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The Battle for Marjah

Operation Moshtarak, the assault on the Marjah District in the Helmand Province started today.   The press has been looking at it for months from various angles with stories stressing that secrecy has been lost, or that civilians will be killed,  or with speculation on why the military is publicizing Operation Moshtarak in the first place. These stories all contain grains of truth but none of them is even close to telling the real story.   Here it is: when the Marines crossed the line of departure today, the battle for Marjah had already been won.

The battle has started and despite the fact that there is still hard fighting ahead it is already over

The battle has started and despite the fact that there is still hard fighting ahead, it is, for all intents and purposes, already over. Photo by David Guttenfelder*

That is not to say there will be no fighting – there will be – pockets of Taliban will need to be cleared out along with a ton of IED’s.  Just as they did last summer in Now Zad the Marines spent months talking about what they were going do in Marjah while focusing their efforts at shaping the fight behind the scene.   Like a master magician General Nicholson mesmerized the press with flashy hand movements to draw attention away from what was important.   The press then focused on the less important aspects of the coming fight.   Just like a magic show the action occurred right in front of the press in plain view yet remained out of sight.

The magic show analogy is most appropriate for the 2nd  Marine Expeditionary Brigade   (2nd  MEB) because they have many balls up in the air which have to be managed.   They are working under a NATO chain of command with allies who add very little to the fight. Managing these relationships can end up being a distraction and very tedious, but is still important.   Their success has won them the dubious honor of hosting multiple junkets from our political masters, which is also tedious and boring, but important. The international press has to be managed too, that takes time and attention. On top of that they have the various other US Gov agencies to work with and that task takes time, personnel, and attention from senior commanders- commodities that are always in short supply.   They have a lot of balls in the air simultaneously and like an expert juggler they are making it look easy.

The current Marjah operation is a replay of the Now Zad operation last summer.   Back then the Marines were in the news, constantly saying they did not have enough Afghan security forces (Karzai sent a battalion the day he read that story despite virulent protests from RC South) and that they didn’t have enough aid money (the embassy responded by sending more money and FSO’s).  Those complaints were faints the Marines welcomed the Afghans, ignored most of the FSO’s and because they have their own tac air, artillery, and rocket systems they were able to cut out both the big army command and control apparatus in Bagram and the Brits who head RC South at the Kandahar Airfield.

Tough fights call for tough men; another interesting photo from David Guttenfelder

Tough fights call for tough men; another interesting photo from David Guttenfelder

Last summer Gen Nicholson talked often about how hard it will be to dislodge the Taliban from places like Now Zad stating repeatedly that the battle would be tough and cost a ton in the only currency important to him the blood of his Marines.   Yet when the Marines moved into Now Zad they had little fighting to do.   The Taliban (according to the MSM) had fled in advance of the Marines and nobody really knew where they ran off too, because they are tricky bastards who look like local farmers when they move about the AO.

General Nicholson knew where they were and so did his Marines they were dead.    I guess they all migrated to paradise if there is a paradise for defeated armies who were stripped of their civilian cover, tricked by multiple feints into revealing their locations and plans, and then whittled down by small teams of reconnaissance Marines with attached snipers who don’t mind living in the rough, forgoing pecan pie, A/C, and internet access while staying deep behind enemy lines for weeks at a time.   One feint, two feint, three feint, four; call in an air strike and the Taliban are no more.   I just made that up but it should be a run jody for the 2nd  Recon battalion that is exactly what they did then and are doing now.

While the Marines handled the close fight around Marjah they used the varsity Special Operations assets to go deep. Getting those organizations to work for you in a subordinate role is not just hard; it is one of the most impressive accomplishments of the Marine deployment to date. I’ve known General Nicholson and the senior members of his operations staff all my adult life and this last accomplishment impresses me more than anything else they have done since arriving in Afghanistan. That’s how hard it is to get the big boys to play nice.   One of the consistent complaints concerning the Joint Special Operations forces in Afghanistan is their penchant for running operations without informing or coordinating or even talking to the battle space commander responsible for the area they were working. Tim of Panjwai once got a call from the Canadian HQ in Kandahar back in the day when he was on active duty and in command of a company deployed deep inside the Panjwai district:

Why are you currently fighting in the town of XXXX? he was asked.

