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17 May 2010

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walrus

O tempora! O mores!

Mad Dogs

Coincidentally, I had just finished reading Greg Jaffe's 2nd installment before stopping by here, and had observed that our options in Afghanistan are something like this:

1. Bad
2. Badder
3. Baddest

Many, even those high-level muckety muck Mandarins of our Foreign Policy establishment, have previously acknowledged that there is no military solution to our war in Afghanistan.

Sadly, those same souls lack the critical perceptual gestalt to make the leap to the next obvious conclusion.

Namely, that there is no civil solution to our war in Afghanistan either.

One of America's greatest strengths is believing there is a solution to every problem.

One of America's greatest weaknesses is also believing there is a solution to every problem.

Neil Richardson

"What the hell is the 61st Cavalry Regiment? RISTA? Should they have been expected to have the skills to defend this place? pl "

Dear Col.Lang,

These are two light reconnaissance squadrons for IBCTs. I wouldn't even call them light cavalry squadrons (e.g., 2ACR now or to be exact 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment) as they just don't have enough teeth to fight for intel. I would expect they ought to have the skills as they're scouts and infantrymen. Since the idea of having a RSTA squadron in a BCT is to be able to exploit their mobility to collect intel and ascertain enemy dispositions, I'm not sure why they were used to defend such an untenable position over a long period.

The Twisted Genius

The 61st Cavalry Regiment is part of the Army's modular force reorganization from a division-centric to a brigade-centric force. All the PowerPoint slide shows say we are getting more for less... don't slip in the snakeoil. Looks like a few infantry and armor regiments were redesignated/reorganized to these new cavalry regiments. The new 61st cav regiment includes the WWII era 601 tank destroyer battalion in its lineage. The cav squadrons assigned to infantry brigades have two motorized recon troops (with HMMWVs) and one dismounted recon troop. I haven't found any mention of organic mortars. I have no idea what the RSTA (reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition) designation means to the unit's specific capabilities. This just sounds like a squadron of scout platoons to me. As Niel Richardson pointed out, this doesn't look like the kind of force one would use to defend strongpoints.

Patrick Lang

TTG

It does not appear to me that these RISTA "squadrons" have much real combat power at all. pl

VietnamVet

Colonel,

It is the nature of war that it is FUBAR. It becomes all the more so when the war is fought with no strategic plan for victory but only to line the pockets of the moneyed elites.

It is human nature to fight foreign invaders; especially when that culture has already defeated the Soviet, British and Mongol Empires. The only way to conquer another people is with overwhelming strength and manpower.

Colonel Brown will retire and integrate into the Defense Establishment or will he come home a Stranger in a Strangeland. Will he ever grasp that he fought in an unwinnable war funded with borrowed money?

He served in the killing fields and survived. The epitaph for all Vets who have served in these colonial wars is at the end of the movie “The Magnificent Seven”: Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.

Patrick Lang

vv

It is best that this should be so. That does not mean that I wish I had been a farmer. pl

Fred

He expects to be home in Colorado in about two weeks. Kamdesh will be a new commander's fight. Yes, we leave, the Afghans are still there. To quote one of the locals:
"We are surrounded by 1,000 Taliban, but our government doesn't accept us!" one of Sadiq's deputies screamed over the satellite phone. "

"What no one ever teaches you is how to get to the bottom of the story. " After almost a decade of war? Where's the initiative? No one else seems to be getting spoon-fed; or perhaps it is that too many are and are expecting a cook-book recipe of how to win, which is why we are losing.

TWG said:
"... part of the Army's modular force reorganization from a division-centric to a brigade-centric force." Why, besides consultants so versed in power point and buzz words; who thought this would be a good idea? Isn't a brigade centric force the IDF standard? What does that force structure have to do with US defense needs.

Seymour Samuels

The letter of reprimand was based on LTC Brown's after action report. How lazy can a superior get? Classic shoot the messinger.

KHarbaugh

Not too long ago COL Lang described the VMI award to SecState Clinton
as “A well deserved award.”
I beg to disagree.

A specific reason:
Her principal role in preventing the Afghan conflict
from being settled by compromise with the Taliban.

For her latest on that subject, see
Remarks with Afghan Women Ministers, 2010-05-13,
where she said
“I make [a] pledge to the women of Afghanistan.
We will not abandon you.
We will stand with you always.”

First, an observation:
That clearly will result in perpetual war between the U.S. and
various Muslim groups opposed to her effort to reshape their society.

Now some questions:
1. Does the SecState have the authority to make such a commitment?
Is that not the functional equivalent of a treaty?
Will it not result, inevitably, on yet more war,
which will expand from Afghanistan into Pakistan?
Do not treaties and wars require congressional action?

