-January 2005.  It is a very lengthy and detailed study, so there is no way to analyze it within the context of a weblog.  This is left to others who have the professional honor and assignment to study such things.  However, a few preliminary thoughts are outlined below.  They cannot hope to be comprehensive or even connected.  They are presented in stream of consciousness fashion.

First, it seems that it would have been wise to have incorporated the other branches of the armed forces in the scope of the study.  For example, it might have been informative to have the Marine Corps perspectives to dovetail together with those of the Army, even though managing such an endeavor would have been much more difficult.

Second, on page 87 we read “As the United States moved closer to confrontation with Iraq in 2002 and early 2003, the US Government began conducting a series of studies intended to help understand what might occur after a military defeat of the Saddam regime. None of the organizations involved in this effort came to the conclusion that a serious insurgent resistance would emerge after a successful Coalition campaign against the Baathist regime.”  True, perhaps, but this sidesteps important issues, such as the fact that there was copius analysis that came to the conclusion that many more troops were needed (General Anthony Zinni and his team concluded 400,000 men) in order to maintain order once the regime was defeated.

Third, on page 92 and following, there is much discussion of de-Ba’athification and disbanding the Iraqi Army in the development of the Sunni insurgency.  Later on page 103 there is a good Venn Diagram showing a breakdown in the trouble-makers, including foreign Islamic extremists, gangs, opportunists and criminals, the unemployed, aggrieved tribes, and so on.  It is commonly understood that the insurgency included more than just al Qaeda, but rather, was composed of a large indigenous element, many subsets of which were fighting for different reasons.  However, one glaring omission is the absence of the discussion and analysis of Iranian elements (Quds, money, IRG) prior to the war (see Michael Rubin, AEI, Bad Neighbor).

Fourth, on page 103 in the section on Shi’a insurgency groups, the discussion seems very truncated with little to no real analysis of the affect of Moqtada al Sadr on the subsequent months and years.  It is of significance that in 2004 Sadr was actually in the custody of the 3/2 Marines, and ordered by coalition authorities, at the behest of the British, to let him go.  This significance of this cannot be overestimated, and yet the discussion lacks any acknowledgement of the event or its context.

Fifth, on page 116 the study notes that “While relatively few American Soldiers in Iraq in 2003 were familiar with counterinsurgency warfare and its theorists, it did not take long before many of the basic concepts of counterinsurgency made their way into US Army planning and operations. This process was indirect and based on immediate requirements rather than experience or doctrine.”  This seems basically correct, since necessity is the mother of invention.  A Soldier or Marine cannot grow up in the complex environment that is America without being familiar with a basic understanding of humans and how they interact, even if there is an overall lack of knowledge of the Iraqi culture.  Human terrain mapping isn’t just for professional anthropologists.  Every warrior is an anthropologist.

The sixth point may be the most critical of all, and the one closest to our heart.  The Captain’s Journal is noncommittal on Paul Bremer.  He did some good things.  He also did some nonproductive things.  But The Captain’s Journal is not noncommittal on Donald Rumsfeld.  We watched closely as he told jokes and acted coy in Pentagon press briefings while warriors died and lost arms and legs, brain function and eyesight.  In the most stunning revelation of the report, we learn that:

Critical to the understanding of the troop strength issue is that, as the senior US official in Iraq, the CPA Chief had the final say over US policy in Iraq. Bremerat times expressed displeasure to Coalition military leaders about the inadequate security situation and its relation to troop levels. Those concerns, however, did not persuade him to significantly change the CPA-led programs to train new Iraqi police and military forces or to agree that Iraqi military forces should have a role in internal security matters. Ultimately, neither Sanchez nor Bremer had the finalword on troop levels. That authority rested inside the Pentagon. Bremer remembered that the al-Sadr uprising and Sunni attacks of April 2004 conclusively demonstrated to him that Coalition troops were stretched too thin and that led him to send a written request for one or two more divisions—25,000 to 45,000 troops—to Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The CPA chief confirmed that in mid-May 2004 Rumsfeld received the request and that the Secretary of Defense passed it on to the Service Chiefs. According to Bremer, he never received an official response to his request.

If we began OIF with too few troops, at least Bremer noticed that we needed greater force projection early on and requested an increase in force size.  Rumsfeld must have been bored with the request, as he simply ignored it, choosing instead to smile and be clever with the press.

