The truth about Afghanistan 6

In August, I went on a dismounted patrol with troops in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. Several troops from the unit had recently been killed in action, one of whom was a very popular and experienced soldier. One of the unit’s senior officers rhetorically asked me, “How do I look these men in the eye and ask them to go out day after day on these missions? What’s harder: How do I look [my soldier’s] wife in the eye when I get back and tell her that her husband died for something meaningful? How do I do that?”

One of the senior enlisted leaders added, “Guys are saying, ‘I hope I live so I can at least get home to R&R leave before I get it,’ or ‘I hope I only lose a foot.’ Sometimes they even say which limb it might be: ‘Maybe it’ll only be my left foot.’ They don’t have a lot of confidence that the leadership two levels up really understands what they’re living here, what the situation really is.”

These are extracts from an important article in the Armed Forces Journal by Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis.

I spent last year in Afghanistan, visiting and talking with U.S. troops and their Afghan partners. My duties with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force took me into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy. …

What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground. …

I saw the incredible difficulties any military force would have to pacify even a single area of any of those provinces; I heard many stories of how insurgents controlled virtually every piece of land beyond eyeshot of a U.S. or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) base.

I saw little to no evidence the local governments were able to provide for the basic needs of the people….

Much of what I saw during my deployment, let alone read or wrote in official reports, I can’t talk about; the information remains classified. But I can say that such reports — mine and others’ — serve to illuminate the gulf between conditions on the ground and official statements of progress. …

Afghans ostensibly in alliance with the international military forces against the Taliban are not just failing to win their putative war, but failing even to fight it.

From time to time, I observed Afghan Security forces collude with the insurgency. …

On a patrol to the northernmost U.S. position in eastern Afghanistan, we arrived at an Afghan National Police (ANP) station that had reported being attacked by the Taliban 2½ hours earlier. …

I asked the police captain where the attack had originated, and he pointed to the side of a nearby mountain.

“What are your normal procedures in situations like these?” I asked. “Do you form up a squad and go after them? Do you periodically send out harassing patrols? What do you do?”

As the interpreter conveyed my questions, the captain’s head wheeled around, looking first at the interpreter and turning to me with an incredulous expression. Then he laughed.

“No! We don’t go after them,” he said. “That would be dangerous!”

According to the cavalry troopers, the Afghan policemen rarely leave the cover of the checkpoints. In that part of the province, the Taliban literally run free.

The Afghan forces generally are hopelessly unreliable and incompetent.

To a man, the U.S. officers [in  a unit stationed in the Zharay district] told me they had nothing but contempt for the Afghan troops in their area …

Some of the information about how the war is being conducted seems not just senseless but crazily counter-productive, making a mockery of the entire war.

When a Taliban member is arrested, he is soon released with no action taken against him. …

In all of the places I visited, the tactical situation was bad to abysmal. If the events I have described — and many, many more I could mention — had been in the first year of war, or even the third or fourth, one might be willing to believe that Afghanistan was just a hard fight, and we should stick it out. Yet these incidents all happened in the 10th year of war.

As the numbers depicting casualties and enemy violence indicate the absence of progress, so too did my observations of the tactical situation all over Afghanistan.

He stresses that the US military command has a policy of deliberately misleading the American public.

I’m hardly the only one who has noted the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground. A January 2011 report by the Afghan NGO Security Office noted that public statements made by U.S. and ISAF leaders at the end of 2010 were “sharply divergent from IMF, [international military forces, NGO-speak for ISAF] ‘strategic communication’ messages suggesting improvements. We encourage [nongovernment organization personnel] to recognize that no matter how authoritative the source of any such claim, messages of this nature are solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal, and are not intended to offer an accurate portrayal of the situation for those who live and work here.”

The following month, Anthony Cordesman, on behalf of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote that ISAF and the U.S. leadership failed to report accurately on the reality of the situation in Afghanistan.

