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12 May 2009

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Cold War Zoomie

Some more analysis:

Time/Yahoo Article

Watcher

LTG Rodriguez was our MND-N division commander in 2005 up in Mosul. My recollection of the man from the few times I saw him in action was that he was fairly sharp and tended to grasp the issues well. The only comment I can honestly make about LTG McChrystal is that I mistook him for another General Officer's PSD head during a briefing in Iraq.

What I think McChrystal does bring to the table that will be of great value will be convincing different parts of the Taliban, through both lethal operations and non lethal operations, that they are no longer winning. Right now the Taliban have no reason to think they are losing, so therefore have no reason to become involved in reconcilliation and negotiation with Kabul. The idea that a good counterinsurgency needs both a military and political facet is good and well, but until you can convince the other guy to get involved in the political part, well...

I think the ability to "get it" was key also. While the two following ideas are apples and oranges, they do illustrate something interesting.

There has been a push to implement a Sons of Afghanistan program, much like there has been in Iraq, to create an indigenous force to defeat the insurgents (Taliban and AQ). While in Iraq we were able to get the right tribes to buy in and combat AQI, the same has not happened in Afghanistan. From what it appears, in media reports, rather than getting the Pashtuns, who make up the majority of the Taliban, the Hazara, a minority shia tribe have been lining up to join. Gotta get the right groups in if you want it to work.

One idea that has come out in the past month that is associated with McChrystal is that teams (and now BCTs I presume) would spend shorter deployments, but would return to the same area and resume the same mission, creating institutional knowledge within units/teams and building bonds between units and locals. One advantage that AQ enjoys (in my opinion) is the social bonds between themselves and their pashtun hosts through the code of Pashtunwali. If we can build these long term bonds between US forces and pashtun tribes, we might see some gains of value in that country.

Fred

Interesting though ancient history is that my brother was a sergeant in A company of the 1st/504 while McChrystal was there as a second Lt. with C company.

According to the Time article linked above the Taliban are receiving funding from illegal drugs, yet if memory serves the Taliban actually managed to curtail drug traffic while in power in the late 1990s.
I also see (last night, I believe MSNBC) that our old friend General McCaffrey (ret) is continuing the '10 years' long nation building mantra. Note to Obama - please expand the operations in Antarctica. You can re-call to active duty all the long war blow hards, neo-cons and others who keep interfering with our foreign policy and ship them there. I'm sure they'll be completely safe from both Al Qaeda and the American press.

VietnamVet

One of the consequences of controlled news and ideological straightjackets is that unintended consequences are always popping up. Incompetence marches on.

As documented in earlier posts here, the hot holy war next door and Predator bombing of its territorial has unleashed forces of chaos threatening to dislodge the current Pakistan government and reinstalling a military dictatorship; a coup that will further corrode the control and governance of the Pakistan State.

McKiernan was caught up in the contradictions of fighting a war of occupation on the cheap. He appeared to be the dunce trying to come up the sound bites to justify the aerial bombing of civilian targets. The natural outcome of not being able to secure the population and place cops on every corner.

The only successful examples of Western foreign counter insurgency operations in the Philippines, Malaya and Central America are so isolated and special that they cannot be applied to the Middle East. Indeed, the Israeli war of occupation continues to spread its blood poisons decades after its start.

Just like Israel, America has to control the news and continue to wear its ideological blinders. To do otherwise is to admit the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are horrible mistakes that cannot be won and are a waste of lives and treasure.

arbogast

Could someone explain to me why there is a single American soldier in Afghanistan?

William R. Cumming

Its not the Taliban that don't "get it." Considering the long odds against them I would say they have been remarkable in their ability to flow around the US presence whereever! But hey could be wrong. All I know is the body count sysem does NOT work in evaluation of success.

Brian Hart

Raw Story points out McCrystal's direct role in the Tillman coverup. This tells me that he holds the American public in contempt of the truth. His involvement in Iraq with the abuse of prisoners to the point where he denied Red Cross access to his torture areas also should alert us to his character. My guess is he is better kept in the back room and not in such as public position as commander in Afghanistan. At the first sign of "untruthiness" the US policy in Afghanistan will lose domestic support which is real bad. This appointment is a stupid move by Gates and Obama. A bad move and the first time I've actually felt Gates made a huge mistake. Military credibility with the American public is key, even paramount, in a sustained conflict. Do not underestimate the devastating impact of a lose of public trust.

