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18 March 2012

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Andy

Few seem to remember that at the start of this war a decision was made to keep troop levels low in Afghanistan to prevent Afghan "xenophobia" (a word used often to describe Afghanistan back then) from creating the kind of resistance that the Soviets faced. It was for this reason that the ground forces in the first couple of years were low and came predominately from Army SF and light infantry. The idea of sending a stryker brigade to Afghanistan would have been viewed as a bit crazy back in 2002, much less sending 100k conventional troops to do COIN.

For the COINdinista's, the war in Afghanistan didn't really begin until 2008 when they brought all their grand ideas over from their "success" in Iraq. Many Afghan "hands" who had experience and knowledge of Afghanistan warned that the methods employed in Iraq would not work in Afghanistan and sadly they've been proven correct.

William R. Cumming

Agree with Andy! How soon we forget!

If the money we spent in Afghanistan had been spent on roads and schools might be a different country after we left. As it is probably will be mired the rest of the century in its warlords, opium poppies, and tribes.

Charles I

Never mind how. Why?

Tim Vincent

Careerism.
How many military or diplomatic careerists sent to Afghanistan would tell Washington?
"This is a loser. Cut your losses."
That would be admitting their own "failure," resulting in.......career end.
Remember, above the lowest level of worker bees, it's all about careers.
A few GI's die; so what?.
An O-5 gets his star.

Hawkwood

Colonel I would be interested in hearing your opinion on the op-ed by MG Scales at the Washington Post

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-cost-of-us-soldiers-fighting-battles-endlessly/2012/03/13/gIQAlouKAS_story.html

especially his observations as to the demeanour of todays infantrymen. Not only has it been a very long war but I always worried about the impact of todays PC (dont even think about letting your hair down not even in the base clubs during rotation) attitude would have on the long term sustainability of the close combat Army at war.

There have always been good reasons why warriors sing songs, drink together to share each others pain. Where does this pain go without it being shared?

turcopolier

Tim Vincent

O-6, not O-5. You may be right about officers not being willing to send men or women home in fear that it will be thought to be a reflection on their leadership. I had a man in Turkey in a unit I commanded who was obviously a misfit. I called my superior in Europe to ask to have the man removed and was asked if this was a leadership problem for me. I told this LTC that if he thought that he could remove both of us. He backed away and pulled that soldier out. pl

turcopolier

Hawkwood

"Too many wars with too few soldiers." That really sums it up. He is right about that. There is a certain "monkish" quality about today's Army that is quite useful in short term deployments in less than "total war" from the indiciduals soldier's point of view. For example, troops were sent to Somalia and fought hard for a few months, but then they went back to home staion with their units. It is a vastly different thing for a family person in a volunteer force to face repeated year long tours in a continually simmering semi-active combat situation surrounded by populations that you can never trust. As Scales says, the great majority of Army people in VN served one year long tour of duty there. I did two. If I had nor been committed to duty judged impportant elsewhere I probably would have done three. I judge the family separation to be the hardest part. The marines and the SOF people do shorter by more tours than the line Army. Scales is also right in briefly mentioning that combat in VN was much more intense and on a larger scale than in these wars. Battles the size of 2nd Falluja were a commonplace. Additionally, the great majority of Vietnamese were harmless from our pointof view. I lived in a village one year in an area completely surrounded by enemy troops. I used to walk around town, get me hair cut in a local barber shop all by myself and not worry about it. Ofcourse we shelledoften and there were ground probes on the perimeter all the time, pl

Ken Halliwell

In the normal line of promotion, an O5 gets the bird...

Charles I

Some nice commentary from M. K. Bhadrakuma at AsiaTimes this morning reflecting the impact of recent events on renewal of the UN ISAF mandate, U.S. plans for post 2014 U.S. enduring bases, (held out by some as giving the lie to 2014 = end of mission, Success at standing afghans up, the difficulties of now negotiating a post ISAF U.S./Afghan SOFA, and Russia's post-2014 or post ISAF Afghan interests.

By M K Sgt Bales' secret and an Afghan endgame

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/NC20Df04.html

Charles I

a bit more M. K. B. on Karzai, the massacre and the problems the lack of acceptance of the single shooter theory by Afghans will cause, from a different post:

Flood gates of Afghan anger are opening

The Afghan investigation team of legislators investigating the Kandahar killings submitted a chilling report to the Afghan parliament in Kabul earlier today, which alleges that the killings were not the rampage of a rogue sergeant, as Pentagon claims, but a planned massacre involving many troops and even US army helicopters. The team also alleged that two Afghan women were sexually assaulted by the US troops before they were shot. The team claimed that 15 to 20 American troops were involved and it was a case of revenge killing following some insurgent activity in the area.
President Hamid Karzai probably knew that Washington was not telling the whole truth and feared that the cover-up won’t work beyond a point. So he decided to go public and distance himself from the American version. On Friday, Karzai said cryptically that the American version is “not convincing.” He added in good measure, “It is by all means the end of the rope here” — meaning that US-Afghan relations are at a breaking point."

http://blogs.rediff.com/mkbhadrakumar/2012/03/17/flood-gates-of-afghan-anger-are-opening/

turcopolier

Charles I

"alleges that the killings were not the rampage of a rogue sergeant, as Pentagon claims, but a planned massacre involving many troops and even US army helicopters. The team also alleged that two Afghan women were sexually assaulted by the US troops before they were shot. The team claimed that 15 to 20 American troops were involved and it was a case of revenge killing following some insurgent activity in the area."

