The Trump Plan: The Devil is in the Details

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Last night President Trump gave a solid speech about why he is committing American power and prestige to continue fighting in Afghanistan. It was a good speech that outlined some reasonable goals and contained the kind of one liners guys (and gals) like me appreciate. “We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists”. That sounds great until you think about who, exactly, are these terrorist we’re going to be smoke checking. Depending on how you look at it the “terrorists” could be every non Hazara Afghan residing beyond the confines of Kabul.

One of the other components of the speech was the refusal to give out specific numbers regarding the increase in American forces in Afghanistan as well as what these forces are expected to do. The most common number in the press, based on pre-speech background briefings, was an increase of 4,000 troops. Some of these troops are supposed to be supplied by our NATO allies but that’s not going to happen. There are only a few of those allies who have troops that can fight and they have no reason to go back for Operation Groundhog Day.

These boys are now adults and in the fight but on which side? Photo from Balk province during the summer of 2006

What will these troops be doing on the ground? It sounds like they are going to fight but who will would be doing the fighting, where are they going to fight, how long will they be fighting? We really can’t do that much fighting because we have a center of gravity that the Taliban understands well. We cannot afford to take casualties. The American people are not behind this effort and they are not going to tolerate a steady flow of body bags into Dover.

The stated goal of our continued effort in Afghanistan is to prevent the repeat of a 9/11 type of attack on the American homeland. 9/11 was planned and coordinated in Afghanistan by al Qaeda and some of them, as well as an ISIS franchise, remain in the country. But it is impossible to believe that, even if the Taliban took control of the entire country, one of those organizations would be allowed to plan and launch attacks on America. We are to continue fighting villains until we have “exposed the false allure of their ideology”. That too is not going to happen; their ideology is based on the Koran; there are no countervailing Koranic interpretations evident in Islam today that would push back against the Jihadi narrative.

Talking about changing our approach to Pakistan, increasing cooperation with India and holding the Afghan government accountable sounds like a reasonable course of action unless you know something about Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. How do you make the Kabul government “more accountable”? How can you get the Pakistani’s to stop funding cross boarder mayhem while at the same time inviting India to assume a much bigger role in Afghanistan? Pakistan will once again be critical to the logistical effort required  for putting even more boots on the ground and thus holds the trump card in any dispute with us concerning what they are or are not doing in Afghanistan.

The strength of the Prince Plan was embedding trainers/mentors with the Afghan Security Forces at the battalion level and leaving the same team in place for years on end. That would have allowed the mentors to gain front specific knowledge regarding the tactics and personalities at the granular level and that in addition to their access to combat enablers (Tac Air and Artillery) could have been decisive.

Extended time on the ground in the same place also renders the number one Taliban weapon (IED’s) ineffective. Fighting on the same turf for years at a time provides the knowledge required to avoid IED’s as well as complex ambushes. Increased dwell time = increased tactical proficiency = decrease in combat casualties from IED’s. Increased dwell time is no longer in the cards meaning units who venture outside the wire during their 6 to 9 month rotations will take casualties they could have avoided had they been on the ground longer.

This is a fuel station built on a foundation of Soviet BTR armored vehicles. How long before we see old MRAPs re-purposed for the same task?

The Trump plan is not going to result in enablers at the battalion level; it will augment the Corps level training missions while (apparently) allowing those forces to sortie out of their FOB’s and take on Taliban formations when they deem the conditions favorable to do so. Job number one for all deployed forces in going to be avoiding casualties; focusing on the enemy and exploiting his weaknesses will be a secondary consideration which means “favorable conditions” will not necessarily translate into decisive defeats of various Taliban formations.

The Trump plan is placing the responsibility for our continued efforts in Afghanistan squarely on the shoulders of the Pentagon. But the Pentagon has major problems that are starting to manifest themselves. The latest evidence of this was the USS John S, McCain which collided, in broad day light, with an oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca.

Having transited the strait a couple of times aboard Naval shipping this accident is impossible for me to comprehend. The Strait has always had a huge pirate problem and when in the strait the normal navy watch crew (aboard gator freighters) is augmented by armed Marines. The McCain had no armed Marines but should have had an enhanced watch section with the crew on hair trigger alert to go to general quarters. That has been the standard operating procedure for over 50 years. We are hearing (just like the last ship collision) that maybe this was an intentional attack. That should have been expected and avoided and is probably not going to prove to be true. What is happening to the Navy is, I fear, the chickens coming home to roost.

The extract below from an excellent article in City Journal by Bob McManus sums up the current problem:

“….eight years under the leadership of a Navy secretary, Ray Mabus, whose social-justice priorities almost always took precedence over tradition, morale, training, and operational readiness. Under Mabus, according to the Navy Times, the service prioritized shipbuilding—not a bad thing, necessarily, but it came at a cost. The secretary “made a policy of directing money away from operations and maintenance”—that is, away from training of the sort that clearly could have prevented at least the Fitzgerald tragedy. (What happened on the McCain remains to be seen.) “At the same time,” the editorially independent publication reports, “Mabus pushed hard for major cultural shifts inside the fleet, including the inclusion of women in combat roles in the Navy and Marine Corps, unisex uniforms, gender-neutral ratings titles and opening the services to transgender service members.”

Pushed to the point of obsession, the Navy Times might have added. As a result, the Marine Corps ended the Obama years in a state of near-mutiny over the administration’s insistence on shoehorning women into front-line combat roles despite convincing evidence that they aren’t up to the task. Meantime, the Navy has developed a serious pregnant-sailor problem“.

The American military is no longer able to shoulder the burden of putting Afghanistan back together again. Our diplomatic service lacks the leverage to force change in countries who are not aligned with our goals. The Taliban have no reason to end its armed opposition to a central government that is weak, corrupt, and entirely dependent on foreign aid dollars. There is little hope on the horizon for the people of Afghanistan.

The Raven 23 Ruling: A Blow Against Politically Correct Tyranny

I remember the day everything started to go downhill for Americans in Afghanistan. It was Monday, the 29th of May 2006 when an American army truck had a brake failure and plowed into a bunch of cars at the bottom of a long hill at the northern entrance to Kabul. The accident caused fatalities which caused the hundreds of locals milling around the area to converge on the accident scene. The situation rapidly escalated when a gunner on the back of the stricken truck panicked and started shooting people at point blank with his .50 cal machinegun. Tolo news was running the tape of that shooting over and over when my buddy Walt called from the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) office and told me to turn on the news because we had a major problem.

I watched the shooting play out twice before Tolo shifted to a live reporter and immediately went to General Quarters in our compound. We lived behind the American embassy in a local compound that looked like any other compound so we were safe. Our JICA clients were spread out in offices across Kabul and were not safe. It took less than 30 seconds to come up with our plan; local clothes only, no body armor or rifles as they were useless in this situation;  we would go with concealed pistols. I opened the golden conex (I had it painted gold to accommodate my quirky sense of humor) and grabbed the one CS grenade we had and then took as many frag grenades as I could carry without being too obvious. The rest of the expats took frags too and we started heading towards the various offices stopping briefly outside the JICA compound to get radio’s.

Kabul riot of 26 May 2006. Photo from the BBC

Our SUV’s turned out to be worthless as traffic was jammed up so badly that we could not make it to our various destinations ahead of the rioting crowds. We purchased a few bikes from locals on the spot for 15 times their worth and started peddling furiously down side streets. Unable to move our clients to safe harbored we gathered them into several different offices around town and strong-pointed them. Then we waited and thankfully the rioting mobs passed us by. It was, to be honest, terrifying and one of those times I remember with a shudder. We had only one incident. The guard manning the JICA office gate was shot in the leg. It was a minor wound and the Afghan, who was an albino and as white as Casper the ghost, told me latter; “every time there is a riot somebody shoots me in the leg because they think I’m a damn foreigner like you”.  Gotta love a guy who maintains a sense of humor in the face of adversity.

