There’s Fire

Fighting season is now on. This year the villains strategy appears to involve deliberate attacks on aid projects and let me tell you something we (the outside the wire aid community) are getting hammered. In the last week a majority of us have had to deal with murders, intimidation, shootings, IED’s, kidnappings and attacks on vendors in all areas of the country. I took some serious casualties on two of my projects and I’m pissed about it but not about to quit. There are more men and women outside the wire doing good deeds then any of you suspect; most are smart enough to keep a low profile and I now wish I were one of them.

It didn't take long for the incident stats to shoot right back up there did it?
It didn’t take long for the incident stats in the south to shoot right back up

This will be my last post for awhile.  I’m afraid the blog has become too popular thus raising my personal profile too high. We have had to change up in order to continue working. How we move, how we live, our security methodology;  all of it has been fine tuned. Part of that change is allowing the FRI blog to go dark. I have no choice; my colleagues and I signed contracts, gave our word, and have thousands of Afghan families who have bet their futures on our promises. If we are going to remain on the job we have to maintain a low profile and that is hard to do with this blog.

his is what a kidnapping set up or Taliban check point looks like. A bunch of guys looking at a flat tire which happened to occur in a lonely choke point far away from prying eyes. Of course these guys may be regular folk who had a flat tire (which they were) but these days we take no chances. We stop well back and check behind the berms, and have one of them walk to us if they need help.
This is what a kidnapping set up or Taliban checkpoint looks like. A bunch of guys looking at a mechanical problem which happened to occur in a choke point far away from prying eyes. These guys turned out to be stranded motorists. When I popped out on the road in front of them with the flame stick at the ready  (having worked the flanks) they were terrified – but quickly made me as an American and went for terrified to happy to see me in a blink of an eye.

As is always the case the outside the wire internationals are catching it from all sides. In Kabul the Afghans have jailed the country manager of Global Security over having four unregistered weapons in the company armory. When the endemic corruption in Afghanistan makes the news or the pressure about it is applied diplomatically to the central government they always respond by throwing a few Expat security contractors in jail. Remember that the next time our legacy media tries to spin a yarn about “unaccountable” security companies and the “1000 dollar a day” security contractor business both of which are products of the liberal media imagination.

We depend on our two fixed wing planes for transportation around the country. Sometimes we are forced to overnight on one of the big box FOB’s where random searches for contraband in contractor billeting is routine.  All electronic recording equipment; cell phones, PDA’s laptops, cameras, etc… are all supposed to be registered on base with the security departments. But we aren’t assigned to these bases and cannot register our equipment. Being caught with it means it could be confiscated, being caught with a weapon would result in arrest by base MP’s. Weapons license’s from the Government of Afghanistan aren’t recognized by ISAF. So when we are forced to land on Bastion or Kandahar myself and the other PM’s have to stay on the plane or risk losing our guns.

This is typical - I foolishly decided to help supervise the movement of 11 excavators across 100 kilometers of the Dasht-e margo (desert of death). Our first mobility kill occurred 5 kilometers outside Zarnaj. It was downhill from there. 110 degrees, bright sunshine, heavy equipment stalled on old prime movers as far as the eye could see. 3 cups of tea my ass
This is typical – I foolishly decided to help supervise the movement of 11 excavators across 100 kilometers of the Dasht-e Margo (desert of death). Our first mobility kill occurred 5 kilometers outside Zarnaj. It was downhill from there.

I’m not bitching because I understand why things are the way they are. Both the British and Americans have armed contractors working for them who have gone through specified pre-deployment  training and have official “arming authority”.  Afghan based international security types may or may not have any training and they certainly do not have DoD or MoD arming authority.  A legally licensed and registered weapon is no more welcomed on a military base in Afghanistan then it would be on a base in America. What is true back home is now true here; remember these bases are crammed full of tens of thousands of people so all sorts of problems crop up with such a large population confined to a small area.  It is what it is and for us it is much harder to operate.  But not impossible.

I guess we're going the right way;35 kilometers into the desert, temp now around 120 and another mobiity kill. What are the chances these guys have water and a tarp for shade? Around zero
I guess we’re going the right way; 35 kilometers into the desert, temp around 110 and another broken truck. What are the chances these guys have water and a tarp for shade? Around zero. This is Afghanistan and these guys were back on the road in about an hour – nobody can fix old broken trucks like Afghans do.

