When dealing with news out of Afghanistan we must start with what we know to be true before speculating on the remainder in an effort to understand what happened. The soldiers were killed in Achin district where the Afghans with American Special Forces units in direct support, have been battling ISIS-K. I suspect the soldiers were in the field operating with Afghan soldiers when this unfortunate incident occurred. That would explain how four them were hit by a loan assailant. That also means the units assigned to the ‘advise and assist’ mission are engaging in direct combat. They have to do that to gain even a shred of credibility with the Afghan army but I bet they won’t be out and about much longer.
What additional troops were doing rolling around in Khogyani district requires speculation.
I suspect they were moving from the base at Jalalabad (FOB Fenty) into Achin district using the back roads to avoid the exposure of the Jalalabad – Torkham main road. Regardless of circumstances the killing of a car load of locals, something that was all too common when there were large numbers of NATO forces moving on the roads, is bad.
It appears the Taliban are trying to force Kabul to the negotiating table by inflicting massive casualties that the population can no longer endure while driving a wedge between the NATO advise and assist troops and their Afghan colleagues via green on blue attacks. That is a sound strategy. When those same American troops, while moving through a countryside they know to be hostile, kill civilians who happen to be too close to them when an IED goes off…..that’s a perfect storm. NATO doesn’t trust the forces they mentor to not kill them, the forces they mentor risk being shot every time they are getting mentored. The people are getting hammered by the Taliban and by NATO if they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s a storm alright (a s–t storm) and one for which NATO, the UN and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have no answer.
When the problem of Green on Blue attacks reached a crisis stage in 2012 the response by NATO was to separate themselves (even more) from the Afghans they were supposed to mentor. Then they instituted a ‘guardian angel’ program to protect themselves from the Afghans they were there to help. Here are the Green on Blue numbers (hat tip Long War Journal)
US military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned “guardian angels” to watch over troops as they sleep, among a series of other increased security measures, in the wake of rogue Afghan soldiers targeting Nato forces.
The so-called guardian angels provide an extra layer of security, watching over the troops as they sleep, when they are exercising, and going about their day.
Among the new measures introduced, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons in several Afghan ministries. They have also been told to rearrange their office desks so they face the door.
Now the Guardian Angels will have to be standing, at the ready, prepared to shoot any Afghan who makes a move for his gun too fast during every interaction between Afghans and NATO. How that will work out in field operations is obvious – it won’t and thus we are going to suffer more of them.
The issue is trust and trust is something that can only be built over long periods of time in Afghanistan. Governments in the West have been proving, for years now, they are incapable of taking the steps needed to protect their citizens from Jihadist terrorism. Sovereign citizens have little reason to trust their ruling elite who are more concerned with inclusion, diversity, various ‘phobias’ and not being perceived as racists then they are with protecting the population. Afghans have no reason to trust their ruling elites and the question is when you can’t trust the government who do you trust?
Tribes and clans are still used when information security and omerta are paramount. No technical solution yet devised can beat treachery. Only loyalty can do that — and we have made loyalty, to nation at least, a bad word.
The Afghans who are committing these Green on Blue (and Green on Green) attacks are trusting the Taliban to take care of their clans when the dust settles. That is probably a solid bet. The Americans and other NATO troops in Afghanistan are not able to build trust networks during their seven month tours so they have to trust their fellow soldiers to have an OODA loop quick enough to protect them. That is not a solid bet – being that quick on the trigger will result in Blue of Green deaths that were unnecessary and further divide allies who are supposed to be fighting together.
The Perfect Storm is building and it is obvious that it will break soon. When that happens we can be certain of one thing. The elites who masterminded this fiasco will ignore it and continue taking us down the path of multi culti madness. It is too late to save Afghanistan the only question now is do we have the intestinal fortitude in the West to save ourselves?
The 73rd commemoration of the Allied invasion a of Normandy on D-Day (operation Neptune) is a fitting place to start an examination of what is happening in Afghanistan. One reason for that are the iconic photographs from that invasion of the firepower the Allied forces were using that day.
Battleships were part of the prep fires for that invasion and they fired 123,984 shells on D-Day. The mark 8 “super heavy” 16-inch shell, when fired with a proximity fuse would leave a crater 50 feet deep and 20 feet wide which is bigger than the crater caused by the honey dipper borne IED that hit Kabul last week. A relevant question to ask when watching the old footage of Battleships launching broadsides into the French coastal towns and village is where were the French citizens who lived there? They were still there and to this day the civilian casualties from the D-Day invasion remain unknown although one source claims the number to be around 50,000.
As the invasion forces landed and started to move inland they were supported by M4 Sherman tanks. These tanks were named after William Tecumseh Sherman, a famous (in the North) infamous (in the South) Union general noted for his scorched earth tactics during the “March to the Sea” where he gutted the agricultural and light industrial capacity of the deep south.
Sherman is also famous for this quote which is relevant to the quagmire in Afghanistan today.
“I am sick and tired of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”
Sherman knew war was hell and because of this immutable truth he felt wars had to be ended as quickly as possible. This is why he destroyed the economic foundation of the South while avoiding pitched battles when he could. He knew that in doing so he was inflicting a harsh punishment on the civilian population of the South but didn’t let compassion interfere with his mission. Although Grant ultimately beat Robert E Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia forcing its surrender at Appomattox it was Sherman’s destruction of the Confederate economic base that sealed their fate. Sherman ended the Civil War as fast as was possible given the situation on the ground at that time.
The Taliban seems to have adopted Sherman’s strategy. They have inflicted massive, morale draining defeats on the Kabul government in the past few months. The attack on Kabul’s military hospital, the horrendous slaughter of recruits in Mazar-e Shraif, the Kabul truck bomb attack (using the equivalent of one 16-inch shell) followed by the suicide bombing attack at a funeral for the victims of that truck bomb attack which has been followed by another massive VBIED in Herat. The Taliban are stepping up their relentless campaign of death and destruction with one goal in mind. They want the war to end and end on their terms.
Western armies in general and the American military specifically no longer understand the truth behind General Sherman’s famous quote. We lack the capacity to inflict the damage required to end wars quickly and (more importantly) decisively. Instead we offer solutions and forces that will string out war for decades. We come with firepower controlled by lawyers, we are more concerned with “tolerance” and putting females into fighting formations then we about winning. We adopt tactics like night raids that accomplish nothing tactical but instead drive the population away from the allies we are supposed to be supporting. We insist that taking out Taliban ‘leaders’ is important while ignoring that the Taliban gets stronger and more capable the longer we fight them.
Understanding that wars must be ended quickly to prevent unnecessary deaths and destruction does not mean there will not be death destruction. Lobbing 123,984 16-inch shells into the towns and villages of France was not humane, it exposed the civilian population to unimaginable death and destruction but it also shortened a horrible war. Going into Musa Qala or Sangin and giving the tribes a simple ultimatum; join our side or we will burn down your villages, kill your livestock, and put all of you in ‘relocation camps’ is not humane. But it would have shorten the current Afghan war by a decade.
We can see what is happening by allowing the Afghan war to enter its 16th year; death and destruction on what is now approaching biblical levels. That’s not humane, it’s not smart and it reflects poorly on our ability to think and act at the strategic level.
Telling the Pakistani’s to go into Miranshaw, kill the Haqqani clan and get those tribes under control; or we will, is not humane but it would win the Afghan war. Putting Pakistan on the horns of a dilemma by starting to advocate for a Pashtun and Baluch homeland would be humane for the tribes involved. But it would also involve diplomatic brinkmanship of the highest order. To do that the international community would have to be prepared to eliminate Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal with preemptive strikes. That would cause the same level of death and destruction we visited on the citizens of France 73 years ago but nobody in the west has the stomach for that. Yet.
