The Going Is Getting Tough

The ongoing saga about banning security contractors in Afghanistan continues while the need for them grows to the point that  CNN has gotten a clue. Many big reconstruction projects are grinding to a halt and let me tell you something – the local people are sick and tired of this. We have been at the reconstruction business going on ten years now yet our impact on the lives of the average Afghan has been minimal. In Kabul there is a rising epidemic of Cutaneous leishmanisis which has stuck some 65,000 people, mostly woman and children. Do you know how simple it is to stop the an epidemic of leishmanisis? Start a cash for work program to build concrete floors in every dwelling in the city including all the squatter huts in the hills – it is that simple. We could stop this problem cold for what is essentially chump change in reconstruction dollars.

Yet simple solutions to complex problems elude us; we focus instead on “good governance” or the “Afghanistan water table project” or a dozen other programs which suck up hundreds of millions of dollars while doing not one damn thing for the Afghan people. The Afghan government continues to fail at providing basic services while excelling at hounding outside the wire contractors. Visa’s for internationals working in-country remain impossible to obtain so more and more of us who work outside the FOB’s are heading home. Yet ISAF continues to support the elimination of private security contractors as noted below. I extracted the quote from some article I forgot to bookmark and am too irritated to look for at the moment.

Karzai has said repeatedly in recent months that the companies undermine government security forces, creating a parallel security structure. His desire to ban the private security groups seems to reflect the thinking of the former top American commander in Afghanistan.

Before he was replaced earlier this year for making disparaging comments about the Obama administration, Gen. Stanley McChrystal said “the coalition in Afghanistan has become too dependent on private contractors.”

There is no doubt that the military is too dependent on private contractors – the FOB’s are full of them 98% of whom are not in the security industry. Those of us who are outside the wire  doing the heavy lifting in the reconstruction piece need to be able to protect ourselves. The Afghan security forces are not remotely capable of doing the job and the sad fact is that the only international military force we can count on to come to our aid when attacked are the Americans.

For those of you who think I am exaggerating read this article closely.  If you are a German citizen you may want to skip it because it’s about the response to the Taliban attack on the USAID Implementation partner DAI in Kunduz earlier this year by the German military. As a retired military officer I have studied the innovation and professionalism of the German military during the First and Second World Wars all my adult life. It gives me no pleasure to highlight this story of indifference from a military which was once the best the world had ever seen.

Ghost Team continues exceeding expectations and getting massive numbers of local workers out on the job. Being successful where everyone else is failing is not endearing us to many with the notable exceptions of the military and the Afhgan people
Some people are still able to put massive numbers of local people to work on large reconstruction projects using manual labor. Reconstruction experts can argue the effectiveness of cash for work in   the context of counterinsurgency warfare all they want. We don’t care – we’re doing what we were contracted to do but it is getting much harder for us maneuver around in the contested districts.

Given the train wreck that is Afghanistan at the moment, Nic Lee, who heads the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) has recommended that NGO’s deal with the Taliban to facilitate their projects. That is not as ridiculous as it probably sounds to FRI readers because he is talking about NGO’s not implementation firms.

Nic sees the NGOs (unarmed, non-profits) as neutral and believes that if the Taliban also see them as non-participants in the war they’ll leave them alone. This has been generally true in the east for years. In the South not so much and in the North and West the problem for NGO’s and other internationals has been criminal groups not Taliban.  It’s to the Taliban’s advantage to allow medical clinics and farm projects to run without interference so they can show the locals that good stuff happens when they’re in charge. There’s no upside to harming NGOs and the Taliban senior leaders know it. Criminals and junior Taliban who didn’t get the memo and are another matter.

The problem for NGOs ( Lee does not consider DAI, Chemonics and the other USAID implementing partners including us as to be true NGO’s) is in areas where control is contested and their locals are at risk from kidnappings and IEDs strikes because they are working for infidel invaders. Infidel neutral non-participants bearing gifts are still infidels and there are many areas in this country where they (and their Afghan employees who bear the risk) should not (and mostly do not) go. NGO’s operating deep in contested districts are probably dealing with the Taliban anyway. For many tribes the Taliban flag is a flag of convenience and NGO’s embedded inside Afghan districts know that better than we do. I’m not sure why Nic published advice that is already understood by the target audience but sure to raise eyebrows with the international press. I don’t know him that well but don’t think he’s a publicity seeker so I’m not sure what this is all about.

The bigger problem for NGO’s and the rest of us is Nic’s advice is flat out wrong. The security situation for foreigners living outside the wire changed radically for the worst on August 6th, 2010 with the murder of a eight person medical team who had just conducted eye clinics in the remote Nuristan Province. Dan Terry and Tom Little spent over 30 years living in Afghanistan while bringing modern medical treatment to thousands of Afghans. Despite their decades of experience and close relationships with the tribes of the area  they were gunned down  in what has been describes as the “the worst crime targeting the humanitarian community that has ever taken place in Afghanistan.”

The security situation has degraded too far too fast for NGO’s to operate safely in most of Afghanistan. Ghost Team is now the only viable option for outside the wire reconstruction but that won’t happen because we’re not popular with the USAID preferred contractors or USAID. We carry guns and send in pictures from projects in places nobody else has or would ever go. We never miss a deadline…..want to be popular with bureaucrats? Do not succeed where all others have failed.

