Just Listen …. !
Bellum Romanum is all-out war without restraint as Romans practiced it against groups they considered to be barbarians. I came upon the term a few days ago listening to a Dan Carlin Hard Corps History podcast about my ancestors titled the Celtic Holocaust. He starts the podcast by asking “what are you willing to die for”? He then ups the ante by asking “what are you willing to sacrifice everything for? That question, although profound, is an alien concept in the western world today.
I recommend downloading the podcast, it’s a long one but fascinating. Although the topic involved the epic slaughter of my ancestors it is hard, these thousands of years removed, not to admire the Romans. Could you imagine going into battle, at hand to hand range, with a people who were 6 inches taller and commensurately stronger than your side? That had to be terrifying; as is the thought of being forced to take a stand where everything you know and love hangs in the balance.
Which brings us to Afghanistan. The Voice of America published a solid article recently which explains what an additional 4,000 American troops will most likely be doing when deployed to Afghanistan:
“We need guardian angels,” said Lt. Col. John Sandor, deputy senior adviser for the Afghan Army’s 201st Corps, referring to security forces that would protect U.S. training teams so they can work alongside Afghan brigades.
….Sometimes, said Maj. Richard Anderson, operations adviser for 201st Corps, the Afghan answer is: “Let the Americans do it.” In early spring, when U.S. forces asked the Afghan army to step up its pursuit of IS militants in Nangarhar province, they encountered resistance. Demoralized by an IS attack that killed 16 Afghan soldiers in April, Afghan commanders wanted the American and Afghan special operations forces to carry the fight. But ground units are needed to hold territory, so U.S. advisers were forced to spend weeks cajoling the Afghan Army to join the battle.”
It appears we are sending more American troops to protect their fellow American’s from the Afghan troops they are training and trying to get to fight. The Afghan soldiers apparently are not willing to die for a central government in Kabul that is not only corrupt but is also, in the eyes of most Afghans, not legitimate. How could they view it as anything else when it was installed and maintained by infidels from the west?
For American troops the question of what they are willing to die for is easily answered. Each other. That is the harsh reality of a military system designed to promote small unit cohesion by linking directly to unit histories, traditions, discipline and military virtue. The American military can fight effectively with or without the support of the American people. The support and appreciation of the military by the public helps mitigate the sacrifices soldiers are asked to make but it is not required. Most importantly soldiers know that if they are killed in battle their families will be provided for by the government who placed them in harms way.
Afghan troops do not enjoy the advantages of their western mentors. Afghanistan is not a cohesive country; it’s a disparate group of tribal peoples living inside an artificial boundary dictated by foreign colonialists over 100 years ago. Their army has no winning tradition, no lineage to draw upon, lacks competence at all levels and is unable to generate sufficient combat power to confront its internal enemies. The Afghan soldiers know if they are killed in battle their families are on their own. If wounded and unable to bribe the hospital staff to feed them soldiers will linger and die a protracted, agonizing, completely avoidable death.
The various groups that comprise the Taliban do not operate under the same circumstances as their countrymen in the Afghan military. They have built-in cohesion based on the tribal/clan structure from which they come. They often flock to successful commanders giving them rudimentary esprit de corps. The Taliban make an effort to look after the families of their fallen and although their medical capabilities are poor they are consistently applied. No Taliban fighter convalescing in a Pakistani or Iranian hospital is going to perish because nobody fed him.
Most importantly the Taliban are facing, in their minds, Bellum Romanum. They are fighting for their land, their families and their way of life. They view the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) as puppets of western infidel powers bent on their total destruction. What’s the counter-narrative to that? There isn’t one.
The only course of action that would make any sense is placing private military mentor/trainers at the battalion (Kandak) level and leaving them there long enough for those units to develop cohesion around their mentors. Add to that combat enablers in the form of indirect fire, some decent snipers, effective tactical air and the lift needed for dust offs (medical evacuation) and combat resupply and maybe, just maybe, you can develop a security force that has the cohesion required to generate and sustain combat power.
Doing that would not take many men; it would take the right men, which could have proved difficult to find, incentivize, and retain. For now that option appears dead in the water so the point is moot. What is not moot is what it will take to achieve a military solution in Afghanistan. It would take some form of Bellum Romanum; a zero sum campaign that matches the zero sum attitude of the other side in this conflict. The American military cannot and will not fight that kind of war. We have fought like that in living memory and here is a story about what that looks like from my Dad, MajGen J.D. Lynch USMC (Ret).
When I was a first classman at USNA (somewhere around 2 centuries ago), during an aviation class, an instructor reminisced about WWII and his time as a carrier pilot flying Hellcats. When asked by one of the guys what he considered his most dangerous and for that matter, frightening experience during the war. His response was that, early in the war he was Admiral Nimitz’s pilot. After the Battle of Tarawa, the admiral was so concerned about the casualty figures that he was flown to Tarawa to see for himself (he traveled by sea planes in those early days of the war). In any event, the pilot, now an instructor at Navy, said that he left the plane with the admiral’s party and walked the Tarawa battlefield …. he said that was his most frightening experience of the war … the Marines just stared at everybody and seemed ready to kill anybody at any time with little or no reason.
Could you imagine front line troops so formidable that they scared a pilot (from their own side) who made his living landing on aircraft carriers? I can’t and we’re not going to see that kind of infantry anytime soon. We’re not going there because we don’t have to go there. The ANSF security forces aren’t going there either although they need to. In our enlightened modern world where history is little known and often twisted to fit the political narrative of the day we believe that war can be fit inside of some magical box that excludes butchery, savagery, hatred and slaughter. We believe we are above Bellum Romanus even in the face of Islamic terrorist who fight with the same methods and ferocity of the barbarian tribes that contested Roman rule.
Those who believe the arc of history will deliver us to an enlightened state where Marines in contact will always be tame enough to make senior naval officers comfortable inside their lines are deluded. Granted front line American infantry today does not resemble the Marines on Tarawa; it doesn’t have to as we’re not fighting an existential threat (yet). Our divided country, with its fractured culture and forgotten history, will be tested again. Most likely by a unified culture fighting under the banner of Islam. When that happens we will fight like the Roman’s fought, like the Vietcong fought, like we fought on the hellish islands in the Pacific or we will be vanquished. Then we will learn what the Romans knew; Vae victis (woe to the vanquished).
Sending more trainers to Afghanistan to watch over the trainers already there so the trainees don’t kill them is not a viable military strategy. It is, however about the only option available to the Axis of Adults given the the fiscal and manpower constraints the Pentagon operates under today.
The only diplomatic effort that could possibly break the current stalemate would involved way outside the box ideas like advocating for a Pashtun and Balouch (and a Kurdish while we’re at it) homeland that would erase the artificial lines drawn on the world map (by the west) over a hundred years ago. That would cause enough disruption in the status quo to get Pakistan, Turkey and Iran worked up to the point of hysteria while aligning ourselves with the insurgents goals. I like the idea of turning the insurgents back on their creators while we occupy the moral (these people deserve their own homeland) high ground.
