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RHaston
11-20-2011, 02:38 AM
I flew medevac in Northern Helmand June-November. The guys liked the following idea. My boss added that subsidizing soybeans would deny them the cornfields as cover.

Rather than turn it into a giant thesis (I've looked into all the details about wood for fuel, etc.) I tried to see how few words I could put it in.

Seeing that you could start with one dozer and a truckload of fencing and irrigation pipe, it would be easy to test. I know the exact tree line to start with.


Plowing Over the Taliban


We overlooked why the Taliban are so entrenched – it’s the trenches. Afghanistan is wasteland except for a 5 kilometer wide ribbon of antiquated overgrown irrigation trenches and mud walls. Any soldier will tell you, the denser and wider the web, the thicker the bullets. This war costs $18,000 an acre, annually.

Each troop removed could buy a million feet of wire fence or irrigation pipe. The lead should be the USDA, not the USMC. Afghanistan’s green belt could be cleaner than Kansas. The farmers would love us. Hunting the Taliban would become unsporting.


Robert Haston, LtCol, 920th Rescue Wing

jcustis
11-20-2011, 05:08 AM
Sir,

What do you propose is done with the fencing and irrigation pipe?

Destroy the current organization of earthen land plot dividers and lay pipe where earthen canals currently exist?

I could fight in the plains of the Midwest and still have enough micro-terrain to stymie an opposing force that is MRAP bound and constrained by counter-mobility devices (IEDs).

davidbfpo
11-20-2011, 12:01 PM
Robert,

Welcome aboard SWC and your first post is intriguing. I shall wait for those with agricultural and development expertise to comment. Jon of course has his own perspective having been in the south of Helmand.

Infanteer
11-20-2011, 02:34 PM
Do they want us to demolish their centuries old agricultural system and replace it with soybeans, fencing and pipes (that they'll be unable to replace after we leave)?

I don't think we are dealing with a Pashtun insurgency because of the thickness of a grapehut.

Bob's World
11-20-2011, 03:18 PM
Afghanistan is an intriguing land to fly over and look down upon.

I think this concept is an important one as it highlights how many smart, capable, professionals sent to Afghanistan see the problem that they are attempting to resolve. They see the insurgency in Afghanistan as being caused by the insurgents, and that if we simply clear the critical spaces of insurgents, or separate the insurgents from the populace (whatever that means), or in this case presumably convert the spaces they operate withing to have less obstacles to our maneuver or cover to hide behind?

But insurgents don't cause insurgency any more than a hacking cough causes the flu. They are an obvious, painful symptom of the disease, but they are not the disease, they are not the cause, and the defeat of them is no more the cure than suppression of that afore mentioned annoying cough.

Like the cough, however, the presence of insurgents is a powerful indicator that an unhealthy situation exists that must be dealt with properly, as left alone it could progress until it threatens the life of the "patient", which in this case is the affected nation state (regardless of how "primitive" it may seem compared to the ones we all live in, the factors of human nature and human dynamics that insurgency is shaped by are largely constant in humans everywhere).

Most Afghan insurgents come from families and tribes and ethnic groups that are excluded from full participation in the economic and political aspects of their own country. Most come from families and tribes and ethnic groups that were included in this under the Taliban, but have become excluded as US and foreign action shifted the balance of power over to the Northern Alliance, and then dedicated itself to preserving that artificial shift.

In a heavily patronage society, where concepts of loyalty and revenge burn deep, such a shift forced upon one is something that one cannot simply ignore. It is more than just a desire for power, or wealth; it is a duty of dignity and honor to resist.

In a perfect world Karzai and the Northern Alliance would demand that ISAF stop perpetuating this unsustainable situation with our blood and treasure and allow them to shred their current constitution that codifies this monopoly of Northern Alliance governance and that turns traditional Afghan patronage into a massive Ponzi scheme that enriches them unfairly and denies the people at the local level of the traditional benefits of Afghan-style governance. They would conduct a massive Loya Jirga to bring all Afghans into fair competition for power and influence and would craft a new constitution designed to create trust between these parties who have no natural reason to trust each other. The kind of trust necessary for any such diverse populace to advance.

But this is not a perfect world. Karzai and the rest of the Northern Alliance prefer the low level violence and the artificial situation that ISAF provides. That is good enough for them. When one knows they are illegitimately in power, a reliance on foreign protection and endless insurgency are success.

So no, the roots of this conflict are not in the valleys of the Helmand, they are in the halls of Kabul and Washington. Mostly due to well-intended ignorance by most, but guided by very intentional self-serving objectives by others.

ganulv
11-20-2011, 03:29 PM
The social and legal context of irrigation is never anything less than complex. There is generally a good deal of haggling and friction involved, as to be expected when dealing with the scarcity of a vital resource. Think Chinatown (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0071315/). Now think Chinatown in a place were almost none of the outside parties understands even the physical infrastructure of local water networks.

JMA
11-20-2011, 08:50 PM
Afghanistan is an intriguing land to fly over and look down upon.

I think this concept is an important one as it highlights how many smart, capable, professionals sent to Afghanistan see the problem that they are attempting to resolve. They see the insurgency in Afghanistan as being caused by the insurgents, and that if we simply clear the critical spaces of insurgents, or separate the insurgents from the populace (whatever that means), or in this case presumably convert the spaces they operate withing to have less obstacles to our maneuver or cover to hide behind?

