visitors since 4 oct 2008

Stuck in Kabul

We are finishing up our projects and preparing to call it a war. This year we have had our biggest success to date; operating in over 20 Provinces, all of them kinetic and getting every project we started finished on schedule and on budget.   I now routinely move in Ghost Team mode throughout the Southwest using a few tricks of the trade that I’ll write about in the future.   The only way we do what we do is because our Afghan staff is awesome and the key positions in my region are held by men I’ve known for years. We have been successful where every other implementer have failed because we (the expat project managers) visit every project, track all expenditures, and use technology to GPS/time/date the photographs sent in daily by our monitoring crew.  We have been doing infrastructure projects for so long that we no longer have to haggle over cement or gravel or steel prices in the local bazaars.

Being successful in the places we worked has probably raising expectations of the average local citizen far above what is reasonable. Operating with low overhead, no security company to impede our operations while we directly implement projects in areas thought to be too unstable means very little in the big scheme of things.  The entire edifice on which the ISAF Afghanistan counterinsurgency campaign is based is built on a foundation of lies.   The central government in Kabul in not functional now and will not be anytime soon.  The thought that Kabul based or appointed government line ministries have the ability to project authority down to the district level in a Province like Helmand is not a proposition that any knowledgeable person would believe credible.

The ability of modern western armies to train and mentor Afghan security forces is almost zero.   The western militaries insist that their troops have a certain amount of protection and access to unlimited quantities of high quality western food flown into the country at God only knows what cost.   In order to achieve this base line goal the western military has based itself on FOB’s that are physically separated from the forces they are mentoring. That adds to the psychological separation that all westerners have to deal with when they choose to reside in countries like Afghanistan. It also subtracts from their ability to win friends or influence the men they have been sent to train.

Did you know there were crabs in the irrigation canals of Afghanistan?  Me either.

Did you know there were crabs in the irrigation canals of Afghanistan? Me either.

The only exception to this deployment pattern have been the Marines in Helmand where the Regimental Combat Teams are deployed in small units up and down the green zone and where they live with their Afghan counterparts.  The RCT’s also provide aircraft for leave rotations, provide all the logistical support and essentially run the ANA units attached to them.   There are probably other places where ISAF units are doing this too but I haven’t seen it and I do get around.

Marines engaging in a little physio on PB 302 (the article is linked above) Photo by Brennan Linsley

Marines engaging in a little physio on PB 302 (the article is linked above) Photo by Brennan Linsley

The inability of the Government in Kabul to protect their city was  on display during the attack in Kabul on the 13th of the month.  When the attack from Abul Haq Square started at I was skyping with The Bot who was in his office and that’s close to the building from which the Taliban were launching their main attack.   He reported firefights breaking out in a 2-kilometer circle around him.  I told him it sounded like the Tet offensive and he might want to think about heading down to the bunker but he wouldn’t budge and it turned out to be nothing of the sort anyway.   At Abul Haq Square six guys had rolled up to a building under construction in a Toyota van, exited the van with nothing on them but a pistol and shot the security guard stationed in front of their target building.   The building had been under construction in 2007 and has been dormant since then after construction was ordered to stop because (reportedly this kind of info is hard to confirm) from the upper floors there was direct line of sight into the Presidential compound.   There are probably 10 buildings now in Kabul tall enough and close enough for line of sight direct fire into the Presidential compound.   TIA

I lifted this out of The Bot's incident report

I lifted this out of The Bot’s incident report

So the villains run upstairs where they have a stash consisting of 5 AK 47′s, a 82mm (Type 65) Recoilless Rifle, two RPG launchers (with a bunch of rounds for all) and an unknown number of Russian F1 fragmentation grenades.   From their pre-staged sniper nest they had direct line of sight to the US embassy and ISAF HQ compounds which were almost exactly 1000 meters away.   As soon as they are set up inside the building they started cutting loose with the Recoilless Rifle. The AK’s and hand grenades were used on the ANP troops who came in the building after them.   This is important to remember; the max effective range of a type 65 Recoilless Rifle is around 1750 meters, for an AK 47 about 400, which is probably about the best you can do with the American M4′s given their shorter barrels.   Here’s the timeline:

1320 – 6 fighters (Haqqani type) start the attack

1415 – The critical response unit arrives with their ISAF mentors.

1500 Two 82mm shells hit USAID compound.

1515 – The ANP shoot a suspected suicide bomber outside the ANCOP HQ but he detonates against an ANCOP HMMVW wounding two of the cops.

1535 A suicide bomber detonates at the rear entrance of the Shamshod Regional Police HQ killing one ANP officer and wounding three civilians who were in the immediate vicinity.

1540 ANP officers shoot a suspected suicide bomber and he fails to detonate because he was carrying a large charge in a sports bag and that allowed the security forces to examine the bomb.   It contained 7 kg of military grade explosives and was loaded with nails to provide fragmentation.   The bag also contained one F1 hand grenade and an AK rifle.

1610 The villains launch two more 82mm rounds at the embassy but they overshoot and land around the main mosque in Wazir Akbar Khan.

1930 Some sort of SF team from ISAF makes an assault and the villains respond with a shower of hand grenades rolled down the stairs.   The SF door kickers kill two of the six bad guys on the fifth floor and then slow down taking the entire rest of the night to kill the remaining four fighters.   The assaulters (whoever they were) did not take any casualties during the clearance phase of the operation.

0700 Incident is declared over.

What was all the firing The Bot was hearing coming from?   I originally thought it was undisciplined fire from Afghan Security Forces who were shooting at ghosts, as there was only one spot in the city with active shooters. Turns out I was wrong.   Most of the shooting The Bot was hearing came from the ISAF Headquarters where the Macedonian guard force joined by Americans from the HQ staff started shooting at a building 1000 meters away with AK 47′s (Macedonians) and M4 rifles (Americans).   What they thought they were doing and where all those rounds impacted is a mystery to me.   I can guarantee that none of them came close to hitting the 6 gunmen who were outside the effective range of ISAF battle rifles.  Apparently the shooting from the ISAF HQ lasted over two hours and only stopped when they ran out of ammo (there is no ammo storage/issue point at the ISAF HQ base.)   There is already a YouTube video of this posted on line but I can’t access it on the system I’m on and have not seen it myself.

Despite the wild fire from the ISAF troops overall this incident was handled pretty well.   Two of the three suicide bombers were shot before they could strike and the focal point of the incident was isolated and contained rapidly.   Most importantly the door kickers took their time rooting out the villains who, as is typical for Taliban fighters, did not fight with any skill or determination despite achieving complete surprise and being prepared to fight to the death.

This is a view of the Recoiies Rife firing position

This is a view of the Recoilless Rife firing position

The subsequent assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani is something on which I’ll withhold comment.    I knew Rabbani’s deceased son-in law very well and have no desire to share my opinions on this matter except for two:   That was one well planned and executed operation that reveals a skill set we in the west no longer have.   And seeing Ambassador Crocker accuse the Pakistani’s of collusion in the attack was a refreshingly honest public statement from a senior diplomat.

The longer I stay in Afghanistan the more I learn that I really don’t know or understand much about this tragic land.   But I understand this: we have based our campaign on a lie and that lie is that we have a viable, legitimate, capable host nation government.

