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TBILISI, Georgia — Russian tanks and troops moved through the separatist enclave of South Ossetia and advanced on the city of Gori in central Georgia on Sunday night, for the first time directly assaulting a Georgian city with ground forces after three days of heavy fighting, Georgian officials said.I think South Ossetia and Abkhazia can and should be written off as lost by our Georgian allies. Later we can all examine why that had to happen the way it did - there were certainly better ways.
But Russia on undisputed Georgian territory? If such reports are verified, a brave new world awaits us all...
I also believe Lex is right on the money here:
This was not so much a failure of Georgian strategy so much as it was a failure of worldwide imagination. Tanks do not roll overnight, and fleets do not move in a week’s time. Putin is not acting out of petulance but calculation, and the game he’s playing is as long as Russian history itself.
The beginning of a long winning streak.
As set out here.
Virtually every paragraph is worthy of much expansion and much debate.
To be sure, some units conducted effective counterinsurgency operations before the surge, including Col. H.R. McMaster's 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Tall Afar in 2005 and Col. Sean MacFarland's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, in Ramadi in 2006. More generally, however, the coalition approach before 2007 was focused on rapidly shifting security responsibilities to Iraqi forces. As sectarian violence spiraled out of control, it became increasingly evident that Iraqi forces were unable to prevent its spread. By the fall of 2006, it was clear that our strategy was failing, an assessment courageously stated by Gen. George Casey and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad in their year-end review of the Joint Campaign Plan.I agree with that. But there are countless overly simplified and poorly considered conclusions that can be (and in fact have been) drawn from that collection of facts, none of which I believe the author would concur with.
One - the implication that pre-2007 we were wandering aimlessly to nowhere under the guidance of buffoons, and two - the idea that everything changed abruptly and rapidly with the arrival of the surge forces - each of whom was armed with a copy of the new COIN FM. And if "By the fall of 2006, it was clear that our strategy was failing", then I'd add that it was equally true in the spring of 2006. In fact, I'd argue that in some ways (see Awakening, Anbar) the situation was better in the fall of 2006 than it had been six months previously. The only thing more clear in the fall was that the Democrats were about to control both houses of the US Congress. This amplified a previously understated sense of urgency about the rate of progress in Iraq.
As for the 3d ACR - a unit whose accomplishments are well known in part due to my own minor efforts to keep the public informed - here's a Wall Street Journal story on their preparations to deploy, from way back in 2004::
Perhaps the most striking changes are taking place on Army posts such as Fort Carson, Colo., where the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment is getting ready for an Iraq deployment early next year. Since taking command of the 5,000-soldier regiment this summer, Col. H.R. McMaster, an early critic of the Army's vision of fast, high-tech wars, has put his troops through weeks of mock raids. He has staged convoy ambushes and meetings with role players acting as local Iraqi leaders. Such training is becoming common throughout the Army.Now fast-forward to the end of their tour:
Iraqis in former rebel stronghold now cheer American soldiers.The British Telegraph was a bit more straightforward in explaining why that wasn't going to happen:
As noted previously, the 3d ACR was a vanguard for a "new" strategy whereby "units' readiness for war should be judged not only by traditional standards, such as how well they fire their tanks, but by the number of foreign speakers in their ranks, their awareness of the local culture where they will fight, and their ability to train and equip local security forces."
It worked. But:The biggest problem U.S. troops in Iraq face is Baghdad, a city about 30 times the size of Tall Afar. With the current number of American troops in Iraq, it would be impossible to copy the approach used here, with outposts every few blocks.
"Baghdad is a much tougher nut to crack than this," said Maj. Jack McLaughlin, Hickey's plans officer, who attended Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Va. Standing in the castle overlooking the city, he said, "It's a matter of scale -- you'd need a huge number of troops to replicate what we've done here."
But the success in Tal Afar only highlights the problems of replicating it elsewhere.In short, by early 2006 we knew exactly what would work - but didn't have the political willpower to make it happen nationwide. Right or wrong, the undeniable American goal was to get Iraqi troops trained and equipped to where it could be done.
The strategy will require more troops, which is politically unacceptable right now in America, given growing public doubts about the war.
