Status quo ante bellum

My last post has generated considerable interest from all over the blogsphere, providing me a great opportunity to restate a few of my firmly help beliefs about Afghanistan. One of the first and most contentious of my views is that al Qaeda and their Taliban allies will never again run Afghanistan no matter what happens from this point forward.   Status quo ante bellum means “the way things were before the war” and it is not possible for the Taliban to ever get back to that point.   This is  important  because you will still see articles in the press emanating from Washington saying that they will.  I base my reasoning  on four years of traveling about the country and talking with local people.   The Taliban were ultimately despised for their self righteous cruelty, just like al Qaeda in Iraq.   They filled a power vacuum back in 1996 bringing justice and the rule of law to a country with no infrastructure, no central government, no functioning economy, and ruled by warlords who had varying degrees of competency and cruelty.

Afghanistan now has a good road network, a functioning central government, and an increasingly  capable army.   The Taliban can at best, leverage their popularity and numbers in the south for a seat at the table with the central government but that is about the best they could do if we pulled out tomorrow   and let the chips fall where they may.   Look at how the Pashtun tribesmen are reacting to the Taliban who have taken over the Swat Valley in Pakistan – do you think Afghans want a return to that?    They don’t and they have enough guns, organization and support from the people to ensure they will  never be  under the Taliban yoke again.

Yet we continue to battle the Taliban, their various allies and the, “fight for pay” cadres.   The intensity of combat increases with each passing year, as do the numbers of Armed Opposition Groups.   We are losing ground, a fact that led  to the relief for cause of General McKerinan … who Sarah Palin accidentally called “Gen McClellan”  during a debate last summer, proving yet again her uncanny grasp of complex affairs of state. It appears that Gen McKerinan had what Abraham Lincoln diagnosed as General McClellan’s problem  … a case of the “slows”. The relief for cause of a four star general is no small matter.  Clearly things are supposed to change in our approach to the Afghan Campaign. But, one must ask, “what change?”

We are fighting an insurgency.   Military formations facing a competent insurgency far away from their homeland and among people who are culturally, linguistically, religiously, and ethnically distinct are at a severe disadvantage.   Counterinsurgencies can be won but they can cost a fortune in either time, money, munitions or men, or for that matter, all of the above.   Let me refine that … they will cost a fortune in time or money or munitions or men if you have a military that has  the organization, doctrine, training, equipment  and public support, including time, to wage counterinsurgency warfare.   They will cost a larger  fortune in time and money and munitions and men if  you have a military that  is not organized, trained and equipped for counterinsurgency warfare.   With the exception of the Taliban, none of the military organizations currently operating in Afghanistan  is fully organized, trained and  equipped for  that war.   This story provides a typical example of the consequences of establishing what I term the big box FOB around the contested south to fight a counterinsurgency. In order to accommodate the expected surge in troop levels, the U.S. Army needed to expand its  base in Zabul Province. An Army captain who leads the local embedded training team working with the Afghan Army (and who  belongs to a separate task force with a completely different chain of command), warned the base CO that the expansion would cut off a vital karez (water) access to  the locals, a fact certain to  cause problems. He was  ignored until the Army realized that cutting off the karez access tunnel was in fact causing real problems with the locals. At that point they engaged the local shura but it was too late. The Afghans reacted with indignation and cold fury at the thought that the Army would cut off their karez. The reaction  was  expected by old Afghan hands.  Either the villagers were rightfully outraged or they were  posturing because they knew that such behavior  would  get them bigger compensation payments (your tax dollar at work one more time). But as the story moves on, we find that  the Taliban had beaten the Army to the punch. The elder from the one village that  agreed to cooperate, was paid a visit by the local Talibs and lost an ear. Things of this nature cannot  ever be allowed to happen in a counterinsurgency fight.

In counterinsurgency warfare there is one simple imperative; who stays wins. This extract from the article linked in the Belmont Club (the best milblog going) says it all.

And unfortunately a reality of this kind of war is that civilians have no choice but to support the group that exerts the most pressure on them. So in order to be effective, the counterinsurgent must exert more authority and control and protect the civilians over a long period of time. Temporary security is self-defeating because of erosion of trust and exposure of the population to retribution. Furthermore, to be successful the counterinsurgent must form a closeness to the population at the local levels to compete with and edge out the guerrilla and insurgent who by nature are closer and more connected to the population than the central government; centralized counterinsurgency is less effective, local effective governance and security are more effective.

The United States military and her NATO allies are not trained or organized for  this kind of warfare.   The big box bases we are building would be useful if we were going to exercise the “Carthage Solution” but we do not do that kind of thing unless we are involved in a “total war.”   See show # 23 in attached link – Dan Carlin is one of the best history podcasts going – every episode is worth listening to.Counterinsurgency warfare requires close cooperation between the host country and foreign troops.   But we don’t have that.   We have this the President of Afghanistan calling for the end of air strikes based on an incident I blogged about last week and one which appears to be the work of the Taliban.   The end of air strikes?   How the hell do you fight a counterinsurgency without using tac air?

