April Fools

The ever alert FRI regular commentators picked up on this tragedy in near real time. Last Tuesday morning an Army patrol opened fire on a bus on the main road between Kandahar and the large ISAF base just outside the city. They killed four Afghans which sparked protests inside Kandahar City. The NATO statement is pasted below:

NATO said the bus approached a slow-moving military patrol from the rear at a high speed. Troops opened fire after the driver ignored flares and other warnings including flashlights and hand signals  to slow down, NATO said in a statement. It confirmed four people were killed, adding the alliance “deeply regrets the tragic loss of life.”

I have a problem with the “flares and other warnings including flashlights and hand signals.” If a fast moving bus is approaching a slow moving convoy, how much time does the turret gunner have to make a shoot/no shoot decision?  Subtract the time it takes to bring the machine gun to bear on target and fire, which is 3 to 5  seconds, and I have a hard time seeing how he armed and fired a flare, then used his flashlight, then used hand signals (which would not have been visible in the pre-dawn gloom) in the 20 or so seconds it took for the bus to close with the convoy. When you read the news accounts, the statements by witnesses from the bus sound much more credible. They said they were just driving along when the Americans opened fire without warning.

I have been shot at three times, once by the Brits (American Embassy project vehicle put out of commission – downtown Kabul, spring of 2005), once by the American army (warning shots into the hillside while in a Japanese Embassy vehicle with diplomatic plates and a very senior passenger – downtown Kabul winter 2006), and once by the ANA (last Monday when they shot at a car right next to me that had nicked their fender in a gigantic traffic jam).  The common denominator of those shootings was the lack of warning.  The turret gunners suddenly got behind their weapons and I thought, “Holy shit, they are going to shoot,” and they did.

One of those shootings produced the best quote I have to date from my years here. My Japanese client, the Chief of Party for JICA, shook his head and said, “Tim san, I do no understand how your army beat us in World War II.”   I launched into a spirited defense of the Fleet Marine Force, but he cut me off to make a phone call.  I was very fond of Mr. N and he knew better than to try and ride out a Tim san rant. 

Last week the Taliban culminated a series of ineffective IED and rocket attacks on the population of Jalalabad with a bicycle bomb detonated in a swarm of children – a  weapon supposedly directed against the Americans, one which could never even dent an MRAP, but could slice through unprotected children.  This week our guys pulled a bonehead move – one of which I have blogged about many times before – the shooting of civilians by convoy turret gunners.  With the dynamics on the ground, our stupid moves are costing more then the Taliban’s stupid moves. The good people of Jalalabad were pissed off about the bike bomb, but not enough to stage a protest and shout “death to the Taliban.”

That is the critical dynamic with which to judge how the people feel about us and the assorted groupings of bad guys who cause them much more grief and hardship, in their reaction to loss of life through stupidity.  When people react with spontaneous outrage to Taliban killings, then we will know the tipping point is well behind us. Until then the best thing we could do is to limit the number of military vehicles we put on the road by stopping the “commute to work” mentality found on Big Army FOB’s and by removing turret gunners.   As I have pointed out about 100 times or so, the tactic of shooting at VBIED’s to stop them before they hit a convoy has never worked.   ISAF gunners have killed hundreds of civilians and never stopped a single suicide bomber.

There is a large roomy truck by-pass which the Army can use to move around Jalalabad City. Moving through this densely packed urban area places everyone at risk unless the gunners are very familiar with the local traffic congestion and having swarms of local people moving around them. In this close urban terrain the ability to pick out a VBIED and successfully engage it are zero. Experienced troops will stay low in their gunners turrets in a relaxed, alert posture and stay away from the big machineguns mounted in them.
There is a large roomy truck by-pass which the Army can use to move around Jalalabad City. Moving through this densely packed urban area places everyone at risk unless the gunners are familiar with the local traffic congestion and having swarms of local people moving around them. In this close urban terrain the ability to pick out a VBIED and successfully engage it is zero. Experienced troops will stay low in their gunners turrets in a relaxed, alert posture and stay off of the big machine guns.

This summer the big push for ISAF will be Kandahar City. The urban terrain there looks just like the picture above of downtown Jalalabad.  Although you would not know it from this week’s tragic shooting, the American military has considerable experience in urban counterinsurgency fighting. That was what the Iraq surge was all about – taking back the cities to halt ethnic cleansing while simultaneously peeling Al Qaeda away from the Sunni population. The big message from General Petraeus at that time was to stop commuting to the fight and establish fortified positions from which to control neighborhoods.

Last night there was another series of attacks in Kandahar City, two car bombs, both of which were targeting the international community.   A VBIED apparently penetrated into a compound shared by the Louis Berger Group and Chemonics – a large USAID implementing partner.   Reportedly, three internationals and three Afghans were killed in the blast which was huge – this was a well designed, powerful VBIED which are rare in Afghanistan.  Another small IED detonated last night in Jalalabad very close to the site of last week’s bicycle bomb; it caused no damage or casualties because it was an act of intimidation.  I should say another failed attempt of intimidation because the local people really could give a damn about these nuisance attacks which, for all we know, could be (as E2 observed in the comment section) directed at Governor Sherzai.

What is happening in Jalalabad and Kandahar are two completely different events.  Jalalabad is experiencing a rash of small scale incidents designed to minimize casualties (with the notable exception of last week’s bike bomb), which are having zero impact on the attitudes of the local population.   In Kandahar there is clearly a well organized campaign designed to preempt the impending ISAF operation focused on Kandahar.

Heading out on the Jalalabad by-pass road. Trying to get large convoys through the congestion of downtown is silly
Here is a rare event, a convoy using the Jalalabad bypass road, something all convoys should do.

Last night’s attack in Kandahar was the third attack on an aid organization operating in the south in the last month. Two of these attacks targeted large compounds with multiple layers of security, the attempted attack on IRD in Lashkar Gah last month failed. The attack last night on Louis Berger did not.   By successfully targeting international aid workers, the bad guys are able to slow down and in some cases stop the “build” part of the “clear, hold, and build” tactic which is now the focus of ISAF.   By driving up the level of violence in Kandahar they can force ISAF and ANSF units to deploy into the city center without doing the methodical job of clearing street by street, erecting mobility obstacles to funnel all traffic into joint check points, conducting a census to establish who belongs where and who’s controlling the city. Thrusting units deep inside a hostile unstable city will dramatically increase the probability of another shooting event which ISAF can clearly not afford.

In the east things are not looking great either. The districts of Sherzad and Khogyani,  less than 20 miles away from the Taj, are under complete Taliban control. Our local nationals who are from villages in these district can no longer travel to their homes. Yesterday there was another small arms attack on the Jalalabad to Kabul road.  The attackers struck along the boundary which separates areas of responsibility between the French Army (Kabul Province) and American Army (Laghman Province), which resulted in only Afghan police responding to the attack while units of the Afghan Army were on holiday routine not 2 miles further down the road.   Make of that what you will, but enemy units that know how to work unit boundaries are demonstrating tactical competence.   As bad as things look in the south, all of it could change if we clear and hold Kandahar City and the major village complexes around the city while continuing to hold what the Marines have cleared in the Helmand Province. Driving out the forces sponsored by the Quetta Shura from their home provinces and keeping them out would be a devastating psychological blow to all the other bad actors   in the east and south east as well as a huge victory for Afghan people.