Sir, I’m on my COP and were I not here and engaged in some sort of fight I assure you sir, that you would be the first to know.

Then who the hell is in XXXX wearing Canadian uniforms shooting the place up?

It was the varsity SF guys running their own mission with their own assets for reasons known only to them.   Tim and his troops had to deal with the mess they created after they were long gone.   To this day they have no idea what went on or if the mission which cost them in lost credibility, lost cooperation, and the loss of hard earned good will was worth it.

The Marines made a deal last summer which went something like this: “We want you guys operating in our AO and we will give you priority on our rotary wing, intelligence and fire support assets, but you have work with us integrating everything you do with our campaign plan.”  It was not an easy sell and at first there was reluctance from the varsity to cooperate.   But they gave it a shot, and they started chalking up success after success and nothing attracts more talent into the game like success.   While the Marine snipers and their recon brothers have been bleeding the Taliban around Marjah, the varsity has been going deep and going deep often.   All the big boys have joined the game now, the SAS, the SEAL’s, The Unit and other organizations who you have never heard of and never will hear about.    It is true that killing lots of fighters is not that relevant in the COIN battle.   Yet you still need to target and kill competent leaders along with any proficient logistic coordinators who pop up on the radar screen.   The varsity SOF guys have been doing that for months. Soon we will know how effective their efforts have been.

According to this recent article; Gen McChrystal is seeing progress in Afghanistan.   A close reading reveals that the signs of progress he mentions are all located in the AO of the 2nd  MEB.   No mention of the Army Stryker brigade who patrols highways 4 and 1 at 15 miles per hour to detect IED’s.   No mention of the other Army brigades in the east, the southeast, or any of the other NATO forces that operate in the rest of the country. This leads me to believe that the units in the rest of the country have yet to change their operational focus and are continuing to do what they’ve been doing for the past 7 years. Which clearly has not worked, and is not going to work.

There is nothing easy about opoerating on foot outside the wire when you have to carry everything on your back - especially if you are from the 81mm mortar platoon.  Photo by David Guttenfelder

There is nothing easy about operating on foot outside the wire when you have to carry everything on your back - especially if you are from the 81mm mortar platoon. Photo by David Guttenfelder

It would appear that the fate of the entire military and developmental effort has been placed onto the shoulders of a Brigadier General and his small band of Marines.   Every US government agency that is supposed to be supporting him in this fight has failed to deliver.    The Department of State and USAID are supposed to take on the hold and build portion of the operations in the south but when it came time to actually put district stabilization teams into the districts last summer they balked.

The very few competent outside the wire contractors who are currently supporting the Marine efforts with USAID funded projects have to fight USAID FSO’s in order to do so.   Many (not all) of the FSO’s are more concerned about procedure than results.   They get pissed when small contractors working directly with the Marines cut them out of the loop.   The big boys who were awarded big contracts are supposed to be supporting the Marines the firms with former AID officials and a few retired Marine colonels on their payroll.   The job of those dinosaurs is to get big contracts and then explain to their former subordinates why they just can’t get out into the Bad Lands and do the job because it is too risky.   It is risky but it is also the mission and nothing should have a greater priority than accomplishing the mission.

A few hours ago the Marines crossed the line of departure and the battle has been joined by one of the biggest assault forces yet assembled in Afghanistan.   If my read on this fight is correct then it will be over very quickly and the butchers bill will be small.   The Marines will win there is no question about that but that is the easy part.   Somebody has to do the hold and build it is not fair or smart to put that burden on the 2nd  MEB.   Say a prayer for the fighting men from multiple nations who have joined the fight today.   And then say another to seek divine intervention from on high with our political leaders so they get a clue and start demanding that the organizations who are supposed to be winning the peace do what they have been sent to do.   It would be a crime to see all the sacrifices made by our military squandered due to apathy, risk aversion, lack of innovation and the parochial guarding of rice bowls.