You can’t. We have a huge problem. The Afghan and American led ISAF forces need to be in complete agreement, presenting a united front having   a simple message. Something like this:

“We are fighting for the people of Afghanistan.   We do not run. We do not hide. We do not throw acid on little girls nor do we behead little  boys.   We fight for the people. We will not stop. We will not waver. We will fight until every armed opposition group in this country sends their foreign lackeys away and joins us in peace as brothers.”

I’m no expert but that is a good start on a message which would play well in the local market if used over and over and over.   It is bold talk which must be backed up with bold action which is, of course, the problem.   A problem that is part self inflicted due to our risk adverse poorly thought out military plans and in part the work of a dying organization – the main stream media.

Here is the opening from a Reuters “correspondent” which uses the preferred main stream media narrative and also indirectly links to my last post.

Life as 8-year-old Razia knew it ended one March morning when a shell her father says was fired by Western troops exploded into their house, enveloping her head and neck in a blazing chemical, she writes. Now she spends her days in a U.S. hospital bed at the Bagram airbase, her small fingernails still covered with   flaking red polish but her face an almost unrecognizable mess of burned tissue and half her scalp a bald scar.

Well, no shit.   Life normally changes when an 8 year old girls head and torso are enveloped in a blazing chemical.   That sort of   thing is a real bummer and in Afghanistan normally happens to older girls who have angered  their husband’s family.   There is a reason why Afghanistan is the only country in the world having a  female suicide rate  higher than the male rate.   I am not ignoring the horrible fate that befell  this young child – I do think she is lucky to be cared for by ISAF who at least have access to strong pain killers.   Believe it or not opiate based pain medicine is in short supply throughout the third world which is why the DEA looks like a bunch of retards when they insist that using the poppy to make morphine is off the   table. Absolute mouth breathing retards. Spraying poppies with aerial delivered herbicide  is the  kind of stupidity that  should be rewarded with a wood shampoo and three years in prison, not with promotions and fancy corner offices in DC. Sorry,  again I digress.   War is a horrible thing and nobody understands better or grieves stronger for the loss of innocent life than the American military and our ISAF allies. But war is war – what does focusing on a wounded child do to help us in our understanding of what is happening in Afghanistan?   Not one damn thing. It simply allows the MSM to parade their sense of moral superiority and self righteousness in front of the world at the expense of the men and women who are doing the fighting.

Here is something you’ll never see in the main stream media narrative.   “Life as 8-year old Monique knew it changed forever when a Volkswagen sized shell fired from one of the  American battleships off the coast of France slammed into her summer beach home in Normandy on the 6th of June.”     Or this – “Life for 13-year old Jesse Dirkhising changed forever the morning of September 26 when the homosexual couple living below young Jesse and his mother decided to spend the evening raping and torturing him.”   Poor Jesse was killed the same weekend as Mathew Shepard and even though the drug addicts who killed Mathew said they were after money, not young homosexual males, the media and HBO had a feeding frenzy telling the American people Mathew was killed due to our “intolerance.”   They made Mathew (who was gay) into a martyr.   He was and remains the preferred media narrative on homosexuality in America   – not the two rapists who killed young Jesse.   The main stream media doesn’t want to inflame the passions of us gun carrying, bible loving, rubes.   They determine which stories become part of our national dialogue – and stories about homosexual murders and rapists are not ever going to be on their radar screen anymore than stories about the poor souls who jumped out of the World Trade Towers on 9/11.

But they are soon to be gone, to be  replaced by people like me who know what they are talking about, have strong opinions which they do not hide, and care about something bigger than themselves … which in my case is   the United States of America and our beautiful constitution. A constitution  that,  I have learned, is the envy of Canadians, Australians, Brits and Kiwi’s, all of  whom want to live as  free men,  not wards of the state.

So the context of the preferred media narrative is well established – if a girl is horribly wounded during fighting between ISAF and the Taliban than that girls was victim of “a shell fired by western troops.” What kind of shell? what ordnance do we have that penetrates houses, detonates, yet leaves the people inside alive?   Anyone know what that can possibly be?   I do – a Willie Pete hand grenade which apparently the Taliban were using in attempt to kill the non combatants they had herded into local compounds.   Our air delivered ordnance, artillery, and mortars would not have   detonated inside a house and caused just chemical burns -they would have killed all inside.   We don’t even have WP rounds anymore – we use felt wedge red phosphorous rounds that detonate way above the ground.   Willie Pete was phased out of our inventory about 20 years ago.   I know technical details – we can’t expect that from Reuters “correspondents” now can we?

