The State of Play

The best way to view the current state of play in Afghanistan is to start at the top of food chain and work down to what is important.   The presidential election remains undecided and now Abdullah Abdullah has pulled out of the run-off election. Our Secretary of State says that means nothing. I agree but for different reasons; in the end it does not matter who is leading the country – the Afghan government will not be a proper COIN partner and will continue to be part of the problem regardless of how these elections turn out. Conducting a runoff will only give the bad guys more opportunity for mischief while accomplishing nothing.

Another big story from up the food chain concerned former Marine Captain Matthew Hoh who resigned from the State Department because he no longer knew why we are fighting in Afghanistan. As a fellow Devil Dog he will be spared my harsh opinion because that is the way us Marines roll – you want to hear us taking the piss out of fellow Marines you need to be wearing the Eagle Globe and Anchor. The only thing relevant about young Mathew is the level of play he is getting in the drive-by media.

This story is a brush back pitch to President Obama from his friends in the press announcing that the honeymoon is over.   When the story broke Michael Yon and I chatted about it on the net and the first thing I asked him was how many Afghan villages had he visited that  would not be thrilled to see a platoon of American (or ISAF but to the Afghans they are all Americans) infantry move in to stay for a long time? Like me his answer was very few. Michael has been over much of this country often riding along with the Bot or I. I have been in a lot more places than Michael and can name only a few that would not immediately welcome the semi-permanent deployment of American troops. On his most important point Hoh is wrong as wrong can be.

Army troops from the 4th Brigade chatting up the folks along the new road they built in Kunar Province. It is good to see American infantry dismoounted and interacting with the local peoples in a calm professional manner. But this is not COIN - these troops will mount up and move on in an hour. They are not providing security to the local people they are just showing the flag which expensive, inefficient, dangerous for the troops and at this stage of the conflict just plain silly
Army troops from the 4th Brigade chatting up the folks along the new road they built in Kunar Province. It is good to see American infantry dismounted and interacting with the local peoples in a calm professional manner. But this is not COIN – these troops will mount up and move on in an hour. They are not providing security to the local people they are just showing the flag which expensive, inefficient, dangerous for the troops because there is only one way out and one way back to their base.   Better to go out and stay out then to be predictable every time you leave the wire

Mister Hoh stuck to his guns when offered a seat at the big table by the ambassador which showed commendable conviction and character. But the reason the military fights here is because it has been told to fight here. Once that decision is made the men at the pointed end of the spear fight for each other. That is the nature of professional warriors.   If the host nation government isn’t a reliable partner – that is supposed to be a problem for the State Department. But hear me when I tell you the Afghan government is not going to change and it is a bigger obstacle to peace than the Taliban.

The overall security situation is what it is too; which not good in many places. The disturbing attack on a Kabul Guesthouse – which was UN MOSS (minimum operational safety standard) compliant and had some UN workers in residence again shows the bad guys can penetrate the tight security in capitol.

If it was the bad guys who attacked this particular target which just happened to be the UN team shipped in to monitor the presidential elections. Lot’s of people were unhappy about having those do-gooders running around and in this country when people are unhappy about you being here they let you know in unequivocal terms.

Weapons are not allowed in the official UN billets outside Kabul but they are temporary Guesthouses which there were not more internationals killed in this attack.

If the Taliban did this (which I doubt) the attack too is not enough to change the overall security picture. If the Taliban follow up with multiple attacks directed at internationals it would force all of us to operate like we did in Iraq back in 2005 and 2006. That would virtually halt all reconstruction activities until a massive security effort could be designed and staffed. That is not going to happen; all the sides in this conflict and all the surrounding countries are making too much money on the massive effort being expended in support of the Afghan reconstruction endeavor. The Taliban are Afghans and they know how the foreigner gravy train works.