Cloned Poster

The recent Moscow visit of General Tommy Franks, Commander in Chief of the United States Central Command, provoked debates among Russian generals, especially about the US information about hostilities in Afghanistan. The general was apparently pleased to tell his Russian colleagues and journalists at a press conference in the Marriott Hotel that the efforts of the counter-terror coalition, which Russia supports, were yielding fruit. In particular, that battle in the Shah-e-Kot mountain area in the Paktia Province ended "brilliantly," as Gen. Franks said. The enemy was routed and control of the territory was turned over to the government.

But the Russian military experts I talked with after the general's visit were sceptical about the "brilliant success" of Operation Anaconda, held 30 km away from the city of Gardez. The American special troops lost ten men and officers, 70 were wounded, two Chinook helicopters were hit and five were serious damaged. My interlocutors doubt that this can be described as a major victory.

On the other hand, the experts said they did not have reliable information about the operation, but then this is the problem of not only experts and not only Russian experts at that. CNN, Euronews and other television companies did not cover Operation Anaconda as thoroughly as they did Operation Desert Storm. However, the US and European press carried enough facts that prompt conclusions about the inadequate preparation of US special troops for hostilities in the mountains.

In particular, Colonel-General Valery Mironov, former commander of the 108th Motorised Division in Afghanistan (1979-82) and former deputy defence minister of Russia, told me that the Pentagon made quite a few major mistakes during that operation. The massive use of air-fuel explosive (vacuum) bombs, which are prohibited by international conventions, did not help, and the general says could not help to liquidate the leaders of the Taliban bandit groups hiding in the mountains. They resulted in major destruction, burning out caves and tunnels in the rock and possibly even provoked the recent earthquake, but did not wipe out the opponent's troops. The Americans did not show the international community killed or wounded Taliban, prisoners of war or weapons and hardware of Al Qaeda. Maybe the Taliban left the caves before the bombing started? There is no answer to this question.

Another mistake of the Americans was an attempt to finish off the enemy in the mountains outside Gardez with the help of Afghan troops, disregarding the local national and ethnic features, in particular relations between different clans, says the Russian general. It was extremely imprudent to use Tajik units in the battle against the Taliban, says Mironov. The Americans should not have done this under any conditions in the area controlled by the Pashtu. The Pentagon saw its mistake too late, after its decision provoked acute contradictions between tribal leaders. As a result, the operation lost the dynamics.

One more serious drawback of Operation Anaconda was the use of small commando units at the initial stage, says Colonel- General Mironov. The Pashtu who support the Taliban can fight in the mountains much better than any commandos. This explains the US losses and bad weather, fog and technical problems with helicopters, to which the Pentagon referred, had nothing to do with this. Success was ensured only after the Germans, the Dutch and other members of the counter-terror coalition joined the operation, although the Europeans sustained human losses, too.

Valery Mironov believes that these facts prove that it would be unwise to speak about a "brilliant victory" of the counter- terror coalition. The coalition will face more serious trials and one can only wish it to stand them with the smallest possible losses.

charlottemom

Wait-and-see on how this move from McKiernan to McChrystal will truly bring change. Or is it changed window-dressing? Don't know much about either of them and so am quite interested in all the comments posted here.

The optics of the firing of one general (from Bush era) for a new one (Obama era) suggest dramatic change. And the media is pushing this as a message-sending, guard-changing, new, enlightened way. A lot of "Not since MacArthur has this been done" and all that.

But what changes really?

From Asia Times: Afghanistan defies the US battle plan (Brian M Downing)

"The United States is entering a new phase in the war in Afghanistan. This approach to fighting the Taliban is based on counter-insurgency thinking: building indigenous police and military forces, providing services to villagers, and winning support from fence-sitters and insurgent sympathizers. It is hoped that in this way, years of neglect can be made up for."

Maybe new to Afghanistan but sounds a lot like "winning hearts and minds" Iraq nation-building, "we'll stand down, when they stand up." Do we have any evidence that this "new" strategy will work with Taliban in Afghanistan?

Was this successful with Al Qaida in Iraq? Seems like a backdoor nationbuilding US expansion in Afghanistan...perhaps coming soon to Pak too.

Bobo

Well it certainly sounds like the Af/Pak situation is going to heat up and is now on the front burner.

I found the following commentary in Stars & Stripes telling.
"Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Michael T. Hall was command sergeant major for the 75th Ranger Regiment when McChrystal commanded the unit from 1997 through 1999.

He described the general as “the kind of guy that can look at any situation and solve the immediate problem, at the same time, at the very same time, look at what the second- and third-order effects of that decision are going to be, and solve them at the same time.