Over the years that I have been writing this blog I have bitched incessantly about the unnecessary killing of civilians due to convoy procedures and night raids. Examples can be found here, here, here and here. And it is with that in mind that I welcome the breaking news of the overturned murder conviction for one of the Blackwater contractors involved in the Nisour Square shootings along with the re-sentencing of the other 3 members of the Raven 23 team. If what they did in Nisour square was a “massacre” (as Wikipedia dubs it) what the army did in Kabul in May of 2006 was a mega massacre. Both incidents were unfortunate, both incidents happened in places I know well – I’ve driven through Nisour square dozens of times.

Of the two incidents the one I find the most unforgivable was the American army lighting up dozens of civilians in Kabul. With heavy machineguns at point blank range no less. That shooting pales in comparison to Nisour Square. When I read the circumstances behind the Nisour Square incident I can only say there but for the grace of God go I. There was a lot of lead being thrown at Raven 23 as they fought to reach safe harbor. When I remember what I saw during that long day in Kabul I can say with certainty that there is no way I’d react with deadly force. There was no lead coming their way; going to guns was an inexcusably amateur move.

The Raven 23 team. Railroaded into prison by a vindictive, corrupt, DoJ

The men of the Raven 23 PSD team were railroaded by a transparently corrupt Department of Justice who, I believe, was motivated by racial animus and politically correct group think regarding armed contractors. Matt over at the always excellent Feral Jundi has a good round up on the status of the Raven 23 story here.

I am not contending that the hundreds of military men who killed civilians they thought to be suicide (VBIED) bombers or shot regular villagers who were  responding to a night time raid on their own or a neighbors compound are war criminals. These things happen in war. My contention is that these deaths were due to poor tactics (convoys) and questionable strategic objectives (night raids) and thus could have and should have been avoided. But if the military men involved in these incidents aren’t murders neither are the members of the Raven 23 PSD team. That is a self evident truth.

Plus there is the fact that the contract Raven 23 was working stipulated they were under the tactical control of a State Department Regional Security Officer.  Why wasn’t he prosecuted? The answer is obvious.

Part of the Kangaroo court proceeding that went beyond bizarre was the federal court flying in alleged victims of this shooting. Leave aside the costs passed on to the taxpayer and look at the reality concerning the potential for veracity from these alleged victims. The best way to explain what I mean is  demonstrated by a story I pulled off of All Marine Radio. The episode, broadcast on the 21st of July, was titled You Paid the Iraqis for Detaining Them? ; the story I’m relating starts at the 28:08 mark. I urge you to listen to the whole hour – it’s hysterically funny, interesting and a bit alarming to those who lack experience in the Arab world.

The story starts when the Ops Officer of the MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit)  working Iraq rolled into Mac’s command post (CP) back in 2004. As they were shooting the breeze the OpsO talked about the MEU’s recent operation against the Shia militia of Muqtada al-Sadar in the city of Najaf.

S3  “We  had them surrounded in the main mosque in Najaf and the Iraqi’s from the national army who were with us were talking with the Marines about what it was like to fight Americans:

Marine: “How long have you been in the army”?

Iraqi solder: “I have been in the army for 15 years and fought against you guys in Kuwait and I am so excited to be on your side right now…this is wonderful with your tanks and your helicopters… fighting you was very scary so we ran away as soon as our officers abandoned us which is why we are still alive….This is awesome, we are going to go tomorrow with your tanks and guns and paint the walls of the mosque red with their blood”.

Marine: “Yeah that’s probably not going to happen”.

Iraqi: “what do you mean”

Marine: “Our country has this thing about attacking mosques”.

Iraqi’ “What? They are hiding in the Mosque and tomorrow we will go kill them all and cover the walls with their blood!”

Marine: “Yeah we’re probably not going to do that”

Iraqi’ “Then what are you going to do”?

Marine “We’re negotiating with them right now..”

Iraqi’ “No, no, no, no ..this is Jihad they will say anything because it doesn’t matter. You are the infidel and they can lie to you. They will lie and they will leave and within 10 minutes they will have another weapon and we will be fighting them again. How can you be a great nation and not annihilate your enemy”?

Needless to say the militia negotiated a surrender and the next day the Iraqi’s were fighting them again. The point being there are deeply embedded cultural reasons not to trust one word of alleged victims in the Nisour Square case or any other similar case. I urge you to listen to the podcast; there are a dozen or more examples of why this is so.

That our country now has a two tiered justice system is obvious. Were I to commit any of the many crimes that former FBI director James Comey outlined in his non indictment of Hillary Clinton I’d be rotting in jail for the rest of my life. And justifiably so. The legacy media is currently consumed with the Muh Russia story while trying to spin away the fact that it was Clinton’s who were paid millions by Russia after signing away a healthy percentage of our Uranium stocks.  The current scandal involving Debbie Washerman Schultz and the Awan family is, in not just my opinion, the biggest political scandal of my lifetime.  Yet the same corporate media shills who screamed for the scalps of the Raven 23 crew refuse to cover it.

Yesterday the current reign of progressive judicial tyranny was dealt a solid blow. Let us hope that this is the start of a trend to apply the rule of law equally to every citizen regardless of race, political affiliation or elected status.  If it is not then our country is in for a world of hurt. But that is down the road; right now three of the four men of Raven 23 are still in the Federal Pen and still need our support and prayers. The Raven 23 website is here – drop by and spread the love by giving them whatever support you can. They’ve earned it.

The Storm Clouds Are Building; Time To Talk About Realistic Solutions

Last Friday night I was invited for a short segment on Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler . She is on the One America Network and wanted to  talk about the situation in Afghanistan.  I was asked to speculate on the 4,000 additional troops that the legacy media has been discussing for the past few weeks. I responded it would be enough to provide permanent adviser teams for the 6 Afghan National Army (ANA) Corps and 14 ANA Brigade headquarters. I should have added the  five  geographic zones of the Afghan National Police which would add up to 4000 nicely.  I was then able to add that this increase in troop levels would not work. I’d like to expound on that and offer up what I think would work.

The addition of 4,000 troops would probably work as a stop gap measure to prevent the collapse of the Afghan government. But that does not correlate with the goals outlined in the Department of Defense report to congress that was just released by the Pentagon today. The quote below is from the U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan section of that report:

The U.S. and Afghan Governments agree that the best way to ensure lasting peace and security in Afghanistan is through reconciliation and a political settlement with the Taliban. The United States supports an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned reconciliation process and supports any process that includes violent extremist groups laying down their arms.

That is such an ironic statement that it’s almost funny. What they are describing as a goal is exactly where Afghanistan was in 2002. The Taliban had laid their arms down (a least a majority had) and gone back home to war no more. Those that had no home, had bad reputations from the Taliban days or just liked to fight went to Pakistan but they were a small subset of the former Taliban regime.

The Afghans were all about starting over in 2001; in Kandahar the tribes gathered in the municipal soccer stadium to elect representatives for the loya jirga future president Karzai was planning to hold. At that meeting one of those selected was an elder from the Ishaqazi tribe, Hajj Burget Khan from the Maiwand district. Anand Gopal, in his book No Good Men Among the Living explains what happened next.

One hot May night, Abdullah was sleeping in the courtyard when a thunderous blast shook him awake. Looking up, he saw a blinding white light in the space where the front gate had been. Silhouetted figures rushed toward him. He ran for the guesthouse, shouting that the house was under attack. Inside, Hajji Burget Khan was already awake; he had been sipping tea with visitors before the dawn prayer. His bodyguard Akhtar Muhammad raced into the courtyard, firing his weapon blindly. Before he knew it, he was thrown to the ground. Two or three men were on top of him. He was shackled and blindfolded, and he was kicked again and again. He heard shouting, in a language he couldn’t understand.

Hajji Burget Khan and Hajji Tor Khan, Akhtar Muhammad’s father, ran into the courtyard with other guests, heading for the main house. It was then, as the first morning light shaped the compound, that they saw armed men standing on the mud walls in camouflage uniforms and goggles and helmets. American soldiers. Gunfire erupted, and Hajji Tor Khan went down. Before Hajji Burget Khan could react, he, too, was shot. Nearby, women huddled in their rooms, listening. Never before had strangers violated their home— not during the Russian occupation, or the civil war, or under the Taliban. A woman picked up a gun and headed into the courtyard to defend her family, but the soldiers wrested it out of her hands. Then a soldier appeared with an Afghan translator and ordered the women outside. It was the first time they had ever left their home without a mahrem. They were flexicuffed and had their feet shackled, and some were gagged with torn pieces of turban. The group was then herded into a dry well behind the compound.