This is not what you want to see driving down the road; sunburned, lean men with hard eyes and high top sneakers. These are Taliban fighters and we saw hundreds of them hanging out along the roadside in the Province. Kunar statisically the most dangerous province in the country - that will change as the Americans pull out of their forward bases becasue the raw incident numbers will pulmmet but it will always be a bad place for us internationals. Most of the people in Kunar want to be left alone; we should accomidate them and let the Afghans deal with this chronically unstable area
This is not what you want to see driving down the road; Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. The dress gives them away; note the squared tunic bottoms on some of these cats – that’s a Pakistani thing – Afghans prefer rounded corners on their tunics and you can see both in this picture. I suspect there are new Taliban fighters hanging out on the road side so they can watch our convoys and the troops who have dismounted and are playing grab ass with the local kids. This is a standard tactic of de-mystifying the large scary looking MRAP’s. 

If the Taliban had to strength and ability to really go after internationals they probably would but they don’t. But they can penetrate the Afghan security blanket which covers the capitol and cause all sorts of problems. The only way to prevent that and really the only way to have any real impact at all is to focus our efforts on the Afghan security forces. Our current mentoring efforts are not effective. We do not “embed” with the Afghans really. They are no Afghan liaison officers in any of the tactical operations centers resident in every battalion and brigade headquarters. An Afghan brigade HQ is a map table and a few radios – ours have dozens of people all with computer work stations and large video screens streaming in multiple feeds. We have hundreds of EuPol police officers here doing God knows what. They are not out with the Afghan police and seem to hang out in large purpose built buildings sending each other emails or surfing the internet. Kabul will be safe on the day you see EuPol officers or ISAF military out manning the checkpoints with the Afghans and not one day before that. Until then we will continue to see effective car bombing and armed raids. Check that – I doubt we will see more armed raids because in most of the Guesthouses I know in Kabul there are so many armed internationals that the bad guys would be shredded by the time they made it past the gates.

If we want to rapidly build the Afghan Security Forces the only way to do it is to live and work with them 24/7. We need to adopt them, feed them, pay them, and watch after them. What can a US officer really do when the Colonel he is mentoring cannot feed his own troops because the money to buy that chow is siphoned off by officers above him? If they make a stink about it the Afghan Colonel is sure to be relieved and thrown out on the streets. The current mentors have guys fighting daily while dealing with problems they would never encounter in the American system. They do the best they can to support the unit they are assigned to mentor, but they are not really embedded. They live of separate compounds inside the Afghan compounds completely separate from their charges. Mentoring means leading by example while living and fighting with your host country troops. It does not mean setting up a parallel TOC, camp, cook house, offices, and coffee shop where the Afghans are not welcomed or allowed.

Look at the size of these stupid MRAP's. When the troops are inside them they have no ability to hear what is happening outside the vehicle and most of the occupant cannot see a damn thing from inside them. These vehicles isolate the people inside them completley from the outside world which makes them more, not less vulnerable to attack. Still it was good to see the Americans hanging out with the locals in a relaxed calm manner.....a little late for this mind you but still a positive sign
This is what the bad guys in the photo above were looking at. Army troops hanging out with the local kids. The MRAPS are big and look impressive but they don’t shoot TOW’s like the Hummers did so in Kunar they are essentially worthless and we are losing too many because they can’t shoot high enough in the mountains.

The military is bitching about the fact that the Afghan government is not a reliable partner and a big part of the insecurity problem. This is true but the military can’t change that. They can make the Afghan military part of the solution but not by treating them the way they treat them now. We need to get the troops off the FOB’s and out with their counterparts in the villages. We also need to pull out of areas where the local people do not want our help – which is not that many areas in the country as a whole.

Kunar farmer threshing wheat the old fashioned way
Kunar farmer threshing wheat the old fashioned way

Every officer in all the NATO forces is taught the Principles of Warfare which are pasted in below:

  • Objective: Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective. “The ultimate military purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy’s armed forces and will to fight.”
  • Offensive: Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. Even in defense, a military organization is expected to maintain a level of aggressiveness by patrolling and launching limited counter-offensives.
  • Mass: Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time.
  • Economy of Force: Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts.
  • Maneuver: Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.
  • Unity of Command: For every objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort.
  • Security: Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected advantage.
  • Surprise: Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared.
  • Simplicity: Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding.

