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17 May 2010

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Balint Somkuti

Is fighting a real, shooting war contradictory with COIN? IMHO absolutely no. Is lack of planning and lack of resources contradictory with any WARFARE?

Absolutely yes.

jonst

Who is capable, and willing, and has a high enough profile, to challenge the military on this?

Murtha did, sort of. For a moment. And he paid a price.

Who is going to go on Meet the Press, or the NewsHour and push this? Or more importantly, a campaign trail?

And of course I am not speaking about you Col. We know you've been doing it a long time. I'm talking about high profile politicians. 99.9% of them won't touch this until it (if ever) is dumped into their laps ablaze. And even then they would say, 'what fire?' Whatever lessons the military might have not learned, they have learned well how to manipulate the American public. And they have learned how to effectively intimidate/bribe non-serving policy makers/shakers.

The potential payoffs to keep one's mouth shut, and stay 'inside the tent', on the team are so great, the penalties for speaking out, so painful, I don't see how this is ever gonna be dealt with. Short of a draft. Then the dynamic changes. Then everyone has a clear and present stake in the issue. But till then.....

par4

War for profit. That's what's happened to the Army. The military/industrial economy we've built will collapse because it's unsustainable. Then we will have to go back to build and buy American,and be a Hell of a lot poorer. The poorer part is what our owners won't accept.

br

My guess is it is war for the sake of war.

There is a trillion dollar budget for war, so there has to be a war somewhere, but the war doesn't necessarily have to be successful.

They just have to keep on fighting. The top people don't really care whether the soldiers suffer, live, die or gain victory.

Clifford Kiracofe

"men are left to rot in their clothes, clinging to each other, essentially abandoned by the Army"

In addition to the matter of competence (technical and art), isn't there a MORAL issue here?

Does this moral issue simply reflect what has happened to contemporary American society at large? That is to say, for example, like the moral level of the Goldman Sachs crowd? Or the pro-Israel elite which owns US media and systematically suppresses truth? And so on...

Does the moral condition of the military merely reflect the level of degredation to which this Republic has fallen owing to "values" peddled by ....

Phil Giraldi

One of the boys who died at Keating was a high school classmate of my daughter. He came by our house a few times when he was in high school, a quiet boy, polite. On his last home leave, he said goodbye to his family and told all his friends that he was going to die. By his account, it seems that the base was situated in a valley overlooked by enemy held hills and was being fired on every two or three hours. The officer in charge had complained repeatedly to the higher command that the position was untenable but hqs responded that there was no evidence of Taliban concentrations in the area and that it was necessary to maintain a local presence. In the end my daughter's friend and his seven comrades died for nothing as the base was abandoned. A nice young man who will never have the opportunity to grow old surrounded by his children and grandchildren. What a waste, what a waste.

CK

All those things that would have been done in SVN would have been done by the military. Today, they would have to be done by an outsourced but politically well connected foreign based "American" corporation.
Officer fitess --- somewhere the term perfumed princes comes to mind--- but the man who coined that phrase is dead and militarily umourned.

graywolf

Is this the natural outcome of the post-Viet Nam Army that turned officers into "managers"?
Managing and fighting are NOT cooperative efforts.

Norm Mosher

CK nails it. Support functions have been "outsourced" as a matter of "efficiency." Most of the problems of military procurement can be laid to the same disease. Our profession has been sacrificed to the notion that defense is a business to be managed by people you would not suffer to be at your side in combat. Most of our flag and general officers have been raised in this environment and have bought into it. Their promotions have been won by being better bureaucrats in uniform so as to win the approval of their politically appointed masters. It will remain thus until enough who care allow the bolshevik in them to emerge.

J

Colonel,

Wasn't the whole mentality of the Von Rumsfeld/NEOCON crowd that 'all things are throw-aways' EXCEPT themselves? And didn't the Von Rumsfeld crowd make sure within the Pentagon that those who did want to look out for the personnel below them (i.e. Gen. Shinseki, etc.) were shown the door, which caused a debilitating trickle-down effect in service-wide command mindset?

Gilmoure

David Brin has his take on this: "The United States Army, which has ceased nearly all war-related training or large unit exercises, [has] instead converted nearly all of its battalions into glorified urban swat teams." http://www.davidbrin.com/suggestion09.htm

Fred

Lets not forget our political leadership, like the former House Majority Leader and Newt Gingrich's right hand, Tom Delay:
DeLay also said it was Congress' duty in a time of war to significantly cut taxes. ‘Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes,’ he said.”
From http://georgemiller.house.gov/lineoftheday31303.html

The same indicted fellon:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/28/AR2005092800270.html

BTW I'm still awaiting a written response from the President and both MI Senators regarding my letter addressing Dr. Kass.

The Twisted Genius

The referenced article mentions that a local Afghan construction company was supposed to help fortify the position at Wanat, but refused because it was too dangerous. Then just one bobcat with one day's fuel supply was sent. Then they damned near ran out of water. But they still had a Burger King back at Bagram. What did the commanders at company, battalion and brigade level do about this? Apparently not enough. This wouldn't even have been acceptable in a training exercise back in the "hollow Army" days of the 70's. Taking care of the troops was a sacred duty back then, not just a hollow slogan. Beans and bullets was primarily a noncommissioned officer activity at the company and battalion level. This meant that the platoon sergeants, company first sergeants and battalion sergeant majors made sure the troops were supplied with these necessities. As officers, we remained responsible and assisted our NCOs in these tasks, but we would not dare usurp their authority in these tasks. Like I said earlier, this was a sacred duty.