And here's where things get interesting. Mansoor: "the coalition approach before 2007 was focused on rapidly shifting security responsibilities to Iraqi forces". Indeed, and the most well known proponent of that approach was US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Asked about whether we needed more troops in Iraq in June, 2005, he replied:
We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency.He was confident of that because while the Iraqi security forces were growing - albeit slowly - 1) al Qaeda (or "foreign fighters" if you prefer) were slaughtering Iraqis and turning the survivors into American allies, and 2) efforts were underway to bleed off the local "insurgents" from the al Qaeda groups - a forerunner to the "awakening" and "sons of Iraq" movements of 2006-2007.
Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency. We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency.
There were a couple of other (arguably valid) spoken and unspoken arguments against an American troop surge at that point in time. First - the theory that additional troops would be seen by Iraqis as proof that the US intended to occupy Iraq indefinitely, an argument made by the very al Qaeda elements we were trying to undermine. While even many in the United States hold fast to this dystopian fantasy, eternal occupation was hardly the plan - exhibit one: we didn't send in more troops - and I could double the length of this discussion by pointing to all the additional evidence to the contrary. But two, a majority of Congressional Dems - and probably a sizable minority from the other side of the aisle - would not have let it happen, which the British media, at least, was right in noting. NO one was making the argument for more troops in Iraq back then - right?
Wrong. Enter "the Generals":
Last April a group of six retired generals made headlines with a call for the dismissal of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Other retired senior officers quickly countered with endorsements of the Secretary - but while their positions were subsequently ignored, in the months that followed few stories about any aspect of Iraq would lack a quote from one of the "gang of six".Their calls for Rumsfeld's head appealed strongly to his political opponents and made headlines - but their reasons didn't - so you likely never read them in the paper
:...Batiste and his colleagues offered their solution: more troops, more money and more time in Iraq.But let's face it - if it was combat, they won. (Later, of course, staunch Democratic Party activist Eaton would insist the surge was a bad idea, revealing his actual motives, but most of the others can claim victory if they so choose.) Rumsfeld was gone, and the surge rolled into Iraq, providing enough troops (along with the by then vastly increased numbers of Iraqi forces, as Mansoor acknowledges) to execute - or perhaps expedite - the strategies (Awakening Movements, Sons of Iraq, neighborhood Combat Outposts) we'd developed over the previous years.
"We must mobilize our country for a protracted challenge," Batiste warned.
"We better be planning for at least a minimum of a decade or longer," contributed retired Marine Col. Thomas Hammes.
"We are, conservatively, 60,000 soldiers short," added retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of building the Iraqi Security Forces.
The irony - in case its lost on anyone - is that those who now argue that the surge had no impact, that additional troops didn't matter (or mattered little), and that it was the Iraqis who finally rose up and threw off the bounds of tyranny - are arguing that Rumsfeld was right all along. So if you hear anyone making said argument, feel free to ask them where they were when their boy was under fire in late 2006, and why they didn't have the guts to stand up, make themselves heard, and be counted when it mattered.
Almost immediate update: By the way, the concept of ultimate victory belonging to the people of Iraq (or the people of Iraq having ultimate responsibility for the future of Iraq) has never been abandoned. The fact that the surge helped make it happen faster doesn't distract from that.All done!
1. To register for the milblogs (and and only milblogs) conference, first send an email (with "Request Code" in the subject line) to andi-at-andisworld-dot-com. You'll receive a registration code via return email. (It may take a couple of days or so for you receive your code. Please don't send follow-up email or worry about it unless it's been more than seven days and you've received no response.)
If you're a panelist, speaker or moderator, you will register as a speaker and will not need a registration code. Information on how to register will be emailed soon to all speakers. We're still waiting for these instructions if anyone else recieved these instructions let us know.
Greyhawk has all registration instructions compiled together here.
Blocks of rooms at various hotels in Las Vegas have been reserved for registrants of Blog World Expo. The discounted rates will only be good until August 18, so it's best to make your reservations now. THEY ARE GOIN' FAST!
Although an official "milblog" hotel has not been designated, according to Andi, survey seems to indicate that many milbloggers are staying at the Marriott Courtyard, or the Sahara. If you'd like to try to stay together as a group, please leave your lodging suggestions in the comment section here or the MB Conference site.
