The Afghans Want To Solve Their Problems The Old Fashioned Way

Panjwayi Tim sent an article the other day worthy of serious consideration at the State Department if it were capable of serious consideration. It outlines a way forward in Afghanistan that has the following advantages:

  1. It would work
  2. It would reduce the amount of future fighting and dying to near zero
  3. It costs the United States nothing
  4. It would allow us to bring all our deployed units home
  5. It would not benefit Iran or Pakistan

Because quantity has a quality all it’s own lets take a look at another plan for ending the fighting in Afghanistan and bringing our forces back home where they belong. I know I’ve posted a ton on this topic before but what the hell; I’ve got nothing better to do.

The article was an interview with former Afghan warlord Ismail Khan and he states an obvious truth; even centuries of foreign presence cannot fix Afghanistan.

“The Americans should leave,” Khan said. “There can only be peace and security in Afghanistan if there is a just government in place that is backed by the majority of the people and is chosen through elections or a loya jirga (national council). It cannot be reliant on a foreign military.”

…He said foreign forces, which he described as “girls,” had failed in their fight against the Taliban.

I have written before about how the Afghan war will end and that will be when the people present a united front against the current belligerents. Historically this has been done when a militia or groupings of militia’s gain the peoples support. That is how the Taliban took control of most of the country back in the 90’s.

Ismail Khan is the one mujaheddin commander still standing who could build a coalition of Muj commanders, force an “understanding” on the Taliban, and win the support of the population. He is ready to re-mobilize his militia if given a green light from Kabul and if he can get the majority of his fellow mujaheddin commanders to do the same there is no question it would work.

Ismail Khan fought the Soviets, fought the Taliban, fought General Dostum who fought for and against both the Soviets and the Taliban and has never had allegations of human rights abuse directed at him. He is a Tajik and the former governor of Herat province who is highly regarded in Western Afghanistan, an area from which 90% of Afghanistan’s saffron crop originates. Saffron makes farmers a ton more money than opium which is why I mention it. He would need to incorporate the current Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)  and central government into the effort but that is not a hard job for prominent warlords; they have thousands of years tradition and a lifetime of experience on their side.

If the Afghans could figure out a way to link his militia to the Afghan Army and use them as auxiliaries they could probably clean up the Helmand province in a few months. Not because Ismail Khan’s militia is proficient but because Ismail Khan knows how to use the ulema (the body of Mullahs who are the interpreters of Islam’s doctrines and laws and the chief guarantors of continuity in Afghan communities) to reach the people. He carries series weight with the Afghan people and the people and the ulema are the only entities that can force peace in Afghanistan. In the context of ending the current war with the Taliban the Afghan military and central government are irrelevant.

Ismail Khan; tanned, rested, fit and waiting. (Photo from Khama.com)

The Marines in Helmand are winding down their tour and are a bright spot of good news for our military efforts in Afghanistan. Good news because they have taken no casualties while accomplishing the mission they were assigned. The LA Times ran a good story on them last Saturday; an incident described in that article is a perfect example with which to compare and contrast what would work against what is not going to work.

From the LA Times story linked above:

One recent morning, two convoys of Afghan security forces traveling south toward Lashkar Gah came under fire from a house inside the village of Malgir. Inside a windowless, high-ceilinged room at an operations center near Shorab, Marines, Afghan officers, and American civilian contractors watched footage from a U.S.-made ScanEagle drone hovering above the village.

Once Afghan troops in the area determined the shooters’ location and that there were no civilians nearby, officers in the control room requested airstrikes, which were carried out by U.S. Apache helicopters. One of the shooters was killed, two were wounded and two escaped, said Afghan army Maj. Abdul Wakil.

All that technology, all those assets, all those people deployed at lord knows what cost to kill one guy shooting small arms at a convoy? You get that with our efforts in Afghanistan and it’s old news; let’s focus on the village and read between the lines of the story.

Malgir, the village where the Marines directed an air strike with army Apaches, is in Nad Ali district near Gereshk. The area around Malgir belongs mostly to the Barakai tribe (who for the most part are pro government) with significant areas of Ishaqzai/Poplazai  (who are mostly pro Taliban) tribal dominance . There is a concentration of Shia Hazara peoples in the southern end of the district who seemed to be on the short end of the stick regardless who controls the area.

In 2009 the British launched an operation aimed at Malgir to clear out Taliban. The Taliban ‘moved in’ after the collapse of the Barakzai militia who had been running the place until 2008 when they stopped getting paid. The Barakzai had over-taxed non Barakzai locals in the area which probably had something to do with their getting their stipend from the provincial authorities cut off. There were three prominent Muj warlords in the area at that time, Haji Kadus (Barakzai/Shamezai tribe), Qari Hazrat (Ishaqzai tribe and local Taliban commander) and former provincial governor Sher Mohammad Akhundzdza (Alizai from Northern Helmand and at that time a Taliban commander).

Haji Kadus was a favorite of the American Special Forces having dime’d out all his local rivals as ‘Taliban’ (most weren’t)  which had landed them in Gitmo. When the British started planning their operation Haji Kadus divided up Malgar with Qari Hazrat allowing him to protect his communities. As the operation unfolded the British made Haji Kadus a Major in the Afghan police and then maneuvered into the village of Haji Gul Ehkitar Kalay.

The British decided to establish a patrol base in the house of Haji Gul Ehkitar (the village was named after him) and negotiated a fair rent which was paid to Haji Gul’s nephew Sur Gul, who happened to be a Taliban commander. The only Taliban mahaz commander to fight the British was Sher Muhamad’s who had been cut out of the pre-invasion deal making. Haji Gul’s Taliban did not fight but he, reportedly, used the British Army rent money to buy IED’s which he turned against his renters. Haji Kadus, who knew what Haji Gul was up to, said nothing to the Brits. When the foreigners went home Haji Kadus was not going with them so he had to make accommodations that made sense in the long game. A smart Indian doesn’t crap in his own tepee.

This is all very complicated right? But here’s the point; Muj commanders like Ismal Khan know this history and know how to put minor Muj commanders on a short leash without much (if any fighting). Know who else knows this entire inter-tribal history inside and out? BGen Roger Turner, the commanding officer of TF Southwest. The British learned from their mistakes and developed a detailed order of battle with comprehensive dossiers on every player inside their former AOA (area of operations). They spent the time and money to fly to North Carolina to bring Roger Turner and his staff up to speed.

Here’s the point. The intricate knowledge of tribal dynamics is not knowledge Gen Turner and his Marines can act on in the context of their current mission.  It is good that they know how things got to be the way they are but that hard won knowledge is meaningless to the Marines now. They are locked down on the bases focused on improving the performance of Afghan Security Forces.

Ismail Khan, on the other hand, can use this knowledge to sort out recalcitrant Muj commanders quickly. He can generate change to the local tribal dynamics in a manner that the change sticks. He would probably be able to do so without any serious fighting. If he had to fight he would incorporate local tribal fighters because that’s the way Afghans fight. Those tribes on his side would be rewarded, those against him punished, in both cases this would involved acquiring or losing land. Nothing else matters in the Helmand; land ownership and water rights are the only game that matters.

Boost airfield where the Marines working with the Afghan Police are based. There were very few houses around the airfield in 2011 when I was last there. Now there are hundreds of houses built outside the wire of the airfield. These are a problem as they can be used to shield an attacking force massing to overrun the airfield. They also impeded our ability to use supporting arms against attacking infantry given the number of civilians who would be caught in the cross fire. Another good reason to get out now why the getting is good.