Our  safety has always come from local people in the communities where we are active. Being armed would be of little value were this not so. Last week when Afghan supervisors from an aid project in the East were kidnapped the local elders commandeered vehicles and took off in hot pursuit of the villains. In my area of responsibility, which covers several provinces, we have around a 90%  rate of return for kidnapped personnel from internationally sponsored aid programs (still a rare occurrence in the South unlike the East). Village elders go and get them back with no prodding from us. They do this to keep their end of the bargain and we’re keeping our end too; we’re not stopping projects.

But who, aside from the people directly benefiting cares about our performance?  I have spent three years writing poorly edited posts in an effort to describe a way forward that did not cost billions. But our political leaders and military officers would rather be told they could achieve results drinking three cups of tea from a con man peddling news too good to be true.  Shura’s are how Afghans solve problems; few of us internationals have the language skill, patience, or reputations required to get things done with a Shura. Sitting down to drink tea while being humble means nothing to Afghans; they have seen enough good intentions and are now only interested in results. When we move into an area, get the lay of the land and then open shop to accept project requests we don’t sit around drinking tea. We need to de-conflict our project requests between the MRRD, local district government, local elders, Marines (if we are in their AO) and USAID. That can’t be done by hours of tea drinking it takes days and days of us traveling to villages or district centers to hammer out compromises. We don’t spend any more time drinking tea than local customs demand.

So now it is time for me to go from blogsphere for a bit. After this contract it will be time for me to physically go. I have a childlike faith in the ability of Gen Allen to come in and make the best of the situation he finds on the ground. Maybe I’ll stick around to see it for myself – we have a long summer ahead and much can change. But staying here means going back to Ghost Team mode.

I want to thank all of the folks who have participated in the comments section, bloggers Matt from Feral Jundi, Old Blue from Afghan Quest, Michael Yon, Joshua Foust from Registan.net, Herschel Smith from The Captains Journal and Kanani from The Kitchen Dispatch for their support and kind email exchanges.   Baba Ken of the Synergy Strike Force for hosting me, Jules who recently stepped in to provide much needed editing, and Amy Sun from the MIT Fab Lab for getting me started and encouraging me along the way.  Your support meant everything to me; I’m going to miss not being part of the conversation.

Where There Is Smoke

This year’s fighting season has started off with a whimper in Helmand Province.  On May Day (as predicted) the only action was in Paktika Province where a child suicide bomber violated the latest Taliban  public announcement by blowing himself up in a police station.  The Taliban had just announced they would no longer allow beardless boys into their ranks and although the Pashtun are a hirsute people I’m not aware of  any 12 year olds who can cultivate a beard. On the 7th of May the Taliban launched a two day siege in Kandahar which accomplished little; they didn’t even manage to  inflict any casualties on ISAF or the Afghan security forces.

I have never seen this before. The poppy harvest is in (for the most part) the weather is warming up, it is time for the fighting to start but across the region the Taliban remains inactive.
We have never seen this before. The poppy harvest is in (for the most part) the weather is warming up, it is time for the fighting to start but across the region the Taliban remains inactive. Hat tip to Sami the Finn at Indicum Consulting for the stats.

 

Panjawayi Tim tells us this is the enduring image of the Kandahar siege. 24/7 helicopter gunship coverage overhead
Panjawayi Tim said this is the enduring image of what became known as the 2011 Battle of Kandahar;  24/7 helicopter gunship coverage overhead

Defeating the Taliban in battle in downtown Kandahar is not a victory for the good guys because of the fact they were fighting in downtown Kandahar.  The people of Kandahar are the prize for both ISAF and the Taliban; the real estate is meaningless so the fact that the Taliban even mounted this operation is bad news.  There are additional reports that groups of Taliban fighters had “foreigners” embedded in them which may, or may not, be true.

It is still amazing to see ISAF throwing around air to ground missiles like this is such a crowded urban area. They are unbelievably good at this
It is still amazing to see ISAF throwing around air to ground missiles like this in such a crowded urban area.  This strike went into one of the Taliban strong points which were only a few buildings away from Panjawai Tim’s compound.