He makes a valid point Bob. It is the politicians that send the soldiers into Helmand. It is the soldiers who must do the best they can while they are there. It is a fair question to ask why the junk woodland and scrub bush which has provided cover for the TB has not been cleared after five years of heavy activity in the area. Why do you think this has not been done? When the Marines arrived in Helmand they used bulldozers to widen roads so as to not become trapped in the narrow lanes with high walls on each side. Why did they not pay Afghan labour to clear the bush along the canals (as he suggests)?


[I][B]Most Afghan insurgents come from families and tribes and ethnic groups that are excluded from full participation in the economic and political aspects of their own country. Most come from families and tribes and ethnic groups that were included in this under the Taliban, but have become excluded as US and foreign action shifted the balance of power over to the Northern Alliance, and then dedicated itself to preserving that artificial shift.

Actually Bob they are doing quite well given all the drug money floating around and the aid money the US is throwing down the toilet there. So if the US is intent on throwing money away why not consider fixing the terrain to their advantage?

This view from the air is critically important, more so than grunts walking up and down the same paths day after day at mine clearing pace and finding IEDs along the way. How can one be 'holding' the ground if the TB and their local helpers have free reign (normally at night) to plant/lay IEDs?

The military have a job to do on the ground and will have until 2014 so they can't just sit on their hands and take causalities while they wait for their tour to end.

It is becoming commonly reported from Afghans now days that within three months of the departure of ISAF the TB will take over control of those areas again.


In a heavily patronage society, where concepts of loyalty and revenge burn deep, such a shift forced upon one is something that one cannot simply ignore. It is more than just a desire for power, or wealth; it is a duty of dignity and honor to resist.

And this is not something the soldier deployed on the ground in Helmand can do anything about. You can take this problem to the politicians on their behalf while they get on with attempting to achieve something during their tour and staying alive in the process.


In a perfect world ...

It is not a perfect world and the politicians are screwing it up again.

So while the politicians try to figure their way out of the problem of their own making let the men on the ground do something that will achieve their lot.

RHaston
11-20-2011, 10:16 PM
Just to clarify "flying medevac" isn't circling around like a drone. We flew at treetop level and landed to pick up the casualty.

BBC has a good story about the worst area: Upper Gereshk: The Helmand plan meets tough reality http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14897977
I was bummed they didn't write about us hosing down the irrigation ditch/treeline at point blank range with miniguns. I sure thought it was cool.

As to MRAPS, the "greenest zones" have no interior roads. Just one more reason to overhaul them.

The decisive threat is our helicopters, drones, and spotter balloons or camera towers calling in artillery. That's why the Taliban quit when the leaves fall.

This really isn't theoretical. It isn't like "I know it would work". We proved it daily. Where the green was thin, I didn't get shot at. Where it was really thick, I got shot at 90% of the time - and I was trying real hard to not get shot at.

My apologies for going for brevity instead of detail on my original post.

I'm clueless as to how one would try to get the management to take a real look at this issue; but I'm open to suggestions.

Thanks for your inputs

jcustis
11-20-2011, 10:53 PM
The management has most likely looked at the issue, several times over from the moment that we started to spread out in the Helmand River Valley. They probably concluded that:

1. Afghanistan is a sovereign state, and Karzai does not want population control measures to be employed in that fashion.

2. Doing so would add to sentiment and unrest against the coalition, fomenting more resistance insurgency, at a time when getting a handle on the ideological insurgency is hard enough.

Each district has a group of older men (the title escapes me now) who are responsible for the irrigation and canal issues of the district. They coordinate the annual clean-ups, settle disputes over water access and rights, and maintain the corporate knowledge over everything water in the area (or at least claim to). I can imagine their response, and behavior afterwards, if we were to tell them that we were going to come in and tear up years of hand-wrought effort.

Treelines also serve as demarcation for land plots, and the Afghans are highly attuned to the aesthetic appeal of the range of vegetation that grows in the valley. Destroy those and there are going to be a whole lot of pissed off people weighing in with their "angry brothers."

ganulv
11-20-2011, 11:08 PM
Each district has a group of older men (the title escapes me now) who are responsible for the irrigation and canal issues of the district. They coordinate the annual clean-ups, settle disputes over water access and rights, and maintain the corporate knowledge over everything water in the area.Is that the mirab?

jcustis
11-20-2011, 11:17 PM
Yes, thank you. The mirab.

Infanteer
11-21-2011, 01:54 AM
The management has most likely looked at the issue, several times over from the moment that we started to spread out in the Helmand River Valley. They probably concluded that:

1. Afghanistan is a sovereign state, and Karzai does not want population control measures to be employed in that fashion.

2. Doing so would add to sentiment and unrest against the coalition, fomenting more resistance insurgency, at a time when getting a handle on the ideological insurgency is hard enough.

What he said.

RHaston, what you've proposed is a very practical solution to a tactical problem. It's no secret that most of the resistance is centered around the "greenzones". It's also no secret that most of the population lives there.

As BW pointed out above, tactical solutions aren't necessarily going to help with political problems. In fact, something like you've proposed may likely exacerbate the issue. I have seen first hand the results of damage to a single canal, and it ends up a bit like this:


Destroy those and there are going to be a whole lot of pissed off people weighing in with their "angry brothers."

Bob's World
11-21-2011, 05:05 AM
As I recall, Genghis came to Afghanistan, he stole everything of value, he killed every male taller than a wagon wheel, and he destroyed the canals that allowed a society to flourish in the desert. Then a few decades later his successor came back to Afghanistan and did the same thing all over again. Set the whole place back several hundred years in the process.

Effective, but not what we're all about.

This article was written by a guy who thinks that (my assessment) insurgents cause insurgency, and that once we defeat the insurgents we win. That isn't how insurgency works.

