General McChrystal is in hot water over this article in Rolling Stone magazine .  Last night news reports indicated remarks from “aides” to the reporter seem to be blunt, confidential assessments from the General about the  President, Vice President, NSC head Gen Jim Jones (USMC Ret) and the American ambassador among others.  Later in the evening stories of McChrystal being  summoned back to Washington for a Presidential ass chewing hit the wires and this morning there are dozens of pieces up on the impending relief for cause.  When I first heard about this my reaction was stunned disbelief. I can’t imagine how or why senior staffers to General McChrystal would talk to a Rolling Stone reporter about anything let alone confidential assessments of the National Command Authority by the boss himself.  It is inconceivable that senior staff of a four star general would reveal the personal confidences of their boss to anyone be they inside or outside media.  That kind of careless candor doesn’t happen with senior military staffs so my initial reaction was that the General was done in, Cesar style,  by cowardly forces from on high.

This morning I was able to read the article  and was struck by two things:  The first is Gen McChrystal, for reasons which cannot be explained because they are inexplicable,  granted the Rolling Stone reporter, Michael Hastings, a long duration embed with himself and his staff.  The second is that most of the comments attributed to McChrystal and his staffers aren’t that inflammatory at all.  Adrian Michaels writing in the Telegraph UK blog said it best:

“There was a copy of the article available online until recently, which I’ve read, ….  Basically, the general or THE RUNAWAY GENERAL as he is hysterically referred to has been the victim of journalist hype. It is the magazine’s editors that call the White House wimps, and it is the author that uses almost every f-word in the piece, gratuitously, gratingly, and not while quoting anyone. The only f-word used by someone else is a Brit saying how much some people love McChrystal’s habit of showing up on patrol.”

From what I am reading on the net this morning Mr. Michaels well reasoned take is not the dominant narrative.  The guys at  Danger Room think that this faux pas has put the Afghanistan campaign in jepordy.    The main stream media are framing the issue as one of adequate civilian control over the military as opposed to the dominate narrative from the Bush years which was “listen to the generals.”    Matt over at Feral Jundi provides his usual expert analysis as he parses the article and I’m not even going to check on what Herschel Smith has to say at the Captains Journal because I agree with everything he writes and he writes what I agree with better than I do.   If I read his take on the article I’ll be hard pressed to come up with something original on my own.

This is the first Army foot patrol I have ever seen in Jalalabad. In and of itself it is too little too late.  Protecting the people means hanging around to provide security all the time, night and day, which would make the local people veryhappy and provide enough experience for the troops to allow them to calm down and interact with the people.
This is the first Army foot patrol I have ever seen in Jalalabad. In and of itself it is too little too late. Protecting the people means hanging around to provide security all the time, night and day, which would make the local people happy and provide enough experience for the troops to allow them to calm down and interact with the people.

Once I got past how bizarre (and I mean totally, completely, unbelievably bizarre) it was for the General and his key staffers to get drunk in a French bar with a Rolling Stone reporter sitting there I started doing a little parsing of my own.  McChrystal apparently voted for Obama – that factoid is strange as men like McChrystal spend their entire adult lives preparing for the rigors of leadership and are naturally reluctant to confer the position of chief executive  of the United States on an individual with zero training or experience in executive  leadership.  It is also a bit strange for an active duty general to discuss who he voted for at all – many of my former colleagues who remain on active duty do not participate in presidential elections because of professional sensibilities.  But McChrystal voted for Obama and he apparently allowed the Rolling Stone magazine unprecedented access to his inner circle so he deserves what he is going to get.

This quote from the article instantly caught my eye:

“COIN calls for sending huge numbers of ground troops to not only destroy the enemy, but to live among the civilian population and slowly rebuild, or build from scratch, another nation’s government a process that even its staunchest advocates admit requires years, if not decades, to achieve. The theory essentially rebrands the military, expanding its authority (and its funding) to encompass the diplomatic and political sides of warfare: Think the Green Berets as an armed Peace Corps.”

Live among the population?  How do you do that when your forces are restricted to FOB’s and can only venture off them in four MRAP convoys (minimum) with 16 designated shooters (minimum?)  Who, besides myself, The Shem Bot, the group formally known as Team Canada (we have not had our summer piss-up to generate a new name now that The Boss has added guys from the U.S. and Europe.) and those like us is doing COIN?  The only contribution McChrystal has made during his tenure is the emphasis on stopping civilian casualties which has translated into the denial of critical fire support to units in contact.

George Will published a piece on this subject a few days back and is always the case one need not look further than Herschel Smith for expert analysis …  from the Captain’s Journal:

“This report from Afghanistan is dreary and depressing for its reiteration of all of the problems we have rehearsed here, including the  unreliability of the ANA.   But the contribution is serious and unmistakable.   We cannot achieve sustained tactical success with the current rules of engagement.   They simply aren’t rules suited to win a counterinsurgency campaign.   But the report is more stark for the sad and anecdotal report of the state of the population.   The villagers are laughing at U.S. troops.   So much for winning their hearts and minds by avoiding collateral damage.   When the population is laughing at your weakness, the campaign won’t last much longer.   It will soon be over, one way or the other.”