Contractors have gotten a bad rap in the press and with the FOB bound portion of our military establishment. Troops at the pointed end of the spear where we do our projects love us and go out of their way to protect and take care of us. But on the big box FOB’s we are not allowed weapons, cameras, laptops, or cell phones.  On every FOB there is an Afghan bazaar plus several military exchanges that sell knives, swords, antique guns, cell phones, computers, cameras, etc… proving again that stupidity never takes a holiday. By contract with the United States Government we are required to have cell phones, cameras and laptops in order to submit detailed reports to USAID program managers living on military bases. But look at what we are not allowed on those bases.

Flying into the main base in order to catch military flights into the cotested districts where we have projects is now very problematic. Not all contractors live on the FOB and those of us who don't need weapons, cameras, and laptops to do our job. Being on the big box FOB's is most depressing - drive over 24 kph while failing to wear a seat belt and you'll find out why. Most of our old beaters have no seat belts or working odometers which makes us "antisocial" in the eyes of MP's from our allies
Flying into a big box FOB in order to catch military flights into the contested districts where we have projects is now problematic. Not all contractors live on the FOB and those of us who don’t need weapons, cameras, and laptops to do our jobs. Being on the big box FOB’s is most depressing – drive over 24 kph or fail to wear a seat belt and you’ll get pulled over by MP’s. Most of our old beaters have no seat belts or working odometers … this place is crazy

The few contractors who remain outside the wire need protection from the Taliban, from criminals, from the Afghan government and the rear echelon military establishment.  It’s getting damn lonely for us these days and there is no excuse for harassing the few good men who are out in harms way getting projects done on time and on budget.

46 Replies to “The Going Is Getting Tough”

  1. I do not think that the conduct of the Bundeswehr was incompetence. As fas as I know it is in full accordance of the military aims as given by the political leadership.

    I have never heard anybody saying anything good about the BW, regardless of which political background.

    I know, it is a shame that we are there. A total waste.

  2. As a long time reader I am disapointed in the kiss up article about Shaulis and Yon.

    Shaulis looks like he has a puffed up ego and I am surprised you would want to even work for a shady crew like this.

    The Yon article was on top of kissing up to CADG, kissing up to Petraeus, and the whole COIN debacle.

    Tim, you are better than this and working for the “little Napoleon” and kissing up for the very first time surprises me. We are losing this war in many ways and the whole CADG scene looks pathetic. No wonder this war is going south so fast.

  3. I would have thought you would be “hunting” for the truths about your friends–the doctors who were killed, as opposed to bitching on this mismanaged war in Afghanistan…after all, it has been more than 8 years since the “most powerful country” on the face of this planet, the USA, has been engaged.

    Is it me or have Puff pieces become a regular dish on the daily menu?

    “Bug out” just might be a notion to explore.

    Maybe you could go to Iraq and discover how our enlightened State Department threw away the military’s victory?

    Then, in a couple of years, you could return to Afghanistan and try the same kind of reporting over what is shaping up to be a…defeat for American interests…again!

    Or, maybe you should come home and enroll in an American law school.

    Definitely create a “short timer’s” calender…you’re gonna need it, sooner rather than later!

  4. It may please you, just a little bit, to know that the “Items Prohibited” poster has its Pashto utterly and literally backwards. Like, backwards literally and utterly Pashto its has poster. Some translator must have shared your annoyance 🙂

  5. Actually, on this one I agree with Tom Grove. I have the greatest respect in the world for Tim Lynch. I read this blog religiously.


    Yon has major PTSD without ever firing a shot in real combat, embedded does not count.Yon and Shaulis?? Old friends??

    Scary. I agree Tim is working for these guys but the kiss up piece especially Yon’s could be bad for business. Yon knows next to nothing about Afghanistan, but he does know how to hassle the military, and does a good job of it. He just went nuts this summer when McChrystal ended his embed, just nuts, look it up. Clown is relative, just look it up.

    If Shaulis is in the same club, bad news for everyone. But I guess begging for a plug from CG Petreaus is worth it, very shaky publicity stunt to say the least.

    Yon has burnt more bridges than there are canals in Helmand. Shaulis should have stayed “in the closet” Now it is guilt by association.

    The USAID program has a lot of problems and these are the Top Guns?

    You just get the impression no one knows what is going on when you see the Yon piece. And you just get this huge ego picture of Shaulis. The whole production looks like some kind of promo for his company or something you would see during an election advertisement on TV in the States.

    Shaulis and Yon. Not my cup of tea, sorry.

    The whole crowd looks shaky now. Sorry that is just my honest opinion. Clown away, Clown control point. I am sorry Tim is involved with these guys, that is all. But I always wish him luck and success with anything he does.

    1. Okay Steve and Tom what’s the deal here? Why so much contempt for Yon and Shaulis? So what, they’ve got egos…ever met a current or former SF guy that didn’t? I don’t know either man personally and I rarely read Yon’s blog, but your comments piqued my curiosity about his recent post on Shaulis. What exactly did you two find objectionable? In the comment section, I found this from Tom:

      “Shaulis and the whole crew look exactly like the type of folks we do not need
      in Afghanistan. The whole sunglasses, super cool, we have a plane thing does
      not work. Just a full up kiss up. Very disapointing. The whole things seems staged
      and pure propaganda for Shaulis who come off like a guy with a Napoleon complex.
      Very disapointing.”