The Taliban and their radical Islamic allies see our current campaigns in Central Asia, the Middles East, Africa and now the Philippines as a clash of civilizations. Western Civilization was once able to do the most important function of a healthy civilization. That is to reduce and re-direct the natural aggression of males while also reducing and re-directing the natural tendency of vanity in its females. Today in the west male aggression is crushed, starting before grade school, by a feminist dominated system that medicates them and then prosecutes them for the trivial offense of eating part of a piece of pizza so it is shaped like a gun. Our boys are drugged, punished and ostracized relentlessly for the crime of being boys.
Yet that same system promotes female vanity to such ridiculous heights that we now have females in Marine Corps infantry battalions. If you think that’s progress you just might be a denier….of reality.
Islam promotes male aggression while crushing female vanity. Their cultural fear of female sexuality produces a bizarre dissonance reflected in increases in birth defects from intermarriage, a hatred of homosexuals but an acceptance of homosexual acts between young men and with younger boys. Large farm animals are at risk of rape when bands of armed young Muslim fighters are about; the US military has thousands of hours of surveillance video to prove that. The repression of females by Islamic society has produced shocking levels of hypocrisy which should make it the weaker participant in a clash of cultures yet, for now, the issue is in doubt,
When an Islamic terrorist blew himself up outside a Ariana Grande concert last week the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announced she had enough and promptly introduced measures that will do nothing to stop Islamic terrorism while reducing, even more than before, the freedom of her people. Islamic terrorist proved that point with yet another truck/suicide knife attack in London just days ago.
In response to the attack in Manchester Ariana Grande staged a benefit concert where thousands of her young female fans were transfixed as she sang about having a “wrist ice cycle (meaning her wrist was covered in male seman) while riding a dick bicycle“. What do you think ISIS YouTube star who influenced the Manchester bomber, Shaykh Ahmad Musa Jibril, of Dearborn Michigan thought of that performance? I don’t know but I bet it was something like “we will kill them all”.
Our response for the past 16 or so years to the challenge of Islamic terrorism seems to be something along the lines of “hold my beer..I got this”. We don’t have a damn thing; the only question is will we get a clue in time to save ourselves?
As the recent horrific bombing in Kabul is driven out of the news cycle it is time to interject some honesty into the Afghan story. The day of the latest attack Afghans took to twitter in droves asking how can a truck bomb get into the most secure part of the city or when will they be allowed to live in peace?
The answer to the first question is the truck bomb got into the Ring of Steel the same way every truck bomb has for the last decade. Bribes combined with insiders of dubious loyalty and lax security. True it was stopped at a checkpoint at Zambaq square but that is routine; trucks are not allowed to travel downtown during rush hour, it shouldn’t have gotten that far. The fact that it did indicates it was moved into position and hidden before it took off the morning of the bombing.
The answer to the second question is you’ll be allowed to live in peace when the Afghan people rise up and fight for it. More on that below.
Today angry protesters clashed with riot police in Kabul, several were killed and all were demanding the government resign over the latest atrocity. The religious leaders (the Ulema) of both Pakistan and Afghanistan have declared the attack on civilians during Ramadan to be un-Islamic. This would be news were it not routine. Just a month ago Afghans and the Ulmea were saying the same thing after the attack on recruits praying in a Mosque in Mazar-e Sharif. The month before that it was the attack on the military hospital in Kabul (some 300 meters away from yesterday’s truck bomb) that had Afghans furious and the Ulmea declaring it an un-Islamic attack.
I’m not a cheer leader for Special Forces as can be seen in this post but the job they did in 2001 was one they were well suited for and one they executed like true professionals. They mimicked what the Taliban had done when they came to power – they used the power of the people to drive their oppressors out of power. Massive change comes to Afghanistan when the people of Afghanistan rise up and demand it.
The ODA teams and their unbelievably skilled brothers from the CAG were doing a mission that was squarely inside their skill set and it was an impressive feat of arms. But the momentum that gained the quick victory came from the Afghan people. They supported the international effort and they drove the Taliban from power.
Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory when generals in the rear refused to let a young Brigadier named James Mattis to throw his Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in the mountains behind Tora Bora to seal bin Laden’s escape route into Pakistan. That defeat was compounded by fuzzy thinking about staying on to help Afghanistan back into the world of functioning nation states; a mission we are not equipped to do and have never been able to do.
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published and editorial that reflected my thinking on the matter although I’m only in partial agreement with its recommendation. The author was Eric Prince and the article was titled The MacArthur Model for Afghanistan. Both the author and idea are a fascinating combination that explain why Afghanistan is doomed.
Eric Prince is a military genius of epic proportions. He has proven his leadership and foresight time and again and for his efforts he has been maligned by the legacy media and jealous, less capable, bureaucrats in the CIA, Department of State and Pentagon. His crime was being successful at the ancient art of contracted war making. Google his name today and the words mercenary, infamous, and notorious jump off page after page. Forget the vitriol and focus on his accomplishments as outlined in the video below:
Eric Prince recommends a MacArthur like Viceroy to consolidate power under one person and then to address the weak leadership, endemic corruption and frequent defections; he offers this:
These deficits can be remedied by a different, centuries-old approach. For 250 years, the East India Company prevailed in the region through the use of private military units known as “presidency armies.” They were locally recruited and trained, supported and led by contracted European professional soldiers. The professionals lived, patrolled, and — when necessary — fought shoulder-to-shoulder with their local counterparts for multiyear deployments. That long-term dwelling ensured the training, discipline, loyalty and material readiness of the men they fought alongside for years, not for a one-time eight-month deployment.
An East India Company approach would use cheaper private solutions to fill the gaps that plague the Afghan security forces, including reliable logistics and aviation support. The U.S. military should maintain a small special-operations command presence in the country to enable it to carry out targeted strikes, with the crucial difference that the viceroy would have complete decision-making authority in the country so no time is wasted waiting for Washington to send instructions. A nimbler special-ops and contracted force like this would cost less than $10 billion per year, as opposed to the $45 billion we expect to spend in Afghanistan in 2017.
His solution is correct except for the Viceroy – he has to be an Afghan. You need to find an Afghan who is a warrior and an Islamic scholar. He’s there, waiting and we need to find him, present him to the Ulmea and then to the Loya jirgia and then the Afghan people. Find that man and give him Eric Prince to set up the modern day equivalent of the Flying Tigers and a ground component I’ll call the Fighting Tigers and Afghanistan will be saved.
The UN has got to go as does NATO because they cannot help Afghanistan now. You need low tech aircraft and infantry capable of doing Pseudo Operations. That means Afghan units with embedded western mentors who live, fight and die like Afghans. A force that is on the Afghans side; one they can rally behind as they once did when the Americans showed up in small numbers controlling big fires.
If the Afghans are to find peace they will need a military capability that does not rely on a multi billion dollar logistic tail that runs through Pakistan. Contracted armies can fight on the cheap using low tech air and the fighting power of western military men. Pakistan in not a friend of Afghanistan and there will be no peace for Afghans until they operate on the opposite side of the Durrani line to share some of their pain with the Pakistani enablers who send the truck bombs to kill their children.
A radical solution like this would require the international community to get over their aversion to contracted military formations. And that requires the international community to admit their efforts have been wasted, their solutions wrong and their council worthless. That is a bridge too far so, for now, and well into the future, the Afghan people are doomed by international bureaucrats who learn nothing, forget nothing but never hesitate to insist on solutions that always fail.