Not one of these rules are being followed in Afghanistan. Not one. The most important principal above is unity of command but we don’t come close. Gen McChrystal cannot tell his NATO subordinates to do a damn thing they don’t want to do- they will just call home to their respective capitols and tell the politicians to tell them not to do what they were just told to do but do not want to do. We have no mass and therefore cannot really do economy of force operations. Simplicity is a concept all but forgotten by the modern military and nobody can tell you in clear concise terms what the objective or our current efforts are.

The Kabul government will never be a reliable partner but the Afghan Army could develop into an effective force which, inshallah, could help drive Afghanistan into the functioning core of nation states (that should be our objective by the way.) General McChrystal should focus on that goal and continue with his efforts to send the REMF’s home, get off the FOB’s and get more troops into areas where they can protect the population.

23 Replies to “The State of Play”

  1. Tim, awesome post. Get off the FOB’s, GET OFF THE FOB’s!!!! (echo, echo, echo….)

    We hear you, and I hope the command hears you.

    On another note, I want to ask a question that will push your imagination and comfort level a little. You know me, I like to create and innovate, and blogs are great places to get feed back.

    If you were to create a unit whose mission it was to hunt and kill Taliban/Al Qaeda, how would you do it? Also, with this exercise, you would have the ability to hunt the enemy any where they go–meaning from Afghanistan to Pakistan, or wherever. Total freedom of movement. What would that unit look like, how would they operate, and what would they carry for weapons and kit? Most of all, what would be the strategy and tactics of such a unit? The question goes to Michael Yon too, if he is reading this. Hell, anyone reading this, feel free to let loose.

    Also, what do you think of Steven Pressfield’s blog? He has been really talking up the tribe stuff, and especially with Maj. Gant’s views. Are you and Yon reading that stuff, and what are your guy’s thoughts? Thanks. S/F -matt

  2. Hey Tim, what are you hearing about the Afghan Public Protection Program/APPF/AP3/Guardians of Wardak?

    It it reasonable to consider it FUBAR at this point? Seems like a successful program would have been exported to other provinces by now.

    Is the KAU still in business after Matiullah’s death?

    Not only do we need to continue trying to develop the Afghan Army into an effective force, we need to develop sub-national security forces at the village, valley, tribal, district and provincial levels. We need Pashtun Scouts working for us.

  3. Ditto Matt’s comments and questions. Maj Gant’s strategy seems logical. Would our command structure be willing to try it at least on a trial basis? If so, why is Gant being sent back to Iraq and not to ASTAN with his AK-47 a 300 rounds of ammo where we desperately need some answers? Weigh in on this one Mike?

  4. BZ babatim for putting some factoids out there, Ive been waiting to see your comments on matts recent media blitz comments.. America – and the free world, is blessed to have cats like you with boots on the ground, and outside the wire. Keep up the truth telling and it just might help.. 😉 !

  5. I love it. Pashtun Scouts is a perfect name for such a crew. Thanks CanoneerNo.4.

    You know, Maj. Gant put it out there that he would gladly go back and work with the tribes. So have numerous other veterans that have read the paper over at Steven Pressfield’s blog. Which got me to thinking…..

    During our Indian Wars in the US, The US Army hired Civilian Scouts and they hired and enlisted Indian Scouts. These two groups of Scouts would work directly with the US Army and they would lead them into tribal areas in the west in order to prosecute the war. The Civilian and Indian Scouts, knew the country, knew how to survive and track, and they knew the languages and nuances of the tribes. And they were crucial to the war effort. Even Buffalo Bill Cody, a Civilian Scout (or contractor), received the Medal of Honor for his actions against the Indians. Kit Carson knew multiple native languages, and was certainly instrumental for understanding the dynamics between the tribes. He was also a very effective tracker and Indian killer. The Indian Wars lasted for years and years, and the evolution of our style of fighting is very interesting to study.

