Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Afghanistan, Marines, and Is There a Solution?

Only today, I heard a Marine (Afganistan bound) explain that the mission for Marines has changed--and not in a desirable manner.

Marines are troops that can be inserted with primary purpose of detroying the enemy.

General Stanley McChrystal intends for troops under his command to kill the Taliban in Afghanistan--but without causing any civilian casualties.

The mission will be to gain the trust of the population, act also as a kind of Peace Corps, building infrastructure, schools, digging wells, etc. to gain the support of the Afghanistan civilians.

This is counter to why young men and women enlist in the United States Marine Corps.

The Corps is a fighting force, proud of its achieving victory--often at great cost of lives.

The mission in Afghanistan is that, yes, yes, in part BUT . . . and here is where it sticks in a young Marine's craw. The but, the change in the Rules of engagement (ROEs).

The Captain's Journal has it down to a T:

There is no such thing as air or artillery support any more. The ROE [Rules of Engagement] General McChrystal has set in place is killing Marines. Sure, there was the ROE in Iraq, but Marines were genuinely encouraged to think for themselves, assess the situation, and ascertain the best course of action independently. This is not being done in Afghanistan, where rules are micromanaging the tactical situation. Many Marines with combat experience in Iraq are leaving the Corps for various reasons, but at least one reason for the exit can be traced to a lack of willingness to deploy to Afghanistan under the current circumstances. Deploying Marines to Afghanistan are mostly inexperienced.

Now. To regular readers of The Captain’s Journal who follow our rules of engagement coverage and analysis, this isn’t news. What is news is that the experiences are gradually being transmitted from front line back to the states, and it is causing a deleterious affect on morale. In four years I cannot remember a more morbid time, even in the worst days of the campaign for Anbar.


Readers of this Islamic Danger blog may be aware of the suggested solution to the Afghanistan problem would also include Pakistan.

Again, resorting to The Captain's Journal, we are referred to Matthew Hoh’s arguments against involvement in Afghanistan. The point of that argument being that instead of Afghanistan, we should be solving the problem in Pakistan.

The Captain's Journal counters this with

"If our engagement of Pakistan is to mean anything, we must understand that they are taking their cue from us, and that our campaign is pressing the radicals from the Afghanistan side while their campaign is pressing them from the Pakistani side.

"Advocating disengagement from Afghanistan is tantamount to suggesting that one front against the enemy would be better than two, and that one nation involved in the struggle would be better than two (assuming that Pakistan would keep up the fight in our total absence, an assumption for which I see no basis). It’s tantamount to suggesting that it’s better to give the Taliban and al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan as Pakistan presses them from their side, or that it’s better to give them safe haven in Pakistan while we press them from our side. Both suggestions are preposterous."

Should our efforts focus on Afghanistan or Pakistan?
BY Herschel Smith

this leaves us right backwhere we started. Build up Afghanistan into another Islamic nation a la Iraq, or . . . WHAT?

Counterterrorism operations, where the Taliban are engaged and destroyed wherever they appear, but continue to swim in the population as Mao had it, does not offer a path to victory either.

Senator John Kerry on Afghanistan, an article in the Small Wars Journal, is as confusing and devoid of a clearcut policy as everything else.

I do not have a solution, but there are others who believe they do. One intriguing proposal is that made by Major Jim Gant, a U.S. Army Special Operations officer with experience on the ground in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

I found the referral to that paper at LifeoftheMind
Comment on The Belmont Club "Pick a number"
"Has anybody read this? Is this more than Strategic Hamlets redux?One Tribe at A Time by Major Jim Gant. H/T Theo Spark"

Here are some excerpts from Major Gant's paper:
One Tribe at a Time

by Major Jim Gant
United States Army Special Forces

We must work first and forever with the tribes,
for they are the most important military, political
and cultural unit in that country. The tribes are selfcontained
fighting units who will fight to the death
for their tribal family’s honor and respect. Their intelligence
and battlefield assessments are infallible. Their
loyalty to family and friends is beyond question.
A strategy of tribal engagement
will require a complete paradigm
shift at the highest levels of
our military organization.
The opium problem. The tie between opium and
the funding of the Taliban is a fact. However, at the
tactical level, it would be a mistake for US forces to get
involved in this issue. To do so would make enemies
out of a population that is simply struggling to feed
its families, clans and tribes. The COIN (counterinsurgency)
forces should not be made responsible for
the opium issue. That would be counter-productive
for the troops on the ground.
So . . . what is the answer? My hope is that you will
find it as you read through this paper.
The central cultural fact about
Afghanistan is that it is constituted
of tribes. Not individuals,
not Western-style citizens—but
tribes and tribesmen.
It is my deep belief—and the thesis
of this paper—that the answer
to the problems that face the Afghan
people, as well as other future
threats to US security in the region,
will be found in understanding
and then helping the tribal system
of Afghanistan to flourish.
The US has been in Afghanistan for
eight years. We have fought hard and accomplished
some good. Tactically, we have not
lost a battle. Despite the lethal sophistication of the
Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threat, we defeat
the Taliban in every engagement. But are we closer
to our goals than we were eight years ago? Are the
Afghan people closer to a stable way of life? Are we
closer to our national strategic objectives there?
Based on my time in Afghanistan—and my study
of the region, tribes, counter-insurgency (COIN) and
unconventional warfare (UW)—positive momentum
in Afghanistan depends on the US force’s support for
the tribal systems already in place. Take it a step further
and "advise, assist, train and lead" tribal security
forces (Arbakais) much like we have been doing with
the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) and Afghanistan
National Police (ANP).

I will get into the specifics later in this paper, but
what I believe must happen is a tribal movement supported
by the US which allows the tribal leaders and
the tribes they represent to have access to the local,
district, provincial, and national leadership. This process
has to be a "bottom-up" approach.
READ the whole paper, if you want the details:

Now, we must remember that the initial successes against the Taliban in Afghanistan was by air power and U.S. Special Forces--and troops of the "Northern Alliance."

Quoting Wikipedia:

The US and UK led the aerial bombing, in support of ground forces supplied primarily by the Afghan Northern Alliance. In 2002, American, British and Canadian infantry were committed, along with special forces from several allied nations, including Australia. Later, NATO troops were added.

The initial attack removed the Taliban from power, but Taliban forces have since regained some strength.[24] The war has been less successful in achieving the goal of restricting al-Qaeda's movement than anticipated.[25] Since 2006, Afghanistan has seen threats to its stability from increased Taliban-led insurgent activity, record-high levels of illegal drug production,[26][27] and a fragile government with limited control outside of Kabul.[28]
[color emphasis mine. lw]

No comments:

Post a Comment