Render who runs the Last Stand blog points out that my good friend Michael Yon sneaked into Afghanistan without stopping by the Taj (that’s twice now Michael which you know is a violation of combat correspondent Bushido code) so you will want to check his site often once he gets embedded.   Until then the best source to check with daily is Bill Roggio’s Long War Journal.   Hat tip to Render… thanks brother, you rock.

* David Guttenfelder is an exceptionally talented professional photographer.   You can find a collection of his work at on this website.

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    31 comments to The Battle for Marjah

    • Thanks for the report. It is good to read about how well things can work if the proper methods are applied. Hopefully, the concept spreads.

    • Bang on. Fantastic report as usual. Theres a hell of a lot of speculation on the British side about why they’re going public weeks before, whether they asked the locals to leave the area or to stay in their homes or to grass up the bad guys or ignore them but this in a way is very similar to Operation Motorman in Ulster: remove the “no-go” status from the area with a spectacular show of force.

      A point though about the poor soul lugging the 81mm base plate and mortar rounds, it did cause Dad to grin widely as he had to do that once: fly out from the UK, drop over Libya (shows how old Dad is) and then tab something like 20-30 miles with all this stuff.

      The more things change the more they stay the same. For all the technology and transport these days you still need hardy men like the guy above to carry all the stuff to contact!

    • [...] don’t see those two until you read what BabbaTim has to say. This battle started months [...]

    • Scott

      Outstanding report. Let’s hope there is hold and build in the wings.

    • [...] may be wrong about the purpose (or at least the timescale) of fighting in Marjah altogether. From Free Range International: When the Marines crossed the line of departure today, the battle for Marjah had already been [...]

    • Great, now I’m all aglow and giddy.

      Tim sez I rock, some humorless whack-job hopes I get killed (FU Maurus, come and get me), and my mother sez I didn’t do a good enough job shoveling all the global warming and fallen trees out of her driveway.

      My day is complete, I can go back to bed now.

      ===

      Tim mabrother, it’s you (and your team) that rocks (especially that pic of Amy with the PigNose), I just read about it after the fact.

      NOT WITHOUT
      THE CORP,
      R

    • Christian C

      Its great to see a battlefield commander manipulating all the negatives that a modern warrior has to deal with -like the press- to his advantage. At last someone is adapting to the modern battlefield. Thanks Tim for bringing this to my attention.

    • J Harlan

      The “Big Push” is a bad idea regardless of superior ISAF firepower. How is killing a dozen civilians on day one, driving hundreds or perhaps thousands of locals from their homes and fields while setting the stage for the empty dwellings to be looted by the ANSF working toward any sensible goal?

      If Afghan government and their ISAF civilian counterparts aren’t up to it why would you launch the offensive in such a highly publicized way? If the development surge isn’t going to follow on what was the purpose of “taking” Marjan? To be seen to be doing something?

      Why would you make a big deal of using two brigades of highly equipped troops and at least two air wings to take out maybe one light infantry rifle company? Doesn’t this send the message that the Taliban are a foe to be reckoned with? Economy of Force used to be a principle of war.

      My fear is that this op will fizzle and we’ll be back at square one in four months with more folks siding with the Taliban than when we started.

    • Very interesting. Recent analysis reports from the Iraq surge indicate that one of the critical factors for success was close cooperation between the CIA Special Activities Division, Special Forces (Army), and military intelligence (all branches). It sounds like we’re starting to work out the kinks in Afghanistan with inter-service politics.

    • [...] US, Afghan, British, Canadian, Estonian, and Danish forces launch a new offensive in Afghanistan to pacify Marjah, a Taliban hot-spot in the Helmand Province. Read commentary on the operation here and here. [...]