And you believe this because the Afghans are telling each other this story? I will bet you a hundred US dollars it is not true. pl

CTuttle

Hmmm... A veritable 'Cronkite Moment' for the Neo/Ziocon/Chicken Hawks...? ;-)

George Friedman's latest... Afghanistan and the Long War

Morocco Bama

PL, as you can imagine, other blogs that have an Anti-American bent are taking that story (planned massacre) and running with it. The inhabitants of those sites always, without fail, believe the worst about anything that involves America. In fact, they're so singular of focus that all they see is America 24/7....they're obsessed with hatred that it ends up defining them in reaction to all things they perceive to be "American." Thankfully, you take such "news" with a grain of salt.

wondook

Bhadrakumar delights as a Indian Communist to see the worst evil in the US. I think he has it wrong. Already extremely unlikely from the outset, Afghan media are full of denials.

All quotes below thanks to UNAMA media monitoring:

Shamshad TV Headlines 19 March 2012
Victim families of the Panjwai incident rebuffed the remarks made by the Lower House fact-finding delegation dispatched to the district who said that two female victims were raped in the incident. The families also termed the remarks, as political plot.
(http://unama.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=4647&ctl=Details&mid=5294&ItemID=16592)

Tolo TV 20 March 2012
Tribal elders of Panjwai district of Kandahar province denied the allegations made by a number of MPs saying that the US forces had raped women during the Panjwai massacre, calling for punishment of these MPs. The tribal elders accused the MPs of seeking political gains by making such allegations.
(http://unama.unmissions.org/Default.aspx?tabid=1741&ctl=Details&mid=1882&ItemID=16599)

Allegations of rape by internatiional military are part of the standard Taliban mass mobilisation strategy. Even in 2002 elderly turban-wearers would return from trips to Kabul to their rural Ghazni communities and tell them how they were raped while in Kabul or at least saw how somene else was raped. (Christoph Reuter & Borhan Younus: The Return of the Taliban in Andar District: Ghazni, in: Decoding the New Taliban: Insights from the Afghan Field. Ed. Antonio Giustozzi. London 2009)

The objective of the story was not to pass on what happened but make a moral juydgement: I believe that these people in Kabul now, in particular the foreigners, would be capable of raping me, an old bearded man, as they do not repect me in any other way too.

After ISAF targeted a suicide attack facilitator near Taluqan in May 2011, IMU and the Taliban were successful in mobilising quite a crowd using the same argument.

The effective use of the argument relies on the presence of a strong Taliban structure amongst the villagers, which can influence them to give appropriate statements to whatever people are coming to interview them and to participate in demonstrations with whatever flimsy grounds.

Whoever disagrees must have strong protection, because he will be assassinated by the local Taliban cell.

The failure to get rid of this grassroots influence of the Taliban in Zangiabad & nearby villages demonstrates the limits of COIN without addressing wider issues.

Zangiabad was one of the first villages "turning Talib" in 2006 following the massacre of 16 Nurzai tribesmen who were on their way to celebrate the Afghan New Year by the Achakzai border police chief (who now is the Kandahar City Chief of Police) Abdul Raziq. And they were - let's also not forget this - totally sidelined in the October 2005 parliamentary and provincial council elections by AWK. "We" sided with their oppressors, then sat down in their village and explained to them that now everything would be fine, because we would protect them. I think no one has ever tried to explore the sense of frustration these villagers must have experienced.

turcopolier

wondook

Yes. The Taliban alliance is going to use this as leverage to get us out of the country and the American Left will find this a convenient way to spread the blame to the Army as an institution. All they have to do is believe the BS about multiple killrts, hrlicopters, rape, etc. pl

Fred

The force levels were kept low so they would be available for the invasion of Iraq.

Charles I

no bet, I didn't say I believed it, I was commenting on others disbelief, as reported, and the obvious problems ahead, as in you writing "I doubt it can be done" - but Karzai is quoted playing at it:

". . . , Karzai said cryptically that the American version is “not convincing.” He added in good measure, “It is by all means the end of the rope here” — meaning that US-Afghan relations are at a breaking point."

MKB, on the other hand, writes Karzai "probably knew that Washington was not telling the whole truth and feared that the cover-up won’t work beyond a point."

Which Seems to indicate that Ambassador Bhadrakumar believes it.

I'm with you. I doubt it can be done no matter what I, or MKB or even Karzai, in fact believes - or, worse yet, whatever the facts.

Charles I

The material I referred to says nothing of rape, and really, not much about America. It is about Afghanistan.

Medicine Man

Well, Col., I don't know about the American Left but I personally blame the policy makers for the way things have gone in Afganistan not the military -- other than perhaps a handful of generals who have given the civilian government bad advice.

Jackie

Sir,
I'm a lefty and I have no intention of blaming the Army for any of the wars they have found themselves in or fought in. A lot of us have grown up since Vietnam and realize the military doesn't get to order themselves into wars.

Amir

Murder is the name of the game:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/mar/19/afghanistan-american-imperialism-glenn-greenwald

Why would everyone try to sanctify the combatants? It seems rather logical to me that killing 16 people with mostly head shots - without anyone trying to run away to tell the story some other day - on two different geographical locations seems to be a rather difficult job for a single infantryman.

Please do not forget the influence of "race" and the "class" issue in this neither. I can only imagine that the lives of locals are not considered to be worth much by the combatants.

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