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October 4, 2009
Combat in NuristanBy Greyhawk
U.S. Forces Afghanistan reports "eight ISAF and two ANSF service members" killed in action...
More from the Times (London):
"Coalition forces' previously announced plans to depart the area as part of a broader realignment to protect larger population centers remain unchanged."
"Unchanged" also means "waiting for Washington" - and moving in slow motion. Meanwhile, troops remain spread thin.
Final decisions on disposition of forces await further instruction from Washington - but opposition forces in Nuristan spend considerably less time debating strategy.
Today's Washington Post has a feature on one of the "cases where small elements of U.S. forces -- platoon-size, company-size elements -- have almost been overrun" - the 2008 battle of Wanat:
"It is almost a lost cause up in Nurestan," 1st Lt. Jonathan Brostrom said a few weeks before his death in the attack. "There needs to be a lot more than just a platoon there if you want to make a big difference."
The story also provides a glimpse at the frustration experienced by those in Afghanistan unable to rapidly execute a strategic plan:
The American soldiers from this outpost were scheduled to depart the area as part of the new U.S. strategy to focus on securing areas with larger populations. Capt. Mathias said the soldiers at the outpost were not expected to leave this month and had not yet begun to prepare for their departure when they came under attack. Smith, who did not specify the number of American soldiers at the outpost, said such isolated bases at times have only "limited impact" against the insurgents.
But includes a quote supporting those in Washington who prefer debate:
"Americans always want to fight in Afghanistan," said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, who took credit for the attack by telephone. "If the Americans want to increase their troops, we will increase our fighters as well."
Both the Post story and the London Times' coverage offer arguments from the provincial governor in favor of reinforcing Nuristan.
Jamaludin Badar, the governor of Nuristan province, said that Taleban fighters had fled to Nuristan after Pakistani troops drove extremists from the Swat Valley earlier this year. He said that he had sought more security forces for Kamdesh district, adding: "When there are few security forces this is what happens."The Post:
But while hopes for the eventual commitment of sufficient resources could contribute to the slow pace of consolidation of limited ISAF forces, other areas in Afghanistan have already been designated as more immediate priority to the campaign.
Meanwhile, it's worth noting that Afghan security forces likely drew the brunt of the initial assault. According to Mohammad Farooq, Nuristan's deputy police chief, the attack began by taking out the police radio system. "Since the attack began I've been unable to communicate with the police chief. We are still trying to find out where he is." In addition, "the fate of the rest of the 90-strong police force in Kamdesh district was unknown."
Mujahid, described as "a Taleban spokesman" in the Times account, claimed 35 policemen were captured, and their fate would be decided by the movement's provincial council. He added that the district police chief and intelligence chief were among the hostages.
ISAF/USFORA have thus far described the attackers as "village militia" - avoiding the use of the term Taliban, but regardless of who holds the ground in Nuristan (for now) that organization has scored a tremendous propaganda coup.
A footnote - from Bill Roggio
Afghan officials described the attackers as Taliban, Uzbek, and Arab fighters who crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan.Meanwhile
Posted by Greyhawk / October 4, 2009 11:53 AM | Permalink
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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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