Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lessons Ignored, Part II: Who needs doctrine?

Maybe I’ve overreached concerning the importance of doctrine.  Apparently the success of the United States’ military is not because of a well understood core of doctrine but because of our disregard for it:

One of the serious problems in planning the fight against American doctrine, is that the Americans do not read their manuals, nor do they feel any obligation to follow their doctrine.

–From a Soviet Junior Officer’s Notebook

NTM-A is following this doctrinal anarchy to the letter.  Some years ago, doctrine was written for the ANSF.  Since that time, hoards of Americans, Europeans, and other supporters have flooded the country (6-12 months at a time) and not only disregarded that doctrine but layered their own view of how an Army (or Police) ought to run.  Given the disdain the average soldier has for doctrine, their view of how things run is unlikely to be anything similar to anyone else, even if from the same background!

So instead of following any doctrine (good, bad, or indifferent), we train them from the beginning to disregard it and “fight on the fly.”  This probably works satisfactorily for the Taliban, Mujahideen, Hakkani Network, and warlords. 

Given the precedent  for new militaries, the entire U.S. effort will collapse under its own weight without a well established and understood doctrine forming the principles and common language from which all forces can operate (see FM 3.0, Appendix D).

Afghan right ceiling fans

There is a simplicity about Afghanistan that is sublime.  Ask for a ceiling fan and you get a ceiling fan:

The advanced safety features will keep the Afghans (and manatees) from hurting themselves when they try to turn it on an off.  I see an update to the MIL-SPEC coming.  Until then, there are will always be plenty of “Redneck Right” solutions.

One last problem the Rednecks can’t provide a solution for;  Someone needs to request doors f0r the shower stalls so the men can have privacy with each other.

Waging peace

As leaked by the White House, Congress, and/or the National Intelligence Council, the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has uncovered a gem:  The Taliban (not to be confused with the girls at Kabul’s Raba-e-Balkhi High School) want to create their own utopia in Afghanistan.

McClatchy’s Washington Bureau released this information earlier this month in the report, “Intelligence report:  Taliban still hope to rule Afghanistan.” 

Given that the smartest President in the history of the United States can only assemble a National Intelligence Council capable of producing the obvious, it is fitting that he would think it’s possible to negotiate peace with the Taliban:

Obama has said repeatedly that the longest war in U.S. history can be settled only through negotiations between the Afghan government and the insurgents — not by force.

The report also states that the CENTCOM and ISAF Commanders and the U.S. Ambassador believe that the NIE is overly pessimistic.  But with car bombs still exploding during the “off-season” and Commanding Generals’ poor track-record in assessing conditions in Afghanistan, it’s hard to object to the leaked reports. 

Perhaps U.S. policy should adjust to the intel report accordingly.  But in an election year, that wouldn’t appease the political base.

In a sense, it’s what we do

ISAF has huge challenge building the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) while fighting a war, a COIN operation, navigating corruption, and a drug trade.  Complicating matters is that this is being done with a coalition of about 40 countries.  To quote an NTM-A alum:

An American Air Force Officer designs an Army unit that is trained by a British Armor Officer, validated with Canadian and Jordanian Officers, and later mentored in the field by Turkish Officers.

It could also be added that each of the people listed above change-out every six months so forget anyone knowing what the previous people were thinking!

This EDS commercial pretty much summarizes the task IJC and NTM-A have undertaken:

There are a few improvements that will make this commercial a truly authentic metaphor for NTM-A:

  1. The pilot continuously asks the workers to leave.
  2. The airline keeps requesting a different fleet of planes.
  3. The passengers extort money from the workers.
  4. The flight attendants steal tools and materials.
  5. The workers change-out every few weeks.
  6. The workers union requires the workers to come from different countries.
  7.  The designer changes the style aircraft every year in the following order:  Jet, Turboprop, Helicopter, Glider.
  8. The flight school insists on changing the aircraft from a Cessna 182T to an Airbus 380.
  9. The investors dump bags of money out the back of the plane.
  10. The only fuel available is nitrous oxide and a chase plane is constantly telling them to buy ethanol.
  11. The plane is taking anti-aircraft fire.
  12. Air Traffic Control redirects the plane every few hours to a different destination.
  13. No one knows what the final airplane will look like until 2014.
  14. The plane will be complete in 2014 whether or not it lands.
  15. In the final scene, the place crashes.

