Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Afghanistan; Are Local Defense Forces the Real Answer?

The drive to establish 'local defense forces' (LDF) is already 2 years old and it has taken nearly all of that time to get Kabul to agree to it in some form or another. Karzai has now apparently drawn up a rough draft that agrees to recruit upwards of 10,000 new recruits for the program. His past resistance to the implementation of such a force has to do with these things:

1. Kabul doesn't know who they can trust - anywhere in the country.

2. The Government in Kabul is as corrupt as anywhere else in the country.

3. Overcoming the practical issues of getting villages and tribes to agree with Kabul on what those 'security' operatives would look like.

4. Lack of well trained ANA or ANP to distribute (further complicated by the tribal issues) to those remote areas in the country.

5. The vast majority of the country don't see the Taliban as anymore a problem for them than any of us see our own federal government; it's a nuisance and corrupt, but necessary (In this case they see the Taliban as the 'True Soldiers of Allah').

Whatever else Centcom and ISAF may be guilty of, they surely understand this and have been trying to mediate (arm-twisting) in order to speed the process. Needless to say there is a delicate balancing act at play for if they implement an LDF program that is either lackluster, lacking well trained and disciplined forces or not welcomed by the regions in which it is implemented, it will only further complicate an untenable situation.

There appear to be other factors at work, however that hinge on the artificially established date for withdrawal of troops. President Obama made it clear during his election campaign in 2008 and reiterated in 2009 his intent to begin withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in early 2011. I have always found those kinds of remarks made by politicians laughable and even insulting.

To establish a 'timetable' for the withdrawal of troops from a fluid battlefield smacks of political maneuvering. To do so without the publicly announced advice and support of the very Generals assigned to prosecute the war, is insulting to the them and their Warriors. It is at the least ludicrous for anyone to treat a war as just another business deal with a definable beginning and end with a well knitted contract.

Wars are living organisms. They ebb and flow as the combatants leverage their forces in an effort to exploit what they have learned about the enemy. Once the enemy has declared his desire to end the hostilities, terms are drawn up and agreed to. The 'mop-up' effort then begins and that could take months to years as it did in both theaters of operation during WW II.

At what point in even 2009 did President Obama learn that he would be at the point of ending the mop-up phase of the war in Afghanistan by 2011? The answer; he didn't. What he did know was that he would want a good, clean, year to dispense with the fallout from the war and to answer any derisive commentary about his handling of the war. Part of that plan includes placing the Afghan government back in control of their country and their destiny - a plan I have no argument with; on the surface.

The problem is with those 5 troublesome points mentioned earlier. It has been crystal clear that the training program for ANA has been an abysmal failure. Not so much because it was ill-conceived but because the Afghan recruits aren't serious about what truly needs to be done if our combined effort to neutralize the Taliban is going to be effective. Again, there is exponentially mounting evidence that the ANA, ANP, Kabul and the citizenry support the Taliban effort - at least far more than they support us.

Each and every country should take care of it's own troubles and certainly it's own internal struggles. If there is one shred of evidence that the Kabul government truly wants the Taliban eradicated or at least neutralized, it should seek ways which probably include some form of LDF in remote areas.

I firmly believe that we, as Americans, have a right to expect our leadership to take our national security seriously and if they are going to project force, it should be to that end. It should not include carrying someone else's 'water' and certainly not using the tax payers money to try to re-build someone else's country - especially one that is hostile to our very existence.

I find it extraordinarily arrogant for a sitting President to establish an artificial date to end a war exclusively to benefit his personal chances for aggrandizement - especially when it further imperils the very country he has sworn to protect. No; the LDF push has a lot less to do with Afghan security or getting our guys out of harm's way than it has to do with paving the road for the 2012 election cycle.

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dealing with the Devil; Why do we Trust Karzai?

I have been making the case for a year with the help of a cadre of experts in the field of Islamic study, American Politics and Military History, that establishing combat strategy to assuage the Afghan people is a losing proposition. The examples of civil and moral corruption emanating from Kabul trumps even the most egregious examples from DC.

Stories have been coming out of Afghanistan and through the mainstream media sources painting a picture of impending disaster for the past year and there has yet to be any discussion as to whether or not the current strategy is viable. Our Warriors are effecting arrests, captures and the killing of Taliban in spite of Washington's best efforts to deny them victory. Unless you have been asleep for the past 9 years, you are well aware we are in fact fighting the Taliban and, I believe, Islamic forces in general. This makes the entirety of Afghan society suspect so getting as many Taliban off the battlefield as possible is critical.

So imagine my 'surprise' when I read one of today's intel reports from Stratfor, that stated Harmid Karzai was releasing 28 Taliban back to Afghan society with another 45 due to be released sometime this week. Let's remember that this is the guy our government selected as their choice to lead Afghanistan's fledgling, Theocratic government while we sent our Warriors to do the heavy lifting; removing the Taliban from their society.

The problem isn't just that Karzai seems to have a soft spot for the Taliban (another shocker), but there was yet another story about yet another ANA soldier gunning down NATO troops while on Patrol with them. The story makes mention of other incidences in which 'rogue' ANA soldiers have done the same thing. Frankly, I find the term 'rogue' intellectually offensive! These are not the unique acts of individual Afghan's, they are the manifestation of the inner hatred of a people whose all encompassing religious ideology requires acts of murder on behalf of their deity. And we have placed sovereign US forces in the middle of this dark-age madness to 'perform' within the construct of a strategic doctrine that is nothing more than the machinations of madmen.