But here is the thing…..politics.   The linked article covers it pretty well.   What ISAF hopes to do is use international forces operating in conjunction with the Afghan Army to chase the Taliban out of the second largest city in the country. Simultaneously they want to replace the current racketeering-infected government with one which is recognized by Afghans as being more inclusive and less corrupt.  The first step in accomplishing that mission would seem to be removing Karzai’s half brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai (AWK), from the scene which, apparently, is not going to happen. Instead, the military is going to attempt to work around and “contain” him. This is not because of his rumored association with the CIA, but because the military realizes it has no real knowledge of Kandahar’s mafia-influenced political scene and thus no ability to predict the ramifications of removing the guy perched at the very top.

ISAF wants to clear the city in a slow, deliberate, methodical fashion, spending lots of time in hopes of avoiding casualties. The Taliban appear to be trying to draw them into the city ahead of schedule and then bleed them.   If they are successful at inflicting casualties (and not even heavy casualties, just a few a day, a number which would have been irrelevant in past wars) then they will completely derail ISAF.   If that happens, RC South will want to throw the Marines into the fray and we’ll lose everything they have gained over the past 18 months in a bid to win Kandahar.   So we shall see. The way things look to me at the moment, the entire Afghanistan operation now depends on being successful at both eliminating the Taliban and the corrupt government from Kandahar. That is a difficult mission the military cannot accomplish alone.

55 Replies to “April Fools”

  1. As usual, a great commentary.

    The first thing soldiers should be taught when they are preparing to go to Afghanistan is that all Afghan drivers drive like maniacs. The second is that firing at vehicles on the road is a panic response that should be controlled. Unfortunately, when I went thru training in early ’06, we were taught to use the “escalation of force” procedures, which do not take into acount the presence of innocents in the area. Granted that in combat you haven’t got much time to use the whole MDMP, you still have to have the presence of mind to think thru the consequences of your actions. I noticed a certain timidity, or maybe paranoia, among troops deploying when I did. This was trained into them. We were told “never leave the road because of mines”. But we found that off-road maneuver was not only possible, it was often preferable. We were taught escalation of force against oncoming vehicles but no one ever said anything about observation, judgement and common sense. We were taught not to trust the locals, or even our ANA. Bunk. I was posted in Farah, admittedly not the most restive place in Afghanistan in 06, but we had our moments. During my year in theater I never saw one of our US troops fire at an approaching vehicle unless fired upon first. We were out every day with our Afghan counterparts, and got to know the area and locals. We developed a sense for what was normal and what was not. Most of all, we did not spend much time being afraid of “things that go bump in the night”. We owned the night. This is a leadership issue, and until commanders at all levels, including the training stations in CONUS, change the POI, we are going to have more “blue on green” moments. I cannot agree with you on keeping the gunners down, however. I found that alert gunners and aggressive response to attacks was very effective in keeping the bad guys quiet. You have heard of Shewan, in Farah province. The Marines have done some great work there in the last couple years. Shewan is and was a hotbed of Taliban activity and criminal enterprise. We spent considerable time there, patrolling mounted and on foot. We seldom got shot at, because the locals knew we were going to respond violently if attacked. We were known, on occasion, to drive our UAH’S thru mud wall enclosures and buildings to get at shooters. We fitted our vehicles with a modified brush guard not unlike the hedgerow cutters used on tanks in Normandy in WWII. If not attacked, we behaved cirumspectly, driving thru town at reasonable speeds and always alert. On the other hand, our higher headquarters in Herat nearly always got shot at because they raced thru town with their vehicles buttoned up. There’s a lesson there.

  2. GEN McCrystal’s comments today (16-Apr) re: overuse of private contractors in conflict zones (with no $ savings, foreign pri contractors should be of Afghan contractors). What’s the impetus for that statement? Thanks, Tim and stay safe.

  3. Sorry for the indecipherable shorthand. Meant to say: foreign private contractors should be DECREASED and Afghan contractors INCREASED, per statements by the GEN.

  4. sad, truly sad…
    Numbers for ANA and ANP are constantly increasing (that’s what I hear). How about the quality? Lot’s of foreign instructors, right? Does it help?

    As for the US Marines (good news as always) heard that some are now carrying a ’50 HMG on foot patrols? Russians used to carry the same 12,7mm for counter DShK job (yet ammo was limited due to weight), along with the usual AGS-17. Do they also carry the MK-19 while on foot?

    stay safe!

  5. Dang! Tim, sound like thing are heating up there some what.Just herd about a car bomb (maybe) there. Could be E2 was right. Someone sending small messages to shakeup Gov Sherzai. Or HIG Wakeing up from a winter nap, and saying HI.But it’s still odd to have this much going off now. stay safe.

  6. The Washington Post just came out with this article Tim. Any comments on it? I thought that it was pretty cool that the Taliban are actually threatened by the work of USAID and these contractor implementors.

    My feelings on it are what do they need to harden up this soft target? Are Afghan security contractors enough, or do they need something else. Is this a program that is getting enough support, and if not, what else do they need to do for it. Because if it pisses off the Taliban enough for them to attack it, then that is a sign that it is effective.


  7. Has anybody looked hard at the US unit types reported to be surging into Kandahar?

    Not exactly urban street-fighters.


    Tactical upgrades in both regions: Either somebody is learning very fast on the fly, or somebody is receiving professional help from a national source (ISI), or both.


    For whatever it’s worth, BabbaZee is a long time and close friend of mine.


  8. the pics I saw showed the side of the bus and the side windows shot o up not the front. As bad as the KIA numbers were the 17 wounded. The people on the bus know the truth of what happened.

  9. Render, two Army Infantry brigades are among the surge units, 2/101 and one from 10th Mountain. Having just come from 2/101, I can tell you after spending their first deployment in Mosul, their second in the Triangle of Death, and their third in the heart of Baghdad, they have alot of experience in urban warfare.

    Babtim, on my last deployment, our battalion started out adopting the ROE regarding EOF of the last unit, which involved alot of over-reactionary measures with moving vehicles. After a couple months of this, we decided to take a hard look at our SOPs. We noticed alot of encounters where civilian vehicles were shot at only to find out they had nothing to do with an attack, and we also noticed that there had never been a VBIED used to target a moving convoy. Thinking from the enemy’s perspective, if patrols are going out at random times to random locations, how much luck and how much sitting around waiting with a truck full of explosives would be required to hit a moving American convoy?

    Given this, we ceased using EOF with our vehicular patrols. We shared the roads with the civilians and let them drive all around us. It greatly improved our relations with the population and ended alot of misunderstanding on both sides.

    1. Mike –

      My apologies if that was worded wrongly on my part. I didn’t mean to imply in any way that 2/101 and 3/10 were incapable of doing the job. 2/101’s record speaks for itself on that.

      But from a civilian (and somewhat Marine biased) perspective it seems that 10th Mountain ought to remain in the mountains and the light infantry LGoP’s of the 101st take over the “hold” part of clear and hold in Helmand, while the Marines take Kandahar.

      If it has to be light infantry (and it does), then I’m a lot more comfortable with the Marines out front.


    2. Hey Guys – I am sitting in the Taj with Mike Yon who just got the boot from his last embed. I was going to write a post but now it seems to be beer drinking and story telling time. MikeBinMike I really appreciate the feed back and I have to say this “I knew it.” I just knew that somewhere in this long war there were American Army or Marine units that had finally figured out it is better to move with the flow of local traffic then to try and create a secure zone around them. My argument has always been that it is safer for us and safer for the locals to drive that way and I am all about saving lives on both sides.

      Great selection on the books too brother

      Baba Tim

  10. Gosh, this has been so much fun, all these years fighting those bad guys in Afghanistan! We need more ROE’s that protect everybody we come into contact: Hell, let’s take away the weapons from every American military wanna be warrior and replace them with flowers and a handbook written by William Ayers!