The Taliban did spend 10 to 15 minutes warning local people near the government buildings to bug out ahead of the fighting which was appreciated by the local population.  They then launched a spirited attack, gained a foothold in some government buildings, barricaded themselves inside those buildings and then sat around waiting for ANSF to come fight them which took a couple of days of deliberately cautious fighting. After the assassination of the Provincial Chief of Police, Khan Mohammed Mujaheed, and the jail break at Sarapoza prison, the locals have serious doubts about the ability of ISAF and ANSF to protect them. This summer is going to be the tipping point for somebody and now that the Taliban have reportedly imported foreigners to help them fight they have to fight or risk losing their foreign fighters piecemeal.  JSOTF doesn’t take days off, they don’t sleep, they won’t stop and will not run out of money.  They go after foreigners like white on rice and Afghans will sell out foreigners in a heartbeat (if the price is right) regardless of which side in this conflict they support. If there are that many foreigners here they have to fight or flee; going to ground in hopes of avoiding compromise by the locals is not going to work.

Outfitting the ANA with M16's and protective armor was a great call. It deprives the Taliban of one of their traditional sources for small arms ammunition while allowing our mentors to operate with troops who have the same level of protection as they do.
Outfitting the ANA with M16’s and body armor was a great call. It deprives the Taliban of one of their traditional sources of small arms ammunition while allowing our mentors to operate with troops who have the same level of protection as they do.

So where is the spring offensive?  Looks like it’s in the north:

The north is starting to heat up which is not good because there is all sorts of room up there to maneuver and the ISAF forces in the region are not known for offensive prowless
The north is starting to heat up which is not good because there is all sorts of room up there to maneuver and the ISAF forces in the region are not known for offensive prowess

Here are a few recent security reports from last week (AGE =anti-government elements in UN security speak):

On 2 May, Balkh Province, Chahar Bolak District, Timurak Village, at approximately 1830hrs, reportedly 150 fully armed AGE entered to the village and overwhelmed the entire village.

On 6 May, Sari Pul Province, Sayyad District, Khwaja Chargonbat and Khwaja Yagana Villages, at approximately 1300hrs, AGE attacked ANSF within the above villages. There were firefights for three consecutive nights which forced the ANSF to withdraw from the village and AGE captured the mentioned villages. One ANA personnel and one local police were wounded.

On 7 May, Balkh Province, Chimtal District, Hotaki Village, at approximately 2005hrs, AGE fired 15 rounds of mortar towards ANP Posts. One of the mortars impacted on an ANP vehicle and as a result, the ANP vehicle was damaged.

Security in the northern portion of the country has been going down the tubes since 2008 with Taliban influence spreading into provinces that have little or no Pashtun population. Their gains came from a combination of  ideology and religion with non-Pashtun peoples who have very few reasons to  side with them.  Actually they have only one reason to  throw in  with the Taliban  which is this; the Taliban settle land disputes and other legal manners in a way which is perceived by all sides as fair and just. Two of the most experienced journalists working in  Afghanistan, Antonio Giustozzi and Christoph Reuter, just released a 64 page report titled The Insurgents of the Afghan North which is a fascinating, detailed account about how the Taliban gained such a large foothold. But 150 armed Taliban running around Balkh Province?  That is hard to believe.

Panjawai Tim has been trying out his new D 90 and got a few good shots from his compound. A few of my loyal readers (mainly Marines I must admit) have been complaining bitterly about the lack of pictures and graphs lately so I'm sticking a bunch in this post
Another shot from Tim’s compound

In 2010 joint Afghan/American SF teams started in on the Taliban shadow government and Taliban leaders up North and they had a clean run with only one exception; the targeted killing of “a senior member” of the Islamic Movement of  Uzbekistan (IMU) Mohammed Amin. They did not get Mr. Amin but ended up killing a prominent former Taliban commander named Zabet Amanullah, who was out campaigning for his nephew’s parliament run. I remember this as being a big deal when it happened but didn’t know the story behind it until this  recent post on The AfPak Channel by Kate Clark.  Ms. Clark makes an interesting observation in her piece:

Dealing with the U.S. military, it has felt like we are from parallel worlds. Their Afghanistan, where knowledge is often driven largely by signals intelligence and reports provided by a very limited number of local informants, with a very narrow focus on insurgent behavior, and the normal, everyday world of Afghan politics. In the case of the Takhar attack, these two worlds simply did not connect.