Our problems are not in the green zones along the waterways of rural Afghanistan, other than that we go there in pursuit of insurgents. Our problems are in "the green zone" in Kabul where Karzai and gang live and "govern" in protected isolation, running their little Ponzi scheme under the protection of ISAF. We are patsies, plain and simple.

The key to AQ sanctuary in the region lies with the Taliban and always has. Cut a deal with those guys and AQ will have to find a new home to operate out of. That won't solve the AQ problem, but it will solve the AF/PAK problem. One step at at time...

JMA
11-21-2011, 03:12 PM
This article was written by a guy who thinks that (my assessment) insurgents cause insurgency, and that once we defeat the insurgents we win. That isn't how insurgency works.

What article? What guy?

Bob, we have been through this all before in the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/killing-your-way-to-control?page=1)

In addition you selected the word insurgent over the word terrorist or guerilla or (a possibility in the case of Afghanistan) anti-government (paid) mercenaries.

So please define who we are talking about here. Are your insurgents armed? Or are they merely rural tribal people rebelling against the central government by passive means?

While considering a reply it would be worth your while to read Wilf's article:

Killing Your Way to Control - by William F Owen (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/BAR%20151%20Killing%20your%20way%20to%20control%28 2%29.pdf)

(took him a little time but he has finally got it right ;) )

Bob's World
11-22-2011, 01:39 PM
What article? What guy?

Bob, we have been through this all before in the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/killing-your-way-to-control?page=1)

In addition you selected the word insurgent over the word terrorist or guerilla or (a possibility in the case of Afghanistan) anti-government (paid) mercenaries.

So please define who we are talking about here. Are your insurgents armed? Or are they merely rural tribal people rebelling against the central government by passive means?

While considering a reply it would be worth your while to read Wilf's article:

Killing Your Way to Control - by William F Owen (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/BAR%20151%20Killing%20your%20way%20to%20control%28 2%29.pdf)

(took him a little time but he has finally got it right ;) )


I have read WILF's article and engaged with him on this topic extensively. We agree to disagree. My assessment is that he sees insurgency as war brought against a state by the insurgent, and that defeat of the insurgent through warfare is victory. I see insurgency as a civil emergency rooted in illegal political challenge internal to a state, in which the primary source of causation is government action and policy as perceived by the affected populace, that may, or may not elevate to a degree of violence that looks like warfare.

I see Western concepts of insurgency as being heavily shaped by Western efforts to establish and maintain colonial possessions and to establish and maintain a ring of containment during the Cold War. I believe that experience colors Western perceptions toward the belief that manipulation of others is harmless, and that mere suppression of those who dare to complain is success. That used to be good enough. In the current environment it is not only not "good enough," it is also the primary driver of acts of transnational terrorism, creating rich pools of highly motivated nationalist recruits for AQ and others to co-opt for transnationalist missions.

I am sure we will agree to disagree as well. As I do with the author of this thread. I am comfortable with that. I realize that it makes others uncomfortable to have their beliefs challenged, but I am used to it and happy to defend my positions.

Cheers!

Bob

Entropy
11-22-2011, 05:37 PM
The management has most likely looked at the issue, several times over from the moment that we started to spread out in the Helmand River Valley.

Geresk was one of the first areas the Taliban restarted operations in the spring of 2003. Seven plus years and there's no answer for the problem of denying the enemy cover to conduct their operations. Seven plus years and we've been unable to negotiate anything with the locals, or the Helmand governors (We're on our fourth now) or Karzai. How often has our "management" changed? It used to change about every 18 months. My time in Afghanistan is long past - I was last there in 2005 - but the record is playing the same tune.

Maybe the LtCol Haston's proposed solution isn't viable, but it seems to me that the problem he's trying to address has been with us for a long time. Is there really no solution other than the status quo?

jcustis
11-23-2011, 03:02 AM
My battalion had to detach a company to work in vicinity of Gereshk during the last deploy, and they had a hard fight there. No doubt, the issue of insurgent cover, concealment, and mobility has been with us from day one. This isn't an issue of the Taliban being able to engage a USAF SAR bird with a brace of Pedros in the back, from a treeline, and I don't think that incident is symptomatic of a larger issue. Sure, they made good use of cover and lighting it up with a minigun makes for a good tale, but if it wasn't a canal depression or a hedgerow, it would be a compound wall, or a mud guest house, or a mosque. I suppose we could just blaze away at them too, but I wouldn't advise that.

The Taliban aren't entrenched because of the trenches--they're entrenched because of the human terrain, in my opinion.

It's not like these knuckleheads spend all their time lying up in harbor sites in the sticks. They conduct an amazing amount of movement in the open, scooting around via pickups, 'motorcyclos', heck, even tractors. When we are positioned well enough to ambush them, we hit jackpot and we win hands-down. We, the Brits, Canadians, Danes, etc., have tended to enjoy similar success during meeting engagements as well. They know this and therefore pick their battles wisely, generally preferring to set up on a principal direction of fire, use IEDs as protective obstacles, and engage us in a very narrow engagement window that tends to not last very long, and then get out of Dodge.

The larger issue is a lack of boots on the ground, Afghan National Security Forces development, and our FOB/COP-centric means of waging this fight. Cover and concealment is something like 0.1% of the problem, and there are a slew of bigger ones we'd have to tackle before cover becomes relevant.

JMA
11-23-2011, 05:52 AM
I have read WILF's article and engaged with him on this topic extensively. We agree to disagree. My assessment is that he sees insurgency as war brought against a state by the insurgent, and that defeat of the insurgent through warfare is victory.

