Carry On – The New Normal

Last night England experienced another terrorist attack; this time a suicide bomber who targeted a large crowd of young concert goers in Manchester. The media has focused on the targets being children which is curious. There have been thousands of children beaten, raped and brutalized by Muslim (mainly Pakistani) grooming gangs for years in England without a peep from the British media. In fact, the most recent grooming gang scandal happened right outside Manchester in the hamlet of Roachdale. That not one person in England has been held to account for those crimes against humanity speaks to how dismal life must be for white British female teens who belong to the lower classes.

Political leaders from Berlin to LA have sent the reassuring message that they “stand with the people of Manchester“. That’s great; let’s add the colored lights and social media UK flag filters and it will no doubt help. Right?

The response in the UK is predictable kabuki theater. They have dispatched 5000 soldiers into the streets to replace the police who are busy rounding up the usual suspects. The usual suspect the police round up after terrorist attacks are British citizens who have posted remarks critical of Islam on their social media accounts.

This popped up last night – see what I mean?

The British press has, as usual jumped on the prospect of a wave of anti-Muslim attacks to warn their fellow citizens not to do what, to date, they have never done. Newsweek immediately jumped on that band wagon too with this article stating that:

In December 2016,  the Muslim Council of Britain urged British politicians to urgently address Islamophobia in the face of growing attacks against Muslims in the U.K. Figures released in October 2016 showed that hate crimes against Muslims in London had increased 65 percent on the previous year.

If you go to the link about this 65% increase you’ll find a BBC article that states that there was a 65% increase and nothing more than that. What are these hate crimes? The BBC doesn’t say and I suspect they are social media posts like the one pasted above and nothing more. Are Muslim women wearing the hijab being hassled in the streets? That would be bad but not as bad as being tortured, sodomized, raped and forced into prostitution; a fate that has befallen thousands of white girls in England while the authorities turned a blind eye.

There are going to be more of these attacks, they will increase in severity and there is nothing any of us can do to stop them. In Europe the ruling classes refuse to define the problem as Islamic Terrorism which was true in America too until President Trump was elected. When the President recommended a prudent course of action; temporarily suspending visa’s from seven countries known to export Islamic terrorism until we could find a better way to vet visa applicants, the liberal press and their adjuncts in the Democratic party erupted in outrage at what they claim to be racism and ‘Islamophobia’ whatever the hell that means.

Islam is a religion that has adherents from every ethnic group in the world. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors which would preclude allegations of racism one would think. But our leaders don’t think and in the name of liberal progressive virtue they will refuse to adapt any common sense measure to protect their citizens. That dynamic will not change no matter how many more of their citizens are massacred by bombs, guns, trucks and the sword.

What our leaders will do is to continue restricting our freedoms and forcing group punishments, like the American TSA screenings at airports, which accomplish nothing other than harassing the traveling public.  They will close the barn door after the cows have fled by deploying troops into the streets as if that will accomplish a damn thing.

Where is this leading us? As he has so often done in the past Richard Fernandez, blogging at the Belmont Club, lays it out for us. I’ll give him the last word.

Government is losing its credibility as an effective protector.  Under these circumstances “carrying on exactly as before” is likely to have a meaning opposite to Independent’s intention.  For most people it will mean continuing to batten down the hatches and rebuilding the trust networks so foolishly discarded when they put their trust in the State. The vision of future may prove to be not the borderless EU after all — but Israel.  If government fails to protect people they are likely to fall back on tribalism and wire instead….

If we are to prevent a new medievalism finding the right balance between an open society and maintaining loyalty and allegiance is necessary.  It is a difficult task under any circumstances.  But rarely has anyone failed more dismally at it than the leaders of our multi-culti world.  By stigmatizing calls for reasonable loyalty as bigotry they have climbed out on a limb and sawed themselves off; by their dogmatic insistence on mindless inclusion they’ve foreclosed all attempts to bring things back to even keel.  They have reduced themselves to the level of hapless bystanders, unable to either prevent or explain an onslaught they themselves — were they honest enough to admit it — should have foreseen.

