The Axis Of Adults Focus On Afghanistan And May Be Entertaining A Solid Original Plan

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY ELIZABETH BROCKWAY/THE DAILY BEAST

It is immensely gratifying to see men you knew when they were junior officers ascend to such high levels in our government. The two Marines in what is now being called The Axis of Adults I trust implicitly as I do any man who can successfully lead an international oil company. It now appears the Axis is considering a plan that will work, reduce our expenditures considerably, reduce the unremitting stresses on our tactical aircraft component considerably (the Marine Corps F/18 community is in a shambles) and save the lives of American servicemen.  It is nice having adults in charge of things because they can table their innate prejudice of contract forces if it makes sense to use them.

When Eric Prince started writing about a modern East India Company concept I couldn’t see how it would work. I thought he meant small teams or individuals working in specific geographic locals for years at a time. That was the original model and would have worked had we started with that plan in 2001. It could still work in remote locations like Nimroz province but for most of Afghanistan the clock for that type of cooperation between the tribes and westerners has run out.

To be of any real use to regional tribes the expats would have needed to arm and train them with mortars and heavy machineguns. Two combat enablers the Taliban have in abundance and also the two weapon systems the Afghan National Police have been screaming about needing for the last 15 years. To get those enablers in-country requires end user certificates and getting those through the Department of State, even when you’re on one their contracts, is damn near impossible. The central government in Kabul would have never allowed it to happen  anyway as they are (for obvious reasons) against anyone but their national security forces getting heavy weapons. The classic version of a modern East India Company has always been DOA.

Afghanistan is not the graveyard of empires. It is the graveyard of empires that are incapable of adopting to change, have no flexibility in strategic thinking or tactical goals. It is the graveyard of 2nd generation military organizational structures. Genghis Khan could explain why that is were he alive today. Yet there appears to be a potential shift in our approach to the current conflict which involves getting most of the Pentagon out and bringing the free market in.

Mimicking the East India Company as an economy of force operation has never been what  Prince was proposing. His plan is to augment the ground combat component and replace most of the air combat component with contractors and reasonably priced fixed wing tactical aircraft.

The AN 29B Super Tucano platform would save American taxpayers billions and work well. This solution to the strategic problem of limited US Tac air illustrates the stark difference between talking about ‘outside the box’ and doing ‘outside the box’. Photograph by Javier Trando of Airliners.net

The number of contractors being currently tossed about is 5,500 but Prince will need to hire a couple thousand more to use for leave rotations and casualty replacement. I don’t think the average citizen understands the quality that will come with limited numbers of men being hired onto such a high paying gig. Guys like myself and Old Blue, with our years of Afghan experience and detailed local knowledge will be lucky to make the cut. The potential talent pool is just too high to explain in a pithy post.

The Axis of Adults are handicapped by their experiences and the systems they head. These systems are big on electronic intelligence yet crippled by a dearth of human intelligence. On top of that, force protection trumps the military imperative of bias for action at the battalion level and above.  Even the best of them can only fight that inertia slowly and methodically which is why we haven’t seen the ridiculous fantasy of women in the infantry laid to rest yet.

That is why the best they could come up with regarding the Afghan conflict was the perpetual rotation of Corps level advisory teams that do not leave the wire and thus provide limited utility to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). I’ve written why this won’t work here and won’t rehash the argument. Events of the ground are, however, making my arguments prescient. Last July we killed 12 Afghan National Policemen in an errant airstrike in the Gereshk district of Helmand province.

Who was controlling that aircraft? How did it happen? I don’t know but I do know what it must have been like for the Marine team in Lashkar Gah training the 505th Zone of the National Police. It sucked; it wasn’t their fault but they’re on the ground and will be blamed by the Afghans they are trying to teach.  Accidents that this lead to Green on Blue attacks and the increased likelihood of that forces the Marines into a more protective posture thus isolating them even more from their charges which will increase the likelihood of more Green on Blue. Vicious circle that.

