Free Range International

Crickets

Crickets as in “I hear nothing but crickets” is the word of the day for Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT 1) based in Camp Dwyer and controlling the southern districts of Helmand Province.  I needed to do a little district level coordination last weekend and was able to catch a ride to Marjah with my good friend Col Dave Furness USMC, the CO of RCT 1.  He was heading there to host a CODEL (congressional delegation) and agreed to let me tag along if I promised to not talk to talk to any congressmen.  That’s an easy promise to keep so once again I got to ride with the Marines across the Dasht-i-Margo (desert of death) and into the fertile Helmand Valley River town of Marjah.  The chances of us getting attacked while en-route?  Zero.  Chances of hitting an IED?  Just about zero.  Crickets – the Taliban have taken the winter off and their stay behind IED teams who are supposed to keep the pressure on with morale and Marine killing IED’s are failing miserably.  Know why?  Because the Marines when faced with tactical problems have turned to tactical solutions.

How cool is this?  The M32 40mm grenade launcher - finally something to replace the M203 which was a dog.  Imagine being a young infantry Marines living the dream and able to walk around with a super high speed low drag weapon which the Taliban have already grown to hate>

How cool is this? The M32 40mm grenade launcher - finally something to replace the M203 which was a dog. Imagine being a young infantry Marine living the dream at the pointy end of the spear and able to walk around with a super high speed low drag weapon. And this is one lethal piece of kit which can shoot 6 well aimed 40mm grenades in 2 seconds. The Taliban learned very quickly not to let Marine infantry get too close to them (which they routinely do anyway) and now when Marine infantry gets within 150 meters they have to contend with dedicated grenadiers who will soon have HELLHOUND and DRACO thermobaric rounds.

Last summer Wired magazine had a pretty good article about the DoD Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) and the cat and mouse game they’re playing with IED attackers.  Given the size and complexity of the American military these guys are operating as fast as one can expect but they are too far removed from the battlefield to help front line infantry deal with IED cells that vary  dramatically in effectiveness and methodology.  As I mentioned in the last post when line troops want to get actionable intelligence the only dependable option is to get it themselves.  Likewise when the Marines need tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) to battle Taliban insurgents the tried and true method is to figure it out on their own and pass on what works to the units coming in behind them.

Remember this photo from last year?

Remember this photo from last year? That is the CO of 2/6, LtCol Kyle Ellison, giving a coin to one of the more exceptional ANP officers. At the time Kyle told him the coin was a token of his appreciation for the professionalism displayed by this officer who is always at his post with his equipment every day without fail.

Look at him today and note the addition to his uniform.  2/6 is long gone - Marjah now belongs to 3/8 but that coin Kyle presented last year means something to this officer and Kyle doesn't pass out many coins which makes the award very special. I was really happy to see this officer again and also see how much he values the coin

Look at him today and note the addition to his uniform (the 2/6 coin attached to his left breast pocket). 2/6 is long gone - Marjah now belongs to 3/9 but that coin Kyle presented last year means something to this officer. I was good to see him again and also see how much he values the coin.

The Taliban learned that they need two obstacles in front of them when they shoot at Marine patrols and the most common obstacle set is a bunch of IED’s buried in choke points in front of a large, deep irrigation ditch.  The Talibs believe that the two obstacles will allow them the 30 or so minutes it takes to get air or rocket delivered ordnance targeting them.  That was a good plan which worked for them during the heavy kinetic fighting around Nawa and Marjah when the Marines first arrived.  But the Marines have been here a while now and seeded this vast AO with little patrol bases.  RC Southwest averages 500 patrols daily and those patrols identify and record every compound identifying if they are occupied and by who which is a moving target as families continue to flow back into the villages.

