August 30, 2010

Worst Afghan article of the month: laFortune in the NYT

I may start a new award. This is a really poorly argued piece. Christian has already dissected much of it. I'll just add my thoughts on what's left.

But allied attention has been focused on the easier fight of evicting the Taliban from the agrarian provinces of the south, not combating the more complex enemy in the east...

Maybe it's because I was deployed in the south but I have no idea what basis that statement has in reality. I don't think any Canadian vet would agree we have had "the easier fight."

There are many problems with the way we are managing this war. Far too often during my deployments... I watched as operations were conducted out of logistical convenience rather than necessity. We often had troops avoid Taliban-controlled districts to limit civilian and military casualties. Because of the threat of homemade bombs, soldiers had to dress like Robocop while trying to interact with, and win the trust of, local leaders. And the rules of engagement are now so restrictive that Iím amazed that any insurgents were killed in the last year.

Credit where credit's due: I have zero argument with any of Sgt. (retd.) laFortune's observations, above. Merits a great big "True Dat."

For years, the Western militaryís main focus has been to disrupt the supply lines that provide the insurgents with improvised explosives. This emphasis protects our troops but does little for the Afghan population, specifically creating a secure environment that would allow for economic growth in key cities like Khost, Gardez and Kandahar.

Ignores that ISAF is not the only IED target: they are also a weapon of intimidation and a way of preventing that sort of normalcy in the cities from taking root. Both my personal stories of IED attacks involved improvised explosives detonated within Kandahar City, with pro-government Afghans as their actual target. I'm pretty sure the Afghan victims would have appreciated us interdicting those bombs, as much as I would have.

To counter the spin, we need to add the Talibanís top propagandists to the high-value-target list and direct military operations at the insurgentsí media nerve centers.

Most of this Taliban propaganda stuff is produced in Quetta and Karachi. I never heard of a capture of a video studio or a printing press or anything like that in our AO. What is really being recommended here is more kinetic action within Pakistan's urban areas. But I'm not sure Western-led attacks within major Pakistani cities would have the information ops victory effects being forecast here.

Posted by BruceR at 11:10 PM

Fired colonel on the Afghan army

Fired anti-PowerPoint crusader Col. Lawrence Sellin:

Last autumn the US government announced that after 8 years and $27 billion, the Afghan Army training program was being declared a failure. Despite the fact that symptoms of failure were already appearing in the press years earlier, apparently no one in the chain of command spoke up*. I wondered how much American, coalition and Afghan blood was shed while the program was heading toward failure. I wonder how much blood will be shed before the Afghan Army is ready...

We must stop treating the Afghans like children. They are not. It is their country and for better or worse, they should start taking responsibility for it. There is little reason not to begin turning over responsibility now. Regional Command West is possible because it is the most peaceful part of the country. That could be followed by Regional Command North. Between now and next July, the coalition can concentrate on Regional Commands East, South and Southwest.

Dude's got a point.

*Not quite true, this. Many serving officers have given honest, public assessments. To pick just a few I've cited on these pages, you have Capt. Carl Thompson, the anonymous K from Konar, Canadian BGen Jon Vance, Capt Doug Beattie, MC, and USN Cdr. David Adams. If we're talking delusional thinking before, say, mid-2008, well, I can't speak to that, I wasn't there, but if people wanted to hear the truth about Afghan security force competence in the last 2 years or so from credible military voices it hasn't been hard to find. (On the "probably somewhat less credible voice" front, I recently reviewed some my own reports on the subject to higher authorities made while in theatre: I think they stand up pretty well, too.)

Posted by BruceR at 09:45 PM