It would also be sticking our thumb in the eye of the UN, an organization for which I have little use. But that’s not going to happen, outside the box thinking like that is no longer accepted by the ruling classes. It is a threat to their grip on power and prestige despite its practicality. They will fight to the last American to defend a system that is collapsing right in front of our eyes.
America can sustain the deployment of 10 to 15 thousand troops into Afghanistan indefinitely but we have a critical center of gravity. We will not tolerate excessive casualties. If the Taliban are able to do what Afghans have always done; if they isolate and destroy in detail a military unit, our adventure in Afghanistan will come to a rapid end. If they are not able to inflict large numbers of casualties on us then maybe we can run the clock on them to the point that even the Taliban are tired of fighting. Maybe….but betting on the Taliban growing weary of war, when all they know is war and they seem to be winning said war, is like financial planning via buying lottery tickets. It could work but the odds (and reality) are against it.
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Last night President Trump gave a solid speech about why he is committing American power and prestige to continue fighting in Afghanistan. It was a good speech that outlined some reasonable goals and contained the kind of one liners guys (and gals) like me appreciate. “We are not nation building again. We are killing terrorists”. That sounds great until you think about who, exactly, are these terrorist we’re going to be smoke checking. Depending on how you look at it the “terrorists” could be every non Hazara Afghan residing beyond the confines of Kabul.
One of the other components of the speech was the refusal to give out specific numbers regarding the increase in American forces in Afghanistan as well as what these forces are expected to do. The most common number in the press, based on pre-speech background briefings, was an increase of 4,000 troops. Some of these troops are supposed to be supplied by our NATO allies but that’s not going to happen. There are only a few of those allies who have troops that can fight and they have no reason to go back for Operation Groundhog Day.
What will these troops be doing on the ground? It sounds like they are going to fight but who will would be doing the fighting, where are they going to fight, how long will they be fighting? We really can’t do that much fighting because we have a center of gravity that the Taliban understands well. We cannot afford to take casualties. The American people are not behind this effort and they are not going to tolerate a steady flow of body bags into Dover.
The stated goal of our continued effort in Afghanistan is to prevent the repeat of a 9/11 type of attack on the American homeland. 9/11 was planned and coordinated in Afghanistan by al Qaeda and some of them, as well as an ISIS franchise, remain in the country. But it is impossible to believe that, even if the Taliban took control of the entire country, one of those organizations would be allowed to plan and launch attacks on America. We are to continue fighting villains until we have “exposed the false allure of their ideology”. That too is not going to happen; their ideology is based on the Koran; there are no countervailing Koranic interpretations evident in Islam today that would push back against the Jihadi narrative.
Talking about changing our approach to Pakistan, increasing cooperation with India and holding the Afghan government accountable sounds like a reasonable course of action unless you know something about Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. How do you make the Kabul government “more accountable”? How can you get the Pakistani’s to stop funding cross boarder mayhem while at the same time inviting India to assume a much bigger role in Afghanistan? Pakistan will once again be critical to the logistical effort required for putting even more boots on the ground and thus holds the trump card in any dispute with us concerning what they are or are not doing in Afghanistan.
The strength of the Prince Plan was embedding trainers/mentors with the Afghan Security Forces at the battalion level and leaving the same team in place for years on end. That would have allowed the mentors to gain front specific knowledge regarding the tactics and personalities at the granular level and that in addition to their access to combat enablers (Tac Air and Artillery) could have been decisive.
Extended time on the ground in the same place also renders the number one Taliban weapon (IED’s) ineffective. Fighting on the same turf for years at a time provides the knowledge required to avoid IED’s as well as complex ambushes. Increased dwell time = increased tactical proficiency = decrease in combat casualties from IED’s. Increased dwell time is no longer in the cards meaning units who venture outside the wire during their 6 to 9 month rotations will take casualties they could have avoided had they been on the ground longer.
The Trump plan is not going to result in enablers at the battalion level; it will augment the Corps level training missions while (apparently) allowing those forces to sortie out of their FOB’s and take on Taliban formations when they deem the conditions favorable to do so. Job number one for all deployed forces in going to be avoiding casualties; focusing on the enemy and exploiting his weaknesses will be a secondary consideration which means “favorable conditions” will not necessarily translate into decisive defeats of various Taliban formations.
The Trump plan is placing the responsibility for our continued efforts in Afghanistan squarely on the shoulders of the Pentagon. But the Pentagon has major problems that are starting to manifest themselves. The latest evidence of this was the USS John S, McCain which collided, in broad day light, with an oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca.
Having transited the strait a couple of times aboard Naval shipping this accident is impossible for me to comprehend. The Strait has always had a huge pirate problem and when in the strait the normal navy watch crew (aboard gator freighters) is augmented by armed Marines. The McCain had no armed Marines but should have had an enhanced watch section with the crew on hair trigger alert to go to general quarters. That has been the standard operating procedure for over 50 years. We are hearing (just like the last ship collision) that maybe this was an intentional attack. That should have been expected and avoided and is probably not going to prove to be true. What is happening to the Navy is, I fear, the chickens coming home to roost.
The extract below from an excellent article in City Journal by Bob McManus sums up the current problem:
“….eight years under the leadership of a Navy secretary, Ray Mabus, whose social-justice priorities almost always took precedence over tradition, morale, training, and operational readiness. Under Mabus, according to the Navy Times, the service prioritized shipbuilding—not a bad thing, necessarily, but it came at a cost. The secretary “made a policy of directing money away from operations and maintenance”—that is, away from training of the sort that clearly could have prevented at least the Fitzgerald tragedy. (What happened on the McCain remains to be seen.) “At the same time,” the editorially independent publication reports, “Mabus pushed hard for major cultural shifts inside the fleet, including the inclusion of women in combat roles in the Navy and Marine Corps, unisex uniforms, gender-neutral ratings titles and opening the services to transgender service members.”
Pushed to the point of obsession, the Navy Times might have added. As a result, the Marine Corps ended the Obama years in a state of near-mutiny over the administration’s insistence on shoehorning women into front-line combat roles despite convincing evidence that they aren’t up to the task. Meantime, the Navy has developed a serious pregnant-sailor problem“.
The American military is no longer able to shoulder the burden of putting Afghanistan back together again. Our diplomatic service lacks the leverage to force change in countries who are not aligned with our goals. The Taliban have no reason to end its armed opposition to a central government that is weak, corrupt, and entirely dependent on foreign aid dollars. There is little hope on the horizon for the people of Afghanistan.
The plan put forth by Senator John McCain is the perfect example of big government incompetence. The Prince plan is, in contrast, a perfect example of free market competence. Eric Prince and his team have done the hard work of mission analysis by developing tasks from which to build a table of organization and equipment (TOE) to meet a clearly defined mission with an articulate endstate. His plan has annual cost of less then 10 billion. His efforts developing his plan have not cost the taxpayer a penny.