    We should be applying these lessons of warfare in Afghanistan. We have been there for 8 years now, and there are now plenty of ‘Civilian Scouts’ available in that country, that could work along side the ‘Indian Scouts’ or Pashtun Scouts. And of course, both groups would be working for the military, all with the same goal and will.

    These Afghan mountain men, could be called the Pashtun Scouts or whatever is appropriate, and these guys would be hand selected by the Civilian Scouts and Military Units and the host tribe of that area. The goal is that all parties involved with this Pashtun Scouts program, should all have an equal hatred of the Taliban and Shadow Army AQ assholes, and these units should have real Afghan Mountain men scouting and tracking for the team. I have to believe that there are a few tribes out there, with such men.

    And even with the Pashtun Scouts, we could invigorate a kind of Selous Scout/Kit Carson Scout program. Take a captured Taliban, and ask them if they would either like to fight for us, or rot in prison? Use the methods of ‘turning’ a combatant, that Ron Reid Daly used with the Selous Scouts, and fill the ranks of the Pashtun Scouts with some really effective killers. Taliban hunting and killing Taliban, would be quite the sight to see and would send shock waves throughout the Taliban networks. It worked quite well for Daly and his crew.

    I also think the same program could be applied in Somalia, and get those Shabab bastards running for their lives as well.

    I also think that these Pashtun Scouts should look like and be armed just like the enemy. Running around with turtle shell body armor and stand out uniforms, shooting M 4 varmint guns, will not help to operate within the OODA loop of the enemy. Nor will large groups of men in the mountains, get us any closer to a small and nimble enemy that lives and operates in those hills. Nor will our clown suits get us any closer to the leaders, and ultimately UBL.

    And then there are the drones and our precision air power. I love that, and I think that stuff, coupled with these Pashtun Scouts, would be the one little edge that would put these Scouts over the enemy. Our eyes and weapons in the sky, will only add to the Observe portion of our OODA. But in order for all of that stuff to be truly effective, we need to get close to the enemy, real close. The Pashtun Scouts are the ones to get us close, the military unit that is working side by side are the ones that will be able to control all of this, as they should. We did a great job of this during the 2001 campaigns, and I believe with the help of the Pashtun Scouts, we can once again get to that level of effectiveness.

    I know we are doing this stuff to some degree with our SF units, and that is awesome. But when I hear of tribes screaming for help or for weapons or whatever in order to fight the Taliban and their AQ buddies up in the hills, then I sincerely doubt we are doing all we can. I say connect with these tribes, and use the hatred of that tribe towards our common enemy, to hunt down these assholes and kill them. Sure we can implement a plan to protect and build up the villages and what not, and that is a no brainer. But the other aspect of COIN, is we need to apply some scary effective pressure on the enemy, and make his world a non-permissive environment.

    Also, these Pashtun Scouts should have excellent survival and tracking skills. The US government should contract with Tactical Operations Tracking School, and have them set up a camp up in the mountains of Afghanistan. The founder of this school, David Scott Donelan, is former Selous Scout, and has been teaching Combat Tracking for a long long time. There is even a Combat Tracking school set up for the military by Donelan (I think in 2005?), but it is not in Afghanistan. The school needs to be in those mountains of Afghanistan, and set up specifically for a Pashtun Scout program.

    Create the brand, and the architecture to support the brand, and we will have a winner. That is my thoughts on the whole matter. -matt

    1. Hey Matt,

      My current billet has crap internet and getting on the blog is spotty. Even more annoying is I’m getting swamped at work.