Kharejee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe the answer to that question is obvious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Forces Are Not The Answer

The Trump administration is casting about Europe in an, as of yet, un-successful attempt to find more troops to deploy in Afghanistan. As they ponder future force levels in that country the one idea that never dies is adding more special forces to the mix. That will not work; in fact what they should do is remove the remaining Special Operations Forces (SOF) units from the fight entirely.

FRI favorite Herschel Smith at The Captains Journal recently posted on the over-use of special operators where he contends the repeated use of SOF is a symptom of the loss of fighting capacity in the general purpose force. Long time readers of FRI know I’m a big fan of the Captains Journal; Hershel has a no-nonsense, direct style of writing that appeals to me and the thousands of loyal followers he has accumulated over the years.

One of the big selling points of Special Forces is their alleged competence in unconventional warfare and foreign internal defense. These are two of the five missions (the remaining being special reconnaissance, direct action and counter-terrorism) that require specialized language skills and deep understanding of the host nations culture. The performance of our special forces in Afghanistan over the past 16 years have proven these alleged core competencies are marketing hype designed to attract money from Congress and talent from the segment of our population who can qualify to serve in the armed forces.

Example #1 for my case is this screen grab from the TV series Profiles From The Front Line (episode 5). Here it is:

What you are looking at is an SF A team commander who is wearing his body armor over a cut off tee shirt. He is going into a village he doesn’t know searching for an alleged high value target (HVT) who is known to these soldiers as ‘Red Beard’. He is operating in Khost province where every village elder dies his beard with henna; which is red….are you getting the picture?

The only way you could offend Afghans more than showing up bare chested and forcing your way into their compounds is to walk around naked. The level of cultural tone deafness on display (from an SF guy who is supposed to understand the culture) in the linked video is beyond my ability to explain. If I had showed up in any Afghan village (especially a remote mountain village) without wearing a long sleeved shirt and long trousers I would have never returned. Failure to respect the local culture is the first step in mission failure and SOF guys like this one have a 16 year (and counting) run of mission failure.

Now look at the picture I lifted from the Captains Journal post Abolish Socom:

Same guy; proof that great minds think alike. Here is what Herschel had to say about the photograph:

If he is SOF performing direction action operations along with other SOF operators, then with the backwards ball cap, sleeveless shirt and lack of a uniform, he simply looks like an undisciplined thug.  Nothing more.  He doesn’t need to look like he does.  He has no compelling reason to appear thuggish and silly.

He does indeed appear thuggish and silly and while doing that he is sending a message to every Afghan he comes in contact with. That message consists of two words starting with the letter F and ending with the word you.

Around the same time that Herschel wrote the post linked above I wrote one on a 60 minutes segment called the Quiet Professionals. The post was titled Laura Does Special Forces and it was one of the more popular posts I ever wrote. This is from that post:

Want to know something our ‘elite’ SF guys don’t seem to know? Afghans don’t cuss. To call an Afghan a motherfucker (a word used frequently in every conversation by the American military) is a grave insult that would, in the local context, need to be atoned by blood. I cannot stress this point enough and if, during my frequent forays into the tribal bad lands, I used that word even in jest I would have been killed long ago. One of the secrets that I and my fellow outside the wire expats use in the contested areas is respect for local culture coupled with big confident smiles;  that’s why we are able to do what every USG expert contends cannot be done.

The way the SOF team in that 60 minutes video treated the Afghan Commando’s they were supposed to be training was deplorable. The soldiers displayed a complete lack of cultural understanding and were dismal failures at training their Afghan charges on the most rudimentary soldiering skills. Worse yet during one of the missions they conducted with their poorly trained Afghans one of the SF team members shot two children for reasons I found to be questionable. Read the post and you’ll see what I mean.