American infantry stripped down to as light as they can possible be with all the modern force protection gear.  There is only one way to fight insurgents in mountainious terrain and that is with no body aromor, no helmets, just a little food, water and ammo. Anyone who thinks they can do thte job in body armor and helmets is a deluded fool who have never humped the mountains of eastern Afghanbistan.  Photo by Tyler Hicks of the New York Times
American infantry stripped down to as light as they can possible be with all the modern force protection gear. There is only one way to fight insurgents in mountainious terrain and that is with no body aromor, no helmets, just a little food, water and ammo. Anyone who thinks they can do thte job in body armor and helmets is a deluded fool who have never humped the mountains of eastern Afghanbistan. Photo by Tyler Hicks of the New York Times

But we can find accurate technical reporting on the military in the New York Times (of all places) which has featured the work of C J Chivers as of late.   Mr. Chivers is a former Marine infantry officer who has been reporting from inside the Kunar Province where he is spending considerable time embedded with our troops.   C.J. broke the news about the night ambush I commented on in my last post.   This guy knows his topic and is giving it to us straight – he will no doubt soon be downsized – bet a 20 spot on it – but for now he is one of the few main stream media correspondents who knows the job.   He wrote a piece last week about two Marines who are in an outpost mentoring a squad of ANA deep in the Koringal Valley.   He titled his piece “Dream Job” which is what I’d expect from a former Marine infantryman and that title alone vaulted him past all competition to become my favorite newspaper reporter of all time.

We have hamstrung our efforts by placing our maneuver forces in “big box” FOB’s.   Afghanistan as viewed from behind the wire of a big box is not the Afghanistan I know and see daily.   It can’t be – that is nature of an isolated, high security FOB – it completely removes you from meaningful interaction with the local people.   Adding to the problem is the “main stream media” preferred narrative which is being used as a wedge to divide us even more from the people we  are supposed to be here to protect.   Chivers’ recent articles provide an example of a rational way forward for our military efforts in Afghanistan and this will be the start point of my next post.

Nothing replaces being there in counterinsurgency warfare for both military and reconstruction specialist.  This is a working lunch in downtown Gardez last week concerning public works projects we will be doing this summer.
Nothing replaces being there in counterinsurgency warfare for both military and reconstruction specialist. This is a working lunch in downtown Gardez last week concerning public works projects we will be doing this summer.

9 Replies to “Status quo ante bellum”

  1. Solid post, Tim. My question becomes, can grassroots reporting bring the media to a point of non-bias?

  2. You have good points from solid personal experience in Afghanistan, and I respect a lot of what you say.

    But your comments about homosexuality are largely off the mark. The MSM has picked up a narrative of sometimes brutal discrimination against homosexuals because it is a real trend. Pointing to a case of homosexuals committing sexual violence does not change this trend, but reflects what I suppose to be a disapproval of gay sympathy in the MSM. I don’t really know why you feel this way, but that’s your prerogative, strong opinion-guy.

    Furthermore, whatever your bent against the NYTimes, and despite their downsizing in the face of the recession, they have some truly excellent embedded coverage of the wars that is surpassed only by blogger boots on the ground like yourself. I’m sure they appreciate the expert military coverage more than you presume, especially with Afghanistan so on the public’s mind.

  3. The Taliban and their paid surrogates vastly outnumber us. That’s because there’s a natural systemic acceptance of their message, which is “Do what we say and prosper. Do what they say and suffer.” And the fact that the Afghan “society” continues to tolerate the Taliban living right next to our forces exposes the futility of our efforts. Our efforts are a pathetic nothingness compared to the enormous corrupting influence of the root of the problem, which will not leave, and of which we do not speak. PAKISTAN.

  4. uhhhh wow. i am reminded of LBJ telling Richard Helms that the CIA should not talk about their stats on civilian casualties in vietnam.

    glad to know our ‘warrior intellectuals’ are staying focused on what really matters to the afghan people.. the “evil MSM” and “homosexual rapists”. yeah keep focusing on that, im sure it will win the war.

  5. Hahaha – I rant a lot but that post has stirred up some good back and fourth worthy of a post in and of itself.

    Check back in a few days and that post will be up. Nothing touches nerves in America like talking about Gay people.

    I’m not worried about “winning the war” it can’t be “won” nor can it be “lost.” I have pointed this out many times in the past. What I worry about is that we cannot figure out how to do what we set out to do (which I think is bring Afghanistan into the functioning core of nation states.) Without wasting billions of dollars and conducting ourselves like a bunch of retarded people.

    That we have to battle the MSM preferred narrative is a given but as I said I like to rant.

