Last week news broke of a possible peace deal in Afghanistan leading to a firestorm of speculation in the media about what’s really going on. The reporting was not consistent but the consensus is the peace deal would call for negotiations between Afghans on both sides of the conflict to start next month, an eventual countrywide cease-fire and a commitment from the Taliban not to harbor terrorist groups like al Qaida, while setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
A famous quote incorrectly attributed to Winston Churchill dictates “Jaw Jaw is better than War War” (actually he said “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war” which makes more sense ) reinforces this is (potentially) good news. The devil is in the details and we do not know what “reduction of violence”means to the United States or “withdrawal of U.S. troops” means to the Taliban.
TheTaliban are not a monolithic organization but several competing factions. We have been dealing with the Quetta Shura who is representing, but cannot speak for, the other players like the Miranshah Shura (primarily the Haqqani Network) or the Peshawar Shura. That being said the Taliban did deliver on an Eid ceasefire agreement last year and that ceasefire held.
We can get a reliable read on what the Taliban considers a reduction of violence in this detailed report from the always reliable Afghan Analysts Network. From the linked report:
Another Pakistani newspaper, quoting an un-named Taleban official, reported that the movement had agreed not to carry out attacks in major cities including Kabul and would not use car bombs and that the Taleban had also offered not to attack US bases and US soldiers, and that they wanted the US to cease air strikes in return. The newspaper said it had learnt “that Khalilzad had urged” the Taleban to agree to more measures, including a halt to IED attacks, but that they did not agree “as they have planted IEDs in many areas and it is difficult for them to remove all [of them].” Furthermore, the paper reported, the US also wanted a pause in Taleban attacks on Afghan government forces’ check posts, “which was also a concern of the Afghan government.”
Senior U.S. military officials (speaking off the recored) in Afghanistan stressed that U.S. counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan against the Islamic State group and al-Qaida will continue, separate from the truce agreement. This is problematic for several reasons, not the least of which is that ISIS-K in Nangarhar Province has been defeated.
Their fighters have mostly surrendered to the government or gone to ground. There are ISIS-K cells in the north of the country but they are not large or powerful and are in the sights of the same fighters who rid Nangarhar Province of ISIS and those fighters are Taliban.
The counterterrorism mission in the eastern part of Afghanistan has been focused on ISIS-K (Daesh to the locals) for years. Now that ISIS-K is gone the Special Forces teams are flying around the province conducting ‘Key Leadership Engagements’ like the one I wrote about last week. That occurred in the Sherzad district which is very close to Jalalabad and full of former HiG fighters who have cooperated with the Taliban on and off over the years. They cooperate mostly because Taliban shadow courts settle land disputes quickly and, they feel, fairly.
The time for our SF troops and the Afghans varsity Commandos to be running around district centers meeting with key elders seems long past. The local elders know all about the dysfunctional government in Kabul and are not going to be convinced it has their interests at heart until the government demonstrates it.
With ISIS-K on the ropes trying to separate Taliban connected fighters from al Qaida will be problematic. The remaining senior al Qaida leaders have successfully gone to ground inside the tribal areas of Pakistan and have no need to move anywhere. al Qaida has a presence at Taliban training camps and may even run a few but I have no doubt the Taliban understand the consequences of allowing them to use their territory for international Jihad.
If there no independent al-Qaida formations so if you go after them you are still going after the Taliban.
The incident rate in Afghanistan has plummeted this year. Some of this is due to the pounding the Taliban have taken from American air attacks which increased dramatically in 2019. Some of this can also be attributed to the Taliban winding down operations as the peace talks continued. The stats below come from The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.
Time will tell but it seems that the end to American involvement in Afghanistan is near. But if you pull all the training support mission out and leave a Special Forces task force to continue hunting “al-Qaida and ISIS” it will test, if not break, the fragile peace. We need to pull everyone out and let the Afghans settle things themselves. Continuing night raids and killing bad guys in Afghanistan does not reduce any threats to our homeland. It’s time to admit that and act accordingly.