Last March I wrote about the introduction of SF teams into the Helmand province back in 2003. In a stunning display of cultural unawareness the first thing they did was offer bounties for ‘Taliban’ which resulted in the arrest and deportation to Gitmo of street orphans who had no family or tribe to protect them. This misguided policy was followed by the introduction of nighttime raids; a tactic that never resulted in any metric of success which is obvious as the Taliban grew stronger each year despite the constant loss of ‘High Value Targets’ to these raids. If your enemy continues to get stronger and take more ground while you take more and more of their leaders in dubious night raids how would you consider the tactic successful? I don’t know but we never stopped doing them which is a symptom of linear thinking in a nonlinear world.

Night raids enraged the Afghan population for what they considered a gross, cowardly, violation of their people which resulted in an unknown number of dead innocent Afghans. A grade school level of cultural understanding would have allowed SOF to predict the negative consequences of their night raid policy but they either didn’t know or didn’t care.

The Village Stability Operations (VSO) introduced late in the war were a joke. Only one SF officer (Jim Gant) had the balls and ability to do it correctly and he was done in by a chain of command who resented his success. Mimicking his methods was something his fellow SF officers refused to do because that meant no DFAC with it’s hot chow, unlimited ice cream and pecan pie; no cushy FOB with central air and nice bunks, no gyms to work out in, no internet and no crappy AFN TV to watch. I’m not making that up. The lack of amenities was sited the book American Spartan and several news articles as the reason Jim’s qalat in Chowkay was abandoned by the team that replaced him.

It turns out everything the SOF community said they could do they couldn’t do with the exception of night raids. And, of course, they can fight like demons; decimating any formation foolish enough to stand and fight them. That’s a good skill that should be directed at the other threats that have developed after 8 years of leading from behind. Marine and army infantry can do the same thing which was the point of the posts in The Captains Journal.

With an unending list of commitments that grows by the day in places like Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Iraq it is time to for the SOF teams to leave Afghanistan. Without SOF in-country the Afghans will not be able to launch operations into the countryside and thus will be forced to pull back into important towns and cities to guard them as well as the roads that are vital to the Afghan economy.

That would mean the Afghan government would control only the provincial administrative centers, the main roads and Kabul which, historically, is all the central government has ever controlled. Afghanistan is a complex problem that will never be solved by the American military who has always solved both tactical and strategic problems using linear thinking. If we remove our SOF units the Afghan government will be forced to do more talking and  less fighting with the various insurgent factions it faces today. That is the only rational way forward and although it will be painful in the short run it will result in an Afghan solution to an Afghan problem.

Discipline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISIS-K Strikes Again And Heckmatyar Comes In From The Cold

Yesterday I was talking with one of the unsung hero’s of the Afghanistan reconstruction battle Jeff “Raybo” Radan. I’ve known Jeff since we were instructors back at the Marine Corps Basic School and we worked together again when I replaced him (at the end of his tour) in Lashkar Gah as the regional manager for the USAID implementing partner CADG. He was has been working out of Kabul and told me about the ISIS-K car bomb before it hit the wires. He’s moving on to another project in Iraq but said he has seen definite improvement in the Afghan Security Forces.

Jeff and I heading to Naw Zad on an old Marine Corps CH-53D that leaked transmission fluid all over us. We’re used to that. Flying in an Osprey which doesn’t leak transmission fluid was unsettling to us old grunts because it made you wonder if it had enough.

Raybo got his nickname when he returned from the Army Ranger Course minus about 20 pounds on his already skinny frame and couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved it. His take on increasing the advise and assist mission? He’s not sure how effective it will be but is certain about what will happen if we don’t do it and that assessment was bleak.

Yesterday’s car bomb attack was to be expected; it was a matter of time before ISIS struck back after getting MOAB’d. This latest attack was unusual in one respect. The car bomb was parked, not driven into the convoy, which is a departure from the norm. It could indicate that the ANP has downtown Kabul under better control…or not…it’s hard to say. Setting off a car bomb that kills local civilians without doing too much damage to the NATO MRAP’s they were targeting is an amateur hour performance. It is also a far cry from their previous attacks in Kabul which were more dramatic and inflicted heavy casualties on their intended targets be they Hazara people or Afghan security forces.