Getting the Department of State to understand that offers like the one made by Ismail Khan should be taken seriously is impossible.  As Upton Sinclair famously said “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”. State Department mandarins are not salary motivated but they are power motivated and giving up power is anathema to them. That is a crying shame; we’re running out of time and are already out of money for further adventures in Afghanistan. We should be giving Ismail Khan a shot a solving the Afghan problem we created. It will cost us little and is the only route to peace available now.

And It’s One, Two, Three, What Are We Fighting For?

ABC news published a story today titled American troops caught in deadly ambush told to proceed despite mission concerns. As is typical with the legacy media the article talks about conflicting mission statements by the Americans and Nigerians which may or may be true. What is true is the article provides lots of innuendo, the staple of ‘gotcha’ journalism, while missing the real story. The real story is why the hell we are driving around Niger to begin with followed by how does a Green Beret go missing after a linear ambush by a bunch of land pirates.

Here’s the deal. The ABC article and most of the legacy media reporting reference a kill or capture mission for “one of the most dangerous terrorist leaders in the country known locally as Dandou and code-named “Naylor Road” by the Americans”. Naylor Road is a commander in the Al Molathameem Brigade named Abdul Walid Zarqawi. He is the protegee of the Teflon Jihadi who is a wanted man and noted land pirate. The Teflon Jihadi, a.k.a Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a.k.a Laaouar, a.k.a. The One Eyed Sheikh, a.k.a The Marlboro Man (he ran or runs a huge cigarette smuggling operation) has survived so many attempts on his life (by the Chadian Army, the French SF, the British SAS, American air and drone strikes) that he has his own Wikipedia page documenting them.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar – Barbary coast land pirate, international cigarette smuggler, dumbass grenade handler,  Jihadi of convenience

Mokhtar, like many in the Jihad, got his start in Afghanistan where he trained in Osama bin Laden’s Jalalabad training camp. He lost an eye while juggling Soviet hand grenades for the amusement if his fellow Jihadi’s in Jalalabad which earned him the one eyed nickname.

The Teflon Sheikh, in the tradition of his Barbary Coast forefathers, may or may not be a religious zealot. It would be hard to be a member of al Qaeda or Daesh (ISIS) and still have a gigantic cigarette smuggling franchise. But who cares? The amount of religious conviction is a minor detail concerning land pirates; the truth regarding the level of Koranic devotion in any of them is a known unknown.

The authorization being used to conduct these operations in Africa is suspect to those of us who consider the constitution a valid guide for governmental affairs. Plus the story of the ambushed Green Beret team in Niger isn’t over; there are details missing that portend poorly for our hapless Pentagon. If the legacy media is able to fill them in there is going to be hell to pay.

The authorization being used by USAFRICOM  to hunt Jihadi inclined land pirates is the  Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by congress on September 14th, 2001. For 16 years the AMUF has been used to justify military operations in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Yemen, Djibouti, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and now Niger. It is essentially a blank check that has been used by the executive branch to avoid congressional oversight. The AMUF allows congress to opt out of their constitutional duty to determine where and when this country goes to war. Instead of doing the constitutionally mandated  hard work congress postures and virtue signals by bullying the Pentagon over policies like females in the infantry or forcing transsexual’s on the military.

That the military is currently suffering from the abdication of congressional oversight concerning its employment while trying to work through an unending stream of PC driven micromanagement is self evident. That congress is doing this to avoid the difficult tasks demanded of them by our constitution is also self evident. Allowing the executive branch and the Pentagon to do whatever the hell they want to do with our military is like giving whisky and the car keys to a 12 year old boy.

USAFRICOM was created in 2006 and is headquartered in Stuttgart Germany. That no African nation (except for Liberia) wants to host the HQ of AFRICOM speaks volumes about its utility to the region. Regardless of the optics concerning a regional command not welcomed in the region it “commands” when you create a military headquarters and staff it that staff is going to find something to do. The something they end up doing may or may not contribute to the strategic vision of the foreign policy establishment; which should be the goal of military headquarters, but that would require a foreign policy establishment with a strategic vision to be a relevant point. In the absence of strategic guidance the  leadership AFRICOM has decided to elevate Barbary Coast pirates into  powerful Jihadi commanders who they now track down in bush country they don’t know while trying to ‘help’ people they don’t understand.

It is Afghanistan all over again.

This is how you end up with a 12 man Green Beret force (10 pipe hitters and 2 support staff) driving around in soft vehicles, accompanied by the legendarily corrupt Nigerien army,  looking for the apprentice of a master Marlboro smuggler. When the patrol left the village of Tongo Tongo they hit a near ambush that caught the rear half of the patrol in the kill zone. Those Nigerians who were not killed in the first moments of the attack dropped their weapons and ran away. The Green Berets fought on without them for the two or so hours it took for French SF soldiers to arrive on scene. The French rescued the survivors and wounded but left the dead behind due to space limitations. Here’s the bad news part:

It is unclear when Johnson was killed, but the 25-year-old mechanic had become separated from the rest of the unit almost immediately after the ambush started, sources within the special forces community said.

Read between the lines and you’ll conclude (and I hope the conclusion is wrong) that Sgt Johnson was captured and thus not in the ambush kill zone at the conclusion of the battle. If that proves to be the case his killing by the African land pirates would have been brutal, when discovered 48 hours later the remains a gruesome sight to behold. The Pentagon obviously knows what happened and they aren’t saying squat. Had he been hit in the ambush, crawled under some concealment only to bleed out I believe we would know that by now but we know nothing.

Included in this tragic story is the specter of Sgt Johnson’s remains becoming a political football thanks to grandstanding of the odious racial huckster congresswoman Fredrica Wilson. Sgt Johnson was not a Green Beret but a member of the group support staff. How much combat training do SF support personnel have?  I don’t know the answer to that question but if it is “not too much” it could explain how Sgt Johnson ended up in the hands of land pirates.

Sea pirates have always been a problem for international commerce. One of the most successful, Ching Shih was a (rare) female pirate leader who commanded over 300 junks with some 6,000 men back in the early 1800’s. The penalty for captured Chinese pirates back was death; often by Lingchi (death by a thousand cuts), a horrific way to be killed yet harsh penalties did not solve the problem. Piracy remained a scourge in the south China sea then as it is now. Chinese pirates were a vicious lot as were the Barbary Coast species who plundered American shipping at the same time Ching Shih was terrorizing shipping in the South China Sea. That ended when a few Marines (and 100’s of contractors….but heaven forbid we talk about them again) put the whoop ass on  them at the shores of Tripoli.

Sea Pirates have fortified cities where they dock, rest and refit; take out their ports and they’re toast. Land pirates have the vast bush to hide in so a handful of hard guys, be they Marines, SF or contractors are not going to be able to do much about them unless they remain in the bush with them and run them to ground.  That would take lot’s of time and be fraught with risk. We once fielded ground maneuver elements who could last in the bush for weeks on end in Vietnam. We don’t do that now although I’m sure there are some troops and commanders who would love to give it a try.

Why would anyone believe that offering some training, some trucks, a handful of hard men and lottery visa’s would in any way degrade or deter land pirates or Jihadi’s?