Your assessment is plain wrong.

Wilf says:


"Non-violent opposition is normal everyday politics, and not something that the Army should worry about, ..."

and

"An Armyís job is to kill or capture anyone who seeks to violently contest ... (the government's authority)"

Crush the armed insurrection and it all reverts to a political process (which the police should be able to manage).


I see insurgency as a civil emergency rooted in illegal political challenge internal to a state, in which the primary source of causation is government action and policy as perceived by the affected populace, that may, or may not elevate to a degree of violence that looks like warfare.

If it does not "elevate to a degree of violence" there is no need to use the military deal with those peacefully contesting the authority of the state.

So the bottom line that when the hurly-burly of everyday politics develops into an armed insurrection that is when effective military action is called for.

So quite honestly your apparent inability to understand the need for military action to quell an armed insurrection/insurgency is difficult to understand.

Dayuhan
11-23-2011, 08:40 AM
If it does not "elevate to a degree of violence" there is no need to use the military deal with those peacefully contesting the authority of the state.

RCJ can of course speak for himself, but I'd have to point out that insurgencies often evolve in places where "those peacefully contesting the authority of the state" are likely to get a billy club in the teeth or a bullet in the back of the head. It's often not insurgents who initiate violence: states do it too.


So the bottom line that when the hurly-burly of everyday politics develops into an armed insurrection that is when effective military action is called for.

So quite honestly your apparent inability to understand the need for military action to quell an armed insurrection/insurgency is difficult to understand.

That comes back to the critical question of why the insurgents - not necessarily the leaders, but the people doing the fighting - are taking up arms against the state. If they have a reasonable grievance that can be reasonably addressed, it may not be necessary to use force to quell the insurgency. Of course that will not always the case, but since it's usually easier to address the grievance than to keep on quelling recurring insurgency, it's always worth asking from the outset what the causes of the insurgency are, and whether its possible to address those causes without killing people and blowing stuff up.

People where I live fought a small war against their government because their government wanted to drive them off their land, and when they tried to peacefully contest the plan the government sent armed men to kill them. Over 10 years of fighting led to a stalemate, and the Government finally decided to stop trying to drive the people off their land, at which point the insurgency ceased. It would have been a lot less trouble if they'd tried that from the start.

We cannot assume that "the authority of the state" is always legitimate, or that it's always something we want to ally ourselves with. Often it's neither. From an American perspective, way too often we've joined fights on the side of governments any one of us would rebel against, if we had the misfortune to be their subjects.

Bob's World
11-23-2011, 10:48 AM
JMA,

As I said, we can agree to disagree. But when you do disagree, ensure you read what I say and argue with that.

illegal political challenge is not "day to day," and it is a populace driven to the belief that it must operate outside the law to achieve resolution of issues that the government is unwilling to address through legal means that makes the essence of insurgency.

The military should be last in and first out in government prevention and response to insurgency. Definitions that only recognize the high end violent aspect of insurgency is like a definition of icebergs that only recognizes that portion rising above the surface of the water. One can attack that portion of the iceberg for a long time and only give rise to more ice. Same if one treats insurgency the same way.

A civil emergency is civil business. That is the vast majority of insurgency.

I will agree with WILF on this point: "War is war." Where we disagree is that I do not believe that insurgency is war.

Cheers!

Bob

JMA
11-23-2011, 03:28 PM
JMA, As I said, we can agree to disagree. But when you do disagree, ensure you read what I say and argue with that.

Bob you are not being entirely on the level here.

I said simply that your interpretation of what Wilf stated about "... that defeat of the insurgent through warfare is victory" is wrong. I stand by that. With the end of armed violence it reverts back to a civil issue which may be legal or illegal but which ever way able to be controlled by the civil power (for that read the police). To understand more clearly where Wilf is coming from here it would be worth your while to research the British MCP - (military aid to the civil power) Doctrine.

Working off this basis when he says:


...were it not for that one condition, (the armed opposition) the British Army would not be (in Afghanistan), ...


illegal political challenge is not "day to day," and it is a populace driven to the belief that it must operate outside the law to achieve resolution of issues that the government is unwilling to address through legal means that makes the essence of insurgency.

Now whether the opposition is legal or illegal it does not matter until such time as it reaches the level of armed opposition and by which time the civil power can no longer control and contain the situation and calls in the military.

Note: not every demand made by political groups (especially in a democracy) that the current sitting government denies justifies the move to illegal action. This also applies to so called regional minority rights (as applicable to the National Pashtoon minority concentrated in Helmand - they may be the largest single group but they are a national minority and have no say if they are at odds with the remainder of the country).


Defeating the enemy creates your freedom of action to do all else.

You understand this?


The military should be last in and first out in government prevention and response to insurgency. Definitions that only recognize the high end violent aspect of insurgency is like a definition of icebergs that only recognizes that portion rising above the surface of the water. One can attack that portion of the iceberg for a long time and only give rise to more ice. Same if one treats insurgency the same way.

Wilf indicates that with the advent of armed opposition the military will by necessity get involved. When the armed opposition is crushed then the army can return to barracks.

That is his point (as I understand it) what is yours?


A civil emergency is civil business. That is the vast majority of insurgency.

Until such time as (probably due to armed insurrection) the military is required/instructed to deploy to provide aid to the civil power it remains a civil matter.

In a country awash with weapons, (armed) warlord militias, (armed) drug lord militias, and the Taliban with its mercenary forces that may well be ealier rather than later in the insurgency cycle.


I will agree with WILF on this point: "War is war." Where we disagree is that I do not believe that insurgency is war.