More information regarding the recent MOAB attack is coming out and it would appear that using the MOAB was good weaponeering.  But ISIS-K continues to blast propaganda from their clandestine radio station (despite that too being bombed by US Tac Air) and even managed to assassinate a senior Taliban leader in Peshawar. An excellent assessment on the aftermath of the MOAB strike can be found here and as usual reality is 180 degrees out from the legacy media narrative.

A graphic from the article linked above showing the exact location of the MOAB strike
Another excellent graphic from Alcis showing the physical damage from the strike.

The MOAB took out 38 building in an unnamed (meaning unauthorized) settlement and 69 trees. There was no gigantic crater because the MOAB is a fuel air explosive which is something the media  still doesn’t seem to understand. From the article linked above:

Fuel-Air Explosives [FAE] disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel which is ignited by an embedded detonator to produce an explosion. The rapidly expanding wave front due to overpressure flattens all objects within close proximity of the epicenter of the aerosol fuel cloud, and produces debilitating damage well beyond the flattened area. The main destructive force of FAE is high overpressure, useful against soft targets such as minefields, armored vehicles, aircraft parked in the open, and bunkers.

It looks like the MOAB under-performed but looks are deceiving. If there were men hiding in those tunnels they’re crispy critters now; if the tunnels contained large stores of weapons and ammo those are now gone. It will take months of donkey trains to replace them if replacements are even available. I believe the weapons and ammunition were the targets and that nobody involved in the attack really cared about a high body count because that is a meaningless metric. I also believe all the conjecture in the press surrounding this weapon has proven to be fake news. That conjecture has shifted now and the legacy media is contending the bomb was a dud. That they know not what they are talking about is obvious.

The Taliban is fighting ISIS-K, we’re targeting ISIS-K regularly and the Pakitani’s are targeting them too. I doubt they will survive much longer with all the attention they’re getting. The one disturbing factor is that ISIS-K has the support of the Safi tribes; a problem I’ll address in a future post.

There is a potential game changer being put in play with the return of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to Kabul. He is a former prime minister and the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami militant group. More importantly he is a Pashtun from the northern city of Kunduz and one would suspect he’ll have the ability to bring a resurgent Taliban in Kunduz to heel. That would be huge and comes at a time when the Taliban from that area have pulled off the most devastating attack (the Mazar-e Sharif attack) against the ANA to date in this long nasty war .

Heckmatyar received a warm welcome in Kabul. The Afghan people are sick of war and welcome anybody (even the butcher of Kabul) who might be able to stop it. Photo from Reuters

The Mazar attack targeted young recruits attending Friday prayers in the base Mosque which has enraged Afghans who feel (correctly) it was an assault against Islam. Heckmatyar has said repeatedly the Taliban are an affront to Islam and that is a message which now resonates, more than ever, with the Afghan people. We shall see how this plays out but if he can dampen the fires of insurgency in the north the Afghans will have the space they need to concentrate their forces in the south and east.

There is one other thing Heckmatyar could help with in this critical phase of the fight for Afghanistan. He may be able to do something about the Haqqani clan.  Every attack inside Kabul and the recent devastating attack in Mazar-e Sharif had Haqqani fingerprints all over them. They are funded by Pakistan’s intelligence agency (the ISI) and have been able to penetrate Kabul seemingly at will. They are dedicated, professional butchers who kill without pity or remorse. They need to be put down and the sooner the better.

We have been trying for years to get both  Jalaluddin (the family patriarch) and his son Sirajuddin with drones but have come up empty. A man like Heckmatyar has the capability to get them the old fashioned way using car bombs or ambushes. I wonder if he’ll make the effort and know taking out the Haqqani’s would have an immediate impact on decreasing the level of violence directed at Kabul. Time will tell.