    You’re starting to sound like those nuts who broadcast a Nascar race…tires, tires, handling, bumping…bring in the pretty girl for an interview! Winning hearts and minds is the name of this game? Modern warfare you say?

    Micro thinking over how to win a war…how’s it going? How many years have your buds been playing this deadly game?

    Patient to Doc: I’ve got breast cancer, how do you want
    to treat it?
    Doc to Patient: Let’s go slow here until we have more
    Patient to Doc: How long for going slow?
    Doc to Patient: Oh, I’m not sure, but we’ll know soon
    Patient to Doc: Soon enough for who, Doc?
    Doc to Patient: Do you have insurance?

  11. RJ,

    Read a book. Here’s a few you might want to try:
    “Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife” – LTC John Nagl
    “War of the Flew” – Robert Taber
    “Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice” – David Galula
    “On Guerilla Warfaere” – Mao Zedong
    “Descent into Chaos” – Ahmed Rashid
    “A Better War” – Lewis Sorley

    If that had been the overarching strategy of the surge (use the Marines to clear and the Army to hold) I think it would be an excellent one. But since the Marines already began the hold portion in Helmand, it’s better to keep them there now. COIN experts agree one of the most important parts of an effective COIN is for the “hold” units to stay in one area for a long time and develop good ties with the local population.

    As for 10th Mountain, it’s a misnomer. They were originally used as infantry that could climb the Alps, but they’ve long since become just a regular light infantry unit, one that happens to train at high altitudes. As for the 101st, in Vietnam they transitioned from Paratroopers to Air Assault (Air Mobile at the time) Infantry. Either way, they’re both capable of carrying out the clear portion of Kandahar, and given their experiences in Mosul and Baghdad, they should be able to transfer smoothly into the Hold portion.

    1. If that had been the overarching strategy of the surge (use the Marines to clear and the Army to hold) I think it would be an excellent one. But since the Marines already began the hold portion in Helmand, it’s better to keep them there now.

      R -Good and valid point and one I certainly cannot argue with. There is no value complaining about who the running back is if the ball has already been hiked.

      COIN experts agree one of the most important parts of an effective COIN is for the hold units to stay in one area for a long time and develop good ties with the local population.

      R – I have almost all of the books you mentioned (great list btw) with the exceptions of Taber and Rashid. I would add Burke Davis’s biography of Chesty Puller (Marine!) and David Hackworth’s Vietnam Primer to that list. What Chesty was doing in Haiti and Nicaragua during the 1930’s banana wars was pure classic COIN, even if they didn’t call it that back then. I think I would also add Robert Asprey’s War in the Shadows to that list as well. From my reading it seems that proper classic COIN requires time, lots of time. The current Commander-in-Chief has placed an artificial 2011 deadline on the time available. Unless the C-in-C changes his mind (and he can do that), we’ve got less then two years to make this work. (To RJ’s reading list I’d add Tacitus and perhaps Welsh General Henry Lloyd’s history and reflections.)

      As for 10th Mountain, it’s a misnomer. They were originally used as infantry that could climb the Alps, but they’ve long since become just a regular light infantry unit, one that happens to train at high altitudes. As for the 101st, in Vietnam they transitioned from Paratroopers to Air Assault (Air Mobile at the time) Infantry. Either way, they’re both capable of carrying out the clear portion of Kandahar, and given their experiences in Mosul and Baghdad, they should be able to transfer smoothly into the Hold portion.

      R – I’m well aware of the history of the Screaming Eagles, I lived much of it from the standpoint of an Army brat (Dad was career 101st, stepson is a Marine hence the various biases). You might even say I was indoctrinated by the Angry Chicken at a very early age. I’m also somewhat aware of many of the current various unit naming misnomers. As Gian Gentile points out (Death of the Armored Corp SWJ) we’ve also got armor and artillery units acting as light infantry. There is a valid historical precedent for such in the Wermacht’s ersatz fire brigades formed from clerks, cooks, out of work Luftwaffe crews, and any reasonably healthy REMF (ear and stomach battalions) to fill gaps in their lines. It’s good to know that we too can do that when we have to, but I’m from the school of you don’t ask your quarterback to play defensive line and you don’t want your punter playing left tacklefor very long. It’s just not a winning plan. It’s a get us out of this game alive because we’re being beaten badly kind of plan.

      R Gian also asks What if a heavy Brigade Combat Team in Iraq was told to pick up and head east and do a movement to contact into a threatening country? To which I’d add; if the Iranian 92nd Armored division storms Basra, what can we do about it with a COIN army and a shorthanded Air Force?
      R And I’m carrying on about something that I have no first hand knowledge ofWhich is why I keep coming back to read guys like BabbaTim and Michael Yon.

      WHO OWNS

  12. MikeBinMike:

    Thanks for the advice on reading.

    Allow me to suggest a few for your spare moments:

    1)Herodotus, 2)Thucydides, 3)Marcus Aurelius, and 4)Plutarch.

    Perhaps my perspective includes more than what is presently being discussed, or desired. Age has forced me to take a longer view than I once thought necessary when younger. Please forgive me if I have disrupted your focus.

    I do understand that those at the tip of the spear need all the right moves available to succeed with their stated mission. Consider my thoughts emanating from the rear, in support of victory.

    I also understand that many choices in combat one sees in retrospect as unwise, even foolish.

    You tell me why a country (America) that can place a man on the Moon, land a working robot on Mars, and can transplant a heart to another human being, is so unable to win a war against people, who wipe their ass with the left hand while eating with their right hand, in more than eight years? Hell, let’s go back to when Arafat was capturing and blowing up planes in the 60’s…that would be more than 50 years, right?

    I agree with turret gunner responsibility.

    What I am trying to say is don’t forget to look over here, a place where decisions are made that will really stop those at the front from succeeding, from winning, from creating a true and lasting victory over this evil…if you can even come up with the “right” name for our enemy, for those who wish to wipe us off this Earth!

    Follow the trails of ROEs in their creation and my bet will be that “lawyers” are the primary generators. Read your Plato to get a 2300 year old plus idea of who might be a lawyer and why.

    This ain’t man’s first dance at war, by a long shot! Asymmetrical or not…

    Sometimes your greatest and most dangerous enemy lies within your home. Free Range is not unlimited; ask those chickens that find their way to the dinner table!

  13. Modern military success is about public perception that is usually played out in the media and fed by politicians and FO/GO’s through senate/congressional hearings, press releases, news shows, and sound bytes of all kinds… There has not been a complete US military victory in a very long time (WWII if I dare play military historian), not Korea, not Vietnam, not everything that followed up and to include OIF and OEF of today. Iraq is far from a secure place with a Shia majority in charge that has more in common with Iran then the United States. Afghanistan is a mess and success will be measured using the same “COIN” template as Iraq. Surge will equal more boots on the ground, more boots on the ground will equate to more “security”, and US tax dollars will be thrown at training and equipping so-called Afghan security forces. The decision to stay or go after 2012 will not be a military one but a purely political one as BHO will gauge the risk of prolonged military actions in Afghanistan and his chances for re-election…there is your Afghanistan beyond 2012 formula…it’s pure politics.

