May Day

The ISAF (International Security Assistance Force)  has taken  an unusual step by issuing a warning to all internationals, alerting of coordinated “spectacular attacks”,   kidnapping of internationals, suicide bombings, and all manner of general mayhem  to  kick off  Sunday, 1 May.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time ISAF has ever distributed a written warning to internationals at large, it’s also the first time ISAF has used social media to reach out to the general public.  The message came to us via the Afghanistan security contractors Skype group.     Now this  Skype group has  around 150 members, and although skype chatting is stone age technology by military standards, the military has not been able to join our chats in the past.  Nevertheless, witnessing  their use of social media like this is pretty darn cool (and it’s about time too).

The UN has sent all their internationals scurrying  to seek shelter in local PRT’s and declared “WHITE CITY” countrywide.   This means emergency road movements only.    Afghan security forces (ANSF) are out in force  all over  the country. Our  local workers are now  clearly spooked, but  oddly none of them seem to  know of any specific threat.  As I write this,   a frantic effort is  being made throughout the south to confirm that there are no missing internationals as (I’m guessing) the Taliban claim to have one in their possession.

You tell em Joe!  One of the current American titans making sure the troops know the he knows what is what
You tell em Joe! One of our current senators making sure the troops know that he knows what is what

This  unprecedented warning by ISAF has migrated into the mainstream media as seen with this “exclusive” published in Reuters yesterday by reporter Paul Talt.  Paul continued the story  in his article today explaining that the May Day offensive is really the start to the summer fighting season.  The Taliban are calling their new operation “Badar” which could mean “out” in Dari or “war” in Arabic….hard to say with the Taliban these days…   One thing is certain,  the Afghans and ISAF are ready for them and unlike big alerts in the past everyone is taking this one seriously.

Myself, Im not too worried,  with my suspicion  being  the current Taliban press offensive is directed more at Afghan fighters and the Afghan people.  If the southern Taliban do in fact launch any major ground attacks,  it’ll be for them what the Tet offensive was to the North Vietnamese;   a total tactical defeat!    It cannot morph into a strategic victory (as Tet did for North Vietnam)    because the legacy media can no longer spin a story that big to  bolster their agenda.  Plus- the Taliban are simply not strong enough to conduct a major military offensive;  they lack the logistical capacity, they lack  heavy weapons, command and control, imagination,   not to mention  the lack of  serious cash  an operation of size and scope requires.

Iranian border post adjacent to one of our projects. The Iranians shut this project down by complaining we were too close to the zero line as well as diverting water flowing into Iran.  This is nonsense but will give local government officials something else to argue about during weekly meetings.  The Iranians are still restricting the flow of fuel into Afghanistan and there are cross border clashes every now and then.  The Iranians apparently provide what help they can to Afghan refugees, look the other way as Afghan males pour over the border looking for day jobs, and facilitate organized drug trafficking while at the same time hanging every Afghan drug smuggler they catch operating outside of recognized smuggling rings.  The heroin moves through Iran to Turkey and from there (they hope) into the European market.  In reality more and more of the product is being consumed in Iran and Turkey plus mush of the European market for drugs is driven by the Muslim underclass.  Iran is trying to destabilize the west with a weapon that does not discriminate between class, religion or skin color and it is backfiring on them in slow motion
Iranian border post adjacent to one of our projects. The Iranians shut this one down by complaining we were too close to the zero line as well as diverting water flowing into Iran. That is nonsense but will give local government officials something else to argue about during their weekly meetings.

My prediction? This- we will see some serious attacks in the eastern portion of the country near the Pakistan border because these villains can more easily mount operations across the border.  I’m betting we’ll see something big in Kunar tomorrow or possibly Paktia Province.  I still think the boys in the south cannot and will not mount large attacks.  But they can dig some more tunnels, making  me wonder  if the effort they put into digging a tunnel under Saraposa prison isn’t also being duplicated under an ISAF base or PRT?    Tunneling under defensive positions is a tactic as old as man and it certainly is  one way of launching a spectacular attack without  loss of  too much manpower.  In reality there just isn’t  much the  Taliban is good at,  outside of jail breaks and suicide bombing easy targets in Kabul.  They  are adept  at settling land disputes in the rural districts too – have to give them that.  The question I have is why are they doing anything at all?