If you asked the Pentagon what we’re doing in Niger they would say we are there to promote regional stability and. in conjunction with USAID, trying to help the local peoples to a better standard of living. USAID, by the way, has one metric for success; program dollars spent, and 70% of those go to overhead just like Afghanistan. And it’s not like aid has done a damn thing for Africa anyway check this out:

For almost half a century the countries of Africa have been awash in aid. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been given to African governments. More billions were lent to these same governments. Countless tons of food have inundated the continent, and swarms of consultants, experts, and administrators have descended to solve Africa’s problems. Yet the state of development in Africa is no better today than it was when all this started. Per capita income, for most of Africa, is either stagnant or declining.

Our foreign policy doesn’t work, we have no business trying to force  ‘stability’ in an area of the world where we have no interests and we suck at the ‘stability game anyway. Our Pentagon is broken; it’s going to get hammered if they tell the truth about the untimely demise of Sgt Johnson. It is also going to get hammered when it is revealed they don’t process service members who receive bad conduct discharges with the criminal justice system as they are required to. The Fat Leonard scandal has ensnared over sixty…that is SIX ZERO!!! (and counting) flag officers from a Navy that can’t even drive it’s ships safely. The future does not look bright with one exception.

The narrative of our progressive elites is now in tatters. The internet has done what our journalist were supposed to do by uncovering truth, afflicting the comfortable while comforting the afflicted:

The recent decline of trust in global institutions is a reflection of the fact that governments, gatekeepers and experts really have lost control over immigration, fertility, technology, nuclear weapons and their populations sense this. The global population isn’t imagining things.  They feel the actual impotence of the new gods.

Counter-intuitively 21st man may be as helpless before these giant technological storms as his pre-industrial ancestors were before gales in the age of sail.  He may be more helpless if Jordan Peterson is to be believed, for unlike the seamen of former days the sailors on today’s seas have no “stories” — just cell phones full of fake news — to bear them up.

The quote above is from this post by Free Range International favorite Richard Fernandez who mentions another FRI favorite Jordan Peterson; it’s two for Tuesday at FRI HQ today.

As bad as things are in the world today every morning brings news of hope; continued decline of the NFL, another batch of elite actors, journalists, union thug bosses and politicians finally being held to account for their dismissive abuse and sexual harassment of the little people (the ones who make the country great). The Muh Russia story morphing into the real story which was democrat collusion, incompetence, and corruption of federal institutions like the FBI, Justice Department, IRS, and the intelligence community. Is it really possible that the laws of the land might really be applied to privileged elite as they are to the rest of us? It seems possible now; change is in the air and it smells like victory.

Who knows…..there may be enough change to curb the insatiable appetite of the defense/foreign policy establishment for more money, more mischief, and less accountability. How cool would it be to have the government actually give a damn about the interests of the American people vice the global elites? It would cooler than smelling napalm in the morning….which is pretty cool.

Saving Afghanistan

Something interesting popped up on the cover of Politico this week concerning Afghanistan. The Man who Thought He Could Fix Afghanistan is about  Scott Guggenheim, the most influential development expert that you’ve never heard of.  Apparently Mr. Guggenheim is famous for “pioneering the kind of bottom-up approach that rejects the older, headquarters-oriented style of proffering aid” in Indonesia.

Mr. Guggenheim has a solid track record in the humanitarian aid community. He has the proper credentials  (PhD from John Hopkins), has spent his professional life working for the World Bank and most importantly he has a unique relationship with Afghanistan’s president Ashraf Ghani who he has known since 1981 when both were if grad school. Mr. Guggenheim seems to be a decent, smart, motivated guy and if there is a chance that America can help get Afghanistan develop into a functional state  he would be the linchpin of our effort. From the article:

He has been called “the brain of Dr. Ghani,” but in interviews in the months after the election, he was at constant pains to deflect attention. His business card contains just his name and a Gmail address. This is deliberate. “Ashraf likes having someone who has no political or economic ambition,” Guggenheim told me. He sees his role not as a consigliere but as a kind of a fixer for Ghani, the executor to the president’s blue-skied vision. “Ashraf has a pretty clear agenda. I always thought my job was to help him realize it,” Guggenheim said.

My buddy Boris and I have a lot of experience at implementing bottom up aid and were chatting about the article over the weekend. Here’s his take on Guggenheim:

“…he represents the actual US government-its informal wing. Like there’s a military and paramilitary institutions, there are parts of the government which are technically not governmental. Pure power, no responsibility, but also no clear decision-making authority or processes-rule by committee. In other words, cancer.”

The cancer is in our foreign policy establishment which has proved to be unable to generate positive change in our rapidly changing world. They have no answers for what is plaguing Afghanistan so empowering experts like Mr. Guggenheim is their best option. But it is not going to work because trying to nudge the Afghan President to be more democratic and less authoritarian is not the answer.

Further along in the article our current answer to Afghanistan was presented when ” In the absence of civilian leadership, the generals stepped in.” Again from article:

“McMaster was also good at calling out whoppers. “Our side would try some standard bullshit on how we have great plans to fix everything,” Guggenheim said, “and McMaster would say, ‘I heard all this in 2012. Tell me what’s new.’”

The bluntness of General McMaster is appealing. The current strategy of maintaining a military life line to the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) until they can stand on their own is a reasonable play. But it too is not going to work because of this: sixteen years of fighting in Afghanistan and we are still bombing wedding parties and killing innocents. Last month we dropped more ordnance than we have since 2012 yet the casualties sustained by ANSF  are up by 52%. And that’s not counting the Afghan police we killed in our latest drone attack.

Why would our military shoot a Hellfire missile at a few guys shooting their AK’s off into the air? That’s a rhetorical question, there is no logical answer to that kind of stupid. The guys shooting off their AK’s could have been Taliban instead of off duty Afghan police and it would still be a stupid move coupled to an egregious waste of money.

This is why the only rational course of action was the contractor modeled championed by Eric Prince and poo poohed by all the elites in DC and the media. Contractors don’t shoot Hellfire missiles at random gunmen who are shooting their rifles in the air. Contractors, under the Prince model, would have been working for and at the direction of the ANSF; improving combat performance while realizing billions in savings. Contractors would  not have spent 500 million dollars on planes that could not fly in Afghanistan and were sold for scrap at 6 cents a pound.

And contractors who know how to operate in Afghanistan (meaning they’re armed) and stayed long enough to develop strong relationships (because they were armed) can do bottom up reconstruction work without losing money to bribes or dodgy subcontractors (because they’re armed and thus taken seriously by all the players). Boris and I know this because, being plank owners in Ghost Team, we did it, for years, without drama (because we were armed).

USAID hated us being armed but tolerated it because we delivered. The Karzai government hated us being armed because it allowed us to be successful thus depriving them of another chance to siphon off aid money into their Dubai bank accounts. The provincial governors loved us being armed because it enabled up to travel to every job site and keep people honest while ensuring projects were on track and on spec. The local people loved it too because nothing brought more calm to turbulent lands than a couple (or just one) armed westerner showing up with the monthly pay roll. If you are working in a warrior society it is most helpful that you too are a warrior. Afghans respect men who take responsibility for their own protection and don’t pay other Afghans, from outside the local area, to do it for them.

As we scan the news of the day we can see the Internet has collapsed the Narrative and laid bare the corruption of Hollywood, politics and the media. This is causing the long-term loss of the progressive elites authority when it comes to lecturing the rest of us from a pretended position of moral superiority. Change is in the air but will not happen fast enough to help the people of Afghanistan. Men like Scott Guggenheim, who has his picture on posters scattered around Kabul with the caption  Ghani ba ehsara-e en shakhs meraqsad: (Ghani dances on the order of this man); are not the answer.