I just re-posted two stories about doing Key Leadership Engagement (KLE) in the Sherzad district of Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Yesterday, two Green Berets were killed and six wounded while (reportedly) conducting a key KLE in Sherzad district. This is disturbing on several levels.
First, it appears the dead and wounded (including the Afghan SF troops with the Americans) came at the hands of Afghan National Army soldiers. From the article linked above:
Additionally, at least six more American troops were also wounded. The high number of casualties (17 as of this reporting) is attributed to the ODA/Afghan combined force coming under fire from a DShK, a Russian designed heavy machine gun which fires a 12.7mm bullet. The wounded have been evacuated to the appropriate field hospitals.
The source explained to Connecting Vets that it is suspected that the Afghan National Army (ANA) was behind the attack, although details are still developing.
From what I can determine they were attacked by a lone gunman with a heavy machine-gun. It is safe to assume (if this proves true) that the lone gunman was Taliban. They got an assassin into the governor of Kandahar’s security force who was able to gun the irreplaceable Gen Raziq. As I wrote the time and will continue to write this is going to happen again. It is obvious that the screening methods in use are not working and, given my experiences in Afghanistan, I suspect will never work.
Second, one is forced to ask why, at this late stage in the game, are we still conducting KLE’s out in the badlands? What did the SF guys believe would be accomplished? I can’t imagine a good answer to that question and I have over eight years of doing KLE’s in Afghanistan and many of them right there in Sherzad district.
It is difficult to get a sense of what is really happening on the ground in Afghanistan in general and Nangarhar province specifically. Nangarhar Province has gone from one of the more safe-ish provinces in the country to the most deadly one for American forces. The army had been losing soldiers over the past four plus years in Nangarhar Province fighting an outbreak of ISIS along the border with Pakistan.
The Taliban got sick and tired of ISIS deprivations before and rolled into Nangarhar and kicked their asses hard in 2015. Last fall the multiple Taliban units returned to Nangarhar (probably from Loya Paktia via the parrots beak which is that finger of Pakistan land jutting into Afghanistan at the bottom of the district map below) and beat ISIS like a drum. ISIS was surrendering to the Afghan government last time I checked and are longer a threat.
Despite ISIS being routed (reported here in the Military Times three months ago) ISIS-K is still being used to justify our continued involvement in Afghanistan. That is ridiculous – ISIS-K was a collection of Pakistani Taliban who were trying to carve out their own little Jihadi paradise in an area that contains the largest talc powder deposit in the world. Threat to the US Homeland? Hardly. al Qaeda is the same – they have gone to ground and remain unmolested in Pakistan for 18 years now and have no need to use Afghan soil for anything. The airport in Peshawar is 10 times better than Kabul International so why would any decent Jihadi move from his decades long home in Pakistan?
ISIS-K is gone, the Taliban now control of most of the countryside in Nangarhar Province where we have troops at the Jalalabad airfield. Those troops would be mostly avation and avation support but there are two different SF compounds there too which are obviously still the home of one or more army ODA teams. I understand the need to be active outside the wire of a firm base like Jalalabad to keep the bad guys at arms reach but I’m not sure what possible use a key leader engagement would be at this stage in the game.
This is exactly the kind of senseless loss that is driving President Trump to wind down our involvement in Afghanistan. How do you justify losing 8 Americans and unknown number of Afghan Commando’s on a chin wagging mission with a bunch of local elders?
As an aside the only main stream outlet to write about this is Fox and their take is focused on the perfidy of Green on Blue attacks. They have (as usual) completely missed the the obvious and the comments section is so clueless it’s depressing. The other outlets are (I suspect) waiting to see what President Trump is going to say so they can say the exact opposite. Watch and see.