The story gets worse, first Hajji Burget Khan was killed while being questioned:

“…a confidential dispatch from the Canadian Joint Task Force 2, part of the special forces team that carried out the raid, states that “an elderly father died while in custody” at Kandahar Airfield, “reportedly from a butt stroke to the head, which has caused much grief/ anguish in the village.”

Then the Americans in Bagram figured out the truth:

“For days, the prisoners were questioned. “We don’t know who we have, but we hope we got some senior Taliban or at least some Taliban folks in there,” Lieutenant Colonel Jim Yonts, spokesman for the US Central Command, told reporters. Yet it soon became apparent that the captives had all followed Burget Khan in embracing the new American order. After five days, they were brought to Kandahar’s soccer stadium and released. A crowd of thousands, who had made the trip from Maiwand, was there to greet them. A few months earlier many of these farmers had packed the stadium seats waving the new Afghan flag and chanting in favor of the coming loya jirga. Now, for the first time, anti-American slogans filled the air. “If we did any crime, they must punish us,” shouted Amir Sayed Wali, a villager elder. “If we are innocent, we will take our revenge for this insult.” Tribal elder Lala Khan asked, “Is there any law? Any accountability? Who are our leaders? The elders, or the Americans?”

Now, 16 years later, the American military strategy is to try and put things right by returning them to the way they were before somebody on high decided to stick around Afghanistan to root out an al Qaeda which had fled and Taliban which had already surrendered. This war should have ended with the killing of Bin Laden in Nangarhar province but the geniuses from the the Pentagon let him slip away because nobody sitting on their ass back in Bagram  wanted “another Mogadishu”,

Killing Osama and ending our intervention in Afghanistan 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.

The architects of the blatant incompetence describe by Gopal was the CIA. They were using a warlord to provide their actionable intelligence. The same warlord whose men assumed the responsibility of policing Maiwand after their police were arrested, Gul Agha Sherzai. Trusting that same organization to fix what it has spent 16 years breaking is madness.

What can be done? The first step is clear out the incompetent bureaucracies who have not one clue what to do now and appoint a Viceroy.  We need one man with proven capabilities to lead a very slimmed down effort of reconciliation.  I nominate Eric Prince because he is the only public figure who has made a lick of sense concerning a rational direction for Afghanistan.

Then we need a Information Operation (IO) campaign that works. Note how the Taliban and ISIS-K were all over the airwaves denying responsibility for the horrific attack on Kabul with the poop pumper truck. I say the Taliban did do that with the help of the Haqqani network. Why? Because on 9/11 /2011 an identical attack took place against an American base in Wardak province. The only difference was the truck was a water truck not a poop pumper truck. I’ll bet the explosives and triggering mechanism were identical and even if they weren’t, I’d be running a 24/7 IO op saying they were. Who’s going to argue the point; Haqqani?

According to the recently released Survey of the Afghan People the only provinces that harbor sympathy for the Taliban are Zabul, Uruzgan, Wardak, Laghman, Kunar and Nuristan. I’d be harping on that too with an IO campaign targeting them. You need IO to put constant pressure on the Taliban from the Afghan peoples perspective not from the big army or international press perspective.

The worst IO problem we face in Afghanistan is the common belief that we (the international community) are cooperating with Pakistan and the Taliban to keep Afghanistan unstable and in constant conflict. The United States Government and the Kabul Government can do nothing at the moment to change that. Kabul is facing intense, constant rioting over the latest bombing and their (Kabul’s) inability to protect the people of Afghanistan. The time for sweeping change is now but the players who created this fiasco are in no position to facilitate it.

That Afghans need help with both tactical and strategic intelligence and the model to use is the old Office of Strategic Services (OSS) model. Specialists embed with the Afghans; not in their own high security, incredibly expensive compounds. Go after the Taliban funding sources and cripple them. What do you do with all the opium? Buy it, send it to India and let them turn into pharmaceutical analgesics or build a plant to do that in Afghanistan or burn it.

What about the hash? Don’t buy that because it’s crap. In fact you could import some bubble hash from California to show the Afghans just how badly they do at growing dope. Then we could  introduce industrial hemp and teach the Afghans how to make rope, clothes and shoes from it. Do you know how expensive hemp fiber clothes are? Real expensive and they last too. The Afghans could make a killing on hemp textiles and use their smuggling networks to try and get bubble hash from the west. Once some gets dumped on them they’re going to want more. Know what that’s called….IO ops brother – an IO op that works

Same with the lapis and the silver, and the wood; buy it all and then sell it back to Afghans at a subsidized rate so they can make stuff and develop what we in west call “an economy”.  I can promise you this; buying the dope and the minerals will cost pennies on the dollars we’re spending now. And it will provide jobs and income that, if taxed reasonably, will allow Afghanistan to get off international welfare dole. Plus when they find out they’ve been doing the dope growing thing wrong for the last 5000 years it’s going to bother and confuse them. Which is how you get the industrial hemp trade going.

The Afghans need help defending themselves and the biggest problem they have with their army is the field discipline to takes to avoid IED’s, firefights you can’t win and keeping all the complex gear we’ve given them combat ready. The biggest problem they have with their air force is enablers and enough pilots. Embedded contractors are the answer, a fact which the international elites continue to lie about which is a good indicator it’s true.

What would these contractors need to be effective and avoid the Green on Blue attacks? Virtue. They cannot drink, smoke dope, do drugs, or womanize. They have to wear local clothes that keep their arms and legs covered. They need to be humble, deadly and dedicated. To use a tier one SF analogy – they need to be the Combat Applications Group (Delta Force) not SEAL Team 6. When’s the last time you heard something about Delta? Exactly my point.

This concept would work only if the Afghan people accept our help. We cannot gain that acceptance through a government that is viewed as corrupt, predatory and kept in place by the guns of foreigners. The way forward now goes through the National Ulema Council  – the religious leaders. If you can sell to them a plan that involves westerners on the ground, flying aircraft and assisting with intelligence collection and analysis then there is hope.

The men selected to do this would have to stay for the duration. They need to be men that Afghan men would respect and the younger Afghans would want to emulate. As long as the Ulema could handle their your young men wanting tattoos the West can provide the help they need to stand alone.

That’s what I’m talking about

Don’t tell me that can’t be done; I’ve done it, Panjwayi Tim has done it, Jim Gant did it and although I don’t know Eric Prince I’ve read his book and watched enough of his speeches to I know he’s done it too. There are thousands of internationals, some who I know of and many I don’t; men and women who have put in the time and displayed the aptitude to do what needs to be done to help the Afghans to help themselves.

It ends like it started with the Afghans, as a people, rising up to demand an end to the fighting, looting and destruction of war. That is how we started out, that is exactly how the Taliban started out and that is how this going end; with or without us.

What do the diplomats do? They could help by starting their own campaign advocating for a Pashtun and Baloch homeland. Those people should have their own country – who gives a damn about the boundaries drawn up by the old British Empire that were designed to split and them apart and weaken them? I can hear people now hissing their dismissal of such an ambitious plan but guess what? You don’t have to actually do it – just advocate for it and watch how quickly the Pakistani’s and Iranians start thinking about not messing with Afghanistan.

They would be screaming bloody murder as would the Turks but we can just shrug and act all PC like. “Hey man, were just trying to help the people and nobody likes the borders us old white guys drew up right? Why do you insist on borders us infidels imposed on you at the point of a gun? Why do you want hostile tribes inside your countries anyway; we did that to you and now we’re trying to fix and you’re getting shitty with us”?

Now there’s an IO op…could you imagine?  I can; nobody in Foggy Bottom could which is another point.

Let’s go one step further (I’m on a roll)  why not start talking about legalizing opium and heroin too?  Portugal has and that drove their junkie population down. It’s not like junkies can’t find the junk easily anyway. And again, you don’t have to actually do it; just start talking like you’re going to do it while you buy up the opium in Afghanistan and watch the bottom fall out of that market. Know what that is? That’s an IO op; one you can believe in and one that will work.