Every patrol submits a fire plan which includes all on-call firewalls which have been pre-planned by The Coach and the RCT-1 Air Officer shop.  A firewall is fire coordination measure to clear the air space and near space of all obstacles so RCT can fire in HIMAR rockets.  It takes a good 20 minutes to set up a firewall if you are running on the fly.  With preplanned firewalls the squad leader calls for fire support – The Coach sends a text message to the DASC declaring Firewall XYZ in effect, the DASC says “roger that” (unless they have to move assists out of the way which may delay the affirmative a few seconds) and RCT 1 has a firewall.  Knowing if the nominated target is an abandoned or occupied compound speeds up the clearance too which is the whole point of the intensive patrolling and census taking.  Every compound in the AO has an alpha numeric designator and the battalions update their lists daily due to the number of families who are moving back.  What once took 20 minutes can now be done so fast it’s stunning.

Col Dave Furness greeting arriving congress members at the COP in Marjah.  Both Dave and Paul Kennedy - the CO of RCT 6 which was based in Delaram last year are

Col Dave Furness greeting arriving congress members at the COP in Marjah. The delegation is completely jet lagged at this point and would instantly fall asleep if subjected to powerpoint briefs. Day trips like this not only keep them awake and active but become just about the only thing they remember from a weekend visit.

LtCol David Hudspeth,CO of 3/9 with Representative Kathy Castor D-FL in the Marjah bazaar.

LtCol David Hudspeth,CO of 3/9 with Representative Kathy Castor D-FL in the Marjah bazaar during last weekends CODEL. It is really weird that we can take congresswoman out into the ville in Marjah but cannot do the same in Jalalabad or Kabul.

The Marines on the ground still have to contend with the IED’s and the Taliban seed IED’s everywhere which, as you’d imagine does not endear them to the local population.  To cope with the flood of IED’s, most of which function by pressure plates and have very small magnetic signatures called for new tactics and a special tool, which in typical Marine fashion, was designed by a Gunnery Sergeant, fabricated from materials purchased in local bazaars, and paid for out of pocket by the troops. I’m not going to describe the tools or TTP for now because they are effective and need to stay that way as long as possible.

I missed something I really wanted to see on this trip and that was the monthly NCO symposium.  Dave came up with the idea after seeing the turnover between two sister battalions from the 1st Marines 3/1 and 2/1.  3/1 had a strike to find ratio hovering around 90% during their 7 months in theater and 2/1 who is now 5 months into their deployment has pulled out over 400 IED’s at the cost of 2 WIA and 1 KIA. This was due to an uncommonly planned, organized and executed turn over package based on every bit of front specific knowledge 3/1 had gleaned during their tour.  Using the turnover as a template Dave and his staff started a monthly training symposium for the squad and fireteam leaders from all his battalions designed to facilitate cross decking of the best practices and procedures.  I’ll have to wait a month or two before I can get back and attend one of these and man am I looking forward to it.  It’s a great idea to focus time, attention and limited resources on the young leaders.  It is also worth the investment to get them in front of the principal staff members who clear their calls for fire requests and the Regimental Commander who encourages any and all questions and will sit in the classroom all night to answer them.  Face to face is the best way to get things sorted out and with an endeavor as complex as war things need to get sorted out frequently.

The CODEL heads out to the bazaar. There has been more rain over the past three weeks in Helmand Province then there has been over the previous 3 years.  When the congressmen landed one of them asked where the bathrooms were - there are none on this combat outpost just piss tubes inserted into a neutral corner and three wooden boxes with toilet seats bolted on them.  Piss tubes and thunder boxes - things congressmen will not soon forget.

The CODEL heads out to the bazaar. There has been more rain over the past three weeks in Helmand Province then there has been over the previous 3 years. When the congressmen landed one of them asked where the bathrooms were - there are none on this combat outpost just piss tubes inserted into a neutral corner and three wooden boxes with toilet seats bolted on them. Piss tubes and thunder boxes - cheap, effective, and something most congressmen have never seen before or want to see again.