“Since June 2010, the unclassified reporting the U.S. does provide has steadily shrunk in content, effectively ‘spinning’ the road to victory by eliminating content that illustrates the full scale of the challenges ahead,” Cordesman wrote. “They also, however, were driven by political decisions to ignore or understate Taliban and insurgent gains from 2002 to 2009, to ignore the problems caused by weak and corrupt Afghan governance, to understate the risks posed by sanctuaries in Pakistan, and to ‘spin’ the value of tactical ISAF victories while ignoring the steady growth of Taliban influence and control.”

These are lies that kill.

How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding and behind an array of more than seven years of optimistic statements by U.S. senior leaders in Afghanistan? …

If Americans were able to compare the public statements many of our leaders have made with classified data, this credibility gulf would be immediately observable. …  I am legally able to share [classified ,aterial] with members of Congress. I have accordingly provided a much fuller accounting in a classified report to several members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, senators and House members. …

When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid … in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be. U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price …

Or won at all, ever, at any price, as in Afghanistan –

… our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose. That is the very essence of civilian control of the military. The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years. Simply telling the truth would be a good start.

Heroic inaction 0

Bush was right to go to war against the Taliban after 9/11.

The enemy was defeated quickly. Then Bush went wrong. American forces should have been withdrawn immediately, the Afghans left with a warning that if the slightest attempt was made by any group on their territory to attack America again – or Americans anywhere in the world – all hell would be unloosed on them, each time harder than the last.

The idea of democratizing Afghanistan is foolish. “Winning hearts and minds” is ingenuous idealism, or to put it more bluntly, sentimental tosh. And no, it has not been achieved in Iraq. The Iraqis do not love Americans, and their “democracy” is a sliver-thin veneer.

Forcing soldiers to be social workers is an insult and an abuse.

And now they are to be used even worse.

The job of a soldier, throughout history, has been to kill the enemy. But the politically correct ladies – of either sex – in charge of the Afghan engagement don’t approve of killing.

They think it would be nicer if a soldier refrained from killing or hurting. He should not shoot even when he’s being shot at, if there’s the least danger that a civilian might be caught in the fire.

How do you recognize a civilian? He or she is not in military uniform. But no terrorists wear uniforms, and they deliberately and habitually shoot from among families and even hospital patients, in order to use the higher morality of our side against ourselves.

What then should an American soldier do when he’s fired at from among civilians?

The ladies say that for not shooting, not killing, and not hurting the enemy, he should get a medal.

Here’s part of an Investors’ Business Daily editorial:

Some would reward timidity and cowardice with a medal for “courageous restraint” under fire.

A nonsensical proposal circulating in the Kabul headquarters of the International Security Forces in Afghanistan would give a medal to soldiers in battle who show restraint in the use of deadly force in situations where civilian casualties might result.

This will not protect civilians as much as it will endanger the lives of our troops.

Our soldiers are already disciplined and trained not to wantonly kill civilians. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ve placed themselves repeatedly at risk in an environment in which the enemy wears civilian clothes and uses civilians as human shields. Such an award would embolden the Taliban to continue, knowing that our soldiers will have an extra incentive to hesitate.

Giving a medal for not shooting after having been shot at was proposed by British Major Gen. Nick Carter, ISAF’s regional commander, during a recent visit to Sgt. Maj. Mike Hall of the Kandahar Army Command and the top U.S. enlisted member in Afghanistan. That it was not laughed right out of the tent is as disturbing as the idea itself.

“In some situations our forces face in Afghanistan,” explained Air Force Lt. Col. Todd Sholtis, a command spokesman, such restraint “is an act of discipline and courage not much different than those combat actions that merit awards for valor.”

We beg to differ. The persecution of the Haditha Marines and the Navy SEALs has already added an element of fear to doing what our soldiers are trained to do: win battles and kill the enemy. Rewarding them for showing hesitation under fire gives the enemy an added battlefield advantage and places our soldiers and those they are fighting for at added risk.

