One of the most popular posts I wrote while in Afghanistan was Laura Does The Special Forces and it was not a flattering review of Ms Logan or the Special Forces. It’s time for another review of Ms. Logan’s work on 60 minutes and this time she hit the ball out of the park. It was outstanding and you should take the time to watch her segment below.
Many years ago a 60 minutes report like this would have caused a major reaction with the American public and our do-nothing shysters in congress. That time has long past which is mostly a good thing but not in this case. The course we are taking in Afghanistan will not work and this 60 minute report made that painfully obvious.
The report starts with the flight from Kabul International Airport to the US Embassy which is a trip of less than 2 miles by road. Laura points out that no US official or military member travels on the road in Kabul. The American leading our effort, army general John Nicholson (not to be confused with Marine general Larry Nicholson who kicked the Taliban’s ass in Helmand back in the day) replies that force protection is his number one mission and that it’s safer to not use the roads in Kabul.
Several points to make here starting with the fact that the helicopters being used are contractor air. Because the evil Eric Prince isn’t providing these aircraft nobody seems to mind but I’ll tell you this; they are charging a hell of a lot more than Blackwater ever charged the government and you can take that insight to the bank. The second observation is it is much safer for the Afghans to not have American military convoys on the road for reasons I have described about a dozen times over the years. Another obvious point is that if, after 16 years, we have gone from a Kabul where all foreigners were welcomed (which is how it was for at least the first 10 years of our involvement) to a city where no foreigner can travel anywhere without taking significant risks what does that tell you? Tells me we aren’t winning.
But General Nicholson says that we are winning. He tells Ms. Logan straight up that we’re killing Taliban leaders by the score and that they now have a choice to either come to the governments side or die. He goes on to say that there have been no attacks on our homeland from Afghanistan over the last 16 years and implies that if we leave Afghanistan that “International Terrorists” will take over the country and our homeland will be at risk.
This is madness disguised as conventional wisdom. Guess what? There has never been an attack on our homeland from Afghanistan. The 9/11 hijackers weren’t from Afghanistan and if you wanted to attack the city where they organized that would be Hamburg, Germany. All Afghanistan did was harbor bin Laden and we let him get away when the risk adverse Pentagon took over the original entry operation and prevented Delta (and a young Marine brigadier named Mattis) from smoke checking his dumb ass in 2001. What was their excuse back then? Force protection.
In the eyes of the modern general force protection trumps the mission as a priority in the American military. So does the imperative of foisting female machine gunners on the infantry. Do you know what a machine-gun section does in combat? It humps ammo, heavy 7.62mm ammo, along with their heavy gun and its tripod (which is heavy) and the traversing and elevation mechanism (which isn’t that heavy) and spare barrels and their own rifles…
Sorry, got a little off track there.
If there is anyone in America who thinks we did Afghanistan a favor by listening to the highly over-rated Colin Powell and staying in that country I can assure you that you’re wrong. A trillion later, an unknown number of Afghan and international lives later, who knows how many arms and legs lost later; our military is still there and in the hermetically sealed Kabul military headquarters there sits a four star general who says (and might even believe) that the Taliban now has two options, die or capitulate.
Nicholson went on to claim that if we lose in Afghanistan “It would embolden jihadists globally”. I don’t think that is remotely true after the Axis of Adults crushed ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
Laura Logan pressed the general hard and then moved up the road to the Presidential Palace to press Ashraf Ghani, the leader of the so called ‘Unity Government’.
Lara Logan: Your soldiers and your policemen are dying in unprecedented numbers.
Ashraf Ghani: Indeed.
Lara Logan: How long can that be sustained?
Ashraf Ghani: Until we secure Afghanistan.
Lara Logan: How long is that? How long until you secure it?
Ashraf Ghani: As long as it takes. Generations if need be!
Lara Logan: The U.S. isn’t going to be here for generations.
Ashraf Ghani: We will be here for generations. We do not need others to fight our fights.
Lara Logan: People in this country say that if the U.S. pulled out, your government would collapse in three days.