There is hard fighting ahead but I just do not see how the Taliban is going to be able to do jack in the southern Helmand Province.  The Marines treat every foot of ground outside their COP’s as if it contained an IED and yet they figured out how to move and move fast through the mine fields.  The Taliban can’t sow anymore mines than they already are sowing and it wouldn’t matter if they did.  The Taliban can’t train effectively, they can’t improve their rudimentary command and control, they are rarely able to coordinate amongst themselves and they didn’t spend the winter lull learning how to shoot.  They’re guns are old and worn, their ammunition a mix of dodgy 3rd world crap, re-loads, and what they can buy on the black market.  (C.J. Chivers of the New York Times, has been writing extensively about the guns and ammunition used by all side in this conflict and his piece What’s Inside A Taliban Gun Locker is worth a look.)  The Taliban are not going to emerge from their winter off with enhanced capabilities and the Marines will.

The summer fighting season will be here in a matter of weeks.  In RCT 1’s AO the Marines have used the lull in fighting to push out to the fringes of the Green Zone.  There they still occasional gunfights and IED’s continue to take their toll but not that often.  The Marines expand their area of influence while patrolling constantly; the SF guys continue to raid.  Dave told me the HVT raids are a big help and the targeting precise; he’d  be happy to see a lot more (I stand corrected B).  He also told me the raids are coordinated with him so again there seems to be a big shift in not just the ROE but also the TTP.

Nobody is sure what to expect when the poppy harvest is in and the fighting starts again in earnest but I’m predicting the southern Helmand will see limited fighting because the Taliban lack maneuver room, lack good rat lines, and are now isolated from a large percentage of the population.  The fighting this summer is going to be in the north outside Sangin, Musa Quala and Naw Zad.  If the Marines break them up there and the army/ISAF units in Kandahar continue to press the Taliban out of the green zone the villains are in real trouble.  This could be the tipping point but for it to matter countrywide we need the will to hang on and repeat this process in the places like Khost, Paktia and Kunar.  That’s not going to happen but still, giving the Taliban a serious ass whooping right in their front yard like this is a crippling blow.  It’s going to be a real interesting summer but right now the word of the day is crickets.

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    29 comments to Crickets

    • leonid

      still reading, thnx again
      thermobaric 40mm – congrats on this
      anything bigger available for infantry w/ thermobaric rounds?

      • babatim

        There are now thermobaric Hellfire missiles which the Marines use damn near daily during the fighting season but you expect that from air delivered ordnance. Having a 40mm thermobaric – not that is really cool.

    • Echo 2/6 CLIC Chief

      I don’t know what warms the cockles of my heart more – memories of the M32 in action in the Sierra sectors, or seeing that 2/6 Coin still there on his chest.

      • babatim

        That ANP officer was a cut above and I doubt the CO gave out many coins to ANP troopers. I am also pretty sure that he knows like I do that 2/6 was not your average Marine infantry battalion. You guys were good and I’ve been around long enough to recognize that after just a few hours hanging around the battalion CP. I am betting the memories of running the Sierra sectors with an M32 will warm the heart for years to come. That must have been cool and you guys were damn good at it.

    • RJ

      I’d go with the coin, thinking he is a family man with “upwardly mobile dreams” that won’t go away!

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed…

    • B

      Are all the Marines wearing those groin protectors downrange these days?

      • babatim

        I saw a few of the boys with the groin plate but didn’t ask them why they were coming back in use. The number one threat for them are the damn pressure plates and if I had to guess I would say that the groin protector is being worn to protect their Willie Johnson in case they trigger and IED or are near a Marine who does. I know the blast shooting up will lift the groin piece and render it useless but knowing that may not be enough to replace the comfort of having kevlar in front of your nuts. Just a guess mind you but I can’t see why else they would be wearing them.
        Tim

    • B

      I hope that the Taliban are defeated eventually-they’re bad, repulsive people. I do not know if we have the strategic vision to turn Afghanistan into something functional. If we can’t make Detroit functional, what chance do we have in Kandahar? Our ideology is bankrupt, in other words.