There are many more revelations, and some information that is commonly known among persons who have followed or been involved with Operation Iraqi Freedom.  There will be more to come on this from The Captain’s Journal.  This report is well worth the time and will take its place among required reading in professional military circles.   It is a good thing that such honesty and scholarship is forthcoming from Leavenworth.

Command Structure Changes for Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 2 months ago

In Changes for Petraeus and Odierno: The Challenges Ahead, while discussing the recent flurry of events surrounding the announcements concerning CENTCOM and MNF, we said that Petraeus:

… inherits a campaign in Afghanistan that not only languishes for forces and force projection, but in which NATO is an impediment to success rather than a catalyst.  Strategy in the Afghanistan campaign is a byword and up for sale to the most troublesome child, and thus U.S. forces are in constant debates over everything from tactics to radio frequencies.

Either someone is listening or our warnings are prescient.  Just today it was announced that there may be command structure changes for Operation Enduring Freedom.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Pentagon officials are discussing possible changes to the NATO and coalition command structure in Afghanistan. But he says the United States is not ready to make a formal proposal to its allies. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon …

Central Command normally supervises U.S. military involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But a year and a half ago most of the international forces in Afghanistan, including most of the U.S. troops, were put under NATO control, leaving the Central Command chief outside their chain of command.

That is something Secretary Gates says U.S. officials might want to change.

“There’s been a lot of discussion in this building about whether we have the best possible command arrangements in Afghanistan,” said Secretary Gates. “I’ve made no decisions. I’ve made no recommendations to the president. We’re still discussing it.”

Afghanistan currently has a dual command structure, with some of the 35,000 U.S. troops, and some forces from other nations, still under the original U.S.-led coalition that invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Some officers complain that the dual command is not as effective or coordinated as it should be. But Secretary Gates says it may be difficult to change.

“The command structure, I think, is a sensitive matter in terms of the eyes of our allies,” he said. “And so if there were to be any discussion of changes in the command structure, it would require some pretty intensive consultations with our allies and discussion about what makes sense going forward.”

One option might be to make ISAF the command equivalent of MNF and allow NATO to perform overall operational command in terms of public affairs, logistics, force protection, etc., and place U.S. commanders out from under the direct operational control of NATO, i.e., organizationally, U.S. troops would only be matrixed to NATO for certain functions and operations.  The strategy, operational decision-making and direct organizational command would come from CENTCOM, and thus Petraeus would ultimately be in charge of the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan (kinetic operations, reconstruction, transition teams, etc.).

The Captain’s Journal doesn’t know exactly what will happen, but this we do know based on the debacle we have witnessed to get the Marines into action in the theater.  Changes will come and the COIN campaign will be conducted, strategically speaking, by the U.S., or it will not succeed.

Changes for Petraeus and Odierno: The Challenges Ahead

BY Herschel Smith
16 years, 2 months ago

As reported by the Associated Press, General David Petraeus is becoming commander of CENTCOM, and Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno is headed back to Iraq to take over after the departure of Petraeus.  The Captain’s Journal is fond of both Petraeus and Odierno, and we believe that the two taken together, regardless of how talented they might be individually, were more effective than either one could have been alone.  They have been a powerfully effective team.

As we discussed in The War Over the Wars, we have well sourced reason to believe that notwithstanding personality issues or differences of opinion in going forward positions, one significant actor in the departure of Fallon was the degree to which the administration listened to the generals when it concerned tooling the force for the long war.

As Petraeus takes over CENTCOM, he inherits a campaign in Iraq that absolutely must be completed to ensure regional stability and the relative absence of militancy, while also squarely facing the problem of force size and Soldiers and Marines on their fourth and fifth combat tours.  He also inherits a campaign in Afghanistan that not only languishes for forces and force projection, but in which NATO is an impediment to success rather than a catalyst.  Strategy in the Afghanistan campaign is a byword and up for sale to the most troublesome child, and thus U.S. forces are in constant debates over everything from tactics to radio frequencies.

Odierno expands from his AO to a larger one.  These two men are right for the job, right now.  But it remains to be seen if they will force the hand of the Pentagon and administration to make it clear to the American public that the global war on terror will be successfully fought only at a cost.

They have both seen now first hand that forces are necessary to do the job of counterinsurgency in this part of the world and addressing the transnational nature of the enemy, and that more doctrine doesn’t help if the force size is not commensurate with the challenge.  Will Petraeus and Odierno perform commensurate with their challenges?

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