    • This article has been linked to in Frontier Outlook: http://www.frontieroutlook.com/?p=221

    • Another Chim Chim

      Baba Tim, You know as well as I do that when all the kids on the proverbial playground get together they are not playing for the same orchestrated reasons… God Bless the Marines!! ( and yes I did use the concept of a deity to all those atheists of the national socialist party). If it were not for this action, the majority of efforts (if you can call it that) this winter would have been for not. Baba, remember the idea that we had kicked around at the TAJ while drinking outstanding German beers, regarding bringing in contractors (because they seem to be the ones with nutz to do the job) into environments such as what Marjah will be in a week to 10 days, to go out into the community and implement local, systematic, integrated development plans? You know the type of mission that ‘old school’ US Army SF types used to do.. as compared to the current mission of DA/ door kicking and shooting warning shots with suppressed M-4′s who don’t even set in a an Afghan security element outside their objective? I digress. At the request of a couple, I put together a bemoaned and worthless “Quad Chart” outlining what capabilities should exist with such a contractor development team and the ‘chart’ probably ended up in the shitter somewhere. Regardless, THIS would be THE time for implementing the idea as you presented based upon the East Indies Trading Company model… It’s just a thought. I had the pleasure of meeting Gen Nicholson about a month ago when I happened upon a spartan, Marine outpost in Nawa south of the “British held area” of Lashka Gar. I wish them all the success possible. I can only hope that they had pre-positioned snipers on the RAT lines in order to send those ‘fierce’, fleeing, Taliban fighters to their illusionary reward via the match grade rounds of a .308 preferably in the backs of their heads as they scurried away in fear. Oh yeah, that wouldn’t be politically correct, would it?

    • chim chim

      Another Chim Chim, the time is here brother. Beer talk is in action……

    • Another Chim Chim: I don’t want to debate you or anything, but I just want to point out that at least THIS atheist has no problem with the phrase “God bless” anything. Nor do I have a problem with putting a round in a terrorist/Taliban/what-have-you’s skull.

      So yes, God bless the Marines.

    • Bilbo Baggins

      Tim,

      You are indeed a Marine and your writing and opinions expressed reflect a great pride for their efforts. However, I think you might be a tad bit harsh on the Stryker Brigade who has the thankless mission of securing Hwy 1 and 4 along with our Canadian brethren of Task Force Kandahar. They do the COIN fight a tad bit differently, but they are also fighting on a different piece of terrain than the 2nd MEB. Also, don’t forget the UK troops who were getting hammered as they exited their FOBs this past summer in central and northern Helmand so no one has the “textbook” answer. Even the 2nd MEB took a their share of casualities from IEDs this past summer and unfortunately will continue to as they battle the Taliban for the forseeable future.

      Also, the Battle for Marjeh has been long in the making and one of the many reasons it didn’t happen sooner was the Marines didn’t want to mess up the rotation schedule and our beloved allies the Afghans were taking their sweet a$$ time about getting troops committed to the fight. No worries though Marjeh will soon be in the hands of the coalition in the coming days and the “legitimate” Afghans will get their turn at governance. I am skeptical the Afghans security forces will do an adequate job. The ANP are scum and the ANA are lazy so not a good combination when trying to win the ‘hearts and minds’, but like I have said numerous times winning in modern times is about perception. We don’t need to hold ground for long because in four months most people will have forgotten about Marjeh except the residents who live there who will still grow their poppies and still sell their opium in the local bazaar. The ANP and the district government officials will continue to take their cut as these drugs continue to flow into Pakistan (Karachi) and onto Europe and even America. The mess that is Afhganistan is long from over and this seizure of Marjeh will do little to defeat or neutralize the Taliban. They will surely displace, regroup, refit, rearm, and counter-attack us somewhere else in Helmand and Kandahar Province. There aren’t enough Afghan and American forces to hold those two provinces adequately. You would have to empty every headquarters and FOB… which ain’t gonna happen…

      Anyway, Semper Fidelis brother. Baba Tim….your beloved Marines deserve this momentary fame during this most recent chapter of the war. God speed and fair winds for them all.

