It was just a few days ago that we learned of some of the frustrations and details surrounding the final egress from Korengal Valley. Diana West gave us a pretty solid view of the complexities involved in meeting the 'spirit' of the specifics of COIN as envisioned by General McChrystal and higher echelon. What we learned essentially was what we knew; that actual application on the ground can be a lot less tactical and lot more cultural than anyone in uniform signed on for. The 'heart-to-heart' Captain Mark Moretti is recorded as having with a tribal elder complete with the customary holding of hands exemplifies what every warm blooded American male will agree is 'uncomfortable' - at best. Tactically speaking; reasoning with a man who almost certainly cannot be trusted is tantamount to reasoning with a guard dog. You might be able to win him over with a treat in the short term, but he's going to bite you sooner or later.
To be sure, it isn’t so much the getting in ‘touch’ with the locals thing that is troubling as just understanding that COIN requires it because it's proponents believe there is an element in the AO who can be and wants to be, reached and helped. Remember; there are 3 elements to be reconciled by one method or another in COIN; the local government, the innocent population and the evil insurgency. One more time;
(1) This 'insurgency' by strict definition is not an insurgency; if anything they are a rebel force. The Taliban is an Afghan phenomenon. The fact that they 'cross the border' into Pakistan is, by Afghan/Pakistan measure incidental. The tribes living on either side of that border haven't recognized it since it's establishment by the British/Afghan/Indian governments in 1893.
(2) There are blood ties between all three factions in Afghanistan and we know there are Taliban sympathizers in the government (spelled treachery).
(3) All three factions are nearly 100% Islamic and bear the same familial bonds, lands, faith, hatreds and visions of the world. WE ARE THE INFIDEL TO ALL THERE; period.
As we have been saying; it is this present global vision of the world that is skewing rational strategy. This warrantless idea that all people are created equal and therefore have the same interests, peaceful intentions and desire to play fair is causing us to not believe we have any innate right to defend ourselves without some pre-emptive nation building penitentia. It also creates the belief that American Warriors, engaged in battle do not have any expectation of protection from their own leadership. The ROE in it's current form intentionally places our Warriors at a disadvantage while placing a premium on civilian lives - civilians who hate us ideologically. Convincing those who hate us (whose farms we are trampling during the course of the fight) that trampling the family farm is in their best interest is tough enough. If you're going to convince the unconvinced that you’re ‘good-to-go’, you had better appear extremely competent, capable and fearsome. ‘Reaching out’ to the local tribal elders while paying protection isn’t going to get that done.
The story is self explanatory. We stepped into a bee-hive with a can of raid we weren’t willing to use and then decided to extract ourselves by offering them honey to not sting us in the ass as we slipped out.
By the way; if the civilian population are just poor farmers being put upon by this rogue, unwanted element (the Taliban) as presumed under COIN; why did we have to pay them (remember the 6000 gallons of fuel) to hold the rogue element off while we ‘egressed’? For some reason, the logic required to answer that question can't be found.
While we're struggling with common sense issues, a friend to our north has written a piece in an effort to help us find the right path. Canada is not one of those places I instinctively look for the level of national pride and willingness to fight I believe every nation needs to survive but we are living in unusual times. What is refreshing is that this man Ron Ewart, a Canadian, does instinctively understand that there are things worth fighting for and if there are things worth fighting for, not only should we fight, we should fight as though our very survival depends on it. Short of that; stay home. This is a very good read and refreshing considering the tripe we have been exposed to in the last few years.
Given enough time, every experiment provides the answers you are looking for. In this case; I don't believe they do anything to help the argument for COIN. In a related, updated article today, Stratfor reported that the Taliban have descended on Korengal Valley and are now firmly in control of it. The 6000 gallons of fuel Captain Moretti left behind as a bartering chip with the local tribe is now in the hands of the Taliban... What a shock!
Afghanistan: Taliban Takes over Korengal Valley
April 19, 2010
Days after the U.S. withdrawal, Al Jazeera visited Korengal Valley and found the Taliban had control of the area and access to every part of the camp, Al Jazeera reported April 19. Taliban fighters said they intended to make use of the U.S. camp and launch attacks to capture more territory in the region. There is a lot of ammunition left behind, including mortars, rockets and missiles that will be used against U.S. forces, a local Taliban commander said.
(While fuel might have been left due to logistical constraints, all weapons, systems and munitions would have been removed or blown in place. jjb)
That warm and fuzzy hand holding exercise with the tribal Elder apparently didn't take hold...