      Tom, I beg to differ. How the hell else are you supposed to get around a country with little road infrastructure without a plane? You’re right, I’m sure it’s Shaulis’ Napoleon complex that keeps him working in Afghanistan for 13 years now. I’ve been there a few times, it ain’t a fun place to hang out. Shaulis in NOT the wrong guy for Afghanistan; I can tell you who those people are: State Dept nitwits more concerned with their Thursday BBQ on the lawn at the embassy and CYA military commanders that are too concerned about their careers to do what’s necessary to get the job done, to name a few. I could give a rat’s @ss if Shaulis is the biggest self-serving ego maniac on the planet as long as he gets @#$% done. If you’ve got some sort of negative information about the guy then spill it, otherwise I would pipe down, lest you come off sounding like someone with a serious case of sour grapes.

  6. 1. Isolate Karzai in Kabul and direct all energies to Local governance through whatever local authorities exist.

    2. All combat troops off the FOBs and into COPs or district centers to live among the people. No more commuting to the battle.

    3. Re-direct lion share of U.S. aid money to the Local commanders to use in their wide discretion, in conjunction with the most effective outside-the-wire contractors, or for whatever the AO needs. Not a dime to central government cronies.

    4. Go after the enemy. Aggressive patrols, ambushes, raids. Track ’em down and drive them out.

    5. Recruit and train only Local security forces who have a vested interest in protecting their village/district. Demonstrate the “no better friend, no worse enemy” principle.

  7. Clown Police, Good call.

    Tom Grove? I’m sure everyone runs into a grudge in their life, but the fact of the matter is that CADG is one of the only organizations that actually takes rifles out off local hands and replaces them with shovels, regardless of TB presence within a given area or the threat. Are you telling me that you move around the south the way they do and are providing a more integral contribution? Or are you surrounded by B6’s full of incompetent Nepalese guards or overweight Mississippi former police officers If so, then why haven’t we crossed paths on Ring Road South? (BTW I do not or have worked for CADG).

  8. Steve Maghribi,

    Have you ever met me and are you a mental health expert? If the answer to either of these questions is NO, your credibility is shot. Kicked. Buried.

    You have never met me, or if you have you are unremembered. You are now shot.

    Burning bridges is healthy when the bridges lead to clowns. Did you notice, by the way, that after I said McChrystal should be fired he was fired? (Kicked.)

    Insofar as knowledge of Afghanistan, am awaiting links to the articles that you wrote well in advance that turned out to be true. (Buried.)

    Michael Yon

  9. Those w/o firsthand implementation experience will never know the frustrations illustrated in this article. Tim… You nailed it. Now, back in the states and watching events unfold via my TV and half-baked sound bites, I am convinced the that the US media is absolutely clueless. If it bleeds, it leads… That’s all that matters- cause that is what sells subscriptions. Totally UNSAT.

    With no security but your wits, experience, and relationships, you and your teams are able to promote and facilitate real change at the footsole level. Your teams are the first contacts made by ISAF when their grand plans fail (all too often). You are able to get in, develop solid development plans, mobilize a workforce, initiate and supervise work, and pay laborers with no fanfare at all. The public has NO clue what you guys are able to pull off with less than 3% overhead. I freaking salute all the guys/gals doing this work. It’s the only thing that does work.

    The rest of you non-players who have not been beyond the FOB PX, shut the fuck up.


  10. This post was edited about 10 hours after it went up because I had written a paragraph or so about how much I like working for The Boss and how happy I was to be back with Ghost Team. When I wrote that I was paying more attention to the Ohio State football game which came on in the wee hours then I was on writing. The Editor pinged me on skype as woke today telling me in no uncertain terms that portion of the post added nothing to the story and detracted from what I was trying to say. I stand by what I said but conceded the point and edited fast as I had to catch a flight to Camp Dwyer for a visit with the 1st Marines, commanded by my good friend Colonel Dave Furness of Columbus Ohio.

    Dave was watching the game too and obviously not pleased with the results. At about the time I posted Dave turned off his TV and went to the hospital to visit one of his Marines who had been flown in with multiple fragmentation wounds. The Marine had arrived conscious and alert but the docs did their rapid trauma assessment as they normally do which includes not only stripping the Marine to check every inch of his body but a rectal exam too. They normally are working on unconscious Marines and neglected to warn the kid that he was about to get finger up his butt which this time resulted in loud protests accompanied by threats of a sexual assault report.

    When Dave went to talk to the Marine he asked him where he was from.

    “Sandusky Ohio sir”

    “Oh really, I’m from Columbus.”

    At which point the young Devil Dog asked: “Sir is it true?”

    To which Dave responded; “yeah it is – Wisconsin beat us”

    The Marine just nodded and said “What a shit day sir, first I get hit, then some corpsman sticks his finger up my ass and now this.”

    Man do I love being around these guys

  11. “hundreds of millions of dollars” ??? nobody cares about anything that small anymore. At this point we have spent/ wasted 1000 times more. Americans are pissed because after spending 20 grand on each and every Afghan over the last 10 years Afghanistan is not in better shape than it is seen to be in today Concrete floors in houses? with what we spent there every home should have a swimming pool and a garage with a Toyota in it and if they did the Taliban would be having a much harder time trying to convince them that the USA is the enemy. The problems that we are having today are because of the solutions of past years.

  12. Hi All,
    just thought I would weigh in with something very brief. I am not so worried about the negative or positive statements about what people think of me. However, I noticed Raybo commented above. Just so you all have some perspective, Raybo ran our program in one of the Southern Provinces, and he ‘walked the walk’. The guy was brilliant in implementing a project in dangerous areas, and it is because of people like him, and not me, that I feel our program is addressing some of the core issues of the insurgency.
    Raybo, we miss you! Please stay in touch.