Maybe there are great reasons for the mission to Sherzad that we will never know, but I do know there are better ways to conduct KLE’s. It is always better to risk one contractor than it is to risk a dozen highly trained special operators. The counterintuitive thing about that is an experienced contractor traveling alone into Sherzad district, wearing local clothes, and in a local vehicle is much safer than 20 soldiers rolling around in four MRAP’s. That is a lesson we refuse to learn and I think the President, for one, is getting tired of it.
Fellow Afghanistan Free Ranger Dr. Keith Rose released a podcast the other day describing where we are now in Afghanistan as Ground Hog Day. The people of Afghanistan are talking a beating with no end on the horizon which is 180 degrees out from where I thought they would be when I flew into Kabul in 2005.
Using Keith’s analysis as a point of departure (it’s a great podcast) there are some dynamics in play with Afghanistan that need require emphasis as our involvement continues. Fans of the international hit podcast The Lynch/Kenny Hour on All Marine Radio have heard Jeff, Mac and I talk about our campaign in AF/PAK at length using blunt terms that sound harsh to those not familiar with infantry guy talk.
As I pointed out last week, that podcast (and this blog) have a ton of Afghan fans who know me. Afghans do not communicate with each other in blunt, no- BS terms, but I know they appreciate it when we do. Nothing will freak out Afghan project managers more then saying the word “inshallah” at the conclusion of a discussion about a scheduled payday.
Blunt fact number one is our stated reason for remaining in Afghanistan is an obvious fabrication. The US Government has consistently maintained we have to stay to make sure al-Qeada does not come back, establish training camps, and conduct terrorist deprivations on the international community from safe havens in Afghanistan.
The fact is they already have training camps in Afghanistan, we took out “Probably the largest” one in Kandahar province back in 2015. The leader of al Qaeda, Ayman Al-Zawahiri has had a safe haven in Pakistan since 2001, and has now (obviously) drone proofed his lifestyle. Why would he leave Miranshah to live in Khost or Kandahar? The international airport in Peshawar is much nicer than any airport in Afghanistan, it is served by more international airlines (including Emirates, my favorite), and it services more destinations. Who in their right mind would fly Kam Air Kabul to Dubai when you can fly Emirates from Peshawar and rack up the sky miles?
You are thinking terrorist don’t use sky miles but I must point out the largest covert operation ever launched by CIA agents (not contractors which is the norm) was compromised because the agents used their covert ID to fly into Italy but had used their own credit cards to book the flights and hotels. That’s the CIA who are supposed to be high speed and low drag – the Taliban has to be worse on the operational security vs. sky miles test.
Blunt fact number two is that the American people in general, and her military veterans specifically, believe we have done more than our fair share to give Afghanistan a chance, and they blew it, so the hell with them. Clearly President Trump is looking for a way out and is willing to do almost anything (to include inviting former Gitmo detainees to Camp David for a round of ‘Let’s Make a Deal’) to end our commitments in the region. President Trump has said we are not getting any return on our considerable investments and asks why should we stay in Afghanistan or Pakistan?
The reasons to remain in the region are no doubt varied and complex but the fact is that as long as we have thousands of servicemen, along with thousands more internationals in the country, we have to keep funding the government in Kabul. The next round of international funding is in 2020 and the funds are tied to anticorruption metrics that have not been met. If the international money pipeline closed suddenly how do you think the tens of thousands of internationals would get out of the country as the government folds and the security services crumble?
That is a scenario you don’t have to worry about because the specter of Gandamak II will keep funding going indefinitely. Nothing terrifies western government politicians more than the slaughter of their citizens for which their accountability is unavoidable. The Taliban will continue to attack both military and civilian targets because they are terrorists and that is what terrorists do. The Taliban no longer resembles the popular uprising of the religiously righteous in the face of anarchy. They are now narco-terrorists first, Islamic Jihadi’s second, and Afghan nationalists (maybe) third.
TheTaliban were once competent enough to protect the people of Afghanistan from anarchic violence, but they are now the source of anarchic violence. Tyrannical rule is bad, but chaos is worse and there are many Afghans who have lived through both. The Afghan people will side with the side that delivers them from chaos; especially if that side is committed to keeping Pakistan the hell out of the country.