Senator McCain and his staff have developed a plan without any mission analysis, any TOE, any idea of the total numbers it will take or the amount it will cost. His office staff plus the staff of the Senate Armed Services committee wrote his plan and assuming most of them worked on it for a few months McCain’s plan has already cost the taxpayer millions of dollars; every one of which might as well have been flushed down a toilet.
As predicted in my last post his plan is fraught with stupidity and fuzzy logic while ripping off ideas from the Prince plan. For Example:
In the short term, establishing U.S. military training and advisory teams at the kandak-level of each Afghan corps and significantly increasing the availability of U.S. airpower and other critical combat enablers to support ANSDF operations; and In the long term, providing sustained support to the ANSDF as it develops and expands its own key enabling capabilities, including intelligence, logistics, special forces, air lift, and close air support.
Kandak is a Pashto word meaning a battalion and McCain apparently agrees with Prince on the need for trainers/mentors at the battalion level. The Prince plan includes introducing low cost, effective tactical fixed wing fighters as well as low cost helicopter support. The Afghans need this desperately and without the injection of tac air and logistic/dust off assets they will continue to lose ground to the Taliban.
Senator McCain’s plan calls for increasing U.S. aripower while ignoring the fact that our airpower is currently in crisis and does not have the ability to surge back into Afghanistan. Our fighters lack spare parts and there are no operating fabrication lines to make more. Pilot flight hours, on every platform in the inventory, are lower then the baseline needed to maintain proficiency . Historically low morale among aircrews is reflected by the inability to keep experienced pilots in the services regardless of the amount of retention bonuses offered.
Mr. Prince did the hard work to come up with a solid dollar amount that is a fraction of the projected spending on Afghanistan. Senator McCain did zero work on the details and has come up with a plan that will require ten’s of thousands of additional military personnel and will raise the price tag to well over 100 billion a year.
The numbers required to fulfill Senator McCain’s vision are, of course, unknown but we can make a good guess. The pending merger of the Afghan Border Police (ABP) and the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) into the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) will add 12 brigades to the 24 brigades currently staffed by the ANA. Each brigade is supposed to have 4 maneuver battalions as well as logistic units and organic fire support (mortars and artillery). There are also SOF brigades, artillery and armor battalions, brigade and corps level headquarters that will all need mentors. Add in the typical tooth to tail ratio for the American military (around 20 to 1) and we get well over 100,000 men (and women) to staff and a support this “plan”.
The remainder of this plan consists of bullet points that are nothing more than Master of the Obvious (MOTO) statements. For example:
Establish security conditions in Afghanistan necessary to encourage and facilitate a negotiated peace process that supports Afghan political reconciliation and an eventual diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan;
Forge a regional diplomatic consensus in support of the long-term stabilization of Afghanistan through integration into regional patterns of political, security, and economic cooperation.
Bolstering the United States counterterrorism effort in Afghanistan
Increasing the number of U.S. counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan
Providing the U.S. military with status-based targeting authorities against the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other terrorist groups that threaten the United States, its allies, and its core interests.
Is there anyone, who has been paying attention to our efforts in Afghanistan, who believes we have not been trying to do exactly this for the past 16 years?
The McCain plan will increase costs exponentially. The FOB’s that were once established to support 100,000 plus troops were torn down or handed over to the Afghans. Reestablishing those FOB’s will take so much time, money and effort that it is mind boggling. Plus we will need to put large convoys of American troops on the roads of Afghanistan where they will be hit by IED’s and ambushes long before they ‘mentor’ a single Afghan soldier. Smart contractors are better able to use those same roads without being easily targeted. There are dozens of post on this blog dating from 2008 to 2012 that explains that in detail.
Were I a conspiracy theorist I’d speculate that McCain put this “plan” out there to ensure the Prince plan is adopted. It is clear, when you compare the two, that Washington is incapable of coming up with a workable solution to Afghanistan. We do not have the air assets, troop numbers, money or national will to even consider the McCain plan. It is also clear that the only person with a viable plan for Afghanistan is Eric Prince.
The privatization of the Afghanistan War is still generating headlines and the majority of the coverage is hostile, uninformed, inaccurate and basically ad hominem attacks on Mr. Prince. Did you know that Betsy Devos, the current Secretary of Education is his sister? Can anyone explain what that has to do with Afghanistan or why it is a standard feature in almost news story about this plan?
When looking at these stories one realizes that trying to explain this program to the media and general public is like trying to explain quantum physics to kindergartners. It appears to be a hopeless task but FRI has the advantage of an informed readership. With that in mind we’ll cover the details in the hopes that you, my dear readers, will have additional ammunition should you chose to engage friends, family or co-workers on the topic.
The Prince plan involves putting trainer/mentor teams at the battalion level of the Afghan National Army and augmenting their helicopter and tactical aircraft with some 90 additional high speed, low cost aircraft. The plan takes the current projected annual price for supporting the Afghan military from 40 billion down to 10 billion. Reducing the hemorrhaging of tax money to stabilize a losing effort is the strong component of a workable the plan.
The second benefit of the plan is reducing the stress on our tactical air assets. The Marine Corps air component is currently in crisis. Average flight hours for pilots have gone from well over 80 hours a month (on average) when I was on active duty to around 10 hours and that is not enough flight time to maintain proficiency. The primary Marine tac air platform, the F-18, is so worn out that Marines are going to museums to strip parts that are no longer in production of museum pieces to try and keep their birds in the air. The Navy, who wisely went with the F-18 Super Hornet instead of waiting for the trillion dollar F-35, is in slightly better shape. The Air Force also has serious readiness issues and all the services are hemorrhaging experienced pilots. Taking the load off the our tactical air fleet is an imperative.
Also part of the plan is a helicopter fleet for combat resupply and dust offs (medical evacuation). The Afghans had dust off’s when the Americans (and NATO allies) were there in force. They have none now which means Afghan troops, who would have survived their wounds in the past, now die. That is a moral killer and unquestionably contributes to the high desertion rate then ANA is experiencing.
Another component of the plan is embedding large teams of trainers/mentors at the battalion level where they will eat, sleep, train and fight with their Afghan colleagues. We have never tried this before with the exception of the high end Afghan Special Forces units. The embedded mentor teams of the past fought with the Afghans but did not live, eat or sleep with them. They were housed in secure FOB’s inside the Afghan FOB’s where Afghans were not welcomed and could go enter.
The costs associated with maintaining mini FOB’s inside Afghan FOB’s with KBR DFACs (chow halls) that served excellent American food (to include pecan pie and unlimited mint chocolate chip ice cream) flown into the country from who knows where were astronomical. I assume the Prince Plan is not duplicating that failed strategy and base the assumption on both the cost savings and the amount of experience Mr. Prince has doing this sort of thing in the 3rd world.