  13. Tim thanks for posting your views.Look I don’t care who is working the contracts there be it “the army core of engineers,CADG,The Ghost,or FRI” just as long something is being done.Remember just a little can go a long ways there with the afghan people.( learned that from Tim ) I would wish more contractors would post blogs than they do. Am I sucking up? yeah maybe. stay safe guys.

  14. How often does one hear “You just don’t get it!” and wonder if there is any truth in such a declaration? Here, we have all those people charged with doing various jobs in Afghanistan with the end goal being to make this country free, safe and a friend of America.

    Is that right? Is this what we’re after? Oh really…

    Pan the camera over to Fort Hood, the first look at Major Hasan’s slow march toward military justice.

    How much taxpayer money has been spent housing this guy and rendering his physical care? How much money is being spent on this stage of his prosecution? How much time and money will be spent for his forthcoming trial?

    If found guilty, will he get the death penalty? If so, how long will it take till such a sentence is carried out? If not, why not?

    You watch this game unfold, then pan our camera over to Afghanistan…

    Tell me, are there so many differences?

    Let’s make this “job” so complicated, so complex, so multi-faceted, that it will never get done…yea, that’s a game lots of people in government like to play. The drive for perfection…

    Are you one of them?

    Note how our VFW Commander Eubank had to finally dissolve his PAC committee when it’s leadership would not rescind their support for elective candidates the general membership rallied to condemn from the trenches of normal life.

    This poison is not limited to just a few places. Nine years of playing around in a country that eats with one hand, wipes with the other…

    Somebody get Bremmer another “rep” tie for his tv closeup!

    Mommy will come, Mommy will come…are we there yet?

  15. Well, I need to speak up for both Tom Grove and Steve Maghribi who have been slammed here for their opinions.

    They should have a right to say their piece even if it goes against the Party Line. If you disagree, Roger that, but most of this fluff means nothing. Tell you that.

    Just an note on G and M they are way outside the wire, combat guys. I will not say which unit or organization, but they have served the Nation, and are now out on an operation way beyond the wire and way beyond the ring road.

    We don’t do FOBs…sorry. And most of you all couldn’t hang one day humping where we go.

    I work with them and back them up all the way. They are out on a mission now, I need to go back them up real soon. The comments were petty and way out of line. Let folks have their say. If Shaulis and Yon are not our heroes, so be it.

    For Yon, no one knows if it is PTSD or what, but he had a serious meltdown. He has everyone knows- had nothing to do with our CG leaving. We are still pissed about what happened and a guy like Yon piling on a fine soldier just does not sit well with some us. Sorry.

    But I have worked with General McChrystal and would put him over any other Commander I have ever had. Yon’s attacks on a super soldier crossed the line and a lot of us feel he is the ultimate looose cannon.

    We defend our leaders, they defend us, we fight together. That is loyalty and Yon is just all about ego. If you all want to play that game. Go ahead. Sorry for you.

    So that shut the F up comment can just go back right from where it came from.

    Glad Shaulis came up on the net. In Kabul we call him “Mini Me”. He is just another war profiteer. I speak to CADG folks, DAI folks and the whole group. Mini Me is known as the most self serving guy on the planet.

    Believe me the Yon piece is getting some good laughs. He should have just skipped this one.

    The whole shovels for guns thing is crap, and folks sorry to tell you, they hate us especially in the South. I fight them every day and I know.

    These projects are just going to go down as part of our huge expensive failure in the war.

    Guys like Tim I admire, they get paid Embassy security guard salaries and risk their lives. They are trying to help. I wish him luck, stay down things are bad.

    War profiteers like Shaulis, never catch me even near them. Sorry-Prince of Clowns and MINI ME.

    Gloryfying Mini Me is BS, and Yon is BS.

    These projects mean nothing, and we are losing the war. It hurts to say, because I have a mission to go on after I send this, and its is a tough insert, but I am tired of all the lies.

    This war is going to hell. Guys like Shaulis and Yon are self serving fools, and the rest of us are bleeding. Ok got to go fight, hope Yon and Shaulis enjoy their illgotten profits. Bad Crew those two, and there are several hundred of us who know it.

    Back to war, good luck on the publicity.CG P knows about Shaulis too I promise you that. Even heard him make a Mini Me joke once.

    Keep up the Fire, Watch those Taliban Fall.

  16. Tried to post, guess it got censored, if Tim is walking the Yon way down the road against a fine soldier like McChrystal, and it is ok for Raybo to comment, why can’t I?

    Shut the F up is allowed by not my comment?

    Something is wrong at the “Free Range”

    1. Bob, and all your regular commenters, I just went to chase down your comment about not being able to comment. There is no censorship at FRI (except Tim’s various editors) but there are some anti-spam measures.

      The spam control on this site holds any comment for moderation if it includes more than one URL (or perceived link). It also has several automatic spam/holds if the name or URL provided is on a blacklist which is shared across all Word Press sites with the Askimet plug in. This might sound silly but the site gets blasted with over 100 spam posts to the comments each day.

      Many of you do use more than one link and that’s ok – I simply manually approve comments with more than one URL. They are held in a separate queue from comments which seem to be outright spam. This is usually not a big deal but does mean a non-deterministic delay. What this means for you is if you don’t want the delay, break up your comments so that you have only one link per comment. Or wait.

      Bob, there is no comment in the hold queue with your name. Perhaps you used a different name or subject and it got caught by Askimet. Did you perhaps talk about erectile disfunction more than once in the comment? 🙂

      By the way, the spam filters are only for spam. It will allow swear words and even brand name ED drugs if not used in a pattern which it recognizes (recall the thread about giving Viagra to Talibs). If you are trying to post from a Nigerian IP address you will have greater difficulty.