    • Another Chim Chim

      Graham, Are you sure that you are atheist? You could be agnostic. We ALL find God when arty rounds are ‘danger close’ or when you are hearing more zips than you are gunfire…

      It should be interesting if the Marines are ‘allowed’ to put the kabbosh on the poppies as well as the TB’s and what the national and international backlash becomes. If there is no affect on the industry then we can go ahead and start assuming that some conspiracies may be more truth than fiction. If this is the case, you might as well expect a BIG diversion to occur…. We could probably solve ALL of this by dropping JDAMs on the Islamabad ISI headquarters building around 1000hrs Mon-Thur…I’m just saying..

      • AChCh: Maman!

        “We could probably solve ALL of this by dropping JDAMs on the Islamabad ISI headquarters building around 1000hrs Mon-ThurI’m just saying..”

        I’ve been saying the same thing since 1998. It’s either that or send in a couple of Chesty Puller (Nicaragua 1928-1932) style Marines with drum-fed Thompsons and Colt Peacemakers.

        OR
        BOTH,
        R

    • Bilbo Baggins

      Poppies are THE source of revenue for the indentured farmer of central Helmand. U.S. and other aid will not subsidize (adequately) what these farmers would make if they turn to an alternative crop. Also, the amount of illegal revenue this generates for not only the Taliban but people like President Karazai’s brother in Kandahar is not going to be replaced by pomegranates, raisins, or wheat! Plus, the drug lords had such banner crops the past three years there is some estimates that put their surplus opium stocks at two to three years. For these turds the push into central Helmand is good business, demand stays steady but the prices will have to go up since production is impeded. It’s simple business for them, plus they’re banking on no more than one to two (on the outside) years of coalition presence in Helmand then it is game on

      POTUS has already announced troops will start coming home 2012, so if I am the drug lord (not the low-level guy actually in Marjeh) but the one living in Kabul, Karachi, or in one of the Gulf States I am not too concerned. Let the U.S. and others waste millions in alternative crops while the demand for heroin in Europe and USA stays steady then once their military forces withdraw I return and start business again. Some sort of low-level production will continue in the foreseeable future and more interestingly will be President Karazai’s appointment as district police chief and mayor for Nad Ali. I am guessing his boy ARJ will get the position in some capacity, and he will be more than happy to take back the opium production that was once his when he was district police chief. Ahhthe dirty and inept politics that are Afghanistan.

      I am all for bombing targets inside Pakistan. I would start in Bajaur and work my way south into Baluchistan. I would give the boys some needed time off from dodging IEDs and let the USAF and USN take a whack at them from the skies. I would give a months pay to see a bombing mission conducted on the Haqqani Madrassa in Miram Shah. It’s a den of evil where beheadings, kidnappings, and coordination for attacks against American forces happens with impunity. Heck, the Pakistan military is garrisoned less than a mile down the road. How’s that for allies and friends!!

      Anyway, let’s not lose focus right now the success story is Marjeh so let it be for now and by this summer most Americans will be like Marjeh, what the heck is that? Just like you would be hard pressed to find too many Americans outside the military who could explain what Fallujah was to the Marines and soldiers in 2004.

    • John Ryan

      what % of the Afghan National Army forces in this operation even speak Pashto ? aren’t they almost all Tajik ? So far from news reports there has been 27 “insurgents” killed ( no weapons recovered reports) 17 civiies and reports that yesterday the advance was 500 yards. Just before our troops start coming home the Taliban will be defeated/renamed “social conservatives and will form part of a government of reconciliation/coalition.

    • The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 02/17/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

    • Was speaking with Dad again today and he had another peach of a story. This involving 7 PARA RHA (Royal Horse Artillery) and their 105mm pack howitzers.