Mere semantics.

JMA
11-23-2011, 03:53 PM
RCJ can of course speak for himself, but I'd have to point out that insurgencies often evolve in places where "those peacefully contesting the authority of the state" are likely to get a billy club in the teeth or a bullet in the back of the head. It's often not insurgents who initiate violence: states do it too.

And this has what to do with Wilf's paper?



That comes back to the critical question of why the insurgents - not necessarily the leaders, but the people doing the fighting - are taking up arms against the state.

Again you respond to a post out of context. Do yourself a favour and go (carefully) read Wilf's paper.


If they have a reasonable grievance that can be reasonably addressed, it may not be necessary to use force to quell the insurgency. Of course that will not always the case, but since it's usually easier to address the grievance than to keep on quelling recurring insurgency, it's always worth asking from the outset what the causes of the insurgency are, and whether its possible to address those causes without killing people and blowing stuff up.

Do you understand the concept of Military Support to the Civil Power?

Looking at the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2010 (http://graphics.eiu.com/PDF/Democracy_Index_2010_web.pdf) of the 168 countries covered there are 26 full democracies and 53 flawed democracies. So really there can be little or no reason in these 79 countries for any insurgency. Minorities do not have the right to place demands on the majority under threat of resorting to illegal action or armed insurrection. Wilf's article does not advocate shooting civilians willy nilly (so go read it).


People where I live fought a small war against their government because their government wanted to drive them off their land, and when they tried to peacefully contest the plan the government sent armed men to kill them. Over 10 years of fighting led to a stalemate, and the Government finally decided to stop trying to drive the people off their land, at which point the insurgency ceased. It would have been a lot less trouble if they'd tried that from the start.

The Philippines is a flawed democracy (by EIU's definition) so it is difficult to see what can justify an armed insurrection in that country.


We cannot assume that "the authority of the state" is always legitimate, or that it's always something we want to ally ourselves with. Often it's neither. From an American perspective, way too often we've joined fights on the side of governments any one of us would rebel against, if we had the misfortune to be their subjects.

Maybe but in the context of Wilf's paper how does this fit in?

Bob's World
11-23-2011, 04:06 PM
The "enemy" you seek so aggressively to defeat is your own populace. Do YOU understand that?? Do you beat your children when they disagree with you so that you might have a bit more "freedom of maneuver" around the house??

The British model, like that of the US, is rooted in lessons learned from forcing our foreign will and interests onto some populace that was typically quite dissatisfied with the government we had so nicely provided them with. That all belongs in the dustbin of history, and modern tomes based on those same lessons, such as FM 3-24, should be tossed in along with.

All I have done is open the aperture to look at the totality of the dynamic so that we can address the entire problem with a whole of government approach throughout its lifespan. To have a separate military doctrine that declares that insurgency suddenly becomes "war" and must be militarily crushed every time it surges beyond some arbitrary line, only to become "civil" once again as it drops below is the type of nonsensical fiction that makes most COIN campaigns such frustratingly long, drawn-out affairs.

I realize that Civilian governments love to punt their messy failures to the military to clean up for them. They will sometimes need military assistance, but should never be able to pass off their civic responsibility in the process.

I realize that the military is trained, organized and equipped to wage war, and that violent insurgency looks a lot like war. The urge to do what one is trained, organized and equipped to do against something that looks so much like what one was trained, organized and equipped to address is powerful. But insurgency is not war, and to follow those instincts is to make the matter worse, and merely suppress the symptoms at best, and almost always making the root problems worse in the process.

Again, we agree to disagree. I appreciate very much where you are coming from. I just believe it is high time to move forward. Today's suppressed insurgencies are the latent energy that organizations such as AQ tap into to wage their non-state campaigns of transnational terror. Old tactics as you, WILF, and many others promote make organizations such as AQ stronger, and create greater risks for our populaces at home and our interests abroad.

You are so fixated on your target that you have forgotten your mission.

JMA
11-23-2011, 05:00 PM
;)
Just to clarify "flying medevac" isn't circling around like a drone. We flew at treetop level and landed to pick up the casualty.

BBC has a good story about the worst area: Upper Gereshk: The Helmand plan meets tough reality http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14897977
I was bummed they didn't write about us hosing down the irrigation ditch/treeline at point blank range with miniguns. I sure thought it was cool.

As to MRAPS, the "greenest zones" have no interior roads. Just one more reason to overhaul them.

The decisive threat is our helicopters, drones, and spotter balloons or camera towers calling in artillery. That's why the Taliban quit when the leaves fall.

This really isn't theoretical. It isn't like "I know it would work". We proved it daily. Where the green was thin, I didn't get shot at. Where it was really thick, I got shot at 90% of the time - and I was trying real hard to not get shot at.

My apologies for going for brevity instead of detail on my original post.

I'm clueless as to how one would try to get the management to take a real look at this issue; but I'm open to suggestions.

Thanks for your inputs

Thank you for raising this issue here.

Clearly the ISAF forces are being defeated on the battlefield in the Upper Gereshk Valley (15 kms long?). This is sad.

The short tour syndrome and the poison of the Petraeus COIN doctrine has led to this.

The problem of the lines of trees after this many years should not be a problem in that area. The problem is that while ISAF command know that is where a concentration of Aggressive Taliban are they are not adjusting forces levels and other assets accordingly to kill them.

Remember the idea is to clear, hold, build and obviously if ISAF can't clear the Upper Gereshk Valley then the mission can't be achieved.