The answer for playing the Great Game in a region full of cut throats involves being a cut throat. Advocating for an independent Pashtun home land and one for the Baluch while staying on to keep an eye on China would be a great example and one Michael Yon just wrote about. That kind of thinking would place American interests first and I know that’s a great idea because John McCain was in Annapolis yesterday lecturing the midshipmen of the folly of putting America first.

Mr. Guggenheim needs to come home and stay home or he will be killed by the players in Kabul who are jockeying for attention from the President. America needs to listen intently to the words of Senator McCain and do the exact opposite of whatever ridiculous prescription he’s selling at the moment.  The man is an idiot as seen by the “plan” he came up with for Afghanistan a few months back. Afghanistan needs to hang tough until they get a leader strong enough to force his will on the various factions that comprise Afghan leadership while understanding a strong central government operating out of Kabul is never going to happen.

For now all we can do is wait, hope that enhanced training and access to American combat enablers keeps the ANSF in the fight and pray that somehow we have learned enough to never repeat the mistakes we made in Afghanistan. Given the recent drone attack that may be expecting too much…but a man can pray.

We’re Winning…..Why Does It Feel Like We’re Losing?

I had a chance to visit with Mac on All Marine Radio last week. We touched on many topics and as we got to the end our visit we hit on something that really bothers us both. That something is winning battles only to lose wars.  Although the legacy media is not focused on the fighting going on overseas things have quietly been changing for the better. ISIS is getting its ass kicked and will soon be nothing more than a bitter memory. The Taliban now have no path to victory. They cannot win as long as America and a few hearty allies maintain a commitment to the government in Kabul. The Taliban is not going to win a military victory (I don’t think they could have done it even if we cut and run) and the people of Afghanistan know this to be true.  You can listen to Mac and I talk about this – I come on at the 23 minute mark.

Entertainers, Political Activists, being replaced & MY RIGHT TO NOT TO WATCH

All this good news should elicit a feeling of success but it hasn’t generated positive vibes with me nor is anything remotely positive seem to be working its way to the surface in our media culture. Here is my guess concerning that phenomena.

The first problem with our military efforts overseas is they are not linearly successful. Last week is was noted that every Afghan Army Corps was on the offensive. Today we see that the Taliban has launched bloody attacks in four provinces; Paktia, Ghazni, Farah and Wardak killing 78 Afghans and wounding 179 soldiers and civilians.

Raqqa has fallen and it appears that ISIS is on its last legs. That was inevitable because ISIS was a foreign entity that had invaded and claimed land that was not theirs. Yet in the face of victory we get the disturbing news that the Baghdad government is in the process of taking the oil production center of Kirkuk away from the Kurds. This is a problem; the Kurds have been loyal allies to the west, they are an oasis of sanity in a part of the world that is being consumed by Islamic madness. They have all the right enemies, the Turks, the Iranians, the Iranian puppets in Iraq and the Syrians. Operation Northern Watch. which ran from 1997 to 2003, was implemented specifically to protect the Kurds from Saddam after he gassed them back in the 90’s. Now we are going to stand aside while Iranian proxy’s invade them? Does that sit well with you?

We are currently achieving our military objectives despite the fact our military is in serious trouble. The air component of the Marine Corps is essentially non functional as evident by an alarming rate of mishaps coupled with an unsustainable decrease in flight hours. The army is lowering it’s enlistment standards to meet its recruiting goals. The navy is in shambles and apparently unable to safely operate its surface combatants. The service academies are giant money pits that are producing an inferior product. Yet the folly of using the military as a platform for social engineering continues.

Despite the bad news the military is delivering some good news but that good news is irrelevant which is the really bad news. Clausewitz explained why:

WAR IS A MERE CONTINUATION OF POLICY BY OTHER MEANS.

We see, therefore, that War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means. All beyond this which is strictly peculiar to War relates merely to the peculiar nature of the means which it uses. That the tendencies and views of policy shall not be incompatible with these means, the Art of War in general and the Commander in each particular case may demand, and this claim is truly not a trifling one. But however powerfully this may react on political views in particular cases, still it must always be regarded as only a modification of them; for the political view is the object, War is the means, and the means must always include the object in our conception.

Providing the time and space for the Afghan government to get its act together is half a solution. The other half requires diplomats with the vision and ability to foster this process along. Diplomats who understand the tribal dynamics well enough to split the already fractured Taliban movement apart. Diplomats savvy enough to bring tribal groupings onto the side of the central government while simultaneously forcing the central government to be responsive and accountable to the people they are supposed to serve.

We need a diplomatic corps that can work with the Iraqi government to find diplomatic solutions to ancient problems. Our military efforts in the middle east should be subordinate to these diplomats but that is not the case now and hasn’t been for a long time. The military will eventually sort itself out; they answer to congress and we have seen that congress loves to get the generals in front of them to ensure compliance with whatever agenda the congress is pushing.

What I’ve never seen (and maybe I’m not paying close enough attention) is those same congressional committees calling state department mandarins into account in public hearings. Congressional oversight is used to bludgeon military leaders while the State Department gets a pass. Why? The State Department is the main tool for implementing foreign policy. Why does John McCain bully the SecDef and General Dunford about a plan for Afghanistan when their plan should be based off the State Department’s plan and their efforts subordinate to the overall State efforts?

Why is War the policy option we now use to solve the problems we created by using war as a proxy for diplomacy? I don’t know the answer to that but suspect this is the reason why, in the face of good news, we find little hope, dwindling confidence and the sense that progress towards a more peaceful world is an illusion.

 

Self Inflicted Wounds: Dogs and Hurricanes

In a blunder too stupid to contemplate let alone explain the US Special Forces Information Operation (IO) team in Afghanistan designed leaflets that contained the Shahada  “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet” printed on the side of a dog.  Dogs are considered unclean to adherents of the Islamic faith; placing a Shahada on the picture of a dog is a grave insult to the faithful. In fact it is so grave that there will be no way any Afghan will believe this to be a simple mistake. This is an amateur hour self inflicted wound that for which we will pay a stiff price….take that to the bank.

The leaflets were dropped over Parwan province (I’ve also seen stories that it was dropped in the northern provinces) which has a literacy rate of 27% and most of those Afghans are Dari speakers. The leaflet is in Pashto – the language of the southern provinces.  The Taliban were quick to respond sending a suicide bomber to one of the entry control gates at the Bagram airbase yesterday where he detonated his vest and wounded six soldiers (there of them Americans) and killed an interpreter.

The American military had this to say about the incident:

I sincerely apologize. We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide,” said Maj. Gen. James Linder. “There is no excuse for this mistake. I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore, I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again.”

Regardless of what the review of procedures reveals there is no way to explain such a reckless mistake after 16 years of fighting in Afghanistan. All this incident does is to reaffirm the wisdom of the Prince plan which focused on getting knowledgeable trainer/mentors into the country for the duration. What general Linder is going to find is someone on his/her first deployment thought this leaflet a good idea. Which is to say someone doesn’t know a damn thing about the country of Afghanistan yet is running IO ops there. The Prince plan specifically avoided putting inexperienced people in country to avoid self inflicted wounds of this nature.

