Caldwellville: Named for the current commander of that NATO Training Missing-Afghanistan (NTM-A), LTG William B. Caldwell, IV. It’s like the real Afghanistan, but much, much better.
Caldwellian: Any interpretation of Afghanistan that falls in line with LTG Caldwell’s view of Afghanistan.
In Caldwellville, if you take the true Caldwellian view of things, your ideas of “independent” and “close” are in pretty much direct conflict with how the rest of the English-speaking world would define those terms.
I empathize with LTG Caldwell, I really do. He’s in command of an organization that didn’t exist just two years ago, and in true NATO fashion, he’s turned NTM-A into a machine that’s churning out Afghan police and military personnel on a previously unprecedented level. Despite the reports of ANP corruption, ANA desertions, and civil rights abuses by the ALP, LTG Caldwell has to but the best foot forward and demonstrate how successful the ANSF is in their work. Which he does regularly, despite the fact that only two Afghan Army battalion now operate independently. Well, kinda.
Those two “independent” battalions still “require U.S. support for their maintenance, logistics and medical systems,” Caldwell admitted when Pentagon reporters pressed him on Monday morning.
Maybe “independent” means something different in the Caldwellian dictionary. Because that’s not how anyone else would define an independent military effort.
Another theme from LTG Caldwell is that the ANSF is doing a bang-up job protecting the city of Kabul. I won’t dig into the rest of the country. I mean, if you can protect your capital from say, insurgents stockpiling weapons over the course of several days, and then keep those same insurgents from holding off ANP personnel for nearly 24 hours…if you can stop that, then… Wait. Right. They didn’t prevent that, weapons were brought in through the “Ring of Steel,” and for 18–20 hours, insurgents held off the cops.
Now, it’s true that no city is completely secure from an insurgent attack: Oklahoma City and New York can attest to that. And yes, it’s true that those particular insurgents on 13 September didn’t get as close as they would have liked to the targets they had in mind. Michael O’Hanlon over at the Brookings Institute makes that case in this article for Politico.
Since O’Hanlon works for a “think tank” which in my experience means: “group of people paid a lot of money to state the obvious in shiny reports,” I probably wouldn’t do much more than give his editorial a cursory glance, make a snarky remark, and get on with my life. Unfortunately, LTG Caldwell quotes O’Hanlon in Caldwell’s latest Caldwellian dispatch from Caldwellville. In his post, LTG Caldwell cites O’Hanlon in making the case that the insurgents who attacked Kabul on September 13 didn’t get as close to their targets as they intended.
As Brookings Institute senior fellow Michael O’Hanlon wrote, “The insurgents with their weapons…were not able to get truly close to their targets…[and] the Afghan forces stood and fought for their country.”
Fair enough. A few RPG rounds, lot of noise, couple of wounded, no big deal.
Which brings me to events in Kabul on the night of the 25th of September. Details are still sketchy, and it appears that an Afghan employee of the US government opened fire in the CIA compound. Not sure how much closer the insurgents can get than that.
Now, granted, this could have occurred for a variety of reasons: too much caffeine, missed a car payment, or maybe he just wasn’t happy with the cafeteria food. Or, which is also likely, this individual was connected in some way to an insurgent group, so he opened fire. All accounts indicate that casualties were minimal, so that’s a plus, but, it does beg the question:
How much closer can you get than the CIA’s HQ in Kabul?
O’Hanlon and other residents of Caldwellville (Andrew Exum, Max Boot) are likely to spin this all as another desperate act by the insurgency, a “last gasp” of a weakened organization that cannot maintain force-on-force actions when engaging the coalition. This is true. But, does it mean the insurgency is truly weak, if they are able to coordinate these kinds of attacks on a regular basis?
Each event in 2011 has shown planning, logistics, and coordination that’s fairly sophisticated. That’s jut the 2011 stuff, and the complexity arc seems to be heading upward exponentially. So the Taliban/Haqqani/Daughters of the Afghan Revolution or whoever we’re blaming for this stuff this week can’t fight us in the field. Big deal. If they can kill key leaders and attack key facilities at will, do they really need to go toe-to-toe with our combat troops? Granted, much of this is a perception piece: getting into CIA HQ and killing a random bystander doesn’t win a war. But it doesn’t make for much of a peace, either.
So we rattle along here in Caldwellville, dismissing each increasingly complex attack, decrying how close it really was, and calling on those independent battalions of ANA to guard us from all harm. Me, I’m looking for a better bunker. Something not so Caldwellian.