Free Range International

Hotel California Naw Zad Edition

Facebook sent me a reminder about a post that went up 5 years ago and asked it I wanted to re-post it. I did then went to read and realized it was probably one of the better more prescient posts I ever wrote so here it is….back on the front page of FRI exactly 5 years after first being published.  It even has click bait if the form of two of must attractive and gutsy Free Ranges in the land. But the video at the end is disturbing …… those kids are fighting age now.

I ended my last post with an observation about the importance of how wars end. I was assuming we started bombing Libya with the intention of using the military to achieve an appropriate political endstate (because that’s how this is supposed to work).  But that isn’t what we are doing in Libya….I’m not sure what we are doing but it has nothing to do with an acceptable political endstate. It appears we’re bombing Libya because Obama feels we need to bomb Libya which brings up the question of where the are the Joint Chiefs? I know where they are….their where their predecessors were as documented in the excellent book Dereliction of Duty. Obsequious is not a word that should be applied (ever) to senior general officers but there it is.

I’m all for killing Col Gadhafi because he killed Americans; a lot of them in Berlin and over the skies of Lockerbie Scotland. I don’t expect Obama to come up with a rational plan but for some strange reason assumed the NSC and Pentagon had a plan that made sense in the context of our national strategy. The NSC is now headed by a political appointee with no previous military or national security experience named Tom Donilon. There is the near universal confusion about what the American military’s mission in Libya is. Who is calling the shots on deploying military assets? What is the end game? Meanwhile the Pentagon is focusing on the things that really matter: force feeding acceptance of openly gay service members and retro fitting submarines to accommodate female sailors.

Mark Styen has done the heavy lifting on this issue with an excellent assessment that ends:

But lost along the way is hard-headed, strategic calculation of the national interest. “They won’t come back till it’s over/Over there!” sang George M. Cohan as the doughboys marched off in 1917. It was all over 20 minutes later, and then they came back. Now it’s never over over there not in Korea, not in Kuwait, not in Kosovo, not in Kandahar. Next stop Kufra? America has swapped The Art Of War for the Hotel California: We psychologically check out, but we never leave.

I must add this gem which, as the Bot is my witness, is an almost exact replica of conversations I had over and over during the summer of 2008 with liberal USAID contractors at the Tiki Bar.  Obama has turned out to be worse than my worst summer 2008 nightmare. It is no longer funny (but the clip below is).

The ongoing revolts in Syria, Libya, Bahrain and Yeman are important to American interests but you need to know something about the region to understand that. That type of specialist knowledge is hard to come by in Saul Alinsky seminars, Reverend Wrights church sermons or the Harvard Law School.

While on holiday I saw this article on an airstrike targeting a Taliban commander that ended up killing civilians.  The article also helpfully points out that nine kids were killed in the Pech Valley earlier in the month which prompted harsh condemnation  from President Karzai.

I’m not so sure about what the deal was with the Pech Valley airstrike except to point out that I know a few of the attack helicopter pilots based out of Jalalabad and they know every stinking inch of the Pech Valley. I doubt the veracity of the report and will address that in a minute because this story linked above about Naw Zad has my attention. There is no way this bombing went down as reported. Here is why I can say that with near total certainty without knowing a thing about what went on with this strike.

The unit that was on the ground in Naw Zad  (1st Battalion 8th Marines or 1/8 in Marine speak)  has rotated home and the battalion now working the battle space has been on deck maybe two weeks. Battalions who have just arrived in theater are not given a long enough leash to do whatever the hell they want; it is inconceivable that they came up with a “these two cars have a Taliban commander in them” plan and were then able to talk the Regimental Combat Team they work for (and I know its commander well) into letting them vehicles containing persons unknown with attack helicopters. The Naw Zad Valley is a flat, treeless expanse of high desert. If the battalion thought they had a Taliban commander driving up or down it why not just stop the cars and grab him?

This is what the terrain and vegetation looks like in the Naw Zad valley

This is what the terrain and vegetation looks like in the Naw Zad Valley

When aviation assets attack moving cars which reportedly contain high level Taliban it is a safe bet that the hit is driven by intelligence. Normally that is supplied by the CIA and the hit has to be given a green light by someone from on high. I would bet money that a “walk-in” targeted this car and the NDS vetted him for their CIA colleagues. That is how we  killed 27 woman and children attending a wedding in Nangarhar Province back in July 2008. Or when we  killed over 2 dozen children at a wedding party in Kandahar in November 2008, or….I could go on and on.

The common denominator with these botched attacks was human intel fed into the system by “walk-in” informants of dubious background and character or fed to our FOB bound intel people by the un-FOB bound Afghanistan intel people who have scores to settle. How many innocents have to die before we learn we cannot put all our eggs in the electronic warfare basket and start to develop our own human intelligence capability?

It’s not that hard to get off the FOB and stay off the FOB, my children did it. Grad students from MIT do it…which reminds me the Synergy Strike Force girls are back in Nangarhar staying at the Taj and doing some super cool medical and social networking stuff.  Jenn’s blog is here and Rachel’s blog is here – Rachel brought her husband Juan Rodriguez along and he’s a pro shooter (photography type) with a good eye and great glass on his camera – you should spend some time on both blogs. As you can see in the picture below hot chicks can stay off the FOB and roam around with no worries ….why can’t our HumInt teams do the same?

The Girls are back in town hanging out with Bollywood stars and SF A teams - they have been putting up excellent posts and photos for the past two months

The Girls are back in town hanging out with Bollywood stars and SF A teams – they have been putting up excellent posts and photos for the past two months

The Pech Valley

Earlier in the month ISAF was accused of shooting up 9 teenagers in the mountains of the Pech River Valley. The Army attack helicopter pilots who work that part of the country have memorized (it isn’t a big valley) every attack point in the Pech Mountains where it is not unusual to see Taliban fighters in their teens. They tell me that when they here where in the valley they are being called to fight they will know exactly where the Taliban are because they run up there to get in firefights almost daily. Mountains limit your options for effective ambush sites – our pilots know where they will be and have excellent situational awareness regarding the normal pattern of life of Hill Pashtuns. Army attack pilots don’t light up people in the mountains for no good reason so there is no doubt in my mind that if they smoked 9 teens it was because they were carrying weapons and firing at Americans.

What President Karzai should be upset about is the video pasted below. This video horrified (and I mean horrified) my Afghan staff.  I didn’t intend to show it to them but one of the cooks heard the music from the video and walked into my office to see why I was playing Jihadi music. Within minutes the whole staff was watching in mute horror before wondering off in stunned silence tears running down some of their cheeks. This video is what should be concern the Afghan elites but it’s not…why?? I suspect the elites can’t extort cash out of the Taliban over videos like this so why bother them.  The Americans – they pay and pay and pay.  And look what we have wrought.

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