    Heck, maybe BHO he will pull a reverse GHW Bush (recall Somalia and Clinton) and hand over a ramped-up military operation back to the Republicans if he sees re-election as unattainable. However, I am more inclined to believe he will have to consider variables that are unknown at this time (unemployment rates, inflation rates, attitudes of voters, etc…), so I am not convinced we know how much longer US forces will remain. More importantly the service chiefs are already preparing for the fiscal floor to fall out of the defense budget in the coming years. By 2012-2013 if you wore a US military uniform from 1992-1998 then you better be prepared for some familiar feelings. Personnel cuts, pay increases that are a joke, and not enough money to roll vehicles out of the motorpool because of fuel and maintenance shortages. Terms like “hollow military” and “broken military” will return to the lips of the right-wing who declare BHO drove the military into hardships. The reality is that a simple understanding of economics tells you that you can’t spend and spend for long periods of time, so welcome to the dark ages. I think these coming years will make the Carter years look like the Reagan years, so hold onto your hats boys and girls it is going to be a bumpy ride.

    Sadly, old Karl Van C had it right….war is simply an extension of politics. This current fight and the manner in which it is fought says more politically than it does militarily….I return to my first point – success is about perception.

  14. You misunderstand Carl Von C. He uses the dialectic approach to discussion. “War is simply an extension of politics” is the antithesis to his point.

    The ROE actually came from the Commanders (the ones controlling the fight, not the charicatured legalistic tie-one-hand-behind-your-back lawyers you imagine). Petraeus and McChrystal have both spent their careers studying insurgency and have come up with the current ROE based on their insights gleaned from spending many years in the Current fight, and from having studied the fights that preceded them, to include the failure in Vietnam.

    Why hasn’t America been able to defeat this insurgency? Well for starters, for the first few years the Bush administration in its infinite wisdom refused to accept the reality of the situation and denied the existence of an insurgency. Once they accepted that something was wrong, they went about it the completely wrong way. February 2007 is when Petraeus began to implement proper counterinsurgency in Iraq, I think the numbers in these graphs speak for themselves:

    As for Afghanistan, you oversimplify the situation. The plan is not to just send more troops in and “Voila!” victory. The plan calls for a counterinsurgency, one that focuses on gaining the support of the population and cutting it off from the insurgency, and paramount in this process is to provide the population with security. This requires many more troops than the levels were at pre-surge. It’s just the facts, you cannot secure all the population centers needed with the amount of troops we had. You had it backwards, the strategy doesn’t follow the troop levels, the troop levels follow the strategy.

    Read the books I recommended to get a better picture of how a counterinurgency works. GENs Odierno, McChrystal, and Petraeus (MNF-I, ISAF, and CENTCOM commanders respectively) all understand this. Thucydides, Aurelius, and Herodotus all have alot of lessons to give, but many of them aren’t particularly applicable with a modern insurgency. They wrote about state v. state wars, not internal wars. The strategies required are very different. If you blindly apply a cookie-cutter strategy without taking into account the reality of the situation, you get a quagmire like the Vietnam War, the Indochina War before it, or the first four years of Iraq.

  15. MikebinMike: The reduction in civilian casualties in Iraq was caused by the completion of the ethnic cleaning of Baghdad of Sunnis in 2007 and the ceasefire adopted by JAM because the Shia parties had won the election. The Shias had won and there was no reason to continue attacking the coalition. The Sunni nationalists realized that with JAM on the sideline all the Shia and US forces would be aimed at them so they went on the reservation.

    COIN had very little to do with the reduction in casualties. Shia victory did. Petreaus was simply lucky- as he was in Mosul. Most US troops have now pulled back to big bases- if their presence was required to protect the population why are casualties still down? It has nothing to do with protecting the population and everything to do with Iraqis positioning themselves for round two.

    The idea that Petreaus and McChrystal are COIN experts who posess the magic solution is dangerous and will deepen the mess in Afghanistan that the US is mired in.

  16. J that is pure fantasy. How do I know this? I was there. From October ’07 through November ’08 and I can tell you there were PLENTY of Sunnis left over when the fighting stopped. In my Brigade’s AO the majority of the population were Sunni. It is absolute fiction that ethnic cleansing between ’06 and ’07 wiped out a population of Millions of Sunnis (look at the charts I posted…millions of Sunnis killed? really?). In fact, many of the American critics of counterinsurgency claim that the reason the fighting stopped is because we paid off all the (still living) Sunnis. Using COIN principles, we turned hundreds of thousands of Sunnis to our side in the form of the Sons-of-Iraq, not unlike the Home Guard Chinese Malays employed by the British during the Malayan Emergency.

    “Most US troops have now pulled back to big bases- if their presence was required to protect the population why are casualties still down?”

    Because 1) once you’ve squashed an insurgency, it’s squashed. and 2) by providing security in the form of additional troops, we simultaneously quelled the insurgency and gave ourselves enough time to properly train up indiginous forces (IA and IP) to transition security over to them.

    Have you actually explored this subject at all? Read Michael Yon’s book “Moment of Truth” and Thomas Ricks’ “The Gamble.” Actually educating yourself about the reality might inform your opinion a little more than going off knee-jerk reactions to newspaper headlines and crackpot theories.

  17. MikebinMike: Lots of people were in Iraq for longer than you claim to have been and with a better sense of what was happening country wide. The “I was there man” argument would make a bit more sense if you knew who you were talking to.

    The main way to get rid of a group you’re ethnically cleansing is to get them to leave and most Iraqi IDPs and refugees are Sunnis. No one has said all, most or even a large minority of Sunnis were killed. As ethnically mixed neighborhoods disappeared violence went down.

    The main killers in Baghdad in 2005-2007 were the Iraqi police who systematically killed Sunnis. Baghdad went from a Sunni city to a Shia one and that, in 2007, is when multiple groups of a dozen or so dead Sunnis stopped being found each morning. Why 12? Because that’s how many people could be put in a police paddy wagon.

    Training the Iraqi SF, even if it had been done right- it wasn’t which is a part of Petreaus’ career that is conveniently forgotten by Ricks et al- had nothing to do with reducing civilian casualties because the Iraqi security forces were the main killers in Baghdad.

    It was strategic decisions made by Sunni and Shia leaders informed by the situation in Baghdad, Shia wins in the elections and US plans to leave that has lead to a reduction in civilian casualties and has very little if anything to do with the “surge”.

  18. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/in_depth/baghdad_navigator/

    Here’s a map of the major violent attacks in Baghdad and the location of the ethnic divisions. You can set the map to pre-2006 (largely mixed) to current which clearly shows an INcrease of Sunni controlled areas. You can then set the cursor to show only the bomb attacks that killed at least 10 people, the great Majority of which during 2006 took place in Shia dominated areas. In most months of 2006, 10% of the deaths were caused by bombing attacks that killed More than 10 people. Shias did carry out alot of executions, but Sunnis carried out a comparable amount of bombings at the same time.

    Then “magically” in February 2007, I guess by Pure Coincidence the month that Petraeus began to implement COIN, we see the rising trend of sectarian violence get halfed, and then drop dramataically over the next few months until it reaches a point where deaths drop under 10% of what they were in December 2006 and never rise above that level for 24 straight months.

    COIN works. When properly implemented it has worked in the past (like the Phillipine Insurrection or the Malayan Emergency for example), it has worked in Iraq (that’s not to say the battle’s won, it’s not over yet but COIN has proven effective), and if Karzai gets it through his head to stop acting like an idiot, it can work in Afghanistan.

    Your argument that Americans being able to pull out of the cities without violence increasing is proof that COIN didn’t work/wasn’t necessary is like claiming that because we drew down our forces in Germany in the ’40s, our strategy for defeating the NAZIs didn’t work/wasn’t necessary. “If we needed to invade Europe to protect France, how come when we left Europe the Germans stayed out of France?!”