The way forward is to accept the lessons of the past and use what has worked in the past. Western armies can no longer do this kind of work. Contracted armies can; there are no other rational alternatives.
*UPDATE: One of my friends from the intel world has alerted me that the you tube video below (the point of this post) is bogus. It is not from the attack on Kabul yesterday but a 2013 car bomb in Homs, Syria. That explains the Arabic making this post moot but my recommendations on a way forward stand. Sorry for any confusion caused by my pulling the trigger on this post before vetting the legitimacy of the You Tube video.
The NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission in Kabul said Afghan security forces had prevented the vehicle from entering the heavily protected Green Zone that houses many foreign embassies as well as its headquarters, suggesting it may not have reached its intended target.
Baghdad had a Green Zone and Afghanistan has several “Green Zones” but these refer to the heavy vegetation near the Helmand River. There is no “Green Zone” in Kabul but it would unfair to expect NATO PAO’s to understand that level on nuance in a country they only see while flying over it.
Half of my friends in Kabul have come up on the net to check in and as I sit here waiting to hear from the rest I am pissed. What NATO is trying to do with 5000 additional “advise and assist” troops may be a noble effort but it is a stupid one. Watch and listen to this You Tube video and I’ll explain what is so alarming about it below.*
The men, who obviously knew when and where this bomb was going to detonate, are speaking Arabic; not Dari and not Pashto. They are not Afghans. Who are they and how did they gain foreknowledge of this attack?
I suspect they’re ISIS and, as they appear to be filming from the roof of the Serena Hotel, they are ISIS with cash to spend. This is serious and it calls for a serious response.
Here’s a plan I’m spit-balling while I wait to hear from the remainder of my friends. It may sound crazy but let it sink in – it would work if we only had the balls to pull it off.
Remove all embassies and all NATO bases from Kabul and locate them to Bagram. That will make the people in Kabul safer while not detracting from Embassy operations because none of the diplomats ever leave their compounds unless in a they are in a helicopter anyway. Might as well move them to Bamyan where they be safer still for all the good they are (not) doing now.
Move all train and assist teams from contested provinces and put them in Bamyan to run battalion level combat training courses. Use the air assets in- country now supporting the advise and assist effort to move Afghan battalions into and out of contested provinces. The training, rest and refit cycle will drive down casualties and increase retention. Use the old al Queda training base (now called Gamberi) outside Jalalabd during the four months Bamyan is covered with snow.
Use the narrative of Afghan unity in conjunction with the currently popular Afghan Special Forces unit to form units that will become legends. The Afghans need combat mentoring from the international community. What if the international community responded by offering up talent, known to and approved by the Afghan government, to lead small units into the contested lands? I’m talking pseudo-terrorist operations as perfected by the Selous Scouts. The Afghans do not have a deep enough bench of small unit leaders to pull this off. The international community does and there are thousands of men in multiple countries who would return in a heartbeat to volunteer for this kind of service.
Students of military history understand the power of dynamic leaders. There is a reason Scipio Africanus is as relevant today as he was in 202 BC and that is the power of extraordinary leadership. Ask Secretary Mattis, he who sleeps well while others lose sleep, because they know he’s thinking about them. Setting up Pseudo-terrorist op teams will take culling through thousands of volunteers, both internationals and Afghans, to find the the right mix but when you do find that mix and those teams start to operate the Afghan people will be all the PR you need to announce there is a game changer in the mix (finally).
The devil is always in the details and there are no details presented here. But the devil was also filming the you tube video above and he needs to be hunted down and killed. The time for diplomats and large hopelessly incompetent military organizations is over. It is time to put an end to this bullshit and all it takes are few thousand hardy volunteers who will no longer tolerate tyranny, madness and the slaughter of innocents.
If anyone out there has a better idea I’d love to hear it.
Kharejee is a word used in both Pashto and Dari for foreigners. Afghanistan has a long history of welcoming Kharejee to their lands as long as they weren’t members of invading armies. When westerners arrived in force back in 2002 they weren’t, initially, considered invaders are were welcomed in most places by most people. Unfortunately the kharejee are not too welcomed anywhere in Afghanistan today.
Last weekend a western NGO, Operation Mercy, out of Sweden was attacked; their Afghan security guard decapitated, a German aid worker killed and a Finish aid worker kidnapped. Both of the Europeans were female which, in days gone by, would add to the sense of outrage in the West. They were probably targeted by the Taliban (given the decapitation) but could have been victims of a kidnapping gang. Regardless of motivation the kidnapped victim stands a good chance of surviving her ordeal if her government steps in and quickly ponies up some serious cash.
Which raises the question why the German woman was killed? She was worth a lot of money alive and nothing dead. My educated guess is she armed herself with some sort of bludgeoning weapon and tried to fight back. Some of the German NGO women I saw working in Afghanistan weighed a good bit more than your average Taliban and could have beat the stuffing out of them with a baseball bat.
Fighting back is not the best option in this kind of scenario but it’s what I would have done. It is also why disarming us Kharejee was stupid. Armed expats have stopped these types of attacks in their tracks several times in years past. Armed westerners have been killed by bombs in Kabul but only one was killed in a ground attack. He was working for the UN and was credited with saving 17 of his colleagues although he was badly wounded in the process. The wounds he sustained didn’t kill him, an Afghan police officer did by shooting him at point blank range.
Former American sailor or Marine – reports on his past differed Louis Maxwell with his H&K G36 rifle. The flame stick was stolen after he was killed by ANP officers responding to the attack on the guesthouse he was protecting. Louis Maxwell is a true hero and like most true heroes he will never be recognized, remembered or acknowledged. But I remember him nightly in my prayers and hope I’m not the only one.
It could be worse for the Finnish worker: if ISIS-K grabbed this woman there will be no getting her back. ISIS fighters don’t do ransom – they do blood work in the name of Allah. If they have her stand by for the orange jump suit and decapitation video.
German journalists Sandra Petersmann and Birgitta Schülke-Gill did some interesting reporting after the latest attack by asking local folks about their opinions on NATO sending in more troops. The responses they got were consistent with common sense which is the exact opposite of what we are hearing from our leadership concerning the need for more troops. Here’s an example:
“What good will more foreign soldiers do if they’re not allowed to fight?”
I believe the answer to that question is obvious.
What is also obvious is Kabul is a very dangerous city for Westerners today. Yet the NATO’s Resolute Support Public Affairs office insists that journalists who want to embed spend multiple days traveling back and forth to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) in Kabul to get credentialed before embedding. I have no problem doing that as I have many places in Kabul where I can go to ground surrounded by friends I know will protect me. There are a handful of Western journalists who could do the same. Any journalist without years of in-country experience and a tight support network will be in grave danger if they attempt to embed. This is the reason we will be getting very little reporting from the country in the coming years.
What are the chances that elite American journalists, the type you see on TV frequently, are required to expose themselves to this level of risk? I think it zero but hope I’m wrong. The point being that Resolute Support is resolutely refusing to acknowledge the current ground truth. You would think, given the reluctance of NATO countries to commit more manpower, some reality would work its way into their media plan to enable more reporters in-country to tell their story.
In other disturbing news the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) lost 20 men in a series of attacks on static checkpoints. They are going to lose a lot more because static checkpoints are easy targets to isolate and destroy. That the ANSF continues to use them indicates our advise and assist efforts over the last 16 years have yet to bear fruit. The National Directorate for Security, which are the MoI’s secret police have, for years, established flying checkpoints that are a much more effective way of screening traffic for villains and gathering bribes. I wrote a post about one where I lost two sets of irreplaceable body armor and that post made it into Soldier of Fortune magazine.