We have discussed the matter before about the value of Mark 1 eyeball (human observation from an aircraft) over areas of thick/high walls and contours/bunds in the fields (with or without crops). It seems to be beyond the ability of most around here to comprehend. Obviously tree cover is the one type of cover the human eyeball can't penetrate.

So what to do about that? Your idea to cut the trees down sounds good. Are these trees junk wood or fruit trees? Anyway a simple plan that even the iron age inhabitants of the Upper Gereshk Valley will understand is if ISAF take fire from a tree line ... the tree line goes together with the wood. Keep it nice and old testament... they will understand that logic. After all its not like anything the smart new COIN guys have tried has worked.

JMA
11-23-2011, 06:01 PM
The "enemy" you seek so aggressively to defeat is your own populace. Do YOU understand that?? Do you beat your children when they disagree with you so that you might have a bit more "freedom of maneuver" around the house??

No, no, no, Robert. The Afghanistan situation is not like Kent State University (1970) or the current Wall St sit-in.

This is a screwed up country. Let me agree with you on a political level. NATO should not be propping up a illegitimate and corrupt Karzai regime.

That said 100,000 troops are deployed to that end.

Who are they fighting? What are they fighting for? If any of them have an answer to either or of those questions then the follow up question should be why are they doing such an inept job.

The first enemy in the field is the Taliban and their paid mercenary army (funded by US allies and the proceeds of drug sales). A totally hopeless situation. Then there are warlords and drug lords who it appears are allies (sometimes).

So (like you) if they don't know who the enemy is then what is the chance off success? Zero.


The British model, like that of the US, is rooted in lessons learned from forcing our foreign will and interests onto some populace that was typically quite dissatisfied with the government we had so nicely provided them with. That all belongs in the dustbin of history, and modern tomes based on those same lessons, such as FM 3-24, should be tossed in along with.

The British model? I said British MCP doctrine. As to COIN models the Brits don't have a model, the Brits don't have a f*$£%$£ clue.

I can agree with you that FM 3-24 should be tossed by I suspect for different reasons.


All I have done is open the aperture to look at the totality of the dynamic so that we can address the entire problem with a whole of government approach throughout its lifespan. To have a separate military doctrine that declares that insurgency suddenly becomes "war" and must be militarily crushed every time it surges beyond some arbitrary line, only to become "civil" once again as it drops below is the type of nonsensical fiction that makes most COIN campaigns such frustratingly long, drawn-out affairs.

No Bob keep it simple (remember KISS?)

As soon as the situation gets beyond the ability of the civili power (with its police to handle) then the military gets called in. Generally this is when a armed insurrection starts.

Of course the government can always surrender immediately to avoid any messy 'long, drawn-out affairs' yes?

The line is not arbitrary it is when the situation develops beyond the control of the civil authority. In most cases they leave it too long before the military is brought in.


I realize that Civilian governments love to punt their messy failures to the military to clean up for them. They will sometimes need military assistance, but should never be able to pass off their civic responsibility in the process.

The military (both US and Brit) have not been smart either. At the top end of the political and military structures it all looks very much like the Keystone Cops. The military should not accept the civil authority passing them the baby either. Weak generals are really no good to politicians or the military... and that's the state the US and the Brits are in.


I realize that the military is trained, organized and equipped to wage war, and that violent insurgency looks a lot like war. The urge to do what one is trained, organized and equipped to do against something that looks so much like what one was trained, organized and equipped to address is powerful. But insurgency is not war, and to follow those instincts is to make the matter worse, and merely suppress the symptoms at best, and almost always making the root problems worse in the process.

The military aspect of fighting the insurgency is separate from the other. If you do not believe that the military is what is required to deal with the armed insurrection aspect of an insurgency then what is?


Again, we agree to disagree. I appreciate very much where you are coming from. I just believe it is high time to move forward. Today's suppressed insurgencies are the latent energy that organizations such as AQ tap into to wage their non-state campaigns of transnational terror. Old tactics as you, WILF, and many others promote make organizations such as AQ stronger, and create greater risks for our populaces at home and our interests abroad.

Bob, you are maneuvering around like wet soap in the shower. The problem is that (what you call) old tactics are not being used. Just what tactics are being used are not clear. Not sure they are working though.


You are so fixated on your target that you have forgotten your mission.

What is the mission Bob?

Bob's World
11-23-2011, 07:15 PM
As I said, we'll agree to disagree. If you find that "slippery" of me, so be it. My platform is simple:

1. Insurgency is an illegal political challenge to government rising from a base of support within some significant and distinct segment, or segments, of the populace; and employing any mix of violent or non-violent tactics.

2. Such internal conflicts are natural, and the conditions they arise from appear to be driven primarily by perceptions within such populace groups along the following critical areas. It is these perceptions that must be addressed, regardless of if the tactics chosen to illegally address them are violent or nonviolent.

Sovereignty: How government acts to protect the entire populace
Legitimacy: Recognition of the right of government to govern
Justice: How the people feel about the application of the Rule of Law
Respect/Dignity: Official fairness/opportunity across the populace
Faith/Hope: Belief in trusted, certain, legal means to shape government

The primary source of causation is the government; though any number of internal or external actors with an equally wide array of agendas may well step up to exploit such conditions once the govenrment has created them.

Those who see insurgency as war attack the symptoms of the problems. They focus on these exploitative actors, their agendas and their ideolgies. Success in such operations will suppress the symptoms for some period of time, but is usually chalked up as a "win" so little follow on work is ever done to actually address the aspects of governance that caused this exploitable situation in the first place. In such places insurgencie re-occur over and over and over...