      If we win over there, it won’t be because we’re so awesome. It will be due to us holding out long enough to allow the Taliban to make so many mistakes that are even stupider than the mistakes we make, that the population turns away from them and decides we’re marginally better. In other words, what happened in Iraq.

      It’s good to hear that the Marines are doing well, outthinking and outperforming the enemy. On the other hand, that’s kind of to be expected-the enemy are mostly baboons. The thumb on the scale that holds baboons and the best-trained and equipped military in the world plus assorted allies locked in a standoff over a decade? Fill in the blank.

    • Dylan in Canada

      hey Tim…..just a thankyou for some great informative useful stories….take care bro…your work and honest input is refreshing and appreciated

    • ken

      “He was heading there to host a CODEL (congressional delegation) and agreed to let me tag along if I promised to not talk to talk to any congressmen.”

      ROTFLMAO

    • dennis

      Happy to hear things are going well.Hope it’s a sleepy summer.

    • Flybynight

      Good bit of interesting reading mate.
      How is the B&B in J/Bad?

      • babatim

        I no longer live in Jalalabad any longer but the Taj seems to be doing fine. Jalalabad is going right down the shitter though. Hard to believe but true and all the insecurity stems from a feud between the Gov and the Provincial Council

    • leonid

      Any comments on the latest Karzai words on “Nato should stop the war”?

      • babatim

        I think that comment was for domestic consumption. Every time Karzai feels heat from the international community about corruption he acts out like a spoiled child and says stupid things or puts an international in jail or goes into a sulk. I don’t think any of our military or diplomatic leadership pay attention to him when he does that.

    • J Harlan

      This is a three way war. The US and some of NATO fighting the jihadis. “Our” Afghans sometimes fighting the jihadis. “Our” Afghans and “our” contractors robbing us blind.

      Karzai has to balance between the US and Taliban and seeing the writing on the wall is slowly sliding a bit toward the insurgents.

    • MoM

      Thank you for this story … someone I love is over there … I got to see him in your pictures … love that there are “crickets” and it was so nice to see his face in the pictures.

      God bless all of our men and women in the service

    • mark

      Be at the Taj in April………Not good to hear about it going bad over there. Up north things are getting worse, but still nothing like the south….Good reading

      • anan

        Mark, sorry to correct you. But Lashkar Gah is now safer for civilians than Jalalabad, and not for the right reasons. 🙁

        In fact security in the central Helmand Valley is being taken over by Governor Mangal and 3-215 ANA bde commanding Sherin Shah. Karzai isn’t taking any chances on the first security transition in southern Afghanistan going badly. Hence he is tying down the best ANSF brigade and arguably the best brigade commander in the south.

        Baba Tim, know you can’t share OP details. But where do you think the Brits, Danes and Estonians should move out to as they thin in Sherin Shah’s AO? How do locals regard Sherin Shah? How do they view his past connections with the Northern Alliance?

        J Harlan, love you man . . . but you are way oversimplifying things! Other than the fact that some Afghans on the GIRoA’s and ISAF’s side are robbing all of us blind. :LOL:

        Large parts of the ANSF are really into killing Taliban [NDS, 203 ANA Corps, 3-215 ANA, 1-209 ANA, 3-111 ANA, some parts of 205th ANA Corps] for reasons that aren’t related to ISAF. Large parts of the ANSF are dysfunctional. Large parts of the Taliban are dysfunctional. Large parts of the Taliban are really into the fight. Large parts of the Taliban, GIRoA, ANSF, are into ripping everyone off. These categories are not mutually exclusive.

        Baba Tim, I think you understate the seriousness of Karzai making bizarre comments. Notice how he insulted the Russians right after the Russians offered him another $500 million in grants. If Karzai would just play his cards right, he could probably extract billions of dollars in additional grants from Russia, India, China and Turkey. Including maybe a real air force.

        leonid, Karzai both wants NATO to stop fighting the war, and to actually fight the war. Karzai also calls for invading Pakistan, and actually taking the fight to the enemy instead of being all ISAF [I sat at the FOB] [I suck at fighting.]