Every informed writer on the topic agrees that the ANSF needs advisers with enablers at the battalion level to stay in the fight. This is not going to end the Afghan war for reasons outlined a dozen times in this blog. What it will end is the death of American servicemen and reduce the number of causalities in the Afghan National Army while saving the country billions of dollars.

The push-back from the liberals in will be as fierce as it is uninformed but will fade quickly and never surface again when it is just contractors fighting and dying in Afghanistan. The push back from our legacy media will reach new levels of hysteria and won’t stop until they see the obvious success the program will have on the ground. If the guys in this program take heavy casualties nobody is going to give a rats ass. That’s the deal when you contract and most of us are OK with it.

In the video below (H/T Feral Jundi) CNN allows Eric Prince to explain the details of his plan before they go Muh Russia on him.  In the end the reporter is pole vaulting over mouse turds concerning some random meeting Prince had with a Russian national last January. This is watching history in real time. The legacy media is committing seppuku right in front of our eyes. The plan Prince is floating will (I can’t stress this enough) end the dying for American servicemen while reducing considerably the death toll among the Afghan National Security Forces. Inshallah this will come to pass.

15 Replies to “The Axis Of Adults Focus On Afghanistan And May Be Entertaining A Solid Original Plan”

  1. The key parts of the East India Company that this plan will not reproduce (because the framework in which it exists won’t let it):

    1) Massive profitability. This plan is an attempt to slow the arterial spurting to a seep. The Company MADE money, instead of trying to lose it slower.

    2) Staying power. The Company, because of point 1, intended to stay in India indefinitely-if you’re making money, why stop? Everyone involved knew it. Not the case for these guys-their desired endstate is leaving, or at least should be. If your activities represent a net loss for your country, you should be looking to wind them up.

    3) Governance. Because the Company was making money and intended to stay there forever, it focused on making things work in an orderly manner overall, to facilitate these goals.

    4) A long, long leash. English do-gooders were far away, and the stuff that needed to get done would get done.

    5) Despite all that, the Company lost its mandate in the Sepoy Rebellion. The English government threw it under the bus and took over from it, and we know the rest of the story.

    The Company had all that going for it, and still lost. What’s Prince have that they didn’t? Super Tucanos?

    1. I liked the concept of replicating the company myself and have written about how I think it might have worked. But what Prince is proposing is not the same. He’s in it to turn a reasonable profit but mainly the idea is to reduced the billion being spent to a reasonable level. There are no other options and if he could get the DoD to cooperate I could see how they could leverage these regional training missions into improved combat performance. As I understand it the plan involved embedding in the battalions. If they really do that vice occupying a mini FOB inside the Afghan FOB where Afghans are not allowed to visit then it will be slightly better than what we had with the US military effort. If, on the other hand, they actually embed – eat, sleep and fight with the Afghans that could a game changer.

      1. It’s gonna turn a profit for Prince’s company, of course, but that profit will be coming out of the pocket of USG. The Company made a legitimate profit.

        Battalion embeds-you had all that and a bag of chips in Vietbam with MACV, as well as company embeds, village embeds…did it help?

        This thing is basically Vietnamization with contractors, a way to save face for a few years and distribute the blame on America’s way out. Eventually, the tap will be shut off. You can already see the place turning into a patchwork of fiefdoms-Uruzgan’s situation, with GIROA holding a piece of the center and everything else split between factions of Talibs, IS and who knows who else, HBK’s heirs and their little kingdom…

        If Prince was Viceroy, he could fix it, but to become Viceroy, he’d have to fix America first.

    2. I should note that the East India Company lasted in India from 1600 until 1857 when the British nationalized the company because of said rebellion. That is 257 years of operation in India!

      I think 257 years is long enough to help Afghanistan get it on its feet, don’t you? That is if the other components of the plan fall in place. Like mining, and other revenue producing ventures so Afghanistan can feed itself. But I doubt it would take that long. lol

      And if you want to really dig into this, how long did the British government run India once they took it over? The British Raj lasted from 1858 until 1947 or 89 years. Just saying, but the private option certainly lasted a lot longer than the government version. And really what gave the EIC it’s strength and longevity was the public private partnership between the government and the company via charter. I mean that partnership is what made the British Empire what it was back then– a behemoth.