Hall characterized both McChrystal and Rodriguez as “Pattonesque in that they can take an organization in a very short period of time and turn around attitudes … .” Each has a personality “that makes you want to get on board,” he said. "

CT is now the game an whatever COIN was contemplated is now going to be very light.

A wish of greatest sucess to the dynamic duo enroute to Afghanistan and a little ditty for thought below..

"To our kind old Alma Mater, our rock-bound Highland home,
We'll cast back many a fond regret, as o'er life's sea we roam,
Until on our last battlefield the lights of Heaven shall glow,
We'll never fail to drink to her and Benny Havens, oh!"

Watcher

"CT is now the game an whatever COIN was contemplated is now going to be very light. "

As the money people like to say, past performance is not indicative of future performance. McChrystal had one purpose in Iraq, get AMZ, a very narrow focus. He now has the responsibility ensure Afghanistan, at a minimum, doesn't get any worse, a far broader mandate than the one he had in Iraq, requiring the integration of far more complex ideas into his overall strategy for Afghanistan. CT operations and its inherent nature will make it worse. CT will have to be a small subset of the overall COIN operation, a small one. If we are to have any hope of walking away from Afghanistan of our own volition in the next two generations, it will very much be focused on both separating the population from the taliban and then separating the taliban from itself.

COIN is doctrine, not strategy. It is but one tool that enables you to pursue your strategy, much like CT is another tool, but not a strategy.

robt willmann

This is called "circling the wagons".

Admiral William "Fox" Fallon is out, or, rather, was forced out as head of the U.S. Central Command where he was Gen. David Petraeus' superior officer. Although he denied saying it, Fallon perceptively described Petraeus in an incident leaked to the media. Petraeus took over Fallon's job.

Now Gen. McKiernan has been fired as commander in Afghanistan, and Gen. McChrystal and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' "senior military advisor" Gen. Rodriguez are in.

http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=54289

No independent voices are allowed and none will be tolerated.

If the Wikipedia article about McChrystal is correct regarding "issues" with detainee abuse and the obfuscation of the true circumstances of Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan, then he is not going to be making any waves.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/03/AR2007080301868.html

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090512/ap_on_go_ot/us_afghanistan_general

McChrystal has been described as an effective tactical officer: planning and carrying out specific operations on the ground.

But before the U.S. goes running around Afghanistan with a policy of hunter-killer activities, the question must be asked, "to what end?"

Does anybody really think that knocking off a number of alleged "leaders" of guerrilla and resistance groups is going to result in millions of leaderless Afghanis just passively sitting around, saying "yes, master" to what the U.S. and NATO want?

The increase in "kinetic" activity in Pakistan has dramatically worsened the situation there, including a new mass of Pakistani refugees in their own country.

And when we speak of refugees, we must never forget the more than 4 million Iraqi refugees caused by the U.S., Britain, and Israel since the 2003 invasion.

If we figure that there are 1,437 bad dudes of leadership quality in Afghanistan, based on some methodology other than a Ouija board, and that they are the "threat", and we go out and kill them, then we and NATO can pack up and go home, correct?

If not, why not?

Jose

"Rangers lead the way!, HooAhhh!"

This should be really interesting, especially to see if NATO survives this change.

Still can't understand why we haven't gone all in yet...

dh

Looks like some guys are going all in...

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/rumsfelds-renegade-unit-blamed-for-afghan-deaths-1685704.html

Charles Martel

Sorry to say, but GEN McK's Hqs was in shambles -- no one knew which of the many GO's were in charge of what and they could not get the basic staff actions through to get support or issue orders. Wars aren't won by staffs but can be lost if the staff is too dysfunctional. Would not be surprised if there are more moves in the near future.

Nell

:: McChrystal's background, his "issues" over supposed abuse of prisoners by his commandos in Iraq ::

No 'supposed' about it.

Is torture only a problem when some people do it? A couple of prisoners were tortured to death under his command. Abuse was pervasive. JAGs were brought in to brief task force members that they were allowed torture techniques barred to regular soldiers. Their Rules of Engagement have not been made public, but other RoEs based on them sure as hell look like torture.

Or is that era just automatically over because Rumsfeld and Bush aren't up the chain now?

Patrick Lang

All

I have thought this over some more and want to say that I think the manner of David McKiernan departure was a senseless exercize in brutality toward a brave man and a fine soldier.

I hope that it can be explained by the notion that Gates simply does not understand what he did. pl

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