This too  has been my observation for many years however it is no longer true in the Helmand Province. The Marines are too active inside a population which is limited to the irrigated lands fed by the Helmand River. Their constant patrolling out of an ever expanding series of spartan combat outposts is paying off.  They are gleaning the human intelligence that naturally flows from constant contact with local villagers. We don’t have that ability in the north and judging from both of the articles linked above we have done about all we can do.

The SF teams have run the JPEL up north and although the Taliban filled their vacancies, the old home grown local leaders have apparently been decimated.  Their replacements are not from the local tribes and are  overwhelmingly Pashtun.  My prediction (and I’m on a roll with Egypt still up in the air) is that the North will be end up being the test case for the Karzai government and the Afghan Security Forces.  With the Helmand on  lock-down, our litmus test in the southern Pastun heartland remains in and around Kandahar. If the Taliban have really imported foreign fighters they have a  problem. They’re running out of maneuver room and their foreign fighters are soon going start run out of time.

Leadership 101

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is never pleasant to observe, especially when it is  an  American President doing the snatching. President Obama was  running strong:

1. He just announced The Dream Team taking over the Afghan campaign,

2. He launched a unilateral direct action mission deep into Pakistan to kill bin Laden.

This  bold move,  in view of  we have seen from President Obama during the uprisings in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Iran and Libya, was decidedly out of character. Then came  the  press conference, and what should have been a moment of national unity and catharsis has festered into a case study in self-inflicted PR wounds. Only today’s  obituary (courtesy of  al Qaeda)  has managed to quell  most of  what were increasing doubts in this part of the world that OBL is really dead when there was no doubt about it on Monday. Even worse,  the story has  now begun to focus  on the legality of the assaulters shooting an unarmed bin Laden. It seems to me that the president will exit this news cycle with lower numbers then he entered it with, which is a stunning  accomplishment of   incompetence.

I  watched the President’s news conference live on the internet and it was the strangest Presidential announcement I have ever seen. He could have buttressed his leadership role more forcibly had he confined his remarks  to the remarkable efforts of the thousands of people working on this mission for the past 7  + years.    Boasting that his absolute confidence in the military to enact this bold plan was justified when they lost one of their insert birds but still completed the mission, and  extracted all hands without delay or injuries. That would have reflected the boldness of his personal decision for all to see without him saying anything about himself.  But no,  Obama  couldn’t bring himself to  do that…  Then the  team started leaking details about the mission, which even now are  changing daily. They had no need  to  elaborate on  one damn aspect of the mission  -namely:  we sent in the SEALs, they  shot Osama bin Laden in the face, took his body, dumped it into ocean, didn’t take any casualties and left his women and children (minus his adult son) alive. That is all they had to say; the huge advantage  of employing JSOC is that all of them have Top Secret security clearances and cannot (nor would not) leak any details to anyone outside of their elite community. The fleshed out story of what happened will come out  in time but right now nobody needs to know the details. The mission was impressive enough; the less you say the better- especially because we caught Pakistan with their pants down but still need them if we plan to feed and equip the 200,000 or so troops and contractors currently in Afghanistan.

When the Pakistanis said there were no weapons on the men in bin Laden’s compound,  the president  could merely  have replied “Of course the SEAL’s took all the weapons with them, and by the way, that little AK that Osama was so fond of being photographed with? I’m having the SEAL’s fly it down to President Bush as a fitting addition to his Presidential library for the work he did to hunt him down”. How presidential would Obama  appear now if he had said that?

Killing bin Laden is, to use the words of our Vice President, a “Big F___ing Deal”.  It leaves the government of Pakistan with a lot of explaining to do, it enables us to define a more acceptable end state, it should allow us to send in our best civ/mil team (Allen and Crocker) with a plan to scale down our massive involvement in Afghanistan and get most of our people out of here. This raid has  put us squarely  in the drivers seat,  but now it is the Obama administration doing the explaining, changing, rearranging their story, spinning like tops and one has to wonder why?