The final strength of the plan is the fact that contracted Private Military Companies (PMC’s) have proven they work. Global piracy rates are plummeting due to PMC’s. Boko Haram is getting its ass kicked in Nigeria because of a PMC. Joseph Komey was broken and damn near killed by the Ugandan’s who had received specialized training from a PMC. Egypt was kicked out of Yemen back in 1962 by a PMC that started with only six former Brit SAS men and ended up with less than 50. These are facts that should matter but in the echo chamber PC based hysteria that dominates our national discourse they are are studiously ignored.
Added bonus for the proposal is that the DoD is already sending armed contractors to Afghanistan to mentor (another hat tip to Feral Jundi). Here is an example from Raytheon who is looking for “armed S2 mentors”. S2 means intelligence and what they are proposing is these guys arm themselves and then mentor Afghans on an individual basis. That’s not only crazy it illustrates the hypocrisy resident in DoD opposition to the Prince plan.
The weakness of Price’s plan is not the plan itself but the way the U.S. Government (USG) handles contracts like the one he is proposing. Unless they give it to Prince as a sole source contract it will be open for bidding. A sole source contract means the contractor is the only business that can provide the services needed. Based on my observations of the performance other US PMC contenders in Afghanistan I would argue that Prince should be the sole source. But that probably won’t happen in the highly charged political atmosphere in DC today. If a contract, based on this plan, is let for bid companies with demonstrated poor performance will be allowed to bid and if they come in with a lower cost than Prince they will win. Other international companies will bid too despite the fact that they cannot conduct the proper pre-deployment training (due to restrictive weapons laws in their home country). Because they can’t train up their people they will not incur the costs associated with that training and will naturally come in lower than Prince.
I saw this play out on the Kabul Embassy security force contract and would explain that debacle in detail were I not terrified of lawyers and law suits. If the DoD or DoS or whoever lets the contract chooses the lowest bidder the plan will fail, the savings evaporate, the quality of the embedded trainers will be poor and the results will be a dismal, expensive failure.
There is also the problem of ad hominem attacks on Prince because of the Nisour square incident. I addressed why those attacks are uninformed gibberish in this post. What I want to stress is I’ve been on both sides of that problem. I know well the gut wrenching fear of watching an Opel gun it’s engines and come after you in Nisour square. I’ve had two SUV’s shot out from under me in Kabul – one by the Brit army and one by the American army. I urge you to read the linked post to get some perspective, from a guy who has been on both sides of the situation, on the Raven 23 incident.
I rate the probability of this planning moving forward at 50/50. The reason for my optimism is that there are no other rational alternatives available. The Pentagon has proposed more of the same thing they’ve been doing which is clearly (by their own admission) failing. Senator John McCain, a man I hold in extremely low regard, is threatening to come up with his own plan and I can promise you his plan will be fraught with stupidity and fuzzy logic. He’ll take parts of the Prince plan and try to shoe horn military trainers into it resulting in a 40 billion increase vice a 40 billion decrease in spending…watch and see if I’m not right.
News reports from inside the administration indicate little enthusiasm from Secretary Mattis and the DoD. That may or may not be true. Our legacy media has zero credibility with me and the vast majority of my fellow citizens. If they are saying Mattis is opposed to the plan odds are he’s not. But if he is opposed he’ll need to come up with a better plan and he knows that he doesn’t have one.
The one legitimate obstacle appears to be General McMaster; the current head of the National Security Council and author of the book Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. McMaster appears to be opposing President Trump on many of his policies which you’d expect from a guy who wrote a book about weak generals who sucked up to the presidents they were serving. It also appears that McMaster is tolerating zero dissent in his office, firing anyone holding contrary views, retaining Obama appointed deadwood and refusing to use or acknowledge the term “Islamic Terrorist”. One would not expect that from the guy who wrote Dereliction of Duty. But just because a guy writes a book about flaky generals doesn’t mean he’ll end up not being a flaky general. He may not even be a flaky general, who would you know? Reading chicken entrails is easier then deciphering media reports these days.
Generals are weird; I don’t know McMaster so I’ll focus on one I do know. If you told me that my former boss John Allen would, as a former four star general, speak in support of Hillary Clinton at a democratic national convention I may have throat punched you (metaphorically given my fear of lawyers and law suits) for bad mouthing one of my heroes. There was no way those of us who knew John Allen as a junior officer could have imagined him morphing into a political general with such spectacularly poor judgement.
I mention that to say this. The “Viceroy” portion of the Prince plan – the one government official who resides over the entire Afghan effort in order to break up the petty rice bowl guarding, slow decision making, and multiple agendas? That guy needs to have serious chops and John Allen is the only man I can think of who could do that.
Our country is so politically polarized that rational discussions have become almost impossible. The recent firing of goggle engineer James Damor who wrote a well researched piece concerning liberal group think and intolerance in an organization he was obviously devoted to is the latest example of this. The Afghans need some serious help to stabilize their country and the Prince plan is the only rational plan that will but them the time they need to stand on their own.
I remember the day everything started to go downhill for Americans in Afghanistan. It was Monday, the 29th of May 2006 when an American army truck had a brake failure and plowed into a bunch of cars at the bottom of a long hill at the northern entrance to Kabul. The accident caused fatalities which caused the hundreds of locals milling around the area to converge on the accident scene. The situation rapidly escalated when a gunner on the back of the stricken truck panicked and started shooting people at point blank with his .50 cal machinegun. Tolo news was running the tape of that shooting over and over when my buddy Walt called from the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) office and told me to turn on the news because we had a major problem.
I watched the shooting play out twice before Tolo shifted to a live reporter and immediately went to General Quarters in our compound. We lived behind the American embassy in a local compound that looked like any other compound so we were safe. Our JICA clients were spread out in offices across Kabul and were not safe. It took less than 30 seconds to come up with our plan; local clothes only, no body armor or rifles as they were useless in this situation; we would go with concealed pistols. I opened the golden conex (I had it painted gold to accommodate my quirky sense of humor) and grabbed the one CS grenade we had and then took as many frag grenades as I could carry without being too obvious. The rest of the expats took frags too and we started heading towards the various offices stopping briefly outside the JICA compound to get radio’s.
Our SUV’s turned out to be worthless as traffic was jammed up so badly that we could not make it to our various destinations ahead of the rioting crowds. We purchased a few bikes from locals on the spot for 15 times their worth and started peddling furiously down side streets. Unable to move our clients to safe harbored we gathered them into several different offices around town and strong-pointed them. Then we waited and thankfully the rioting mobs passed us by. It was, to be honest, terrifying and one of those times I remember with a shudder. We had only one incident. The guard manning the JICA office gate was shot in the leg. It was a minor wound and the Afghan, who was an albino and as white as Casper the ghost, told me latter; “every time there is a riot somebody shoots me in the leg because they think I’m a damn foreigner like you”. Gotta love a guy who maintains a sense of humor in the face of adversity.