In  Vietnam my Uncle Chad was a rifle company commander working the area southwest of DaNang.  He started his tour patrolling in the day and digging in at night but was not getting any contacts.  Back then a rifle company commander could make his own tactical deployment decisions so Uncle Chad decided to start sleeping during the day and patrolling at night.  He got lots of contact for a while but then the contacts dropped off so he switched back to daytime patrols and started getting  the contacts he was looking for.  A rifle company is a large fighting formation with organic adult supervision and more than capable of figuring out how to keep the villains at bay while bringing security to the people in their AO (area of operations.)  Our ability to micromanage rifle companies with blue force trackers, drones and satellites has reduced their effectiveness while concurrently providing the allusion of control to staff officers manning the plethora of COC’s (combat operations centers) which grow like weeds on the big box FOB’s.  If we can’t get back to independent operations focused on the people while putting the hurt on every Taliban group who tries to hit us we’re through.

The key to effective patrolliing in a permissive environment is to spread out and practive the most valuable skill a foriegner can have here which is smiling at people and giving them a few words of greeting in Pashto.  Walking around bunched up like this makes everyone nervous and is not too productive.
The key to effective patrolling in a permissive environment is to spread out and practice the most valuable skill a foreigner can have here which is smiling at people and giving them a few words of greeting in Pashto. Walking around bunched up like this makes everyone nervous and is not too productive.

Which brings us to the million dollar question….who will replace McChrystal?  Michael Yon, your humble correspondent and now Tom Ricks are on record as endorsing Gen Mattis (USMC.) I asked my favorite source on from the retired General Officer circuit what he thinks and the response was unequivocal.  There is no way they’ll tap Mattis for the job because he is too strong and too competent which will make those above him look bad in comparison.  This snippet form the “This Ain’t Hell (but you can see it from here“) blog explains the “too strong” part:

“When the first battle of Fallujah in April 2004 reached its climax and it appeared that the Marines and soldiers assaulting the city were close to securing the insurgent stronghold, General John Abizaid travelled to Anbar to order General James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division, to stop the assault. Disingenuous news reports from Arab media outlets which painted the assault as a massacre of innocent civilians had caused an outcry in the international community and as a result the Bush administration and its Iraqi allies waivered in its support for the operation. Abizaid met Mattis in his command post outside the city, where he had been leading the battle from the front for weeks. Over three dozen soldiers, sailors, and Marines had died in the assault. Mattis’s own command element had been attacked multiple times by this point and had suffered casualities. His uniform was soiled and dirty from the weeks of constant combat. When Abizaid (a four-star general in charge of CENTCOM) told Mattis (a two-star divisional commander) to stop the assault Mattis looked Abizaid in the eye and growled  IF YOU ARE GOING TO TAKE VIENNA TAKE FUCKING VIENNA.

Abizaid just nodded and Mattis stormed out of the room.”

God I love that kind of talk.  And I love Gen Mattis too – big man crush love but back to my insiders take on will get the nod to run the war.  His prediction was they would find a General Officer in the mold of the current CJCS Adm Mullin who can be counted on for sycophantic devotion to the administrations agenda no matter how stupid it is.  Depressing huh?  But wait there’s more:

He went on to say that he had always hoped his generation was the last group of Marine officers who had to lead men in combat fighting a war they knew they would not win.  He said the agony of balancing mission against potential loss of life meant that often they did not make moves which were tactically profitable for fear of losing too many men.  That is a very risky way to fight because missing moves which are to your tactical advantage can come back to bite you hard further down the road.

Is it me or is that not the most depressing damn thing you have heard today?  Things here are getting worse by the day and the Gen McChrystal drama portends further bad tidings.   The only hope I have is that my source is wrong and that General Mattis is retained on active duty and given the job.  If that doesn’t happen it is very hard to see a way forward which justifies the time, money, and blood being spent on Afghanistan.

47 Replies to “Unprecedented”

  1. The possibility that General Mattis might get the job is the only silver lining I can see right now. I knew it was unlikely for the same reasons given by your source, but hearing the same from that high up is really discouraging.

    Stay safe, Tim. Looks like we’ll be packing up and declaring victory soon. No need for anyone to poke their head up anymore…

  2. Snake eaters love the jungle, they at times need strong leashes and blinders. Flag officers are supposed to learn politics along with warfare. 56 year old people should know the history of the magazine Rolling Stone.

    Leonidas McChrystal should have known not to “diss” Obama’s people, nor Obama-Mao. Narcissists really don’t like such behavior, especially from those who should be very very grateful for all the work being done to help them.

    Like taking some months to make a surge decision that lacks the total troop numbers desired.

    Sometimes, even Snake Eaters of the first order can “snap” and make really stupid decisions…or go totally passive aggressive and create a fantastic ambush for the enemy!

    Obama-Mao…good guy or bad, ally or enemy? Take a knee
    and tell us all about it…Colin Powell, mentor, voter for the One, and inside confidant. Princeton Patreaus now gets to sit in the loser’s seat and wax romantically about what he learned while in the Ivy League with his bud Obama…you remember, the guy who went after this General while a young US Senator, plotting his game for the presidency.

    Bend over, give your self a grand kiss!