This may sound like crazy ideas to you but I’ll tell you what is really crazy. Believing that the various agencies and governments who created this mess can find a way out with just a few more troops and a few billion more dollars.

I say give me a Viceroy and 10 Billion a year (we’re spending 50 now) and I’ll give you a peaceful Afghanistan. And we won’t lose anymore troops – just contractors and nobody gives a damn about them (which is why you pay them the big bucks). If anyone else has a better idea I’d love to hear it.

Weaponized Hate

As I said in my last post the Green on Blue attacks will continue and they have with the wounding of four make that seven (the count keeps increasing)  more soldiers. This time the attack was in Mazar-e Sharif, the capitol of the once peaceful province of Balk. There are several factors driving these Green on Blue attacks but the most important one to understand is that Afghans hate us. Couple their traditional antipathy of foreign armies operating in their country with 16 years of broken promises and what you are left with is hate.

Feeling the love in Paktia province – this is one of the elders who was on our side but was not shy about letting us know how he felt about infidels from the West

Hatred of ‘the other’ is a natural motivating tool that America has used in previous wars. We are genetically programmed to love our own families, tribes and clans while hating those who are not part of them.  Satoshi Kanazawa, an American-British evolutionary psychologist, currently with the London School of Economics, explains why in this article:

….ethnocentrism (or “racism”) is an innate human tendency. We are designed by evolution to love members of our group and hate members of other groups, in order to motivate and facilitate intergroup conflict. Yes, hate is natural. But remember the danger of the naturalistic fallacy — deriving moral implications from scientific facts. “Natural” means neither “good” nor “desirable.” Nor does it mean “inevitable.” Most of us learn to overcome our innate evolutionary tendencies.

The concept of “hate” has been removed from our lexicon but it is alive and well among the Islamic radicals we are fighting around the globe. Understanding hate helps to explain our floundering efforts in Afghanistan and the most disturbing question from the San Bernardino attack of 2015. I remember survivors of that attack saying they had recently thrown a baby shower for Tashfeen Malik, the pregnant half of the terrorist couple, and they could not understand why she had come back to kill them after they had showed her so much kindness. I’ll tell you why; she hated them, not for anything they did but because of who they are.

Hate is a dangerous weapon that is now being used by our elite political, media, entertainment, academic and corporate masters against the silent majority in the United States. Look what is has wrought so far…and here’s another prediction; there will be more political violence directed at President Trump and his supporters. Why? Because the legacy media and the democrats have doubled down on their lunatic hatred of the President and those who support him.

After sixteen years of broken promises the Afghans have no reason to trust the United States or the international community but they do have plenty of reasons to hate them. Gestures of support, like sending a permanent advisory teams to the Afghan army and national police in Helmand province (which is what the Marines are doing now) are meaningless. They will not turn the tide of battle, will not increase combat proficiency or decrease the unsustainable loses currently being inflicted on the Afghan security forces. Everybody knows this to be true yet the kabuki theater continues because the pentagon, at this point in time, has no idea what else to do.

The introduction of more troops will increase the number of potential targets for Green on Blue attack. Continuing to conduct night raids and air strikes will also increase the chances of more Green on Blue. Why? I’ve told you why in dozens of previous posts but now there is a high speed Modern War Institute study out of West Point to cite so I don’t have to repeat myself. Check this out:

….research suggests that most of the attacks are triggered by cultural frictions and personal disagreements. The triggers include, among others, anger from night raids and airstrikes conducted by international forces that result in civilian casualties, violations of privacy during searches, disrespect to religious beliefs, cultural misunderstanding and violations of local norms and values, combat stress, and personal differences between Afghan troops and their NATO counterparts.

How long have I been railing against night raids and the force protection mentality that allows NATO to shoot up car loads of civilians and pretend that it was their (the civilians) fault? Nine years if you’re counting and when I started saying this I received tons of push back but little support. In fact the only support I remember came from Herschel Smith at The Captain Journal . Having Herschel watching my back has been one of the true joys of my blogging adventure….I really need to go meet him in person one of these days.

How did the men (and women) of Ghost Team not only survive but thrive in the contested areas during the worst of the fighting? I’ll tell you our secret (which is in the linked article). We did what we promised we would do, on time, on budget and with exceptional quality control while respecting the local people, their religion and their mores. We were not only protected by the Afghans we worked with and for; we were liked and respected by them too.

Doing what you said you would do, on time and on budget, while sharing the risks of operating in the open is the only way to make friends and influence people in the third world

Not all Afghans hate us Kharejee; there is an educated elite who are not taking part in the plundering and pillaging of the Afghan economy. They are grimly hanging on hoping that one day their talents will help unite a fractured country. Identifying who they are and supporting them would require our embassy people or the UN bureaucrats to get out from behind their walls to find them. That, they can no longer do, which is why they need to go.

For now hatred rules Afghanistan and that vile contagion is spreading rapidly across America too. Victor Davis Hanson sums the case up well:

Most Americans agree that the present levels of borrowing and spending cannot continue. But many believe that the tough medicine to cure the disease of chronic annual deficits and mounting debt is unacceptable. America’s infrastructure and military are vastly underfunded, even though some voters want more subsidies for themselves and apparently want others to pay for them.

America’s once-preeminent colleges and universities are fatally compromised. Universities charge far too much, resist reform, expect exemption from accountability, and assume their students must take on huge amounts of debt. Yet campuses can’t guarantee that their graduates are competently educated or that they will find jobs. Illiberal attempts to end free speech, to sanction racial and gender segregation, and to attack rather than argue with opponents are disguised by euphemisms such as “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and various -isms and -ologies.

Behind the guise of campus activism and non-negotiable demands is the reality that too many students simply are unprepared to do their assigned work and seek exemption through protests in lieu of hard studying.

As I wrote in my D-Day post war is a horrible thing but let me caveat that with this; civil wars are worse. In  a civil war the contagion of hate runs rampant. I don’t hate Afghans but as a professional I would not hesitate to smoke check one if I was certain he was a villain who posed a threat to me or those around me. I can watch documentaries on the Taliban and respect their ability to suck up bad weather, bad food, bad karma and massive amounts of firepower without feeling a bit of hate towards them.

What I can’t do is watch footage of anti-fa protesters screaming hysterically at normal people and attacking them with bike locks, boots,  pepper spray and urine without feelings of intense hatred raising in my consciousness. And I am not an angry person by nature, a fact I consider a true blessing.

The Taliban are not going to back down because they don’t have to; they’re winning and will only come to the negotiating table when they, not us, can dictate the terms.

Progressives in America are not backing down either, not because they are winning but because they face no consequences for their unhinged lunacy. Globalist big money backs the left as does Hollywood, the legacy media, professional athletes, every comedian who doesn’t want to be blacklisted, academia and our coastal elites. The progressives have plenty of money and an unlimited number of poorly educated young people for astro turf protests that make life miserable for average, hard working Americans.

I can see a way out of Afghanistan that would benefit the people of that tragic land and I’ll write about that next. What I can’t see is a way out of the culture of hate in America currently being directed at the productive classes. The progressives will continue to push right until they start facing the consequences of their actions. At that point it will be too late. Civil wars are horribly bloody affairs because identifying friend from foe is easy as is the natural impulse to hate.

There is much more darkness to venture through before we start seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel.

Green on Blue Is Back And The Perfect Storm Is On The Horizon

Three US soldiers, from the 101st Airborne were killed and another wounded Saturday on a Green on Blue attack in Nangarhar province. This latest attacked occurred in Achin district, the same district where two Rangers were killed in action last April. Yesterday a joint American/Afghan patrol was hit by a roadside bomb in the Shergar area in Khoghyani district. They reportedly received small arms fire and when responding killed three civilians (a father and his two young sons) who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When dealing with news out of Afghanistan we must start with what we know to be true before speculating on the remainder in an effort to understand what happened. The soldiers were killed in Achin district where the Afghans with American Special Forces units in direct support, have been battling ISIS-K. I suspect the soldiers were in the field operating with Afghan soldiers when this unfortunate incident occurred.  That would explain how four them were hit by a loan assailant. That also means the units assigned to the ‘advise and assist’ mission are engaging in direct combat. They have to do that to gain even a shred of credibility with the Afghan army but I bet they won’t be out and about much longer.