 In a sense, that’s EXACTLY what we do.

Ribbon-cutting signals the beginning. . . of the end?

After spending $18.1 million on a 56,000 square meter strategic airlift apron, 790 square meter passenger terminal, and 1,200 square meter cargo terminal, the U.S. Air Force can’t wait to. . . leave? 

That’s the essence of a recent NTM-A blog, South District turns over Shindand strategic airlift apron, cargo and passenger terminals.  The Shindand Air Base Commander, Col. John Hokaj stated at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, “This facility will play an important role as the coalition begins to move equipment and personnel out of theater.”

The good news is that without those ostentatious C-17’s hogging all the ramp space, the Afghan Air Force will be able to park their entire fleet of C-208B’s, Cessna 182T’s,  C-27’s, and Mi-17’s in one place (if they can get them across the airfield). 

Recalling a previous post, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished a separate aircraft apron several months ago; a 112,000 square meter  apron at at the same location.  From reports (a retracted post at www.NTM-A.com and a USACE press release) one would think that all these projects directly support the AAF.  According to Lt. Col. Michael Kinslow, the 838th AEAG Deputy Commander, “This apron marks a significant milestone in the expansion of Shindand Air Base as it grows to become Afghanistan’s premier training base for the Afghan Air Force.”  However, both of these projects were built for U.S. aircraft (18 UH-60 Blackhawks, 14 CH-47 Chinooks, 10 AH-64 Apache helicopters, and three C-17’s–not a single one used by the AAF) and are located on the opposite side of the airfield from the Afghan Air Force facilities. 

Who’s kidding who?  Shindand is the only training base for the AAF and none of these improvements were designed to support anything other than Coalition Forces!

Ranger graveyards swelling in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is taking it to the Rangers.  Not the U.S. Army Rangers or the Texas Rangers but the Ford Ranger.  Unfortunately, many of them are ending up in vehicle graveyards.  Maybe this is a method for improving the mineral wealth of Afghanistan:
Any redneck would be proud of this boneyard.  If your Ford ever needs a part, you’ll probably be able to find it in Afghanistan.

If you ever wondered how Ford Motor Company survived without the bail-outs given to GM and Chrysler, it may have had something to do with the sky-rocketing demand.  At $50,000 for a crewcab and $30,000 for a 2-door, it doesn’t take much uptick in business to keep the balance sheet in the black–even if the product was built in Thailand.

According to BG Tim Ray, the Afghans have suitable “stick and rudder” skills.  Unfortunately, their ‘wheel and brake’ skills aren’t quite as advanced.

Bubba could retrofit this for his parts hauler. . . too late

Not to be left out, the Afghans haven’t had much success driving International Harvesters either.  But there aren’t quite as many to wreck, so their numbers are a little lower. 

Of course, every boneyard must be colocated with a bar–it keeps supply AND demand booming.

Honky-tonk on a box:  Just add neon

Southern Afghanistan Economics:  Combine a drinking establishment with a boneyard and Class IV yard and you have a recession-proof business.

How do you say “Bubba” in Dari?

Polar bears hibernating in Afghanistan

You didn’t know there were polar bears in Afghanistan?  Well, from the “can’t make this stuff up” pile comes this recent afront to Polar Bear Clubs everywhere:

“The Polar Bear Run scheduled [this week] has been cancelled.  Snow showers are expected to begin at 0600 hours.”

BREAKING NEWS:  The International Surfing Championships have been cancelled because of sunshine.

Karzai the jailer

HamKar wants to run his own prisons:  Karzai Demands Transfer of US Military Prison to Afghan Control.

He couldn’t have forgotten his own government’s incompetence in running prisons.  Over 500 prisoners escaped an Afghan-run Kandahar prison in 2011 by digging a 300-meter tunnel!  And that was when his brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, was running the province.  Maybe Ahmad’s death was partial payment for the ineptitude.