      Originally designed to be carried by mules and break down into 20 bits but 7 PARA RHA used to jump with them on a regular basis and then carry them to contact. The thing breaks into 20 odd pieces and they dumped the shield. The worst peice was the barrel which was carried by 4 lads slung between them on toggle ropes.

      On that basis, everyone else had to jump with 2 mortar bombs and 2 105mm shells as well as their own kit. The picture of the gun in action is here (http://www.militaryimages.net/photopost/data/665/105pack.jpg). Ignore the shield and you’ll get a good idea of what 7 PARA RHA used to use in places like Aden and Borneo.

    • John Ryan

      1 week on since the battle began/was won After training 100,000 ANA it seems that all that can show up are about 400

    • Bilbo Baggins

      This blog as well as many others speak to the math used to count ANA troops. The figures are obviously inflated to meet the political needs necessary at the moment they’re quoted, so it is a fair question why so few Afghan forces involved in Operation Moshtarak? The bigger, yet to be seen, challenge will be holding Marjeh once the Taliban have routed….how will the ANA/ANP hold-up against the returning Taliban? Which side will the local populace fall in with…will they have a choice? I am less than hopeful the Afghans can pull this off longterm by themselves and 18 months is not enough time to build a credible security force to stave off the likes of the Taliban…but the POTUS has set his deadline. I am not opposed to pulling out we long ago decided Afghanistan’s fate when we changed the main effort from there to Iraq in late Fall 2002. Now we’re acting like this problem just sprang up over night…not true at all. The economy of force used to free up a BCT in RC-South for use in Iraq left a huge void with regards to unity of effort and unity of command in RC-South. Now we’re paying the bill for this decision as RC-South remains disjointed to say the least. The surge this summer will do a lot for the perception machine and I am certain will see ‘benchmarks’ in the so-called counter-insurgency campaign just as we did in 2008 in Iraq.

      However, take a look at Iraq and see how little interest is given that war now by the MSM…good luck finding any information on the frontpages. The once crown jewel of the COIN campaign there — Anbar Province is seeing a recent rise in sectarian violence over the past several months. The “insurgency” is long from over there….unfortunately most Americans (to include our political leaders) know about it. Guess what? Many of the same tactics like paying the enemy not to shoot at us (called Community Defense Initiatives) are being applied ini Afghanistan as they were in Iraq. Bottom line, you cannot create a stable and SECURE state in one or even two US Presidential administrations. There is no precedence of this happening anywhere in history….sorry, I just don’t see longterm STABILITY and SECURITY for Afghanistan on this current course.

    • J Harlan

      Why are there so few ANA? Probably because

      1) there are far fewer ANA than NATO says- more ghost soldiers, perpetual recruits, deserters etc.
      2) the ones they have are often more trouble than they’re worth- divided loyalties, poor motivation, poor training and drug use etc
      3) ANA training has not gone as well as NATO would like to pretend
      4) ANA commanders are happy to keep their largely non-Pashtun units and themselves in garrison to “train” and
      5) some troops have no interest in going to Helmand and would refuse to go if ordered.

      That’s how you get ~ one battalion from an army fighting for the security of it’s own country in the “biggest operation since 2001″ designed to “break the back of the insurgency”

    • Bilbo Baggins

      J Harlan,

      As I was leaving Afghanistan last December Afghan troops were being flown through Kandahar to one of the main UK bases in Helmand. I would estimate about a battalion’s worth of soldiers. Sadly, I heard (unconfirmed) that many of these troops were thrown together as “volunteers” as there was disagreement within the ANA senior ranks about participating in Operation Moshtarak. You’re spot on brother there is no nationalism within Afghanistan. In my time over there across several years I rarely got the sense that anyone from the ANP, ANA, now defunct ANSF, NDS, or others within the MoD or MoI had any sense of national pride or concern for greater Afghanistan. This is something you didn’t see in Iraq, although the split between Shia and Sunni is great there was and is a great sense of Iraqi pride among the people of that country (although I will leave the discussion about the Kurds for later :))