  3. There are reports that Petreaus has been ordered to take over. No word on who get’s CENTCOM and all the problems that would entail: essentially sacking McChrystal and demoting Petreaus. Talk about collateral damage.

    It’s probably wrong but the irony would be superb. Petreaus lucks out in Iraq and becomes the anointed one and then manouvers his chum into the top job in Afghanistan on the basis of questionable expertise in a dubious largely French PC COIN doctrine. Not only is McChrytsal out but Petreaus’ reputation would be in jeopardy.

  4. Well Tim thanks for your thoughts on this matter.Right now at this time,Mcchrystal’s out,and Petraeus is in.Will things change? not for now, but maybe later.

  5. Obama to Patreaus: “Hey, you’re the asshole who sold me on this game plan and promoted your guy McChrystal!”

    Patreaus to Obama-Mao: “Yes Sir, I did indeed.”

    Obama to Patreaus: “Fine, now you get his old job, lose your present job, and clean up this mess you and your people have made for me….and the American people1”

    Patreaus to our Dear Leader: “Yes sir, I’ll do my best.”

    Later…Obama to General Powell: “How’d I handle that?”

    Powell to his guy: “Just fine, just fine Sir!”

  6. Wow. I didn’t see that one coming at all. I thought for sure it would be a more junior General Officer. I hope General Petraeus has the same success he had in Iraq. I have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for him and would hate to see his reputation damaged by trying to fight a war without the full support of his C-in-C and other senior civilian leadership.

    What are your initial thoughts, Tim? Is it a good move? Will things change much? What do you imagine Petraeus’ job will be, continue what has already been started or bring his own approach?

    Many thanks, as always.

  7. “I come in peace, I did not bring my artillery, but I am pleading with you with tears in my eyes. If you fuck with me I will kill you all!” Marine General James Mattis, to Iraqi tribal leaders

  8. 1. GEN Petraeus’ appointment is the kiss of death on the whole Afghan venture.
    2. The administration has given up on achieving a favorable outcome there.
    3. Appointing GEN Petraeus will settle the hash of a potential opponent in 2012.
    4. Any cachet the man had will disappear as the Afghan house of cards implodes.
    5. What about the Afghans?
    6. What about the 100K US troops and their coalition counterparts?
    7. This is hard ball politics.
    8. I may sound cynical; my associates consider me to be a woolly lamb.
    9. Was unhappy with General McChrystal’s disloyalty.
    10. Now, watching this whole mess spin out, I’m really unhappy.
    11. Best of luck to you.
    V/R JWest

  9. There is a strong undercurrent of sycophancy and narcissistic arrogance in the SF officer world, and in the RS article, GEN McChrystal displays both. There is also a tendency to pat yourself on the back for thinking outside the box when the box you’re thinking outside of is itself within a slightly larger box, if that makes any sense. I have nothing but admiration for the General’s management of JSOC’s insurgency destruction; unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that’s translated into anything good when he began to manage the whole Afghan campaign.

    From the lack of organizational pushback against crippling and stupid policies being imposed on the warfighters (how many field-grades have resigned in protest or at least leaked to the NYT in State or CIA fashion?) I’m gonna guess that the rot is systemic throughout the military management, and that the next guy in charge is not gonna be able to overcome the military’s institutional flaws.

  10. Petraeus has been forced into a hornet’s nest. He should have refused the post or resigned. Does anyone believe Obama learned anything from this except he could fire a general and think he is Truman for a day? I greatly admire Petraeus but dealing with this thin-skinned president is going t be a nightmare…

  11. What is interesting is that Petraeus still has two things to deal with, that McChrystal was up against.
    A. The July 2011 drawdown date. The enemy loves that date, but generals trying to conduct a war strategy hate dates like this. How Petraeus works around this, will be key. Ideally, he should have the same set up as in Iraq–withdraw based on results and success.

    B. An election. The politics of all of this will be the factor pressing Petraeus as well. Obama needs a win, and the history books and an election are all bearing down on him like a hungry wolf. Not to mention that he has two other factors pressing down on the election as well–the Gulf spill and the economy. He needs wins, and if Afghanistan does not go well, then that is one more hit on him during the election. If Obama freaks on Afghanistan, he could very well make Petraeus as the fall guy–or the captain that doomed everything.

    Perhaps McChrystal saw this coming, hence the ‘suicide by cop’ move with the Rolling Stones article. lol Who knows. Interesting times.

  12. Just listened to Obama-Mao’s firing speech. He said he is determined to defeat Al Quaeda…and said nothing about the “Taliban” in referencing our efforts in Afghanistan.

    Bingo, we claim Al Quaeda has been defeated in Afghanistan, make a move to join Karzai in bringing in the Taliban to be an active part of the new government, pull up and…bug out!

    Karzai comes on American tv to say he is grateful to America and wants his fellow brothers and sisters who have been a part of the Taliban to come home into the Afghani fold of love and sharing, even within his government.

    Que up some Cat Stevens music…

    Further, he states he too believes A Quaeda no longer has the “power” to wage major war in his country.

    Ticker tape parade for General Princeton Patraeus; all is well!