What additional troops were doing rolling around in Khogyani district requires speculation.

There was (and still may be) a good hard top road running from Jalalabad through Khogyani and into Achin district

I suspect they were moving from the base at Jalalabad (FOB Fenty) into Achin district using the back roads to avoid the exposure of the Jalalabad – Torkham main road. Regardless of circumstances the killing of a car load of locals, something that was all too common when there were large numbers of NATO forces moving on the roads, is bad.

It appears the Taliban are trying to force Kabul to the negotiating table by inflicting massive casualties that the population can no longer endure while driving a wedge between the NATO advise and assist troops and their Afghan colleagues via green on blue attacks. That is a sound strategy. When those same American troops, while moving through a countryside they know to be hostile, kill civilians who happen to be too close to them when an IED goes off…..that’s a perfect storm.  NATO doesn’t trust the forces they mentor to not kill them, the forces they mentor risk being shot every time they are getting mentored. The people are getting hammered by the Taliban and by NATO if they happen to be in the wrong  place at the wrong time. That’s a storm alright (a s–t storm) and one for which  NATO, the UN and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have no answer.

When the problem of Green on Blue attacks reached a crisis stage in 2012 the response by NATO was to separate themselves (even more) from the Afghans they were supposed to mentor. Then they instituted a ‘guardian angel’ program to protect themselves from the Afghans they were there to help. Here are the Green on Blue numbers (hat tip Long War Journal)

Total number of attacks per year:

2017 – 2                                                 2012 – 44
2016 – 2                                                2011 – 16
2015 – 2                                               2010 – 5
2014 – 4                                                2009 – 5
2013 – 13                                             2008 – 2

And here is how the program was described back in 2012

US military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned “guardian angels” to watch over troops as they sleep, among a series of other increased security measures, in the wake of rogue Afghan soldiers targeting Nato forces.

The so-called guardian angels provide an extra layer of security, watching over the troops as they sleep, when they are exercising, and going about their day.

Among the new measures introduced, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons in several Afghan ministries. They have also been told to rearrange their office desks so they face the door.

Now the Guardian Angels will have to be standing, at the ready, prepared to shoot any Afghan who makes a move for his gun too fast during every interaction between Afghans and NATO. How that will work out in field operations is obvious – it won’t and thus we are going to suffer more of them.

The issue is trust and trust is something that can only be built over long periods of time in Afghanistan. Governments in the West have been proving, for years now, they are incapable of taking the steps needed to protect their citizens from Jihadist terrorism. Sovereign citizens have little reason to trust their ruling elite who are more concerned with inclusion, diversity, various ‘phobias’ and not being perceived as racists then they are with protecting the population.  Afghans have no reason to trust their ruling elites and the question is when you can’t trust the government who do you trust?

Richard Fernandez at the Belmont Club has an answer:

Tribes and clans are still used when information security and omerta are paramount.  No technical solution yet devised can beat treachery.  Only loyalty can do that — and we have made loyalty, to nation at least, a bad word.

The Afghans who are committing these Green on Blue (and Green on Green) attacks are trusting the Taliban to take care of their clans when the dust settles. That is probably a solid bet. The Americans and other NATO troops in Afghanistan are not able to build trust networks during their seven month tours so they have to trust their fellow soldiers to have an OODA loop quick enough to protect them. That is not a solid bet – being that quick on the trigger will result in Blue of Green deaths that were unnecessary and further divide allies who are supposed to be fighting together.

The Perfect Storm is building and it is obvious that it will break soon. When that happens we can be certain of one thing. The elites who masterminded this fiasco will ignore it and continue taking us down the path of multi culti madness. It is too late to save Afghanistan the only question now is do we have the intestinal fortitude in the West to save ourselves?

D-Day In Afghanistan

The 73rd commemoration of the Allied invasion a of Normandy on D-Day (operation Neptune) is a fitting place to start an examination of what is happening in Afghanistan. One reason for that are the iconic photographs from that invasion of the firepower the Allied forces were using that day.

USS Iowa (BB-61) cutting loose with a 16 inch naval gun broadside (this photo is not from D-Day)

Battleships were part of the prep fires for that invasion and they fired 123,984 shells on D-Day. The mark 8 “super heavy” 16-inch shell, when fired with a proximity fuse would leave a crater 50 feet deep and 20 feet wide which is bigger than the crater caused by the honey dipper borne IED that hit Kabul last week. A relevant question to ask when watching the old footage of Battleships launching broadsides into the French coastal towns and village is where were the French citizens who lived there?  They were still there and to this day the civilian casualties from the D-Day invasion remain unknown although one source claims the number to be around 50,000.

Photographs from D-Day were censored by the governments involved so accurate pictures reflecting the fate of the French caught up in this massive attack are as rare as finding accurate news reporting in the legacy media is today.

As the invasion forces landed and started to move inland they were supported by M4 Sherman tanks. These tanks were named after William Tecumseh Sherman, a famous (in the North) infamous (in the South) Union general noted for his scorched earth tactics during the “March to the Sea” where he gutted the agricultural and light industrial capacity of the deep south.

M4 Sherman tanks in action after D-Day

Sherman is also famous for this quote which is relevant to the quagmire in Afghanistan today.

“I am sick and tired of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”

Sherman knew war was hell and because of this immutable truth he felt wars had to be ended as quickly as possible. This is why he destroyed the economic foundation of the South while avoiding pitched battles when he could. He knew that in doing so he was inflicting a harsh punishment on the civilian population of the South but didn’t let compassion interfere with his mission. Although Grant ultimately beat Robert E Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia forcing its surrender at Appomattox it was Sherman’s destruction of the Confederate economic base that sealed their fate. Sherman ended the Civil War as fast as was possible given the situation on the ground at that time.

The Taliban seems to have adopted Sherman’s strategy. They have inflicted massive, morale draining defeats on the Kabul government in the past few months. The attack on Kabul’s military hospital, the horrendous slaughter of recruits in Mazar-e Shraif, the Kabul truck bomb attack (using the equivalent of one 16-inch shell) followed by the suicide bombing attack at a funeral for the victims of that truck bomb attack which has been followed by another massive VBIED in Herat. The Taliban are stepping up their relentless campaign of death and destruction with one goal in mind. They want the war to end and end on their terms.

Western armies in general and the American military specifically no longer understand the truth behind General Sherman’s famous quote. We lack the capacity to inflict the damage required to end wars quickly and (more importantly) decisively. Instead we offer solutions and forces that will string out war for decades. We come with firepower controlled by lawyers, we are more concerned with “tolerance” and putting females into fighting formations then we about winning. We adopt tactics like night raids that accomplish nothing tactical but instead drive the population away from the allies we are supposed to be supporting. We insist that taking out Taliban ‘leaders’ is important while ignoring that the Taliban gets stronger and more capable the longer we fight them.

Understanding that wars must be ended quickly to prevent unnecessary deaths and destruction does not mean there will not be death destruction. Lobbing 123,984 16-inch shells into the towns and villages of France was not humane, it exposed the civilian population to unimaginable death and destruction but it also shortened a horrible war. Going into Musa Qala or Sangin and giving the tribes a simple ultimatum; join our side or we will burn down your villages, kill your livestock, and put all of you in ‘relocation camps’ is not humane. But it would have shorten the current Afghan war by a decade.

We can see what is happening by allowing the Afghan war to enter its 16th year; death and destruction on what is now approaching biblical levels. That’s not humane, it’s not smart and it reflects poorly on our ability to think and act at the strategic level.

Telling the Pakistani’s to go into Miranshaw, kill the Haqqani clan and get those tribes under control; or we will, is not humane but it would win the Afghan war. Putting Pakistan on the horns of a dilemma by starting to advocate for a Pashtun and Baluch homeland would be humane for the tribes involved. But it would also involve diplomatic brinkmanship of the highest order. To do that the international community would have to be prepared to eliminate Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal with preemptive strikes. That would cause the same level of death and destruction we visited on the citizens of France 73 years ago but nobody in the west has the stomach for that. Yet.