The Marines of Task Force Southwest are on the ground starting their advise and assist mission in the Helmand province. No news about them is good news because the only news we’ll see in the legacy media will concern casualties. I’m not aware of any reporters who plan to embed with them to write about their mission and how it is working out. Yet another reason why I want to embed with them for a month this summer. The Marines and soldiers on the front lines deserve to have their stories told and not just when they have sustained casualties.

There are no good options available to the international community in Afghanistan. My greatest concern, shared by many others, is that we will calibrate our advise and assist efforts to do just enough not to lose. If we are serious about the advise and assist mission then we have to accept two things. It is going to take more than a decade of sustained effort and at some point we will have to fight with the troops we are training and advising. Fighting means losing troops; it’s inevitable but the public has not been prepared for nor will it accept high numbers of American combat deaths in Afghanistan.

President Trump has not revealed his plan for Afghanistan yet but when he does his plan will be attacked by the legacy media regardless of content. That’s not good for our country or Afghanistan. It appears the President is allowing Secretary of Defense Mattis to shape this plan without micromanagement or intrigue from the White House. That is good news given the prior pattern of micromanagement by both the Bush and Obama administrations. If the new plan is the same as the old plan then we’ll know the Afghans are screwed. I doubt Secretary Mattis will settle for more of the same and know there is not another American alive today who could handle this task better. If he can quietly kill the current females in the infantry madness while he’s at it we can consider ourselves blessed. Let us hope that both of these things are not a bridge too far given the madness that passes for reality with our ruling class in Washington DC and their accomplices in the press.

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

 

Friendly Fire

As reported in the update to my last post the Army has started a friendly fire investigation into the two most recent deaths in Afghanistan. Why would the they start a friendly fire investigation when the soldiers who were there are adamant that enemy fire killed sergeants Rogers and Thomas? That’s a question with two answers; the first being the pentagon is required, by law, to notify next of kin if there exists the slightest chance that  their loved one was killed by friendly fire. The second reason is the Pat Tillman case which also involved the Army Rangers and was one of the more disgraceful cover-ups in the last 15 years. Or so I thought until I looked into the matter over the weekend.

The Pat Tillman case is worth examining not just because of the cover-up the incompetence of the staff officers who sent Pat’s platoon on the ‘clearing villages’ mission in the first place was a story too. Pat Tillman was killed during a multi day sweep of villages on the Pakistani border of Khost province. They were ordered to search villages for Taliban fighters or weapons and to do so on a strict timeline dictated from on high.

Let me inject some reality into that mission. The maps being used back then, just like the maps used today, seldom identify villages by their correct name or location. What appears to be secondary roads on these maps are most often dry stream beds or goat trails. Instructing men to clear villages that don’t exist using roads that don’t exist is the epitome of 2nd generation military thinking.

If 40 Rangers go into the a village and search every dwelling (an unspeakable insult to highlander Pashtuns) finding no weapons is the village clear? If they come under fire while leaving the village are the villagers Taliban? The answer to both questions is no. The mission was a fools errand that could not have accomplished anything other than getting the villagers on the war path and our men wounded or killed for no reason.

It is difficult to track down the Tillman story today because of all the legacy media garbage that populates the search term. 60 minutes did a segment on him which told the viewer nothing other than his mother was pissed. ESPN did a segment which I assume was crap but I won’t watch ESPN propaganda so I’m not sure. The only good source I found over the weekend was the book Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer. He got to the story late and took four years to research and write the book so when it came out it was OBE (military slang for overcome by events) and few paid attention to it.

The ensuing cover-up should have ended the careers of the generals who created the story and put it into play. I was talking to some of my Marine buddies years later and they hated General McChrystal because his blatantly unethical behavior in signing off on a fairy tale (that he himself concocted) made it impossible for them to get the Silver Star awarded to men who had earned it.