By the summer of 2014,  ISAF is supposed to be gone,  leaving  the only remaining forces   in country attached to the Afghan Army which will   have the  responsibility to continue the fight.    So, for the next three years the Taliban could merely content themselves with  economy of force operations; concentrating on targeting and removing officials from the Kabul government who have abused the public trust, all the  while avoiding fights with western military forces who routinely beat them like a drum.  It’s madness to pit Taliban insurgents against modern infantry because there is no requirement for them to fight, nor can they win.   If they foolishly unmask themselves in large attacks tomorrow,  they are going to  be slaughtered.  If they don’t do anything tomorrow, that is going to worry ISAF because it may indicate the Taliban has finally thought things through and wised up.  The Taliban doesn’t have to fight, it has little to gain by fighting.    Heck, waiting three summers is nothing for an organization which has competent leaders who take the long view on strategic decisions.  We shall soon see, but my money is on the Taliban being stupid and trying to flex its military muscle this summer.  Stupid is as stupid does.

This is what a Central Asian smugglers cove looks like.  No bars, no women, no electricity but I did see one old guy with an eye patch. Land pirates just do not generate the kind of romantic vision that Caribbean pirates do.
This is what a Central Asian smugglers cove looks like. No bars, no women, no electricity but I did see one old guy with an eye patch. Land pirates just do'nt generate the kind of romantic vision Caribbean pirates do.

I predict this summer’s fighting will gut the Quetta shura, while  leaving the Peshawar shura pretty much intact.  That is to say, I predict the Taliban getting decisively beaten in the south,  whilein the east,  they fight to a draw.    Regardless, at the end of this year’s fighting season we will have another bout of change in American leadership.  General Petraeus is going to head the CIA, Leon Panetta is  moving  from Langley to head up the DoD, and Marine LtGeneral    John R. Allen comes east to deal with Afghanistan.

The spy guys at the New York Times, feeling that the CIA is safe from being eliminated by the efforts of a 80 year old retiree in coastal California have turned their attention to the impending leadership change and are warning that the CIA is becoming militarized.  Who cares what the CIA becomes as long as whatever they do, they start getting it  right.  If there’s a chance (however small it be) that the CIA could actually develop into an agency which accomplishes its basic mission, then I’m  confident General Petraeus is one of the few men who can lead that change.  When General Allen arrives to Afghanistan he will come with a new ambassador, Ryan Crocker, who has a serious reputation for getting things done.  His posting will be a welcomed relief.

Which brings us to General John R Allen, USMC.  One of the characteristics of the War on Terror which should cause alarm to my fellow Americans has been the performance of our General Officers corps.    As an  institution  that consistently polls as the most trusted in America,  theperformance of it’s  senior executives has been pretty weak.  This is one reason we have been reading of General Petraeus year in and year out since the surge in Iraq.  I don’t know General Petraeus or Ambassador Crocker or Leon Panetta;  so predicting the effect of their new executive positions is impossible.  But I do know General John R. Allen,   whom it was my privilege to work for  back in the early 90’s.  General Allen was the Group Chief for the Marine Infantry Officer Course when I was an instructor there.  He is, quite simply, the best military officer I have ever known and brother,  I have known quite a few.  I could share stories in hopes of illuminating why I feel the way I do,  but nothing I can write would do justice to the man.  He is, plainly put,  the best we have. I’ve never met anyone more impressive and I know a lot of impressive people.  As you will see when the change occurs next fall I’m not alone in my high opinion of General Allen.

Shopping for fresh chicken in a post industrialized reduced carbon foot print society can be fun, rewarding and a great way to stay in touch with your neighbors
Shopping for fresh chicken in a post-industrialized reduced carbon footprint society can be fun, rewarding and a great way to stay in touch with your neighbors. As gas heads past 5 USD a gallon how far away are we from a barter economy?

Now, the skype group is currently pinging off the hook  with reports of the ANP stopping and detaining armed contractors in Kabul.  This is an almost daily occurrence,   mind you all these contractors have proper licenses and paperwork.  The reason this happens daily is stupidity on the part of government officials who are trying to send a message to the international community.  The Taliban is poised to launch some large attacks over the next 72 hours and the reason for that is again- stupidity.  The Taliban have won as much as they are going to win already:  they ought  be spending the next three years on internal growth and administration.  But they are stupid  in their  belief that challenging western militaries is the only way to grow the Jihad.  We’ll just see how the fighting season plays out, but when it is over a new team is going to come in and take  the reins of  this campaign. That new team will be our last chance at achieving an end-state in Afghanistan that justifies the investment we continue to make.


15 Replies to “May Day”

  1. I hope you don’t mind … but I often repost your articles onto my FB page. I found you while I was in Afghanistan, and have always found your words to be rather spot-on. Thanks for continuing to share the truth – the world needs to hear it!

  2. When was the last big,ie. company plus Taliban attack on NATO? Kunar three years ago? I don’t see why we should expect large scale insurgent attacks. The Taliban, without overt support from a state, have fought the world’s largest and best equipped and financed coalition to a stalemate over 10 years. Compared to ISAF I can’t see how they’re stupid.