Contracting out services in the Army is another big mistake. We had company mess teams that went to great lengths to feed the troops no matter what the conditions. We never lacked for combat engineer support. Having to depend on an Afghan construction company to construct a combat outpost is absurd. To do nothing when this local company refused to work is criminal on the part of the chain of command.

I don't know what is being taught at Fort Benning today in the conduct of a defense. That was a big part both the basic and advanced courses when I went through there. In the 25th Division, we practiced defense constantly, probably because we figured we would be outnumbered and outgunned in any potential conflict. A platoon leader personally inspected every fighting position in detail and insured any deficiencies were corrected. The entire officer chain at least up to the brigade commander could do the same… and often did. We became very skilled at conducting a defense.. or risked being reassigned or even relieved. And this was in a peacetime training environment.

I also think command is becoming too centralized and theoretical. The Wanat position probably looked just fine as a graphic on a PowerPoint presentation back at Bagram, Doha and Tampa. Then again, did any officer every question the wisdom of taking the low ground? Did it just look good from a strategic point of view? The difference in what looks good on a map and what would actually work on the ground is often huge.

Lastly, I think having a healthy respect for your adversary's capabilities and intelligence is a wonderful thing. Those "bloody WOGS" could very well kick your ass if you're not careful. Decades ago MSG Rivers, a Special Forces recon team leader from CCN, told me he always referred to the Viet Cong as Mr. Charles because they were just too damned good to disrespect them by calling them Charlie.

Carl O.

Is it because of "Joint Distributed Operations," the latest RMA concept being pushed out of Joint Forces Command? As I udnerstand it, this means "distributing" your forces all over the battlefield, because to counter an enemy that is "distributed" all over the battle field. I recently heard a certain Army brigadier general say that this concept has the potential for creating "Little Big Horns" all over the battlefield. I wonder if this might be what we're doing in Afghanistan, putting platoons on isolated outposts to then get overrun or just abandoned.

walrus

Col. Lang,

I don't know, but I suspect the root cause of this is the use of "Contractors" for war on the cheap.

Unless I am completely mistaken, you don't have enough Engineers in Afghanistan, you have contractors instead. Likewise your logistics "Tail" that provided the food and clothes is contractors.

Your resupply in Vietnam was done by the Army. Not any more.

By definition Wendys and Starbucks and laundry "contractors" are not going to do hot resupply missions.

As for the lack of tube artillery, isn't that regarded as passe by the vendors of all that expensive air force hardware?

Besides, fire bases would need to be built and defended, just like your little outposts.

I hear Blackwater does a nice line in Firebases, including the Firebase Lite (tm) range, with a pretty good warranty coverage.

Maybe Gates should talk to them.

Jimmy

With the sadomasochist exercise called Ranger School being a requirement and pinnacle of the infantry basic course program, it may be that infantry lieutenants and captains are getting an incomplete view on combat operations in general.

Sleep deprivation is an important experience in training, but you cannot expect any significant learning during that deprivation. Yet the students are supposed to learn something on the lanes, half-asleep.

The significant restrictions on field artillery in theater is damning. It is sad that an army that won WW2 and Vietnam through perfection of the field artillery and fire support, has now taken artillery out of play in Afghanistan.

JoeC

Jim Webb might have the stature and courage take this on. But as a former marine this might be difficult.

Patrick Lang

JoeC

Are they in better shape? pl

HJFJR

We forgot the basics. What made Jackson such a genius was his use of  
terrain. We have forgotten the basic rules--always secure the high  
ground. Part of the problem I believe is that most Army officers can  
only grasp, intellectually, one concept at a time--and then not very  
well.

Jackie

Col.,
In 2001 when we went into Afghanistan you did not have this wonderful place on the web. Nine years later I have to ask, what was your reaction to this response to 9/11?

I hate it whenever one of our forward operating bases there gets overrun and soldiers get killed and I guess I just don't really understand why we are in Afghanistan. It just seems like a bridge too far. Thank you.

anna missed

Not sure about the Vietnam comparison - I was on LZ Hawk Hill when it got overrun in 1969, and that event definitely also was the results of poor leadership and wholly inadequate defensive measures. Less than 2 years later an almost identical event, under very similar circumstances happened when nearby LZ Mary Ann was also overrun. What seems different now with Aghan/Iraq is that at least back then those in command occasionally paid the price as did the CO of the 196th LIB who was relieved of duty, and Americal Division Commander Baldwin relieved of command.

Also, when did the (regular) Army come up with this idea of platoon size basing in remote locations? Without arty support? That seems plain crazy. What are they going to do, send out 3 man patrols?

Patrick Lang

AM

I am not familiar with these 2 occasions. where was this? what happened? i have seen quite a few commanders relieved for cause for such things. pl

Patrick Lang

jackie

I thought it was an appropriate response but i thought we would change the government and then play games with the tribes using a handful of characters like me. i did not think that the neocon/COIN crowd would decide to make the country into what they tried to do in iraq. pl

b

@PL - "I am not familiar with these 2 occasions. where was this? what happened?"

Deadly Sapper Attack on Fire Support Base Mary Ann During the Vietnam War

A map of the area of Hawk Hill: Hill 29

Patrick Lang

b

These incidents do not seem comparable to me. pl

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