Over the years that I have been writing this blog I have bitched incessantly about the unnecessary killing of civilians due to convoy procedures and night raids. Examples can be found here, here, here and here. And it is with that in mind that I welcome the breaking news of the overturned murder conviction for one of the Blackwater contractors involved in the Nisour Square shootings along with the re-sentencing of the other 3 members of the Raven 23 team. If what they did in Nisour square was a “massacre” (as Wikipedia dubs it) what the army did in Kabul in May of 2006 was a mega massacre. Both incidents were unfortunate, both incidents happened in places I know well – I’ve driven through Nisour square dozens of times.
Of the two incidents the one I find the most unforgivable was the American army lighting up dozens of civilians in Kabul. With heavy machineguns at point blank range no less. That shooting pales in comparison to Nisour Square. When I read the circumstances behind the Nisour Square incident I can only say there but for the grace of God go I. There was a lot of lead being thrown at Raven 23 as they fought to reach safe harbor. When I remember what I saw during that long day in Kabul I can say with certainty that there is no way I’d react with deadly force. There was no lead coming their way; going to guns was an inexcusably amateur move.
The men of the Raven 23 PSD team were railroaded by a transparently corrupt Department of Justice who, I believe, was motivated by racial animus and politically correct group think regarding armed contractors. Matt over at the always excellent Feral Jundi has a good round up on the status of the Raven 23 story here.
I am not contending that the hundreds of military men who killed civilians they thought to be suicide (VBIED) bombers or shot regular villagers who were responding to a night time raid on their own or a neighbors compound are war criminals. These things happen in war. My contention is that these deaths were due to poor tactics (convoys) and questionable strategic objectives (night raids) and thus could have and should have been avoided. But if the military men involved in these incidents aren’t murders neither are the members of the Raven 23 PSD team. That is a self evident truth.
Plus there is the fact that the contract Raven 23 was working stipulated they were under the tactical control of a State Department Regional Security Officer. Why wasn’t he prosecuted? The answer is obvious.
Part of the Kangaroo court proceeding that went beyond bizarre was the federal court flying in alleged victims of this shooting. Leave aside the costs passed on to the taxpayer and look at the reality concerning the potential for veracity from these alleged victims. The best way to explain what I mean is demonstrated by a story I pulled off of All Marine Radio. The episode, broadcast on the 21st of July, was titled You Paid the Iraqis for Detaining Them? ; the story I’m relating starts at the 28:08 mark. I urge you to listen to the whole hour – it’s hysterically funny, interesting and a bit alarming to those who lack experience in the Arab world.
The story starts when the Ops Officer of the MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit) working Iraq rolled into Mac’s command post (CP) back in 2004. As they were shooting the breeze the OpsO talked about the MEU’s recent operation against the Shia militia of Muqtada al-Sadar in the city of Najaf.
S3 “We had them surrounded in the main mosque in Najaf and the Iraqi’s from the national army who were with us were talking with the Marines about what it was like to fight Americans:
Marine: “How long have you been in the army”?
Iraqi solder: “I have been in the army for 15 years and fought against you guys in Kuwait and I am so excited to be on your side right now…this is wonderful with your tanks and your helicopters… fighting you was very scary so we ran away as soon as our officers abandoned us which is why we are still alive….This is awesome, we are going to go tomorrow with your tanks and guns and paint the walls of the mosque red with their blood”.
Marine: “Yeah that’s probably not going to happen”.
Iraqi: “what do you mean”
Marine: “Our country has this thing about attacking mosques”.
Iraqi’ “What? They are hiding in the Mosque and tomorrow we will go kill them all and cover the walls with their blood!”
Marine: “Yeah we’re probably not going to do that”
Iraqi’ “Then what are you going to do”?
Marine “We’re negotiating with them right now..”
Iraqi’ “No, no, no, no ..this is Jihad they will say anything because it doesn’t matter. You are the infidel and they can lie to you. They will lie and they will leave and within 10 minutes they will have another weapon and we will be fighting them again. How can you be a great nation and not annihilate your enemy”?
Needless to say the militia negotiated a surrender and the next day the Iraqi’s were fighting them again. The point being there are deeply embedded cultural reasons not to trust one word of alleged victims in the Nisour Square case or any other similar case. I urge you to listen to the podcast; there are a dozen or more examples of why this is so.
That our country now has a two tiered justice system is obvious. Were I to commit any of the many crimes that former FBI director James Comey outlined in his non indictment of Hillary Clinton I’d be rotting in jail for the rest of my life. And justifiably so. The legacy media is currently consumed with the Muh Russia story while trying to spin away the fact that it was Clinton’s who were paid millions by Russia after signing away a healthy percentage of our Uranium stocks. The current scandal involving Debbie Washerman Schultz and the Awan family is, in not just my opinion, the biggest political scandal of my lifetime. Yet the same corporate media shills who screamed for the scalps of the Raven 23 crew refuse to cover it.
Yesterday the current reign of progressive judicial tyranny was dealt a solid blow. Let us hope that this is the start of a trend to apply the rule of law equally to every citizen regardless of race, political affiliation or elected status. If it is not then our country is in for a world of hurt. But that is down the road; right now three of the four men of Raven 23 are still in the Federal Pen and still need our support and prayers. The Raven 23 website is here – drop by and spread the love by giving them whatever support you can. They’ve earned it.
Last week I read an article about a topic that, like many current counter narrative trends, has been covered extensively in the alt media while mostly ignored in the legacy media. That topic is the epidemic of rapes and sexual assault committed in Europe by Islamic migrants. The author, Dr Cheryl Benard, revealed something I didn’t know and that is a vast majority of these rapes were being committed by Afghans. She was focused on Austria because that is, apparently, a country she knows well. Her observations may not be applicable in countries like Sweden but that fact is irrelevant to her overall thesis. She, like me, has extensive experience working with Afghans and she was appalled by the facts she was reporting.
The article, I’ve Worked with Refugees for Decades. Europe’s Afghan Crime Wave is Mind-Boggling is worth reading in it’s entirety. From the linked article:
I have worked on issues related to refugees for much of my professional life, from the Pakistani camps during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan to Yemen, Sudan, Thailand, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Lebanon, Bosnia, Nicaragua and Iraq, and have deep sympathy for their plight. But nowhere had I encountered a phenomenon like this one. I had seen refugees trapped in circumstances that made them vulnerable to rape, by camp guards or soldiers. But for refugees to become perpetrators of this crime in the place that had given them asylum? That was something new. Further, my personal and professional life has endowed me with many Afghan and Afghan American friends, and there is nothing collectively psychopathic about them. They are doctors, shopkeepers, owners of Japanese restaurants, airport sedan drivers, entrepreneurs, IT experts, salesladies at Macy’s—they’re like everyone else. The parent generation tends to be a bit stiff, formal and etiquette conscious. It is impossible to imagine any of them engaging in the sort of outlandish, bizarre and primitive sexual aggression their young compatriots are becoming infamous for. Yet here we are.