The continued use of static checkpoints indicates that ANSF soldiers and commanders are impervious to reason. How much mentoring would it take to get them to use mobile checkpoints that vary in time and location? I’m not sure but believe that 16 + X number of years will not be enough. ANSF will continue to sustain unsustainable losses because they insist on being sitting ducks.
Habits are hard to break, even when it is a reasonable assumption they will get you killed. It is difficult to see how more advise and assist trainers will turn the battlefield momentum. It is also difficult to see how this will end in an acceptable state of affairs. Time is not on our or the Afghan peoples side.
But I’m still on their side because I know too many Afghans who are decent, caring people and they need some moral support. Besides being in dangerous places is invigorating to me. Since my return to America I’ve discovered I’m a type II diabetic. The only dangerous thing I do now is to let my toe nails grow longer than I should. So, once again, I pull out the big threat:
If you have the means and interest please donate to my effort to embed at the the Baba Tim Go Fund Me page. Without accurate, informed reporting our ability to help is going to become seriously limited.
I have repeatedly written that in order for the Resolute Support Train and Assist mission to work the trainers will have to get out and fight with the trainees. The reason I’m adamant about that is not the traditional reason American combat advisers are normally effective.
When my uncle Chad spent a year as an adviser to the South Vietnamese Marine Corps they needed no help from him with their staff functions, battle drills or training. What they needed was his access to American fire power. Marine advisers were inserted into South Vietnamese units at the battalion and regimental level to access combat enablers, specifically American tactical aircraft, medical evacuation helicopters, artillery and naval gunfire. They lived with their South Vietnamese counterparts for the duration of their assignment and went with them to the field every time their unit was deployed. They formed tight bonds with their counterparts too which is the basis of trust and a good way of avoiding green on blue attacks.
The advise and assist mission in Afghanistan today has little to do with access to American combat enablers (there isn’t much to access now anyway). It is focused on improving battle staff mission planing. Solid staff work is critical to mission success at the battalion (and higher) level. The Afghanistan National Army (ANA) and the National Police (ANP) have serious staff functionality issues due to attrition, low levels of literacy in the ranks and the problem of rampant corruption.
The corruption problem as well as the logistical issues seem to have improved (somewhat) over the years as can be seen when examining current photographs of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in action. They have all their battle gear and are wearing it correctly, their gun handling skills have improved and their cold weather gear is uniform indicating their supply chain is getting it out to them. Literacy too is improving countrywide and the ANSF has attracted and retained a cohort of well educated, motivated officers. Yet working with these officers to improve staff functionality is tinkering at the margins.
Discipline is the key to dominating on the battlefield in Afghanistan and it is sorely lacking in the ANSF today. Correlating discipline to battlefield survival is not something that is well understood. Traditionally when we think of discipline we think of close order drill or the stripping away of individual identity and replacing it with a tribal identity (in boot camp) so that men respond instantly to commands in order to promote unit survival in battle. That is 2nd generation military discipline which is a non-factor in the distributed operations found on the battlefield of today. I’m talking about 4th generation discipline which is essential to combat effectiveness when you have seeded the battlefield with squad sized combat outposts (COP’s) many of which have Corporals with just three years of service under their belts running them.
Gen Mattis jacked me up during OIF 1 about shaving and I have never forgotten that lesson. Shaving is not a cosmetic activity and it’s not even so your gas mask fits, it’s for when the small unit leader walks down the line he sees you have taken care of business. It might be the only time in the day that you have used soap and water to clean yourself up so when they see that you have shaved then they know you probably also have eaten and taken care of your weapon and are ready to go. You shave every day because it is a physical sign that your head is in the game…..When you’re in a COP and have limited food and water and are trying to decide how much to use to eat but you take care of hygiene first; that’s discipline.
Of the last 31 Marines we lost as an RCT (Regimental Combat Team) during our 2010-2011 deployment, 19 of them were OUR fault. Failure to follow established combat SOP’s was the #1 culprit in those 19 cases.
What does shaving have to do with failure to follow SOP’s? It’s another way of saying attention to detail matters. Marines who care for their weapons and hygiene before their stomachs are demonstrating the internalized discipline that will allow them to sit for hours in the sweltering desert sun to wait for EOD teams to respond to their position and clear IED’s. Marines who understand internalized discipline are not prone to ignore positive identification procedures that may or may not make sense to them. Marines with internalized discipline are demonstrating they trust their chain of command and their fellow Marines.
As MajGen Kennedy pointed out in the podcast linked above Marines with internalized discipline will find over 80% of the IED’s discovered during a deployment with their eyes only. No fancy gear, no dogs, no nothing but the senses proficient warriors hone when serving at the front.
Failure to following established SOP’s designed to mitigate the number one threat in the Helmand province (IED’s) was a discipline issue. Even the Marines, who have the well-earned reputation of being the most disciplined service in America, have problems internalizing the correlation between discipline and battlefield survival. I considered myself to be a proficient infantry officer while on active duty and I never completely understood this. That I was not the only one is evident in the statistics Mac put together and published.
I have several video’s of ANA troops running past American EOD techs working to disarm IED’s and getting blown sky high four steps later. They are gruesome; they are upsetting, they make you sick because they were completely avoidable had the soldiers involved shown the discipline it takes to wait while IED’s are properly identified and neutralized. That’s what the ANA and the ANP need now; mentoring by small unit leaders that instills the discipline required to survive on the modern Afghan battlefield. That alone is of more value then all the combat enablers we normally bring to a fight and it is not what our advise and assist missions are doing.
As an aside I urge you to take the time to listen to the interviews linked above. What Mac is doing with his All Marine Radio podcasts is providing to all who listen a graduate level education on not just combat leadership but organizational leadership. There are now hundreds of interviews with Marines (and a few non Marines) from privates first class to four star generals on his podcast library and they are a fascinating glimpse into military history.
Included in his treasure trove is a tape recording of the radio traffic between a company commander’s tank and his platoon commander’s tanks in the thick of the battle for Iwo Jima (43 minute mark in the podcast linked above). I’ve never heard anything like it and the man he was interviewing (Tom Clifford who at the time was the President of the University of North Dakota) was the company commander on those tapes and he had no idea a tape of his tac net even existed. I cannot stress enough how good this material is…you’re crazy if you don’t take advantage of it. The first two hyperlinks in this post are All Marine Radio interviews with my Uncle Chad and General Zinni talking about being combat advisers in Vietnam (and a lot more). They are fascinating radio.
The news coming out of Afghanistan is not good. This recent article in Fox news is an example. It is talking about the deployment of a Brigade Combat Team (Army term for a Regimental Combat Team) from the 82nd Airborne to Afghanistan. This deployment, like the current Marine deployment, was scheduled long ago and is not news. But the article contains all sorts of extraneous information like the “devils in baggy pants” moniker for the 82nd (from WWII when their uniforms were distinctly different from regular army units) that is not relevant today and confusing to the non professional. The article doesn’t explain what everyone wants to know which is why are they going and what they will be doing.
More disturbing is this article on the Breitbart website concerning “McMaster’s War”. The article, concerning the need for more troops in Afghanistan isn’t that bad – it’s the comment section that should give pause to our leadership. Not one comment (and they are still pouring into the website) is remotely positive. When you’ve lost the segment of the population that comments on Brietbart website you’ve lost the American people.