Blind support of GIRoA is not a mission, but an abdication of the imperative of paying attention to reality when you define a mission.  The American military has a counterinsurgency doctrine, which is based on supporting the local government, and they are not going to tailor their operations to fit reality despite the fact we have no legitimate host nation partner.   The six fighters who launched the main attack obviously had staged thousands of pounds worth of weapons and ordnance inside Kabul’s Ring of Steel and that could only be done with the active assistance of Afghan Security Forces. Corruption in this country is that bad.

Richard Fernandez of The Belmount Club posted today about the consequences of building edifices on the foundation of a lie.  This quote from the post lays it out beautifully:

But just as the appeasers have now about abolished the last remaining justification for national self defense and as the Left continued to operate on the Western side of the Berlin Wall in the guise of their transnational schemes, nothing in recent history indicates that being correct about an issue settles anything. Being right has nothing to do with politics. It’s what you can sell that counts. The price of keeping those product lines going was on full display on the world markets today. Stocks plunged all over the world, the 10-Year Treasury yields hit their lowest level since 1940s..

Not just because policymakers have gotten it wrong about the root cause of terrorism, or the Euro; but also about Too Big To Fail, population policy, multiculturalism, a crippling environmentalism and Global Warming, to name a few. The financial, national security and educational systems of the world are in utter collapse because they are stuffed with lies, which even when they are shown to be obviously false suck up trillions of dollars in their pursuit. And nothing will turn the global elites from continuing their ruinous path until they have spent the last nickle and dime they can lay their hands on.

There is little that will be done to change the tragic trajectory of Afghanistan.   We blew it years ago by ignoring the obvious and assuming that somehow we could midwife the birth of Afghanistan into the family of modernity.   Thus we have a gigantic military presence and that military has assumed all sorts of roles and missions they cannot accomplish by VTC meeting, endless closed loop reporting and chin wagging about good governance or women’s rights among themselves inside the safety of a FOB. Afghanistan is not going to end well and we may not know (in my lifetime) if the investment of blood and treasure was worth it.   But it is not Afghanistan that worries me it is the consequences of basing everything we do on lies.

This cool old walled fort marks the start of a minefield at the tail end of a massive irrigation project.  What are the chances that after spending billions on de-mining capacity that this thing could be cleared to allow us to finish our work?  Zero

This cool old walled fort marks the start of a minefield at the tail end of a massive irrigation project. What are the chances that after spending billions on de-mining capacity that this thing could be cleared to allow us to finish our work? Zero

The resolute reluctance by the American government to deal with reality in Afghanistan is not the exception to a rule; it is the rule.   I remember vividly the first time I experienced it in the military.   Former Commandant of the Marine Crops General Krulak was the Commanding General in Quantico when I was an instructor at The Basic School.   There was a new class on deck and the General had come to welcome them on day one of their 6-month course.  The first thing he asked was who here thinks that a female is incapable of doing anything and everything a man can do?   I almost had a heart attack when I saw some of my new Lt’s preparing to state the obvious there is no way the female gender of the species can physically compete with the male gender in any endeavor that requires strength, stamina, or endurance.   Fortunately the good General had paused for only a second before concluding with because if you do I’ll dismiss you from our Corps this very afternoon (that may not be an exact quote but it is pretty close).

So on day one of their official Marine Corps careers this group of 300 odd men were exposed to the corruption of the lie.   And for the rest of their careers (those who stayed in are now  Lieutenant Colonels) they have had to deal with an organizational defect built on what they know to be a lie.   And this is just one minor example out of dozens.   This is how you end up with senior officers who will look you straight in the eye and tell you they are here to support GIRoA and they have shown so much promise and improvement that there is no reason to be here after 2014.

What can you say when confronted with such stupidity?   I don’t know   – I know the Helmand Province is unnaturally free of IED’s and SAF attacks this past week.   If that trend keeps up it is safe to deduce that somebody on the Taliban side now understands the lie and have switched tactics in response.     The Taliban once massed hundreds of fighters to go after small outposts in the mountains or the British in Helmand Province.   They can’t do that now without becoming a HIMAR magnet so going to ground, keeping minor pressure on ISAF with IED’s and shoot and scoot attacks while simultaneously running what appears to be a most competent assassination campaign targeting Afghan officials is a good call.   The hit on Rabbani was a most impressive operation and nobody here thinks he’s the last senior government official on the Taliban JPEL.

But again, who cares?   I don’t; I’ve done my bit and am proud of it too despite discovering that the lie has penetrated every nook and cranny of the US Government. My father once served as a General Officer with a NATO headquarters in Norway.   He thought NATO a good idea and enjoyed the tour, but we now know NATO is worthless. It is completely incapable of conducting any meaningful military operation.   Afghanistan proved how gutless, expensive, and incompetent NATO really is but that truth will not see the light of day because it might make our allies feel bad or hurt their self-esteem.   Same-same with the flood of USG agency folks who came here as part of the civilian surge; they proved that they are incapable of deploying to or working in primitive environments without literally a million dollars a day in life support and security services and that is per person.

I’ll end this post with a quote from Victor Davis Hanson’s book Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power:

Western civilization has given mankind the only economic system that works, a rationalist tradition that alone allows us material and technological progress, the sole political structure that ensures the freedom of the individual, a system of ethics and a religion that brings out the best in humankind—and the most lethal practice of arms conceivable.

Western civilization is broke because our elites have robbed future generations to pay for their utopian schemes.   In the process they have ruined many a proud military by insisting on levels of security and life support, which are unnecessary, counter productive to the mission, and ruinous to the fighting spirit.   Who cares?   You are all going to care when the bill for this incompetence is due.   Only the dead have seen the last of war.

Be Sociable, Share!

    44 comments to Stuck in Kabul

    • B

      Smedley Butler, is that you?

      I am impressed with the fact that the ANP were able to accurately identify and engage those suicide bombers without getting a bunch of false positives on Afghan civilians.

      I guess in a conflict, the sides that don’t want to win more than anything else don’t deserve to win, and by that standard, the only people here that deserve to win are the bad guys, who haven’t quit in 10 years despite the lack of chow halls, rotations back home, body armor, trucks and generators supplied by foreign sponsors, etc. Sad that our national asabiyyah has gotten to this point.

    • B

      Wait, there’s more!

      NATO sucks because it was designed as a network of American client states, and their patron has come down with Alzheimer’s. We took away their ability to make their own foreign policy. Now they’re bitches with a senile master. So, what are they supposed to do, go rogue? Redesign themselves with Germany for a hegemon? You can see them trying in Libya, I think, but it’s a stillborn effort.

      I just read two good WW2 books, Wartime by Paul Fussell and Quartered Safe Out Here by I can’t think of a single military in history that wasn’t built on lies. Well, except for those of Sparta, Prussia and the monarchies of the Westphalian Peace era. Which were all dens of reaction, completely opposed to popular government, etc. Everybody else had a party line of bullshit, even the really effective ones like the Conquistadors and Drake.

    • B

      Wait, there’s more!

      NATO sucks because it was designed as a network of American client states, and their patron has come down with Alzheimer’s. We took away their ability to make their own foreign policy. Now they’re bitches with a senile master. So, what are they supposed to do, go rogue? Redesign themselves with Germany for a hegemon? You can see them trying in Libya, I think, but it’s a stillborn effort.

      I just read two good WW2 books, Wartime by Paul Fussell and Quartered Safe Out Here by George Bernard Fraser. The first talked about the systemic mendacity he saw in the US Army; the second, who’d fought in the British Army in Burma, basically said, “yeah, but it was still a good time.” I can’t think of a single military in history that wasn’t built on lies. Well, except for those of Sparta, Prussia and the monarchies of the Westphalian Peace era. Which were all dens of reaction, completely opposed to popular government, etc. Everybody else had a party line of bullshit, even the really effective ones like the Conquistadors and Drake.