Did you know Pat Tillman was part of the Jessica Lynch rescue package? Me either; that fact was uncovered by Krackauer;  he was part of the quick reaction force standing by in reserve and did not participate in the  mission because the reserve was not needed. The reason they were not needed was the Iraqi fighters had left Nasiriyah days earlier. Lynch had been well cared for by the Iraq staff of the hospital she had ended up in after sustaining serious injuries when her vehicle crashed. The story behind that incident is a parents worst nightmare – having a child in combat who is poorly trained and incompetently led.

The large rescue to get Lynch was not only unnecessary but stage managed by a Bush administration official named Jim Wilkinson to deflect attention from the fact that 17 of the 18 Marines killed in the battle for that town were killed by friendly fire. Two A-10’s from the Ohio National Guard killed them during repeated strafing runs. Wilkinson was able to shunt special operational forces into the area and have them cool their heals until he could get a special operations media team there to cover the rescue. How a junior White House staffer could do that and why the generals he was brow beating didn’t throat punch him remains a mystery.

Another mystery is why the cover-up of the Marine friendly fire incident remains in place to this day despite the fact that one of the Marines on the ground, who had been attacked by Air Force A-10’s during the Gulf war, knew exactly what was happening as soon as he heard the chain guns. I’ve heard that sound too (coming from a range thank God) and it is not a sound you’ll ever forget.

In all three of these cases the men on the ground knew what had happened and knew the official stories were lies designed to cover the asses of senior officers and political figures. Jessica Lynch never fired a round, did not battle with Iraqi soldiers and could not have fought after her truck crashed knocking her unconscious. She was not abused or raped but instead protected by the hospital staff from the Iraq military and that staff tried several time to give her back but were thwarted by Marine sentries who would not let them approach their lines.

The slaughter of Marines from Charlie company 1st Battalion 2nd Marines was recognized as friendly fire instantly by the survivors yet it took a year for the investigation to be completed and the results were a bold face lie. The Rangers with Pat Tillman knew he was killed by friendly fire within 90 seconds of it happening yet were ordered not to tell anyone, to include his brother, who was a member of the platoon but was not close enough to witness the act. That, by the way, is an unlawful order that no military man was obligated to follow and I would hope that were I in their shoes I would have enough balls to ignore it out of hand.

There were a ton of irregularities in all these investigations that should have sent up red star clusters to the media and senior leadership.  But in all three cases the senior leadership participated in the lie and there were no competent media (for example C.J. Chivers of the New York Times) on hand to look into the story. There are few (if any these days) members of the media who could even understand what it was they were looking at which is why I’m trying so hard to get back to Afghanistan.

An optimist would conclud the Army has finally learned it’s lesson about cover-ups and now follows the letter of the law regarding potential friendly fire incidents. I’m not an optimist and sense something is not right with this story.

So what do we know? News reports generated from pentagon press releases tell us 50 Rangers and 40 Afghan Commandos took part in this mission. It was  a raid targeting Abdul Hasib, the self-described “Emir” of ISIS-K who reportedly runs their tactical operations.

I have long argued night raids in Afghanistan were counterproductive but have no problem with this night raid because the local folks living in the Mamand valley of Achin district departed long ago. This raid was targeting a known commander who was holed up in a series of compounds we knew to be inhabited by bad guys. We could have dropped another MOAB on him (just to make a statement) or used  any of a hundred other weaponeering choices to destroy those compounds and all who were in them. But instead we chose to do a raid with Rangers and Afghan Commandos. Why?

Why did we use that option? I have no idea but fear the answer will be every bit as unsatisfactory as the answer to why Pat Tillman was combing through the valleys of Khost province chasing wild geese. The American public still holds our military in high esteem thanks to the the generation who served ahead of them. In the 70’s, when I was a teen, the military was universally despised for being liars and hypocrites. The men serving back then did not deserve the antipathy that washed over them from the Carter White House, the congress, the press and academia. The men serving now are not maintaining the trust passed down to them and if the lying, obfuscation and meaningless missions continue they will deserve every bit of the scorn the country they are supposed to be serving will be heaping on them.

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