Why dropping leaflets in a province where a vast majority of the population in illiterate seems a good idea at this late stage is a bigger issue than the content. It speaks to another component of the Prince plan and that is not having people in country who do not complement the mission which we have been told is training the Afghanistan National Security Forces. This is the problem with the American military today; it is a gigantic bureaucracy designed to fight the military forces of other nation states. After 16 years of fighting in Afghanistan it is still unable to task organize into a force that reflects it’s stated mission.

Adding insult to injury former Afghanistan president Karzai took to the press accusing the U.S. of launching “a psychological war against the Afghan people”. He is correct; that is what exactly what information operations are designed to do and there is no reason for us to be doing them in Afghanistan.

Misfires of this nature are part of “a cyclic pattern to the erosion of faith in government, in which politics saps the state’s capacity to protect people, and so people put their trust in other institutions”. That quote comes from an article in the New Yorker about Hurricane Harvey yet explains well the reason Private Military Companies (PMC’s) remain a viable business model in the face of unanimous condemnation by international elites.

Titled Why Does America Need a Cajun Navy? the article, in the words of Richard Fernandez, expressed alarm that “the Texas disaster instead of emphasizing the importance of Climate Change and greater government funding has perversely glorified community volunteerism with deleterious effect”.

What the New Yorker was describing and what the world witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was the high degree of social capitol resident in America’s fly over country. The Cajun navy is a reflection of that social capitol as was the hundreds of people who launched their boats onto the flooded roadways and started saving people.

Texas also enjoys the advantage of their own giant grocery store chain HEB. HEB is legendary for its disaster relief response. Instead of doing typical corporate IO buys on TV and radio which claim the company is doing this or that for the community HEB goes out and helps the community. They fly in truck drivers to keep stores open, forge letters to get clean up crews past police roadblocks to get stores open; even plead with national suppliers: from the linked article:

I called Frito-Lay and said, rather than manufacturing your entire product line, manufacture your bestsellers. I need Lay’s, I need Doritos, I need Fritos. I need a variety pack. I don’t need Funyons and I don’t need Munchos. Just make your best sellers. I won’t turn down any delivery. We’ll take it as fast as we can.

I don’t need Funuons….that’s hysterical…anyway the point is that the response to Hurricane Harvey demonstrated that Americans, despite years of racially polarizing IO operations from our politicians, academia, elite media and even the damn NFL we remain Americans. We’re a big country with people of every variation of color and ethnicity you can imagine who come together in times of strife to take care of each other because it’s the right thing to do.  Listen to some of the Zello calls to the Cajun navy to get an idea of what I’m talking about

We are about to see how much social capitol remains in the state of Florida. Florida has more cowboys (and cows) than Texas; but it has also seen a huge influx of life long democrats moving into the state from frigid northern blue states. This is why we have odious, ethically challenged congress persons like Debbie Wasserman Schultz on the national stage. She is a second rate hack who has the audacity to claim her support for the Awan brothers (the biggest political scandal of my life that is being studiously ignored by legacy media) is a victory of diversity and a blow against racism. Unhinged lunacy of that nature is why I suspect Florida is lacking in the human capitol department. People who elect the Wasserman Schultz’s of the world are not the kind of people to risk their lives or property helping strangers.

Diversity has never been a strength to any society at any time in history. As Victor Davis Hanson points out:

America’s melting pot is history’s sole exception of E pluribus unum inclusivity: a successful multiracial society bound by a common culture, language and values.

Is Florida a successful melting pot or a dangerous salad-bowl of politically sanctioned, envy driven separatism? We shall soon see.

Right now the evacuation efforts in Florida are being stymied by a lack of fuel. The governor has been brow beating suppliers about getting more and is urging citizens to not top off their fuel tanks if they don’t need to drive that far to local shelters. Does anyone on planet earth believe that will happen? He can hammer away at fuel suppliers all he wants but he won’t get far. The Colonial Pipeline that carries 100 million gallons of gasoline, aviation fuel and heating oil a day from Texas refineries to the east coast is closed.

Map of current fuel pipeline in America

Wait…a pipeline carries 100 million gallons of gas a day from Texas to New York? Doesn’t that make all the drama surrounding the Keystone pipeline rather moot? Yes it does and it illustrates the disservice being done to our national discourse by the legacy media and virtue signalling politicians rather obvious. America can and should be energy independent; for years the oil and gas industry has been asking to expand both pipelines and refinery capacity yet congressional democrats, blue state politicians and climate alarmists have worked in tandem to prevent those investments to our energy infrastructure. That is another self inflicted wound that is already impacting Florida and may well impact the other states in the south who are in the path of Hurricane Irma.

As the cheerleaders for climate alarmism take to the airwaves to tell you how ‘climate change’ is responsible for the intensity of the current hurricane season remember the graph below. Climate models that have their inputs artificially tweaked are not reliable. Legitimate scientific observation is as are your own two eyes.

Most Americans, just like most people in other parts of the world, do not like to wait for the government to swing into action when a natural disaster strikes. The effectiveness of the help they can provide to their fellow citizens is a direct reflection of the social capitol that resides within the affected areas. Let us hope and pray that the citizens of Florida are able to put aside petty politics and rise to the occasion. Their test is at hand; the rest of the world is watching and we will soon know if the blue state model can match the red states in human decency and real (vice virtue signaling) compassion.

“We are Killing Terrorists.” That’s Half a Plan

Last week in one of the stronger passages of a solid speech President Trump said “We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.” Most Americans, to include myself normally like bold, unambiguous statements like that. Our nation building efforts in Afghanistan have not born much fruit, Americans don’t, as a general rule, like terrorists. Killing them is, in theory, not a problem.

What is a problem is defining who is or is not a terrorist in the context of Afghanistan today. The US and her allies do not have reliable human intelligence networks in Afghanistan resulting in a 15 year run of raiding Afghans who are not connected to the Taliban and also killing some of the strongest supporters we had in that country. For example Razi Khan, the district governor of Chora district in the Taliban controlled Oruzgan province. Razi Khan had fought the Taliban all his life and was a strong ally of the Australian military who were assigned to Oruzgan province. He was killed by the Australian SAS during a night raid that was based on faulty intelligence.

There is also the problem of tribal leaders who are congruent with our goals in Afghanistan but rejected government officials sent by Kabul who the locals viewed as little more than criminals. Ajmal Khan Zazai, Canadian citizen and head of the tribal federation in the Zazai valley of Paktia province is one of those. As I wrote here back in 2010 he was considered an AOG (Armed Opposition Group) leader by the US Army and thus, today, could be considered a “terrorist”.

Ajmal checking in at FRI (forward) back in 2010

The American military in general and Secretary Mattis in particular is not adverse to learning bitter lessons, adapting to those lessons and overcoming them in time. But it is not an institution that values creativity which results in change in small increments. The military attracts smart, orderly people who master the discipline they work in but view change as micro steps of improvements to the existing structure. People like this fit well inside the evaluation structures these institutions use to judge performance.

That is a function of human nature. The military, like all bureaucracies, is chocked full of conscientious people who can work very hard at going the wrong direction for years on end. Creativity is a high risk, high gain game best played by highly creative people. It is much safer for the high intelligence segment of the population to find a functioning entity and operate as a cog within that entity. Highly creative people tend to go off on tangents all the time but the probability that one of those tangents is exactly what is needed at the exact time it is proposed are ridiculously low. The most reasonable response to the tangential ideas from a highly creative person is “that’s stupid”.  Take a few minutes to listen to one of my favorite Canadians explain this dynamic in detail.

