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.

Taking the piss 33

We are of course against the deliberate infliction of physical pain. But the infliction of humiliation, especially on enemies who hold what they call honor as their highest value, seems to us a very good way of punishing them or, used as a threat, of eliciting information from them. Which is why we do not condemn the humiliating treatment some Muslim terrorists famously received at the hands of American soldiers at Abu Ghraib.

Now the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) – and the bien pensant throughout the West –  are claiming to be shocked by a video of some marines pissing on Afghan corpses. Comparisons are being made with Abu Ghraib. A criminal investigation is underway.

Since the Afghans are dead, they are not even being humiliated. The pissing merely relieved the feelings as well as the bladders of American soldiers. But by publicizing the picture, condemning the soldiers, launching criminal enquiries, the ISAF are choosing to feed propaganda fuel to the enemy.

President Karzai, he who wears literally the mantle of power in his hell-hole of a country, purses his mouth and blusters – frankly taking the piss out of the US and its allies:

The government of Afghanistan is deeply disturbed by a video that shows American soldiers desecrating dead bodies of three Afghans. This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms. We expressly ask the U.S. government to urgently investigate the video and apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime.”

The enemy will only see self-castigation by the Western allies as proof of weakness. For them, war has to be ruthless. Muhammad and his followers slaughtered all the men of a tribe and enslaved the women and children, setting the god-authorized pattern for Muslims to follow forever. The desecration of enemy corpses is routine for jihadis.

And what else do they do? What do Afghans themselves do to their own people?

This is from the Telegraph:

“You must become so notorious for bad things that when you come into an area people will tremble in their sandals. Anyone can do beatings and starve people. I want your unit to find new ways of torture so terrible that the screams will frighten even crows from their nests and if the person survives he will never again have a night’s sleep.”

These were the instructions of the commandant of the Afghan secret police to his new recruits. For more than three years one of those recruits, Hafiz Sadiqulla Hassani, ruthlessly carried out his orders. But sickened by the atrocities that he was forced to commit, last week he defected to Pakistan, joining a growing number of Taliban officials who are escaping across the border.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, he reveals for the first time the full horror of what has been happening in the name of religion in Afghanistan. …

He became a Taliban “volunteer”, assigned to the secret police. Many of his friends also joined up as land owners in Kandahar were threatened that they must either ally themselves with the Taliban or lose their property. Others were bribed to join with money given to the Taliban by drug smugglers, as Afghanistan became the world’s largest producer of heroin.

At first, Mr Hassani’s job was to patrol the streets at night looking for thieves and signs of subversion. However, as the Taliban leadership began issuing more and more extreme edicts, his duties changed.

Instead of just searching for criminals, the night patrols were instructed to seek out people watching videos, playing cards or, bizarrely, keeping caged birds. Men without long enough beards were to be arrested, as was any woman who dared venture outside her house. Even owning a kite became a criminal offence.

The state of terror spread by the Taliban was so pervasive that it began to seem as if the whole country was spying on each other. “As we drove around at night with our guns, local people would come to us and say there’s someone watching a video in this house or some men playing cards in that house,” he said.

“Basically any form of pleasure was outlawed,” Mr Hassani said, “and if we found people doing any of these things we would beat them with staves soaked in water – like a knife cutting through meat – until the room ran with their blood or their spines snapped. Then we would leave them with no food or water in rooms filled with insects until they died.

“We always tried to do different things: we would put some of them standing on their heads to sleep, hang others upside down with their legs tied together. We would stretch the arms out of others and nail them to posts like crucifixions.

“Sometimes we would throw bread to them to make them crawl. Then I would write the report to our commanding officer so he could see how innovative we had been.” …

After Kandahar, he was put in charge of secret police cells in the towns of Ghazni and then Herat, a beautiful Persian city in western Afghanistan that had suffered greatly during the Soviet occupation and had been one of the last places to fall to the Taliban.

Herat had always been a relatively liberal place where women would dance at weddings and many girls went to school – but the Taliban were determined to put an end to all that. Mr Hassani and his men were told to be particularly cruel to Heratis.

It was his experience of that cruelty that made Mr Hassani determined to let the world know what was happening in Afghanistan. “Maybe the worst thing I saw,” he said, “was a man beaten so much, such a pulp of skin and blood, that it was impossible to tell whether he had clothes on or not. Every time he fell unconscious, we rubbed salt into his wounds to make him scream.

“Nowhere else in the world [is there] such barbarity and cruelty as in Afghanistan. At that time I swore an oath that I will devote myself to the Afghan people and telling the world what is happening.”

Before he could escape, however, because he comes from the same tribe, he spent time as a bodyguard for Mullah Omar, the reclusive spiritual leader of the Taliban.

“He’s medium height, slightly fat, with an artificial green eye which doesn’t move, and he would sit on a bed issuing instructions and giving people dollars from a tin trunk,” said Mr Hassani. “He doesn’t say much, which is just as well as he’s a very stupid man. He knows only how to write his name “Omar” and sign it.

It is the first time in Afghanistan’s history that the lower classes are governing and by force. There are no educated people in this administration – they are all totally backward and illiterate. … I think many in the Taliban would like to escape. The country is starving and joining is the only way to get food and keep your land.”

