I have been in Dubai on a business trip for the past week. The boss is spoiling his talented group of Canadians and I in preparation for expanding out efforts into the most contested districts in the country. He didn’t have to spend the money as my colleagues and I are motivated by the challenge – although staying at the Raffles Hotel in Dubai was pretty damn cool.
Saturday evening my inbox started filling with news of a serious fight in Nuristan. I checked the wires and found nothing. I checked again Sunday morning and nishta – I even emailed my Buddy Michael Yon and he too was hearing something was up but but did not know what was happening. The wires started humming about the attack on two isolated outposts in Nuristan Province about 24 hours after I had first heard about it. The New York Slimes has an OK roundup of what happened here. If my information is correct this story contains a “untruth” told by a Colonel – and that is the kind of thing which really gets me worried. I get worried because I know what happened to our military post Vietnam and would be crushed to see them held in such low esteem and outright contempt by the American public again in my lifetime. Let me insert an excellent point from a more than excellent post by one of the all time most excellent bloggers “…lying, while advantageous in the short run, is like a drug, temporary in its effects; requiring higher and higher doses to maintain the same effect and is finally self-destructive.” That is from this mornings post on the Belmont Club by Richard Fernandez; a blogger I admire greatly….and I’m stopping with all the “excellents.”
Saturdays attack on two outposts started in similar fashion to the attack last year in Wanat. The fighters; described as “local militia” by ISAF boiled up out of a mosque and laid siege to the American soldiers and their Afghan counterparts located inside a small forward operating base called ‘FOB Keating” and a nearby smaller Afghan police post. The fighting was so intense that none of the wounded could be evacuated for the first 16 hours which explains the number of alarming emails I was getting last Saturday evening. As is always the case when dealing with American infantry be they Marine or Army the wounded who could still fight did fight and refused to be evacuated. This report from ABC news covered that angle with the amazement one always sees in graduates from elitist American journalism schools when they encounter the selflessness of first rate infantrymen in contact.
At the end of this engagement Pedros flew in and extracted all the Americans and Afghans from Keating which had been completely destroyed in the fighting. But an Army Colonel quoted in the NYT article said “American forces still controlled the compound, which they share with Afghan security forces.” This is a perfect example of the attrition warfare mindset which is ingrained in most of our military officers. Owning the field of battle post fight is a measurement of success in conventional military operations. It is irrelevant in the context of a counterinsurgency. The only relative measurement of success is how much of the population is on your side. In the battle for FOB Keating the population was never on our side – they were apparently the ones who attacked us – so why were we even there in the first place? I don’t know the answer but will bet a months pay that we are soon out of Nuristan Province. As I have said many times before the instability in Nuristan is financed by gem smuggling syndicates which is an Afghan problem. We have no solutions to offer the Nuristani people except to leave them alone which is all they want anyway.
But there is something else which needs to be said about my view on how to win the Afghan fight using small civ/mil teams embedded into Afghan districts and here it is. If this war was fought the way I recommend you would have more incidents similar to the attack on Keating. There is no way to be as aggressive as I recommend (and operate) without getting a team attacked at some point. When that happens you are going to lose some …dying is part of living and even though every loss is a tragedy to the family bearing that loss on high you have expect and accept the fact that in war you are going to lose people. Lots of missions = lots of risks; no missions = no risk and for a vast majority of the military units deployed here the later seems to be the rule. Those who do not want to get off the FOB’s and fight should redeploy back to home station.
Which brings us the reading tea leaves. It appears that our Commander in Chief has made up his mind what to do in Afghanistan. He is voting present. We will not be sending more troops nor will we be pulling any out. His new commanding general is on record as saying this is not acceptable and for his troubles the good general got to fly to England to get his ass chewed by the President who was coming or going from his failed attempt to win an Olympics bid for the crime plagued, politically corrupt, scandal ridden shit hole known to us Americans as “Chicago.” General McChrystal apparently does not understand the genius of voting “present” (being a man of action and all) and said “waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support.”
For speaking a little truth to power the General got his ass chewed and this review from a Bruce Ackerman a purported expert on constitutional law at Yale University, who said in the Washington Post: “As commanding general, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements.”
Hey Bruce – nobody cares what our academic “betters” thinks about what a general should and should not do…they know more about political infighting than your entire faculty lounge ….. how do you think you get to be a four star general anyway you dumbass.
Sorry I’m ranting again – but although we are not gettig more troops … we are getting a civilian surge known in State Department speak as “the uplift” which will flood our FOB’s with more civilian experts. I know some of the men coming out in the uplift and can say without reservation they are smarter than I am about the Stan, more capable than I am at running reconstruction projects and if let lose could make a huge difference. But they won’t be let off the FOB. Lots of missions = big risks and nobody is into taking risks to achieve a mission which has yet to be clearly defined, properly resourced, or supported by the one man who’s support is crtical – The President of the United States.