Damn, I just went off on tangent again. The purpose for that was to, once again, point out that dismissing creative solutions like the one Eric Prince proposed is to be expected but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily well informed.

It is important to note that our stated strategy of preventing a terrorist organization from planning and launching attacks against America from Afghanistan is a red herring.  As friend of FRI, J Harlin pointed out in the comments section, the 9/11 attacks were planned in Hamburg, Germany; controlled from Yemen and the vital training for the attack took place in Arizona and Florida. Afghanistan housed bin Laden, the founder of al Qaeda, which was a good reason to go there and smoke check him. It is also the reason we should have never let him slip away once we had him trapped in Tora Bora.

Second, focusing on the application of force alone to “win” is not a coherent solution to our commitment in Afghanistan. The war there will end with a political settlement, not a military victory. Crafting that settlement will take creative diplomatic thinking that isolates the Taliban affiliated tribes and clans from the rest of the Afghan population. All the military can do now is provide the space for these efforts by keeping  the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in the fight.

Do we have the talent resident in our diplomatic corps to take advantage of the time/space being generated by military? We have people with the requisite language skills, connections and time in country seeded throughout the various government establishments (DoS, DEA, CIA, NSA, USAID, etc…) to foster an acceptable endstate. Are these people being sent back into the fray? Is there a plan or even a single unifying leader with the authority of a Viceroy to implement a plan?

The answer, I fear, is no because the idea of splitting the Taliban from the rest of the population while playing India off against Pakistan is, in the eyes of our federal bureaucracies, stupid. Yet in the eyes of creative, strategic thinkers it is the only plan that will work. Inshallah somebody with the traits of the later will emerge to shepherd the efforts of the former to a logical end.

Bellum Romanum

Bellum Romanum is all-out war without restraint as Romans practiced it against groups they considered to be barbarians. I came upon the term a few days ago listening to a Dan Carlin  Hard Corps History podcast about my ancestors titled the Celtic Holocaust. He starts the podcast by asking “what are you willing to die for”? He then ups the ante by asking “what are you willing to sacrifice everything for? That question, although profound, is an alien concept in the western world today.

I recommend downloading the podcast, it’s a long one but fascinating. Although the topic involved the epic slaughter of my ancestors it is hard, these thousands of years removed, not to admire the Romans. Could you imagine going into battle, at hand to hand range, with a people who were 6 inches taller and commensurately stronger than your side? That had to be terrifying; as is the thought of being forced to take a stand where everything you know and love hangs in the balance.

Which brings us to Afghanistan. The Voice of America published a solid article recently which explains what an additional 4,000 American troops will most likely be doing when deployed to Afghanistan:

“We need guardian angels,” said Lt. Col. John Sandor, deputy senior adviser for the Afghan Army’s 201st Corps, referring to security forces that would protect U.S. training teams so they can work alongside Afghan brigades.

….Sometimes, said Maj. Richard Anderson, operations adviser for 201st Corps, the Afghan answer is: “Let the Americans do it.” In early spring, when U.S. forces asked the Afghan army to step up its pursuit of IS militants in Nangarhar province, they encountered resistance. Demoralized by an IS attack that killed 16 Afghan soldiers in April, Afghan commanders wanted the American and Afghan special operations forces to carry the fight. But ground units are needed to hold territory, so U.S. advisers were forced to spend weeks cajoling the Afghan Army to join the battle.”

It appears we are sending more American troops to protect their fellow American’s from the Afghan troops they are training and trying to get to fight. The Afghan soldiers apparently are not willing to die for a central government in Kabul that is not only corrupt but is also, in the eyes of most Afghans, not legitimate. How could they view it as anything else when it was installed and maintained by infidels from the west?

For American troops the question of what they are willing to die for is easily answered. Each other. That is the harsh reality of a military system designed to promote small unit cohesion by linking directly to unit histories, traditions, discipline and military virtue. The American military can fight effectively with or without the support of the American people. The support and appreciation of the military by the public helps mitigate the sacrifices soldiers are asked to make but it is not required. Most importantly soldiers know that if they are killed in battle their families will be provided for by the government who placed them in harms way.

The ANA is taking a beating which contributes to their low morale and inability to generate combat power

Afghan troops do not enjoy the advantages of their western mentors. Afghanistan is not a cohesive country; it’s a disparate group of tribal peoples living inside an artificial boundary dictated by foreign colonialists over 100 years ago. Their army has no winning tradition, no lineage to draw upon, lacks competence at all levels and is unable to generate sufficient combat power to confront its internal enemies. The Afghan soldiers know if they are killed in battle their families are on their own. If wounded and unable to bribe the hospital staff to feed them soldiers will linger and die a protracted, agonizing, completely avoidable death.

The various groups that comprise the Taliban do not operate under the same circumstances as their countrymen in the Afghan military. They have built-in cohesion based on the tribal/clan structure from which they come. They often flock to successful commanders giving them rudimentary esprit de corps. The Taliban make an effort to look after the families of their fallen and although their medical capabilities are poor they are consistently applied. No Taliban fighter convalescing in a Pakistani or Iranian hospital is going to perish because nobody fed him.

Most importantly the Taliban are facing, in their minds, Bellum Romanum. They are fighting for their land, their families and their way of life. They view the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as puppets of western infidel powers bent on their total destruction. What’s the counter-narrative to that?  There isn’t one.

The only course of action that would make any sense is placing private military mentor/trainers at the battalion (Kandak) level and leaving them there long enough for those units to develop cohesion around their mentors.  Add to that combat enablers in the form of indirect fire, some decent snipers, effective tactical air and the lift needed for dust offs (medical evacuation) and combat resupply and maybe, just maybe, you can develop a security force that has the cohesion required to generate and sustain combat power.

Doing that would not take many men; it would take the right men, which could have proved difficult to find, incentivize, and retain. For now that option appears dead in the water so the point is moot. What is not moot is what it will take to achieve a military solution in Afghanistan. It would take some form of Bellum Romanum; a zero sum campaign that matches the zero sum attitude of the other side in this conflict. The American military cannot and will not fight that kind of war. We have fought like that in living memory and here is a story about what that looks like from my Dad, MajGen J.D. Lynch USMC (Ret).

When I was a first classman at USNA (somewhere around 2 centuries ago), during an aviation class, an instructor reminisced about WWII and his time as a carrier pilot flying Hellcats. When asked by one of the guys what he considered his most dangerous and for that matter, frightening experience during the war. His response was that, early in the war he was Admiral Nimitz’s pilot. After the Battle of Tarawa, the admiral was so concerned about the casualty figures that he was flown to Tarawa to see for himself (he traveled by sea planes in those early days of the war). In any event, the pilot, now an instructor at Navy, said that he left the plane with the admiral’s party and walked the Tarawa battlefield  …. he said that was his most frightening experience of the war …  the Marines just stared at everybody and seemed ready to kill anybody at any time with little or no reason.

Could you imagine front line troops so formidable that they scared a pilot (from their own side) who made his living landing on aircraft carriers? I can’t and we’re not going to see that kind of infantry anytime soon. We’re not going there because we don’t have to go there. The ANSF security forces aren’t going there either although they need to. In our enlightened modern world where history is little known and often twisted to fit the political narrative of the day we believe that war can be fit inside of some magical box that excludes butchery, savagery, hatred and slaughter. We believe we are above Bellum Romanus even in the face of Islamic terrorist who fight with the same methods and ferocity of the barbarian tribes that contested Roman rule.