The Taliban and their radical Islamic allies see our current campaigns in Central Asia, the Middles East, Africa and now the Philippines as a clash of civilizations. Western Civilization was once able to do the most important function of a healthy civilization. That is to reduce and re-direct the natural aggression of males while also reducing and re-directing the natural tendency of vanity in its females. Today in the west male aggression is crushed, starting before grade school, by a feminist dominated system that medicates them and then prosecutes them for the trivial offense of eating part of a piece of pizza so it is shaped like a gun. Our boys are drugged, punished and ostracized relentlessly for the crime of being boys.

Yet that same system promotes female vanity to such ridiculous heights that we now have females in Marine Corps infantry battalions.  If you think that’s progress you just might be a denier….of reality.

Islam promotes male aggression while crushing female vanity. Their cultural fear of female sexuality produces a bizarre dissonance reflected in increases in birth defects from intermarriage, a hatred of homosexuals but an acceptance of homosexual acts between young men and with younger boys. Large farm animals are at risk of rape when bands of armed young Muslim fighters are about; the US military has thousands of hours of surveillance video to prove that.  The repression of females by Islamic society has produced shocking levels of hypocrisy which should make it the weaker participant in a clash of cultures yet, for now, the issue is in doubt,

When an Islamic terrorist blew himself up outside a Ariana Grande concert last week the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announced she had enough and promptly introduced measures that will do nothing to stop Islamic terrorism while reducing, even more than before, the freedom of her people. Islamic terrorist proved that point with yet another truck/suicide knife attack in London just days ago.

In response to the attack in Manchester Ariana Grande staged a benefit concert where thousands of her young female fans were transfixed as she sang about having a “wrist ice cycle (meaning her wrist was covered in male seman) while riding a dick bicycle“.  What do you think ISIS YouTube star who influenced the Manchester bomber, Shaykh Ahmad Musa Jibril, of Dearborn Michigan thought of that performance? I don’t know but I bet it was something like “we will kill them all”.

Our response for the past 16 or so years to the challenge of Islamic terrorism seems to be something along the lines of “hold my beer..I got this”.  We don’t have a damn thing; the only question is will we get a clue in time to save ourselves?

The Graveyard Of Hope

As the recent horrific bombing in Kabul is driven out of the news cycle  it is time to interject some honesty into the Afghan story. The day of the latest attack Afghans took to twitter in droves asking how can a truck bomb get into the most secure part of the city or when will they be allowed to live in peace?

The answer to the first question is the truck bomb got into the Ring of Steel the same way every truck bomb has for the last decade. Bribes combined with insiders of dubious loyalty and lax security. True it was stopped at a checkpoint at Zambaq square but that is routine; trucks are not allowed to travel downtown during rush hour, it shouldn’t have gotten that far. The fact that it did indicates it was moved into position and hidden before it took off the morning of the bombing.

The answer to the second question is you’ll be allowed to live in peace when the Afghan people rise up and fight for it. More on that below.

Today angry protesters clashed with riot police in Kabul, several were killed and all were demanding the government resign over the latest atrocity. The religious leaders (the Ulema) of both Pakistan and Afghanistan have declared the attack on civilians during Ramadan to be un-Islamic. This would be news were it not routine. Just a month ago Afghans and the Ulmea were saying the same thing after the attack on recruits praying in a Mosque in Mazar-e Sharif. The month before that it was the attack on the military hospital in Kabul (some 300 meters away from yesterday’s truck bomb) that had Afghans furious and the Ulmea declaring it an un-Islamic attack.

How does this end? It ends like it started. Back in 2001 two ODA teams 555 in the north and 574 is the south combined with anti-Taliban Afghan tribes to defeat the Taliban while Delta Force ( the Combat Applications Group or CAG) went after Osama bin Laden in Nangarhar province. As these groups rolled into the country Afghan tribes joined them in droves to rid themselves of the unpopular Taliban.

I’m not a cheer leader for Special Forces as can be seen in this post but the job they did in 2001 was one they were well suited for and one they executed like true professionals. They mimicked what the Taliban had done when they came to power – they used the power of the people to drive their oppressors out of power. Massive change comes to Afghanistan when the people of Afghanistan rise up and demand it.

The ODA teams and their unbelievably skilled brothers from the CAG were doing a mission that was squarely inside their skill set and it was an impressive feat of arms. But the momentum that gained the quick victory came from the Afghan people. They supported the international effort and they drove the Taliban from power.

Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory when generals in the rear refused to let a young Brigadier named James Mattis to throw his Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the mountains behind Tora Bora to seal bin Laden’s escape route into Pakistan. That defeat was compounded by fuzzy thinking about staying on to help Afghanistan back into the world of functioning nation states; a mission we are not equipped to do and have never been able to do.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published and editorial that reflected my thinking on the matter although I’m only in partial agreement with its recommendation. The author was Eric Prince and the article was titled The MacArthur Model for Afghanistan. Both the author and idea are a fascinating combination that explain why Afghanistan is doomed.

Eric Prince is a military genius of epic proportions. He has proven his leadership and foresight time and again and for his efforts he has been maligned by the legacy media and jealous, less capable, bureaucrats in the CIA, Department of State and Pentagon. His crime was being successful at the ancient art of contracted war making. Google his name today and the words mercenary, infamous, and notorious jump off page after page. Forget the vitriol and focus on his accomplishments as outlined in the video below:

Eric Prince recommends a MacArthur like Viceroy to consolidate power under one person and then to address the weak leadership, endemic corruption and frequent defections; he offers this:

These deficits can be remedied by a different, centuries-old approach. For 250 years, the East India Company prevailed in the region through the use of private military units known as “presidency armies.” They were locally recruited and trained, supported and led by contracted European professional soldiers. The professionals lived, patrolled, and — when necessary — fought shoulder-to-shoulder with their local counterparts for multiyear deployments. That long-term dwelling ensured the training, discipline, loyalty and material readiness of the men they fought alongside for years, not for a one-time eight-month deployment.

An East India Company approach would use cheaper private solutions to fill the gaps that plague the Afghan security forces, including reliable logistics and aviation support. The U.S. military should maintain a small special-operations command presence in the country to enable it to carry out targeted strikes, with the crucial difference that the viceroy would have complete decision-making authority in the country so no time is wasted waiting for Washington to send instructions. A nimbler special-ops and contracted force like this would cost less than $10 billion per year, as opposed to the $45 billion we expect to spend in Afghanistan in 2017.

His solution is correct except for the Viceroy – he has to be an Afghan. You need to find an Afghan who is a warrior and an Islamic scholar. He’s there, waiting and we need to find him, present him to the Ulmea and then to the Loya jirgia and then the Afghan people.  Find that man and give him Eric Prince to set up the modern day equivalent of the Flying Tigers and a ground component I’ll call the Fighting Tigers and Afghanistan will be saved.

The UN has got to go as does NATO because they cannot help Afghanistan now. You need low tech aircraft and infantry capable of doing Pseudo Operations. That means Afghan units with embedded western mentors who live, fight and die like Afghans. A force that is on the Afghans side; one they can rally behind as they once did when the Americans showed up in small numbers controlling big fires.

If the Afghans are to find peace they will need a military capability that does not rely on a multi billion dollar logistic tail that runs through Pakistan. Contracted armies can fight on the cheap using low tech air and the fighting power of western military men. Pakistan in not a friend of Afghanistan and there will be no peace for Afghans until they operate on the opposite side of the Durrani line to share some of their pain with the Pakistani enablers who send the truck bombs to kill their children.

A radical solution like this  would require the international community to get over their aversion to contracted military formations. And that requires the international community to admit their efforts have been wasted, their solutions wrong and their council worthless. That is a bridge too far so, for now, and well into the future, the Afghan people are doomed by international bureaucrats who learn nothing, forget nothing but never hesitate to insist on solutions that always fail.

The way forward is to accept the lessons of the past and use what has worked in the past. Western armies can no longer do this kind of work. Contracted armies can; there are no other rational alternatives.