2. There is an exception to those obligations for congressional action:
The executive's right and duty to take actions in self-defense of the U.S.
But how can any sane person say that
altering the power balance between Afghan men and women
is a necessary condition for U.S. self-defense?

3. Finally, why is what passes for political and intellectual leadership in this country
not asking these questions themselves?
Why are they letting America's blood and treasure be spent on
the goals of the Feminist Internationale?

Patrick Lang

Kharbaugh

I wish that I were as perfect as you think people should be. pl

Neil Richardson

TWG said:
"... part of the Army's modular force reorganization from a division-centric to a brigade-centric force." Why, besides consultants so versed in power point and buzz words; who thought this would be a good idea? Isn't a brigade centric force the IDF standard? What does that force structure have to do with US defense needs.

Posted by: Fred | 18 May 2010 at 05:14 PM


The division structure has been outmoded for some time and you can look up a mountain of material on this point through open source research. In fact there were plenty of NATO experts (mostly German veterans of WWII) who had been advocating a shift to brigade structure since the late 1950s. The current Army concept is The Unit of Action (or BDE UA) and you can look that up. The more crucial question is the organization of infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) and how it is being used right now. Unlike the heavy brigade combat team (HBCT), it has two infantry BNs rather than three plus the aforementioned RSTA BN (usually designated Squadron following Cav tradition for some reason). My suspicion is that Keating was yet another example of why it's extremely difficult to carry out doctrinal transformation and fight a war at the same time. LTC Brown likely was learning to use less for what probably was the area coverage too big to handle. (One of the key assumptions of UA is that we must adapt to nonlinear battlefield) I wouldn't be surprised if Brown had to use the RSTA squadron as he would've used a third infantry BN despite the former's lack of teeth (An infantry BN has three rifle companies of 141 plus heavy weapons CO and HHC. A RSTA squadron has three troops of 70 scouts each plus HHC). Sometimes in a fight this is necessary as in WWII cavalry engaged in defensive operations 70 percent of the time while doing reconnaissance only about 15 percent in NW Europe. One of traditional roles of cavalry has been economy of force operations but unlike the current RSTA units, we had enough organic firepower to conduct them. I don't believe RSTA units can effectively carry out counterrecon missions as they are configured without serious augmentation which might not be always forthcoming. That might be a serious mistake as if there's one thing we know from experience, you have have to win the recon fight.

As for the two versus three BN debate which has been going on for almost 80 years among armor tacticians in the West, I don't believe there's an easy answer as tactical requirements would mandate that one has to remain flexible.

Tyler

RSTA definitely does NOT have the fire capability.

The heaviest weapons you're like to find are some vehicle mounted MK19 or M2s, and that's if they weren't yanked off the vehicles for defensive emplacements.

You can do things in Afghanistan with a battalion plus (we did in 501st,) but we didn't scatter our platoons piecemeal all over the place.

These platoon level firebases seem to be the brain childred of REMFs struck by the good idea fairy. You needed an entire company to provide effective security for a FOB, and even then you were grinding down the troops by the end of the month. I can't imagine how you'd even function as a platoon.

Ugh. Fools.

The Twisted Genius

PL,

You're right. The RISTA squadrons are only weak reflections of the armored and air cavaly units I remember. The 3/4 Cav Squadron in the 25th Inf was easily the most powerful force in the Division. It's air cav troops had a platoon each of attack helocopters, scout helocopters and airmobile infantry. The ground cav troop had a platoon of a platoon of light tanks, a mech infantry platoon and two 4.2 inch mortars in M-113 mortar carriers. It was truly combined arms at the troop level. This kind of cav unit could perform economy of force offensive and defensive operations on its own. The RISTA squadrom seems like a step in the wrong direction to me.

Fred,

You made a keen observation about the "consultants so versed in power point and buzz words." Most of the documentation I found on the modular force reorganization seemed to be produced by consultants. Why the Army couldn't devise their own reorganization plan without the help of paid contractors is disconcerting to say the least.

The fact that the Army is reorganizing once again doesn't concern me. It's been doing that for over 200 years. The brigade organization is actually very close to the regimental combat team organization used by our Army since WWII. A lot of armies use a brigade structure for combat organization. When the Soviets reorganized some of their front line Warsaw Pact units into OMGs (operational maneuver groups), some of us thought the end was near. Back in the early 80's, we even set out to reorganize the entire Lebanese Army into combined arms brigades.

KHarbaugh

Sorry, Colonel, I surely make my mistakes too.
But I did think it was worth tying my main point to your earlier assessment.
I am sure Ms. Clinton has gotten some things right, that you were acknowledging.