That is the other great unknown; what happens to the safe havens in Pakistan when the Taliban cut a deal with us? The Afghan Taliban claim to be their own movement but they are Pakistan’s puppets just as sure as the government Kabul is America’s. In fact it is obvious Pakistan exerts more direct control over the Taliban then America has ever been able to establish in Kabul. For the past 50 years the Taliban have been Pakistan’s bitch.
America no longer has the stomach for staying in Afghanistan but that’s too bad; we’re not going anywhere for the reasons outlined above. So how does this end? I have no idea but I’m a fan of the Afghan people and I believe they can, and will, sort things out given time and space. It is arguable if our continued meddling is helping, but that is irrelevant now. We aren’t leaving and are incapable of staying without meddling, so there it is.
We (the international community) have made serious investments in Afghanistan’s human capitol. We have no idea how that is going to pay off in the long run. There are plenty of smart, dedicated, tough Afghans who want nothing to do with Taliban rule (but aren’t too thrilled with us either). Inshallah they will prove decisive at some point in the future.
There is one known (in my mind) regarding Afghanistan and that is the Taliban will never rule that country again. Their day has passed and they are now little more than petty narco traffickers with mortars and a ton of machine-guns. They no longer have a route to legitimacy as a governing entity but it may years before they figure this out on their own. In the meantime…..Groundhog Day.
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, 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.
One of the distinct pleasures of football free Sundays is reading good books. I just finished another classic from Stephen Hunter about Bobby Lee Swaggart’s grandfather and the FBI which is apropos as the FBI is currently the subject of many different story lines in the 24 hour news cycle. There is the inconvenient story about our Russian obsessed media, unable to push the fake Russia collusion narrative, trying to provide cover to the democrats Fusion GPS opposition research firm. That would be the firm the FBI paid to get a fabricated dossier written by an alleged Brit spook. That would also be the firm who had several high ranking members exercising their 5th amendment rights in front of congress.
“Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business.
But that’s just the beginning. Based on both an eyewitness account and documents, The Hill report goes on to say that federal agents found evidence “indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow.”
Isn’t that called bribery?
Who supervised this Russia investigation? Rod Rosenstein. Who was the FBI director when the Russia probe began in 2009? Robert Mueller. Who was running the FBI when the case ended with a whimper and an apparent cover-up? James Comey. And now these same guys are at the center of an effort to dig up dirt on President Trump? In what parallel universe does that pass the smell test?
I have little faith that justice will be served in the cases above because I have little faith that the rule of law applies to all citizens evenly. For example; Comey, while reading an indictment that would have seen me locked away for the rest of my life, then pulled the “but there was no intent” lie right out of his behind to clear Hillary Clinton. When he did that the fact that there are two sets of laws, one for the little people and one for connected elites was confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt.
What has me a little mystified is the FBI joining the investigation into the deaths of four SF soldiers in Niger. I understand that the FBI does, on occasion, handle investigations into the deaths of Americans overseas. I’m not sure why given the constraints of FBI overseas operations.
My suspicions are based in experiences like one I had in Kabul back in 2009. I saw one of my former students from the Marine Corps infantry officer course during a trip to the American embassy and we had lunch the next day to do a little catching up. He was now an FBI agent working our of Southern California and was TDY (temporary duty) to the American Embassy for a 90 day stint. I asked him what he hoped to accomplish in 90 days and he replied that’s the way it was for the FBI adding that his wife would kill him if he stayed longer. He then asked if I could help recover the body of an American citizen who had been kidnapped and then killed by the Taliban in 2008. I told him the best way to accomplish this was to check into the City Hotel in Kandahar, have his contacts and my contacts offer a reward for the body, no questions asked, and we would have the remains of Cyd Mizell in under a month. The catch being we would need a way to confirm it was her quickly as we would probably be receiving dozens of bodies.
