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 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.