    That homosexual rapists will never appear on the MSM radar is another given which illustrates my point about the MSM – but I don’t worry about them my friend. I don’t worry about anyone because I am an American, born a free man who is allowed to protect himself and his family and not rely on the State to do what every man should be able to do for himself.

    The only thing that worries me is screaming around a mountain pass and running into an American or French military convoy – blogged about that a bunch too by the way.

    I will also blog soon about my current project – I have over 10000 men and women working right now in Jalalabad and Gardez rehabilitating main canals, treating drinking water, educating illiterate refugees on proper food and human hygiene and building the first certified, environmentally-safe city dumps.

    There are four more like me (one each from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) doing the same project in the south – nobody anywhere in this country is doing more for the Afghan people than my colleagues and me – that is a fact beyond dispute.

    So if it is OK with you I’ll worry about the MSM, Homo rapists and do more than other single American in country to help the Afghan people. Don’t worry – I can carry the load as I am a product of the United States Marine Corps and we don’t do “mission failure.” We sure can rant though and with a tip of the hat to your sir I shall continue ranting up a storm – pen being mightier than the sword and all.

  6. It’s real simple to avoid “mission failure”. You just reduce the mission. Dig a well Mission accomplished. Deliver cash to village elder Mission accomplished. Destroy the Taliban uhh, that’s not a mission sir, that’s a fairy tale. Please give me a mission that I can accomplish like all the other missions that were swallowed by the dust.

  7. Pingback: War Is Boring
  8. I love the wood shampoo comment.

    “I am an American, born a free man who is allowed to protect himself and his family and not rely on the State to do what every man should be able to do for himself.

    The only thing that worries me is screaming around a mountain pass and running into an American or French military convoy -”

    well my friend I must say that the way things are headed here in the States that comment may soon be tested. As the ecconomy takes a dive the crime rate is on the rise and reloading supplies are getting hard to come by along with ammo. The politicos are still hacking away at the constitution with vigor.

    With the brain dead public more worried about getting the newest iPhone more than they are worried about protecting their rights, the criminals are having a field day in congress and the house of non-representatives. The federal governement is writing firearms laws that many of the states refuse to follow and rips are appearing in the red, white, and blue bond that has bound this country together for so long.

    The MSM is twisting everything we see into a mess of lies, And I mean everything. I have stopped watching american news on television and started going to outside sources on the web for my information.

    Example: Micheal Jackson Dies and suddenly he has gone from “suspected” child molester to “the greatest musical talent ever”. I guess the war has stopped and the riots in the UK are finished because for the last week all that has been on the news is how great MJ is and now that he is dead we have all lost such a great human who brought people of all races together.(and fondled their little boys)

    I am so sick of the MSM telling me who to vote for, what to wear, why pot should be legalised, and how dangerous it is for the population to own firearms that I have tuned them out. Unfortunately most of the people my age don’t look else where for their news. They simply turn to HBO, go to the movies, watch porn, or play stinking video games to escape their boring useless lives. Unless they believe the talking bobble headed bleach blonde on CNN or FARCE (Fox)telling them that what some stupid actor wore, said, did, or didn’t do is more important than what the scum bags in the oval orafice are doing to your rights.

    I watch US news while on base getting my hair cut and find myself thinking and often saying “why is this on the news?” What is going on in Iraq? What is going on with Afghanistan? Why aren’t we covering more events happening in N. Korea or the horn of africa? Why is there even a show called “fashion news”.

    Why is it that I heard about some guy who got his dog back four years after hurricane katrina but not about all the guns that were taken illegally from the residents there who were trying to defend their property, families, and lives?

    Most of them got thier guns back two years post katrina after they had been sitting in buckets of nasty water in police custody, just in case you were wondering.

    Let me say that again… One guy gets his mutt back and it makes national news. Hundreds of people have their rights violated and the local law and feds wipe their stinking backsides with the constitution and it never hits the news.

    Currently I am hearing people talk about how they white nazi groups here are buying up weapons and filling their ranks with the unemployed and disinfranchised at an all too astounding rate, and that more gun laws must be passed to stop them. Meanwhile, I am thinking “great this is more hype meant to scare the public into giving away their freedoms.” I don’t know maybe I should be squirreling away guns and ammo for the day when Arizona is as crazy as Afghanistan. IF the MSM isn’t reporting the truth here on a daily basis, if they are conveniently leaving out things like the katrina fiasco, what are they not telling us tax payers about the war? What lies are they seeding the minds of our populace with?

    How long before freemen are fighting right here in their home towns and worried about running into an American or French convoy of armored “yes men” coming around the mountian pass? How long before the UN is on US soil kicking in doors and going house to house looking from insurgents from texas in Utah.

    Rant over, Gray out.

Comments are closed.

Verified by MonsterInsights