  19. Mike: The BBC chart shows many mixed areas in 2006 and very few now. It also doesn’t show density of the population. The Sunni dominated areas have far fewer people than in 2003. What’s your point?

    Your analogy doesn’t work. For it to make sense the Wehrmacht would have to remained in the field and be better armed in 1945 than on D-Day. Most of the “insurgents” are still in Iraq, still armed and still not happy with the opposition.

    Population centric COIN in the Philippine Insurrection? I suppose Crook was using COIN against Geronimo as well.

    Malaya: Concentration camps for Chinese farmers and body count contests is hardly pop centric COIN…unless you intend to say that all successful counter insurgency campaigns used pop centric COIN.

    Nagl’s book is part of a line of explanations of how the US could have won in Viet Nam if it had just done “this”. Well it didn’t and couldn’t because it was an occupying power fighting against local nationalists. Now Nagl and his buddies at CNAS (including Ricks) have sold Obama on pop-centric COIN as the answer in Afghanistan. We’ll see but the odds of it working are low, the cost to the US is guaranteed to be huge and the strategic benefit of pacifying Afghanistan has not be adequately explained by anyone.

  20. 1. Agree with 3:57 AM in many respects.
    2. Was castigated in several fora for my view on the surge.
    3. Surge was supposed be three main efforts: implementation of FM 3-24, operation of Fusion Cells and standing up the Sons of Iraq.
    4. Said, at the time, that the last was by for the most important. That we had bought the SOB’s off -BTW not a criticism, playing to our real strength.
    5. Said the proof of that would be when we stopped paying. The uptick in Sunni violence says it all.
    6. My experience in COIN goes back to 40 years ago.
    7. The military threw the fortified hamlet program overboard. All of the units in the country were engaged in operations by the time I got there. Experience in COIN: non-existent.
    8. The results from combating a non-state opponent were less than satisfactory -as they have been in most of the conflicts since then.
    9. Few have had opportunities like (then) CAPT MCMasters to chew up a well equipped military force.
    10. Getting the armed forces to enthusiastically participate in an activity fundamentally opposed to the rationale for their existence is like herding cats.
    11. Takes iron control and total professionalism.
    12. Talking to the troops about ROE is a truth teller on this one. They do not share the views of the superiors who originated them.
    13. Most do what we did back when dinosaurs ruled. Get in a fight, do what you have to, pick up the pieces afterward, best as you can, to make it look like you adhered to the ROE.
    14. Can’t tell you how many troops have looked at me and said, “Goddamn sir, that’s just what we did.”
    15. Herding cats who want to stay alive and have seen what comes of following instructions from ‘higher.’
    16. Really hope all concerned can make a layer cake out of this mud pie.
    V/R JWest

  21. Ever actually reasearched the Phillipine Insurrection?


    The body count contests weren’t part of the COIN campaign that one the war. The British didn’t have all the answers when they arrived on land, they learned from their mistakes though. The “concentration camps” were temporary consolidations of the population (combined with an aggressive propaganda campaing explaining “this is temporary until we can irradicate the insurgents” that reassured the population and actually encouraged them to provide intelligence). Once the insurgency was destroyed, the people were free again.

    What these “concentration camps” did was provide the population with security, and a Reasonable excuse to give the insurgents for not supporting them, i.e. “I can’t give you any food, the British keep it all” “I can’t come to your meeting, there’s a curfew” “I can’t let you in my village, the British have it locked down.” The Chinese Malays overwhelmingly supported these actions as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands who signed up for the Home Guard. They were more than happy to help the British because they knew they had a safe home in a safe village to return to. Once the insurgency ended, the British left the country having accomplished their goal of securing a non-Communist country.

    Everyone in Iraq is armed. The law allows them to be.

    The Shia areas also have far fewer people than 2003. What’s your point?

    Nagle’s book does Not make the claim that America could have one if it did “this.” The disclaimer At The Beginning Of The Book says it’s not an attempt to compare the two or to say America should’ve done this. It’s a comparison of how well the British and American armies acted as learning institutions when presented with a scenario they were unfamiliar with. In a few short years, the British adapted and overcame. The Americans stuck to the views you and jwest hold that the American Army is only capable of conventional wars, and the results were that we wasted tens of thousands of American lives only to lose the war.

    The strategic hamlet was half-assed. Using that as evidence of failure of COIN is like using Custer’s charge to show evidence of the failure of Clausewitzian principles.

  22. Also, the Southern states are more heavily armed than pre-Civil War times. Does this mean the North actually Lost the war?

    1. This is a great discussion which I am coming into a little late as I contemplate the next post. The one lesson I keep coming back to from the Iraq surge is the emphasis on not commuting to the fight. All I am seeing in the east is exactly that – commuting from big box FOB’s. That is not going to work and I also am seeing a lot of construction of blast walls on FOB’s. At the ISAF HQ they now have a multi million custom blast wall inside the exterior blast wall which is itself fronted by yet another blast wall. Same Same at FOB Fenty in Nangarhar Province – lots of additional blast walls going up inside the base and around the brigade TOC. I thought we were supposed to bring increased security to the population centers not on our own FOB’s. When you drive into Fenty after 1630 there are no Americans on the front gate – just hired Afghan security guards. Americans work from 0700 to 1600 only then it is time for Salsa night. I have to be honest with you guys – this is getting to be depressing. With IED’s going off several times a week inside Jalalabad and senior NDS officers getting IED’d on what looks to be at an ever increasing rate one has to wonder when we are going to get around to putting troops out to secure the population centers 24/7? But what is worse is that everything now will depend on how we do in Kandahar and we cannot even get Karzai’s brother out of the way. No matter how well we do in the COIN battle here there needs to be a credible government to fill in behind us and the Karzai government is not perceived as remotely credible by a majority of the Afghan people. Karzai has recently raided all the western restaurants in Kabul, and bars located in some of the giant private secure compounds which house hundreds of internationals. This is a country where most adult males drink alcohol with relish – claiming westerners are corrupting Afghans with illegal activity is ridiculous – bars here must have licenses and they pay a ton in taxes and protection money. They are perfectly legal under Afghan law. Our Department of State can, of course, do nothing because they rarely venture outside their secure compound (which has several bars too but only for DS people.) Our only hope is to work with regional leaders to get some sort of functioning government structure to turn over the places we worked so hard to clear and hold, but we have no sticks – just carrots when dealing with these officials. The carrots aren’t working.

  23. MikeBinMike:

    Buy the powers invested in me, MBM, I am hereby appointing you to be supreme commander of our game plan to win the war on terror! Here are six magical stars to place on your uniform, wherever you deem appropriate.

    Seriously, I don’t doubt your sincerity and deep interest in applying those strategies/tactics of a winning nature, nor do I doubt you have spent long hours learning what others have said regarding the problems/threats we now encounter.

    I just want to know how you intend to survive the fraggings coming your way such as Bill Clinton’s comments re: Oklahoma City bombing and those nasty terrorists of the Tea Party Americans? Remember, I’ve said I’m here, in the rear watching what’s what.

    While you’re traveling around in your 1/2 million dollar big boy truck (MRAP?) checking the sat images on your rugged combat laptop (what did that unit cost?) denying that politicians who went to law schools learning how to be sophists don’t energize ROEs in their nascent creations, while you offer up the wisdom of Princeton Petreaus as a valid counter to such political warriors as Axlerod, Rahm, Dodd, Durbin, hell let’s throw in McCain…”my friend” the Maverick (and believe me, I’ve left out many, many others!): America’s “Che” tee shirt business is doing just fine! Why’s that?