    The dark side: Patraeus fails, draws out the game, asks for more troops, is denied such…then retires with this problem still up in the air…or his plane/chopper gets shot down sometime soon, killing him in combat…dead hero.

  13. Correct me if I am incorrect and I will certainly admit it if I am…. Weren’t there SCORES of generals who came out and criticized George Bush’s policies in Iraq to include nutless politicians? And are most of these same idiots still in their positions in congress minus Cynthia ‘what’s her nuts’ from the state of Georgia, (God be praised). It will be interesting how they will now support Petraeus, a.k.a General Betrayus, as indicated from a full page in USA Today back when he was reporting to congress. This has to be the beginning of something bigger. Look for more unfolding of gay issues in the military etc. And is it the fact that his staff made the comments or the fact that the facts were correct? The tell all book should be VERY interesting. Oh yeah, citing a Rolling Stones article as a change in the course of history? UNBELIEVABLE…. WE ARE DOOMED!!!! Meanwhile there is a hole in the bottom of the gulf that continues to spew and environmental disaster, how many resources were dedicated to that tragedy since N0bama’s lastest photo op down there. “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for….”

    1. You’re not wrong. Mullin was at the head of the anti-Iraq Surge list.

      Many of Petreaus’s COIN mafia staffers (I’m looking directly at Kilcullen here) were extremely harsh on W and his policies in print – and got away with it. They remained harsh on W even after W gave them everything they wanted Surge-wise.

      “Coach Lombardi – I want you to lose every single game so we can get the first round pick in next years draft.”


  14. Wild thought:

    What are the odds that our Dear Leader and his “Chicago boys” put a “hit” out on McChrystal using the writer from Rolling Stone? They wanted this general knocked out to get to their end game of bugging out; sooner, rather than later.

    Where’s the inside look on this writer for Rolling Stone?

  15. Agree with Matt on the “suicide by cop” take.

    Agree with what seems to have been something of a concensus amongst most of the mil-bloggers, Mad Dawg Mattis was my favorite as well.

    But there’s a reason for that concensus, even among those who often disagree with each other on other points. The reason is we all want to win.

    This nation wasn’t founded by losers. Our military doesn’t create (many) losers, nor stomach them for long. Those men (at command grade) didn’t get there by being losers.

    Our current Commander-in-Chief is ordering our military to lose (yes, he is) and demanding personal oaths of loyalty to himself from our flag ranks. Apparently, (if Jonathan Alter and Newsweak are to be believed as much as Rolling Stone is), he got that personal oath from Mullin and Petraeus. And that frankly is of far more importance in the long run then a SF doorkicker being blunt about what he believes is the way to victory. And I believe that oath of loyalty to the Oval Office is why Petraeus got the demotion and the job. He got the message from Chicago…

    TOO ASK,

  16. I don’t know if “most of the stuff was not inflammatory” will work well for the defense

  17. and Render McChrstal spent 4 times as much of his career as a non door kicker

    1. …And Chesty Puller spent most of his time outside of combat in trouble for things he said to the press.

      Rommel’s first claim to fame was as an infantry officer.


  18. babatim, can ISAF platoons or companies [or mini OMLTs] partnered embedded inside ANA companies engage the enemy in the way you suggest?

    Part of the problem in Nangarhar is that it has been starved of ANA and ANP to resource Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, and other provinces. Now even 209th ANA is getting a new brigade [3rd Brigade], a surge of ANP and 1 additional ISAF brigade to deal with Baghlan/Kunduz. While I support the ANSF and ISAF surge into Baghland and Kunduz, is it premature to throw the entire kitchen sink of ANSF and ISAF assets at Kandahar? Might it not be better to delay taking Kandahar until the ANA grows to 170 thousand versus 126 thousand troops? Focus on Nangarhar, Paktya, Khost, Laghman in the short tun instead?

    What parts of Afghanistan do you think the ANSF and ISAF should focus on in order of priority? The ANA alone has grown by 30 K in the last 6 months. There are a lot of new surge ANSF forces to deploy.

  19. When you have a “pure” politician, that person will always be concerned with the garnering of votes(if a democracy); the power to remain in office and move forward an agenda. As so, will the “pure” businessman keep his eye on profits above all else (get that well working with this new less expensive system, etc.).

    For the “pure” warrior, then, it is always to protect and to defeat his enemy. When breakdowns occur, is it really that hard to analyze?

    How fast did Fineman conclude it was the seals to the Challenger that failed relative to the weather conditions, etc.? If that idiot, Churchill from Colorado can yell “the chickens have come home to roost” along with spiritual leader Rev. Wright when viewing the aftermath of the twin towers’ demise; while my young son at that time concluded it was the heat from the fires that weakened the steel structures (without his engineering degree in hand)causing collapse, then I ask you:

    What happens when various energies are applied to a singular event? Doesn’t one have to comprehend each energy to understand it’s impact?

    If the greatest and strongest military force on this planet cannot defeat and control those who come against us in Afghanistan, it suggests to me other “energies” are at play.

    My bottom line: We Americans at home are deeply divided on many issues, especially how to solve this problem over those who wish we would go away and if we don’t they intend to kill as many of us as possible! (What’s new?)