      Anyway, like I’ve said before success is perception. Operation Moshtarak will be touted as a success. It will temporarily dislodge the Taliban from that area. However, the greatest challenge remains whish is replacing the security and economic stability the Taliban governed during the past five or more years. I am not fan of the Taliban as they are simple thugs but the local farmers will need to make money from this year’s opium harvest, so let’s wait and see what GEN McChrystal decides to do about the poppy. By the way, any legitimate proposals that we buy the poppy and use it for legitimate purposes has already been proposed. India is the leading provider of commercial poppy for morphine production and there is simply no legitimate demand for more poppy, at least not at the rates the farmers were getting from the drug trade. So, the only clear is subsidizing them monetarily. How long you think our government will continue to spend millions of dollars on subsidizing poppy farmers in central Helmand? My guess is until 2012.

      Oh yeah, the rough estimates on converting to an alternative crop that yields the same value as poppy was around 10 years. Does anyone really think the US government will be spending large amounts of money on Afghanistan in 10 years? I am doubtful that will happen, so again we’ve got a nice short term success story here but long term no fix to the actual problem of the so-called “insurgency”….

    • Bilbo, I think you owe somebody in CENTCOM a months pay…

      http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/02/us_airstrikes_target.php

      ===

      It’s my opinion that Afghanistan’s current prospective fate wasn’t “sealed” until the D party took control of both Houses in 2006, and all but buried with the election of our current C-in-C. It seems to me that the answer was never “more” troops and firepower into the logistically challenged A-ghan theater. It was and remains better trained and experienced troops with “proper” ROE’s, longer tours, and permission to conduct hot pursuits deep into the FATA.

      I’m still not entirely convinced that the mini-Linebacker II UAV attacks in the FATA are “the answer” either, at least not by themselves. But they sure are satisfying…

      I’ll never be convinced that the UN knows exactly how much heroine is being produced, stored, sold, or used anywhere at all, ever.

      THE
      DURATION,
      R

    • Bilbo Baggins

      Render,

      I am certain the UN estimates are less than accurate but having spent some time this past late summer and Fall in central Helmand and Kandahar there is no doubt there is a “$h!t ton” of opium being produced and in storage there. The political debates aside, I only wish for a minute I could share with you the political indecisiveness exercised durng the Bush administration to go after senior Al Qaeda in Pakistan during the eight years they owned the White House. I don’t place the blame squarely on the President but I can’t simply put this quandry into Democrat vs. Republican argument. I think the best description I heard of the situation was the “…last administration refused to do anything about it, and the current administration is incapable of doing anything about it…”

      The fact remains the leader of Al Qaeda and his small circle of friends remain safe inside the comforts of our so-called “allies” borders. We have pussy footed around for too long with this issue where you can no longer debate the simple fact there is no real political will to pursue the true enemies of our country. If there were we would have continued military operations into Pakistan a long time ago.

      I do agree with you there is some satififaction in knowing our UAVs and stealth bombers are delivering the “mail” to the enemy who enjoy safe haven inside our “friend’s” house.

    • Bilbo Baggins

      Render,

      I know exactly who to call :) What I would prefer is they level the whole madrassa/mosque/compound of the Haqqani Family in downtown Miram Shah, but this is a great score. Siraj was one of the more nastier of the Haqqani brothers, so his loss will definitely be felt for some time to come. I would counter that you can’t be too harsh on Pres. BHO, he did reinstate the UAV drone strike campaign that Pres. GWB has halted inside Pakistan due to Pakistani government protests.

    • Bilbo B,

      I don’t disagree with the premise that the bulk of the worlds illegal opium crop is coming out of Helmand and is funding at least some of the Talib/al-Q efforts (can’t, I’ve been saying the same thing on line for at least half a decade and its all over my little bloglet), so I think we’re pretty much in agreement there. It’s when they (the UN) start quoting exact numbers that I start laughing at them. The UN’s track record for inaccuracy with statistics speaks all too eloquently for itself. (and wouldn’t it make better sense to ignore the farmers while concentrating on the buyers and the wholesale smugglers after the sale, those most likely to have large stockpiles?)