      I know Chief Ajmal Khan Zazai; Ajmal is a close friend of The Boss and we have had two meetings with him concerning cash for work and infrastructure development in his districts. Ajamal is an impressive leader and his agenda is in complete agreement with our goals in Afghanistan. We could use around 20 to 30 thousand more tribal leaders just like him.

      Without question his area would be a perfect place to put a small civ/mil team to run development and lend a hand to his tribal fighters who are lightly armed, in need of proper gear but have proven more than capable of securing their home turf.

      I intend to post on Ajmal and his tribal alliance soon along with the concept of what a hunter/killer team you asked about would look like. I do not think we will ever field them but know of one example which provides the blueprint. During the French Indochina War a command called Groupement de Commandos Mixtes (Composite Airborne Commando Group) known by the French initials G.C.M.A. was formed to control all operations behind enemy lines in North Vietnam. They deployed small groups of three or four soldiers into the highlands where the led tribal fighters opposed to communist rule. They did not fare well nor were they too effective but the concept could work in Afghanistan given our ability to sustain men in the field by air coupled with demonstrated ability of the supported tribe to control their tribal areas. Plus the Taliban are not remotely as capable as the Vietminh were back in the 1950’s. I need to read up on that again before I post on it. I feel strongly that if we are going to develop Pashtun Scouts to any degree of acceptable capability we have to give them embedded trainers who live, train and fight with them. Any effort short of that will not work.

      I don’t know how many leaders like Major Grant are out there with the ability to live in an isolated austere environment for the period of time a mission like this would take. He is an impressive officer and one hopes we have enough in his mold to develop all the tribal security forces who will accept our help.

      I talk with Mike Yon all the time and hope to see him soon. No idea on the New York Times thing but it is interesting.


      1. The GCMA functioned in a more guerrilla like mode than any other organization. Its members were dropped into enemy territory to organize local mountain tribesman to fight the Viet Minh. The unit eventually grew to some 15,000 troops, which meant that more than 300 tons of airlifted supplies were required per month.

        Unlike the Chindits and the Marauders
        of WWII, the GCMA’s job was to remain permanently behind enemy lines. Two or three French officers or noncommissioned officers led each company — the remainders were native tribesmen. The GCMA tied down 10 battalions of Viet Minh troops, and by the end of the French Indochina War the 5,000 remaining GCMA members were being hunted by 14 Viet Minh battalions. The long-range penetration principles espoused nearly 15 years earlier had finally been convincingly proven effective.

        The GCMA saga ended in a July 1954 cease-fire between the French and the Viet Minh. The last French troops left the area in April 1956. Two years after the cease-fire, a GCMA leader’s radio plea was monitored, requesting, “at least some ammunition, so that we can die fighting instead of being slaughtered like animals.”

        As late as 1959, a GCMA trooper made his way out of North Vietnam, but the rest of the French troops trapped behind the lines fought to the death, and their final resting places were never discovered by the French government. In January of
        1969, reports of static radio signals were received at a Special Forces camp in I Corps, near the DMZ. In French, the caller was requesting any assistance whatsoever; the signals later disappeared. The U.S. government has never investigated this radio traffic or the sender.

  6. The Counter Insurgents need some reliable, friendly Pashtun Armed Supportive Groups on their side.

    Of the ethnicities inhabiting the Area of Operations, the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras aren’t planting IEDs and mortaring or rocketing our Forward Operating Bases and Combat Out Posts. The Armed Opposition Groups are overwhelmingly Pashtun.

    I called the irregular auxiliaries we need Pashtun Scouts, which makes sense to historically-minded Americans but that probably is not what they ought to be called for external consumption. “Pashtun” is too broad. They should be named after the khel they are recruited from. The term “Scouts” as used in that part of the world has British colonial origins, and Chitral Scouts, South Waziristan Scouts, Tochi Scouts, Mahsud Scouts, Swat Scouts, Orakzai Scouts, Khushal Khan Scouts, Dir Scouts, Bajur Scouts and Thal Scouts still serve in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province Frontier Corps.