Dr. Benard puts forth several hypothesis about the origins of this behavior and then promptly dismisses them with observations that I believe are true. One is Afghan men are not accustomed to strong drink which is, to those of us who know the land, nonsense. Not all Afghan men drink alcohol but most do and those who don’t imbibe in Afghanistan are not likely going to drink outside of Afghanistan. Poor impulse control when stimulated by young western women in revealing clothes is also dismissed. The victims are not all young, scantily dressed or, for that matter, women.
She concludes her review of potential causation with this paragraph:
Which brings me to a final theory being vented in Austria: that these destructive, crazed young men are being intentionally infiltrated into western Europe to wreak havoc: to take away the freedom and security of women; change patterns of behavior; deepen the rifts between liberals, who continue to defend and find excuses, and a right wing that calls for harsh measures and violent responses; to inflict high costs and aggravation on courts and judicial systems and generally make a mess of things.
She doesn’t seem to believe this theory either and on this point we are in agreement. The point of her article was to make recommendations on what should be done. Her recommendations are sound but probably wasted on European elites who appear adverse to common sense and (again apparently) are insulated from the consequences of their virtue signalling behavior.
This article was deeply disturbing to me as it in no way reflects my experience dealing with Afghans. As I pondered the implications I remembered a remarkable conversation I had with a senior Imam from the Afghan Ulmea when I first arrived in Kabul.
This is a picture of the Imam but I do not remember his name. My Afghan friend who arranged this meeting was killed long ago and I’m not sure if the Imam has met the same fate. I was new to Afghanistan when we talked and supremely confident that we were going to be able to fix the infrastructure and leave behind a functioning government. I told him this stressing that we’d done the same for Germany and Japan and there was no question we’d be hooking them up in a matter of a few years.
He told my friend Waheed and I that buildings, roads, schools, airports….none of the infrastructure we thought important was important. The hearts of the Afghan people was the only thing that mattered and his fear was the people, after so many years of war and abuse, would not be able to find it in their hearts to return to the Afghan ways of peace with each other and hospitality for foreigners.
I remember being stunned by this; I wasn’t sure what he was talking about but knew I was talking with a man of vast knowledge, great insight and one who was one of the more decent of our species. His fear was (I now believe) that Afghans would succumb to the contagion of nihilism. From the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence. A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. While few philosophers would claim to be nihilists, nihilism is most often associated with Friedrich Nietzsche who argued that its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history.
I believe this describes the motivation behind the Afghan males who are raping and pillaging the welfare states of Europe. What is ironic is this is the same motivation behind the Anti Fa movement. Ironic because the Anti Fa folks come form the wealthiest civilization the world has ever known while the Afghans come from one of the poorest. Both groups appear to have nothing but contempt and hatred for the West. For Afghans that contempt is, for the most part, reinforced by their religion. For the Anti Fa that contempt is their religion.
Both groups use violence in the most cowardly of manners. The Anti Fa will not hesitate to attack and assault those outside their group as long as they have enough fellow travelers with them to avoid consequences. When they don’t have the numbers they cowardly assault people who aren’t looking and run away. The Afghan rapists use an identical methodology only attacking victims when they have overwhelming numbers or when their victims are isolated, alone and unaware.
Both groups are morally repugnant to western man (collective not gender term here) and both groups represent a clarion call, to all who are paying attention, that there is something drastically wrong with the current status quo.
Both of these groups will continue their depredations on the citizens of the west until they are faced with quick and sure consequences for their behavior. Western Europe seems to be incapable of delivering quick and sure justice in the face of this epidemic of sexual assault. Eastern Europe, as a consequence of decades of Soviet oppression, has no problems figuring this out and doesn’t have this problem.
The United States seems incapable of responding appropriately to the increasing amount of left wing Anti Fa violence. Our country is too divided, our media too corrupt and our system of justice hopelessly compromised to favor the rich and powerful over the just. Our politicians are weak and our media/infotainment complex has become 24/7 propaganda for liberal elite bromides that will never survive contact with reality.
I have no idea how this could end well for the vast majority of the law abiding, tax paying citizens. Modern liberalism is destroying the moral, religious, and metaphysical foundations of western civilization and replacing them with what? Mandatory speech codes, long lists of ‘rights’ that ignore responsibility, open border welfare states, ever increasing taxes aimed at the productive classes…the list is endless but the destination clear; the fists of fascism clocked in the velvet glove of ‘compassion’.
It would be of no small comfort to see more great men, like the Afghan religious leader pictured above, reach positions of prominence where their sage council could counter legacy media spin. But in our current cultural climate that is not going to happen. There will have to be a reset back to principals and traditions that made Western Civilization one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known but it will only come after a catastrophic event. The question is how many millions will die before that happens? In the Soviet Union the price was 20 million dying of starvation after the State declared the Kulaks (successful farming class) enemies and liquidated them. In China 45 million died in just four years during the “Great Leep Forward“. Both those states have veered sharply away from socialism towards the free market.
What is it going to take for us to re-learn what we once knew about the foundations of our great civilization? I don’t know but fear the butchers bill will be high. What I do know is the elites who got us into this mess will not be held to account in this life. But that is way of the world, something we can accept with the stoic resolve that motivated our forefathers to carve a rich prosperous land from the wilderness.
Demonstrating the unique human trait of hope over experience Chief Ajmal Khan Zaizi recently made a heart felt appeal to the international press to not forget Afghanistan. It was a moving speech that (experience would say) was wasted on a group of international elites who know little about history but a lot about the legacy media narrative.
Despite his efforts being wasted on the audience he was addressing seeing the Khan speaking in public warmed my old bitter heart. If there is an Afghan capable of being the Viceroy Afghanistan needs to end the vicious cycle of violence plaguing the country he is that man. The reason he’s that man is because the American Army branded him as Taliban despite the fact he is a western educated Canadian citizen who (with the help of Ghost Team) had to fight the Taliban to get into his tribal lands when he returned to lead them in 2010.
From my 2010 post about our attempts to connect Ajmal with the American army:
The initial political appointees to the Zazi Valley were sent packing back to Kabul shortly after they arrived. So now, in the eyes of the FOB bound American military, the Zazi Valley tribal police and their leadership are considered AOG (just like the Taliban they are constantly fighting). Check out this correspondence between The Boss and the young commander of the closest Combat Outpost (COP) to the valley:
Thank you for your message. Any development project in Jaji would be great, but I would like to ensure that it ties into the district development list/tribal development list, in order to ensure that the district leadership is not undermined.
Unfortunately, Ahjmal Khan Zazai is not a tribal leader at all. I do not want you to come into this environment thinking that to be a fact. Additionally, the security force of Amir Muhammad is an illegal force that is not endorsed by MOI.