    Those starlets who after having limited surgery, some chemo and radiation, then appear on our televisions to announce they are “cancer free” two months post primary treatment–hey pal, do you think you just might get shot in the back by a fellow American who thinks your efforts are really unimportant?

    Got a handle on reality…here, back home or are you “star” struck?

    Could it be the American Warrior is being played the sucker…gain? Do you recall Rommney’s answer as to why none of his 4 sons went into our military?

    Eight years of asymmetrical war games and you’re still enjoying the thrill of being over there while back here those who are supposed to have “your back” are doing everything to line their personal pockets…and just perhaps, getting ready to abandon you and your brothers (recall that “peace with honor” moment?).

    General Mike, could it be some of your terrorists are our leaders, or at the very least sympathizers, malignant narcissists who will do anything to keep their power, all the while finding ways for you and your buds to waste yours!

    Why, during a private dinner, now more years ago than I like to recall, sitting opposite me, Hack suggested we not do these wars, especially in the manner that history shows us we have attempted?

    Got some pictures of Bill and Hillary greeting Yassar on your walls? Ever have the “rug” pulled out from under you?

    Every real and true American should honor with total support our brave warriors; yet sadly, those who hold the reins of our present government don’t have this as their first and most important priority.

    Why’s that MikeBinMike? How do you intend to win with these people running the “really big” show?

    Forgive me if my words are harsh. Every now and then I recall that time many years ago walking by Dr. Westphall on the way to his chapel sensing his anguish and great loss. I have been more than lucky, I am grateful to have survived my time in uniform.

    I’ve got your back over here, with those cowards who think they are warriors because they talk a good game only!

    Nothing beats victory!

  24. $$$….money drives the COIN strategy. How many FOBs and MRAPs will the US government buy in the next 24 months? Am I saying force protection isn’t important? Negative but I am not naive enough to see good ol’ American capitalism at work when Kandahar Air Field is growing by leaps and bounds as more and more buildings are going up like some miniature city in the middle of nowhere. I am not nearly as optimistic as some on this blog when it comes to GEN McChrystal and Patreaus working their COIN magic. I am less than impressed when the boss goes around visiting population centers in his soft cap and no body armor declaring this is the “new” way to fight in Afghanistan. Yet 5/2 and all the boys operating in RC-South continue to kit-up and button-up as they hit the open road constantly looking over their shoulders waiting for the next HME IED to split their Stryker in half. COIN is a hubristic doctrine that will launch a lot of careers to the next level, but lets stop with the nonsense that we’ve got the magical solution in hand. We’re not going about “winning the hearts and minds” in a manner that will yield results anytime soon. I am sorry but I don’t see it… We can discuss ROE all day long but I stand my point that decisions are politically driven. Why then hasn’t the boss declared all soldiers don soft caps and nothing else such as he does so well in front of the cameras? He doesn’t want to answer to our politicians back home who will lambast his ass into oblivion for allowing American boys and girls to go into harms way without the proper gear. I predict more headquarters and larger FOBs are in the future for US forces in Afghanistan. Heck, take a trip to Camp Bastion and you will see good ol’ American tax dollars hard at work. Ever wonder how much we pay the Chinese for one Chigo unit? Ever wonder between Iraq and Afghanistan how many of those units have been purchased? This is but one obvious example of money spent on life support and not the “COIN fight”. If you can’t see the dollars ($$$) that drive warfare then you are blind silly. To quote a famous USMC general, Smedley Darlington Butler, “war is a racket”. Amen brother!

    1. During the early summer of ’66 I got a little R&R. As my buds and I trolled from bar to bar I noticed each had what appeared to be brand new American jukeboxes that blared our kind of tunes. Turned to my pals and suggested there were Americans making a killing off our blood and guts.

      Lucky me, next year on that wonderful second tour I checked again…or was it the needed recreation that drove me into those welcoming homes of others? Sure enough, newer models were there!

      Now, some 40 plus years later…tell me what is new? As Obama pockets over $5 million…soon to be inflated or perhaps deflated dollars for offering up two books, as our debt makes Whitey the new bond slaves of modern times, many think we can continue to fight these two wars in places where the natives are what…grateful?

      “We can have it all” may be a message many wish to promote, yet when the well runs dry you run to where for your life sustaining water?

      Maybe Al Gore, valiant warrior that he was those many years ago, will share with us like Crassus rendered up to his fellow Romans some of his wealth, corn, or will it be more hot air?

      Get your wagons in a circle fast! Savages are about to attack, white savages to boot!

  25. Thanks for taking the time to explain the challenges ahead in such detail.
    I always look forward to your posts, and oftentimes read them three times to ensure I’m getting what you are saying. This time was no different, and I’m grateful you took the time to drive forth the importance of what’s going to be happening in the next few months regarding Kandahar.

  26. 1. Am not anti-coin.
    2. The fortified hamlet program was a distant memory by the time I arrived in VN.
    3. AM saying that COIN is counter the normal intent and training of regular military forces
    4. And will be extremely difficult to implement because of that and, now,
    5. Very tight time constraints imposed by the Commander in Chief.
    6. This stuff was the province of special operations people for a reason.
    7. Nineteen year old Spec 4’s tend to be a bit short on empathy and long on aggressive tendencies -especially after they’ve seen some of their own hurt or killed.
    8. Getting some back resonates with that mind set. I know that from personal experience and having it validated by returning combat veterans of the present conflict.
    9. You head shakers aren’t young and lack the T count of the group under discussion.
    10. The other aspect of that is the youngster’s irritation at the lack of gratitude on the part of the people they are trying to help.
    11. Have a heard a lot of that over the past few years. Felt it,
    myself, back when.
    12. Ties into #7.
    13. A Formidable test of leadership skills and vision.
    14. And haven’t begun discussing the Afghans yet.
    V/R JWest

  27. http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/04/us_withdrawal_from_k.php

    Maybe moving 10th MTN out of the mountains wasn’t such a good idea after all?

    Maybe land-locked Afghanistan with its multiple unfriendly borders should have remained a small footprint special forces only type of theater? The Commando Olympics was working, slowly, but it was working.

    Maybe “COIN” and “Surge” are not the buzzwords of succesful 21st century warfare that many seem to think they are? Was Sri Lanka a COIN fight? Maybe COIN isn’t even warfare, but instead some misty grey area somewhere between real warfare and police actions?

    Maybe by the time we transition the entire US Army into a “modern” light infantry/heavily armed police force with little or no air cover or artillery support and a library full of obscure and oftentimes meaningless lawyer written ROE’s, our enemies will pull their new tanks and Gen 4.5 jet fighters out of storage and overrun those COIN warriors on their little air conditioned FOB’s wherever they are?

    Maybe taking Karachi and Quetta would have been a better plan after all?

    Maybe VMI isn’t turning out the type of officers and war leaders that it once did?

    Maybe it’s time we stopped promoting our modern day McClellan’s and started looking for our modern day Grant and Sherman’s?

    Maybe it’s time that people stopped talking about “two wars” when this is and has been since 1998 one big war, with multiple fronts and theaters. al-Q recognizes that and operates accordingly, do and are we?


  28. Why hasn’t Bin Laden and his inner circle been wiped out?

    Simple question…or is it?