Kabul Rocks; This Time It’s Not The Taliban – It’s Foreigners: IMPORTANT UPDATE

*UPDATE: One of my friends from the intel world has alerted me that the you tube video below (the point of this post) is bogus. It is not from the attack on Kabul yesterday but a 2013 car bomb in Homs, Syria. That explains the Arabic making this post moot but my recommendations on a way forward stand. Sorry for any confusion caused by my pulling the trigger on this post before vetting the legitimacy of the You Tube video.

The start of Ramadan brought an unwelcome surprise in the form of a large VBIEB detonating well inside Kabul’s ‘Ring of Steel’ at Zanbaq square close to the German and British Embassies. According to NATO’s Resolute Support public affairs:

The NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission in Kabul said Afghan security forces had prevented the vehicle from entering the heavily protected Green Zone that houses many foreign embassies as well as its headquarters, suggesting it may not have reached its intended target.

Baghdad had a Green Zone and Afghanistan has several “Green Zones” but these refer to the heavy vegetation near the Helmand River. There is no “Green Zone” in Kabul but it would unfair to expect NATO PAO’s to understand that level on nuance in a country they only see while flying over it.

Half of my friends in Kabul have come up on the net to check in and as I sit here waiting to hear from the rest I am pissed. What NATO is trying to do with 5000 additional “advise and assist” troops may be a noble effort but it is a stupid one. Watch and listen to this You Tube video and I’ll explain what is so alarming about it below.*

 

The men, who obviously knew when and where this bomb was going to detonate, are speaking Arabic; not Dari and not Pashto. They are not Afghans. Who are they and how did they gain foreknowledge of this attack?

I suspect they’re ISIS and, as they appear to be filming from the roof of the Serena Hotel, they are ISIS with cash to spend. This is serious and it calls for a serious response.

Here’s a plan I’m spit-balling while I wait to hear from the remainder of my friends. It may sound crazy but let it sink in – it would work if we only had the balls to pull it off.

  1.  Remove all embassies and all NATO bases from Kabul and locate them to Bagram. That will make the people in Kabul safer while not detracting from Embassy operations because none of the diplomats ever leave their compounds unless in a they are in a helicopter anyway. Might as well move them to Bamyan where they be safer still for all the good they are (not) doing now.
  2. Move all train and assist teams from contested provinces and put them in Bamyan to run battalion level combat training courses. Use the air assets in- country now supporting the advise and assist effort to move Afghan battalions into and out of contested provinces. The training, rest and refit cycle will drive down casualties and increase retention. Use the old al Queda training base (now called Gamberi) outside Jalalabd during the four months Bamyan is covered with snow.
  3. Use the narrative of Afghan unity in conjunction with the currently popular Afghan Special Forces unit to form units that will become legends.  The Afghans need combat mentoring from the international community. What if the international community responded by offering up talent, known to and approved by the Afghan government, to lead small units into the contested lands? I’m talking pseudo-terrorist operations as perfected by the Selous Scouts. The Afghans do not have a deep enough bench of small unit leaders to pull this off. The international community does and there are thousands of men in multiple countries who would return in a heartbeat to volunteer for this kind of service.
  4. Students of military history understand the power of dynamic leaders. There is a reason Scipio Africanus is as relevant today as he was in 202 BC and that is the power of extraordinary leadership. Ask Secretary Mattis, he who sleeps well while others lose sleep, because they know he’s thinking about them. Setting up Pseudo-terrorist op teams will take culling through thousands of volunteers, both internationals and Afghans, to find the the right mix but when you do find that mix and those teams start to operate the Afghan people will be all the PR you need to announce there is a game changer in the mix (finally).
  5. The devil is always in the details and there are no details presented here. But the devil was also filming the you tube video above and he needs to be hunted down and killed. The time for diplomats and large hopelessly incompetent military organizations is over. It is time to put an end to this bullshit and all it takes are few thousand hardy volunteers who will no longer tolerate tyranny, madness and the slaughter of innocents.

If anyone out there has a better idea I’d love to hear it.

 

Kharejee

Kharejee is a word used in both Pashto and Dari for foreigners. Afghanistan has a long history of welcoming Kharejee to their lands as long as they weren’t members of invading armies. When westerners arrived in force back in 2002 they weren’t, initially, considered invaders are were welcomed in most places by most people. Unfortunately the kharejee are not too welcomed anywhere in Afghanistan today.

Last weekend a western NGO, Operation Mercy, out of Sweden was attacked; their Afghan security guard decapitated, a German aid worker killed and a Finish aid worker kidnapped. Both of the Europeans were female which, in days gone by, would add to the sense of outrage in the West. They were probably targeted by the Taliban (given the decapitation) but could have been victims of a kidnapping gang. Regardless of motivation the kidnapped victim stands a good chance of surviving her ordeal if her government steps in and quickly ponies up some serious cash.

Which raises the question why the German woman was killed? She was worth a lot of money alive and nothing dead. My educated guess is she armed herself with some sort of bludgeoning weapon and tried to fight back. Some of the German NGO women I saw working in Afghanistan weighed a good bit more than your average Taliban and could have beat the stuffing out of them with a baseball bat.

Fighting back is not the best option in this kind of scenario but it’s what I would have done. It is also why disarming us Kharejee was stupid. Armed expats have stopped these types of attacks in their tracks several times in years past. Armed westerners have been killed by bombs in Kabul but only one was killed in a ground attack. He was working for the UN and was credited with saving 17 of his colleagues although he was badly wounded in the process. The wounds he sustained didn’t kill him, an Afghan police officer did by shooting him at point blank range.

Former American sailor or Marine – reports on his past differed Louis Maxwell with his H&K G36 rifle. The flame stick was stolen after he was killed by ANP officers responding to the attack on the guesthouse he was protecting. Louis Maxwell is a true hero and like most true heroes he will never be recognized, remembered or acknowledged. But I remember him nightly in my prayers and hope I’m not the only one.

It could be worse for the Finnish worker: if ISIS-K grabbed this woman there will be no getting her back.  ISIS fighters don’t do ransom – they do blood work in the name of Allah. If they have her stand by for the orange jump suit and decapitation video.

German journalists Sandra Petersmann and Birgitta Schülke-Gill did some interesting reporting after the latest attack by asking local folks about their opinions on NATO sending in more troops. The responses they got were consistent with common sense which is the exact opposite of what we are hearing from our leadership concerning the need for more troops. Here’s an example:

  “What good will more foreign soldiers do if they’re not allowed to fight?”

I believe the answer to that question is obvious.

What is also obvious is Kabul is a very dangerous city for Westerners today. Yet the NATO’s Resolute Support Public Affairs office insists that journalists who want to embed spend multiple days traveling back and forth to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in Kabul to get credentialed before embedding. I have no problem doing that as I have many places in Kabul where I can go to ground surrounded by friends I know will protect me.  There are a handful of Western journalists who could do the same.  Any journalist without years of in-country experience and a tight support network will be in grave danger if they attempt to embed. This is the reason we will be getting very little reporting from the country in the coming years.

What are the chances that elite American journalists, the type you see on TV frequently, are required to expose themselves to this level of risk? I think it zero but hope I’m wrong. The point being that Resolute Support is resolutely refusing to acknowledge the current ground truth. You would think, given the reluctance of NATO countries to commit more manpower,  some reality would work its way into their media plan to enable more reporters in-country to tell their story.

In other disturbing news the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) lost 20 men in a series of attacks on static checkpoints. They are going to lose a lot more because static checkpoints are easy targets to isolate and destroy. That the ANSF continues to use them indicates our advise and assist efforts over the last 16 years have yet to bear fruit. The National Directorate for Security, which are the MoI’s secret police have, for years, established flying checkpoints that are a much more effective way of screening traffic for villains and gathering bribes. I wrote a post about one where I lost two sets of irreplaceable body armor and that post made it into Soldier of Fortune magazine.

Ryan Tam, PhD not enjoying himself at a NDS hasty checkpoint

The continued use of static checkpoints indicates that ANSF soldiers and commanders are impervious to reason. How much mentoring would it take to get them to use mobile checkpoints that vary in time and location? I’m not sure but believe that 16 + X number of years will not be enough. ANSF will continue to sustain unsustainable losses because they insist on being sitting ducks.

Habits are hard to break, even when it is a reasonable assumption they will get you killed.  It is difficult to see how more advise and assist trainers will turn the battlefield momentum. It is also difficult to see how this will end in an acceptable state of affairs. Time is not on our or the Afghan peoples side.