    Should we send them flowers with an explanatory message of our behaviors; or send them bullets with a don’t f**k with us like that ever again message?

    Want to hide in the shadows? Grey is not my favorite color; is it yours?

    Too many Chiefs, not enough Indians? Or, I’m the Big Dog here, not you! I wonder what the “little people” are thinking…

  20. Anan. I’m sorry but who cares about ANA organizations?

    The ANSF, with the exception of NDS,is rubbish. Educated and well off Afghans don’t want their sons to serve. Period. When Afghans decide it’s a good thing for their sons to be platoon commanders rather than interpreters or gravel salesmen then it will matter. Until then “build up the ANSF” is a farce designed to overcome quality and morale problems by expanding an under trained and under motivated rabble. It’s a deception designed to allow a NATO withdrawal whiling saving face for western pols and generals while making training contractors billions.

    Since they could easily outnumber the insurgents 100 to 1, if the ANSF were motivated to destroy the Taliban this war would soon be over without outside help.

    1. Harlan, that is nonsense talk. I have heard that Nangarhar educated cultured families don’t join that ANA, from a couple folks. But that is Nangarhar, not Afghanistan as a whole. The proof is the quality of applicants and students at the National Military Academy Afghanistan. Granted they only accept 650 freshman a year [for four year academy or medical school or nursing school.] The reason for this isn’t a lack of applicants but because of a lack of international funding and international instructors. That isn’t Afghanistan’s fault.

      For that matter, the quality of Officer Selection Course ANA officers is also pretty good. Again a serious shortage of international funding and instructors means they only get 25 weeks of training [was 20 weeks] versus the at least 1 year they require. Again, not Afghanistan’s fault.

      The Taliban may have only 20-30 thousand soldiers west of the Durand at any time. However, they have about 200,000 soldiers east of the Durand. Plus the capable Taliban units, which excludes Mullah Omar centric QST, tend to have foreign fighters as combat embedded advisors, trainers and leaders. Some of these foreign fighters are very good quality. Many are former Pakistani Army or ISI. Many of the Chechen and Uzbek fighters are pretty good as well.

      The Taliban still pay their soldiers more than the ANSF. The entire GIRoA only generates $1 billion in revenue a year. The Taliban generates several billion dollars in revenue per year. Much of it from you know where. How can the GIRoA defeat the Taliban as long as the Taliban has extensive foreign help? If you don’t understand what I am hinting about, ask an ANA soldier or NDS officer.

      Have heard many anecdotal accounts of good quality ANA junior officers and NCOs. Sure you have too. The problem isn’t the junior ANA officers and NCOs. The problem are the mid grade officers. The ones were weren’t trained post 2001. They need to be rewarded with early retirement. Make lieutenants company commanders. Make captains battalion commanders and battalion executive officers. Would result in a quantum leap in ANSF quality. The impetus for that needs to come from Karzai.

      “Since they could easily outnumber the insurgents 100 to 1, if the ANSF were motivated to destroy the Taliban this war would soon be over without outside help.” Some of the Taliban are more capable than you assume. Nor are the ANA large enough to control the entire battlespace. Do you account for the large numbers of foreign fighters in Nuristan, Nangarhar, Paktya, Khost, Paktika, Baghlan, Kunduz?

      Granted, the Mullah Omar centric QST in Zabul, Uruzgan, Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar is a more organic Afghan movement. But they don’t fight nearly as well as Siraj’s forces do, or the TTP, TNSM, LeT, Iyas Kashmiri’s Brigade 313 that fight through Siraj in Loya Paktia and Nangarhar. In Nuristan, foreign fighters fight directly in large formations. Some of the Nuristan battles are reminiscent of LeT/JeM/Pakistani Taliban battles with the Indian army in Kargil, 1999. Some 527 Indian soldiers were killed, 1,363 wounded, and 1 captured. These were India’s best of the best most elite units.

      Perhaps part of your confusion is because you assume that the Nangarhar ANA [from 2-201 ANA] are reflective of the ANA in general. This isn’t the case. 2-201 ANA is problematic. Not the Brigade commander. But a lot of his staff and battalion/company HQs. Much of this is political, because the bde has a lot of good junior officers and NCOs that should have been promoted yesterday. I don’t know why 2-201 ANA is doing so much worse than 203 ANA Corps. Maybe babatim could comment?

      Harlan, what are your perspectives on 1-203 ANA, 203 ANA Corps in general, French mentored 3-201 ANA and Swedish/German mentored 1-209 ANA? Why do you think they are better than the rest? In my view one reason might be the 203 ANA’s training battalion, which trains 450 NCOs at any given time. Think the ANA has learned from this. Now 209, 207, 205 ANA Corps have formed their own training battalions.

      The ANA’s 8 commando combat battalions, 4 ANA Commando Special Forces A teams are very good, even compared to Pakistani special forces, which is saying something.

    2. To clarify some points:

      GIroA revenue = $1 billion/year
      ANSF annual steady state cost = $10 billion/year
      GIRoA non ANSF annual steady state cost = $5-$10 billion/year
      Taliban’s foreign revenue = several billion dollars per year.

