It is proving impossible to get a read on “the Afghan street” since our Commander in Chief articulated the new set of tactics for Afghanistan at his speech at West Point. It is clear the dynamics on the ground have changed and that this change is being driven by the fact that our great communicator placed an arbitrary date on when we will be done and start going home. Of course nobody in Afghanistan or any place else on planet earth believes we will start to pull out in 18 months but that is not the point. Afghans currently populating positions of power have paid hefty sums to be appointed to those positions and are insisting on getting a good return on their investments before the gravy train leaves the station. My military friends have seen the same thing as they fight endless battles on the Niper net to get the food allowances and other petty cash paid to their Afghan Army soldiers without getting the Afghan senior officers they mentor fired for bringing the problem up in the first place. It is most depressing and leaves little for me to write about as I cannot blog on specifics which were told to me in confidence.
I am at the moment inside both the loop and the wire. There is a huge problem which we are trying to help fix and that is the “hold and build” portion of the “clear, hold and build” tactic which is our current strategy (even though it is not a strategy but I have been over that and will leave it for now.) Here is the interesting thing – as we talk with the Marines (the only outfit on the ground who has successfully done the clear part of the mission and have an institutional legacy of innovation and thinking outside the box) – I am recognizing a concept which is at the heart of the Tea Party movement as well as the current alarm in American at our elected representatives shoving massive government take overs of our economy down our throats. And here it is: our government is not capable of developing or executing innovative, cost effective solutions to unique problems. They are only capable of knee jerk reactions to events which have already happened all the while treating us citizens as if we are stupid, incapable of recognizing hypocrisy and too lazy to do anything about it. The American ruling class may be proved correct in their assessment of a lethargic, uneducated, disconnected population and if so then my fellow Americans deserve what they will get which is a nanny state from hell coupled with generations of debt.
Case in point – the suicide bomber who killed seven CIA agents/contractors in Khost. There appears to be much confusion as to how this happened. At first we were told the bomber was a known asset who could freely come and go as he pleased. Now it is being reported that this cat had never been to FOB Chapman before but had provided “actionable intelligence” in the past and had some really hot scoop which drew down the senior guys from Kabul. Which is it? I don’t know or care because it doesn’t matter. The bad guys have smart bombs too and one of them found its way onto FOB Chapman. As I have repeatedly pointed out in past posts it is always easier and much cheaper to defeat a technology than it is to field it. How much does it cost us to keep the drones flying so that we can hit “high value target?” We don’t know because those budgets are classified but it took less than 100 dollars worth of explosives for the bad guys smart bomb to score a big hit against us on multiple high value targets.
Here is the question – how many years have they (the CIA) been doing the exact same procedure in the exact same place? Does not field craft 101 state that you cannot run a static agent operation from the same base for almost a decade? Especially when that operation is designed to target bad guys for termination – would you not think that maybe running off the same base with the same security procedures for year after year is a bit unreasonable?
Our vaunted CIA never leaves the wire under any circumstances even in tame places like Jalalabad so all their intel comes from people who walk into the FOB’s. How good is the product they are producing using these risk averse intelligence gathering techniques and procedures? It is worthless – or as the general in charge of military intelligence put it “marginally relevant.” Maj Gen Michael Flynn is one of those general officers I would really like to know – a man who clearly is fighting the Counterbureaucracy battle with skill, insight and passion like a true patriot. The wires are currently humming with this report on the state of our intelligence efforts. It seems that after all the time, money, and blood we spent in Afghanistan we are unable to provide the war-fighter or decision-maker with any useful intelligence products.
It appears the only “actionable intelligence” being generated on the ground is being generated by infantrymen on the ground which is to say generated by the Marines in the south (the only armed force consistently outside the wire and “on the ground” in theater.) My father, a retired Marine Corps general officer often told me the only intel he ever received in 35 years of active service worth more than a warm cup of spit was intel he generated himself with his Marines. My Dad hated the CIA, hated Special Forces – pretty much had no use for any “special” organization to include the Marines’ own Force Recon. All they had ever done for him was to get his Marines killed in stupid rescue missions which he was forced to launch in response to urgent requests from some “snake eaters” who had discovered that they could not, in fact, just melt away into the jungle when the NVA were in the area and on their ass.
Let me try a little application of common sense starting with the attempt on Christmas day to blow up an American airliner which was handled so amateurishly by the current administration. Mark Levin and the rest of the freedom media has that aspect of the story covered so I’ll take another angle. The underpant bomber (I know I should say suspect) who I shall now call Mr. Bacon-strip was in the tropical paradise of Yemen for demolition training. He was issued a pair of underwear with det cord sewn into it and a chemical ignition system and told to fly into Chicago and blow up the plane just before it lands. His detonator failed which allowed a journalist from Europe (of all places) to jump the little turd, give him some chin music (good thing he is not a SEAL or he’d be in legal trouble) and stop him from trying to ignite the explosives which apparently had caught fire and burned off a good portion of his Johnson. In response the “experts” at Homeland security issued a dictate that no passenger can have anything in his/her/their/its lap or watch the entertainment system or read a book for the final hour of international flights.
Two questions; was this a good operation from the oppositions point of view? (The attack in Khost sure was and I hear they even filmed it.) And what the hell is the purpose behind taking away everything from passengers on the final leg of an international flight? Conventional wisdom seems to be of the opinion that the operation was well planned and executed minus the faulty detonator and the response by American Homeland Security is stupid and pointless. Conventional wisdom is wrong.
