Monthly Archives: November 2011

Professionals talk logistics

Having ordered an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan in December 2009, President Obama has now ordered the “Surge Recovery,”  the first 10,000 troops home by the end of December and another 20,000 home by the end of September 2012. 

This follows the plan to end the combat mission by 2014 while shifting to an advisor-only mission.  Recently though, there has been talk of even moving-up the mission-shift to 2012.

Amateurs talk tactics; Professionals talk logistics.  –GEN Omar Bradley

And there is the recent discovery by the media that we need to get logistics right for the Afghan Army (and Afghan National Security Forces at large):  Afghan Army’s next hurdle: logistics.  This is no surprise to anyone familiar with the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, FM 3-24.  A significant lesson learned in Vietnam was that logistics are should be among the first things established in a COIN environment. 

Disregarding the FM 3-24, our military leaders consciously decided to field Afghan combat units first choosing to delay the logistics support elements.  A post on the NTM-A website from November, 2010 states, “For the past year, the focus was on increasing the number of ANA infantry-centric soldiers. Having exceeded this year’s goal, the mission now includes fielding the enablers and professionalizing the force.”  

I think that in the 2007-2008 period, the U.S. political pressure was mounting that there “weren’t enough Afghans dying for their country” or something to that effect.  The “United States Plan for Sustaining the Afghanistan National Security Forces” report to Congress for FY2008 states on page 88:

The ANA is continuing to grow at an accelerated rate, focusing on infantry-centric forces to provide immediate security-capable boots-on-the-ground, while consciously delaying development of many of the combat support and combat service support enabler units until a later date.

So, the logistics are just getting up and running and we are leaving–sounds about right.  No need to look for intelligent life here.

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Slaughterhouse Five

What is a war without a slaughterhouse?  There happens to be an active Afghan National Army (ANA) slaughterhouse in Kabul (and a new one planned) in contrast to the slaughterhouse that sets the stage for the Kurt Vonnegut novel.  The stories do, however, converge around the out-of-this-world plots and characters. 

The Washington Post highlights the need for improving ANA logistics with a focus on the ANA slaughterhouse in the article ‘Slaughterhouse dude’ Chris Hart reflects changing U.S. role in Afghanistan.   A couple questions:

  1. Since the ANA is mostly fielded, why is demand growing?
  2. With “dudes” like this in the war-zone, who needs troops?
  3. Why are we doing this now?

The WaPo article cites this as a necessary step in making the ANA self-sufficient: “[T]he ability of these forces to master the logistics of supplying and sustaining themselves — to keep, for example, the water buffaloes flowing — is perhaps their biggest obstacle to self-sufficiency.”  But the ANA doesn’t raise the livestock, they buy it off the street like the countless other butcher shops in Kabul and everywhere else in Afghanistan.  And are plastic-handled boning knives and band saws more sustainable than hatchets and tree-trunk chopping blocks (or even dwarves climbing into water buffalo cavities)?

According to GEN Petraeus’ own FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency Field Manual, logistics should be among the first things established.  We’ve now established an army (and a police for that matter) that has minimal logistics capability, relies nearly completely on U.S. support, and we are now pulling out of the country. 

 Sounds like novels filled with lessons to re-learn.

Law school comes to Afghanistan

NTM-A’s own MAJ Bob Roughsedge is making headlines stateside in taking a stand against a idiot lawyer (but I repeat myself–no offense Bob) for objecting to sending care packages to the troops this Christmas Season. 

When a staff member sent off a junk email to everyone at Suffolk Law School, Professor Michael Avery decided to reply and kick himself in the teeth repeatedly (in all likelihood, Avery only thinks he flossed).  The original story was initially reported by radio talkshow host Michael Graham via his blog, The Natural Truth:  Suffolk Law School Prof On US Military: They’re “Killers,” Sympathy For Them “Not Rational In Today’s World”

 As an adjunct professor not wishing to be affiliated with the professor and the Law School any longer, Bob tendered his resignation.  The resignation letter is posted at Michael Graham’s website as well:  Suffolk Law Prof Resigns Over School’s Handling Of Military-Bashing Faculty.