    • Interesting assessment Tim. I would have thought that the villains would at least had a PK up there in those towers. So instead they just shot recoiless stuff?

      I totally agree about the ISAF response. The comment I had heard from contractors on scene is that no one had any heavy guns to reach the tower. lol No M-2′s or M-19′s or Dshk’s or anything. That tower has been a concern for awhile, and yet no one had anything to reach it. The DDM’s were shooting stuff that could at least get close, but those M-4s or AK’s at ISAF were pretty worthless at those distances. The point is, why wasn’t there a weapon with significant range in the arsenal of any party at the compounds that could reach that tower or similar towers? Where were they? Crap, we could have fired recoiless back at them, or bring up some LAV or tank or something on the compounds.

      Yet again, I think this would have been a great scenario to pull out a Switchblade or similar armed UAV, and fly that thing around the tower to get some intel on the attackers. Then plow that UAV into any targets of opportunity. It could have been an option, if they were available, and those could have reached the tower no problem.

      As to how this war is run? lol I have pretty much come to the conclusion that if government sponsored groups like the Postal Service, TSA, ACORN Department of Education, NASA, etc. all suck because they are money pits that are centrally planned and they are not competitive. So it is not a stretch to realize why governments suck at waging war, and why dudes wearing sandals and armed with rusty AK’s continue to win.

      But you also brought up a very important point, and that is private industry can achieve much, if it is given the freedom and support to do so. Your program is successful because you are private, and not a government venture. You do not have the rules and regulations and limitations that government has, and your company is able to do a lot with a little.

      Another way to look at it is to find the agency, unit, or department that does exactly what your company is doing in Afghanistan, and compare the results? Still another way to look at it is that could you imagine government making an iPhone? They tried, but nothing could compare to the innovations of Apple. That innovation was spawned from competition and the desire to build a better smart phone. That if they did not get it right, that they would lose to a better smart phone company, and lose market share.

      And of course I always have to bring up examples where private industry kicked ass in a war, because it had the freedom to innovate, and they were driven to succeed. Guys like Eeben Barlow with EO went into Sierra Leone and won their war at a fraction of the price that it cost the UN just to go in there an maintain the peace. And the UN still didn’t accomplish the mission. lol

      Guys like Claire Chennault (flying tigers), David Sterling (SAS, PMC’s in Yemen and middle east), Frederick Ward, (Ever Victorious Army in China), the Young Scouts in the Philippine-American war, John Hawkwood’s White Company in Italy, Buffalo Bill Cody and the other hundreds of civilian scouts during the indian wars, the Pinkertons (protection of Lincoln), and the thousands of privateers used in America’s early wars. Private industry certainly can fight a war, and do quite well. History is filled with examples.

      So just imagine if companies like yours were actually tasked with fighting the war in Afghanistan?

      Anyhoo, good post Tim and I appreciate the work you have done over there. S/F -Matt

    • T2

      Babatim, your writing is improving and the content is relative to not only to central asia but also our souther border and central america. I’m wondering what your impression or perspective is on another lie regarding Iran. You have experience on the border. Thanks for giving a turd.

    • B

      Matt,

      Chennault and Stirling were anything but privateers. Chennault had been sheep dipped, and Stirling was on active duty. A better example might be Raffles or the Conquistadors. And while the government did not invent the iPhone, it did create the first computers. Most of the tech we use today in the electronics field would not have been possible without the government (in the form of Bell Labs.) Meanwhile, you’ll notice that the massive legions of contractors deployed by America have hardly been winning the war. So, the issue is not govt vs. private sector, but responsible government and private sector vs. irresponsible government and private sector.

      • Boy, you need to hit the history books and read a little more about Chennault and Stirling. They certainly did form private military forces. They may have had the blessings of their governments, but that is about it. Hell, Chennault left the Army because he ‘could not’ apply his ideas about military aviation. China was a great place for him to do that, and they paid him pretty well to upgrade their air force.(1,000 a month)

        As for Stirling, yet again you need to do your research. Does Watchguard International or KAS International sound familiar?

        Your use of the term ‘privateer’ is wrong. Here is the basic definition, and I am trying to figure out why you would use that term to describe Chennault or Stirling. “A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. ” Can you present proof that Chennault or Stirling were given Letters of Marque to attack shipping, because if you can, I would love to do a story on that. lol

        I agree that some government programs have produced some good things. But private industry produces way more. Look at the uniforms, equipment, weapons, and big ticket items in the defense industry? Private industry produced those items, and the government bought them–not the other way around.

        But your last point is the one I want to focus on. I absolutely agree that the way the US has used private industry during this war, is inefficient and wasteful. But to say that ‘the massive legions of contractors deployed by America have hardly been winning the war’, is a ridiculous statement. When has America tasked any of their legions of contractors to fight in the war? Or when has America actually contracted a company to win anything in this war.

        The point is, America has established a defense industry that only profits from the continuation of war. They have not established a offense industry that profits from the destruction of the enemy. That is the big difference here, and that is why you will not see my industry taking territory and winning battles in this conflict.

        So finally, I want to point out your last sentence.

        “So, the issue is not govt vs. private sector, but responsible government and private sector vs. irresponsible government and private sector.”

        No, you have it wrong. The issue here is that when you declare war on someone, you use all and every available means to win that war. That means using both private industry and the military to do this. And with that private industry, to establish a defense industry and ‘offense industry’, so as best to support the overall war strategy. Anything less, is basically fighting a war with one hand tied behind your back. Funny how our forefathers understood this concept, and yet all of those lessons and history seemed to be forgotten in these ‘modern’ wars.

    • Ed

      In 1981, I spent a summer following seminary in Pakistan with a small, very small, Christian humanitarian relief agency. The husband and wife and their four member staff had been teachers in Kabul prior to the Soviet invasion. They moved to Peshawar and started an orphanage for Afghan kids, teaching them to weave rugs so that they’d have a way to make a living when they reached the age to leave.
      During our two months in country, we traveled all over NWFP looking for Afghan refugees. We’d provide them food, tents (when needed), clothing, and on occasion assistance in relocating to a place where they could begin their lives again.
      On our visit to Chitral, we went down to the Afghan mujahideen camp beside the river. We watched as our hosts talked about the needs of their families, the course of the war, and other things.
      I have a picture of that conversation. It looked like a football huddle. We were sitting on the ground in circle, the rest stood around us. These were all mostly young men. Later, our host told us that was remarkable experience because that group fighters represented so many different Afghan tribal groups. Then he concluded by saying, if the Soviets weren’t there, they’d be fighting each other.
      There is a certain hubris that develops when there is really no limit on what you can spend to do something. Of course, spending money, and achieving your goals are not the same. The goals become secondary. And once you’ve become accustomed to the money, and things go south, then the company goals are still secondary as sustaining the money flow becomes the goal. This scenario is being played out here in the states today.
      What you are learning is knowledge and experience that will be valuable as the edifice of “too big to fail” falls apart. If you would please, clearly distinguish between the two scenarios you identify in this piece because it will provide perspective on what is happening in local communities all through the US right now. We need this perspective as a counter balance to the conventional wisdom which is neither.
      Thank you very much.