      If anyone commonly has difficulty posting comments, write us and we’ll take a look at what is causing the filter to trigger. And if FRI readers unanimously agree that they WANT ads for child porn or fake designer bags, the admins will be happy to let the stuff through.

  17. Wow, that Raybo is a good butt kisser.

    Seems to be going around here a lot.

    I loved McChrystal too. When he left a lot of us were really upset and Yon is a creep
    to get on him like that.

    Mini Me looks likes a problem child too. I can just see him and Yon back patting their way on the airplane. Disgusting….

  18. ps..I was not going to comment…but after I read all the comments and saw Yon’s psycho response, it is clear, maybe Tim needs to think twice about these guys?

  19. I would like to speak up for CADG, I know nothing at all about Yon-but enjoy his website and pictures.

    I have heard good things about CADG and was interested in learning more.

    This war is confusing, and I thank Tim for trying to make some sense of it. Not sure any of us are ever going to understand it.

    I have 30 years now going to Afghanistan and it is still very confusing to me at times.

    Things are not going well and emotions are getting high. Good Luck to everyone there and stay safe all of you.

  20. This is the best comments thread in fri history — tho the personal insults are silly at best.

    i def give large creds to cadg, steve n tim, and the whole team… for what they do in development, and actually getting shit done.

    ive seen it for almost 4 years – i’ve been honored to meet some of these guys.

    As for Yon.. I can attest this dude says it the way he see’s it, and he is normally correct, tho not always, and i understand the McCrystal fan club is not happy.

    i also respect the player haters for having their opinions – and ive never met any of you outside the wire (that i know of) – so i will assume you are honorable, but confused.

  21. Geeze…what is it with you people? The world is very different when you are at the bottom whether you be enlisted or officer, as opposed to when you reach the top, like McCrystal, et al. Whether you are a fingernail, finger, hand, arm, or the body, brain, eyes etc. you are part of a greater whole, a team effort.

    Our “elected politicians” are in control of this war/peace corps/nation building effort. Remember how that reporter got McCrystal? How many weeks later did that big “puff” piece interview with Obama arrive within Rolling Stone?

    Why would Obama even give such an interview to a magazine that got his number one General in Afghanistan canned? Who is sleeping in who’s bed?

    How does one marriage partner go about killing the marriage without the other directly knowing what is going on?

    I want everybody working on America’s behalf; who is seeking goals that most Americans would embrace in a heartbeat, over in Afghanistan to be supported back home with everything they need to get the job done, but done in a timely manner. I want the American people to know the truths prior to sending our blood and treasure to another country.

    Sadly, our elected government does not think like I do.

    I strongly think those who are trying to “do good” in Afghanistan are being suckered by our politicians for reasons that go way beyond American self interests to more of a personal self interest, a narcissistic mind set, generational in composition, reflected via the last 20 years of elected political leaders, not only as President, but also in our Congressional leadership.

    Over 8 years to get control in Afghanistan…billions upon billions spent, many dead, a vast number wounded, and no victory in sight nor is such a notion even “honestly” defined!

    Obama, like Clinton is a coward.

    His game is to hide within a lawyer’s education, playing the master of passive aggressive behaviors, offering “fairy dust” at every street corner to whoever passes by.

    We will be the new American “bond slaves” when this is all done; even after our government busts out their final “game” of inflation!

    These are not my people. My people wear/have worn the American military uniform, not gone to a law school. Princeton Patreaus is playing a shell game for a limited time. His rug will be pulled out from him by Obama’s team.

    McCrystal was part of his team, his boy out front, his personal snake eater leading the show. Getting McCrystal’s job was nothing more than a demotion by Obama, hidden via his anger, yet happy he could then bug out of this war effort in Afghanistan, sooner rather than later.

    Maybe if one of his daughters wore a military uniform and was in the boonies walking the walk he might think differently; however, like Bill Clinton, he never has to worry about that reality!

    Leave Michael Yon alone, he has his problems–we have ours; yet for thousands of Americans he has provided insights no others have dared do. He works on our side, not the enemies’!

    Same thing with the authorship of this blog: I have my complaints, but when the going gets tough…I know where I want to stand and with whom I want to march into the valley of death.

    It ain’t with Obama, the Clintons, or any of their friends…no not one iota!

  22. Well, after reading through all these comments, I see we’ve been able to establish at least one incontrovertible fact: Steve Shaulis is SHORT.

  23. Dudes… I offer an apology. S.T.F.U. was over-the- top and innappropriate. My self-mute button was tits-up at the time. Sorry,


  24. Is that it? Are y’all done bickering now? Because some of you read like a high school football team down by seventeen in the third quarter.

    Game ain’t over yet, is it?

    Well, I’m almost out of popcorn…


    Hiya, civilian lifer here, you know, one of those guys sitting in the stands watching you guys play the damned game. I ain’t picking any sides here, because I’m already on all of your sides.

    Every single one of you has skills and training I’ll likely never have or need (I helped pay for that). Every single one of you has talents that if I’m lucky I’ll never need or discover (because of what you do and have done).