The United Kingdom Mail Online posted a story this morning which may explain some of the confusion at the top.  Obama took 16 hours to make the decision according to the article; we were ready to go as early as Thursday.  That is not the end of the world – it was a tough decision; a lot of things could have gone wrong.  But the mail story got me (and millions of others)  surfing the net looking for more detail where I found this link on the wall of The Mark Levine Show facebook page.  Check this out:

“I was told in these exact terms, we overruled him. (Obama) I have since followed up and received further details on exactly what that meant, as well as the specifics of how Leon Panetta worked around the president’s persistent hesitation to act. There appears NOT to have been an outright overruling of any specific position by President Obama, simply because there was no specific position from the president to do so. President Obama was, in this case, as in all others, working as an absentee president.”

The link above has popped up all over the internet but I don’t believe it. I think Obama will go down in history as the worst president we have suffered through in my lifetime but even he can’t possibly be as clueless and cowardly as portrayed in the account of an alleged “Washington Insider”. Makes you wonder who wrote those posts and what their political ties are, doesn’t it? It seems that the hosting website has a strong  liberal orientation and the first name to pop into my head was  H. Clinton.

What are these people looking at? We now know it was not the mission and can deduce they were talking to the officers manning the "Bagram Death Star" (the command and control room). Now that the entire story behind the mission is falling apart HJillary wants us to believe she is suffering from allergies. She continues to believe we are stupid and I continue to believe that politicians who fake human emotion because a photographer is shooting film are beneath contempt
What are these people looking at? We now know it was not the mission and can deduce they were talking to the officers manning the “Bagram Death Star” (command and control room). With the story behind the mission is falling apart this “iconic” photograph is becoming a joke

In Afghanistan, the reaction to Osama’s death was the same as it was Salida, Colorado;  nothing. I was in Zaranj when the news broke and aside from being congratulated by my Afghan and Pakistani project managers, not a peep from anyone  around me. Killing bin Laden was a huge victory for Americans because it was personal for us but the Afghans,  having a much more pragmatic view of the event, immediately concluded   that killing bin Laden will make it easier for us to leave. They are correct, but they don’t know how this is going to play out, and neither do I.

It doesn’t have to be this way; we should be letting the successful hunting down and killing of bin Laden re-energize our efforts and refocus our mission while leveraging this impressive achievement with our political “allies” Pakistan and Afghanistan.  But we lost control of the story because the administration has too much invested in the on-going investigation of the very intelligence people who extracted the information  that started this hunt.  The administration has too much invested in the narrative that George Bush and Dick Cheney were off the reservation, acting illegally and recklessly when they set up the enhanced interrogation program. Now the president lectures us about the Osama death photos,  saying “We don’t need to spike the football” that as Americans “we don’t do that”.  Don’t do what?  What the hell is he talking about?

An experienced leader would know a thing or two about how not to let a huge victory go to waste. He would also know that those photos will leak at some point in the future and frankly there is nothing he can do to stop it. President Obama  might well  have used this remarkable event to elevate his stature and to seal another election victory, but only if he was big enough to act like the leader of the most powerful nation on earth.   As the leader,  he could have focused his praise on the people who worked years to put us in the position where we could launch the raid.  Months ago when the mission started to come together, he could have told the Attorney General to quietly drop the investigations targeting the very  people who performed the enhanced interrogations. He could have positioned himself to use this victory as a  blunt instrument with which to forward the goals of the United States throughout this entire region. What other country can work ten years at tracking down one man and when they find him fly stealth helicopters into the middle of another country to shoot him in the face?  We’re so bad ass that we sent sailors to do the shooting – that’s how deep our bench is.

Instead of re-election;  what he is going to get in 2012 is exactly what I believe he wants – he’ll get to be an ex-president. Wealth and affluence  beyond his wildest dreams, surrounded daily by the pomp and circumstance of an ex-head of state, super cool Secret Service detail for the rest of his life, and above all, no responsibility or accountability to anyone other than Barack H. Obama. I’m sure he can’t wait and neither can I.

May Day

The ISAF (International Security Assistance Force)  has taken  an unusual step by issuing a warning to all internationals, alerting of coordinated “spectacular attacks”,   kidnapping of internationals, suicide bombings, and all manner of general mayhem  to  kick off  Sunday, 1 May.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time ISAF has ever distributed a written warning to internationals at large, it’s also the first time ISAF has used social media to reach out to the general public.  The message came to us via the Afghanistan security contractors Skype group.     Now this  Skype group has  around 150 members, and although skype chatting is stone age technology by military standards, the military has not been able to join our chats in the past.  Nevertheless, witnessing  their use of social media like this is pretty darn cool (and it’s about time too).