    • Walt Gaffney

      Tim, that building is owned by Marshal Fahim’s brother…the one that has been mentioned as receiving multiple unsecured loans from Kabul Bank. He was in fact held up initially due to security concerns but received the go ahead over a year ago. The problem was he was strapped for cash due to the Kabul bank issue and a few other items that didn’t work out. I know this due to multiple visits to that site as he tried to sell half of it to one of my protectees. That street has always been the weakest link in the defense of the Kabul “Green Zone” due to the Mosque at the top of the street and that abandoned building. Cheers.

      Walt

    • Too big to fail isn’t. It’s just going to fail harder and more violently than we imagine.

      People I would never have expected are talking about bolt holes and going off grid. And then the sheeple are blaming the rich Republicans and tea party folks for their growing fear of Uncle Sugar pulling their entitlements.

      There is no sense of ownership of the problems, nor is there leadership. Mullen stated the obvious the other day and now some of the asshats in Congress want Pakistani blood. The ISI has been at war with us for 20 years and funding it with our own money.

      The shame is greater because the problems are sitting in front of us clear as day, and yet global leadership still buries its head up its collective sphincter. The gravy train is ending as will the idiotic thought processes that created the mess in the first place.

      For the statists, the end game is control, as it has always been. But this time it may get bloody. Michael Moore is already making threats and I’m shaking.

      Would be interested to hear your take on my latest blog piece on the ISI’s war against America. Glad you’re on your way out. Being on the last helicopter ain’t gonna be fun and there’s gonna be a circular firing squad.

    • J Harlan

      Too bad you didn’t wait a few days to write this post. You could have included today’s incident at CIA HQ in Kabul. There’s no real reason it should be secure..it’s only smack dab between the US Embassy and the Presidential Palace, the MOD building and Camp Eggers.

    • B

      Boy? BOY?! “What do you mean, “you people”?!”

      Chennault formed and ran the Flying Tigers under Presidential Sanction, working with White House officials, in the context of a semi-covert USG push to support the KMT in order to piss off Japan. His paycheck came from USG, via the Chinese government, in an arrangement which we see often today. He was hardly a freelancer, offering his sword to whoever paid more. Stirling, far as I can tell, had a similar arrangement with the British government when he ran his “private” companies. If not for being allowed to stand up and run the SAS, hardly a private org, he wouldn’t have been in a position to set up Watchguard.

      Obviously, I use “privateer” as a figurative term. I’m not suggesting that either of the two sailed ships to loot booty off the Spanish Main while wearing ruffled collars and reporting to Queen Elizabeth I.

      It also strikes me that the kind of “private industry” that produces, say, F-35s, is private in a different sense than the kind that produces your microwave. MPRI, Northrop Grumman, Dynacorp, etc., might better be described as semi-official parts of the government. I mean, they’re sure as shit not champions of the free market, offering their services to the highest bidder and being agents of the invisible hand etc.

      I don’t think we’re really in disagreement on defense industry vs. offense industry. The point is, it’s not an issue of public vs. private, or government vs. freemarket. The reason the contractors haven’t been winning the war is the reason that the military hasn’t been winning the war: they both have the same pussies for bosses at the very top. It’s not that the military is inherently less effective than the “private” sector-the difference in effectiveness is artificial. If the government was actually responsible, it wouldn’t start wars without intending to do what it takes to win them. That’s all I’m saying.

      • You realize that Chennault was in China, getting paid by the Chinese, way before the Flying Tigers was even formed? He also helped formed the 14th volunteer squadron, that was filled with mercenary pilots from all over the world. He also left the US military because we would have nothing to do with his theory on ‘defensive pursuit’. So he got out of the US military so he could test his theories in a foreign air force. And China was his play ground. Look it up man, and there is plenty of sources for you to delve into.

        As to David Stirling, you should watch the Mayfair Set -Who Pays Wins. That goes into pretty good detail about Stirling’s private wars and business. His company was also conducting anti-poaching operations in South Africa. He may have been the founder of the SAS, but he was also very active in private ventures-some with the blessing of his government, and some without.

        But really, if your point is that companies must have the blessing of their governments in order to do what they do these days, then you are absolutely right. No one wants to be a criminal or persona non grata for doing what they do out there. Bad for guys wanting to do legitimate business.

        As to weapons and hardware, the customer dictates. All of those companies you listed serve a number of customers around the world, just as long as they are authorized by their number one customer–the US. But yes, I agree that those companies are not pure champions of the free market. But I also do not see the US setting up government factories and building F-35s either.

        As to the defense vs. offense industry comment, yes we were in disagreement. You made this statement, and it was absolutely ridiculous:

        “Meanwhile, you’ll notice that the massive legions of contractors deployed by America have hardly been winning the war.”

        No one in the US government has contracted out a company or companies to win this war or do any fighting. So therefore this statement is false. My industry is being used purely for the defense, and it has not been given the opportunity to go on the offense.

        As to your last statement, I disagree as well. We have given today’s military ten years to get things right in Afghanistan. The best generals we have, have done time in Afghanistan. Two presidents from different parties have committed to this war, and have thrown billions of dollars and thousands of troops and contractors at the problem, and you think that the government doesn’t have the desire to win this thing? The government has been counting on the military to produce a win for the last ten years, and every year, the military keeps saying ‘we got it…it’s going to happen….trust us’. lol Oh really?

        Here is a thought. How about we split up Afghanistan into two equally violent and messy regions. One side would be a military operation, and the other side would be a private operation.

        The military side can operate like they are doing, and just stick to their current doctrine. Hell, they can even use contractors, and do exactly what they are doing right now.

        The other side will purely operate on a contractual basis. This region would be separated into territories, and companies can bid on those territories. The contracting office and commanding officer of the region would dictate exactly what is to be done in those regions and what would would constitute a victory. That office and commanding officer will not dictate how those companies are to achieve victory. The contract would also require the companies to be bonded, and companies would have a time limit. If they go over that time period, they lose money. If they accomplish the contract before their time period, they make more money. Kind of like how highways or large building projects are conducted. Essentially, an offense industry would be established where companies not only profit from the destruction of an enemy, but make even more money if they accomplish the task under a certain time frame (and under budget).

        So out of those two models, what group has the greater incentive to win? The government forces, or the private forces? It is an interesting hypothetical, but one that leads to an interesting conclusion if you look at other comparisons between private and public. A good example would be the Post Office versus Fed Ex or UPS? If government is so awful at running these types of ventures, then why should we expect that a government operated military is somehow immune or better? And why do we assume that private industry is not capable of winning a war or going on the offense? Food for thought…

        • B

          When Chennault was in China freelancing, he didn’t make much of a difference. China’s air force collapsed-hardly a triumph of the free market. If he’d died before organizing the Tigers, he wouldn’t have been more than a blip. This is relevant because you brought him up as a chrestomathic example of a successful private warrior, but he only got that image while acting in a basically governmental capacity. I’ll check out the documentary on Stirling if I come across it.

          I don’t know whether F-35′s would be built better, worse, cheaper or more expensive by a purely governmental shop vs. today’s defense industry. I’ve seen good weapons systems built by governments (the AK comes to mind) and garbage produced by semi-private corporations under contract (the debut of the M-16, for instance.) I guess it would depend on the personnel involved, like anything else.

          You are correct in pointing out that nobody has put a mandate out there for the First Contractor Division to conquer Afghanistan, or something along those lines. But if you imagine such a scenario, you’ve gotta figure that the First Contractor Division would be answering to the same generals and civilian leadership as the conventional forces. They would be crippled by the same ROE bullshit. And when the contractors started coming home in boxes,or got into murky firefights with real or virtual civilian casualtie, the same media would make hay of it for political points. So, I doubt that a contractor force would do better than a military one, because it would ultimately answer to the same leadership subject to the same pressures.