    Mr. Yon, I’ve said this on line before and I’m going to say it again. I think you are the Ernie Pyle of our time. For my money nobody takes better combat photos then you do, and unlike Pyle, you have millions of amateur competitors snapping billions of their own cell phone photos every day. I’ve also said this before Mr. Yon, there are times when I really do wish you would shut up and keep shooting. Remember that I’m out here counting up change to buy your book and I’ll buy it even if you set your hair on fire and run naked and screaming for beer in DocP’s own tent. But I’m buying it for the magnificently iconic photos, not the Geraldo moments.

    Anybody and everybody that is still outside of the wire is doing something worth doing. It doesn’t matter if its shovels for guns and wheat for poppy, dropping 2000lb JDAMS on deviant villains with bad intentions, or documenting the events for posterity. What matters is doing something, anything, and at least acting like there are people watching. Acting like there are people up there in the stands who didn’t just pay to see the game, people who have a vested interest in something that at least looks like victory.

    Because some of us have been up here in the nosebleed seats since day one 2001, glued to our seats, watching every single play we can see, and we know damn good and well what happens if the villains are in any kind of position to claim at even a tie. The next game will be another home game and there will be less of us in the seats, again.


  25. Here, have some of my popcorn, and I’ve told the guy to get us some hot dogs and beer.

    Sometimes it is nice to know that in the cheering section there are those who would run down to the field in a heartbeat to aid the regular players do whatever is needed and able to get done.

    This is how you create a victory, even when the game looks really dark from many angles.

  26. Important note for those who did not see it all unfold. McChrystal’s. Crew, apparently in a fit of boredom, started the fight with me. It was a fight I did not want, but finally accepted. All the whining about how it unfolded with his demise underlines one word: CLOWN. Rolling Stone wrote an article, and I went on a public campaign to help make sure he was fired. So…is this how Super Soldiers really behave? Pick a fight that did not exist, then lose, then whine?

  27. Apologies for errors in the above post. This iPad has a way has a way of adding errors while it attempts to correct them.

  28. I don’t know much about why people are bashing Tim and the other guys much. It’s kind of like when I was a kid and fought with buddies about how tough our fathers were, well unless you had a wussy dad. My dad is a Vietnam combat Vet and taught me never to talk shit. I realized why later on in life when I had the opportunity to visit Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I remember a few years back after leaving the Army and working in Iraq when most people thought we were going to lose the war. I call them Yankee’s fans, they don’t live in NY but love to be on the winning team always. When General Petraeus stepped in and won a failing counter insurgency campaign he was attacked for not having a post WWII Berlin style victory. It seems what most Western policy makers, Leaders, and Citizens want is democracy and Wal-Mart in a year. Maybe a good latte from the locals at Star Bucks would be nice also.

    The brass fact is conventional or COIN tactics used in Iraq or other places will not work in Afghanistan. The idea of changing the social culture of a nation which does not even fall into line with Arab states is somebody not reading Kipling or watching the History Channel. I recently met a woman conducting work in Afghanistan and she did more than an Infantry platoon could ever due to win and keep a small territory. On the other hand the philosophy of pulling troops out of theater every year is ludicrous. It is because they can’t work out a leave schedule comparable to civilian contractors who are able to stay the course of a project. The rotation of military in and out of Afghanistan washes away the knowledge gained and is a mortal wounded to an acceptable US victory the same as it was in Vietnam.

    This might be a news flash for some, but the Afghans don’t want to change their society. Democracy without corruption is not in their society. To win, we must live, work, speak, eat and die outside of FOB’s next to the Afghans which we are there to help. To even attempt to change their society you first have to understand their society which is different by valley, mountain, district province and the list could go on forever. If you’re lucky to get outside the wire, drop the I’m an American, and I speak American jive and you’ll see how easily we can win the war in Afghanistan.

    Good luck with whatever project you’re working on now Tim, I know you got a grasp of the ground truth and what it takes to move forward. The General McChrystal thing is politics on a higher level than I ever met but I was pissed when he shut down fast food places. I really enjoyed subway and burger king after a long day of being an occupier.

  29. I’m sorry but the US effort in Iraq has been a colossal defeat. The ability to conduct a well executed withdrawal is not the sign of victory but of sense finally prevailing. The US aim was to use Iraq as a stepping stone to supplant Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf area. The exact opposite has happened after spending several trillion dollars and losing what was left of it’s moral standing the US has left with the civil war it started between Sunnis and the Shia on hold. Hurray!

    The same is happening in Afghanistan. NATO hasn’t been able to defeat the Taliban so the goals have been down graded until now the aim (if there is one)appears to be some sort of “peace with honor” no doubt accompanied with a “stab in the back” narrative to explain why NATO,despite having a combined $ 1.5 trillion defence budget and 3 million troops and with most Afghans being anti-Taliban, couldn’t round up a relative handful of peasants armed with 1950’s Soviet light weapons.

    1. Harlan, will leave the Afghan discussion for another time.

      But you are dead wrong on Iraq. Do you know any Iraqi Army soldiers who don’t think they won the war and are not very proud of that fact?

      The fact is violence is down about 95% from late 2006 levels right now. And the ISF are proud like heck regarding their victory. Sure you can argue that Americans contributed to it . . . just don’t tell the ISF that.

      Was the victory costly? Yes. Something like 18 thousand ISF died [plus over 4 K MNF-I ]and many more were wonded based on the latest wikileak. Many Iraqi civilians also died. But ultimately the ISF were left standing and their enemies were dead, defeated, imprisoned, or have fled Iraq. Violent attacks are down about 95%. All the neighbors think the GoI and ISF won. Notice how they all praise the GoI and ISF and flash fake smiles at them. [Concievably some of the smiles might even be genuine, not sure where you come down on that.] The neighbors have cut off training, funding, equipping, advising for the anti GoI militias. This proves the neighbors know they lost the war and that they believe the GoI and ISF are the strong horse.