Those who see insurgency as a broader civil emergency act as reaonably necessary to mitigate the impact of the violence (government has a duty to protect the populace from all forms of violence, to include governmental violence) while focusing on understanding and addressing the root causal perceptions along the above mentioned lines.

Approaches that focus on "effectiveness" of government and that are overly weighted with development and nation building are as symtomatic and inneffective as those approaches that overly focus on "threats."

Like I said, you don't have to agree, and I will certainly not agree with you or WILF. I believe I am boringly repetitive on these points, only making minor changes as I refine my position. I have posted them here and elsewhere repeatedly, and have published several articles to the same effect. Hardly "slippery."

Dayuhan
11-24-2011, 02:09 AM
Again you respond to a post out of context. Do yourself a favour and go (carefully) read Wilf's paper.

I have read it. It makes sense within the parameters it sets, but those parameters are so limited that the conclusions he reaches bear little relevance to any real-world situation. For one thing, he approaches the issue of insurgency purely from a military perspective. Insurgency is in fact largely a political phenomenon and the political aspects of insurgency have to be addressed if the military effort is to achieve anything more than transient suppression of the insurgency. Of course the political aspects are not necessarily the concern of the military, but they are and must be the concern of any counterinsurgency effort.

Even more important, Wilf proceeds from the assumption that the the state is legitimate and the illegitimacy of any armed challenge to the state is beyond question. That assumption is arbitrary and insupportable, and no state involved in insurgency as a third party can afford to make it. A telling passage from Wilf:


The Soviets exercised near-genocidal levels of violence against the Afghan population, as did the Nazis in occupied Russia. Neither was attempting to create an environment where the rule of law prevailed. Control was sought via threat of harm to the civilian population. No one supports people who seek to harm them.

Does anyone seriously believe that the Government that the US and Britain (among others) are seeking to install in Afghanistan "attempting to create an environment where the rule of law prevails"?

Wilf is quite correct that "no one supports people who seek to harm them". What he apparently fails to consider is the possibility that people may be fighting the government precisely because they believe their government seeks to harm them. They may be right. We have to consider those possibilities, and we have to consider the possibility that the people fighting the government may have reasonable grievances that the Government may be able to resolve without violence.

Wilf goes on...


The British Army should provide an environment where law exists, because it is uncontested by another armed force.

That is not what the British or American armies are doing in Afghanistan. They're not trying to "provide an environment where law exists", they are trying to provide an environment where the GIRoA can impose its will in any way it chooses, which has little or nothing to do with the rule of law. If we try to pretend that we're backing good guys in white hats against bad guys in black hats, we're deceiving ourselves: we're backing one set of black hats against another.


Do you understand the concept of Military Support to the Civil Power?

Yes. Do you understand that if the Civil Power is the source of the problem, Military Support to the Civil Power is unlikely to resolve the problem?

Does it really make sense to apply Military Support to the Civil Power without first evaluating whether the Civil Power deserves support, or whether it's a liability?


Looking at the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2010 (http://graphics.eiu.com/PDF/Democracy_Index_2010_web.pdf) of the 168 countries covered there are 26 full democracies and 53 flawed democracies. So really there can be little or no reason in these 79 countries for any insurgency. Minorities do not have the right to place demands on the majority under threat of resorting to illegal action or armed insurrection. Wilf's article does not advocate shooting civilians willy nilly (so go read it)...

The Philippines is a flawed democracy (by EIU's definition) so it is difficult to see what can justify an armed insurrection in that country.

When the events referred to began we still had a good old US-supported dictator in place. We referred to him as a bastion against Communism. Strangely, when he took power the Communists had 250 armed men in 4 provinces; when he was finally driven out of power they had 40,000 armed men spread over the country and were rapidly approaching strategic parity. The insurgency has since been substantially degraded, not by killing insurgents but by (albeit sporadically and inconsistently) removing some of the motivations that drove people to join the insurgency in the first place.

With all due respect to those who apply designations like "flawed democracy", there are places in the Philippines - and in many other "flawed democracies - where I'd rebel in a heartbeat if I'd been born into the underclass. I suspect that you would too. Not surprisingly, these are typically the places where insurgency flourishes.

jcustis
11-24-2011, 03:37 AM
As William Owen's article 'Killing Your Way to Control" has indeed been debated at length over at the SWJ Blog, let's bring the discussion back to the matter of this post, and the proposition (or is it question) that LtCol Haston has posed here.

We're getting a bit into the stratosphere with the discussion.

Dayuhan
11-24-2011, 04:39 AM
As William Owen's article 'Killing Your Way to Control" has indeed been debated at length over at the SWJ Blog, let's bring the discussion back to the matter of this post, and the proposition (or is it question) that LtCol Haston has posed here.

We're getting a bit into the stratosphere with the discussion.

Valid point. When I first read this from the OP...


My boss added that subsidizing soybeans would deny them the cornfields as cover.

... a few questions came to mind.

Do Afghans eat soybeans? Is there any market for soybeans? Would the US have to buy and export the soybeans, then import corn to substitute for the corn that had been displaced by the soybeans (assuming that it's grown for local consumption)?

That of course is just the beginning. In traditional agricultural societies farming habits are deeply entrenched and an integral part of community practice and identity. Changing them, especially by decree, is not easy and will generate resistance. I think it's a little optimistic to conclude that "the farmers would love us". Drop into almost any farming area, anywhere, and tell the locals that you've decided what they're going to grow and how, and see how much love you get.