      Another point is that the EP plan has not intentions of contractors sticking around for over 250 years. lol

      I am pretty sure all parties, US military or contractor, would much rather work themselves out of a job in Afghanistan. Plus, who would want to live there to colonize it? No one. lol But private companies would certainly like to mine there if Afghanistan was stable enough and conducive towards that venture. I mean Ghani was pleading with Trump to mine Afghanistan!

      Finally, I find it interesting that the private space flight industry uses the public/private partnership example of the East India Company and similar companies to justify private space flight, but when it is used by folks like Prince to describe his plan, it doesn’t work?

      https://youtu.be/3HLKE06rOJs

      1. Yes-Afghanistan could be very lucrative, if administered well.

        For the first 150 years, all they did was trade. They did not fight anybody. As late as 1750, they only had 3000 troops in India, mostly guarding their installations. They then moved into administration, simply because the locals were doing a bad job at it, and they could make a lot more money by just stepping in. That’s the nice thing about colonialism-you can export competent governance to places where it’s lacking, and everyone makes money.

        You want to turn this on its head-Prince will start off by providing military support, and then will make money by running mining operations and such?

        To make money mining, you need a government which provides good governance, fair courts, secure roads, etc. Who’s going to take care of that? GIROA?

        HEIC made money by having a monopoly in several very lucrative fields, one of them being the opium trade. Will Eric Prince have a monopoly on Afghan opium exports?

        You see where I’m going with this. Afghanistan’s problem is not a shortage of good warriors, it’s a shortage of good governance. If you let Prince take the place over and run it, he’d do a great job. But USG would never go for it. He’d have to conquer DC first. Which would be great!

  2. This concept is an absolute disaster in the making. Hiring a bunch of paid killers, (make no mistake a out that) whose allegiance is dictated by who signs the checks,(make no mistake about that either) betrays pretty much everything America has ever stood for. Two historically ignorant elements in this article jump off the page. First, to entertain British imperialism as the model, even for a moment, suggests an utter ignorance of historical forces over the 20th century. Second, if you have to dredge up Genghis Khan as your justification you simply ignore reality. Butchery, slavery, plunder and terror might have worked in the 12th century, but don’t pretend this plan is anything but an invitation to disaster. What happens when the war ends? 6000 guys who are making big bucks killing people for money just go back to working at Walmart?

    1. John I don’t see it that way and base my opinion on being a contractor for 7 years over there. Contractors, because they have no UCMJ protection, tend to be not too quick on the trigger. Review the post I put up on Raven 23 for example after example of the military killing civilians who came to close to their convoy’s or responded to night raids where the aggressors were unknown to them. You can’t say paid killers when there is over a decade of experience proving you wrong. I’ve known guys, who like me, were heavily armed contractors for well a decade in Afghanistan and (again like me) never fired a round at anyone. Our job then we to avoid drama and keep our clients safe. We were exceptionally good at it and our military brothers would have been as good at not shooting up civilians if they had spent as much time on the ground as we had. But they were there for 6 months (most of them) to a year (some of them) and then they rotated out. I took me at least 18 months to gain the front specific knowledge required to roam the kinetic provinces without falling victim to the Taliban or lighting up civilians.

      The Genghis Khan remark is an example that Afghanistan has never been the graveyard of empires. The Arabs came in and dominated the population too. The only modern example of a successful counter insurgency in Sri Lanaka and they won after deciding to take the gloves off and instituting the Carthaginian solution against the Tamil Tigers. America has a long history, starting with the Revolutionary War, of using contractors in battle. Tell me the difference between the air force Prince is recommending and the Flying Tigers of WWII? And finally what is the alternative? Just pull out and watch the government fall? I’ve been writing for 10 years now that we should not have stayed in the first place and would normally be sympathetic of that course of action. But I know too many Afghans who would lose their families and their lives if we pull out and can no longer think about this on principal alone. If there is a chance to get the Afghan Security Forces to the level to stay in the in the fight on their own I’ll not only support – I’ll go back and be a part of it. There is no invitation to disaster – there is only the current disaster and Prince’s plan is the only plan I’ve heard that could start to reverse that disaster. Calling the contractors murders in an insult to the American, British, South African and Australian military man as it is from their ranks the forces will be drawn. At some point you have to acknowledge reality and stop with the name calling…it’s uniformed and silly.