We're (I'm) staying at the Marriot Courtyard with nice fluffy bedding. Greyhawk on the other hand will be wandering and sleeping in the Nevada desert in full cammo gear with his ipod full of Metallica, killing his own food (hope he likes snakes and armadillos) and trying to add a turret to Some Soldier's Mom's vehicle. (sigh)
We plan on enjoying Vegas a little before the conference, we're arriving on the 18th and leaving on the 22nd. We're trying to have a gathering somewhere on Friday evening, so please leave a comment if you'd like to be in on this and we can coordinate times and location via emails.
FYI , If you want to stay at the Marriot Courtyard they still have rooms available outside the Blogworld expo block ($134.00/night) at a more expensive rate ($170.00/night) but if you're active duty military, you qualify for a discount outside the Blogworld expo block - at $108.00 a night except Sunday night ($229, not sure why that is). I suggest you go thru Blog Expo for this night. If reservations for Marriot are made online instead of called in, put GOV in the spot for Corporate/promotional code. You will need to show military ID upon arrival.
According to Military.com the (ahem) Hilton has military discounts as well for $97.00 a night. Be sure you ck to see if these apply to the BWE dates.
Here are some other Hotels in Vegas offering Military discounts.
Need to get rooms now. THEY ARE GOIN' FAST!
Also Southwest Airlines and Continental have the cheapest airfare, go thru them directly.
At the 2007 MilBlog Conference, we threw a huge baby shower for a severely wounded Marine and his wife. The gift table was overflowing with gifts from generous conference attendees. Semper Fi Wife had the honor of delivering a truck full of gifts to Bethesda Naval Hospital, and reported that the couple was a bit shocked to see the amount of gifts that complete strangers provided for their baby.
Soldier's Mom reminds us that we have the opportunity to throw a baby shower for another deserving couple this year. If you don't know the story of Jayme and Joey Bozik, you should study up. Jayme is due Christmas Eve. They are having a girl...Violet Skye Bozik. We'll continue the tradition this year with Baby Bozik as our inspiration.
Andi has details here.
Not everyone has to purchase something but a congrats and thank you for your service card would be nice.
Lookin' forward to meeting up with old friends and meeting some new faces. Hope to see you all there.
Anyone who wants to show their support for the milblogging community by purchasing a sponsorship package that is sure to get your company or organization noticed, and will help offset the costs of the 2008 MilBlog Conference. Corporate sponsorships are now available.
Thank you Andi again for all your efforts you put into this, hugs coming your way.
Greyhawk, you missed the best part of the article you linked to;
Ukraine also warned that it might not allow Russian ships deployed off Abkhazia to return to their base in the Crimea.My $.02 - watch oil tomorrow AM - so much for the drop in oil prices in the short term methinks .....
The conflict in the Caucasus today spread to Georgia's second breakaway province of Abkhazia, where separatist rebels and the Russian air force launched an all-out attack on Georgian forces.
Georgia says its troops have withdrawn from the breakaway region of South Ossetia and that Russian forces are in control of its capital, Tskhinvali.Uglier.
An government spokesman told the BBC it was not a military defeat but a necessary step to protect civilians.
But a Russian military spokesman said Georgia had not withdrawn its forces and the situation remained tense.
Russian PM Vladimir Putin has suggested it is unlikely that South Ossetia will re-integrate with the rest of Georgia.
Meanwhile, Russian warships are being deployed to impose a naval blockade on Georgian ports on the Black Sea coast to prevent arms and military shipments, Russian media reports say.
Separatist authorities in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia mobilized the army and called up reservists Sunday to drive Georgian government forces out of the small part of the province still under Georgian control.
The move dramatically raises the stakes in the conflict between Georgia and Russia over another separatist province, South Ossetia. With most Georgian troops concentrated on fighting Russian troops in South Ossetia, it could be hard for Georgia to repel the Abkhazian offensive.
In addition, Russia troops were seen moving through Abkahzia toward the border with Georgia, which lies on the Black Sea between Turkey and Russia.
SGT Grumpy has some photos from his time in Iraq posted. Pretty cool! I liked the Sadr pic.
Colonel Mansoor discusses how the surge related to stabilization in Iraq without all the nonsensical political disputes about "What the Surge is" that you get from Washington.