      The institutions of the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi Police are real. They aren’t going anywhere. They are better quality, better lead and better motivated than the Saddam army. One person one vote democracy is institutionalized in Iraq. Iraqis have extemely high voter turnout. Iraqis have more freedom of speach than any Arab country other than Lebonon and maybe Dubai. [I would argue more freedom of speach than in the Palestinian Authority as well.]

      Regarding Khamenei, I think you have no idea what you are talking about. PM Maliki has to date refused to congratulate Ahmeninijad for his election victory. Neither has the Najaf Marjeya. It is implied that they might back the Greens against Khamenei. And so far they have gotten away with it.

      Muqtada al Sadr has repeatedly bashed Iran on Iranian soil, accusing Iran of backing Al Qaeda. In every poll I have seen of Iraqis, Iranians are much less popular than Americans. And Americans aren’t all that popular, so that is quite an achievement.

      The great Iraqi civil war lasted from 1980-2008. 28 years. About a million or more Iraqis have died in that terrible civil war. America involved itself in an ongoing civil war with little to no understanding. That part is not in dispute.

      However, the civil war is finally over. It looks like Iraq will become the regional superpower of the middle east. The way oil contracts are written, international companies will have to pay the GoI many billions of dollars in fines if Iraqi oil production does not hit 12 million barrels a day. These are written contracts that will likely be enforced by intenational courts. The oil development companies have heavy incentives to hit Iraq’s oil production targets. Iraq will soon be the largest oil producer in the world, larger than America, Saudi Arabia or Russia.

      Can you imagine the size of the budget surplus Iraq will have? Can you imagine the size of the ISF budget Iraq will likely have? Imagine how Iraq will transform the middle east.

      In per capita terms Iraq is much safer than Venezuela or South Africa. Even safer than Mexico. Still far too dangerous. But getting better.

      Still, I think the US Congress are idiots. Why didn’t they give the ISF larger grants? Why don’t they do it now? Why haven’t they transfered part of the 112 used F15s and 110 used F16s that the US Air Force no longer needs nor wants to operate to the Iraqi Air Force? [I am excluding the used excess USAF jets that have been transfered to other countries including the 24 used F-16s that Romania got.]

      The amount of goodwill that would generate among Iraqis towards the US would be immense. It is hard for non Iraqis to understand how much Iraqis love and respect their Iraqi Army and how greatful Iraqis are that the ISF won the war and have made them safe [or a lot safer than they were.]

      Iraqis detest the former resistance [Al Qaeda and Saddamists.] Iraqis will likely hate Al Qaeda long after Americans with our short attention spans have forgotten all about them and gone back to our little petty Gary Condit/OJ scandals. Iraqis will likely fight Al Qaeda outside Iraqi borders for a long time to come. Iraq respresents a massive strategic defeat for the global Takfiri movement.

      Harlan, granted the anecdotal Iraqis that we both know are just that . . . anecdotal observations. But if you know any currently serving ISF or veteran ISF who disagree with what I wrote, please put me in touch with them.

      To strike a note I think we will both agree on. ISF are a pretty arrogant bunch.

      Why do you care about things like “moral standing”? Isn’t it more valuable to be respected than popular? Isn’t it more important to do what is right than be respected? The strategic map of the middle east has been transformed in ways that will likely benefit America for generations. The Iraqis [even Iraqis who don’t like America] will advance Iraqi interests throught their own actions. Since 90% of what benefits Iraqis also benefits America; America will benefit as a collateral affect from the rise of Iraq. We should embrace this and welcome this.

      We Americans are far too focused on the details of how things are done than the big picture. I believe we should let other countries such as Iraq increasingly take the lead in solving international challenges, and we Americans should back them.

      Boston Pat, I think Afghans want to change. Notice how much Afghans value education. The international community should do much more to resource the Afghan education ministry and ANA Training Command and MG Pattang’s ANP Training Command. That will transform Afghanistan in ways that are difficult to imagine and in ways that are extremely damaging to the global extremist Takfiri movement.

  30. Anan: Do you work for Fox News?

    The aim of the invasion was to overthrow Sadaam as a prelude to greatly reducing Iranian power in the Gulf if not causing a regime change. The exact opposite has happened.Iranian influence has increased and it’s friends are in charge of Iraq.

    The civil war isn’t over (the Shia won round one)but the people most against Iran, the Sunnis, so far have lost. You win a war by achieving your war aims (which are strategic not tactical) preferably at a cost that is reasonable given the risks and value of attaining your goals. The US has attained none of it’s war aims and done so at great cost- certainly many hundreds of times more than planned.

    The exact same thing is happening in Afghanistan. The aim was to prevent AQ et al from using Afghanistan as a base to attack the west. So far that has not happened and the cost of the war plus the casualties point to the campaign doing exactly the opposite of it’s intention which was to prevent casualties and material damage to western interests.

    It doesn’t matter how many ANSF there are. It doesn’t matter how much development is done. It doesn’t matter how many Taliban are killed. All of those are simply steps towards achieving a goal that is not close to being worth the cost. AQ can train in Pakistan so Afghanistan is unimportant to it conducting operations in the west. NATO has lost in Afghanistan and if tomorrow every Taliban surrendered it wouldn’t change a thing.