      Almost everything in Afghanistan is paid for by foreign grants. The GIRoA, MoD and MoI are reluctant to direct foreign grants too much, for fear of antagonizing donors. Much of the fault for what is going wrong in Afghanistan is because of the foreign donars. State Department. CERP. NTM-A. EU. European bilateral aid programs. India. Japan. Iran. South Korea. China. Russia. Australia [Think those are all the big donors to Afghanistan.]

      At least 31 countries are training the ANP in at least 27 training sites. Only 11 of these bother to go through NTM-A. Others are often by bilateral arrangements. Different countries teach ANP by different doctrine. A lot of the ANP problems are because of these well intentioned but uncoordinated foreign trainers. The MoI doesn’t assert itself partly for fear that countries such as Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and others with bilateral training for the ANP will simply pull out.

  21. J Harlan:

    For a minute there, I thought you were talking about our American “educated” class of citizens!

  22. Obama gets his ass kicked by an oil slick, then goes out and kicks the dog to demonstrate his toughness to his faggy ‘intellectual’ circle.

    Here, the dog happens to be a 4-star general in command of Afghan operations. Then he subs Petraeus, a man already in charge of CENTCOM, to handle Afghanistan at the same time Turkey and Brazil are fueling Iran and Iran takes the veil off its nuclear ambitions.

    If I happened to not know what the hell I was doing and found myself Commander In Chief, I might emulate our prior successes. So I would probably put an 18-month time table on reinforcements (because that was how long it took in Iraq). Then I’d probably take the guy who was in charge at the time (even though I shit talked him before his report to Congress and never apologized for it) and put him in charge. Obama’s strategy might as well be petty imitation of George W. Bush, for all the transparency of his actions.

    Obama has never proven himself so incompetent, petulant, or stupid as he has in the present moment. If he gets this worked up over a hundred dead pelicans, God save us all if a real crisis develops on his watch.

  23. Is it me or do I miss the commander who said nothing to the press, kept his “badass” comments to himself, knuckles down and led by example?

    Come back Brigadier Julian Thompson! All is forgiven!

  24. Coincidentally, I was in Beverly Hills working with a seasoned PR team on the movie Restrepo. I mean, they’ve seen and heard everything. So, my initial response to them when they asked was: “How the hell did Rolling Stone get so close to the bar?” I just didn’t get it. I mean, it’s like letting Mother Jones Magazine loose in the Vatican to do a 1:1 exclusive on the Pope. Doesn’t make any sense to me.

    I can’t help but think that Feral Jundi is spot on.
    And I think the funniest picture I’ve seen is one of General McC with a balloon caption that says, “Bite Me, Biden.”

    1. @Kanani: Indeed, its a huge change to how things used to be. Take Admiral Sandy Woodward and the press during the Falklands. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming into letting the press onto his task force and when they were on board the press found Woodward to be a very forward, blunt but intensely private individual so few (if any) of his quotes ever got into the public domain.

      Other guys like Brig Thompson (Commander of 3 Commando Brigade) , Lt Col Pike (Commander of 3PARA during the Falklands) just knuckled down and got on with the job. Thats professionalism.

      What makes me queasy is this new generation who have rather blood thirsty and overtly aggressive quotes as if on demand. Yes I’m sure James Mattis is a very intelligent and skillful operator but quotes like the one above make me wince. Honestly they do.

      I guess its a kind of cultural gap but I find its the chaps who let their actions do the talking who prosper. Example 3PARA in Helmand province in 2006 quite happily doing the work which takes a force more than several times their size to do today.

      1. Isn’t that something of a British national characteristic? Who else stops to brew tea in the middle of a WW2 tank battle? The same people who launched the only bayonet charge of the 21st century. A gift for the understatement and cold steel.

        Hollywood ready sound bites in chaotic situations are something of a USMC characteristic. A gift for the brutal overstatement and massive firepower.

        Everybody’s got a role to play…


        1. The British army bayonet is a superb tool. Killing, entrenching, can and beer opening device!

          It slices, it dices and it even opens a cold one for you after the ruck has finished!

  25. Anan. As a matter of fact I’ve worked in most of the provinces and as a matter of course always ask Afghans about their opinions of the various security forces, ISAF and their desire for their family members to join ANSF. The answer to the latter has been 100% horror at the thought. 100%.

    650 folks in military academy or medical school or nursing school. Your use of the conjunction “or” doesn’t help in understanding how many combat officers may be produced, what part of society they come from, or their graduation and retention rates.

    I agree that training the ANSF has been pooched from day one and that it is the fault of NATO. I also agree that what is being built isn’t sustainable over the long term (which is why the mineral story was recycled- to give some hope). But so what?

    The “enemy” are a rabble armed with 1950’s era Soviet light weapons whose primary advantages appear to be will power, the idiocy of NATO and the failure of Afghans to simply say no to their nonsense. When four Taliban can come into a village of 900 people (who presumably have one small arm per adult male)and order them to stop a project and walk out again instead of disappearing something is very wrong.

    Success in this war isn’t about funding. It’s not about training. It’s not about ANA TO&E. It’s about the will of anti-Taliban Afghans to say no.