    I expect this summer will be like last but a touch worse. More assassinations designed to cripple the GOA. Attacks on convoys. IEDs and the odd bit of sniping against ISAF. Harassment and intimidation of ANSF. Increased infiltration of ANSF and more attacks on ISAF inside the wire. Coupled with reductions in USAID dollars, a slight reduction in ISAF forces (the Canadians are leaving soon and some US troops will leave this summer), and continuing problems with ANSF I don’t see how ISAF can expect anything else.

    The enemy are applying (if even unwittingly) Mao’s guerrilla warfare theory in 16 characters. “The enemy advances we retreat” etc. Any serious pressure from ISAF and it’s off to Pakistan for the main force for a rest and training while the stay behind party takes out GOA employees, plants mines and perhaps starts in on development corporations and NGOs. Of course some can always move north and try to set Kunduz and Mazar ablaze.

    The tactics don’t really matter. 2014 is the target date and in the meantime the US economy is busy hurtling towards the cliff. At the present rate the US national debt will increase by 1/3 by the time the next Afghan presidential election fiasco happens. My prediction is that this time fighting between the parties will break out in Kabul and lead to a general expat civilian evacuation or failure to return for those who get out of Dodge before the vote. The US & NATO will have had enough by 2014 and the Taliban know it.

  3. Seems to have been a prelude to the news announced about 2 hours ago.

    How lively will things get over the next few weeks?

    Stay safe Tim, and all those in Afghanistan/South Asia.

  4. So with the breaking news of OBL getting shot in the face by some SEAL stud, do you think this will have a demoralizing effect on Taliban operations in the coming year, or is it adding fuel to the fire?

  5. Thank you Tim, I’m almost e-mailed to ask you about Gen. Allen, glad I held off.


    This nationwide White City almost certainly has to do with the news from Abbottabad on the other side of the Durand Line, just from the timing alone.

    I have serious doubt that it will demoralize the leadership or the rank and file of either the Taliban or al-Q. They already expect to die, they’re looking forward to it. They’ll promote whomever is next in line and go on about whatever operations and plans they already had in the works (morale metrics notwithstanding, we would do the same). Depending on their flexibility they may announce various “vengeance” operations, but those may also be difficult to distinguish from the already impending yearly surge in Taliban/al-Q operations.


    1. Yeah, I’ve heard some talk about the death of OBL putting a damper on the May Offensive, and I think they don’t remember/realize that, as you put it, these are people that fully embrace, and welcome, their deaths.
      It seems to me that, as opposed to demoralizing the Taliban/AQ, we just gave them a huge martyr to rally behind.

    2. No, it is not over by a long shot Render but sending in the door kickers to shoot Osama in the face was a series boost to our morale setting up an expectable end state to boot. I do not think there are two men more qualified to take over operations then the Allen/Crocker team, and I’m serious about my assessment of Gen Allen. He is honestly the best we have but I can’t seem to explain why I say that without sounding goofy. There was just no question in our minds that he would rise to the most senior levels of the military. The confidence that I and the Marines who have served with Gen Allen have in him is limitless.

  6. Crocker is pretty amazing as well. He and Petraeus did an excellent job working together in Iraq.

  7. but don’t forget that most of them do not believe that he has been killed and that’s it’s yet another plot of the americans/british/jews/etc. to demoralize them…

    same kind of beliefs are held strongly by lots of people in the arab/muslim world.

    sad but true. so nothing new there for them.

  8. Petraeus? Super job- hundreds of billions down the tube in Iraq & Afghanistan plus the thousands of casualties to do what? Put a pro-Iranian regime in power in Baghdad and prolong the stalemate in Afghanistan. The ‘skill” in strategy is achieving your aims at the least cost. Pouring money into a problem (see the US education and health systems for examples) isn’t a sign of ability or intelligence simply profligacy.

  9. that’s the american way J Harlan…
    nothing ever gets done but it costs billions of (tax) dollars
    or, way funnier, the end result is the exact opposite of what
    the original goal was. US taxpayers you gotta love that!

    incidently, that will kill thousands upon thousands of people,
    be they soldiers, civilians or, so rarely, politicians/war-

    you say “achieving your aim” but nobody can clearly define what
    the aim of the last TEN YEARS of War on Terror is/was/will ever be.

    what was the aim in Somalia? Bosnia? Kosovo? Iraq? Lebanon? Panama?

    maybe Hackworth was right. the aim being the eternal perpetuation
    of the MICC Beast.

    hope you have a nicer year babatim and all.

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