    I’d arm friendly Pashtun Supportive Groups with semi-automatic 7.62x51mm Battle Rifles, reintroduce them to the long range marksmanship of their grandfathers, and call them Jezailchis.

  7. In answer to a question posed by Cannoneer No. 4:

    As far as I know, Matiullah is still running the KAU. I think you may be confusing him with the Matiullah who was the Kandahar Provincial Chief of Police killed in June in Kandahar City in the shootout with the Kandahar Strike Force. I’m not sure to what extent the KAU is still securing the Kandahar to Tarin Kowt highway since the arrival of 5/2 Stryker Brigade, but the KAU seemed to be fairly effective at the task. Of course the trade off in employing a warlord like Matiullah is the baggage of questionable business deals, tribal rivalries, and bad relations with the ANP.

    Another program worth examination is the Kit Carson Scout program in Vietnam in which U.S. maneuver units employed former VC fighters as scouts. PTS, the Afghan Government reconciliation program for Taliban fighters, is run by various Afghan politicians as an informal moonlighting program – it has neither the resources nor the organization to even support Taliban defectors, let alone use them in an offensive manner as intelligence sources or tactical scouts. Hopefully ISAF can find an effective way to partner with the Afghan Government to reform and rejuvenate this program.

  8. Perfect. Jezailchis are a perfect name. To give it a western/eastern slant, call it the Jezailchis Scouts. Or not. There is a lot in a name, and it has to have significance to all parties involved.

    I hear you though about the British/Scout connection, and that might have a negative connotation within a group of volunteers. Or not. Just setting up something with the Jezailchis label on it, would be pretty motivating to the warrior class in Afghanistan. Establish the brand, and create the architecture to support it.

    Anyhoo, here is something I pulled off of wikipedia about the Jezailchis. Ol’ Kipling put out a neat little poem about the weapon. Pretty cool.
    The jezail weapon was also mentioned in the George MacDonald Fraser adventure Flashman, whose protagonist describes the awful slaughter of British Army troops retreating from Kabul to Jalalabad by Afghan jezailchis.

    It is used as a metaphor of a cheap and primitive weapon in Rudyard Kipling’s poetry describing British casualties in colonial wars:

    A scrimmage in a Border Station
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail.

  9. @ Matt: Flashman was an epic book out of a series of epic Flashman books. Reading it, one could not help but associate the key players in Afghanistan right now with the British & Afghan people Fraser describes in the book!

  10. Matt – good points. The lessons learnt during the Rhodesian conflict and the solutions they came up with to counter their insurgency could be applied here in Afghanistan. I like the idea of the Selous Scouts model with the Indian War Scout model. Another important note from the Rhodesian lessons was the use of the Fireforce concept acting on intel from the scouts and as airborne QRF. Guys on the ground knowing that assistance was only 30 minutes flying time away if they got into trouble with the bad guys was a big boost to morale in the fight.

  11. Yeah, I am a big fan of the RLI fire force concept. It reminds me of my smokejumping days. For fires, we used air tankers, helicopters, smokejumpers, and supplied our ops with paracargo, and all in some really gnarly country at high elevations. The tactics of the RLI reminded me of fire fighting, hence the name ‘fire force’.

    And along those lines, we did initial attack on fires in terrain just as ugly as the Afghan mountains. Nevada and the Great Basin were my play ground, and the terrain is surprisingly similar. In that country, we used both helicopters and parachutes to get guys on the ground as fast as possible. Terrain and time dictated, as well as availability of aircraft and other resources. But we did it, and have been doing it for years.

    Your right though about backing up these guys with quick reaction teams. And not just any type of QRF, but one briefed on the strategy of fire force tactics. Terrain and elevation would definitely be a factor, but if things were properly planned out and managed, it could be doable.