    1. Harlan, it might be best to take this offline. Is there a way to do so?

      Have you ever seen anything negative about an NMAA cadet or graduate? I haven’t yet heard any negative anecdotal accounts.

      NMAA had 84 four year graduates in 1.2009 [1st class that started 1.2005]
      NMAA had 212 four year graduates in 3.18.2010
      NMAA will have about 300 graduates in 3.2011

      At the last minute, around October/November 2009, the size of the NMAA incoming class of 2014 was sharply expanded to 650. 50 of which are on the medical track.

      The reason NMAA classes haven’t been larger is because of a lack of funding and international instructors. NMAA has always had a large number of applicants and very selective admission.

      “graduation and retention rates.” Graduation rate is very high. Don’t have the exact number, but it is easy to look up. The NMAA and ADU [Afghan Defense University . . . about 7,000 planned, 2,400 of which are NMAA] are very open and responsive to e-mails.

      Retention rates . . . too soon to tell. So far so good.

      As you know, retention in the ANA commandos is about 99%. They are by all accounts very motivated and good. And there are a lot of them. 8 combat battalions with 749 each + 4 A-team Special forces [in the process of being expanded to a Commando Special Forces Brigade Group with 72 A-teams divided into 4 battalions.] A-teams are trained for Gant style embedded village and tribal engagement, and to stand up local militias to fight the Taliban. They are designed to have a lot of autonomy and self initiative.

      1 ANA Commando Battalion [believe it was 1st Battalion] just air assaulted into a major Nuristan enemy stronghold [foreign Taliban] and killed a large number of them.

      “Success in this war isn’t about funding. It’s not about training.”In the last 5 thousand years of recorded history, logistics, training, and money have almost “ALWAYS” made a massive difference.

      “The enemy are a rabble armed with 1950’s era Soviet light weapons whose primary advantages appear to be will power” In the villages close to the Pakistan border, the perception is that the Taliban are backed up by 200,000 Taliban east of the Durand, the Pakistani Army , ISI, the Arabs and lots of money. Any village that defies them, risks annihilation. And they believe it. The Taliban and their backers have long memories. Afghan villagers don’t believe that ISAF will stay long. Nor do many believe that ISAF is serious about supporting ANSF over the long run.

      Afghanistan has almost never been independent within its current boundaries in the last 6 millenia. It has almost always been part of an Indian/South Asian, Iranian, or Mongol Seljik Turk international confederacy/empire. Modern Afghanistan was formed when Persia split into two in 1747. Eastern Persia was called Afghanistan. Afghanistan contained all of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and much of northern India, former USSR and eastern Iran until the Brits cut it down to its current much smaller rump state. Many Afghans are skeptical that Afghanistan can ever defeat Pakistan. They see the Taliban as Pakistani proxies. In practice, calling the Taliban Pakistani hicks as the ANA soldiers do is simplistic and misleading. But that is the Afghan perception none the less.

      As the ANA, NDS, and ANCOP kick butt in the interior of Afghanistan, this perception will change. When the ANA has permission to punish villages the way the Taliban do, things will flip. But for that to happen, the international media has to leave. For the media to leave ISAF needs to draw down to merely OMLTs, POMLTs and combat enablers. For this to happen, the ANSF need to be sharply expanded in size. The decision to expand the ANSF was only made in November, 2009. Since then, the ANSF has expanded sharply. The ANA has a waiting list, so the flows are in place. ANSF capacity is growing a lot faster than Taliban capacity and both the ANSF and Taliban know this.

      Since you have been around Afghanistan, you know that there is great variation in quality between ANA battalions. Some of them have the “will” as you put it, and have proven themselves. Others haven’t.

      I would argue that 203 ANA Corps and specifically its 1st Bde has proven itself. So has French mentored 3-201. Swedish/German mentored 1-209 seems to have [although they haven’t yet fought the best Taliban/AQ linked units.]

      If you disagree, would love to hear why.

      You might point out the defective mid grade officers in the ANA [that were trained pre 2001], and you would be dead right. On the other hand the junior ANA officers and many NCOs are a whole lot better than their mid grade officer bosses. Many of the recently trained ANA officers have the “will.” Many of the ANA junior officers speak english [which amplifies the effectiveness of OMLTs.] If President Karzai chooses, he could sharply improve the ANA overnight. All he needs to do is force a thousand mid grade officers to take 1 year of staff college, and promote Lieutenants and Captains to their old positions.

  26. Does anyone have the “real skinny” on the “Tora Bora” moment of some years ago when it is whispered we had Bin Laden and his top boys in our sights but let them escape? As to Mullah Omar, that skinny also; how’d we lose his ugly ass?

  27. Anan: Commandos…like the ones on 60 Minutes shooting himself or the one who shot the SF guy?

    Success in this war isn’t about funding. It’s not about training.In the last 5 thousand years of recorded history, logistics, training, and money have almost ALWAYS made a massive difference. Not in most insurgencies since 1945 and not so far in Afghanistan.

    It’s about will. As long as the Taliban are better motivated than the government forces this war will go south. Morale- the willingness to fight- is the key. The Taliban mostly have it and our Afghans mostly don’t. Calling some of them Commandos is meaningless without the main force having the desire to take the fight to the enemy.