          “Two presidents from different parties have committed to this war, and have thrown billions of dollars and thousands of troops and contractors at the problem, and you think that the government doesn’t have the desire to win this thing?”

          Absolutely not. I am currently stuck on KAF on my way home. If what is around me (Dawn of the Dead in ACUs and reflective belts) is the product of a government seized with the burning desire to win, I’m an Episcopalian archbishop. The present US government isn’t a single cohesive entity capable of desiring any one thing. If there’s a Schelling point of the government’s desires, which I’m not sure of, it’s certainly not total victory in Afghanistan. Which is why most of the resources dumped into this war go into ventures which at best are unproductive and largely counterproductive to victory.

          Now, if you want to make a historic argument that a government with unity of purpose is better off using private forces to impose its will on a population than a conventional military, that would be a different case, with evidence on both sides-the East India Company is a good one, as are Babur’s Afghan campaigns. I think I find the best argument on the matter to be that of Machiavelli, who advised against using mercenaries. He said that mercenaries are, by nature, unreliable, as they fight for money, and no man will willingly sacrifice his life for a buck. In adversity, you don’t want mercenaries. In triumph, mercenaries are dangerous-their leaders tend to have contempt for those requiring their services, and are tempted to take over, logically reasoning that they can do a better job. Not that I don’t think Emperor Palatine Eric Prince wouldn’t be an improvement on the current embarassment…

          • Yet again, you are completely off the mark for Chennault. It was those years leading up to the Flying Tigers, where he was able to develop his ideas and work on his theories. So those years were very relevant. Not only that, but after Pearl Harbor, the Flying Tigers was the only show in town to stick it to the Japanese. They were doing a great job, and with very little. The system of intel networks he developed, the aerial tactics, and what he was able to accomplish with aircraft that was substandard compared to the Japanese, are all huge accomplishments. But none of that materialized out of thin air–it actually took some experience playing around with the pieces.

            Sure the government could make all sorts of things if it wanted too. But it doesn’t, nor would I want it too. You mentioned the M-16 or AK-47? Do you think the government could have come up with all of the little bits and pieces of upgrades and furniture for these rifles over the years? No. But years of competition and innovation between hundreds of companies in the weapons markets are what turned those weapons into truly remarkable rifles. Probably the M-4 is a better example of that process, but the AK is benefiting from that innovation and competition in private industry as well.

            My only issue with your view on the First Contractor Division, is that your view is not at all based on fact. You are assuming that private industry would operate just like the military, and do what has been sooooo successful for them for the last 10 years in Afghanistan? I based my views on ‘let a thousand flowers bloom’, meaning let industry come up with the best way to accomplish the task. It might look like how the military does things, and it might not.

            But along those lines, Tim’s post here is proof positive of the kind of operational mindset that would make private industry better at this. Tim and company are doing the same job as similar government agencies, and at a fraction of the price. They are also accomplishing more with less and actually making a difference. That was why we are all making comments on this post–to read what Tim had to say about that process, and celebrate their effectiveness. Unless you are here to prove other wise, and maybe prove that Tim is not doing a good job or his efforts are not cost effective?

            Your point about government not wanting to win, is interesting. That is a great way of deflecting blame for poor performance. The military came up with the same type of excuses during Vietnam. Ten years and billions of dollars later, and the military is blaming the government for ‘not’ giving it enough time or enough freedom to do what it has to do? Good god man, take a look around you at your FOB. Today’s military has every doo dad and technological advance that you can think of. Your chow is the best in the history of warfare, and guys actually gain weight when they go to war now. You have skype and the internet, and really kick ass gyms. Your vehicles and weapons and everything is the best in the world.

            But what is even more important, is your leaders. General Petraeus, McChrystal and Matis, and all of these other war time Generals that are scholars and warriors, with all their support from politicians and presidents, and you are going to sit there and say the government does not want to win? lol What else do you want? Does the military want a shetland pony as well? Or do you just want more excuses?

            Ahhh, and your last comment is classic. The ol’ Machiavelli angle on mercenaries and why they are so evil. Usually when folks reach for this straw, I know they are really in a corner. Or they go the Max Weber route.

            Since you mention Machiavelli, should I also mention that if you were to read further into The Prince, that he actually gave exception to one mercenary? His name was John Hawkwood, and he is a condottieri responsible for saving Machiavelli’s beloved Florence. That city loved John so much, they hooked him up with a pension for life. They also gave John citizenship and buried him with state honors in the Duomo. Not bad for a guy from Essex.

            The point is, even Machiavelli couldn’t paint all mercenaries as a bad thing, just because of examples like John Hawkwood. I wonder if Machiavelli would have existed, without the strategic and tactical innovations developed by guys like Hawkwood? Because if a lesser man was contracted for the job, Florence could have been taken.

            But by all means, keep believing in your Machievellian dream…lol

            The fighting for money point is interesting as well. So don’t you get paid by the US government for service in the military? Have you not signed a 4 year or 6 year contract? Do you not have a medical plan (for life if you get wounded or retire), retirement plan after 20 years, college benefits, uniforms, weapons, food, insurance, shelter, family services, etc. etc….

            Back in the day, mercenaries did not make a lot of money, and most got out of the business after about three years. The reason? Not enough stability. It was only the captains like Hawkwood, that would sometimes get a pension or make a significant amount of money to buy property. So between Hawkwood and today’s soldiers, I would say today’s modern militaries have a far better deal when it comes to compensation.

            Another way to look at this is to create another hypothetical. Let’s imagine today’s military as truly a volunteer force. One where they are not paid a dime. No benefits, no retirement, no healthcare package….Just a basic soldier given the basic things to fight. With that kind of arrangement, do you think that today’s military would be able to attract enough ‘volunteers’? How about we take away all the money the military gets for recruitment? (yep, take away that snazzy NASCAR Army race car or the really cool pimped out Hummers that the Marines take to fairs, complete with pull up station and loud heavy metal)

            Would they get enough altruistic warriors to go marching off to Iraq and Afghanistan and fight for the next 10 years? I don’t think so, and financial compensation is very much an essential part of a military or private force. Or, if your homeland needs defending, that would be a different story and I think most folks would care more about fighting, and less about compensation. But for this conversation, and for wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, I double dog dare the military to pull all benefits and pay, and see what happens.

            You also mentioned that mercenary leaders tend to have contempt for those requiring their services? That they are tempted to ‘take over’? I guess that could happen, but yet again, why is the military somehow immune from such things? How many military backed coups has there been in modern times, and how does that factor into your view of the loyalty of the modern military?

            Or, better yet, we could test the loyalty of today’s military, and take away everyone’s pay and benefits? They wouldn’t march on Washington or do anything rash, would they? lol Or if the American public completely trusted the military, then let’s take away the 2nd Amendment? Make firearms ownership completely illegal, because after all, the police and military must have the ‘monopoly on the use of force’…

            Overall, I am still a supporter of today’s troops. I am prior service and I am a veteran. But I am also equally proud of my service as a contractor. I think that there is room for both a standing army and private force, both in the defense and offense. But out of the two, I tend to lean more towards private industry, just because I am well aware of what makes government so inefficient and ineffective when it comes to simple things like delivering mail or complex things like fighting wars. Of course that is my personal belief and purely based on my experience working in the military and in government. I guess on the bright side, the military takes full ownership of the whole enchilada. They can try to blame everyone else, but at the end of the day, it is all on you guys.