    But where fire force and a scout program would really do well at, would be Somalia. Al Shabab is getting stronger, and they have freedom of movement out in the bush. That is unacceptable in my book, and those folks deserve a non-permissive environment of the highest order. We especially need to kill that dipshit Abu Ameriki, the American kid running with that crew. I guarantee Abu is learning about warfare through research online and through his fighting experiences, and applying those lessons to making Shabab even more effective.

  12. Ironically, the Indian Scouts nor the US Cavalry stopped at the Mexican border in pursuit of the “insurgents” of their day. Gentlemen, there are forces available to hunt Al Qaeda however they are not unleashed on Pakistan’s tribal area where the majority of them are harbored by the ISI and sympathetic officals of the Pakistani government. Political cowardness from the past two administrations (GWB and BHO) has neutered every initiative undertaken inside Pakistan. Almost each and everyone of these was meeting success when the politicians determined it was time to stop to placate the whiny Pakistani politicians in Islamabad.

    Before anyone blasts back with how the PAKMIL is conducting current offensive operations to sweep out “miscreants” do your homework from 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007. You will see a disturbing trend among our so-called allies…enough said because I have done my research and it is the same outcome each and every time — peace deals with the tribals and a temporary disruption of Taliban at the very best.

    Tim, once again spot on…the Principles of Warfare are rolled up and smoked out here like some cheap cigars. The generals talk a good game but none of them have a clue. It’s called careerism and risk-averse warfare, or if you wander the halls of CENTCOM it’s called “COIN”.

    I think in layman terms it’s called a surge, you pile a bunch of forces into the country and you TEMPORARILY secure a couple of urban nodes. At the same time, you throw a ton of cash at various programs to get Afghans into a uniform and carrying a gun. In about 18 months you show the charts which show IED attacks down, direct fighting down, number of Afghans in uniform up, more new trucks and training centers opened.

    Viola, you declare success and get the heck out of dodge. Will violent Islamic extremism be defeated? Nope. Will Al Qaeda be denied sanctuary? Nope. Will we have spent untold amounts of taxpayer dollars? Yep. Will the Taliban still be standing after we leave? Yep. Will the Afghan Security Forces be any better? Who knows? I am skeptical but as you point out this should be our focus and it is the only place we will influence any real LASTING change.

  13. Also, this might not be..uh..politically correct to put it mildly but both the South African Recces and the Rhodesian SAS used to chase insurgents across borders into Botswana, Mozambique and other countries on a regular basis as well as mount regular raids across into these countries to disrupt training camps and so on.

    I do believe Aparteihd South Africa and Rhodesia also sent Recces and RSAS abroad to Angola to assist “friendly” factions in the civil war. Journalist and now esteemed military author Max Hastings remarked on observing some “not very black looking UNITA rebels in South African registered vehicles who retreated into the bush upon sight of western journalists.”

    The point here is that while border pursuit is very effective, it opens a whole new geopolitical can of worms here.

    Lets face it, the diplomats at the State Deparment and the Foreign Office haven’t got the power they used to weild. Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon and Claire Short at the Ministry of International Development made sure of that at various stages between 1997 and 2003 but they would need to work overtime to try and justify to Pakistan that sending US, NATO and Commonwealth special forces into the FATA would be in their interests.

    I mean look at it this way. In the 1970s, there would have been an effective case for British intervention across the border into the Republic of Ireland to disrupt arms caches, capture known terrorists and eliminate the ability to conclude successful IED and sniping attacks taken place from across the border. Effective Garda and Irish Defence Force patrols were not in place until the late 1980s and still aren’t very effective today.

    But the effects of such a policy would have reprecussions beyond the UK and Ireland. Not only would such a policy enrage public opinion in Ireland probably Britain itself but the UK would find itself isolated in Europe and with its allies in the United States (who were already pretty cold to the UK anyway over the issue of Ulster).

    The same risks are present here with Pakistan and the FATA. The people of the country are already pretty hostile to having Western forces on the border with Pakistan and firecely resent any foreign forces on their land. The amount of damage the revelation that CIA drones were operating out of Pakistani bases landed a critical blow to ex-President Musharrif amongst his own supporters.