The facts are that Azad Khan, the Jaji Sub Governor, has a great relationship with the tribes a focus for his district. The ANSF in this area (ANP and ABP) are a professional/legitimate force that does a tremendous job in keeping the best security for the people.
I’ve CC’d my higher HQ, as well as representation to Department of State and the PRT, to ensure that they are tied in to your work. Again, I would love to see development here, but I want you to have the facts and go through the proper channels before beginning work. Thank you for your time.
VR, Name withheld
The young captain who wrote this message was correct about one thing; Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai is not a tribal leader. He’s the leader of the entire tribal federation in that part of the country, a point which our army did not understand or refused to acknowledge. From the 2010 post:
The battalion at the Gardez FOB called The Horse to ask if he knew why thousands of people had migrated towards “some compound in the Zazai Valley.” When he told them what was up they asked to meet with him and Ajmal when they headed back to Kabul. The meeting turned out to be a joke. A visibly upset major demanded to know why, if the Zazai Valley tribal police were on their side, had they not reported to the Americans the location of IED’s? Ajmal, by this time exhausted and barely able to talk, explained that they are not in the “sell IED’s to the Americans” business. Reporting an IED for the cash reward is a common money scam in those parts and increases the number of IED’s being made. The only IED’s the tribal police have seen were aimed at them and all those had gone off. He added that if they do gain knowledge of an IED cell on their lands they will bring both the IED’s and the heads of the IED makers to Gardez.
The Americans remain skeptical, Ajmal remains frustrated, Crazy Horse who, like myself, has spent his adult life as an infantry officer is heart sick and I am so f’ing pissed off I can’t see straight. It is impossible to be optimistic about the future of Afghanistan unless the military USAID, State Department and all the other organizations with unlimited funding get out of the FOB’s to live with the people.
That was then; this is now and the fact that Ajmal did not enter into ‘collusion’ (using a new fake news dog whistle) with the Americans is a not insignificant point. The current administration is trying to come up with a plan for our continued efforts in Afghanistan, I offered my thoughts on a way forward and what I was proposing is the same concept that Eric Prince has articulated. Recently Secretary Mattis met with Mr. Prince and reportedly he listen politely and dismissed the concept out of hand. I don’t believe that for a second because Secretary Mattis knows his history and understands the concept behind the East India Company. He is not the type of man to ignore sage council.
What I found most distressing about this meeting with Prince were the comments that showed up in comment sections and on my face book feed. They had two themes the first being that Prince was a billionaire war profiteer and the second was his sister is Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education. Eric Prince and his sister are successful, competent, extraordinarily decent people who built their own fortunes and are thus exemplary Americans our children should wish to emulate, not castigate. The only problem I have with Secretary Devos is she heads a federal department I believe should be disbanded. Not on constitutional grounds but on practical grounds; the department of education is not a functional, competent organization and it has no business interjecting federal rules in an area that should be the sole purview of the 50 states.
Eric Prince has articulated a plan that could work and one that addresses the problem of Pakistan because it would eliminate the need to pay Pakistan billions to allow our logistical tail to pass through their country. Yet in the current climate of media driven hysteria regarding the Trump administration we can’t examine that plan on it’s merits because the media and most of our fellow citizens have decided Eric Prince is a mercenary who is only driven by the desire to make obscene profits. That not one word of that characterization is supported by facts is irrelevant.
Here is an interesting aside about that: I’ve mentioned several times about the need for Afghan forces to do Pseudo Ops. Feral Jundi recently posted on a white “mercenary” who taught Pseudo Ops to the Ugandan military and although he asked for not one penny to lead this effort his team and supplies were funded by a woman from Houston, Texas. The target of the effort was international villain and complete asshole Joseph Kony. From Feral Jundi’s post:
In September, 2011, the first special-operations group trained by the South Africans crossed into South Sudan and caught Kony by surprise at a meeting with all his commanders. He escaped, but the Ugandans took back a haul of valuable intelligence: satellite phones, a computer, and diaries. Defectors later revealed that the L.R.A. fighters were baffled by the attack: Was this some new Ugandan army? After the raid, Kony lost contact with his entourage. He roamed the bush alone with one of his pregnant Sudanese wives, and helped deliver her baby—one of probably more than a hundred small Konys now in the world. When he reemerged, he was so furious that he demoted all his commanders. According to defectors, he had moved to a new camp, in southern Darfur.
Have you not heard about this? Of course not because it counters the legacy media narrative about so -called “mercenaries” while illustrating the uselessness of the United Nations in combating terrorism. Eeben Barrlow and his men are not mercenaries in any sense of the word. There is not a snow ball’s chance in hell that Joseph Komy or any other terrorist organization could hire them no matter how much money they paid. They are former military professionals who, although retired, remain military professionals willing to endure primitive conditions for months on end to teach their expertise to appropriate clientele.
Another aside – Eeben Barrlow providing his services for free reminds me of another man who did the same. That would be Eric Prince who funded the rescue effort of three young college girls who were working at an orphanage in Kenya when the country erupted in violence following failed elections in December of 2007. Hundreds of people were being slaughtered in villages near them and they had no way to make it out to Nairobi so their panicking parents started calling congressmen, senators, anyone in Washington DC who they thought could help and none of the people they contacted had a clue about getting their girls out of harms way. A family member. on a whim, then called Balckwater who got the girls out (along with dozens of other international aid workers) in about 48 hours. When asked how much the rescue effort cost Eric Prince said he paid for it – didn’t think it fair to charge desperate parents money to get their daughters back. That is not the action of a war profiteer; it is the mark of a truly great American. I don’t know Eric Prince but I do know the man he sent into Africa to get the girls out (he was his Afghanistan country manager) and there are few finer.
The concepts that Prince is talking about and that Feral Jundi and I have been writing about for years work. All of us know that because all of us have done it. The only question regarding the concept of a Viceroy for Afghanistan heading a mostly Private Military Corporation effort to move Afghanistan toward peace is who heads the effort. Thanks to our incompetence in 2010 there remains an Afghan in play who has the organizational ability to do so and he is not tied to the Americans or NATO which is plus on the credibility side with his fellow Afghans.
Will somebody in the halls of power recognize this? I doubt it, for now anyway but we are going to be in Afghanistan for a long time and what we are doing there will not work. At some point somebody is going to actually try (instead of just talking about) an outside the box solution. When they do they are going to be talking to Chef Ajmal Khan Zaizi. When that happens I hope Ajmal remembers The Horse, Panjiway Tim and I. We’re tanned, rested, fit and will answer his call with alacrity because we know good leaders, remain fond of Afghanistan and enjoy making a difference.
A group of senators engaged on a ‘fact finding’ holiday stopped into Kabul to glad hand troops on July 4th and demand a “coherent plan” from the Trump administration. I do not like congressional junkets because they are prohibitively expensive, make the forces in the fight focus on hosting VIP’s instead of maintaining an external focus on the various villains they are there to fight, and they accomplish little other then promote grandstanding by the very politicians who helped get us in the mess that is Afghanistan.