            • B

              You’re making a lot of assumptions: that I’m currently in the military, that I’m typically FOB-bound, that I don’t know Tim or work with him, and need an explanation of how his company operates. All of these assumptions are wrong. Since the points I’m making don’t rely on mistaken ad-hominem attacks, I’ll keep from rehashing stereotypes about the typical expat security contractor in Afg. My points are right or wrong regardless of whether I’m a contracted Splinter Cell ninja in mufti or a fat fobbit E-6 with 18 years in the Air Force.

              Moving along: I don’t know much about the Flying Tigers, except from having read a few members’ memoirs (Boyington comes to mind.) I don’t recall anything exceptional there. The US needed a success story, and they blew Chennault up for lack of others, best as I can tell. That revolutionary intel seemed to consist of early warning guys sitting on hilltops. But if I’m wrong, enlighten me.

              I’m not going to get into the dedication of the military’s senior leadership to victory even if it costs them their careers, or the support of their political leaders-I might not be able to stop if I start. The ROEs they generate predictably resulted in American troops being placed in harm’s way with no fire support as described in Mr. West’s latest book. If you think they wouldn’t impose the exact same restrictions on the 1st Contractor Division, think again.

              Hawkwood, no matter how cool he was, did not actually wind up keeping Florence free. The republic fell, Machiavelli got tortured and booted off into oblivion on the countryside, etc. You’ll notice that after mulling all this and much else over, the advice he produced for national leadership was not “stay away from mercenaries…unless they’re awesome, like my boy John Hawkwood.” It was just to stay away from mercenaries. This makes sense: if a government needs mercenaries and has the money to hire them, it’s weak and rich, while they’re strong and need money. Not a good combination. Sure, you might get a Hawkwood. Or you might not. As far as the American military’s loyalty is concerned, it’s basically guaranteed by the political emasculation of the senior leadership. That’s the way it’s been since MacArthur tried to buck the system. For better or worse.

              One last thing: homeland defense. In fact, because the root of the problem is the decay of the government, we see that USG can’t reliably impose its will on its own territory through law enforcement anymore either. So, you get Blackwater dudes cacking Americans in NOLA, while the cops are running around looting, or just AWOL. If you don’t think it’s gonna get worse, that there are more systemic failures on the way stateside, you’re wrong. And more and more will get offloaded on the contractors. If you’re a private sector guy getting paid to do the government’s job, which it no longer can do or wants to do, sooner or later you’re gonna go “I could run this better.” And you can. But it’s not because you’re so awesome-it’s because the government has decayed. It’s been like that since before Rome decided it was better to contract barbarians than to pacify them with legions.

            • B

              Correction-Machiavelli and Hawkwood were not contemporaries. Which doesn’t change Hawkwood’s propensity for the kind of mercenary shenanigans that led to Machiavelli’s anti-mercenary stance.

    • CplUSMC

      I can only speak on a few of your points being lower enlisted but they are spot on.
      “access to unlimited quantities of high quality western food flown into the country at God only knows what cost.”-Ridiculous amounts of food for a ridiculously large amount of support personnel. I was lucky enough to only spend a couple of weeks in LNK on my last deployment (Sangin fall ’10- summer ’11) but when I was there I was disgusted. Do we really need all that crap? I was there in ’09 also and couldn’t believe the transformation. Paved roads and DFACs a stone’s throw away from eachother. I recently EAS’d because even though I loved being a Marine I hated the bureaucratic nature of anything gov’t.

      “Most of the shooting The Bot was hearing came from the ISAF Headquarters where the Macedonian guard force joined by Americans from the HQ staff started shooting at a building 1000 meters away with AK 47′s (Macedonians) and M4 rifles (Americans).”- I don’t want to judge from the safety of my livingroom but it sounds like some pog assclowns who saw a chance to get their gun on even if it didn’t make sense. Probably the same guys who come back to the states and tell some outlandish war stories.

      It crushes me to think that all this time, money, effort and lives spent there has been for nothing but it seems like it’s going to be that way.

    • JWest

      1. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? VSV Comments.
      2. Called this years ago.
      3. Eventually we’ll call it a win, pack our trash and go home.
      4. Been there and done that.
      5. People who invested themselves in the business will suffer some pain.
      6. Ditto on #4. Read your last paragraph…
      7. Kept hoping I was wrong.
      8. Get home and use those operating skills to make some real money in a slightly less hostile environment.
      9. Am interested in your ghost methods of operation. Suspect they would be useful locally.
      10. ‘Stuck in Kabul’ was masterful.
      11. You, your understudy and associates be safe.
      V/R JWest

    • RJ

      Your bitching is noted, as also your disappointment toward our American Government.

      Wait until that 2700 page “health bill” known as Obamacare gets implemented: Cancer will spread throughout the entire American society.

      What you are experiencing is the “feminization” of a society: teats for everyone and everything…come feed while we all just get along.

      Ride in that MRAP for safety…see how and what $475,000.00 can buy ya. Here’s a womb every soldier can love!

      Like metrosexual men? Try Clinton, a draft dodger, then Bush with his rear action national guard position, and of course Obama who loves to lead from behind. Today, you have even more social engineering happening within our American military.

      Fighting power? Think of a worn out military, both in personnel and machinery. Never mind that leash one keeps tight (ROEs).

      As I’ve said previously, our American military “married” our Peace Corps years ago… Demi Moore as G.I. Jane getting through BUDS warned you all. Putin is coming to town with his Russian bear, once again providing magic tricks you won’t like at all.

      Hillary is packing on the pounds, Michele wearing more bling, while J Lo shakes her 42 year old booty hoping something nice approaches.

      At least Marine Dakota Meyer, MOH warrior, stands tall for all to rally round.

      Your voice has been heard by many: Those positive energies you have expressed still live in the thoughts others will use to attempt to change the many wrongs now in play.

      “Hell no, we won’t go!” has consequences.

      Sometimes your greatest enemy lives on the block with you, smiling, saying all kinds of things to hide behind while setting you up. How many have learned this lesson the hard way?

      We’ll see, won’t we?

    • TS Alfabet

      Babatim,

      When you get home safely, consider running as an Independent for President, if for no other reason than to get the truth out there about “the lies.”

      Seriously, knowing what you know, if you were given dictatorial powers over the Afghanistan campaign, what would/could you do at this point that would make any difference? Is there any prospect for a stalemate– a sort of stasis of some kind– or is outright withdrawal and abject defeat the only, real option at this point?

      Many thanks for all your efforts and your voice in the Wilderness.

    • The name some of you are avoiding is Orde Wingate.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orde_Wingate

      THE
      GETTING
      IS
      GOOD,
      R

    • J Harlan

      Here’s my updated prognostication for the future of Afghanistan:

      1) By 2013 the Taliban control most of the south and eastern rural areas and some in the north. NGOs flee from the countryside. Development work largely stops.

      2) Most NATO combat forces leave by 2014. Economic chaos in Europe accelerates NATOs withdrawal 2011-14. As they do Afghans sitting on fence fall off into various armed camps- Taliban being just one of many- or flee the country. Sophisticated weapons from Libya migrate to Afghanistan- not a lot but enough to make some activities, such as the use of medium helicopters in mountains, far riskier.