But I’m still on their side because I know too many Afghans who are decent, caring people and they need some moral support. Besides being in dangerous places is invigorating to me. Since my return to America I’ve discovered I’m a type II diabetic. The only dangerous thing I do now is to let my toe nails grow longer than I should.  So, once again, I pull out the big threat:

If you have the means and interest please donate to my effort to embed at the the Baba Tim Go Fund Me page. Without accurate, informed reporting our ability to help is going to become seriously limited.

Discipline

I have repeatedly written that in order for the Resolute Support Train and Assist mission to work the trainers will have to get out and fight with the trainees. The reason I’m adamant about that is not the traditional reason American combat advisers are normally effective.

When my uncle Chad spent a year as an adviser to the South Vietnamese Marine Corps they needed no help from him with their staff functions, battle drills or training. What they needed was his access to American fire power. Marine advisers were inserted into South Vietnamese units at the battalion and regimental level to access combat enablers, specifically American tactical aircraft, medical evacuation helicopters, artillery and naval gunfire. They lived with their South Vietnamese counterparts for the duration of their assignment and went with them to the field every time their unit was deployed. They formed tight bonds with their counterparts too which is the basis of trust and a good way of avoiding green on blue attacks.

The advise and assist mission in Afghanistan today has little to do with access to American combat enablers (there isn’t much to access now anyway). It is focused on improving battle staff mission planing. Solid staff work is critical to mission success at the battalion (and higher) level. The Afghanistan National Army (ANA) and the National Police (ANP) have serious staff functionality issues due to attrition, low levels of literacy in the ranks and the problem of rampant  corruption.

The corruption problem as well as the logistical issues seem to have improved (somewhat) over the years as can be seen when examining current photographs of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in action. They have all their battle gear and are wearing it correctly, their gun handling skills have improved and their cold weather gear is uniform indicating their supply chain is getting it out to them. Literacy too is improving countrywide and the ANSF has attracted and retained a cohort of well educated, motivated officers. Yet working with these officers to improve staff functionality is tinkering at the margins.

Discipline is the key to dominating on the battlefield in Afghanistan and it is sorely lacking in the ANSF today. Correlating discipline to battlefield survival is not something that is well understood. Traditionally when we think of discipline we think of close order drill or the stripping away of individual identity and replacing it with a tribal identity (in boot camp) so that men respond instantly to commands in order to promote unit survival in battle. That is 2nd generation military discipline which is a non-factor in the distributed operations found on the battlefield of today. I’m talking about  4th generation discipline which is essential to combat effectiveness when you have seeded the battlefield with squad sized combat outposts (COP’s) many of which have Corporals with just three years of service under their belts running them.

This quote from an interview on All Marine Radio with Major General Paul Kennedy explains the concept well:

Gen Mattis jacked me up during OIF 1 about shaving and I have never forgotten that lesson. Shaving is not a cosmetic activity and it’s not even so your gas mask fits, it’s for when the small unit leader walks down the line he sees you have taken care of business. It might be the only time in the day that you have used soap and water to clean yourself up so when they see that you have shaved then they know you probably also have eaten and taken care of your weapon and are ready to go. You shave every day because it is a physical sign that your head is in the game…..When you’re in a COP and have limited food and water and are trying to decide how much to use to eat but you take care of hygiene first; that’s discipline.

How does something like shaving translate into battlefield survival? I’ll let Mike ‘Mac’ McNamara (host of All Marine Radio) explain it in another quote I lifted from one of his interviews with Brigadier General Dave Furness:

Of the last 31 Marines we lost as an RCT (Regimental Combat Team) during our 2010-2011 deployment, 19 of them were OUR fault. Failure to follow established combat SOP’s was the #1 culprit in those 19 cases.

What does shaving have to do with failure to follow SOP’s? It’s another way of saying attention to detail matters. Marines who care for their weapons and hygiene before their stomachs are demonstrating the internalized discipline that will allow them to sit for hours in the sweltering desert sun to wait for EOD teams to respond to their position and clear IED’s. Marines who understand internalized discipline are not prone to ignore positive identification procedures that may or may not make sense to them. Marines with internalized discipline are demonstrating they trust their chain of command and their fellow Marines.

As MajGen  Kennedy pointed out in the podcast linked above Marines with internalized discipline will find over 80% of the IED’s discovered during a deployment with their eyes only. No fancy gear, no dogs, no nothing but the senses proficient warriors hone when serving at the front.

Failure to following established SOP’s designed to mitigate the number one threat in the Helmand province (IED’s) was a discipline issue. Even the Marines, who have the well-earned reputation of being the most disciplined service in America, have problems internalizing the correlation between discipline and battlefield survival. I considered myself to be a proficient infantry officer while on active duty and I never completely understood this. That I was not the only one is evident in the statistics Mac put together and published.

I have several video’s of ANA troops running past American EOD techs working to disarm IED’s and getting blown sky high four steps later. They are gruesome; they are upsetting, they make you sick because they were completely avoidable had the soldiers involved shown the discipline it takes to wait while IED’s are properly identified and neutralized. That’s what the ANA and the ANP need now; mentoring by small unit leaders that instills the discipline required to survive on the modern Afghan battlefield.  That alone is of more value then all the combat enablers we normally bring to a fight and it is not what our advise and assist missions are doing.

As an aside I urge you to take the time to listen to the interviews linked above. What Mac is doing with his All Marine Radio podcasts is providing to all who listen a graduate level education on not just combat leadership but organizational leadership. There are now hundreds of interviews with Marines (and a few non Marines) from privates first class to four star generals on his podcast library and they are a fascinating glimpse into military history.

Included in his treasure trove is a tape recording of the radio traffic between a company commander’s tank and his platoon commander’s tanks in the thick of the battle for Iwo Jima (43 minute mark in the podcast linked above).  I’ve never heard anything like it and the man he was interviewing (Tom Clifford who at the time was the President of the University of North Dakota) was the company commander on those tapes and he had no idea a tape of his tac net even existed. I cannot stress enough how good this material is…you’re crazy if you don’t take advantage of it. The first two hyperlinks in this post are All Marine Radio interviews with my Uncle Chad and General Zinni talking about being combat advisers in Vietnam (and a lot more). They are fascinating radio.

Dave Furness, Mike ‘Mac’ McNamara and I on Camp Dwyer, Helmand province in 2010

The news coming out of Afghanistan is not good. This recent article in Fox news is an example. It is talking about the deployment of a Brigade Combat Team (Army term for a Regimental Combat Team) from the 82nd Airborne to Afghanistan. This deployment, like the current Marine deployment, was scheduled long ago and is not news. But the article contains all sorts of extraneous information like the “devils in baggy pants” moniker for the 82nd (from WWII when their uniforms were distinctly different from regular army units) that is not relevant today and confusing to the non professional. The article doesn’t explain what everyone wants to know which is why are they going and what they will be doing.

More disturbing is this article on the Breitbart website concerning “McMaster’s War”. The article, concerning the need for more troops in Afghanistan isn’t that bad – it’s the comment section that should give pause to our leadership. Not one comment (and they are still pouring into the website) is remotely positive. When you’ve lost the segment of the population that comments on Brietbart website you’ve lost the American people.

At some point in the very near future President Trump and his national security team will have to explain what we are doing in Afghanistan, how that will make things better for the Afghan people, and when are we going to leave. Failure to do so will cost the military the good will of the American people earned by the generation that proceeded them. That would be, in my opinion, inexcusable.

If our military leadership fails to talk about how our continued involvement will improve small unit performance then we’ll know we are wasting time, treasure and blood tinkering at the margins of enhanced combat performance. The ANA needs discipline; the ANP needs that too given the fact they are fulfilling a combat role that involves zero policing. They need our help and I hope we start providing them the help they need, not the help that sounds good on a PowerPoint slide.

There is no way to determine what is going on in Afghanistan without competent reexporting from the front. That is why I’m trying so hard to fund an embed back there but I cannot do that without your support. If you can please consider a donation to the Baba Tim Go Fund Me page in support of accurate reporting from the front lines.