At some point in the very near future President Trump and his national security team will have to explain what we are doing in Afghanistan, how that will make things better for the Afghan people, and when are we going to leave. Failure to do so will cost the military the good will of the American people earned by the generation that proceeded them. That would be, in my opinion, inexcusable.
If our military leadership fails to talk about how our continued involvement will improve small unit performance then we’ll know we are wasting time, treasure and blood tinkering at the margins of enhanced combat performance. The ANA needs discipline; the ANP needs that too given the fact they are fulfilling a combat role that involves zero policing. They need our help and I hope we start providing them the help they need, not the help that sounds good on a PowerPoint slide.
There is no way to determine what is going on in Afghanistan without competent reexporting from the front. That is why I’m trying so hard to fund an embed back there but I cannot do that without your support. If you can please consider a donation to the Baba Tim Go Fund Me page in support of accurate reporting from the front lines.
Yesterday I was talking with one of the unsung hero’s of the Afghanistan reconstruction battle Jeff “Raybo” Radan. I’ve known Jeff since we were instructors back at the Marine Corps Basic School and we worked together again when I replaced him (at the end of his tour) in Lashkar Gah as the regional manager for the USAID implementing partner CADG. He was has been working out of Kabul and told me about the ISIS-K car bomb before it hit the wires. He’s moving on to another project in Iraq but said he has seen definite improvement in the Afghan Security Forces.
Raybo got his nickname when he returned from the Army Ranger Course minus about 20 pounds on his already skinny frame and couldn’t stop talking about how much he loved it. His take on increasing the advise and assist mission? He’s not sure how effective it will be but is certain about what will happen if we don’t do it and that assessment was bleak.
Yesterday’s car bomb attack was to be expected; it was a matter of time before ISIS struck back after getting MOAB’d. This latest attack was unusual in one respect. The car bomb was parked, not driven into the convoy, which is a departure from the norm. It could indicate that the ANP has downtown Kabul under better control…or not…it’s hard to say. Setting off a car bomb that kills local civilians without doing too much damage to the NATO MRAP’s they were targeting is an amateur hour performance. It is also a far cry from their previous attacks in Kabul which were more dramatic and inflicted heavy casualties on their intended targets be they Hazara people or Afghan security forces.
The MOAB took out 38 building in an unnamed (meaning unauthorized) settlement and 69 trees. There was no gigantic crater because the MOAB is a fuel air explosive which is something the media still doesn’t seem to understand. From the article linked above:
Fuel-Air Explosives [FAE] disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel which is ignited by an embedded detonator to produce an explosion. The rapidly expanding wave front due to overpressure flattens all objects within close proximity of the epicenter of the aerosol fuel cloud, and produces debilitating damage well beyond the flattened area. The main destructive force of FAE is high overpressure, useful against soft targets such as minefields, armored vehicles, aircraft parked in the open, and bunkers.
It looks like the MOAB under-performed but looks are deceiving. If there were men hiding in those tunnels they’re crispy critters now; if the tunnels contained large stores of weapons and ammo those are now gone. It will take months of donkey trains to replace them if replacements are even available. I believe the weapons and ammunition were the targets and that nobody involved in the attack really cared about a high body count because that is a meaningless metric. I also believe all the conjecture in the press surrounding this weapon has proven to be fake news. That conjecture has shifted now and the legacy media is contending the bomb was a dud. That they know not what they are talking about is obvious.
The Taliban is fighting ISIS-K, we’re targeting ISIS-K regularly and the Pakitani’s are targeting them too. I doubt they will survive much longer with all the attention they’re getting. The one disturbing factor is that ISIS-K has the support of the Safi tribes; a problem I’ll address in a future post.
There is a potential game changer being put in play with the return of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to Kabul. He is a former prime minister and the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami militant group. More importantly he is a Pashtun from the northern city of Kunduz and one would suspect he’ll have the ability to bring a resurgent Taliban in Kunduz to heel. That would be huge and comes at a time when the Taliban from that area have pulled off the most devastating attack (the Mazar-e Sharif attack) against the ANA to date in this long nasty war .
The Mazar attack targeted young recruits attending Friday prayers in the base Mosque which has enraged Afghans who feel (correctly) it was an assault against Islam. Heckmatyar has said repeatedly the Taliban are an affront to Islam and that is a message which now resonates, more than ever, with the Afghan people. We shall see how this plays out but if he can dampen the fires of insurgency in the north the Afghans will have the space they need to concentrate their forces in the south and east.
There is one other thing Heckmatyar could help with in this critical phase of the fight for Afghanistan. He may be able to do something about the Haqqani clan. Every attack inside Kabul and the recent devastating attack in Mazar-e Sharif had Haqqani fingerprints all over them. They are funded by Pakistan’s intelligence agency (the ISI) and have been able to penetrate Kabul seemingly at will. They are dedicated, professional butchers who kill without pity or remorse. They need to be put down and the sooner the better.
We have been trying for years to get both Jalaluddin (the family patriarch) and his son Sirajuddin with drones but have come up empty. A man like Heckmatyar has the capability to get them the old fashioned way using car bombs or ambushes. I wonder if he’ll make the effort and know taking out the Haqqani’s would have an immediate impact on decreasing the level of violence directed at Kabul. Time will tell.
The Marines of Task Force Southwest are on the ground starting their advise and assist mission in the Helmand province. No news about them is good news because the only news we’ll see in the legacy media will concern casualties. I’m not aware of any reporters who plan to embed with them to write about their mission and how it is working out. Yet another reason why I want to embed with them for a month this summer. The Marines and soldiers on the front lines deserve to have their stories told and not just when they have sustained casualties.
There are no good options available to the international community in Afghanistan. My greatest concern, shared by many others, is that we will calibrate our advise and assist efforts to do just enough not to lose. If we are serious about the advise and assist mission then we have to accept two things. It is going to take more than a decade of sustained effort and at some point we will have to fight with the troops we are training and advising. Fighting means losing troops; it’s inevitable but the public has not been prepared for nor will it accept high numbers of American combat deaths in Afghanistan.
President Trump has not revealed his plan for Afghanistan yet but when he does his plan will be attacked by the legacy media regardless of content. That’s not good for our country or Afghanistan. It appears the President is allowing Secretary of Defense Mattis to shape this plan without micromanagement or intrigue from the White House. That is good news given the prior pattern of micromanagement by both the Bush and Obama administrations. If the new plan is the same as the old plan then we’ll know the Afghans are screwed. I doubt Secretary Mattis will settle for more of the same and know there is not another American alive today who could handle this task better. If he can quietly kill the current females in the infantry madness while he’s at it we can consider ourselves blessed. Let us hope that both of these things are not a bridge too far given the madness that passes for reality with our ruling class in Washington DC and their accomplices in the press.
There is no way to determine what is going on in Afghanistan without competent reporters on the ground digging up truth and reporting that in context. That is why I’m trying so hard to fund an embed back there but I cannot do that without your support. If you can please consider a donation to the Baba Tim Go Fund Me page in support of accurate reporting from the front lines.
This morning’s news contained the best news (for Americans) yet to come from Afghanistan. Our Secretary of Defense, former Marine Corps General James Mattis flew into Kabul to assess our efforts there. His visit was unannounced and I am willing to bet his entourage small. Secretary Mattis is the best general of his generation and is revered by the American military. America saw why if they watched him at his confirmation hearings. He comes to Kabul at a critical time because the Afghans just got some bad news.
The Afghan defense minister, the army chief of staff and (although not in the press and maybe an inaccurate tip) four Afghan army corps commanders have been sacked. The press is contending the two ministerial level officials resigned but that is not what I am hearing from my sources in country. This level of senior leadership turmoil will crush the already fragile morale of the Afghan National Security Forces while throwing current operations in disarray.