Those who believe the arc of history will deliver us to an enlightened state where Marines in contact will always be tame enough to make senior naval officers comfortable inside their lines are deluded. Granted front line American infantry today does not resemble the Marines on Tarawa; it doesn’t have to as we’re not fighting an existential threat (yet). Our divided country, with its fractured culture and forgotten history, will be tested again. Most likely by a unified culture fighting under the banner of Islam. When that happens we will fight like the Roman’s fought, like the Vietcong fought, like we fought on the hellish islands in the Pacific or we will be vanquished. Then we will learn what the Romans knew; Vae victis (woe to the vanquished).

Sending more trainers to Afghanistan to watch over the trainers already there so the trainees don’t kill them is not a viable military strategy. It is, however about the only option available to the Axis of Adults given the the fiscal and manpower constraints the Pentagon operates under today.

The only diplomatic effort that could possibly break the current stalemate would involved  way outside the box ideas like advocating for a Pashtun and Balouch (and a Kurdish while we’re at it) homeland that would erase the artificial lines drawn on the world map (by the west) over a hundred years ago. That would cause enough disruption in the status quo to get Pakistan, Turkey and Iran worked up to the point of hysteria while aligning ourselves with the insurgents goals. I like the idea of turning the insurgents back on their creators while we occupy the moral (these people deserve their own homeland) high ground.

It would also be sticking our thumb in the eye of the UN, an organization for which I have little use. But that’s not going to happen, outside the box thinking like that is no longer accepted by the ruling classes. It is a threat to their grip on power and prestige despite its practicality. They will fight to the last American to defend a system that is collapsing right in front of our eyes.

America can sustain the deployment of 10 to 15 thousand troops into Afghanistan indefinitely but we have a critical center of gravity. We will not tolerate excessive casualties. If the Taliban are able to do what Afghans have always done; if they isolate and destroy in detail a military unit, our adventure in Afghanistan will come to a rapid end. If they are not able to inflict large numbers of casualties on us then maybe we can run the clock on them to the point that even the Taliban are tired of fighting. Maybe….but betting on the Taliban growing weary of war, when all they know is war and they seem to be winning said war, is like financial planning via buying lottery tickets. It could work but the odds (and reality)  are against it.

 

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 McCain Plan: Dead On Arrival

The plan put forth by Senator John McCain is the perfect example of big government incompetence. The Prince plan is, in contrast, a perfect example  of free market competence. Eric Prince and his team have done the hard work of mission analysis by developing tasks from which to build  a table of organization and equipment (TOE) to meet a clearly defined mission with an articulate endstate. His plan has annual cost of less then 10 billion. His efforts developing his plan have not cost the taxpayer a penny.

Senator McCain and his staff have developed a plan without any mission analysis, any TOE, any idea of the total numbers it will take or the amount it will cost. His office staff plus the staff of the Senate Armed Services committee wrote his plan and assuming most of them worked on it for a few months McCain’s plan has already cost the taxpayer millions of dollars; every one of which might as well have been flushed down a toilet.

As predicted in my last post his plan is fraught with stupidity and fuzzy logic while ripping off ideas from the Prince plan. For Example:

In the short term, establishing U.S. military training and advisory teams at the kandak-level of each Afghan corps and significantly increasing the availability of U.S. airpower and other critical combat enablers to support ANSDF operations; and In the long term, providing sustained support to the ANSDF as it develops and expands its own key enabling capabilities, including intelligence, logistics, special forces, air lift, and close air support.

Kandak is a Pashto word meaning a  battalion and McCain apparently agrees with Prince on the need for trainers/mentors at the battalion level. The Prince plan includes introducing low cost, effective tactical fixed wing fighters as well as low cost helicopter support. The Afghans need this desperately and without the injection of tac air and logistic/dust off assets they will continue to lose ground to the Taliban.

Senator McCain’s plan calls for increasing U.S. aripower while ignoring the fact that our airpower is currently in crisis and does not have the ability to surge back into Afghanistan. Our fighters lack spare parts and there are no operating fabrication lines to make more. Pilot flight hours, on every platform in the inventory, are lower then the baseline needed to maintain proficiency .  Historically low morale among aircrews is reflected by the inability to keep experienced pilots in the services regardless of the amount of retention bonuses offered.

Mr. Prince did the hard work to come up with a solid dollar amount that is a fraction of the projected spending on Afghanistan. Senator McCain did zero work on the details and has come up with a plan that will require ten’s of thousands of additional military personnel and will raise the price tag to well over 100 billion a year.

The numbers required to fulfill Senator McCain’s vision are, of course, unknown but we can make a good guess. The pending merger of the Afghan Border Police (ABP) and the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) into the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) will add 12 brigades to the 24 brigades currently staffed by the ANA. Each brigade is supposed to have 4 maneuver battalions as well as logistic units and organic fire support (mortars and artillery). There are also SOF brigades, artillery and armor battalions, brigade and corps level headquarters that will all need mentors. Add in the typical tooth to tail ratio for the American military (around 20 to 1) and we get well over 100,000 men (and women) to staff  and a support this “plan”.

The McCain plan illustrates the disconnect of policy leaders from inside the wire from realities outside the wire.

The remainder of this plan consists of bullet points that are nothing more than Master of the Obvious (MOTO) statements. For example:

Establish security conditions in Afghanistan necessary to encourage and facilitate a negotiated peace process that supports Afghan political reconciliation and an eventual diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan;

Forge a regional diplomatic consensus in support of the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan through integration into regional patterns of political, security, and economic cooperation.

Bolstering the United States counterterrorism effort in Afghanistan

Increasing the number of U.S. counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan

Providing the U.S. military with status-based targeting authorities against the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other terrorist groups that threaten the United States, its allies, and its core interests.

Is there anyone, who has been paying attention to our efforts in Afghanistan, who believes we have not been trying to do exactly this for  the past 16 years?

The McCain plan will increase costs exponentially. The FOB’s that were once established to support 100,000 plus troops were torn down or handed over to the Afghans. Reestablishing those FOB’s will take so much time, money and effort that it is mind boggling. Plus we will need to put large convoys of American troops on the roads of Afghanistan where they will be hit by IED’s and ambushes long before they ‘mentor’ a single Afghan soldier. Smart contractors are better able to use those same roads without being easily targeted. There are dozens of post on this blog dating from 2008 to 2012 that explains that in detail.

Were I a conspiracy theorist I’d speculate that McCain put this “plan” out there to ensure the Prince plan is adopted. It is clear, when you compare the two, that Washington is incapable of coming up with a workable solution to Afghanistan.  We do not have the air assets, troop numbers, money or national will to even consider the McCain plan. It is also clear that the only person with a viable plan for Afghanistan is Eric Prince.

The Prince Plan: Strengths, Weaknesses and Probability

The privatization of the Afghanistan War is still generating headlines  and the majority of the coverage is hostile, uninformed, inaccurate and basically ad hominem attacks on Mr. Prince. Did you know that Betsy Devos, the current Secretary of Education is his sister? Can anyone explain what that has to do with Afghanistan or why it is a standard feature in almost news story about this plan?

When looking at these stories one realizes that trying to explain this program to the media and general public is like trying to explain quantum physics to kindergartners. It appears to be a hopeless task but FRI has the advantage of an informed readership. With that in mind we’ll cover the details in the hopes that you, my dear readers, will have additional ammunition should you chose to engage friends, family or co-workers on the topic.