  31. Anan: Just four more questions. You do know that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad of Sunnis in 2005-2007 was done by the Shia ISF don’t you? That most of the ISF at one time would happily kill American soldiers or their sectarian counterparts? That the beloved ISF use torture and murder as SOPs? That the Sunni nationalists are quitting ISF in droves and rejoining the resistance along with AQI?

    1. Harlan, maybe we should take this offline. Could you connect me to ISF who share your perspectives, even if it was off the record?

      The great Iraqi civil war [and for much of its lenght also a regional war] of 1980-2008 was primarily an Iraqi war and it was fought by Iraqis for Iraqis; for their sense of righteousness and duty. Yes the Iraqis manipulated Bush into supporting some major Iraqi factions. From an Iraqi point of view, it was a stroke of genius.

      If you want an analogy, maybe the US revolutionary war of 1775-1783. The bulk of the sacrifice, blood and treasure was spilled by France, Netherlands, Spain, Catherine the Great’s hostile neutrality, Marathas, and Mysure. The role of American revolutionaries in winning American freedom was smaller than the role of the Iraqis, their GoI and ISF in winning Iraqi freedom.

      But however you cut it, it was a major victory for the GoI and ISF. They won.

      Much of your analysis seems heavily influenced by Saudi propoganda. Shiites have been arguably the most oppressed people on earth for the last 1400 years; or maybe they share “most oppressed” status with Sufis, Kurds, and Jews. Do you have any idea how severe the oppression of Shiites in Iraq, Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India has been? Even in India today, Shiites complain about oppression, and mostly they don’t mean by nonmuslims.

      For the first time in a thousand years the Shiites and Kurds got some measure of justice and grace in 2003. However, Shiites and Kurds proved far less sectarian and cruel than the Baa3thists. Allawi, Jafari and Maliki all took great efforts to include Sunni Arabs. The Iraqi Army from the start has been disproportionately Sunni Arab. This is even more true among the officer corps. The GoI has made special efforts to fund governance and reconstrution in Al Anbar, Salahadin and Ninevah.

      The Iraqi Army today is less racist than the highly sectarian Saddam Iraqi Army. One reason almost every Sunni Arab country hated the Iraqi Army was because they knew the Iraqi Army was less sectarian than they were.

      Are the GoI and ISF perfect . . . absolutely not. There have been terrible abuses by parts of the GoI and ISF. But it is much better than how the sectarian bigot Saddam treated Shiites, Kurds and Sunni Arabs.

      In 2003, Al Qaeda and Saddamists tried to organize a genocide of Shiites and Kurds [or rather continue the genocide Saddam started], and for years Iraqi Shiites and Kurds responded to death and oppression with the other cheek. Mosque after mosque, school, market, hospital was blown up by Takfiris. And Iraqis continued to forbear. Even Iraqi patience is finite. I would argue that Iraqis held up a better than the vast majority of countries would have under the same strain.

      “That the Sunni nationalists are quitting ISF in droves and rejoining the resistance along with AQI?” I see no evidence for this. Violence remains 95% below late 2006 levels this month. ISF continues to remain heavily Sunni Arab in membership relative to the 18% of Iraqis who are Sunni Arab.

      “That the beloved ISF use torture and murder as SOPs?” No one is perfect except for God. Place yourself in the shoes of the ISF. They generally did what they thought was consistent with Iraqi values.

      We Americans should ask ourselves whether we are on Iraq’s side. If we are on Iraq’s side, then how much we should help them.

      The ISF are loyal to their chain of command. They will do what the fully legitimate legal elected GoI orders them to do, even if that means fight with America. That is how it should be.

      “The aim of the invasion was to overthrow Sadaam as a prelude to greatly reducing Iranian power in the Gulf if not causing a regime change.” Says who? I thought we went because Saddam tried to kill the President’s dad. Not that I blame Iraqis for trying to manipulate Bush into supporting them.

      “The exact opposite has happened.Iranian influence has increased and it’s friends are in charge of Iraq.” I think the greens will win in Iran. And when they do, I hope the Persians become a great regional super power. I think that the world and we Americans will be a lot better off when that happens. I hope we Americans have do wisdom to recognize this, and to attach our sales to the rising Iranian ship.

      “The civil war isn’t over” . . . ummm yes it is. Iraq’s neighbors are too scared of the Iraqis, their GoI and ISF to mess with them for a while. Plus Iraqis are doing a good job winning support from Turkey, China, South Korea and Serbia.

      “You do know that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad of Sunnis in 2005-2007 was done by the Shia ISF don’t you” Please don’t fall for Saudi and non Iraqi Arab propoganda. Yes, there were problems with specific units. But Maliki re blued those units from the ground up.

      If you will argue that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tommy Franks, US Congress, Ricardo Sanchez et all were idiots. Couldn’t agree with you more.

      Iraqis have told me [and I suspect have told you] that if America back in 2002 and 2003 publicly announced that America was giving $100 billion to the ISF and would send as many advisors and trainers it took to ensure that ISF victory was inevitable, the war would have ended quickly. The neighbors wouldn’t have supported a weak horse. And the Baa3thists would have sued for peace on any terms they could get.

      Just a single announcement, the USAF will transfer 112 used F15s to the Iraqi Air Force . . . would have tranformed “EVERYTHING.” Doesn’t matter that it would have taken many years to train the pilots and maintenance personal and many years to transfer all the planes. Just the shock value of the announcement would have transformed the region in positive ways.

      The Iraqi public loves and admires its Iraqi Army and Iraqi Air Force.

      We can discuss Afghanistan later.

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