The UN has sent all their internationals scurrying  to seek shelter in local PRT’s and declared “WHITE CITY” countrywide.   This means emergency road movements only.    Afghan security forces (ANSF) are out in force  all over  the country. Our  local workers are now  clearly spooked, but  oddly none of them seem to  know of any specific threat.  As I write this,   a frantic effort is  being made throughout the south to confirm that there are no missing internationals as (I’m guessing) the Taliban claim to have one in their possession.

You tell em Joe!  One of the current American titans making sure the troops know the he knows what is what
You tell em Joe! One of our current senators making sure the troops know that he knows what is what

This  unprecedented warning by ISAF has migrated into the mainstream media as seen with this “exclusive” published in Reuters yesterday by reporter Paul Talt.  Paul continued the story  in his article today explaining that the May Day offensive is really the start to the summer fighting season.  The Taliban are calling their new operation “Badar” which could mean “out” in Dari or “war” in Arabic….hard to say with the Taliban these days…   One thing is certain,  the Afghans and ISAF are ready for them and unlike big alerts in the past everyone is taking this one seriously.

Myself, Im not too worried,  with my suspicion  being  the current Taliban press offensive is directed more at Afghan fighters and the Afghan people.  If the southern Taliban do in fact launch any major ground attacks,  it’ll be for them what the Tet offensive was to the North Vietnamese;   a total tactical defeat!    It cannot morph into a strategic victory (as Tet did for North Vietnam)    because the legacy media can no longer spin a story that big to  bolster their agenda.  Plus- the Taliban are simply not strong enough to conduct a major military offensive;  they lack the logistical capacity, they lack  heavy weapons, command and control, imagination,   not to mention  the lack of  serious cash  an operation of size and scope requires.

Iranian border post adjacent to one of our projects. The Iranians shut this project down by complaining we were too close to the zero line as well as diverting water flowing into Iran.  This is nonsense but will give local government officials something else to argue about during weekly meetings.  The Iranians are still restricting the flow of fuel into Afghanistan and there are cross border clashes every now and then.  The Iranians apparently provide what help they can to Afghan refugees, look the other way as Afghan males pour over the border looking for day jobs, and facilitate organized drug trafficking while at the same time hanging every Afghan drug smuggler they catch operating outside of recognized smuggling rings.  The heroin moves through Iran to Turkey and from there (they hope) into the European market.  In reality more and more of the product is being consumed in Iran and Turkey plus mush of the European market for drugs is driven by the Muslim underclass.  Iran is trying to destabilize the west with a weapon that does not discriminate between class, religion or skin color and it is backfiring on them in slow motion
Iranian border post adjacent to one of our projects. The Iranians shut this one down by complaining we were too close to the zero line as well as diverting water flowing into Iran. That is nonsense but will give local government officials something else to argue about during their weekly meetings.

My prediction? This- we will see some serious attacks in the eastern portion of the country near the Pakistan border because these villains can more easily mount operations across the border.  I’m betting we’ll see something big in Kunar tomorrow or possibly Paktia Province.  I still think the boys in the south cannot and will not mount large attacks.  But they can dig some more tunnels, making  me wonder  if the effort they put into digging a tunnel under Saraposa prison isn’t also being duplicated under an ISAF base or PRT?    Tunneling under defensive positions is a tactic as old as man and it certainly is  one way of launching a spectacular attack without  loss of  too much manpower.  In reality there just isn’t  much the  Taliban is good at,  outside of jail breaks and suicide bombing easy targets in Kabul.  They  are adept  at settling land disputes in the rural districts too – have to give them that.  The question I have is why are they doing anything at all?