Ashraf Ghani: From the resource perspective they are absolutely right. We will not be able to support our army for six months without U.S. support, and U.S. capabilities.
Lara Logan: Did you just say that without the US support your army couldn’t last six months?
Ashraf Ghani: Yes. Because we don’t have the money.
We have spent over a Trillion dollars on Afghanistan but they don’t have any money. Do you think a Trillion more will help? Do you think killing Taliban is the answer? Do you think mentoring the Afghan army from inside secured bases and then sending them out to get chewed up is the way forward?
We know how to mentor foreign troops plagued by low skills and low morale; our current Undersecretary of Defense for Special Operations wrote a book on it and you know what he said? You have to live with and fight with them to get them up to standard. That was why the Prince Plan made sense.
The only rational way forward is to allow the Afghans to solve this problem the Afghan way. General Nicholson said he’s giving himself two more years for his plan to work. I don’t what he’ll be saying in January 2020 but do know this much; there will be no significant changes to the situation in Afghanistan.
6 Replies to “Laura Does Kabul and Rocks It”
Good on you Tim. The fact that 95% of Americans don’t know or care about the state of our longest war is one of many canaries in the coalmine for the Republic.
I would add that the pointless recent “surge” in Afghanistan does not speak well of the “Axis of Adults.”
One problem with the Prince Plan is force protection. If he put a few advisers out with each ANA unit and they lived with the Afghans the obvious answer from the enemy would be the so called green on blue attack. Bounties anyone? How much would it cost to get an Afghan squaddie to have a go at the big shot infidel foreigner who can’t even speak to them?
That brings us back to the major problem of who signs up for this? After a very short while the supply of experienced, healthy, fit, competent (& unmarried?) staff trained ex-officers would dry up especially if they were being hired to replace people who’d just been assassinated. Next stop- former SF E-6s (from the bottom 1/3 of the promotion list) to advise the battalion commander. I suppose you could pay NFL wages and get serving National Guard officers to go but how many would or could sign up for three years? Perhaps Prince could fill his ranks with Latin Americans. FARC? (joking). Maybe some really gung-ho types from other NATO armies that have withdrawn could be enticed to join. The Brits are reportedly going to chop the Marines & Paras so perhaps there’d be some disgruntled would be TE Lawrences there.
I might just be being unduly pessimistic but that seems the wisest way to approach the Afghan problem.
You hit the nail on the head and I’m not sure Prince could have found the right mix but I know his people were talking to me and I was talking to Old Blue and my buddy Chris C. Chris (who has more time in country and knows more about Nangarhar than I do which is saying something) and Blue were talking to their friends and I think (because all of us want to go back) that if we could have had an initial cadre of guys with established connections allowing us some degree of safety in the areas we knew best. It would have been dicey but it was shaping up that way. They question would have been sustainment and I don’t know if we could have pulled it off. I know a bunch of new guys with no connections to prominent families or tribes would have problems. With the Prince Plan 10 Jim Gants would have been worth millions.
After writing my last post I watched a documentary, “The Somali Project”, on a Somali anti-piracy unit (the Puntland Maritime Police Force) that Erik Prince and the former head of Executive Outcomes had some part in starting. Most of the expats involved sounded like South Africans. They weren’t “advisers” and a South African really commanded the unit although there appear to have been Somalis in command on paper.
No spoilers but it is interesting and shows just how hard it is to build effective forces in failed/ failing states.
Logan is two years late on this story. I was there in late 2015 as a reporter and the conditions for USG personnel that Logan describes in this piece were already in place. They were all banned from traveling by road from the airport to RS HQ because of the danger.
But we civilian reporters made the trip multiple times w/o incident and in fact traveled regularly around Kabul in normal cars. It’s all about traveling low profile, as you know, and not in up-armored convoys or in black tinted suburbans as the USG prefers. And you’re right, it made traveling around the city much safer w/o having to worry about an Army convoy getting hit by a suicide bomber.
Nice point Kristina – you’re experience will be included in my next post.
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