    1. For whatever its worth much of bin Laden’s “inner circle” of the late 1990’s has indeed been wiped out (see recent news on al-Masri being reduced to random body parts in Iraq). Being the #3 or lower on al-Q’s leadership depth chart is somewhat akin to wearing a red shirt on Star Trek…


      Contrary to certain popular perceptions, this has in fact had a positive (for us) effect on al-Q’s long term strategic and tactical abilities and capabilities. Trusted and skilled bomb makers and terrorist facilitators take time to train and indoctrinate and are not easily replaced.

      We might think we’re losing, but we don’t have Hellfires raining down from Heaven on our heads.


  29. Babatim, thank you for the information, it certainly presents a harrowing picture. Hopefully Petraeus is putting the pressure on McChrystal to move out of the FOBs and into the COPs and PBs, after all that was His idea in Iraq.

    West I completely agree with what you’re saying. It does run completely counter to our training and it will be a very tough test of leadership. I’m trying to push from the inside, for the Army to rehaul its education program and start training on more than just defense against the Russian horde. It’s going to take dedicated, mature leaders to control the instincts of their Soldiers.

    RJ clearly has all the answers to the American military’s problems. It’s more important for BHO not to benefit from his Presidency than it is for us to attempt to clean up the mess we created in Afghanistan, so I’ll rest my case.

    Can people please stop blaming the lawyers for the ROE? The Commanders come up with it, the lawyers (JAGs that is, not fat cat civilians) Advise them on its construction, the Commanders are the ultimate approval authority.

    Render, why are you bringing VMI into this?

  30. Cuz it’s closer to where I am (and DC) then West Point is. I almost used Bullis instead, but that would have been way too obscure.

    I was there when Henry Rollins was.


  31. Well as an alumnus, I strive to be the kind of leader Chesty and Marshall were.

    1. oh crp.

      I’ve managed to diss two of your quality associations in just one thread?

      My sincere apologies Mike, neither was intended to be personal.


  32. Whoops, I kinda knew something was just not right as I went to those sites MikeBinMike suggested, studied up on those bad guys in the Philippines circa 1900, then returned to these comments and re-read all the postings.

    What could I have not taken into consideration during my postings, my rants? What could I have not given as much weight as perhaps I should have? I noted how some brushed aside other’s comments and suggestions with an ease and certainly a special smugness.

    Something gnawed within me: I had encountered similar energies relative to this war on terror elsewhere.

    Early this am I recalled how General Casey came across television right after his Major Hasan went killing fellow soldiers, etc. His wire rimmed glasses and those words…diversity, etc. He was so sensitive!

    Then, at the memorial service there he was again, only this time he had that “tough guy gonna get ya” look projection for the cameras. There was that dinner I attended some weeks back where the shrink, who was employed to work within active military bases around the world, stated he was a West Point grad, former fighter pilot, and noted how I might not understand today’s “Professional Army” in lieu of my previous military service: I was ignorant of how good at doing their job was today’s “professional” military.

    I thought of Admiral Mullen slouching forward to the moderator, sneaking up on his answer to a question which was not really an answer, more like a tactical evasion.

    What if our military leaders think of themselves as smart when in fact they are not so smart? What if they spent many years studying military events yet never got the bigger picture wherein efficiency reigns supreme?

    What if we have piss poor leaders within our military? MIkeBinMike keeps insisting its his guys who create and generate ROEs…see the pattern?

    I don’t know diddly squat about “command and control” right? I don’t know anything about COIN…see how they talk…inside baseball kinda stuff. “You’re not in our club, so get out, dumb ass guy!” Is this the not so quiet message my senses offer?

    Question: Could there be a similar arrogance within our military that mirrors the narcissism for those in national, elected government positions? Could our military be playing their game which doesn’t reflect what the general American population desires?

    Note how long and convoluted the Major Hasan problem has become, plus add in those Navy Seals who are in court martial.

    “You civilians stay out, this is our game…we’ll play it the way we wanna play it!”

    Maybe we citizens are the real suckers here, from both angles?

    1. Good to go Mike. Nothing like a little accidental crow with ones morning coffee…


      I have to disagree that the overly restrictive ROE’s are coming from within the Big Green Machine. The orders are, without a doubt. But the orders are driven by officers who rightly fear a war crimes trial (read: lawyers) or a Wikileaks style press blitz/scam.

      Note that the court martial of BG Jacob “Hell Roarin Jake” Smith only gets the briefest of mention in the Parameters article on the Philippine Insurrection and no mention of MG Fredrick Funston (MoH) by name although one of his deeds is recounted (the capture of Aguinaldo in 1901). No mention of BG Littleton Waller (who was also involved in the Boxer Rebellion). Context is important in history, without proper and accurate context it becomes all too easy to draw the wrong conclusions.

      Also note that although that “little” war was declared over (for the second time) in 1902, the cocaine fueled Moro tribesmen fought on until 1913. Those same Moro tribesmen were the inspiration for the design and adoption of the M1911 45acp. Those same Moro tribesmen also serve as a sort of inspiration for today’s al-Q linked MILF and Abu Sayef. This last bit was mentioned only as a footnote in the cites of that article.

      Finally note the very last paragraph of that article.

      “At the strategic level there is no simple secret to success. Victory in a counterinsurgency requires patience, dedication, and a willingness to remain.”

      I don’t see the C-in-C’s 2011 withdrawal deadline, announced at West Point of all places, as being conducive to any of those three requirements in any way.

      But I don’t see us opening up concentration camps or strategic hamlets in Afghanistan anytime soon either…


  33. 1. ROE’s aren’t dreamed up by State Department fairies -although they get their chops in too.
    2. Have a pretty good idea where they come from.
    3. Ones forty years back weren’t a whole lot less restrictive than today’s.
    4. Difference is serious instruction and signing off on a form that you understand and will comply.
    5. Then and now have the common basis that the local citizenry and putative combatants are to be considered more than targets for our troops.
    6. Vaguely understood that then, but didn’t care much.
    7. Did not want to shoot innocents, but wasn’t well enough trained or led to assure that in the heat of combat. Was seriously interested in dealing with anyone associated with mortars or rockets.
    8. Stuff happened and the locals had a righteous fear of our patrolling units.
    9. Think the theater commanders have most to do with ROE.
    10. And think their interest has less to do with adherence to the laws of war than convincing the natives that our intentions are benign.
    11. Tough when your front men are who they are.
    12. Another aspect of warfare lacking good or easy solutions.
    V/R JWest

  34. JWest has it. Remember Petraeus oversaw the writing of FM 3-24, the COIN manual and one of the big things it emphasizes is to limit the amount of force used against enemies. He stresses that the proper action to take in a COIN is often the counterintuitive one to Soldiers trained in conventional war, thus restrictive ROEs. In the heat of battle Soldiers at the lower levels don’t often have time to think “are the actions I take towards a short-term gain really going to set our overall goal back a few steps?” Indoctrinating them in ROEs lessens that burden. Soldiers act on instinct in battle so if you want to limit the overuse of force, you have to train the Soldier to instinctively attack when it’s time to kill an enemy posing a threat, but also to have the instinct to hold back if he hasn’t confirmed an enemy who may just be a civilian in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    No one’s under the illusion this is an easy task, least of all Petraeus and McChrystal, but it’s what the Army has to strive to do.

    I don’t think anyone in the military would disagree that Obama announcing a timetable was beneficial to the war effort. There was a caveat though, and SECDEF made sure to stress this publicly: it is conditional based on the situation on the ground. We do have some leeway regarding the timetable. Not as much as any officer would like, but then if COIN was easy, we wouldn’t need smart experienced men to lead the effort.

  35. Menard told me, then proceeded to talk like a general. “This is essential. It would be the first nonkinetic breach of Taliban control in the area.”

