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04 April 2012

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The Twisted Genius

Amen to all that! I always thought force protection became an unhealthy obsession long ago. Although it's a common sense concept, the very phrase "force protection" grates on me. Camoflage, cover and concealment, along with the vigorous use of an e-tool was what passed for force protection measures back in the day. We practiced the 3 second rush... I'm up, I'm running, I'm down. The steel pot was the only body armor we knew. I cannot imagine a fully armored soldier today executing a 3 second rush. I've seen videos of these storm troopers shuffling down the side of a street in a firefight. That's probably the best they can do no matter how fit they are. However all this body armor and ballistic sun glasses can be legitimately supported in combat, no matter what this old timer thinks.

Outside of actual combat, it's just flat stupid for all the reasons PL has stated. My guess is that the wearing of all this armor, riding around in monstrous MRAPs and such, along with the fixation on force protection goes a long way in preventing our troops (and their leaders) from effectively forming any kind of connection with the locals. And I'm sure all these things prevent the locals from connecting with our troops. We probably look more like the monster insect enemies in Starship Troopers than human beings.

Wars amongst the people require face-to-face enduring relationships with the civilian population and the local military forces. Remember Major Gant's paper? He called for this intense interpersonal approach, but he also admitted that there will be casualties and that whole teams could be lost. This flies in the face of our current obsession with force protection. As a nation I do not think we're ready to do this. COIN is just a lot of empty talk.

Pirate Laddie

Col -- I fear it's more fundamental that just being armored up when dealing with "the natives." I kinda view the standard battle garb as a metaphor for the hazmat getup you see in all the "contagion" or "plague" movies that come around every few years.
Few Americans can get down amongst the unwashed masses (a great way to characterize our muslim bretheren, given their 5xdaily ablutions) with sufficient comfort to "close the deal." It seems the more uptight and judgmental a person is, the more closed they are "the other." (Explains some of the "tea party" rejection of Obama as president, even as an American, don't it?)
A professional army should, in theory, be better able to carry out COIN doctrine than a volunteer force. Maybe, maybe not -- but an increasingly homogenous force, serving a decades-long stint, risks both isolation from the "messy" society that hires them and a loss of flexibility in response to unexpected challenges.

dqko

If you aren't losing a 1000 men a month, you aren't nation building.

Rcraigwhite

Every gunner in every truck wears some sort of mask, further dehumanizing him. Makes them look like "the bad guys". What can do you do, though? It's cold and dusty up there. I swear I hear the Imperial March from the aforementioned Star Wars when I see a convoy roll out the gate, though.

different clue

A question occurs to me, if it isn't too rude to be asked out loud. And its this: are the Afghans in Afghan Army or Police uniform while killing or otherwise attacking American and other NATO soldiers drawn from all the ethnic groups of Afghanistan? Or are they predominantly from one particular ethnic group, like..say.. the Pashtuns?

jonst

I would like to know the percentage of American KIA/Wounded that are the result of 'allied' forces. Cause my impression is it's gettin up there....30-40% maybe?

Fred

I find myself intimidated by the local police on those rare occasions I'm stopped for a traffic violation. I can only imagine my feelings if it were a squad of foreign soldiers out to improve my country.

The Twisted Genius

First, my apologies to Colonel Foresman for misattributing his fine post to Colonel Lang. I guess all VMI colonels are insightful gentlemen.

Colonel Foresman's insights about trust are equally applicable to HUMINT collection operations. Recruiting and running agents is an intensely personal affair. I have heard many in the field say that the case officer - agent relationship should be a pure business transaction. They say case officers are interchangeable and should be generalists rather than specialists. I couldn't disagree more. The case officer and agent remain vulnerable to betrayal, error and inattentiveness throughout the life of a clandestine relationship. After all the checking, testing and due diligence is done; the case officer and his agent have only the personal trust in each other to rely on. I could give plenty of examples of this... but I won't.

Basilisk

The trust issue is clearly a nearly insurmountable problem. The training for "cultural sensitivity" seems not to help very much, but Bing West has a new interview with General Allen in National Review which includes this statement:

"Afghans must see their army as the symbol of national unity, holding the country together," he says."

If that is the required end condition for success of the ISAF mission, I'm afraid there is no hope. As far as I can determine, such a status has never existed in the history of Afghanistan. How did we decide that is what we need?

Major Gant, I wonder where you are and what you think about this.

Babak Makkinejad

All:

I think you are making an assumption that there exist a common Afghan identity.

I do not believe that this is accurate.

Paul Deavereaux

Maybe the best way to get those darned foreigners to trust us is to not send our military forces into their country in the first place.

turcopolier

Babak

I believe that to be true. We shouldspeak of the Afghan Peoples, not People. pl

Basilisk

TTG,

More like love than business, wouldn't you say? Except one of the partners must always pretend, and the other may.

turcopolier

TTG and Basilisk

It is typical of today's leaders of US Army intelligence to want to take the "human" out of HUMINT. They are dead souls who could never recruit without a bag full of money. pl

ked

Force Protection (esp of the fixated type) is important for keeping casualties very low. And low casualties (along w/ the volunteer military) is a lynchpin for suppressing voter influence in policy-making about the use of military force. And THAT is very important to the Pentagon & White House (regardless of who runs those operations).

Don't expect any change in eyewear.

Fred

The suppression of 'voter influence' is very much a case of willfil ignorance on the part of most Americans. The desire to keep casualties low is just another manifestation of keeping people ignorant of the true cost of war.

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