“We can’t check into a civilian hotel in downtown Kandahar” was his response. I told him that was too bad as they had the best chicken shawarma in Afghanistan. And then told him he could pay me an I’d sort it out for them. “We can’t pay you to do it….we’re supposed to do it”. I wasn’t surprised. I remarked it was too bad Cyd Mizell didn’t come from a family with connections or I’d be down in Kandahar making sure her remains came home.
This story highlights the fact that the FBI cannot contribute to an investigation into the ambush of military members. Due to their conservative (to be polite) force protection posture they will not be allowed into the bush to see where this ambush went down. With their limited time on station (coupled with restricted movement outside the embassy security bubble) they will not develop the relationships or sources required to contribute to an inter-agency investigation.
I no longer trust the FBI to be an impartial arbitrator of legal vs illegal activity. The FBI is now a political operation with an agenda focused on protecting its senior members from the consequences of attempting to protect a criminal political class. It’s a shame; I have known and interacted with many FBI agents during my time in the Marine Corps and they were, to a man, dedicated, hard working professionals. But a fish rots from the head and there is clearly too much rot at work in the FBI.
The current level of interest in what happened to the SF team in Niger is as interesting as it is repugnant. The press and members of our ruling class are using it to score political points. The circumstances they are harping on are revealing. The SF team was traveling in unarmored trucks, they were outside the envelope of American supporting arms and tac air, they were recovered by contractors, nobody thought the mission important enough to brief John McCain who has become the most unpopular vet serving in the senate these days. That’s saying something given the stolen valor bragging of another vet senator, Richard Blumenthal, who fraudulently claimed service in Vietnam.
The one thing of which I am certain is that the Sahel region, which is the biogeographic zone of transition in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south, has a serious Jihadi problem. This is another perfect set up for the use of contact military outfits (PMC’s) because they can spend years, not months in the area, they are orders of magnitude less expensive then American military and would prove much more effective for those reasons. There is a currently a huge increase in contractors being used in Afghanistan but there are not PMC contractors, they are contractors holding American security clearances and are assigned to every geographical command for use as targeting specialists, counter intelligence, training and maintenance and aviation support. The military cannot function without them but they are embedded inside the military support bubble and thus do not bring the cost saving found in PMC contracts.
There is no reason why the same companies supplying this manpower could not also supply mobile training teams that deploy into harms way. It’s cost effective and makes sense plus when these teams inevitably take some casualties they do not become political footballs to be kicked around by morons (like Frederica Wilson) who grandstand on the bodies of servicemen to garner political points and media attention.
At some point in the near future the PMC solution will be implemented because the Pentagon is currently broken. The navy can’t drive its ships, the Marine Corps can’t fly its aging air fleet, the Air Force is forcing retired pilots back onto active duty because it cannot keep enough pilots on active duty and the army is lowering it’s recruiting standards. Combat readiness is at historic lows but mandated training on sexual harassment, women in the infantry, acceptance of trans-gendered service members, suicide awareness, homosexual integration, alcohol and tobacco use….all the important stuff is 100% across the board.
It is almost funny that Secretary Mattis has asked congress to not send anymore Pentagon reorganization requirements to the Pentagon until the Pentagon has had the chance to reorganize the old reorganization requirements. Isn’t that something? Here we have the congress reorganizing the unreorganized Pentagon but they can’t do anything about health care or tax reform. It would be refreshing to see congress start leveling reorganization requirements on the FBI given it’s disturbingly partisan efforts concerning Russia and connected democrats.
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.
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.
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”.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
Demonstrating the unique human trait of hope over experience Chief Ajmal Khan Zaizi recently made a heart felt appeal to the international press to not forget Afghanistan. It was a moving speech that (experience would say) was wasted on a group of international elites who know little about history but a lot about the legacy media narrative.