Karzai is now insisting upon the transfer of the Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP)  since “his government had evidence that Afghan law and prisoners’ human rights were being violated at the prison” according to the New York Times.  The New York Times documents the problems Afghan prisons have as compared to the American run ones:

The coalition has longstanding plans to turn over the prison to Afghan authorities, along with control over all detainees, but the timing has remained uncertain because of delays in training Afghan guards to run the facility and because of concerns about widespread torture and other abuses in Afghan-run prisons.

In contrast, independent Afghan and Western human rights advocates have documented relatively humane conditions at the American prison since it opened in late 2009, replacing an older facility that was plagued by abuses. Even so, there have been persistent complaints about arbitrary detentions and a lack of due process at the new prison — problems that are pervasive in the Afghan prison system as well.

Abuses, torture, escapes–what’s the big deal?  Since HamKar is seeking a “creative solution to staying in office” (although ineligible for re-election) such capabilities might prove beneficial. 

Even in Afghanistan, there are other, non-mutually exclusive, alternatives.  Clinton advisor Paul Begala expressed the simplicity with which American Presidents side-step the U.S. Constitution with the comment, “Stroke of the pen, law of the land.  Pretty cool.”  Would we expect the Afghan Constitution to be any more difficult to push aside?  The Afghan right equivalent would be, “Call a loya Jirga, receive a blessing.” 

Controlling the torture chambers, er–prisons, wouldn’t hurt though.

Then again, if human rights violations are true at the American-run prisons, maybe Karzai is just upset that he isn’t the perpetrator.

Kabul air — Quality you can taste

Nothing says “ambiance” on Camp Eggers like walking by a “suck-truck” pumping sewage holding tanks on your way to the DFAC.  It’s something like Pavlov’s Dogs–but no one is really sure whether the hunger pangs or the stench comes first.

"Okay air" versus "not-so Okay air"

So poor is the air quality in Afghanistan that the urban legend is that you get an automatic 10% disability rating for a year in theater (you don’t).  NTM-A recently declared that, “If you can see, taste, or smell the air, or you cannot see the mountains during daylight hours, then you should exercise indoors.”

Another revelation from NTM-A is that, “During exercise, breathing becomes faster and deeper through the mouth, which allows more particle matter to reach deep into the lungs.”

Call off the war, I have a 5k to run.

The Fog of Peace

The quickest way to end a war is to lose it.”  –George Orwell

It should come as no surprise that this blog is not especially optimistic about the sustainability of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan.  A new blog at www.foreignpolicy.com doesn’t shake that pessimism.

Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason hit the nail on the head with their article “The Fog of Peace.”  Discrediting any optimism embedded in the United State’s peace talks with the Taliban, they list three reasons why the optimism is not just unfounded but delusional.

1.  There is no “Taliban” in the sense the proponents of talks envision it.

Just as the Knights of Malta did not agree on policy matters with the Knights Templar [in the First Crusade], and carried out radically different strategies in the Holy Land, so the various groups of the jihad often fundamentally disagree with one another on how to achieve their common goal of establishing religious rule over disputed territory.

2.  The enemy is interested in pre-withdrawal concessions, not a settlement, in an alien culture in which seeking negotiations to end a war is surrender.

The motives of any such representatives simply do not now and will never coincide with our own. The Quetta Shura has no genuine interest whatsoever in any “peace talks” or negotiations except to gain concessions such as the release of their comrades in Guantanamo Bay.

3.  No understanding with senior clerics in the Taliban movement has ever outlived the airplane flight back to New York.

 The Taliban of 1996-2001, which was infinitely more centralized and controllable than it is today, never kept a single such agreement for more than a week.

 Johnson and Mason strike a serious blow with a startling comparison of Afghanistan to Vietnam.  Noting that the Afghan National Army has maybe 100,000 under arms in a country 4 times the size of Vietnam, the South Vietnamese had 1,000,000 under arms with a modern air force and yet collapsed after just 3 weeks of fighting.

Afghanistan is like a boat; It’s just a hole the U.S. government is pouring money into.