April 23, 2010
More GG goodness
U.S. Major accuses Time's Joe Klein of douchery
Re two posts below, the guy who reportedly said the U.S. battalion that replaced the Canadians in Zhari had no COIN training is now saying he was misquoted:
I have been in the Army 18 years, third deployment.....I have seen what works and what does not. I know "population centric" operations is the way to succeed, the only way to win.
The quote about not being trained in COIN was grossly used out of context and the intent of that quote was, "we cannot use not being trained in COIN as an excuse, no-one wants to hear, we were not trained in COIN!"
Anti-COIN advocate Gian Gentile chimes in in support, as well.
Disavowed AND promoted
After the fold, a brief chronology:
Feb, 2009: Ben Rowswell, charge d'affaires in the Canadian embassy in Kabul, mistakenly signs a letter coauthored with 2 other ISAF nations stating that the NDS will be notified in advance of any prison visits.
“That reflected a misstep in the embassy. That letter had no status,” Mr. Hoffman told MPs.
“I was in Islamabad at the time, and we had an employee who signed the letter prematurely.”
Upon realizing what had happened, Canada quickly rescinded this offer and informed the National Directorate of Security that no forewarning would be given.
“The provisions of the letter in fact had neither standing nor effect. The chargé d’affaires did sign the letter but the contents of the letter were not implemented,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Jamie Christoff said in a statement.
Not mentioned in the Canadian press, but according to documents released in the British detainee trial (para 66), the letter Rowswell signed, apparently in error, to the national head of the NDS, Mr. Saleh, also committed the three countries to build the NDS a new prison in Kabul: The letter goes on to state that the UK, Dutch and Canadians 'assure you of our commitment to help build a new NDS detention facility, in Kabul'...
Sounds like a pretty big screwup (although neither the British nor Dutch seem to have rescinded it), right?
Sept, 2009: Rowswell appointed Representative of Canada in Kandahar ("the RoCK"): Reporting to Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan, the representative in Kandahar serves as the principal negotiator with officials, international institutions, NGOs and military partners in the province. The representative provides strategic guidance to Canada's team of diplomats and development officers, as well as to police and corrections officials working in partnership with the Canadian Forces.
Given that the NDS is one of those "partners" he's been Canada's principal negotiator with for the last eight months, it does seem a rather odd outcome for "an employee who signed a letter prematurely." I've been in workplaces that wouldn't have been quite so forgiving of such a horrible blunder. It's really sad we don't have any Canadian journalists at Kandahar Air Field who could drop by his office and congratulate him on his good luck in this regard.
Interesting post-mortem on the key village idea
From the Montreal Gazette:
While Canada has given Deh-e-Bagh a host of infrastructure improvements, including a paved main strip lined with solar-powered street lights, Canadian military and civilian officials have backed away from the "model village" concept.
"It's evolved to focus on the district," [senior diplomat Ben] Rowswell said. "We've realized it's not so much about Deh-e-Bagh, it's about Dand."
Intensive focus on Deh-e-Bagh created resentment in other villages, [Maj] Popov said.
"If there's the perception that we're only paying attention to one village at the expense of others, then we've created a grievance that the insurgents can exploit."
A U.S. expert on Afghanistan who has advised the last two Canadian military commands in Kandahar said he is disappointed that the model village concept wasn't extended to other relatively stable districts in the country's south. Tom Johnson, a senior researcher at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., said abandonment of the concept probably resulted from changing command priorities.
"One of the problems in Afghanistan is we haven't had a consistent strategy. We've had eight one-year strategies," Johnson said.
Key or model villages, tried and now apparently insufficiently successful to be perpetuated, was the key new idea of Canadian BGen Jon Vance when he took over as Task Force Kandahar commander in early 2009. The Gazette story may also give context to his successor BGen Menard's somewhat off-the-wall comment to Paul Wells this week: "They [the Afghans]'re not after, you know, solar-powered lights or whatever. They want water."
Interestingly, the Joe Klein Time piece this week also hinted that the Canadians' plan for another district, Zhari, didn't last much past the arrival of Gen. McChrystal as COMISAF, either:
"They detached us [1/12 Infantry] from our brigade, which is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan, and sent us out here to Zhari district to be storm troopers — that's what General Vance called us — and that's what we were trained for, that's what we like to do. To find, fix and finish the enemy."
But the mission changed with the arrival of General Stanley McChrystal, as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in the summer of 2009. "It's not about how you engage the enemy so much now. It's how you engage your district governor," says Brown. "That's a huge change for guys like us — call us knuckle draggers or whatever, but we weren't trained to do COIN."
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex