Gameplanning a Solution In Medias Res

by Joshua Foust on 3/26/2010 · 21 comments

I spent the last two days at a workshop organized by the Small Wars Foundation to discuss “tribal engagement” in Afghanistan. While it was a lot of fun to bounce around ideas in a highly educated, experienced crowd, in many ways I found it a discouraging experience: the collection of policy advisers and highly educated soldiers and Marines was extraordinary, yet the discussion barely moved beyond a discussion of semantics.

The semantic discussion is vitally important. There is a bit of a crippling strain of experientialism in the military. It leads a lot of people to trust implicitly their own experiences and to assume those experiences are shared or generalizable. It also tends to engender a degree of mistrust of academia, since most academics gain their understanding through voracious reading rather than extensive experience (ethnographers are a notable example, though their studies have their own methodological and epistemological issues). I was amazed to see the demand for specificity of definition for military terms, while at the same time defining a complex idea like “tribe” was most often waved away as being semantic (to be clear, this has been encouraged by certain academic types as well).

Thankfully, the passive acceptance of indistinct semiotics wasn’t as much in evidence there as it normally is. I remain a firm advocate of using precise language and precisely defined terms and signals to describe and implement policy, but for the sake of expediency I also accept we have to employ shortcuts. Many of the soldiers and marines seemed unable to decide on which terms to use to describe local efforts—community, local, village, “tribe” (always with the scare quotes)—but there was, at least, an acceptance that tribe in a insufficient term to describe solidarity groups in Afghanistan. It is a victory, even if a minor one.

The workshop was also hobbled by a bit of a selection bias. I don’t even mean that, even though this was about figuring out how to do tribal engagement in Afghanistan, there were only like three or four Afghans there (and no social scientists who have studied Afghanistan in a systematic way over several years). I mean, most civilians there had PhDs, or decades of experience with the military. The military people were all mid-level and higher officers, with multiple tours in the country. A lot of the Majors there are currently working through grad school. And most of the military people themselves were special forces, which means they were already singled out for some sort of excellence or drive. So, the discussion almost by design was a bit limited for the war writ large.

Coming into this thing with almost all of my experience in the Big Army was interesting too: for one, it quelled some of my instinctive mistrust of SF, but it also highlighted just how difficult anything we discussed will be to ever see enacted. Correctly, one group of people said we needed to fix the OER, since the way it’s structured right now doesn’t incentivize successful operating in Afghanistan. That is very much true—I’ve argued that repeatedly in this space, whether about how Army administration is way too top-heavy, or the administrivia of casualties. But how do you do that?

Similarly, one of the groups—mostly Special Forces majors—discussed the pressing need to exist outside the bases, in effect so they share their fate with the community where they are embedded. Again, I agree whole-heartedly with this idea… but how do you put it into action? We all accept that there must be an element of danger, and that there must be a greater willingness to accept casualties and take risks… but the Army, the Big Army, does not. How do you fix that?

Indeed, at the end of the day the whole workshop was crippled by three things the workshop’s organizers cannot control: the war’s strategy and history, the military’s bureaucratic inertia, and a nasty ontological problem we still didn’t resolve. Most importantly, we are coming at this in 2010, when the leadership has already decided upon tribal or community or local “defense initiatives” as the way it is going to solve the war. That severely limits the discussion—despite an entreaty to answer the question “should we even do this,” there was almost no discussion of why everyone assumed the answer was “yes.” Even so, there were a few good ideas to come out of it, which hopefully we’ll be able to discuss over the next week or so.


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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 21 comments }

Dan March 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that workshop. I think I would have learned a lot about how much the Army has evolved, if at all, since I was in, as well as more about Afghanistan.

Joshua Foust March 26, 2010 at 10:46 pm

Truth be told, it wasn’t that juicy: more a group of pretty well educated people trying to wrestle with a very complex problem. Also, there were very few Big Army types there – it was very heavily weighted toward SF types.

Madhu March 26, 2010 at 11:43 am

Wow. I look forward to any posts generated from this conference, here or at Small Wars Journal. I’ve been following the “tribes” threads with great interest.

*On a related note, the following comment in a thread at SWC caught my eye:

“One of the dominant characteristics, perhaps even pathologies, of this decision was that September 11 created a political climate where major assumptions went unchallenged. The notion that if Hussein had WMD he would give them to terrorists or would renew armed aggression against neighboring states was one example. That democracy would flower if the Iraqi political system was decapitated was another, as was the notion that democratic states will control extremism.” – Dr. Steven Metz

I don’t want to start any arguments about that – but the word assumption really stood out. And I was thinking, well, what are our assumptions, today, in relation to Afghanistan? Assumptions aren’t always a bad thing. You have to have some of them because knowledge is imperfect. I guess I could argue that one of the bigger assumptions is that you can do such a thing as “win” a heart or a mind, whether it is that of a person, a solidarity group, or a nation. In other words, using local and regional development to project a nation’s (or coalition’s) will.

I don’t know. The above could be a bunch of bunk. I’m just brainstorming about your brainstorming post. I’m glad some good ideas did come out of it, though. God Speed and all that.

http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showthread.php?t=10027

Gulliver March 26, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Madhu — One of the (few) things that I find really useful about the military’s strategic concept documents is that they (generally speaking) explicitly state which assumptions they’re making and accepting about the strategic environment, it’s stability/possibilities for change, and so on. At least everybody starts off on the same page, whether or not you agree with the assumptions.

Madhu March 26, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I did not know that (obviously). That is quite a unique thing, isn’t it? I’m not sure I see that sort of thing in medicine very often.

Cool.

Madhu March 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

Wait, I just reread my stupid comment. Of course you can win a person’s heart, people DO do that. What was I trying to say? That’s it’s hard to play a Great Game when you’re not planning on sticking around long term? Or when you refuse to see others have long term interests that differ from yours and changing their mind might require different methods?

Oh, Good Grief. This is hard, isn’t it?

reader March 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm

You raise excellent points Madhu, as did Josh in the original post. Humans have to operate on assumptions based on their experience and shared knowledge; otherwise, well, there is no otherwise. But the ontological problem and related experentialism that Foust highlights, I think, is not going to go away. It’s cultural and psychological; hmmm, I guess that would make since for the two to go together. I am still a postivist, however, I think that there is a specific Afghan reality when it comes to identity, we just don’t understand it. And going into all kinds of fractured post-modern, multiple layers of identity is not helpful for the US et al’s goals. Thankfully the heady days of the 1980s and 1990s Post-modernism are behind us.

But regarding hearts and minds, it would be really nice if someone would say our aim is to make Afghans tolerate our presence more so than the Taliban. This hearts and minds business is tricky, too emotional, too easily lent to propagandizing purposes, and just too fuzy. We also assume that the Afghans are in an either/or position. That is most certainly a post-911 thing; you’re either with us or against us kind of rubbish. Tolerance isn’t as soul-stirring as winning a heart, but in the long run it’s more achievable and sustainable. When Afghans, or any other group, chant “We love USA” I actually get frightened. Love, when spurned or disappointed, can easily lead to hate. Better to have surly indifference. But to achieve this we need to dismantle ongoing, 20th-century American myths and, now apparently, failed international public relations programs. Hearing people talk about “changing the narrative,” and considering the 50 mill the US is spending in Pakistan, however, I don’t think this will happen.

reader March 26, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I didn’t quite make the point in my first paragraph that the fault for the ontological problem lies with the military and with academia. Academics also have their own experiential biases, based on the amount of reading and quotables one has.

Keith March 26, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Madhu,

Maybe the assumption you are trying to get to is: Are Afghan hearts winnable? or Does it matter to American security if we win Afghan hearts?

reader March 26, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Keith, it matters to people who believe in American exceptionalism, in many ways a pernicious philosophy that is and remains a threat to the Republic.

CTuttle March 26, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Aloha Joshua,

It would seem that McChrystal is addressing the ‘tribal engagement’ head on with his “Campaign Continuity” game plan:

Senior military officials say the “Campaign Continuity” initiative will determine the specific provinces and regions where many of the 30,000 soldiers and Marines who are being sent to Afghanistan as part of the Obama administration’s retooled war strategy will end up serving.

The plan represents a significant change for the military, which has long rotated its combat forces through both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Under the new system, the Pentagon will essentially be assigning responsibility for the Afghan war to the same small number of Army and Marine units.

“They’ll be going back to the same place and seeing the same faces, so they won’t need to relearn everything from scratch,” said a senior military official familiar with the plan. “It will allow for continuity of effort in a given location.”[…]

“It’s no longer a question of adapting a previously existing force for a different kind of war,” Mr. Donnelly said. “At this point, it’s a question of restructuring the entire force for Afghanistan.”

In recent months, the Pentagon has created the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell, a fast-growing office charged with improving the military’s performance in Afghanistan; an “Afghan Hands” program, which is immersing dozens of officers from each of the military’s services in Afghanistan-related issues for the next three to five years; and a new intelligence center at the military’s Central Command designed to help troops better understand the country’s complex political dynamics.

On the ground in Afghanistan, the U.S. and its allies will soon create a new American-led military command in the south of the country to set the stage for a large-scale offensive later this year in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

I truly feel for these poor fools tho…

Military officials here and in Kabul said the Campaign Continuity system was originally going to apply only to the Army, with elements of the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne and 10th Mountain divisions cycling through eastern Afghanistan on a rotational basis.

Their ‘dwell time’ will suck big time…!

reader March 26, 2010 at 6:51 pm

I don’t know whether this sounds more like a plan to defeat the Taliban or a New Deal-esque jobs program.

Joshua Foust March 26, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Yeah. That’s new, and we didn’t operate knowing that (though there was broad consensus that a lot of these guys could have done a helluva lot more good on their second, third, and fourth tours if they’d gone back to the same places). Color me cautious, however: the Army always finds a way to screw it up.

DE Teodoru March 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm

One of the most striking young officers I ever met in Vietnam was Hubba Wass de Czege, from a long line of Hungarian military thinkers renown even amongst those of us who saw them as ancestral enemy (but he was born in my country, he told me, so that makes him one of us genetically). But of course, in America, we all became from many one, struggling to hold back the monstrous giant that, in our native squabbling smallness we never could hold back. Vietnam was where our generation got our chance to stop him. Reading numerous memoirs, one sees field soldiers not speaking of their micro-tactical Vietnam experiences (eg. Powell) but of their macro-strategic gripes about how the war was costing at one end (A Shau Valley) because of failure at the other (bombing Ho Chi Minh Trail). For example, LBJ called in the JCS to tell them that he knew what they were trying to do– get him tied down into a war with China– but that he would not allow it, he would Hanoi’s march South in the South instead. In contrast, Nixon focused on stopping the Russian supply route from Vladivostok to Haiphong. Visiting Hanoi at the time was most impressive as one saw American jets screeching overhead but you knew you were as safe as can be on the Haiphong-Hanoi- Mu Gia Pass rail line because it was strictly off-limits for bombing. The go zone began only later in Laos, as it passed under triple canopy jungle, making it all a statistical game bombing blind. It was left to old Westy to, finally in 1967, achieve the “crossover point” where he was killing more Northern regulars and destroying more of their supplies than they could replace via the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

At that time more mature SFs were working with montagnares tribes trying to fix the re-supply streams so they could be bombed before they reached staging areas. But Hanoi’s regulars owned most of Eastern Laos and Cambodia. Vang Pao’s and his brave Hmong guerrillas and other resistance forces we supported were getting hammered most severely by the Viet invaders. Our only response was blind statistical strikes via B-52 carpet bombing. This went fine until Hanoi widened the front, thinning out ours and ARVN’s forces deep into Cambodia, eventually forcing us into a catastrophic Lam Son 719 campaign for which we were not prepared.

Now one cannot imagine the Taliban EVER constituting an army as able and as well commanded as Hanoi’s which, under Soviet leadership, brought tank warfare to the jungle. The McChrystal notion may well be the “one tribe at a time” notion that has merits at the micro level but is dubious at the macro. So if we were to field a couple of regiments in the Hindu Kush, we’d be facing a whole new kind of war for which the COIN manual is useless. Nor would Maj. Gant’s approach be possible. The idea instead is to develop such reliable and firm ties with each village as if it is the only social brick with which we can build a Pashtun barrier to alQaeda which we could then reinforce so that wherever the enemy goes, we’re there. But what I didn’t see discussed and would love to see Maj. Gant discuss, is whether, “one tribe at a time,” sums up, in effect, to one police station at a time linked to any assets it may need to call on to bring the “bad guys” to justice. If so, would soldiers be the wrong guys for the job because, as they become increasingly familiar and integrated with the locals, they find themselves responding to the local situation rather than some central HQ not taking the particulars of each village into consideration? Gen. McChrystal would morph into Police Chief McChrystal, having to investigate incidents and adapt both preventively and punitively from cop to judge. Of course, just as you don’t shit where you eat, you don’t bomb where you are entrusted to “KEEP the peace” so, like Maj. Gant, doing your dirty business would have to be out of sight of the village, not right on top of it from the air as so often has been the case.

The last point is a critical notion for it means that, yes, you have a lot of big boom, boom toys on hand, but you are enforcing the law mostly through judicial compliance with it; and that compliance can only come from the belief that you represent only the constitutional order you enforce, not some “kill the bad guys” body count scale of value. A legal order under which all are equal for it is blind until proven guilty.

The term “Ruf/Pufs” was coined by non-COIN militaries. I recall “Blowtorch” Komer– head of CORDS– telling me: go and look at villages in the Delta. You’ll see there captains and colonels completely frustrated by the absence of ARVN forces, Chinook supply flights and bulldozers (ex Tay Ninh Province mountains) whenever they have to lead Rufs/Pufs against PAVN regulars into the jungle. Indeed paratroopers were out of their “Hamburger Hill” setting backed up by fresh battalions, supported by air strikes and supplied through endless streams of Hueys. However, by 1970 to 72, there was Maj. Gant’s spiritual older brother, Maj. Cook, with his Ruf/Pufs holding back the PAVN regulars. With Westy gone, the PROVIN idea popped up like mushrooms with Marines CAP teams in I Corps and Army MAT teams in IV Corps, supporting Ruf/Pufs in holding back Hanoi regulars that now were younger, poorly led and so vicious (as in firing Babushka rockets at village marketplace at 10AM when most full of peasants). I recommend Cook’s book THE ADVISOR to Col. Gant as it may well give depth to enthusiasm of his article “One Tribe at a Time.”

One also notes that there are a few distinctions between COINING Taliban and the “Good War” that developed in South Vietnam after Tet 1968. Our military is no longer a cross-section across America that takes the brightest and the dumbest, the most cerebral and the most muscular equally and then sorts them out through battlefield realities. The soldiers we have, as Rumsfeld said, is what you have to work with. In sum, do they measure up with the a-bit-of-everything abundance which the draft provided Vietnam? More importantly, would we get more Maj. Cooks or more Lt. Calleys (of My Lai notoriety) in the field?

If there is a bias somewhere in the Calley to Cook continuum that weighs towards Calley, then the stop-loss repeated tours mixed with repeated tours in place, makes for a great future for Taliban where our men are the best recruiters. An “evil” soldier is likely to kill you while an “evil” cop is more likely to harass you. The latter case leaves room for restitution and reconciliation.

Vietnamese are very forward looking people. I recall how they liked to congregate and socialize during the rainy season on Highway 4, at that time the only dry spot anywhere. Trucks at twilight bashed down that road at least at 60mph in order to avoid ambush. One peasant lost his wife and three of his five children. But when he was presented with $5000 compensation his mind focused on how this money could provide for and educate his remaining two children. “The Americans are so nice, even the driver came to me crying as he said he was sorry…they must really have a soul. A Vietcong would not even help be bury the victims.” Pashtuns have a more backward looking culture and a family’s loss is a call on its male members to avenge in blood. So if our volunteer army exhibits a selective bias more towards the Calleys than the Cooks, then McChrystal’s alleged new concept is sheer poison.

Back in the 60s at the Pentagon, a lower grade officer would introduce his boss always listing the general’s academic credentials rather than his military ones. There was tremendous ambition amongst career military to prove themselves by excelling in academic CRITICAL JUDGEMENT. Things have changed. Gen. Franks’ correspondence BS in management could be a case in point. I’m not saying that our officer corps is morons, but I do notice a polar magnet change in attitude away from academia and more to Action Jackson. I checked with all my friends who teach vets and they too see an “intellect complex” at work, especially in terms of conceptual adaptability. It was as recently as 2001 that one of the PowerPoint slides for a White House presentation of the anticipated war on Afghanistan read: “Think outside the box, poison all their crops and water.” This is tragic, for I think the notion that military tend to cover-up their inadequacies with macho destructiveness rather than cure them through learning how to deal flexibly with complexity, would invariably lead to a self-defeating tragic reality. One might protest, insisting that a soldier’s job is to “wack” the other guy, not to debate him. But imagine a pompous high school grad trying to read get across to a village elder or a mullah with a lifetime of local experience what he should do and why. I have seen it and know that a lot of it is on video. Pictures are indeed worth a MILLION
WORDS! A voice over in English on Russian videos too would show an amazing similarity on the same mission. Requiring the operation of hightech equipment which often the Americans themselves do not understand, a fact well documented by multiple Pentagon reports, “training” often consists of monkey see what monkey does; this does not transmit the full range of beneficial possibilities that equipment offers. Worst still, it is not the most pedagogically gifted that are assigned to training Afghans, per numerous studies.

In conclusions, Americans with poor communicative skills and personal deficiencies may be the bias in the current stock available by voluntary military service provides. If so, it’s a rather dangerous notion that McChrystal proposes, fixing a man so he stays on where he starts. Afghans are not prone to complain but will definitely act out their resentment. They’ll bite their tongue until feeling insulted and then, boom, one less adviser.

Bellow are three outstanding articles by retired Gen. Wasss de Czege. I would think that a first step for selecting troops that do the Maj. Gant thing should at least feel comfortable, indeed turned into a fountain of ideas from reading these articles. Such ability means that the hardware will be up to the software of soldier becoming a cop.
http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20081231_art006.pdf
http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20090430_art005.pdf
http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20090228_art004.pdf

DePetris March 26, 2010 at 7:54 pm

A certain amount of confusion is expected in these type of forums, especially when the issue being discussed is controversial, specialized, or important to American national-security (Afghanistan fits all three of these quotas). Whenever you have a room full of practitioners, government officials, military agents, and PhD’s, different opinions will fill the air. Frustration and a lack of progress is often the byproduct, almost to the point where one questions whether the workshop should be held at all.

But these types of exercises need to be done. The more we talk about the issue, the better chance we have to come up with a viable strategy. In the first seven years of the war, discussion was kept to a minimum. And look where that got us.

reader March 27, 2010 at 10:45 am

DePetris, these discussions are already limited unless there is real space given to people who want to withdraw from Afghanistan. But such opinions are considered unrealistic and even crazy. No one seems to question the US’ need to be in the Middle East. It seems to me that even when people claim to be controversial and innovative they are still thinking inside the box. They just don’t realize how big the box is. There is no real difference of opinion in overarching strategy (the US remains an involved, pseudo-imperial power, NATO is allowed to continue to exist, Anders Fogh still gets a paycheck), all this stuff is argument, albeit important arguments, over tactics.

DE Teodoru March 26, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Goddie, no more “only one cup of tea”! Or is it? Have we got people left who can make something of all this? Has NATO the patience to join us in such a concept? Are we to assume that the July 2011 deadline will be dumped? I don’t think so. MCCHRYSTAL’S ATTEMPT AT A “GOOD WAR” HAS RUN OUT OF TIME. I think finally the military’s constant rearrangement of the deckchairs on the Titanic will not convince Obama that Captain Gimmick McChrystal has got a new way to restabilize the ship so that other priorities must be sacrificed so the Petraeus/McChrystal COIN victory can EVENTUALLY be achieved. My sources told me that this Spring smells like the Spring after Kissinger’s NSC-1 proving that the military has nothing but gimmicks– some that would have been great ideas seven years ago! This Administration at the highest level, some of you may have realized, has made the Nixon Decision behind the Nixon Doctrine: the deadline is set and the Pentagon will shrink, both strategically and conventionally. We’re back to being a diplomatic power. It means the end of a lot of costly “expert” “study contracts.”

What do you do with the bad blood between some locals and the guys we’re going to put in with them? Do you guys really think we developed military careerists with the where-with-all to negotiate the inter-village and Karzai Gov crises? Recall that DoD&CIA careerists refused to learn Vietnamese because that would narrow their careers. Now it’s déjà vu. MACV used to think that it alone could manage the Viets. But they failed miserably because they couldn’t think Vietnamese even with three tours in province. I think that, in Afghan case, the exceptions confirm the rule. Well, you’ll see, we’ll just pull out because basically we don’t owe them their won Disneyland and don’t know how to build anything else. Obama sees no danger in Afghanistan because binLaden’s been long dead and The Pakistanis have reached the point where they are using our presence much as the Iranians used our presence in Iraq– to negotiate with us. Our military has become a diplomatic liability. Dear Fritz Kraemer still has a lot of value for the Pentagon thinkers but not in the NSC. It’s déjà vu, Nixon is upon us because the military have totally discredited themselves doing domestic PR instead of foreign rural development at a price we can afford. Ask yourselves what’s the thinking behind this gimmick that makes it now “must do” but had not for nearly a decade? Could it be that they suddenly realize that the old days of the next brilliant 3 stars going to 4 stars are over because the White House thinks we’re paying for too many 4 stars, machinery, bureaucracy and support? JCS spies in NSC had warned the Chiefs that Nixon’s first priority was to prove to China that we had no intent to put US bases under its soft underbelly; our pull out was so Chinese boys would do the job Congress would no longer allow American boys to do: stop Hanoi’s Westward march. Obama’s got a deal with Russians: decreased strategic weapons as we’re leaving Central Asia to you. Again JCS spies informed that it’s more important to prove that imperial expeditionary forces are a thing of the Bush past. Just look at what was the Bush-neocon concept of our Afghan presence:

http://www.cacianalyst.org/?q=node/5288

It assumes that DoD is Constitutionally guaranteed all the assets it thinks it needs. Now it only gets a new version of don’t-ask-don’t-tell! As with Iraq, the diplomats are using the carrot—US withdrawal–= rather than the bizarre Petraeus 2012 Presidential Campaign COIN. McChrystal going to Wall Street Journal with his new hot story is sort of a lame last flight of the dying swan. Obama has made clear his priorities: we’re not going to be humiliated by European withdrawal for their own economic reasons, nor are we going to threaten the Russians and Chinese into wishing to see us die in Central Asia. WE’RE GOING HOME NEXT SUMMER NO MATTER WHAT BECAUSE WE’RE NO LONGER AN IMPERIAL EXPEDITIONARY POWER. De-Americanization of Iran’s East and West border is deemed diplomatic step #1 right now.

At any rate, The Quetta Shura is now under severe internal strain, as were Iraqi Sunnis in 2006 because they realize we’re leaving and all they need is a reasonable Jurga in order to be get their heads together. Army Chief of Staff Casey gets the last laugh over Petraeus!!! Pakistan is holding the hardliners like a knife at our throat and the softliners in hidden cells. CIA knows stuff Flynn is not privy to and Holbrooke just loves that; it’s 1972 all over again with he pretending he’s the new Kissinger. The more our soldiers understand the local situation, the better they can flow with it to the door. But I ask again Mr. Tuttle, can’t we build up an Afghan police over years abroad that will keep the gangs—not tribes—under hand? PEACE IS AT HAND!

CTuttle March 27, 2010 at 12:57 am

I agree that we need to leave like yesterday, I was extremely disheartened to see this noise in the WSJ article…

In recent months, the Pentagon has created the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell, a fast-growing office charged with improving the military’s performance in Afghanistan; an “Afghan Hands” program, which is immersing dozens of officers from each of the military’s services in Afghanistan-related issues for the next three to five years; and a new intelligence center at the military’s Central Command designed to help troops better understand the country’s complex political dynamics.

On the ground in Afghanistan, the U.S. and its allies will soon create a new American-led military command in the south of the country to set the stage for a large-scale offensive later this year in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

The new Regional Command Southwest will be led by Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the commander of the 1st Marine Division, a military official said this week.

When Gen. Mills takes charge of the new command, the existing Regional Command South will be redirected to focus exclusively on the coming Kandahar campaign.

Another ‘fail’ like Marjah…!

M Shannon March 26, 2010 at 10:48 pm

The Canadians and Brits have been going back to the same province for five years and it hasn’t made a difference because although the units may be the same the leaders in them have changed as people have been promoted, quit or transferred. The Canadians still haven’t had a general who has experience in country before being assigned as the top commander and my guess is that is also true of the battalion commanders.

By this time time local Afghan leaders must have gone through 14-16 introductory meetings with new NATO combat and PRT unit commanders. Same questions…same promises every six months. Although McChrystal may have the right idea the reality of US Army personnel policies will probably make his plan unworkable.

Toryalay Shirzay March 27, 2010 at 12:36 am

Brits and Canadians have a fragmented continuity which diminish their chances of success in the theater while the Americans ,it seems, just learning the importance of continuity;but they are catching up ;we just have to see whether they are able to do it on a fast tract or at a glacial pace.

CTuttle March 27, 2010 at 1:03 am

Btw, if you haven’t seen it yet…

Wikileaks produced this little gem(pdf)…

“Afghanistan: Sustaining West European Support for the NATO-led Mission—Why Counting on Apathy Might Not Be Enough”

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