General Petraeus might have served his country well in his early career but his sense of service to this country has been tainted beyond recognition by the political ideology he clings to here that has led him to resurrect COIN and use it in an environment it can never be successful in. Frankly I don't care what he does with his life, his 'legacy', this sitting CIC's Commanders Intent statement or the steady stream of Chai he is sipping with his buddy Harmid. I do care that others are being required to pay the price for his arrogance, lack of significant knowledge of Islam and his undaunted loyalty to his 'king' and his 'king's' vision for the world. I also care that our Representatives and our Senators in DC are far more concerned with the upcoming election than they are the very lives of our Warriors.

I invite all of you to take a moment and read Herschel Smith's new piece on this latest Jirga, the abysmal failure of Karzai to make any responsible progress with the Taliban and his insistence in returning the Taliban back to normal life in his country. Even a modestly insightful person would be asking; 'just how long are we to show Karzai patience or give any in Afghanistan the benefit of the doubt?'. How long before reasonable men deduce that there isn't anything of value to be achieved - in the long term or the short from our insistence on placing our Warriors at unreasonable risk on the far-flung hope that we can change the hearts and minds of a people imprisoned by the hatred of their own religion?

How many Memorial services for the sacrificed has President Obama attended? How many has General Petraeus attended? Or Gates, Jones, Biden, McMullen? How do they continue to justify their actions which are obviously leading to the unnecessary deaths of our Warriors without any foreseeable, positive (victory for America), end in sight?

Until we have an answer to all of these questions and until the American people, at large, wake from their sleep and hold their elected representatives accountable, we are unlikely to hear any reliable answers or see any positive change. And our Warriors will continue to fight with what they have been given.

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard

Monday, July 12, 2010

D.C. Deception enters a New Phase

There is absolutely no question in the minds of almost all American citizens over the age of 20, that deception is the weapon of choice within the DC beltway. The level of comfort with which all of the representatives - on both sides of the aisle dispense verbal garbage is astounding and frightening.

Unfortunately, the politicians in DC justify their use of lies and deception during the course of their day to day dealings - even as it pertains to the very lives of our Warriors on the battlefield. For instance, rather than questioning the legitimacy of the counter insurgency strategy, they scrutinize their potential response to it for political value even though they know this current strategy and it's ROE is detrimental to the lives of our Warriors and likely to an American victory.

One year ago there was barely a word from any politician or the media about the rules of engagement much less counter insurgency doctrine. It was painfully obvious that nearly every last politician and the entirety of the media, including FOX was completely disengaged from the subject and the war in general. Even as our Warriors were falling victim to the whims of egotistical Officers intent on carving out a place for themselves in the annals of military history, there was silence from those who could have, and should have questioned the efficacy of COIN in this environment.

Today, the level of education in those circles remains inexplicably low and only edges upward in direct correspondence to it's political value. In the past few weeks we have heard from Joe Lieberman, John McCain, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and others as they bandy ROE about like some badge of sophistication but like the empty suits in the halls of Academia, know nothing about them or their reasons for existence. The politicians take occasion to mention ROE in an effort to assuage the slowly growing conscience of America and to dare suggest to the Parents of deployed troops and the Parents of those who have been sacrificed on the altar of arrogance that they are 'looking into it'. Make no mistake about it; all of the new flurry of interest in the acronym has been carefully scrutinized for it's value at the voting booth and media ratings.

For those disingenuous and demonically controlled members of congress and the media I have a message for you harkening back to the 2008 election:

It's Not The Rules of Engagement Stupid; It's The Counter-Insurgency Strategy!!!

Why is it that lesser men always grab a hold of the least important element of an argument? While we all know that the ROE is getting our Warriors killed, the fact is it is the COIN strategy resurrected by David Petraeus that has demanded the current ROE. They-are-inextricably-linked! You cannot have a conversation that includes discussion about easing the ROE without questioning the validity of the Strategy that bore it. Every time a congressman or senator asks about the ROE they get the same answer; 'it is necessary for the successful prosecution of the strategy'.

So why are they not questioning the validity of the Strategy? because they don't have a clue about the strategy, the military, combat, Afghan culture, Islamic doctrine, COIN or it's origin, history or purpose. All they know is that the CIC has dictated his Commanders Intent and that men in uniform have been tasked with carrying out whatever it takes to meet that goal. The fact that his intent may be detrimental to the security of our nation or the welfare of our Warriors be damned!

It has taken us nearly a year to get anyone in DC to even consider mentioning the ROE and all we have to show for it is a few Shrewd Politicians far too willing to use the phrase to further their own selfish interests. Even as the politicians are maneuvering for a more 'useful vocabulary', a new story comes out telling us about the fruit of their labors; another 6 American Warriors killed across Afghanistan while Adm McMullen joins his fellow upper echelon officers telling Americans that there will continue to be a cost paid for this effort.

So while we continue to watch events degrade even further in Afghanistan, day by day, we now get to watch the newest phase in Washingtonian dance; the introduction of ROE (used to murder our own Warriors) to the lexicon, as a tool to get re-elected. If there is a more evil act a man can be guilty of than using the lives of our Warriors for his own selfish interest please let me know.

Hey Congressmen and Senators; can you feel Hells fires licking at your heels?

Semper Fidelis;

John Bernard