    “talk like a general” – I presume that is intended to be insulting. Super.

  36. Mike…from pg 3 of that Time article.

    “Look at these,” Ellis told me, tossing a fat sheaf of directives onto his desk. “Some of these are written by freaking lawyers, and I’m supposed to read them aloud to my troops. It’s laughable.”

    Captain Ellis sounds like a good and dedicated officer and clearly he has the best of intentions but…and you know this is coming.

    That school still isn’t built (the article is dated one week ago), the Talib are obviously very much still highly influential in that AO, and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Captain Ellis and his men will be coming home soon and the Talib will still be there. Assuming that school gets built, how long will it last after Captain Ellis and his men leave?

    The answer to that question isn’t going to be found in some out of the way hamlet in Kandahar or Helmand. The answer is on the other side of the Chamen Crossing, in Quetta.


    I read SecDef Gates’s attempt to repair the damage done by that West Point speech. And then I balanced it with SecDef Gates astounding lack of veracity first on the F-22 issue and then again on the F-35 issue and found that attempt to be sorely lacking…


  37. “I don’t think anyone in the military would disagree that Obama announcing a timetable was beneficial to the war effort”

    MikeBinMike: Your thinking is beyond astounding!

    “if COIN was easy, we wouldn’t need smart experienced men to lead the effort.”

    Am I to assume you also consider Obama a “smart experienced” man to lead?

    And then when one reads this Oh…so sad article of “when will this school ever get those little kids who should be learning?” but before we leave Time’s valiant piece we learn that one native is of the opinion that once the Americans leave all will be fine and weapons will be placed upon the ground, peace will be made with the Taliban.

    Sounds like the natives all are in harmony with the school idea, I’ll take that pen and don’t drop bombs from the sky…Russians/Americans.

    Back here, in America, where your Dear Leader Obama-Mao (and was it not you who earlier posted one of your primary readings a little treatise by the former Chairman?) is trying his hand at running this country with an iron, community organizer fist (so humorous when one transposes over to your little hamlet with the school where American soldiers walk about doing “community organizing” now known as what COIN-lite?).

    But then again, I may have this all wrong! Let’s see, when my television set is turned on and a local police department places an ad seeking recruits what do I see? At least 1/2 of the advertisement time is spent presenting pictures of the SWAT team running about, the last part usually of a woman cop being sensitive to a home owner with kid doing “community action” stuff.

    If in fact you did matriculate at VMI, were you taught to look for patterns when assessing dangers? Taught to always, always watch your rear?

    Princeton Petreaus (or would you prefer something more along the line of the former Elliot Ness style, seeing how these leaders you adore are from Chicago and Ivy League domains?) may have a smart game plan in his transubstantiation of Afghanistan; however, I thought this the province of divine intervention.

    As you and your buds roll around in those super duper 1/2 million dollar military wagons, using those 3 thousand dollar shock proof computers, wearing/carrying at least 4000 dollars worth of gear, chasing “village people” who may be at times considered bad guys (check your ROEs for avoidance of court martial reality!) have you noticed that back home millions of Americans sense “taxation” is getting way out of hand?

    And while you poo-pooed my reading list, does not history reveal to those who take the time to “comprehend” citizens who get taxed beyond their tolerances always rise up and change government?

    In other words, MBM, the game being played over there is the same game being played here, and the people over there are resisting just like what’s happening here.

    For you however, you see our leaders as “beneficial” because of what? They allow you to play your games? Ok, guess what?

    I don’t want to continue to pay for this! How many are there of my mind? If enough, you’re outta luck pal!

    Oh, in case you want to dismiss my thoughts again, try this story: Late in the 2nd half of the ’70s I’m sitting in a home in Wichita with a very senior executive of Coleman Industries. As we sip his private brand of Kentucky bourbon flown in, he regales us with a story where Coleman sought to produce their famous lantern in the Philippines, realizing a great number of advantages not only for that country’s citizens but also relative to costs, markets, company profit, etc. The punch line was that Senior Marcos…a lovely leader at that time, demanded through his channels that each lamp produced carry a little dollar amount which was to be driven back into his hands. Coleman decided not to go forward with their plans.

    All this after your efforts to demonstrate circa 1900, how to do an earlier COIN operation. What went wrong in all those years?

    I guess “timetables” can be more than important, perhaps critical. As the first SEAL is let go, with three more left to try and fry; do you MBM think all will escape the bonds of our new “professional military” who are now given orders to behave like cops, while here at home our cops are presenting themselves as “para-military” community protectors?

    Maybe Hack…who if you recall wrote something like the Vietnam Primer…was right when he told me it was a bad move to do what has been playing out for now eight years and more. Amazing, let’s discover the wheel again and watch as it rolls over our dumb asses!

    You should have joined the Peace Corps, pal! Then again, maybe you did…you just haven’t realized it yet.

  38. Point well made Render. Counterpoint though: JAGs Write the ROE, that is, they word them. The directives come from the Commanders though.

    Commanders always have final approval authority on anything. All JAGs can do is advise them. No Commander is going to be Told what he can or cannot do; the ROE are not establishing what is legal under the LoAC or Geneva Conventions, it’s establishing the guidelines for the actions Soldiers should take, and that ultimately comes from the Commander, not his JAG.

  39. 1. Agree with the last.
    2. JAG become the front men when some hapless Specialist or Lance Corporal gets tagged by the media, spotted in an overhead or ratted out by a mate.
    3. God help the ranker going up against a JAG 0-4.
    4. As with Abu Ghraib, the youngsters writhe in the spotlights.
    5. While their superiors suffer professionally, the pain is nothing compared to what the youngsters experience.
    6. As enlisted and junior officer felt constrained by legal requirements.
    7. As became a bit more senior and bought into the establishment, found myself using the legal framework and tools to achieve my ends.
    8. Now, can see my peers hooting at me for turning into what we all derided.
    9. A little truth in both directions.
    10. As a lawyer friend (not military) noted, “We’ve got the best military on earth and can’t win a Goddamn war.”
    V/R JWest

  40. Mike…

    I think your counter-point reinforces my point of 4/21 11:42am quite well.


    Nobody wants to be the next MG Samuel Koster or Captain Ernest Medina but it still happens, and when it does the lawyers on both sides are usually JAG. Every officer fears (or should) having to give the kind of orders that Chesty Puller had to give on the road from Chosin. When that time comes, and sooner or later in war it always does, those orders must be given and all the lawyers in the world be damned.

    How many court martials are active currently or pending? People are still threatening to sue George W. Bush and Don Rumsfeld for war crimes. One merely has to witness the latest Wikileaks attempt to aid and abet the Mahdi Army to get an understanding of what’s going wrong with the ROE’s. Even when the troops follow them to the letter they are still threatened with legal repercussions.

    We can have George Crooke (COIN) or we can have Nelson Miles (heavy cav) or we can have both. But we must have at least one if we hope to win. At the moment it would appear that victory is not the goal of our current C-in-C (has he used the word in relation to the war yet?).

    The odds of a withdrawal (from landlocked Afghanistan) quickly turning into a rout are incredibly high and while I admit to knowing next to nothing about most of our various division and up commanders, I don’t see any Chesty Pullers on the horizon. Because our military prep schools, academies, and OCS’s are no longer designed to create them, (it would be fair to point out that Chesty wasn’t so much made as he was born that way, but the point stands). Officers like Col. Allen West are being punished for taking care of their men to the best of their abilities and good men like BabbaTim are on the outside looking in.

    That ain’t no way to run a war.


Comments are closed.

Verified by MonsterInsights