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June 11, 2009
TRIAGE: THE NEXT 12 MONTHS IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTANBy Greyhawk
A few quick notes on this panel - not to imply these are comprehensive, accurate, or the most important points:
Now on with the show:
Exum: This report was authored the heels of four strategic reviews of Afghanistan/Pakistan. First challenge - think of way to be useful... second challenge: plenty of people had ideas for how it could be useful.
Tried two things: One, given list of strategic goals, offer operational recommendations to meet those goals. We offer two recommendations for Afghanistan, two for Pakistan.
Second thing: provide metrics.
"Sense of urgency" - very alarmed at the downward trajectory.
First Afghanistan recommendation: Propose "ink blot" strategy; protect pop above all other considerations. Iraq=urban, Afghan=rural. In Iraq, secure Baghdad and you've secured 1/5th popualtion. Not in Afghanistan. Address this - commanders face tough decisions on trade-offs in where you put troops. Why in Korengal Valley? Maybe not to protect population there, but to protect population elsewhere.
Second Afghanistan recommendation: Limited personnel available for "civilian surge", therefore for best results put civilians in ministries - the perception of no corruption is important in developing population's trust of government.
Second Pakistan recommendation: "We are not saying Drone strikes aren't part of solution, but they are part of the problem." Drone strikes appear to be tactic, not strategy, not linked to IO campaign.
What's missing? For all four recommendations 1 - resources 2 - metrics
Lieutenant General David W. Barno, USA (Ret.)
Why not first fix Mexico? Outranks Afghan in importance by several orders of magnitude. But anyone suggesting thousands of troops to Mexico would be laughed out of the room - but those talking Afghanistan are treated like sages.
Take minimalist approach - as in Uruguay or Fiji. Neither Obama admin approach nor that suggested by this paper satisfy criteria for more.
We don't need/can't afford to take on such a grandiose effort (as Afghanistan) as long as we maintain strong defense. As long as we do that, al Qaeda in caves pose no more than a moderate threat to our national interest.
Colonel Christopher G. Cavoli, USA (Note: AFGHAN bound as Bde cdr - this informs his views - will be "end user" )
Some things to be explored, filled in before document is operational useful. For instance, ink blot: "I couldn't agree more". But it should be done "right". Oil spots require "pretext" to exist. From experience, it's not infrequent to be asked - on arrival in small village: "Why are you here? Now there will be fighting".
Examples of pretext include: Build road, elections...
Ops in Ink blots must be consistent as units rotate - and consistent between "spots".
Difficult to achieve cohesive control in a COALITION (ISAF) - this makes difficult to see how we will generate momentum. (Implies ISAF = anti-momentum?) Concurs "corruption" (no one argues this) in Afghanistan. Step two, connect the population to gov't - is decisive [certainly for anything beyond short term].
"Lt Gen Barno covered 3d and 4th recommendations more succinctly than I could"
But: sometimes Afghanistan is operating area, Pakistan is safe haven - sometimes that flip flops. With that in mind, we see right now a safe haven exists in Pakistan. No problem with curtailing drone strikes, but that's all we have putting pressure on safe haven. Two, supporting Pakistan police over military also may relieve pressure on safe havens. These items in report can be fixed.
"We'll know it works because fighting will increase dramatically"
Repeats: we'll know it works because when COIN connects people to gov't, must separate insurgents from people; but bad guys will fight (not surrender) when this becomes apparent.
"I read very dire comments about Afghan, but remarkable to me how little effort is put in there" Gen Petraeus earlier showed slide (Sadr city) with 11 predators - the duration of last tour in Afghanistan I maybe had 1/2 dozen UAV sorties over my area"
Exum: I think we're headed towards long term commitment. We (authors) focused on lower level without getting into long-term. We invited Bacevich to challenge. He presented "gloriously heretical response, divcorced from political reality in the region" "I don't see political realities in America undermining our response in Afghanistan next 5 or so years"
Bacevich: The historian in me would say, back around 1980 with declaration of Carter Docrine, US in operated in the region based on assumptions that our efforts could effect results in the Persian Gulf - now that's been extended to the entire Islamic world. This has been enormously expensive, has delivered no meaningful benefit to the U.S.
There ought to be enough room to consider a radically different approach to nat'l security (cites current growing deficits).
Exum: WRT COIN doctrine - we do as third party, we are admittedly dependent on reconciliations that are outside our control.
Bacevich: "Imperal projection", vastly overestimates what US can do. "Previous way of war" assumption was short wars, decisive outcome, relatively cheap - ala Desert Storm. "New way of war" assumes long term (10-15 years), yielding ambiguous outcome.
Exum: Yes - long term, this is why we should avoid in the first place.
Audience: To extent polling is reliable in Afghan, support there for US ... should it be US in ministries vice Muslim countries, others...?
Exum: notes absence of Afghans on panel. The need to bring in Euro allies is addressed in paper. "Unity of command is good thing from military perspective, but we'd love to internationalize the aid portion."
FICK: does trajectory matter? Yes - and perceived trajectory is downward. I'm not an academic - therefore have freedom to cite anecdote. Myth - Afghans drove out Brits and Russians, so us to. But Afghans as a whole are more frustrated with our incompetence rather than our presence. They need tea, but not sweet tea.
Spoke to TV producer there who just got rights for '24' on Afghan TV. "You realize the villains are Muslim terrorists?" "Yes - but we don't care as long as they aren't Afghan". Point being many Afghans aren't caught up in pan-Islamic issues. "The reservoir on which we're drawing in Afghanistan is deeper" than we think.
Aud: I spent 3 years in Afghanistan. I would draw sorry conclusions: Bacevich is probably right. Americans have other desires... won't support effort... vast poverty and ignorance over there - I don't see American domestic strategy in your paper.
Exum: It's not a strategy paper - but if I had to come up with a "fifth" recommendation it would be educate US population. The new administration certainly has more considerations other than war than we did at the start of Iraq surge, but that still sounds a lot like what was said in 2007...
Aud: Do we have an exit strategy whether we like the term or not ...how might we finally have public conversation on "exit strategy" - is congress on this, is anyone working on this?
Exum: I'm not aware of any. Chris, take the non-military piece...
Cavoli: On the "win and leave" option, the minimalist idea on that is when al Qaeda is not using the area as a base. This is however a negative proposition, hard to know when achieved...
BARNO: Inherent paradox to "exit strategy' - when friends and enemies think you're "on the clock". Pakistan and Afghan gov'ts and people are concerned... as important as it is to domstic audience, its a problem for ears over there.
Aud: What is the role for private security companies in Afghanistan?
Fick: Personal philosophy: Private contractors overseas with US forces are unavoidable part of modern way of war... but the closer contractors get to core military operations the more concerned I become. In 2004 CPA HQ in Najaf attacked, slow response from higher...
One project we intend to embark on in coming year is study of contractor issue, ... we are far from right balance on that
Exum: Answer is yes - there will be a role for contractors.
Cavoli: Different in Afghanistan, less of an issue. Terrain, distances, lack of infrastructure... few private security companies have infrastructure to overcome. [Implying they don't take on security role? - vacuum implied.]
Bacevich: Moral issue; architects of GWoT underestimated length of war... allies didn't step up... turning to private contractors was a way to conceal true cost.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 11, 2009 2:19 PM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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