The Prince plan involves putting trainer/mentor teams at the battalion level of the Afghan National Army and augmenting their helicopter and tactical aircraft with some 90 additional high speed, low cost aircraft. The plan takes the current projected annual price for supporting the Afghan military from 40 billion down to 10 billion. Reducing the hemorrhaging of tax money to stabilize a losing effort is the strong component of a workable the plan.

The AN 29B Super Tucano platform – I like this bird and inshallah shall see it in action in Afghanistan.

The second benefit of the plan is reducing the stress on our tactical air assets. The Marine Corps air component is currently in crisis. Average flight hours for pilots have gone from well over 80 hours a month (on average) when I was on active duty  to around 10 hours and that is not enough flight time to maintain proficiency. The primary Marine tac air platform, the F-18, is so worn out that Marines are going to museums to strip parts that are no longer in production of museum pieces to try and keep their birds in the air. The Navy, who wisely went with the F-18 Super Hornet instead of waiting for the trillion dollar F-35, is in slightly better shape.  The Air Force also has serious readiness issues and all the services are hemorrhaging experienced pilots. Taking the load off the our tactical air fleet is an imperative.

Also part of the plan is a helicopter fleet for combat resupply and dust offs (medical evacuation). The Afghans had dust off’s when the Americans (and NATO allies) were there in force. They have none now which means Afghan troops, who would have survived their wounds in the past, now die. That is a moral killer and unquestionably contributes to the high desertion rate then ANA is experiencing.

Another component of the plan is embedding large teams of trainers/mentors at the battalion level where they will eat, sleep, train and fight with their Afghan colleagues. We have never tried this before with the exception of the high end Afghan Special Forces units. The embedded mentor teams of the past fought with the Afghans but did not live, eat or sleep with them. They  were housed in secure FOB’s inside the Afghan FOB’s where Afghans were not welcomed and could go enter.

This was an ANA training accident with 81mm mortar that claimed the life of the photographer, army Specialist Hilda Clayton. Embedded trainers at the battalion level should be able end incidents like this if they are the right trainers.

The costs associated with maintaining mini FOB’s inside Afghan FOB’s with KBR DFACs (chow halls) that served excellent American food (to include pecan pie and unlimited mint chocolate chip ice cream) flown into the country from who knows where were astronomical. I assume the Prince Plan is not duplicating that failed strategy and base the assumption on both the cost savings and the amount of experience Mr. Prince has doing this sort of thing in the 3rd world.

The final strength of the plan is the fact that contracted Private Military Companies (PMC’s) have proven they work. Global piracy rates are plummeting due to PMC’s. Boko Haram is getting its ass kicked in Nigeria because of a PMC. Joseph Komey was broken and damn near killed by the Ugandan’s who had received specialized training from a PMC. Egypt was kicked out of Yemen back in 1962 by a PMC that started with only six former Brit SAS men and ended up with less than 50.  These are facts that should matter but in the echo chamber PC based hysteria that dominates our national discourse they are are studiously ignored.

Added bonus for the proposal is that the DoD is already sending armed contractors to Afghanistan to mentor (another hat tip to Feral Jundi). Here is an example from Raytheon who is looking for “armed S2 mentors”. S2 means intelligence and what they are proposing is these guys arm themselves and then mentor Afghans on an individual basis. That’s not only crazy it illustrates the hypocrisy resident in DoD opposition to the Prince plan.

The weakness of Price’s plan is not the plan itself but the way the U.S. Government (USG)  handles contracts like the one he is proposing. Unless they give it to Prince as a sole source contract it will be open for bidding. A sole source contract means the contractor is the only business that can provide the services needed. Based on my observations of the performance other US PMC contenders in Afghanistan I would argue that Prince should be the sole source. But that probably won’t happen in the highly charged political atmosphere in DC today. If a contract, based on this plan, is let for bid companies with demonstrated poor performance will be allowed to bid and if they come in with a lower cost than Prince they will win. Other international companies will bid too despite the fact that they cannot conduct the proper pre-deployment training (due to restrictive weapons laws in their home country). Because they can’t train up their people they will not incur the costs associated with that training and will naturally come in lower than Prince.

I saw this play out on the Kabul Embassy security force contract and would explain that debacle in detail were I not terrified of lawyers and law suits. If the DoD or DoS  or whoever lets the contract chooses the lowest bidder the plan will fail, the savings evaporate, the quality of the embedded trainers will be poor and the results will be a dismal, expensive failure.

There is also the problem of ad hominem attacks on Prince because of the Nisour square incident. I addressed why those attacks are uninformed gibberish in this post. What I want to stress is I’ve been on both sides of that problem. I know well the gut wrenching fear of watching an Opel gun it’s engines and come after you in Nisour square. I’ve had two SUV’s shot out from under me in Kabul – one by the Brit army and one by the American army.  I urge you to read the linked post to get some perspective, from a guy who has been on both sides of the situation, on the Raven 23 incident.

I rate the probability of this planning moving forward at 50/50. The reason for my optimism is that there are no other rational alternatives available. The Pentagon has proposed more of the same thing they’ve been doing which is clearly (by their own admission) failing. Senator John McCain, a man I hold in extremely low regard, is threatening to come up with his own plan and I can promise you his plan will be fraught with stupidity and fuzzy logic. He’ll take parts of the Prince plan and try to shoe horn military trainers into it resulting in a 40 billion increase vice a 40 billion decrease in spending…watch and see if I’m not right.

News reports from inside the administration indicate little enthusiasm from Secretary Mattis and the DoD. That may or may not be true. Our legacy media has zero credibility with me and the vast majority of my fellow citizens.  If they are saying Mattis is opposed to the plan odds are he’s not. But if he is opposed he’ll need to come up with a better plan and he knows that he doesn’t have one.

The one legitimate obstacle appears to be General McMaster; the current head of the National Security Council and author of the book  Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. McMaster appears to be opposing President Trump on many of his policies which you’d expect from a guy who wrote a book about weak generals who sucked up to the presidents they were serving. It also appears that McMaster is tolerating zero dissent in his office, firing anyone holding contrary views, retaining Obama appointed deadwood and refusing to use or acknowledge the term “Islamic Terrorist”. One would not expect that from the guy who wrote Dereliction of Duty. But just because a guy writes a book about flaky generals doesn’t mean he’ll end up not being a flaky general. He may not even be a flaky general, who would you know? Reading chicken entrails is easier then deciphering media reports these days.

Generals are weird; I don’t know McMaster so I’ll focus on one I do know.  If you told me that my former boss John Allen would, as a former four star general,  speak in support of Hillary Clinton at a democratic national convention I may have throat punched you (metaphorically given my fear of lawyers and law suits) for bad mouthing one of my heroes. There was no way those of us who knew John Allen as a junior officer could have imagined him morphing into a political general with such spectacularly poor judgement.

I mention that to say this. The “Viceroy” portion of the Prince plan – the one government official who resides over the entire Afghan effort in order to break up the petty rice bowl guarding, slow decision making, and multiple agendas? That guy needs to have serious chops and John Allen is the only man I can think of who could do that.

Our country is so politically polarized that rational discussions have become almost impossible. The recent firing of goggle engineer James Damor who wrote a well researched piece concerning liberal group think and intolerance in an organization he was obviously devoted to is the latest example of this. The Afghans need some serious help to stabilize their country and the Prince plan is the only rational plan that will but them the time they need to stand on their own.