There is no longer a question about our intentions regarding Afghanistan; we are staying to see things through. You can hear for yourself below:
ANSF is taking a beating reportedly losing 9,000 KIA in 2015 and 10,000 in 2016. Attrition from desertions average 1/3 of the force per year but buried in that number are soldiers who are late coming back from leave and marked as new joins when they return. How big or small that number is remains unknown. Ghost soldiers (having men on the payroll who are not there) has always been a problem but it is a different phenomena than it was in the days before all pay was distributed into individual bank accounts. In the past ghost soldiers were a sign that the commander was pocketing the cash himself. Now it is a sign that commanders are seeing that the families of their soldiers who were killed in action receive financial support without which they will be destitute. The next big idea we should be floating in Afghanistan is adequate compensation for the families of soldiers lost in combat.
Secretary Mattis contends that the levels of cooperation between NATO and the Afghan military and government has never been better. He also has said the ANSF security forces continue to improve in the face of excessively high casualties. If that’s true then how did the Taliban pull of such a spectacular attack in the prosperous and safest city in Afghanistan? I’ll tell you how.
The Taliban approached the base in Mazar-i Sharif with wounded men in their vehicles telling the guards at the first checkpoint they had to get their men to the hospital immediately. They were let past the first checkpoint but stopped at the entrance by guards who wanted to see the wounded men before allowing them to proceed. That was when the first suicide bomber detonated himself killing those guards and allowing the rest to race towards the Mosque and chow hall. Soldiers in the mosque attending Friday prayers would be unarmed; it would be an insult to Islam if they were. Soldiers eating chow are normally not armed either and no military in the world allows its recruits to run around armed. Once through the gates the attackers had everything they need to kill hundreds of unarmed troops.
Attacking troops in a mosque is an affront to Islam; it has enraged many Afghans (it should enrage them all) and the location of the attack is important to understand. Mazar is as anti-Taliban as Dearborn Michigan. Wait, that’s probably not true actually – it is as anti-Taliban as San Antonio. Populated by mostly Tajik and Uzbek peoples it draws thousands of itinerant laborers including Pashtuns from the south of the country. The people of Mazar are now afraid that the central government cannot protect them and they will turn to those who can; the former Northern Alliance which is another way of saying local warlords. They also could turn on the Pashtuns by lynching innocent men in the streets (like they did in 2001) sparking another nasty civil war.
The Mazar attack was a professional operation that was well planned, obviously rehearsed and has the hallmarks of a Haqqani network operation which is to say it was sponsored, directed (and possibly lead) by Pakistan’s secret police, the ISI. The goal of Pakistan is to keep Afghanistan prostrate, unorganized, and at war because they cannot handle a stable state to their west when they are fighting India to their east. Plus they are making millions off us allowing our equipment and supplies to transit their country.
This attack is part of a campaign to bring civil war to Afghanistan and it comes at a time with the progressives seem to be doing the exact same thing in our country. Witness this headline from the odious Think Progress organization The US has failed Afghanistan and the Trump Administration isn’t helping. The article contains no new news and was written to stoke anti Trump feelings. I wrote about these jerks in 2011 after they swooped into Kabul to line their pockets with consulting fees while leaving behind a report that proved them to be masters of the obvious.
So we are staying in Afghanistan to see things through. I’ve got no problems with that but how are we going to make a difference? I’m not sure because the only way to mentor effectively is to fight with the men you’re mentoring. Secretary Mattis knows more about this topic than any man alive and if he’s backing the plan then I’m with him. How this renewed commitment will play out on the ground is something we will not be able to judge due to the lack of reporting coming out of the country.
This is why I’m trying so hard to get the funding required to go back and report from a country I really am passionate about. But my efforts are clearly not bearing fruit so I’m being forced to resort to more extreme measures like this:
Last night I was coming back from the La Taverna du Liban, Kabul’s best Lebanese Restaurant, located in the Wazar Akbar Khan section of Kabul. Back in the day it had a full bar and open patio and was packed with expat customers. Most of the expats back then had at least a pistol on them and senior diplomat types had heavily armed, high end expat guards sitting at the table next to them. Those days are long gone; now you have to walk down a long blast proof hallway through a series of locked doors and that’s after being searched for weapons curbside. The La Taverna du Liban, like most of the restaurants in Kabul, no longer allows armed Expats. The Afghan government and UN say the lack of armed westerners makes everyone safer. I say it makes them sitting ducks but I still go to the Taverna cause I love the place and the owner is a friend.
They still serve great food and have a good double apple shesha mix but now when the waiter takes your order he’ll wink and ask if would you like the red chai? That’s code for red wine and it arrives in a teapot with tea mugs. The days of having an open bar are behind us in Kabul restaurants too. When my Afghan friend Cartman and I were coming home last night we saw a dozens of riot police from the ANP cutting the road to the interior ministry and Serena Hotel. The cops didn’t have riot helmets or shields but they did have their batons which is a hint to their mission that night. The only way Afghan drivers will pay attention to the police is if they believe failure to comply will result in a wood shampoo. Last night it was clear the cops were ready to administer wood shampoos to anyone ignoring their road block and that is most unusual.
Cartman’s phone rings and I hear the voice of an international reporter, attractive female type, who I don’t know that well.
“Boss, she wants to know if Obama is coming to talk to Karzai” asked Cartman.
“Tell her it is a gross breach of etiquette for her to talk to an Afghan male who is not a member of her immediate family.”
“She said your blog sucks and to shut up because she’s not asking you”.
The question sure put what I was seeing in context. The local cops don’t come out at night and cut roads unless something big is up.
The president was on the ground in Bagram Air Base pumping up the troops but (according to NPR) not spiking the ball on the one-year anniversary of his “gutsy” call to send a crew of hardened sailors into Pakistan to whack OBL. Recently that gutsy call has been in the news…something about Mitt wouldn’t have made it and I guess there is a MSM video of the VP making an ass out of himself describing how the difficult decision was made. Mitt batted the sleazy allegations leveled at him out of the park and then the real story behind the decision to whack OBL came out and it looks to me like our POTUS came as close to voting present as is possible with a presidential finding.
Next thing you know we have a not so secret, secret visit where the Prez pumps up the troops and then last night sneaks into Kabul to ink a really, really, great deal with President Karzai. But none of this had anything to do with the anniversary of killing OBL because the president said so himself .
The Taliban decided that they too were not going to not observe the one year anniversary of OBL’s demise by conducting another well planned, poorly executed, attack inside the Kabul Ring of Steel (my guys call it the Ring of Steal). The tactics were standard; a VBIED at the gate, followed by a ground assault by gunmen disguised by burkas. The target a bit ambitious, it’s called Green Village and is a privately owned FOB (Forward Operating Base) designed to provide ISAF level security to internationals who are not living on one of the military FOB’s. The results were predictable; the attackers rapidly isolated, this time rapidly dispatched, their intended targets unscathed and a bunch of innocent civilians (mostly children) killed or injured.
Most international guesthouses in Afghanistan meet the UN Minimum Occupational Safety Standards (UN MOSS) but Green Village far exceeds UN MOSS because its intended clientele is the US Government not stingy, tight wad NGO’s. Opened in 2008 the place has never stopped growing. It is always at 100% occupancy, has great food, a decent gym, racquetball courts, a bar, pool, and all sorts of kiosks selling local goods and other stuff. I don’t care for the place myself because its pre-fabricated high-end feel combines everything that is wrong about our efforts in Afghanistan and confines it in a small artificially nice place. We have called it Menopause Manor for years because of the unending stream of reporting (mostly generated by the residents) saying the Taliban are targeting them.