I can’t resist making one further point,
which should have been in the original.

Remember the concept of “exit strategy”?
If Hillary’s commitment to the Afghan women
goes unchallenged by our media/political “elite”,
where is the possibility of exit?
There is none, other than through the exhaustion of one of the sides.
And there is no reason whatsoever to think
the Afghans, with their Islamic supporters,
can be worn down.
So the alternatives are:
perpetual war or
a withdrawal leaving Hillary’s goals unachieved,
but with yet more blood and treasure spent on each side,
and yet more justification for Islamic counterattacks.
Where is the flaw in this analysis?
And if there is none,
why in heaven’s name are the columnists and politicians
not pointing it out?


Fred

TWG,

Your comments on the Soviet re-org reminds me of a presentation the CNO made at the Submarine Base in Groton in the early eighties. One of his comments related the 200+ submarines the Soviets had in commission. It was pretty laughable since most of their WWII subs were still on the rolls. It had nothing to do with combat capabilities, but sure raised spending in DC.

As to a brigade structure, would it have staying power or inherent reserves? I certainly can't see a platoon based outpost having reserves.

Neil Richardson

TTG:

"Fred,

You made a keen observation about the "consultants so versed in power point and buzz words." Most of the documentation I found on the modular force reorganization seemed to be produced by consultants. Why the Army couldn't devise their own reorganization plan without the help of paid contractors is disconcerting to say the least."

I'm not certain that the Army's reliance on consultants is such a bad thing. I can only talk in depth about AirLand, but General DePuy was one such "consultant" who had helped with the finishing touches on FM100-5 after retirement. General Starry relied on him heavily as did others who were testing and implementing the new doctrine in the field armies. IMHO it was the most successful effort in formulating a major doctrinal shift in peacetime as far as the Army is concerned. And DePuy himself had consulted numerous Wehrmacht/Bundeswehr generals such as Mellenthin, Balck, Heinz Gunther Guderian, etc to test out his ideas. In fact even in the interwar period, JFC Fuller and B.H. Liddell Hart were "consultants" as well albeit the rare unpaid and unappreciated ones. Patton tried to collaborate with Walter Christie (and there's even apocryphal story about how he paid the eccentric engineer out of his own pocket), but the Chief of Cavalry made it clear to him that he was jeopardizing his career advancement if he continued in this path. We all know how the institutional army operates as uncommon ideas that don't conform to longheld practices and views are squashed sometimes to the detriment of the service. Outside consultants who had long service experience can be useful in persuading senior leadership to adopt different approaches that might not have come up through the usual pipeline such as TRADOC. For example, GEN Franks used GEN Gary Luck as a senior advisor/consultant prior to OIF. In the EUSA this was a very common practice as the high turnover rate (let's face it ROK wasn't the most sought after assignment in the 1970s and 1980s) hurt the retention of institutional memory.

"The fact that the Army is reorganizing once again doesn't concern me. It's been doing that for over 200 years. The brigade organization is actually very close to the regimental combat team organization used by our Army since WWII."

I agree. Any army that doesn't examine itself and readjusts to changing technologies' impact is one that is headed for a catastrophe.

The Twisted Genius

Neil Richardson,

You make an excellent argument for using experienced senior former professional as consultants. If the consultants used were of the caliber of General DePuy, I'm all for it. I dug many DePuy fighting positions and critiqued countless more as a lieutenant in the 1/35th Inf. This is certainly not always the case in the IC... especially in the field of computer network defense and attack. But that's another story.

Fred,

The myth of the ten foot tall Russian definitely did keep the money flowing to the Pentagon. In 1988, I talked with a senior Polish military advisor about a NATO/WTO battle. It was in an academic setting and he was quite open. He claimed that most of his colleagues thought the idea of a conflict in Europe was idiotic and that all the preparations for a dash to the Rhine was just big talk. They were pretty confident their NATO counterparts felt the same way. Both sides just continued to play the game, rattle the sabers and talk tough.

Whether a brigade would have reserves is totally dependent on the assigned mission. Hotrod mentioned the old mantra "two up, one back" as an old planning standard. This particular brigade with only two infantry battalions and the anemic RSTA squadron would have a tough time doing this in a high intensity conflict opposite a conventional force or, as it turned out, even in Afghanistan. These platoon outposts certainly aren't suitable for much more than a post-hostilities garrison environment, which Wanat was obviously not. As a platoon strongpoint, I would think the platoon would have to be relieved every few days to remain alert and effective, not to mention sited and supported better than at Wanat.

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