In Haditha, Iraq, on Nov. 19, 2005, a Marine convoy was ambushed by insurgents after a roadside bomb destroyed a Humvee, killing one Marine. The Marines returned fire coming from insurgents hiding in civilian homes. In the ensuing house-by-house, room-by-room battle, eight insurgents and several civilians used as human shields were killed.

For their bravery and doing what they were trained to do — use deadly force to subdue an enemy — the Haditha Marines were rewarded with courts-martial and the threat of prison. [They have all been found not guilty – JB.] Is it seriously being suggested that if they had run away, they’d have been given medals?

“The enemy already hides among noncombatants, and targets them too,” says Joe Davis, a spokesman for the 2.2-million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars. “The creation of such an award will only embolden their actions and put more American and noncombatant lives in jeopardy.” …

This medal is a slap in the face because it implies that discipline and concern for civilians is rare … This is war by political correctness, and it will get our soldiers killed.

Of course the commander-in-chief is a model of heroic inaction. He was honored and rewarded in advance, by the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, presumably for not winning the war in Afghanistan, not making war on Iran, not discouraging the Palestinians from attacking Israel, not recognizing that Islam is waging war on the rest of the world, and not keeping America militarily strong.

A success or a mess? 0

McCLATCHY reports:

As the U.S. and its allies try to overcome logistical hurdles and rush [?] some 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan in 2010, intelligence officials are warning that the Taliban-led insurgency is expanding and that “time is running out” for the U.S.-led coalition to prove that its strategy can succeed.

‘Succeed’ at what? What will constitute success? Can anyone describe what Afghanistan will look like when ‘the US-led coalition’s strategy’ has succeeded?

The report goes on:

The Taliban have created a shadow “government-in-waiting,” complete with Cabinet ministers, that could assume power if the U.S.-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai fails, a senior International Security Assistance Force intelligence official said in Kabul, speaking only on the condition of anonymity as a matter of ISAF policy.

As the Obama administration and its European allies face dwindling public and political support for the eight-year-old Afghan war, the Taliban now have what the official called “a full-fledged insurgency” and shadow governors in 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, including those in the north, where U.S. and other officials had thought the Islamic extremists posed less of a threat.

The Taliban’s return to the northern provinces, including Baghlan, Kunduz and Taqhar … poses serious security, logistical and political problems for the U.S.-led ISAF and Karzai’s government.

The northern region is under the command of German forces, but they and other European contingents operate under restrictions imposed by their governments that limit offensive operations against the Taliban.

The Taliban now threaten the northern supply route that the ISAF established to supplement the vulnerable routes that run through Pakistan, where the U.S.-backed government is battling its own Islamic extremists and growing sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

The Taliban in northern Afghanistan are sheltering among and recruiting from large communities of Pashtuns — descendants of settlers transplanted from the south in the early 20th century — fueling tensions with the Uzbeks and Tajiks who dominate the region.

At the same time, though, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Chechens and Arabs linked to al Qaida have moved into northern Afghanistan with the Taliban, seeking to carry their jihad to the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and alarming Russia, which is grappling with Islamic insurgencies in the republics of Chechnya and Dagestan.

As the Taliban have extended their reach, they’ve also grown more formidable militarily by developing bigger and more effective improvised explosive devices. Insurgents have mounted 7,228 IED attacks so far this year, compared with 81 in 2003, and … the homemade bombs have even destroyed some Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, the most heavily armored U.S. troop transports….

So will success be a state of peaceful, happy co-existence among the Pashtuns, Uzbeks, and Tajiks? How likely is this?

Why are they in conflict with each other? What must change so that the ‘tensions’ between them will suddenly end? How can this be brought about?

What will make the Taliban abandon its intentions? What will have changed for them?

If by some remote chance the Karzai government found itself with an effective native fighting force, what would it do to achieve a pacified Afghanistan? Or will there be perpetual internecine war?

What might the US have gained by the time its army is pulled out? What does it want to gain?

We beg for enlightenment. Would someone who knows the answers please give them to us? We see nothing but a mess into which American troops have been plunged for no discernible reason, to fight and die with one arm tied behind their back, so to speak, for no defined or even definable goal.