Despite his efforts being wasted on the audience he was addressing seeing the Khan speaking in public warmed my old bitter heart. If there is an Afghan capable of being the Viceroy Afghanistan needs to end the vicious cycle of violence plaguing the country he is that man. The reason he’s that man is because the American Army branded him as Taliban despite the fact he is a western educated Canadian citizen who (with the help of Ghost Team) had to fight the Taliban to get into his tribal lands when he returned to lead them in 2010.
From my 2010 post about our attempts to connect Ajmal with the American army:
The initial political appointees to the Zazi Valley were sent packing back to Kabul shortly after they arrived. So now, in the eyes of the FOB bound American military, the Zazi Valley tribal police and their leadership are considered AOG (just like the Taliban they are constantly fighting). Check out this correspondence between The Boss and the young commander of the closest Combat Outpost (COP) to the valley:
Thank you for your message. Any development project in Jaji would be great, but I would like to ensure that it ties into the district development list/tribal development list, in order to ensure that the district leadership is not undermined.
Unfortunately, Ahjmal Khan Zazai is not a tribal leader at all. I do not want you to come into this environment thinking that to be a fact. Additionally, the security force of Amir Muhammad is an illegal force that is not endorsed by MOI.
The facts are that Azad Khan, the Jaji Sub Governor, has a great relationship with the tribes a focus for his district. The ANSF in this area (ANP and ABP) are a professional/legitimate force that does a tremendous job in keeping the best security for the people.
I’ve CC’d my higher HQ, as well as representation to Department of State and the PRT, to ensure that they are tied in to your work. Again, I would love to see development here, but I want you to have the facts and go through the proper channels before beginning work. Thank you for your time.
VR, Name withheld
The young captain who wrote this message was correct about one thing; Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai is not a tribal leader. He’s the leader of the entire tribal federation in that part of the country, a point which our army did not understand or refused to acknowledge. From the 2010 post:
The battalion at the Gardez FOB called The Horse to ask if he knew why thousands of people had migrated towards “some compound in the Zazai Valley.” When he told them what was up they asked to meet with him and Ajmal when they headed back to Kabul. The meeting turned out to be a joke. A visibly upset major demanded to know why, if the Zazai Valley tribal police were on their side, had they not reported to the Americans the location of IED’s? Ajmal, by this time exhausted and barely able to talk, explained that they are not in the “sell IED’s to the Americans” business. Reporting an IED for the cash reward is a common money scam in those parts and increases the number of IED’s being made. The only IED’s the tribal police have seen were aimed at them and all those had gone off. He added that if they do gain knowledge of an IED cell on their lands they will bring both the IED’s and the heads of the IED makers to Gardez.
The Americans remain skeptical, Ajmal remains frustrated, Crazy Horse who, like myself, has spent his adult life as an infantry officer is heart sick and I am so f’ing pissed off I can’t see straight. It is impossible to be optimistic about the future of Afghanistan unless the military USAID, State Department and all the other organizations with unlimited funding get out of the FOB’s to live with the people.
That was then; this is now and the fact that Ajmal did not enter into ‘collusion’ (using a new fake news dog whistle) with the Americans is a not insignificant point. The current administration is trying to come up with a plan for our continued efforts in Afghanistan, I offered my thoughts on a way forward and what I was proposing is the same concept that Eric Prince has articulated. Recently Secretary Mattis met with Mr. Prince and reportedly he listen politely and dismissed the concept out of hand. I don’t believe that for a second because Secretary Mattis knows his history and understands the concept behind the East India Company. He is not the type of man to ignore sage council.
What I found most distressing about this meeting with Prince were the comments that showed up in comment sections and on my face book feed. They had two themes the first being that Prince was a billionaire war profiteer and the second was his sister is Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education. Eric Prince and his sister are successful, competent, extraordinarily decent people who built their own fortunes and are thus exemplary Americans our children should wish to emulate, not castigate. The only problem I have with Secretary Devos is she heads a federal department I believe should be disbanded. Not on constitutional grounds but on practical grounds; the department of education is not a functional, competent organization and it has no business interjecting federal rules in an area that should be the sole purview of the 50 states.