    Plus, for this policy to have support of the major players outside of Pakistan (I’m talking China, Europe and Russia) everyone in NATO must, MUST be on board. Does anyone remember Kosovo? No? Nobody remember how hard it was to get most of Europe to even agree on targets to bomb or even to bomb in the first place or whether it’s too premature to field an army on Kosovo’s borders?

    This isn’t as straightforward as it seems. The reason why Rhosdesia and South Africa were able to perform cross-border pursuit was because they were already pariahs in the world anyway. The reason why Israel can perform a similar policy is because its protected by the diplomatic clout of America and the fact that China and Russia are two of its biggest customers for defence technology. America, NATO and the West have none of these advantages and need to keep their image of looking reasonably good in the eyes of the world.

    Until the Diplomats get their authority back from these unaccountable bodies in the Military and other deparments which have leeched it away, rid themselves of the business like targets culture that infests itself in Western government today and actually start doing their jobs then you won’t see cross border raids or pursuit missions. Simple as that.

  14. I totally agree with you. We have to start at the top and move down the food chain. The presidential election is going to play a big part in the future of democracy in Afghan. As well as the support we have from Congress in providing funding for necessary supplies and equipment.

  15. Another thing. If they do somehow all agree and approve a policy of pursuit and disruption in the FATA, then they won’t bloody tell anyone that they’re going to do it for a start. One of the decisive factors in the Confrontation between the UK, Commonwealth & Indonesia in the early 1960s was the policy of inserting British and ANZAC SAS inside Indonesian territory first 100m then 500m and then up to mile inside to act as an early warning screen for any Indonesian columns trying to infiltrate what was then Malaya.

    If this policy had been exposed to the public, there would have been serious political and diplomatic ramifications.

    And this leads to another issue, because everyone in NATO and its allies would have to agree you have over 20 members trying to keep a secret. Very unwieldy. And if America decides to unilaterally do it alone then all it has to take is one pissed European nation to blow the whistle and all hell will break loose. The likes of President Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Merkel of Germany can barely justify having forces with watered down rules of engagement as it is, how can they sell being part of an American led effort in which the Americans ignore all debate and go it alone anyway?

    I completely agree with the policy of pursuit into Pakistan but its a diplomatic minefield. I seriously doubt it will happen.

  16. Prestwick I agree it is high unlikely the US or its allies will ever effectively employ a strategy and forces necessary to pursue Al Qaeada.

    This is a depressing state of affairs indeed which few people inside and outside the military truly grasp. There is no ‘win’ here and the current strategy which ADM Mullins himself is already touting as an “Iraq like surge” will do nothing long term to fix Afghanistan or stem violent Islamic extremism. In the near term, countless Marines and Soldiers will die, endless billions of taxpayer dollars will be expended, and in the end Afghanistan will continue to be the mess it has always been and very few westerners truly appreciate. However, a lot Colonels will make general and a handful of generals will become legacy guys as the COIN train continues to move itself through the halls of the US military.

    We always use cookie cutter approaches such as the “Iraq like surge” which see my comments above. They will bring some short lived results but all we will do is whack-off the leaves and branches of the problem. The roots will remain intact for a long time to come…

  17. Thats a fact, Bilbo. The best one can do is do as guys like Tim are screaming at the Yanks and NATO to do and get. off. of. those. sodding. F. O. Bs!!!!!!!! There is a hint of Somalia here, that this will either continue into the far future or end quickly with some face saving. Its up to McCrystal, Obama, Brown/Cameron and Ramussen to figure out what they want to do…

  18. Hey Mat, good points all, but one point you overlooked was “define victory.” Or at least mission accomplished. What does it look like and how do we know when we get their or if we won’t. That brings up another point: If we are not going to complete the mission, there is but one meneuver left, strategic withdrawel. POTUS must decide.

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