This morning the Taliban were not able to talk their way past the gate guards so they blew their VBIED on the road at exactly the time when one would expect 200 to 300 school children to be walking by.
The VBIED was followed up by three-man assault force who approached their objective wearing burkas and started battling with the Serbs and Nepalese guards from the Green Village guard force.
One of the three attackers blew himself up, another was gunned down and the third made it into the laundry building which is still well outside the blast walls of the main camp. The Kabul PD Critical Response Unit took the last one out soon after arriving on the scene. This was a typical Taliban attack – good planning, excellent operational security, poor execution coupled to a complete disregard for collateral damage.
The planning was pretty impressive because Green Village is the only privately run FOB in the country that houses ISAF contractors and troops. It would be, by far, the easiest ISAF FOB in the country to attack but only if you could sneak a rifle company into Kabul. One VBIED and three suicide bombers is not really an attack; it’s a statement. Like the last attack in Kabul it was successful only because it happened. The tactical failure of the assault force is, as it always is here, irrelevant.
Here are (in my humble opinion) the lessons learned from this latest attack.
The President’s schedule was compromised to the mainstream media. The planning for his visit was excellent; in around 2000 out by 0400; which allowed the downtown to be cleared and the President to meet with Karzai while causing minimal disruption to local residents. But I knew he was coming before he arrived because the MSM phone call put what I was witnessing downtown into context. It appears I wasn’t the only one in on the secret.
This dispatch came in from Taliban central on twitter today:
Al Farouq spring offensive will be launched on May 3 all over Afghanistan. The Taliban said the code name came from Islam’s second caliph, Omar al Farouq known for his military advances in Asia and the Arab world during the seventh century.
The announcement comes hours after Taliban insurgents armed with guns, suicide vests and a bomb-laden car attacked a heavily fortified compound used by Westerners in Kabul, killing seven people and wounding more than a dozen.
The militants claimed the attack in defiance of US President Barack Obama’s call that the war was ending during a visit to Afghanistan on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death on Wednesday.”
Did the Taliban launched one of their pre-planned attacks a day early because they discovered that Obama was in Kabul? The attack happened two hours after the POTUS left and that means two hours after all the elite police units in the capitol went off duty after being up all night because he was here. That’s a pretty impressive reaction time by the Taliban and it demonstrates the danger of allowing administration operatives to leak details of Presidential trips to preferred members of the MSM.
The reaction to today’s attack by the people inside Green Village was also impressive when compared to the attack on the ISAF HQ last fall. None of the residents, many of whom are EUPOL police officers or ISAF troops and therefore have weapons, ran out to the walls to start shooting wildly in the general direction of attack. They let the guard force do its work which, I understand, is a drilled SOP at Green Village. This reinforces the point that there is nothing, not one damn thing, big government can do more efficiently and effectively then the private sector and that includes repelling ineffective insurgent attacks on FOB’s hosting government troops.
The Afghans are hosed; the agreement Obama came into Kabul to sign last night is long on promises but short on specifics. The level of funding for ANSF he is promising has to be approved every year by congress and what are the chances that they decide to cut it at some point in the future?
Our involvement in Afghanistan is not going to end well. I predict we will pull all of our military out in 2014 just like we did Iraq in 2011. There will be no “force enablers” and, unlike Iraq, there will be no massive international Private Security Company presence to enable continued reconstruction.We will pull all our forces out and with them will go the reconstruction piece and when that happens the world bank will no longer support the Afghani. The Afghani will then free fall just like the Zimbabwean dollar while the country erupts in civil war.
I have made many grim predictions on this blog over the years (my take on the so called Arab spring comes immediately to mind) and I always use the caveat that I hope I’m wrong. So, I hope I’m wrong about Afghanistan’s future but I doubt it.
We are finishing up our projects and preparing to call it a war. This year we have been operating in 20 Provinces, all of them kinetic and getting every project we started finished on schedule and on budget. I now routinely move in Ghost Team mode throughout the Southwest using a few tricks of the trade that we’ve picked up along the way. The way we do what we do is our Afghan staff is awesome and the key regional positions held by Afghans we’ve known for years. We have been successful where every other implementer has failed because we (the expat project managers) visit every project, track all expenditures, and use technology to GPS/time/date the photographs sent in daily by our monitoring crew. Plus we have been doing infrastructure projects for so long that we no longer have to haggle over cement or gravel or steel prices in the local bazaars.
Being successful in the places we worked probably raised the expectations of the average local citizen far above what is reasonable. Operating with low overhead, no security company to impede our operations while directly implementing projects in areas thought to be too unstable would mean something if we were on the winning side of this conflict. But we’re not so it means very little in the big scheme of things. That’s because the entire edifice on which the ISAF Afghanistan counterinsurgency campaign is based has been built on a foundation of lies. The central government in Kabul in not functional now and will not be anytime soon. The Kabul based government line ministries have the ability to project authority down to the district level which is madness given the sensitivity of Afghans concerning legal title to their land. Calling a central government that was installed and is supported by the guns of foreigners legitimate does not make it so in the eyes of the Afghan people. And they don’t give a damn about what the international community has to say on the topic
The ability of modern western armies to train and mentor Afghan security forces are zero. ISAF insists that their troops have a certain amount of protection and access to unlimited quantities of high quality western food flown into the country at God only knows what cost. In order to achieve this goal ISAF is quartered on FOB’s that are physically separated from the forces they are mentoring. That adds to the psychological separation that all westerners have to deal with when they choose to reside in countries like Afghanistan. It also subtracts from their ability to win friends or influence the men they have been sent to train.
The inability of the Government in Kabul to protect the capitol was on display during the attack in Kabul on the ISAF HQ?American Embassy complex. When the attack from Abul Haq Square started at I was skyping with The Bot who was in his office which is just down the street from the building the Taliban were using for their attack. He reported firefights breaking out in a 2-kilometer circle around him. I told him it sounded (over the Skype connection) like the Tet offensive and he might want to think about heading down to the bunker but he wouldn’t budge. He’s resposible for the Japanesse aid workers who were already in the bunker and needed to have eyes on the compound in case villians started to slither over the walls.
Here is what happend:
Six bad guys rolled up in a Toyota van to a building under construction at Abul Haq Square, exited the van, shot the security guard stationed in front and occupied the building. The building had been under construction in 2007 but then construction was stopped because (this is local gossip and may not be true) there was direct line of sight into the Presidential compound from the upper floors . There are probably 10 buildings now in Kabul tall enough and close enough for direct line of sight into the Presidential compound which doesn’t make the story untrue but the Occam Razor approach would speculate that the builders ran out of bribe money. TIA (This Is Afghanistan)
So the villains run upstairs where they have a stash consisting of 5 AK 47’s, a 82mm (Type 65) Recoilless Rifle, two RPG launchers (with a bunch of rounds) and an unknown number of Russian F1 fragmentation grenades. From their pre-staged sniper nest they had direct line of sight to the US embassy and ISAF HQ compounds. As soon as they are set up inside the building they started cutting loose with the Recoilless Rifle. The AK’s and hand grenades were used on the ANP troops who came in the building after them. At the same time suicide bombers attacked three separate ANSF targets around the city.
This is important to know; the max effective range of a type 65 Recoilless Rifle is around 1750 meters, for an AK 47 about 400, which is probably about the best you can do with the American M4’s given their shorter barrels. Remember those distances ….now here’s the timeline:
1320 – 6 fighters (Haqqani type) start the attack
1415 – The critical response unit arrives with their ISAF mentors.