This Hafiz Sadiqulla Hassani should not be let off his crimes simply because he piously promised himself to tell the world about them and has done so. Why isn’t he being tried, condemned, executed – and pissed on?

The Washington Post usefully informs us:

U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions prohibit desecration, mishandling or exploitation of bodies of people killed in war.

Prohibit do they? To our own certain knowledge their prohibition has been about as useful as the Pope’s pudenda. (In Lebanon in 1982-1983, the corpses of men killed by the PLO had their genitals cut off and stuffed into their mouths, and no cry of “Foul!” went up from Geneva or anywhere else – JB.)

The human capacity for indignation is inadequate to react commensurately to the savagery of the murdering, torturing Afghans.

The best thing our soldiers can do is kill them. They should also, if they feel like it, piss on their corpses.

 

P.S. Seems the four marines didn’t actually piss at all.  (Hat-tip Indigo Red)

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.

The enemy standing beside you 1

Unlike, apparently, most of the rest of the universe, we were all for the war on Saddam Hussein. We rejoiced in his defeat and capture and hanging. We wish that all tyrants could be punished in the same way. We believe that America won the war, though we don’t believe that Iraq has been transformed into a democracy or is likely to be. We would be happy to see Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, North Korea and above all Iran overcome by American might. We believe such victories are perfectly possible militarily, but impossible under the leadership of an Islam-loving, America-hating, radical left administration. We are of course for the pursuit and destruction of  al-Qaeda and the Taliban. If war in Afghanistan would achieve their destruction, we would be  for its continuance. But we don’t believe in the possibility of any sort of victory in that benighted country; not even if the war was being prosecuted as ruthlessly as war should be. Since it  is to an absurd extent being ‘fought’ as a form of community service – not even as ‘an overseas contingency operation’, to use the Obama official euphemism for fighting terrorism – we recognize that there is zero chance of achieving anything there at all. The onslaught was started in order to destroy al-Qaeda, rightly blamed for 9/11, but it hasn’t and it won’t. It has long since become an exercise in community outreach. The feebly-named International Security Assistance Force (American and British troops – who are really fighting bravely –  plus some German snoozers and a few not very vigorous others) is  there primarily, according to General McChrystal, to ‘provide for the needs of the Afghan people’. (As we have opined in our post of September 21 below, The stupidest reason for a war – ever?, this is the stupidest reason for a war, ever.) The use, by a  Commander-in-Chief and his generals, of soldiers as social workers is an extremely expensive, idiotic, and ruinous exercise in national self-abasement.

The fact is that the appalling method of terrorism has won huge victories in this century, in which almost all terrorism has been committed in the name of Islam. The West has let its practitioners win. The jihadists have won all over Europe,  by using and all too credibly threatening violence, as in their protests over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad. All west European nations have already been reduced by their own fear and moral weakness – aka political correctness  – to dhimmi status. Islam goes from triumph to triumph in Europe, and is being allowed steadily to gain power in the United States. The Islamic jihadists are plotting against us in our cities, in Europe and America. They have murdered thousands of Europeans and Americans. Daily, they carry out acts of torture and murder in Asia and Africa. At the time of this writing, there have been more than 14,000 Islamic terrorist attacks since 9/11 (see our margin where we quote the tally being kept by The Religion of Peace). No wonder the greater part of the world has become Islamophobic in the true meaning of the word: it is afraid of Islam. Why do Muslims object to that? Isn’t it precisely what Islam has always intended to achieve? It is the barbaric enemy of our civilization.

Nothing that is done in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq, not even total military victory – however that could be reckoned – will defeat Islamic jihadist terrorism. The one and only use now of military force that might score a victory against it, would be the physical destruction of Iran’s nuclear capability. Iran is a  terrorist state, spreading terrorism in the Middle East through its proxies in Lebanon, Gaza, and Iraq, so that is where force is needed and would be truly effective. Such a strike would not only disarm the mullahs, it would also send a shock-wave throughout the Islamic world.

That will not be done. But other than for that, what is the use of vast nuclear and conventional arsenals, huge armies, great navies, fighter aircraft that can elude radar-detection, if the enemy is standing beside you and has only to utter a threat to make you fall on your knees and give him whatever he asks?

Jillian Becker    September  25, 2009

The stupidest reason for a war – ever? 3

From General McChrystal’s assessment of the Afghan war:

The people of Afghanistan represent many things in this conflict–an audience, an actor, and a source of leverage–but above all, they are the objective. … [The government of Afghanistan] and ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] have both failed to focus on this objective. … ISAF’s center of gravity is the will and ability to provide for the needs of the population “by, with, and through” the Afghan government. (2-4)

Obama is going to have to make a (pause and shudder) decision – whether to send tens of thousands more US troops to Afghanistan, as McChrystal advises, or not to send them. Obama does not do decisions. No doubt he thinks choosing between victory and defeat is ‘a false choice’.

If victory means providing the Afghans with whatever they need, he may for once be right.

Posted under Afghanistan, Commentary, Defense, Diplomacy, Islam, Terrorism, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Monday, September 21, 2009

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