        “agreed to let me tag along if I promised to not talk to talk to any congressmen” Where the CODEL actually interested in Afghanistan? I mean when they weren’t taking photo ops.

        B, Afghans have their own ideas on education, business development, security and success. They also have their own mature media and know about the economic miracle in India and China. Afghans have been having success in most of Afghanistan. Kabul has exploded from 500 K people in 2001 to 4 or 5 million people today. Annual real GDP growth rates in Afghanistan since 2001 has averaged around 12%/year.

    • anan

      Tim, love you man . . . but some people are starting to call you a Marine Recruitment Poster. I keep defending you. But part of the reason why you get this label is quotes like these:
      “This could be the tipping point but for it to matter countrywide we need the will to hang on and repeat this process in the places like Khost, Paktia and Kunar. That’s not going to happen but still, giving the Taliban a serious ass whooping right in their front yard like this is a crippling blow.”

      Khost is home to 1-203 ANA bde [the best brigade of the best ANA Corps], decent ANP, and a good governor in Naeemi. Plus Colonel Viet Luong’s Rakkasans did a bang up job.

      Khost is one of the provinces where the ANSF/ISAF/GIRoA is defeating the Taliban. And this is a view shared by many tribal leaders, 203 ANA soldiers, ISAF, UNAMA, NGOs, local Afghans. What makes the success in Khost more remarkable is that it is partly ANSF/GIRoA lead, whereas think you would agree that Helmand’s and Kandahar’s success is more ISAF lead.

      When you consider that the enemy in Khost is arguably the most capable on either side of the Durand, and arguably the most international [with Ilyas Kashmiri/LeJ/Bde 313/Bde 095, LeT, TTP, TNSM, IJU all playing large roles], this success is even more remarkable. Suspect that Gen Keane meant Khost when he described a Taliban unit with 75% Pakistani officers.

      1-203 bde also covers Paktia in addition to Khost. While progress in Paktia seems slower than in Khost, the Taliban are still losing in Paktia.

      In no other place in Afghanistan, based on what I can observe, is “embedded partnering” and “combined partnership” better practiced. No other ANA Corps to my knowledge has headquarters, planning, intelligence, other Corps enablers, and a Corps training battalion to 203rd’s level. The Rakkasans also won the respect of their 203 ANA colleagues and visa versa.

      This level of comradery, mutual respect, mutual understanding has not yet been achieved between the ANP, ANA, and ISAF almost anywhere else in Afghanistan.

      All of this has been achieved with a far smaller ratio of ISAF, ANA and ANP assets to population in Khost/Paktia compared with Helmand.

      As Harlan correctly points out, while the success in Helmand is real, it has required an enormous ratio of ISAF assets, ANA, ANP, and GIRoA relative to Helmand’s population and area.

      For example, Helmand has arguably the best ANSF bde in the south with 4 combat infantry battalions for central Helmand Valley. This is as much as Paktia and Khost put together. Not to mention, 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps commanding officer, Brigadier General Abdul Wasea’s 4 combat infantry battalions in Northern Helmand and Nimruz. 1-2-215 and 6-2-215 operate from Delaram with one Georgian combat battalion. [Georgians also have some companies near Sangin]
      http://waronterrornews.typepad.com/home/2011/03/delaram-1-opens-ana-increases-autonomy.html
      1-215 bde also probably has 4 combat infantry battalions in Helmand. If the ANA resourced Afghanistan the way they resourced Helmand, the ANA would need to be 400 thousand strong. Add the AUP, 2 ANCOP combat battalions, and Governor Mangal. Combine them with more than 15 K Marines, 9 K Brits, 1 K Danes, 300 Estonians, Bahrainis, UAE, massive ISAF per capita foreign aid, Indian economic development teams, is it any wonder that Helmand is going well? Just imagine how successful Paktia and Khost would be if they got a fraction of Helmand’s resources.