1500 Two 82mm shells hit USAID compound.
1515 – The ANP shoot a suspected suicide bomber outside the ANCOP HQ but he detonates against an ANCOP HMMVW wounding two of the cops.
1535 A suicide bomber detonates at the rear entrance of the Shamshod Regional Police HQ killing one ANP officer and wounding three civilians who were in the immediate vicinity.
1540 ANP officers shoot a suspected suicide bomber and he fails to detonate because he was carrying a large charge in a sports bag and that allowed the security forces to examine the bomb. It contained 7 kg of military grade explosives and was loaded with nails to provide fragmentation. The bag also contained one F1 hand grenade and an AK rifle.
1610 The villains launch two more 82mm rounds at the embassy but they overshoot and land around the main mosque in Wazir Akbar Khan.
1930 Some sort of SF team from ISAF makes an assault and the villains respond with a shower of hand grenades rolled down the stairs. The SF door kickers kill two of the six bad guys on the fifth floor and then slow down taking the entire rest of the night to kill the remaining four fighters. The assaulters (whoever they were) did not take any casualties during the clearance phase of the operation.
0700 Incident is declared over.
What was all the firing The Bot and I heard coming from? I thought it was undisciplined fire from Afghan Security Forces who were shooting at ghosts. Turns out I was wrong. Most of the shooting The Bot was hearing came from the ISAF Headquarters where the Macedonian guard force joined by Americans from the HQ staff started shooting at a building 1000 meters away with AK 47’s (Macedonians) and M4 rifles (Americans). What they thought they were doing and where all those rounds landed is a mystery to me but there is a private girls school that is 600 meters out from ISAF HQ and directly in the line of fire so it would be a good guess to assume most the ISAF rounds hit there. I can guarantee that none of them came close to hitting the 6 gunmen who were outside the effective range of ISAF battle rifles.
Despite the wild fire from the ISAF troops this incident was handled well by the Afghan Security Forces. Two of the three suicide bombers were shot before they could strike and the focal point of the incident was isolated and contained rapidly. Most importantly the door kickers took their time rooting out the villains who, as is typical for Taliban fighters, did not fight with much skill despite achieving complete surprise and being prepared to fight to the death.
The subsequent assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani is something on which I’ll withhold comment. I knew Rabbani’s deceased son-in law very well and have no desire to share my opinions on this matter except for two: That was one well planned and executed operation that reveals a skill set we in the west no longer have. And seeing Ambassador Crocker accuse the Pakistani’s of collusion in the attack was a refreshingly honest public statement from a senior diplomat.
Blind support of GIRoA is not a mission, but an abdication of the imperative of paying attention to reality when you define a mission.The American military has a counterinsurgency doctrine based on supporting the local government, and they are not going to tailor their operations to fit reality despite the fact we have do not have a host nation partner that is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the Afghan people. The six fighters who launched the main attack obviously had staged thousands of pounds worth of weapons and ordnance inside Kabul’s Ring of Steel and that could only be done with the active assistance of people with seniority in the Kabul security establishment. Corruption in this country is that bad.
Richard Fernandez of The Belmount Club posted today about the consequences of building edifices on the foundation of a lie. This quote from the post lays it out beautifully:
But just as the appeasers have now about abolished the last remaining justification for national self defense and as the Left continued to operate on the Western side of the Berlin Wall in the guise of their transnational schemes, nothing in recent history indicates that being correct about an issue settles anything. Being right has nothing to do with politics. It’s what you can sell that counts. The price of keeping those product lines going was on full display on the world markets today. Stocks plunged all over the world, the 10-Year Treasury yields hit their lowest level since 1940s..
Not just because policymakers have gotten it wrong about the root cause of terrorism, or the Euro; but also about Too Big To Fail, population policy, multiculturalism, a crippling environmentalism and Global Warming, to name a few. The financial, national security and educational systems of the world are in utter collapse because they are stuffed with lies, which even when they are shown to be obviously false suck up trillions of dollars in their pursuit. And nothing will turn the global elites from continuing their ruinous path until they have spent the last nickle and dime they can lay their hands on.
There is little that will be done to change the tragic trajectory of Afghanistan. We blew it years ago by ignoring the obvious and assuming that somehow we could midwife the birth of Afghanistan into modernity. We now have a gigantic military presence that has assumed roles and missions they cannot accomplish by VTC meeting, endless closed loop reporting and chin wagging about good governance or women’s rights among themselves inside the safety of a FOB. Afghanistan is not going to end well and we may not know (in my lifetime) if the investment of blood and treasure was worth it. But it is not Afghanistan that worries me it is the consequences of basing everything we do on lies.
The resolute reluctance by the American government to deal with reality in Afghanistan is not the exception to a rule; it is the rule. The rule of the big lie which infuses our military from top to bottom. I remember vividly the first time I experienced it in the military. Former Commandant of the Marine Crops General Krulak was then the Commanding General in Quantico, Virginia where I was an instructor at The Basic School. There was a new class of Lieutenants on deck and the General had come to welcome them on day one of their 6-month course. The first thing he asked was “who here thinks that a female is incapable of doing anything and everything a man can do”? I almost had a heart attack when I saw some of my new Lt’s preparing to state the obvious fact that there is no way the female gender of the species can physically compete with the male gender in any endeavor that requires strength, stamina, or endurance. Fortunately the good General had paused for only a second before concluding with this warning “because if you do I’ll dismiss you from our Corps this very afternoon” (that may not be an exact quote but it’s close).
On day one of their official Marine Corps careers this group of 300 odd men were exposed to the corruption of the lie. For the rest of their careers (those who stayed in are now Lieutenant Colonels) they have had to deal with an organizational defect built on what they know to be a lie. This is how you end up with senior officers who will look you straight in the eye and tell you they are here to support GIRoA who has shown so much promise and improvement that there is no reason to be here after 2014.
What can you say when confronted with such stupidity? I don’t know – I know the Helmand Province is unnaturally free of IED’s and SAF attacks this past week. If that trend keeps up it is safe to deduce that somebody on the Taliban side now understands the lie and have switched tactics in response. The Taliban once massed hundreds of fighters to go after small outposts in the mountains or the British in Helmand Province. They can’t do that now without becoming a HIMAR magnet so going to ground, keeping minor pressure on ISAF with IED’s and shoot and scoot attacks while simultaneously running an assassination campaign targeting Afghan officials is a sound tactical plan. The hit on Rabbani was a most impressive operation and nobody here thinks he’s the last senior government official on the Taliban JPEL (Joint Priority Effects List)
Afghanistan has revealed that NATO can’t fight – it can’t deploy or sustain itself either without the American military but that truth will be ignored for political expediency. Same-same with the flood of USG agency folks who came here as part of the civilian surge; they proved that they are incapable of deploying to or working in primitive environments without literally a million dollars a day (per person) in life support and security services.
I’ll end this post with a quote from Victor Davis Hanson’s book Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power:
Western civilization has given mankind the only economic system that works, a rationalist tradition that alone allows us material and technological progress, the sole political structure that ensures the freedom of the individual, a system of ethics and a religion that brings out the best in humankind and the most lethal practice of arms conceivable.
Western civilization is broke because our elites have robbed future generations to pay for their Utopian schemes. In the process they have ruined many a proud military by insisting on levels of security and life support, which are unnecessary, counter productive to the mission, and ruinous to the fighting spirit. Who cares? You should. Soon a butchers bill for this incompetence will be due. Only the dead have seen the last of war.