    1. Harlan, your many anecdotal experiences aren’t sufficient to make blanket assertions.

      Is every article about the ANA commandos a pack of lies? Is this article fluff?

      Didn’t see the 60 minutes piece. Heard from friends it was horrible.

      “Not in most insurgencies since 1945 and not so far in Afghanistan.” Couldn’t disagree more. Any examples?

      “As long as the Taliban are better motivated than the government forces this war will go south. Morale- the willingness to fight- is the key. The Taliban mostly have it and our Afghans mostly don’t.”

      The Taliban aren’t 10 feet tall. At least most of the Afghan ones aren’t that motivated, and most of the Afghan Taliban are awful fighters. [The thousands of foreign Taliban are admittedly a different story.] How many company sized engagement between the Taliban and ANA since 2001 have not resulted in a Taliban route?

      Most militaries in the world are trash, including many ISAF contributors. The ANA already fights better than most militaries.

      Look at the God aweful performance of the “local” Taliban in Helmand this year. Have they won a single platoon sized engagement with the ANA? It is not like there aren’t plenty of ANA targets in Helmand. There are three 215th ANA Corps brigades in Helmand, two of which are brand new.

      There were reports of 400 foreign fighters [many supposedly Lashkar e Taiba] with Urdu language papers and posters on them fought like heck with the Marines and ANA commandos near Marja. Not talking about them. Referring to the to the local Taliban who are paid by and part of the QST chain of command.

      How long would the Taliban hold up without thousands of foreign Taliban embedded combat advisors to shore them up?

      Exaggerating the will and capability of the enemy is playing into Taliban/ISI propaganda.

      So far the QST Afghan Taliban have proven to be poor fighters. Sirajuddin’s fighters are much better. But he faces the best ANA Corps, or 203rd. The Nuristan foreign Taliban are also pretty good.

      1. Green 215th ANA Corps isn’t as good as 203rd ANA Corps. But they have some amazing officers.

        Since you like to be so negative, please try to find anything bad to say about 3-215 commanding BG Mohaiuddin Ghori and 3-215 Chief of Staff G3 Col Shirin Shah [Deputy brigade commander]. Would love to hear what you try to come up with. You might want to actually talk with OMLTs/ETTs that have worked with them.

  28. We aren’t fighting an insurgency, we’re fighting a proxy war with Pakistan and the most amazing thing about this situation is that we’re funding our enemy’s ability to kill our own military with billions in U.S. aid.

    COIN will never work, nothing will, until that ugly truth is openly acknowledged and honestly addressed.

    RJ – maybe Bin Laden took a seat on Operation Evil Airlift.

  29. Daphne’s right. The solution is on the other side of the Durand Line. Has been all along…


  30. This is more for the posters/readers stateside, but a word from babatim wouldn’t hurt:

    See Restrepo. It’s outstanding. Look it up, find a showing you can see, and go see it. You won’t regret it, I promise.

    1. BD… Glad you liked Restrepo and thanks for the mention. I’m on the Nat Geo Restrepo PR Team, working with the promoters and filmmakers. Would you do us a favor and write something on the Restrepo Facebook page?

      Tim can’t see the movie in Jbad, as we only have the rights to screen it in North America. But I had the publisher send him WAR, and my spies tell me he was walking around reading it. Anyway, he’ll see it soon enough. And… Tim will be interviewing Tim Hetherington 13 July.

      1. Already done. I posted on your FB page, my own, and have been urging everyone I know to see it. A former Green Beret buddy of mine is an officer in my university’s Student Veterans Association and I’m trying to persuade him to try to get a screening of the film on campus. I’m more than happy to do what I can to make that happen myself, so if there’s anything I can do to help please send me an email (Tim should have it).

        I’ll be getting a copy of War asap, too.

      2. Sorry for the double post, but I need to clarify that my friend is the former Green Beret, not I. We’re friends thanks to school.

  31. Anan: Not in most insurgencies since 1945 and not so far in Afghanistan. Couldn’t disagree more. Any examples?

    We have now reached the absurd. Palestine, Aden, French Indo-China, Viet Nam, Angola, Mozamabique, Rhodesia, Kenya, Algeria, Namibia, Soviet Afghan War, Cyprus…

    All insurgencies fought by foreigners. All with the power of a industrial state behind them. All against locals outclassed in training and resources but not endurance or will. All defeats.

    NATO will spend in Afghanistan this year alone approx $ 150 billion,not counting base costs for their organizations. The ANSF have been given at least the entire Afghan GNP annually.

    Even if another power supported the Taliban at the same level the US & Saudis supported the Mujahideen the ratio of expenditure would still be around 500 to 1. This may be one of the most one sided wars in terms of resources in history (UK vs Tibet in 1904 and UK vs Zanzibar 1896 may be have more lopsided).

    Annual NATO and ANSF numbers, expenditures, development dollars, security force cas and insurgent incidents are all on a roughly parallel track. Whatever you expect more money hasn’t worked. Perhaps you know a magic number- $ 300 billion annually? $ 400 billion? that will tip the balance. Remember it’s all borrowed cash and you’ll have to pay interest for ever as well as billions on health care for the troops and replacing all of the broken gear.

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