Eric Prince has articulated a plan that could work and one that addresses the problem of Pakistan because it would eliminate the need to pay Pakistan billions to allow our logistical tail to pass through their country. Yet in the current climate of media driven hysteria regarding the Trump administration we can’t examine that plan on it’s merits because the media and most of our fellow citizens have decided Eric Prince is a mercenary who is only driven by the desire to make obscene profits. That not one word of that characterization is supported by facts is irrelevant.
Here is an interesting aside about that: I’ve mentioned several times about the need for Afghan forces to do Pseudo Ops. Feral Jundi recently posted on a white “mercenary” who taught Pseudo Ops to the Ugandan military and although he asked for not one penny to lead this effort his team and supplies were funded by a woman from Houston, Texas. The target of the effort was international villain and complete asshole Joseph Kony. From Feral Jundi’s post:
In September, 2011, the first special-operations group trained by the South Africans crossed into South Sudan and caught Kony by surprise at a meeting with all his commanders. He escaped, but the Ugandans took back a haul of valuable intelligence: satellite phones, a computer, and diaries. Defectors later revealed that the L.R.A. fighters were baffled by the attack: Was this some new Ugandan army? After the raid, Kony lost contact with his entourage. He roamed the bush alone with one of his pregnant Sudanese wives, and helped deliver her baby—one of probably more than a hundred small Konys now in the world. When he reemerged, he was so furious that he demoted all his commanders. According to defectors, he had moved to a new camp, in southern Darfur.
Have you not heard about this? Of course not because it counters the legacy media narrative about so -called “mercenaries” while illustrating the uselessness of the United Nations in combating terrorism. Eeben Barrlow and his men are not mercenaries in any sense of the word. There is not a snow ball’s chance in hell that Joseph Komy or any other terrorist organization could hire them no matter how much money they paid. They are former military professionals who, although retired, remain military professionals willing to endure primitive conditions for months on end to teach their expertise to appropriate clientele.
Another aside – Eeben Barrlow providing his services for free reminds me of another man who did the same. That would be Eric Prince who funded the rescue effort of three young college girls who were working at an orphanage in Kenya when the country erupted in violence following failed elections in December of 2007. Hundreds of people were being slaughtered in villages near them and they had no way to make it out to Nairobi so their panicking parents started calling congressmen, senators, anyone in Washington DC who they thought could help and none of the people they contacted had a clue about getting their girls out of harms way. A family member. on a whim, then called Balckwater who got the girls out (along with dozens of other international aid workers) in about 48 hours. When asked how much the rescue effort cost Eric Prince said he paid for it – didn’t think it fair to charge desperate parents money to get their daughters back. That is not the action of a war profiteer; it is the mark of a truly great American. I don’t know Eric Prince but I do know the man he sent into Africa to get the girls out (he was his Afghanistan country manager) and there are few finer.
The concepts that Prince is talking about and that Feral Jundi and I have been writing about for years work. All of us know that because all of us have done it. The only question regarding the concept of a Viceroy for Afghanistan heading a mostly Private Military Corporation effort to move Afghanistan toward peace is who heads the effort. Thanks to our incompetence in 2010 there remains an Afghan in play who has the organizational ability to do so and he is not tied to the Americans or NATO which is plus on the credibility side with his fellow Afghans.
Will somebody in the halls of power recognize this? I doubt it, for now anyway but we are going to be in Afghanistan for a long time and what we are doing there will not work. At some point somebody is going to actually try (instead of just talking about) an outside the box solution. When they do they are going to be talking to Chef Ajmal Khan Zaizi. When that happens I hope Ajmal remembers The Horse, Panjiway Tim and I. We’re tanned, rested, fit and will answer his call with alacrity because we know good leaders, remain fond of Afghanistan and enjoy making a difference.