By the summer of 2014,  ISAF is supposed to be gone,  leaving  the only remaining forces   in country attached to the Afghan Army which will   have the  responsibility to continue the fight.    So, for the next three years the Taliban could merely content themselves with  economy of force operations; concentrating on targeting and removing officials from the Kabul government who have abused the public trust, all the  while avoiding fights with western military forces who routinely beat them like a drum.  It’s madness to pit Taliban insurgents against modern infantry because there is no requirement for them to fight, nor can they win.   If they foolishly unmask themselves in large attacks tomorrow,  they are going to  be slaughtered.  If they don’t do anything tomorrow, that is going to worry ISAF because it may indicate the Taliban has finally thought things through and wised up.  The Taliban doesn’t have to fight, it has little to gain by fighting.    Heck, waiting three summers is nothing for an organization which has competent leaders who take the long view on strategic decisions.  We shall soon see, but my money is on the Taliban being stupid and trying to flex its military muscle this summer.  Stupid is as stupid does.

This is what a Central Asian smugglers cove looks like.  No bars, no women, no electricity but I did see one old guy with an eye patch. Land pirates just do not generate the kind of romantic vision that Caribbean pirates do.
This is what a Central Asian smugglers cove looks like. No bars, no women, no electricity but I did see one old guy with an eye patch. Land pirates just do'nt generate the kind of romantic vision Caribbean pirates do.

I predict this summer’s fighting will gut the Quetta shura, while  leaving the Peshawar shura pretty much intact.  That is to say, I predict the Taliban getting decisively beaten in the south,  whilein the east,  they fight to a draw.    Regardless, at the end of this year’s fighting season we will have another bout of change in American leadership.  General Petraeus is going to head the CIA, Leon Panetta is  moving  from Langley to head up the DoD, and Marine LtGeneral    John R. Allen comes east to deal with Afghanistan.

The spy guys at the New York Times, feeling that the CIA is safe from being eliminated by the efforts of a 80 year old retiree in coastal California have turned their attention to the impending leadership change and are warning that the CIA is becoming militarized.  Who cares what the CIA becomes as long as whatever they do, they start getting it  right.  If there’s a chance (however small it be) that the CIA could actually develop into an agency which accomplishes its basic mission, then I’m  confident General Petraeus is one of the few men who can lead that change.  When General Allen arrives to Afghanistan he will come with a new ambassador, Ryan Crocker, who has a serious reputation for getting things done.  His posting will be a welcomed relief.

Which brings us to General John R Allen, USMC.  One of the characteristics of the War on Terror which should cause alarm to my fellow Americans has been the performance of our General Officers corps.    As an  institution  that consistently polls as the most trusted in America,  theperformance of it’s  senior executives has been pretty weak.  This is one reason we have been reading of General Petraeus year in and year out since the surge in Iraq.  I don’t know General Petraeus or Ambassador Crocker or Leon Panetta;  so predicting the effect of their new executive positions is impossible.  But I do know General John R. Allen,   whom it was my privilege to work for  back in the early 90’s.  General Allen was the Group Chief for the Marine Infantry Officer Course when I was an instructor there.  He is, quite simply, the best military officer I have ever known and brother,  I have known quite a few.  I could share stories in hopes of illuminating why I feel the way I do,  but nothing I can write would do justice to the man.  He is, plainly put,  the best we have. I’ve never met anyone more impressive and I know a lot of impressive people.  As you will see when the change occurs next fall I’m not alone in my high opinion of General Allen.

Shopping for fresh chicken in a post industrialized reduced carbon foot print society can be fun, rewarding and a great way to stay in touch with your neighbors
Shopping for fresh chicken in a post-industrialized reduced carbon footprint society can be fun, rewarding and a great way to stay in touch with your neighbors. As gas heads past 5 USD a gallon how far away are we from a barter economy?

Now, the skype group is currently pinging off the hook  with reports of the ANP stopping and detaining armed contractors in Kabul.  This is an almost daily occurrence,   mind you all these contractors have proper licenses and paperwork.  The reason this happens daily is stupidity on the part of government officials who are trying to send a message to the international community.  The Taliban is poised to launch some large attacks over the next 72 hours and the reason for that is again- stupidity.  The Taliban have won as much as they are going to win already:  they ought  be spending the next three years on internal growth and administration.  But they are stupid  in their  belief that challenging western militaries is the only way to grow the Jihad.  We’ll just see how the fighting season plays out, but when it is over a new team is going to come in and take  the reins of  this campaign. That new team will be our last chance at achieving an end-state in Afghanistan that justifies the investment we continue to make.