The local Fox affiliate picked-up the story which includes a video and interview with Bob from Afghanistan:  Professor, Army Reservist quits Suffolk job after colleague calls troop care packages “shameful”

And Fox News has joined the chorus:  Professor Quits Job After Colleague Calls Care Packages for U.S. Troops ‘Shameful’

It amazes me that a professor can call sending care packages to the troops a political statement and think that his insult of the troops and their supporters is not political.  You think we only need Tort reform?  Sounds like the whole legal system is going down the drain. 

Equally confounding is how Bob Roughsedge, a lawyer and Bruins, Red Sox, and Patriots fan, could have any sense.

Afghans: Obama wasting time talking to terrorists

Pay attention, it’s tought to keep up with all the twists and turns in this plot:

Afghans: Obama wasting time talking to terrorists – Washington Times.

A brief recap (which admittedly probably includes many more subplots not captured here):

  1. President Obama wants to talk to terrorists.  According to Secretary of State Clinton, this is ‘to test whether the terrorist groups “have any willingness to negotiate in good faith.”’  Negotiating with Terrorists.
  2. U.S. says Pakistan’s ISI is supporting terrorists (former CJCS says the Haqqani Terrorist Network is a “veritable arm of the ISI.”
  3. Pakistan says any U.S infiltration of Pakistan is a violation of their sovereignty.
  4. President Hamid Karzai says they will stand with Pakistan against the U.S.
  5. Mr. Hamidzai, chairman of the Afghan parliamentary committee on internal-security affairs, says we

This ought to be interesting.  The Afghans have caught up to the previous administrations’ policies of not negotiating with terrorists.  In another 5-10 years, the Afghans will embrace the current administration’s policy of negotiation.  In the meantime, President Obama wants to accelerate the turnover of security responsibility to the Afghans and the removal of forces.

Sounds like we have a surefire plan for success or failure — depending on your definitions of “success” or “failure.”

The once and future Afghan Air Force, Part III

More lawn darts recently arrived at Shindand Air Base as announced on the NTM-A Blog:  Afghan Air Force receives first of six new Cessna 208B’s.

ISAF photo

 To quote a former AAF advisor: 

The US pilot said that flying with the Afghans is like flying with 5 year-olds.  They get mad and just quit or they walk-off or just don’t show up some days for training, etc.  . . . Every time he flies, he worries it’s his last day. . . 

These new aircraft will undoubtedly join the constellation of stones placed firmly in the setting that is Shindand–the ‘crown jewel’ of Afghan Air Force.

The emperor has no clothes

. . . but does where a Karakul hat. 

Peter Fuller Fired:  Senior U.S. Officer in Afghanistan Relieved of Duty

According to the HuffPo, “[GEN] Allen said the ‘unfortunate comments’ don’t represent the solid U.S. relationship with the Afghan government.  ‘The Afghan people are an honorable people, and comments such as these will not keep us from accomplishing our most critical and shared mission – bringing about a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan,’ Allen said.”

According to FoxNews.com and many other sites, “Fuller called Karzai’s statements ‘erratic.'”  A Google search of “Karzai” reveals on the first page these two headlines:

  • “Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan would back Pakistan in U.S. War”
  • “Karzai accuses Pakistan of supporting Terrorists.” 

Perhaps not clinically sufficient to call the man crazy, but sufficient enough to characterize him as ‘erratic.’

Note to troops:  Honesty will get you nowhere (except, maybe, sent home–hopefully with some clothes).

The truth hurts . . .

. . . and can be very painful. 

MG Fuller, NTM-A Deputy Commander for Programs, was in Washington, D.C. for the bi-annual Program Management Review (PMR) where NTM-A provides the Office of the Secretary of Defense an update on programmatic issues related to the billions of dollars dedicated to building the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). 

The Politico’s article, “U.S. general: Afghan leaders ‘isolated from reality’“, has really stirred the hornet’s nest.  The article captures MG Fuller expressing what most everybody has been thinking if not saying  (at least the non-pollyannas in Afghanistan).  But nobody expects a General to speak so candidly–especially when it makes so many look so clueless.

Of course, depending on who you talk to, the entire military establishment is detached from reality:  Security has not improved!