      Where you are correct is the North East. Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan are falling apart. Trouble in Baghlan and Logar [which is now covered by 4-203 ANA bde, which is why Paktia and Khost are under resourced.] Trouble with 201st ANA Corps. Although 2-201 ANA is making progress, including in Kunar and FOB Blessing.

      On an unrelated note, Tim, can you share your thoughts on Governor Mangal? He seems pretty popular in Lashkar Gah and central Helmand Valley. But how about in southern Helmand, Marjah, Delaram, Sangin, Khajaki, Musa Quala and Naw Zad?
      Thanks for everything Tim. Stay safe and help the Afghans surprise all of us.

      • babatim

        Anan, I have two limitations; the first being that is I have exceptional access to the Marines because I personally know the senior commanders and am also doing projects in their AO. The second is I have no connections and little interest in the Southeast. I must rely on open source reporting and the news on Khost is not good. The incident rate went up by 50% last week and a review of reported incidents finds things you never see in the south. The Taliban never attacks Marine vehicles with SAF. The Taliban do not attack Marine outposts because it is too painful for them to do so. The Taliban target Marine vehicles with IED’s and fire on Marine foot patrols (from a long way away) and those tactics indicate to me the Marines have achieved moral supremacy which they won by kicking the shit out the Taliban.

        Look at this list of open source incidents from last week you never see things like complex attacks on ANA CP’s in Helmand because all Helmand CP’s have Marines in them too. The days when the villains even thought of attacking a Marine based ended months ago but they attack IM bases in Khost on a routine basis.

        07 Mar / IED attack on ANP vehicle in Khost
        07 Mar / IED attack on IM convoy in Sabari
        07 Mar / IED discovery in Tere Zayi
        07 Mar / Two IED discoveries in Sabari
        07 Mar / CPX attack on ABP CP in Tere Zayi
        07 Mar / SAF attack on IM convoy in Sabari
        08 Mar / CPX attack on IM / ANSF convoy in Sabari
        08 Mar / Two CPX attacks on IM / ANA bases in Bak (one IM soldier injured)
        08 Mar / IED discovery in Khost
        08 Mar / Two IED discoveries in Tere Zayi
        08 Mar / Rocket attack on IM convoy in Khost
        09 Mar / Rocket attack on IM patrol in Khost
        09 Mar / Rocket attack on ABP CP in Tere Zayi
        09 Mar / IED attack on ANP vehicle in Khost
        09 Mar / CPX attack on ANSF CP in Qalandar
        10 Mar / SAF attack on ANA CP in Sabari
        10 Mar / IED attack on ANA vehicle in Khost (one ANA injured)
        10 Mar / IED attack on IM / ANSF troops in Sabari
        11 Mar / IED explosion near to ANP officer’s house in Mando Zayi
        11 Mar / IED discovery in Gurbuz
        11 Mar / IED discovery in Sabari
        11 Mar / IED discovery in Nadir Shah Kot
        11 Mar / SAF attack on DAC in Spera
        11 Mar / Rocket attack on IM Base in Khost
        11 Mar / Rocket attack on IM base in Nadir Shah Kot
        11 Mar / Rocket attack on ABP base in Tere Zayi
        12 Mar / Rocket attack on ANP CP in Khost
        12 Mar / IED explosion in Mando Zayi
        12 Mar / IED discovery in Gurbuz
        12 Mar / IED discovery in Mando Zayi
        12 Mar / IED discovery in Nadir Shah Kot
        13 Mar / IED discovery in Gurbuz
        13 Mar / SAF attack on IM convoy in Sabari

        It is good to hear of your confidence in the 1-203 Brigade but you cannot ignore the pernicious effect of the Karzi regime on all aspects of Afghan national life. The 1-203 may well be good but if they became a really great force how long would it be before the very government they were developed to protect dismantles them?

    • J Harlan

      Anan: Please save your love for someone else.

      “As Harlan correctly points out, while the success in Helmand is real, it has required an enormous ratio of ISAF assets, ANA, ANP, and GIRoA relative to Helmand’s population and area.”