      3) The 2014 election is a farce and rioting breaks out in Kabul. The insurgents join in the fighting. The remaining NGOs etc leave before the election and don’t return. Most of what’s left of the ANA/ ANP desert to the various armed groups. The candidates in the election refuse to accept the results and the Afghan governemnt collapses. Assassinations have increased over the preceding three years and much of the ruling class have already evacuated their families. They now debunk with much of the Afghan treasury and Kabul Bank deposits. The Afghani goes 1,000,000 to the US Dollar.

      4) The country becomes a failed state. Warlords control ethnically based fiefdoms and drug cartels. Kabul becomes Mogadishu. Kandahar falls to the Taliban. The ISI openly support the Taliban.

      5) NATO trainers and embassy staff withdraw into the few remaining big FOBs and wait to fly out.

      • B

        What’s step six? Afghanistan becomes a bunch of city states with regional hinterlands? Some kind of coalition forms and takes over most of the country?

    • J Harlan

      I don’t think anyone takes over the country. Despite being the richest and most powerful alliance in history NATO hasn’t been able or willing to run the place. Any force that the US was still at odds with couldn’t run a proper government if it tried. JDAMS and cruise missiles make cabinet meetings dicey.

      I expect Afghanistan to be simply a geographic term rather than political. The next step is the chaos spreading deeper into Pakistan or into Central Asia.

      If the US plays it’s hand particularly badly we could end up with a failed region- from the Morocco all the way to the Indian border and north into Russia.

      • B

        Failed is a relative concept. Especially when you see the progressive hollowing out of Western nation-states. The belt you’re talking about has historically was composed of city-states and sultanates based on those city-states, not the big postcolonial conglomerates of today, and was a massive engine of the global economy. Even Somalia, the watchword for postcolonial anarchy, has had some very bright spots-don’t remember where I read about the Mogadishu economic boom. And Somaliland is, by all accounts, a nice, peaceful place to live and do business. In the Afghanistan scenario, I think the Heratis (for instance) would be happier under Sultan Ismail Khan than they are under today’s arrangement.

    • There never was a credible plan for Afghanistan. We projected our wishes upon the Afghan people and in typically American fashion expected them to love us for our generosity in trying to fix their f’ed up country.

      Notwithstanding, a significant minority in the country like it just as it is. So you have perhaps 1/3 of the country who give a damn about becoming a part of the greater world. 5 – 10% who are batshit crazy fundamentalist/jihadi, and the balance stuck somewhere in the middle looking for the winning team.

      The warlords never really left and have their heavy weapons hidden out of sight probably at this point rusted of clogged with sand. No worries, they’ll get new ones somewhere.

      The Haqqanis are pit bulls whom no one else trusts and the biggest enemy of the people is the central government. In the meantime the Pakistanis are doing their best to destabilize it all and are largely succeeding. The opinionators seem to think the peace process is now dead.

      In the meantime, back in Pakistan, the ISI has unleashed its own genies and they are clipping each other in a state of ever growing chaos. Karachi is becoming a battlefield and the tribal areas are further out of Islamabad’s orbit than at any time in the past 30 years.

      Crime loves chaos.Perhaps if we had established the rule of law first it would have been different. That was the one thing the people respected about the Taliban. By supporting the status quo, we have lost any moral authority if we ever had any.

      We are seeing this both in South Central Asia and in our own culture. The world is taking on the moral culture of Pakistan, China, and Russia. What rules and laws governed the predations of Wall Street have been tossed aside.

      • B

        This place IS a part of the greater world. Everywhere I go, I see modern consumer goods from China, Iran, Turkey, etc. None of these guys want to give that up. They just don’t want to be ruled by a slimy Westernized elite through knockoff copies of Western institutions (which, as you pointed out, aren’t looking so hot just now.) I can’t blame them-give a choice, I’d rather get my disputes settled by tribal elders with shuras than by the Afghan judicial system. Even the Taliban, brutal and stupid as they were, were better-they at least could make decisions and stick to them, and you knew where you stood with them. These idiots are focused on stuffing their pockets before bouncing up out this piece.

        You’re absolutely right about the lack of a cohesive plan. Everything we’ve done here has been the product of design by committee. Our government is incapable of doing otherwise-nobody has a time horizon beyond the next election. By the time everyone’s had their say and made their little changes to the plan, anything good has been washed out or buried under BS.

    • TS Alfabet

      May I suggest a Step 6. to JHarlan’s analysis:

      6. The U.S. uses its years of presence in A-stan and the precious HUMINT and contacts it undoubtedly developed during this time to back select warlords with money and weapons in order to balance out the Taliban and Haqqanis.

      This probably should have been the game all along. Once we routed the Taliban in 2001, we should have split up the country into some sort of semi-autonomous regions governed by warlords or “governors” if you like. A-stan was never ready for a strong, central govt nor democratic institutions. First step was establishing security and keeping the Taliban out via proxy fighters. Far, far cheaper to pay warlords to keep the Talibs out than to try to bring a 7th century country into the 20th century (forget about the 21st).

      So, yeah, let the country fall apart at this point– hopefully not before we can get out as much of our gear and equipment as possible– and then start looking for some warlords who would be willing to get on the U.S. payroll in exchange for keeping their area free of terrorists, providing us with good intel when possible and access to their territory for basing drones or other low profile activities.

    • J Harlan

      We’ve done 6. already via security contracts given to local big shots, various militia schemes and development corruption.

      The major problem is that the educated sections of the population want nothing to do with service in ANSF. They’re happy to sell ISAF gravel at 10x retail, make a nice living selling AC, stolen cars and generators to NGOs or have their kids serve as FOB based interpreters in order to get a Green Card but they don’t want anything to do with junior commanding a rifle platoon in Khost.

      It’s not clear if anyone who has any power or wealth except the Taliban really want the war to end. Of course all well off Afghans would like to reduce the chance of their family being knocked off but in the macro view ending the NATO part of the war would be a disaster. GNP would plummet. Commerce would dry up. Crime would skyrocket as the ANSF disintegrates and turn to banditry. The sacks of free US dollars would dry up. Nice office jobs with NGOs & ISAF etc would end.

      This is why the “training mission” has been such a fiasco. The people who should be leading ANSF don’t give a rats ass and it’s left to the fourth tier to run. Of course the troops soon figure out the truth and hit the road. Who would blame them? More foolish we are to keep plowing borrowed cash into this mess.

      • B

        The training mission is a fiasco because it was engineered to fail. When you look at successful efforts by first world countries to stand up effective institutions in occupied third world areas, then compare them with the way we do things, it’s 180 degrees. Look at colonial India’s army and police. It started off with Brits in command down at the lowest levels, then slowly developed to the point where there were field grade native officers answering to British generals. Ditto Egypt, the US constabularies in Nicaragua and Haiti, etc., etc. Now, look at a present-day US adviser. He has no power to fire, promote, punish, reward anybody directly. All he is supposed to do is somehow influence his host nation counterparts through…telepathy? The dark powers of the Sith? Promising to tell LT Shukrullah’s boss on him if he misbehaves? This is a recipe for disaster, which is what you’ve got.

        So, can you blame the Afghans and Iraqis with a brain in their head for staying away from these loser institutions? The only good ANSF leaders I’ve seen were the ones who were just wolves with US-issued uniforms, and they were waiting for things to go back to normal so they could get back to warlording. Think some soft Kabuli wearing jeans and a foppish haircut wants anything to do with that? Hell, no.

