We have been listening to General McChrystal for some time now. His doctrine has become his mantra; integrate, integrate, integrate and, oh yeah protect the 'innocent' civilians - at all cost. The problem is the cost is the lives of the sons and daughters of the United States of America. I don't mean to sound like I am disregarding the contributions and sacrifices of other NATO Nations but frankly; they aren't our concern. The welfare of soldiers from other nations should be the concern of those nations whom they represent.
The General's premise is that there are factions that are easily identified as friend or foe and that we need to defend the defenseless innocents of Afghanistan - at all cost, to assure their willing cooperation in the future and, along the way, build a whole new infrastructure for them. This makes for nice dreams but is just that; a dream. He cannot point to a single instance of general support for a non-Islamic force, on Afghan territory in the entire history of Afghanistan. All one might be able to do is find isolated incidents of occasional support in some remote corners of the operation of the time.
The fact is that all parties within the borders of Afghanistan agree with one another on the only level that really matters here and that is religious ideology. They are all Islamic and while you can make the case that some are more loyal to the tenets of the faith than others, the fact remains that they have more in common with one another than they do with the 'Great Devil from the West'. When they do show support or at least cooperation it is a matter of convenience. All they understand is force. If you are the strong man in the back yard they will support you. If the Taliban has the upper hand (controls the battle space), they will support them.
The General's premise is at least naive if not irresponsible especially where he is more than prepared to test his theory with the lives of our sons and daughters. Sorry General; unacceptable!
Sometimes the best way to look at something is to compare it to an analogy. I have been in the woodworking trade for quite a number of years and the work we have engaged in and completed is varied. At the moment we are building a Timber Framed home. When you first look at the blank piece of paper that will eventually become the drawing and try to merge the desires of the customer with structural engineering requirements, it can be daunting. The truth is though that all properly detailed drawings and the buildings they eventually become, start with a single line. If you think the frame is complex, you should see all of the mechanicals that are required to heat, power and plumb the house and how they are impacted by the massive beam construction that is the hallmark of a Timber Frame. Even though there are complexities to the frame and the mechanicals that will require a great deal of thought and planning, they don't negate the importance of the greater element; the foundation. Without the foundation; the building, set on soil will eventually rot and fall.
Prosecuting a war within the borders of a country as complicated as Afghanistan is daunting to be sure. Trying to plan every element of the Operation as well as the individual responsibilities of all the resources necessary for a successful operation takes time, focus, experience, knowledge and tenacity. However; underlying all of the layers of complexity is the original mission, which is its foundation. The foundational mission in Afghanistan was given in the Prior Commander in Chief's mission statement as it was delivered to the American people eight years ago; confront and destroy Al Qaida, deny them training ground, battle space and bring to justice those who would offer them safe harbor and aid. Just like building a Timber Frame, there are many complex issues that must be addressed. True; those things which must be addressed on the battlefield are more complicated and prone to change but that is the nature of warfare. Even though there are challenges on the battlefield however, you cannot lose sight of the original mission and in this case it was clearly stated; to destroy Al Qaida and those who would harbor them.
The changes General McChrystal wants to institute change the very foundation of the operation from destruction of the forces that would do harm to the United States of America to one of safeguarding the Afghan civilian population at all cost. The General has become so mired in the complexities generated by the mission that he has forgotten mission itself. He said he no longer wants to concentrate on chasing and killing the enemy (kinetics), but instead wants to concentrate on building relationships with Afghan population?! Not only does this distract our forces from the core mission but it actually places at risk the possibility of success. The ROE issue is an example of how off track this operation now is. The ROE is intended to safeguard the population by limiting fire - all fire whether initiated by us or fired in our defense, if civilians are in the area. Close Air Support and Artillery are pretty much nonexistent for fear of collateral damage (dead and wounded civilians). The ROE in effect, further endangers our Warriors by allowing the enemy to command the battle space because they no longer have to fear reprisals. They hide among the civilian population and engage us with indemnity, endangering us and the civilians we are now suppose to be safeguarding. This self-destructive policy also allows the insurgents greater freedom to set IED's and ambushes because they are afforded greater freedom of movement. In essence we have turned over control of the battle space to the Taliban. The locals are not inclined to help us because they see the Taliban as the stronger force and the one they are likely to be stuck having to deal with long after the dust of this war has settled.
Take a look at the Defense Departments (http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/) listing of the fallen since July 1st 2009 and know that the vast majority of those combat deaths can be directly attributed to the ROE and the change in the focus of effort away from a 'chase and kill' strategy to one of protecting the populace. For those of you who want an explanation that is simpler, here it is: We were fighting a war to destroy the enemy that has made it clear they want to destroy us. We are now engaged in nation building and social engineering that assumes the beneficiaries even want what we are offering. They have had hundreds, if not thousands of years to improve their lot in life and have not seen fit to do so. Inserting ourselves in their personal and governmental affairs is both arrogant and incredibly naive. We need to get back to the business of taking care of this country's security affairs regardless of the hypotheses of this current crop of politicians and their appointees. By the way; let us remember that our Warriors are exactly that; Warriors - not peace keepers. If we need peace keepers then let the UN provide them.
This war is going to be lost on one front and one front only; at home. It is going to be lost at home because the American people are going to lose all confidence in our government's ability to prosecute this war. This is not a military problem; it is a political problem. The daydream that we are engaged in right now is just that; a daydream. It is an experiment in social engineering with a population of people who hate us ideologically and who don't want what we have. We MUST get back to the original mission as stated, to locate Al Qaida and kill them, deny them training ground, battle space and to hold those who aid them in their attempts to train and export violence accountable.
Sounds simple enough to me. Now all we have to do is remind our elected officials what they swore to protect and defend...
John Bernard, 1stSgt, ret