      I can’t disagree that the W admin was politically indecisive in certain crucial areas either. While OIF I may be one of history’s pre-eminent examples of the combined-arms blitzkrieg (warts and all), the occupation afterwards was a mess in far too many places and for far too long.

      Nor can I disagree with the all too valid point that it isn’t exclusively a D vs. R political issue. More then a few D’s were all in favor of OIF and far too many R’s were against The Surge

      (Oh fer crying out loud, it wasn’t a surge it was a counter-attack that benefited highly from the appearance of the SOI. I really wish folks would stop making up new words for stuff that’s as old as warfare itself.)

      Regards the entire Pak/Afghan theater, I’m open to being proven wrong but I remain under the impression that much of the indecision regarding that theater had/has to do with the bulk of the logistics running through a thoroughly dysfunctional Pakistan and the somewhat more unpalatable alternatives to that shaky MSR (something else that’s all over my little bloglet).

      It’s long been my opinion that we never should have occupied Afghanistan in the first place. We should have occupied Karachi.

      See, I’m one of those guys that wanted us to hang a hard West out of Iraq fifteen minutes after we yanked Saddam out of his spiderhole, marching the entire OIF task force out by way of Damascus and Beirut, clearing a few more spiderholes along the way. I’ve been openly calling for both small and large scale punishment raids into the FATA, including Quetta since at least ’02, and I still consider marching the entire Coalition task force out of Afghanistan via Karachi (a little Puller and a lot of Sherman) as a viable alternative.

      (Corp to the front, the oceans thataway, get going.)

      I knew we were at war in 1998. That same year I literally had an Army Captain scream at me that there was no way a handful of SpecOps types could drive the Talib and their al-Q allies out of A-ghan because this wasn’t some g-damn Rambo movie! He’s a 0-5 now and he doesn’t scream at me anymore.

      I’ve known that it was going to be a long war and a world war since 2001. The fact is politics on our side of the war, on both sides of the aisle, has contributed mightily towards prolonging this war. So I think we agree againthe will to win just hasn’t been there when it always needs to be.

      The current Commander-in-Chief gets his full credit due for the Mini-Linebacker II strikes, for the current surge in other HVT busts, and for allowing the Corp to handle the toughest job. I’m just not sure any of it overshadows his announcing an exit dateyet. Losing Helmand, even part of it for any length of time, can’t help but hurt the Talib. The fact that they really don’t seem to be capable or willing of putting up much of a fight for it beyond imported sniper teams and IED’s says something about their internal state of affairs and that too is to the current Commander-in-Chiefs credit. Unless that UN estimate is even close to accurate, in which case much of this is quite irrelevant.

      SoI think you and I might be agreeing past each other on a bunch of points and, uh, I kinda figured you’d know who to call, that’s why I keep reading you guys.

      WATCHING,
      R

    • dennis

      Something caught my attention today. A pundit comment about the ANAs performance in combat, who rated them poor. OK there not on the level of the Marines or Army.But they need to be involved in the operation.They are are door kickers,are ears to the locals.plus to show there is a government involvement.I think we should not short change them right away like some have.

    • GTH

      Same problems in Iraq (just got back)
      The people that know COIN and want to fight it aren’t allowed to.
      In my unit 1 out of the three platoons in our Infantry company knew what had to be done. Instead we endured many months of, Waiting for the Boom.” Driving out 15mph on major MSR’s at 3 AM. They never let us get to know our OE until the last 3 1/2 months. Even though they held us responsible for QRF in those areas. Up until the last 3 weeks there were many places I had never stepped foot into. Small unit tactics are at the company and platoon level. I know what I am doing….Do they?