    2. Genghis Khan, among other things, established the first rapid trans-Eurasian post service, and the law was enforced in his empire to such a degree that a woman could travel alone, carrying valuables, in the absolute knowledge that she would not be bothered.

      Again, Afghanistan has no shortage of guys who are good at killing people. It has a shortage of guys who have the means, motive and opportunity to govern nationally.

      I would go with the patchwork concept-that is emerging on its own, anyway.

      1. And you wonder why you’re my favorite former army guy despite your incessant bitching about having to hump a grease gun instead of a Bushmaster? Great points again B

        1. Hump it? HUMP IT? I resent that imputation. I didn’t hump it anywhere, I rode around in style, in a shitbox Toyota Corolla!

          By the way, what I drive here is more or less the same thing-a little diesel Citroen with 300K miles on it. Never had a rock thrown at it so far, and every time the Arabs talk to me, they try to buy it. So, a valuable lesson learned from Afghanistan-always drive a beater.

          Anyway, if Prince gets monopoly rights on Afghan opium exports, I will eat my words-it IS the new HEIC. I’ll probably even apply for a job.

          1. Glad to see the fundamentals of Free Ranging are applicable world wide. If Prince does get this gig do you want in? Decent rotations and a hell of a lot more support then we ever had in the Stan

          2. Man, I have to sit down and really think that one over.

            I love Afg, but I also love coding, and that Pashtun project I’ve been working on on the side.

            As noted thinker R. Kelly (related to the general?) put it, “my mind is telling me no, but my body, my body is telling me yes.” And if you can’t trust R. Kelly for advice on sound decision making, whom can you trust?

            Let’s discuss offline when/if it comes together.

  3. Leaving aside the fact that Afghanistan to us has the same worth as the Balkans to Bismarck, who are all these contractors? Tim, I’ve been reading you for years, and buy that you and a lot of the guys you worked with have both the cultural acumen and professional training to serve as contracted advisors/mentors to ANSF. But how many potential contractors are really in that boat? Like our own servicemen, the vast majority of contractors I saw sat on FOBs and disdained the Afghans (at best). I suspect you would not be able to staff kandaks (let alone tolays) with enough guys truly worth a damn.

    And what happens after a string of green-on-blues (a tactic we have had no effective answer for)? I am pretty sure Prince’s Legion would quickly start competing with their ANA partners in the ghost soldier category.

    1. Your question is the million dollar question and I’m not sure I can provide a good answer. I’m writing a post now that will address that issue. The one thing I can say is the Prince model, as I understand it, would involve the same guys working with the same units for years on end. Not all of them will have the knowledge that Panjawayi Tim or Baruchk, or I have. But there are plenty of active and former military guys (Old Blue at Afghan Quest springs immediately to mind) who also have our level of experience and cultural understanding. The only question is are there enough of them and us, willing to go back and share our knowledge with guys who don’t have it? I don’t know the answer to that. I also am operating under the assumption that truly embedded trainers will not be victim to green on blue because of the close associations that they will be able to develop. I know that, surround by my old crew of Afghans, I would never be successfully attacked and wouldn’t spend a second worrying about it. Under the Prince model the teams would be able to develop the same levels of trust and loyalty over time. Buying that time could be problematic. The one thing my colleagues and I were able to do was operate successfully in environments of extreme risk. I don’t think we had any special skills aside from the ability to apply logic and reason inside that threat environment….Initial thoughts here Seacoster – let me see if I can get them better with the next post.

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