    • J Harlan

      The ISAF training mission has been a debacle but that doesn’t explain why the Afghans just didn’t say thanks for nothing and get on with getting rid of the Taliban themselves. We have given them tons of weapons and cash. Why do “our” Afghans need billions annually and their “Afghans” get by with far less while being bombed from the air?

      • B

        Because “our” Afghans are, by definition, bitches-if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be “ours,” they would be their own. Some of them buck the mold, but most of them are “fighting” because we’re paying them. And who wants to eat a bullet for Karzai? So, you have awesome displays like the road between Delaram and Zaranj, where a main traffic artery is controlled by handfuls of dudes showing up and setting up checkpoints. Last time ANSF did anything about it, a company of them heroically fought about five Talibs for an hour until the latter retired. Or the Kabul debacle, where six dudes holed up in a high rise, and it took US SOF showing up to dig them out. Would YOU die for a shitty paycheck which is gonna get stolen by your chain of command half the time, or get crippled and be forced to rely on the Afghan VA (whatever the hell that looks like)? Now, if they were in a mixed Afghan-American organization, where their officers and half of their NCOs were Americans, and it was obvious the Americans were in it to stay, it would be a different story-the Brits had plenty of Pashtuns fight and die for them on the other side of the Durrand line back in the day…

    • TS Alfabet

      @ JHarlan:

      I see I did not make myself clear.

      By step 6, I mean, *after* the withdrawal of U.S. forces, when the country is going to pieces as you stipulated in Steps 1-5 of your comment.

      And, respectfully, we have not tried anything like splitting the country up into semi-autonomous regions governed by warlords. We have tried nation-building. We have tried COIN. We have tried training up a national army and police force. All failures to one degree or another.

      I am talking about a get-the-hell-out-of-the-country approach that tries to establish at one or two provinces in A-stan where we have at least a client warlord who gives us access and intel in exchange for financing and armaments (and the occasional JDAM if rival warlords get a little too unfriendly.

      No more advisors, no more trainers, no FOB’s, little or no footprint at all (except for some small bases to launch drones and SOF when we need it).

    • England, France, Germany and the rest of Europe used to be run by warlords. It’s where the term came from. It was the Renaissance and Christianity that accelerated the trend towards civilization.

      Today, warlordism has no roots in anything except a Conan the Barbarian winner take all pagan mentality. The gentility of the West was a civilizing factor even in the Ottoman Empire.

      I’m all ecumenical and all but roots Islam in that part of the world contains a good layer of the old drink from their skulls philosophy. This was the turf of Ghenghiz and Tamerlane and Babar for goodness sake.

      If you want to find a solution, you take that part of the country which is reasonably peaceful and wall it off from the rest. Let some vestige of the old monarchy take over in name and have a western Grand Vizier who is incorruptible who dispenses justice equally.

      Bring down the hammer on the miscreants and throw the fear of Allah into the establishment, the army, and law enforcement. A fair trial and a good hanging worked here.

      • TS Alfabet

        With all respect, Matt, it doesn’t much matter where “warlordism” originated or the Renaissance or the current state of Western thinking or “pagan mentality.” With regard to A-stan, warlordism is the reality, whether that is due to militant Islam or just plain ignorance or a mixture of both.

        The reality is that, barring a new attack on the U.S. that can be clearly traced to Pakistan, the troops are on their way out for good and there isn’t going to be any Grand Vizier or any Western influence left in A-stan to avoid the inevitable blood bath between Pashtun Taliban, Tajiks, Hazaras, and other ethnicities… my guess is it will look much like the October 2001 and the U.S.’s only option will be to be a backer to one or more sides that can give us something in return (like basing and intel of some sort).

        We screwed up real good in A-stan by trying to be touchy-feely and forcing modernity on a people that are just not ready for it at this point. Sadly, the many good Afghans will continue to suffer until they are ready for their own Renaissance. It can’t be forced on them, no matter our best intentions.

    • JWest

      1. Wow! Nailed and nailed again.
      2. Everyone has a substantial bite out of the truth. It jumps off the page (screen).
      3. God help us and the misbegotten Afghans.
      4. Wish the comments on every site were as directed and cogent as these are.
      5. Congratulations, I think….
      V/R JWest

    • RJ

      No one who has ever worn a military uniform, has seen combat up front and personal, can look at a picture of a wounded veteran and not feel compassion. No veteran who walks the rows of a cemetery for fellow brothers and sisters can not ponder the “what ifs” of those lives lost in battle and those veterans who sought the solace of resting with fellow warriors. Most veterans know that few (10%) ever make it to the tip of the spear, yet those who toil in the rear for support are so very critical for success and the struggle toward victory. We all count in the march to win…

      Therefore, when I watch our so called “political leaders” (elected or appointed), who did everything in their youthful power, to remain beyond the reach of our military for active service, make decisions that will most certainly create death for some and injuries for others, I take special note of such people’s true motivations and applied wisdoms, if any.

      When I see vehicles costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially when the recent pics of row after row of such vehicles (in Irag) are to be abandoned by America, I sense a game being played far beyond the excuse “where will they buy spare parts?” our DOD and DOS proffer as smart and the right thing to do.

      It’s more of that “what’s in it for me” malignant narcissistic world view my generation has lived by for decades, since coming of age…”hell no, we won’t go!, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll!, do your own thing!, make love not war!”

      My generation has had political power and control for some years now in America. Most of them (males) I consider cowards who hide behind their flashy, patriotic rhetoric. Compromise and deal making may be part of the game, but when lives are at stake there is no substitute for “victory” and a victory that is achieved as quickly as possible with damage contained so that peace and prosperity (which means people, especially men, can return to productive work) should be the foremost goal/objective, not selling parts for abandoned gear left behind as we tell our citizens some form of “peace with honor” is at hand.

      I’ve danced this dance before.

      As Obama-Mao plays his game of “get even with Whitey” maybe others should think about a return to a “male perspective” via methods that make a young generation all have some “skin in the game” for once!

      It’s time for serious men to come forward and tell the truths that have been in our realities since the beginning.

      Nine years in Afghanistan doing what, for what? Yea sure…but why wasn’t your kid humping over there dear politician?

      “Be all you can be”…only not in uniform walking the walk, talking the talk…right? Go to law school instead…or graduate school if that will work.

      Oh, I forgot, we’ve got the “all volunteer” military.

      Exhausted and worn out…just like the other equipment we’re going to leave behind as we turn out attention to…our selves once more!

      Not on my watch…I still have my vote and so do you!

    • [...] essential host nation forces partnership reading … UPDATE: See also FRI’s Tim Lynch, who has begun blogging again: The ability of modern western armies to train and mentor Afghan [...]

    • Someone is doing a very good job in getting inside command/government’s heads. The Telly wrote that someone has foiled an assassination attempt involving one of Karzai’s security staff.

    • carl

      babatim: Your point about the increasing incidence of fundamental moral corruption in our culture, especially in government, the easy and casual willingness to live with and by the lie, is the most important point you have ever made. No matter how perfect the doctrine and the powerpoints, if we can’t honor the truth, we can do nothing.

      The story about the GEN Krulak made me shudder. The first day they were taught to lie and I’ll bet on the last day a speech was made about integrity.

    • [...] for peace.   These reports are contradicted by just about every independent journalistic and ground-level report, which conclude that the insurgents remain committed to the fight.   The first six months of [...]

    • I wish the loved ones of dan wheldon all of the strength and love to carry this huge lost in their lives, my feelings are going to be with these people