I have taken more than my share of demolition classes over the years – the longest being a ten day assault breacher course (back in the 90’s that course was classified available only to us “special” folk – assault breaching is now a common infantry technique.) After that training I was very proficient with demolitions and would have had no problem figuring out a how to set off det cord with or without a proper detonator. My initial demolition training with the Marine Corps at The Basic School was just four hours after which my classmates and I blew up an old tractor – there was nothing left of it but a smoking hole in the ground. When you are working with educated, bright, motivated people like Mr Bacon-strip mastering demolitions takes little time or practice. So how long was he in training? Weeks? Days? Hours? Get the point?
Then the jerk goes to Europe, buys a one-way ticket to America with cash, doesn’t check in any luggage…..is that state of the art field craft for al Qaeda? Of course not; that little shit (…sorry I mean man caused disaster suspect) did everything he could to get caught by behaving in a manner which shouted to anyone paying attention “I am a terrorist.” This attempt was amateur hour and you know why I think it was? Because the guys pulling this little jerks strings had no intention of blowing up a plane. They wanted what they got – a failed attempt which embarrasses the U.S. (as if the current administration needs help in that area,) costs us tons of money to re-mediate and leads to what they really want which is the harassment and stigmatization of Islamic people flying into western nations. Remember the various organizations flying the al Qaeda flag are at war with us and they need to keep their base motivated just like we do. What better way then to finally force the United States to treat all Muslims as suspects with our heavy handed TSA? It will piss them off …. just ask Michael Yon who was recently detained at the SeaTac airport for exercising his constitutional right to call bullshit on a petty agent of the state who demanded to know his level of income.
What about the Homeland Security response to Bacon-strip? Why force people to remain in their seats for the final hour of a flight? I have heard pundits saying that the terrorist would just blow the plane up two hours before hitting the United States so the rule is pointless. I agree the rule is pointless as is much of crap we must put up with to fly around the United States but there is a certain logic to it. Terrorists are not going to blow up a plane two hours out because the plane then falls out of the sky into the ocean and nobody knows what happened nor do they really care. Remember the Air France plane which plunged into the Atlantic en route from Brazil last year? Not many people do and nobody knows why that plane went down. It could have been the first Mr. Bacon-strip for all we know but we don’t know and never will because the ocean is a big, deep, cold, dark place which knows how to keep a secret. Janet Nepolitano isn’t really a brain dead bureaucrat incapable of saying anything other than focus group pablum. She knows we can’t really protect our selves from terrorist aboard international airlines and has therefore put in rules that will hopefully get them to act outside the United States. If a plane full of mostly Americans gets blown up outside the US that is not her problem and if she is really lucky it will go down in the ocean and be nobody’s problem.
Turning our attention back to Afghanistan we see nothing but doom and gloom. This article, featuring expert analysis by retired Army General Barry McCaffrey says we should expect 500 casualties per month this summer. If you did not have a reason to ignore talking head generals before you have one now because McCaffrey’s opinion, shaped by unlimited access inside the US military security bubble, is about as stupid as anything else emanating from the Temple of Doom (a.k.a. White House.) Barry McCaffrey is one of those generals I have no desire to ever meet.
McCaffrey sites the Army debacles at Wanat and FOB Keating as examples of very clever fighters with ferocious combat capabilities who I guess are going to pick up their game this summer and put the whoop ass on us. The Taliban affiliates and their foreigner mercenaries can be cleaver and have demonstrated the will (occasionally) to advance under fire. But Ferocious combat capabilities? Like what? They throw everything they have after planning for weeks at isolated American troops and accomplish what? They can’t even inflict double digit casualties. When they mass like they did at both Wanat and Keating the American military (after the attack never before) lifts all its restrictions on artillery and air delivered ordinance, puts its SF teams and their Afghan Commando counterparts into the field, and proceeds to run down any group larger than two people who seem to be heading towards the Pakistan border. The SF guys I talked with who responded to the attack on FOB Keating are certain that they bagged every dirt bag involved in that attack. Even the Iraqis who, also suck at fighting, could do better than that. There are brave Taliban fighters and even a few who can hit what they are shooting at but small groups of brave fighters are no match for the American, British, French or even the German military because we know the two C’s; combined arms and cohesion.
We have been at this going on nine years. The security situation has steadily deteriorated in that time. We are fighting (for the most part) Pashtoon peoples who have some sort of Taliban affiliation. We are not fighting the Tajiks, Uzbecks, Hazara, or Turkimen peoples who populate the northern portions of the country. In this respect our current operations are not anywhere near as difficult or comprehensive as those mounted by the old Soviet Union. We spend billions to be here and most of that money is ending up in the pockets of Afghan elites and war lords or the corporate coffers of various European and American companies. It seems to me that if we had small teams of guys going about the countryside telling all who care to listen that we’ll pay 1 million dollars to anyone who produces a live Taliban and 2 million to anyone who produces a live al Qaeda foreigner that we would not only save billions but we would have finished this adventure a long time ago. That is just one hair brained idea – I have hundreds more. How about dropping plastic bags containing porno magazines, a loaded syringe full of heroin, 3 little bottles of good scotch and a cell phone which only dials 900 numbers into areas along the border which are known routes of infiltration. I know ….what am I thinking…plastic bags? Bad for the environment and they’ll produce greenhouse gases when burned so the program would need to purchase carbon credits from AlGore……
Yes that is a seriously stupid plan which would never really work….well it would work but the fallout would be intense and rightfully so. But I tell you one thing – at least it is a plan which is more than most the military outfits operating in this theater have.