My observations of these delegations both at the American Embassy in Kabul and out in the field with the troops are that our elected officials drink too much, take more ambien then is good for them, understand little of what is happening on the ground and are an enormous pain in the ass to host in the field. One of my closest Marine Corps friends banned me from talking to any CODEL after an inebriated John Bonner asked me (at the embassy in Kabul) how the war was going. He was getting both barrels when Dave coughed up an ambien, told me to shut up and saw the congressman to his assigned lodging.
Senator McCain, during his visit to Kabul yesterday, demanded a “Coherent Policy from Trump” which indicates he is either stupid, because the policy is forming right in front of him, or playing politics with an administration he doesn’t care for too much. Good losers lose and they tend to resent winners as they age so McCain’s comments are par for the course and will have exactly no impact on the plan that is shaping up.
Everything you need to know about our future in Afghanistan can be found in these two places: the Enhancing Security And Stability In Afghanistan report to congress from the military last month and General Joe Dunford’s appearance at the National Press Club last week (which was awesome and a highly recommended podcast that can be found on All Marine Radio).
The plan which we can see forming includes the recent deployment of the 3rd Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, which is part of the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg. The 300 plus men of the 3rd Squadron have the following mission:
They will oversee security at a tactical base and serve as a quick reaction force in Helmand province, where some of the heaviest fighting of the past 16 years of war has taken place.
The squadron is part of a 1500 man deployment from the 82nd that is being sent all over the country, probably to fill a similar role. Portions of the 82nd have already arrived in the Helmand in the form of an artillery battery that deployed to both Lashkar Gah and Camp Shorabak. It’s safe to assume that is where the paratroopers will be deploying too giving TF Southwest a robust quick response force.
Along with artillery and a dedicated reaction force Task Force Southwest received some attention from on high when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dunford visited Afghanistan as part of his ongoing assessment.
It appears Task Force Southwest is getting reinforced with enablers that it will use in support of Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). That means members of the advise and assist mission plan to get out and about with their Afghan counterparts where they can control American fires with the requisite precision.
This is a good thing, the only way the Marines can make a difference is to reinforce the procedures they are trying to teach the ANSF with practical application. This also explains why we recently lost (in a green on blue attack) paratroopers assigned to the advise and assist mission during combat operations against ISIS-K in Nangarhar province.
However today we learned that Pfc. Hansen B. Kirkpatrick, 19, of Wasilla, Ark., died July 3, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from wounds received during an indirect fire attack. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. If the 3rd Squadron of the 73rd Cav from Fort Bragg is there how did we lose a grunt from the 1stBn, 36th Infantry who is out of Fort Bliss?
An even better question is why are we mixing Marines with soldiers on a mission where it would be advantageous to have just Marines or just Army assigned to it? Marines work better with other Marines because they know each other, have the same communication equipment and training and the Marine Corps is designed to deploy as their own air/ground/logistic task force. The 82nd Airborne is also, by table of organization, designed to deploy in an identical manner so why the mix and match?
My take is the mixing of forces has been born of the necessity to keep these training packages deploying, for seven months at a time, indefinitely. Afghanistan is not the only game in town as we are also fighting in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, the Philippines, probably Libya and who knows where else? We have our national forward deployed capable forces all forward deployed making it impossible for just the Marines or just the Army to do the Helmand mission. The timing of the flow into the Helmand is important too because it will allow a 2 month window to deploy the next Task Force Southwest while the artillery and reaction force remain in country.
Why are we planning to stay indefinitely? That argument is best summed up by Old Blue in a recent email exchange we had on the topic.
According to a Rand study of over 80 insurgencies since WWII, about a third of the time, the government wins; insurgency defeated with no significant changes in the government. Another third of the time, the insurgency wins; total government collapse and replacement. The final third is “mixed outcome,” meaning that the government makes changes or reforms that satisfy the insurgency without toppling the sitting government. This was the same study that pointed out factors that successful insurgencies tended to have in common, such as external support and safe havens, such as Pakistan.
Sometimes those eggheads bring something useful to the table.
The chances of an outright win by the Afghan government are slim. The Taliban (catch-all) have too many of the prerequisites to win. Short of a major change of heart on the Pakistani side, that leaves two potential outcomes, the most positive of which is a mixed outcome.
Back to the study, which demonstrated that time really isn’t on the side of the insurgency. In fact, the percentage of successful insurgencies declined over time. The longer the fight went on, the likelier a government win or mixed solution. What Obama’s ill-considered move did was breathe life into a very tired insurgency. A few thousand troops won’t enable advising down to the company level, which is what we need to reset to, but it will show resolve. That in itself will have an impact. The mission will creep, based on input from those who will evaluate progress and needs, and the struggle will continue. That is not a benefit to the Taliban, nor to their patrons.
Note on insurgency; they do not negotiate like nations do. Mao wrote the book on this stuff, and they have read Mao, trust me on that. Mao said never negotiate unless it’s to paralyze your enemy. There are two reasons to do so; to gain time and space to recover, or right before you deal them a death blow. Negotiating in lieu of defeat is the one he really didn’t get to. He wasn’t writing a book on how to lose an insurgency. The insurgency will have to be badly damaged and finding itself outcast by the people, along with waning support from Pakistan. That is doable with support.
The “mixed solution” described by Old Blue above is exactly the way I see things ending too. The current struggle for Afghanistan has a military and a civil component. I’m not sure what we are doing on the “civil” side but would be surprised if we were not working with tribes to split local Taliban alliances. If the international alliance is throwing its considerable weight into fracturing the various Taliban affiliates the NATO military approach will, with time, drive the ambient level of lawlessness down.
There is no winning in this scenario and there are, as of yet, no identified matrices that would indicate the job is done and it is time to come home. Which means we may never leave Afghanistan just like we never left Germany or Japan.
Is that a good thing for America? Probably not; as I have argued in many prior posts we should have smoke checked bin Laden (using our troops not war lord troops from Nangarhar province) and gone home in 2002. But we didn’t and I personally am encouraged to see we are staying. I like Afghanistan – I like most of the people in Afghanistan; were it possible I’d go back there and continue to help them.
What I’m not going to be able to do is go back to embed with the Marines in the Helmand province. I didn’t come close to raising the funds needed to do that but did raise enough to off-set my trips to Camp Lejeune and Washington DC which was phase one of the send Baba Tim back to Afghanistan project. I also have failed to attract any media interest in sending me but have been getting some media exposure lately. Sometime this week I’ll get a copy of my second appearance on Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler on the OAN channel. Plus I’ll be the guest this week on the Reuters War College podcast. There still seems to be interest in Afghanistan but not enough to get the new or old media to send me.
I want to thank my friends and those of you who donated anonymously for supporting my go fund me effort. America is going to be in Afghanistan for years to come and I’m certain that at some point I’ll make it back to report the ground truth you are not going to hear from the legacy media. Inshallah.