Tag Archives: COIN

‘Men who stare at goats’ and other government initiatives

With 76 countries ratifying the United Nations’ Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, one may wonder just how much the weather can be manipulated by the government (not to mention what else they might be up to).  [George Bush was trying to kill minorities in New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina.  He was just too dumb and hit Mississippi instead–but I digress.]

Adding to the stack of conspiracy theories will soon be this report from www.wired.comAir Force’s Top Brain Wants a ‘Social Radar’ to ‘See Into Hearts and Minds’

The capability analyzes behavior to predict future behavior.  Sounds like high-tech profiling–not necessarily something new.  But with the DoD funding millions on a program to evaluate behavior, who knows what it could become. 

I could care less how much anyone watches what I do, but if you start looking at my heart and mind, we have problems.  From the Holy Bible, God states in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”  Apparently, the government is funding an effort to figure it out.  The Bible also declares God as a revealer of secrets in Daniel 2:47, “The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.”  Imagine that–government with a god-complex.

Good news for anyone that ever clicked “liked” on this blog: “’We do better than human estimates, but not by much,’ one Pentagon-funded predictioneer admitted.”

If you’re excited to run-off and joint the New Earth Army, you may still be ahead of your time.

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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.

Captions speak louder than words

On a nearby desk the magazine PRISM, a publication of the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University, captured my attention for its numerous Afghanistan-related stories.  One article from the December 2011 edition, “War Comes to Bala Morghab: A Tragedy of Policy and Action in Three Acts,” depicted ISAF as Keystone Cops when trying to influence Bala Morghab District in 2008-2009.  The problem?  ISAF completely ignored the ‘shaping’ aspect of the COIN strategy.  Ultimately, they may have won a battle but lost a war.

In a second story, the magazine ‘shapes’ reader optimism via the finest of details.  Representative of our struggles in Afghanistan is the caption–yes, the caption–to the feature “Negotiating Afghanistan” (likely a fascinating story but as yet unread).  Below is the photo with caption as depicted in the print version of the magazine:

Nothing could more succinctly illustrate the beast created in Afghanistan.  “Don’t let them fail” has been the battle cry; whether in training, equipping, personnel accountability, logistics, or operations, we have created a painful dependency.

For our best and brightest military thinkers, overlooking the details isn’t nearly as painful as it is revealing.

Frozen Lemons Construction Company

The Afghans are definitely resourceful.  With billions of dollars available from through coalition efforts, there is no shortage of initiative and creativity.  But what do “Frozen Lemons” have to do with construction?

At least “Frozen Lemons” has a fighting chance in Afghanistan; naming your enterprise “The 39th Construction Company” would be a sure loser.

But you haven’t “arrived” until the locals name their companies after you, as is the case with the “Rusty Rhoads Construction Company.”

The Fog of War, Part II

Apparently, the slide below is not a joke about Afghanistan. 

According to the UK Daily Mail and the New York Times, when General Stanley McChrystal, the former ISAF commander, saw the slide he stated, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.” 

When I first saw it, I thought it was the organizational chart for ISAF.

With news reports indicating the U.S. is financially committing to Afghanistan until at least 2024, we’ll have time not only to figure it out but to fully implement it.

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.

Lessons Ignored

The Counterinsurgency Field Manual, written by Generals Petraeus and Amos, contains lessons learned from past counterinsurgencies.  One such lesson is cited below in its entirety:

Building a Military: Sustainment Failure

By 1969, pressure was on for U.S. forces in Vietnam to turn the war over to the host nation in a process now known as Vietnamization.  While assisting South Vietnamese military forces, the United States armed and equipped them with modern small arms, communications, and transportation equipment—all items produced by and sustained from the U.S. industrial base.  This modern equipment required an equally sophisticated maintenance and supply system to sustain it.  Sustaining this equipment challenged the South Vietnamese economically and culturally, despite the training of several thousand South Vietnamese in American supply and maintenance practices.  In short, the American way of war was not indigenously sustainable and was incompatible with the Vietnamese material culture and economic capabilities.  South Vietnam’s predominately agrarian-based economy could not sustain the high-technology equipment and computer based systems established by U.S. forces and contractors.  Consequently, the South military transformation was artificial and superficial.  Many South Vietnamese involved in running the sustainment systems had little faith in them.  Such attitudes encouraged poor administration and rampant corruption.  After U.S. forces left and most U.S. support ended, the logistic shortcomings of the supposedly modern South Vietnamese military contributed to its rapid disintegration when the North Vietnamese advanced in 1975.

From:  U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Field Manual, 3-24, p. 8-10 (176/282), Univ. Chicago (2007). 

Courtesy of RJR.