      I’ve never said the success in Helmand is “real”. My position is that Helmand isn’t a security concern to the US or UK worth the billions being spent and that the ~ $30 billion NATO will spend there up front this year is actually weakening us. Helmand is the best example of institutional and personal desires trumping common sense and any sort of “strategic analysis”.

      The British wanted their own province, got it, flubbed it and needed rescue. The USMC wanted its own RC and got it. None of the pols want to be accused of being weak so we pour resources into Helmand.

      Why would the US spend $20 billion per year in Helmand instead of fixing Detroit or Cleveland? Although played out over more time doesn’t this whole business seem a bit like Hamburger Hill? Any victory in Helmand will be Pyrrhic.

    • RJ

      Having watched a television interview with your dear Princeton Patraeus today, I am amazed anyone still believes in “victory” for our war inside Afghanistan: You define what is meant by victory.

      Me, I want another seat to watch these “oh so beautiful” icebergs coming into view…

      Meanwhile, tough guy, major metrosexual Obama-Mao has told his personal tailor to get ready his new and improved “commander in chief” war fighting uniform…we’re going to liberate Libya from that mean and nasty Col. From Bill Clinton’s playbook, we’ll use our air force. However, this weekend it’s party in Rio for those working with the boss…

      Kenny Rogers knew “when to fold’em” …so should we! How many MRAPs will we leave behind?

    • Tim, great to hear that the Marines are doing business the way that they are. Sounds like coordinated handovers (previously a huge weakness for all coalition units) are working quite well. I’d love to see how they format their information and transfer it.

      On a related note; what did you see of the government line ministries in Marjah? One of the reasons that Marjah fell behind the expected timetable was the lag in getting governance established… and I don’t just mean the ANP. Were you able to get any read on how GIRoA is doing at providing basic administration at the local level and how the locals are responding to it? Families returning is a very strong indicator of the overall impact. Some would say the ultimate indicator; but I’m wondering what your thoughts are on local governance issue.

    • babatim

      Hey Blue – really great to hear from you and you ask (as I would expect) the million dollar question. The answer is less than encouraging. The District Governor is solid as is the ANP chief of police and that’s it. As you know the “government in a box” was and still is a dismal failure. The only reason things are going well now has nothing to do with Kabul and everything to do with the security and money the Marines, State and AID are lavishing on the district. To compound the bad news the senior tribal and clan leaders remain, for the most part, in Lashkar Gah and out of the fight so those Afghans who stepped up to fill the power vacuum will be swept aside the minute ISAF pulls out.

      It is most gratifying to see the Marines use aggressive small unit tactics to kick the stuffing out of the scum bag Taliban. But as I try to point out time and again in the blog we cannot translate localized military success into total mission success because our partner in Kabul is too corrupt, unreliable, and morally bankrupt. And our Commander in Chief remains unable to articulate a coherent mission, define a reasonable endstate, or show interest in anything other than playing golf or going on ESPN to lecture us on the NCAA basketball tournament.

      My thoughts on local government are simple – it will take guys like you a generation of sustained commitment to develop anything remotely approaching functional local, regional, and national institutions of governance. I know you have the heart and talent to do it but I doubt our fellow countrymen have the money or patience for such a sustained commitment.

    • jwest

      1. Babatim’s last paragraph: “My thoughts on local government…generation of sustained commitment…doubt our fellow countrymen have the money or patience….”
      2. What I have been saying here and elsewhere for the last four years. Perfect summation.
      3. The proof of a person’s intelligence and wisdom is the extent he agrees with you.
      4. Given your personal investment in the issue, really wish you felt differently.
      5. Watching another generation’s military efforts and sacrifices being dumped in the trash can of history is no pleasure. The can was mostly filled during my generation’s watch.
      6. Want to be wrong on this one.
      V/R JWest

    • Hamayoun Shirzai

      Dear Baba Tim,
      I personally appreciate your talents, knowledge and outstanding ability of your work.