In short, it's really easy to fly over a place in a helicopter, look down, and conclude that what you're doing would be a lot easier if everybody down there was planting soybeans instead of corn and there were no canals or hedgerows. Those observations are of course correct: it would be a lot easier if everybody down there was planting soybeans instead of corn and there were no canals or hedgerows. Actually making such a thing happen is a long way from easy, especially if you're not governing the place, you don't have dictatorial powers, and you're even vaguely concerned about getting along with the people doing the farming.

jcustis
11-24-2011, 06:11 AM
We could probably subsidize a lot of soybean seed, and find it back out in the market the next week, if the right balance of market and weather conditions are not worked out.

Some of the thickest vegetation-based "concealment" doesn't even come from corn, but marijuana grows. We're not going to be able to buy that out with soybeans.

JMA
11-24-2011, 07:29 AM
As William Owen's article 'Killing Your Way to Control" has indeed been debated at length over at the SWJ Blog, let's bring the discussion back to the matter of this post, and the proposition (or is it question) that LtCol Haston has posed here.

We're getting a bit into the stratosphere with the discussion.

By all means split this thread into two if you so wish.

However, there needs to be the understanding that a rag tag under resourced, drug funded, mercenary militia, known as the Taliban, continue to tie down 100,000+ of supposedly the best soldiers in the world due to an increasingly bumbling and inept "management" (being an interesting and telling way in which the "command" is termed).

As such the simple issue of clearing areas of thick cover becomes a major point of discussion and contention (even though it remains unaddressed since 2006).

jcustis
11-24-2011, 07:40 AM
Then talk about cover and concealment, and stop talking about a William Owen article. It is that simple. If you want to continue a larger discussion about the details of the Owen article, go back to the Blog post or start a different post.

82redleg
11-24-2011, 09:00 AM
However, there needs to be the understanding that a rag tag under resourced, drug funded, mercenary militia, known as the Taliban, continue to tie down 100,000+ of supposedly the best soldiers in the world due to an increasingly bumbling and inept "management" (being an interesting and telling way in which the "command" is termed).

Yes- you have identified the problem. Now propose a solution- it must be feasible, acceptable, and suitable. Ideas that cannot be implemented within the political constraints imposed by the civilian authorities that our military authorities are responsible to are meaningless. So are ideas that create more problems than they solve (see point about forcibly changing the pattern of life in farming communities). Do we even know that soybeans would grow? I come from a farming community, and if you tried a similar stunt at home, you'd have a full on fight on your hands that would make Helmand look tame. And the only way you'd win would be to kill everyone- something that we are incapable of doing. Accept it, move on, and lets talk about something that (1) is within the realm of the possible, and (2) makes sense.


As such the simple issue of clearing areas of thick cover becomes a major point of discussion and contention (even though it remains unaddressed since 2006).

A couple of individuals, none of whom have been on the ground in this AO, have stated that this is a major point. A few more individuals, at least one of whom HAS been on the ground in this AO, has stated that this isn't a major point. Helmand is not Rhodesia, everything doesn't transfer. *Snipped due to lack of relevance to the topic**. The connection with reality in early 2000s was limited, at best.

Dayuhan
11-24-2011, 10:06 AM
I don't have experience in Afghanistan, but I do have experience with crop substitution projects, and I can say with some confidence that if you want to replace one crop with another and you want that transition to be fast, comprehensive, and voluntary, you're barking at the moon. It won't happen, no matter what incentives you put up. You might get a few farmers to plant a few plots, to try it out. If they get decent yields and find a market for the product, a few more might come in. Over a span of several years - likely quite a few - you can work your new crop into the local mix, if everything goes well.

If you want to make that happen fast enough and over a wide enough area to have an immediate impact on military operations, you're going to have to do it by decree and force people to comply... and as several people have pointed out, that's likely to raise a whole new set of problems.

JMA
11-24-2011, 10:33 AM
Then talk about cover and concealment, and stop talking about a William Owen article. It is that simple. If you want to continue a larger discussion about the details of the Owen article, go back to the Blog post or start a different post.

Should I have snapped to attention, major? Sorry about that.

Wilf's article is germane to this topic and it was Bob who first realised that and posted about the true nature of the problem which is not just tree cover for insurgents. Surprised you failed to read the big picture.

Perhaps you are able to explain to me how that despite the much vaunted surge ISAF forces have failed to clear Helmand's green zone of Taliban?

JMA
11-24-2011, 11:16 AM
Yes- you have identified the problem.

Yes, its been obvious for some years now.


Now propose a solution- it must be feasible, acceptable, and suitable. Ideas that cannot be implemented within the political constraints imposed by the civilian authorities that our military authorities are responsible to are meaningless.

The problem was clearly stated so the solution is obvious. You mean you were unable to connect the dots?


So are ideas that create more problems than they solve (see point about forcibly changing the pattern of life in farming communities). Do we even know that soybeans would grow? I come from a farming community, and if you tried a similar stunt at home, you'd have a full on fight on your hands that would make Helmand look tame. And the only way you'd win would be to kill everyone- something that we are incapable of doing. Accept it, move on, and lets talk about something that (1) is within the realm of the possible, and (2) makes sense.

There are smart Americans and there are smart Brits. One just wonders why they don't get sent out to Afghanistan? The green zone has been a problem for some five years. Yet no one has been able to figure out solutions to even the most basic problems. Makes one think.

Now the originator of this thread could connect the dots where many thousands who passed through Helmand before him could not. He said:


Where the green was thin, I didn't get shot at. Where it was really thick, I got shot at 90% of the time...

Now one would have thought that simple experience would have been shared by many thousands of airmen or foot soldiers before him, yes? So it is indeed embarrassing when after a few months in-country someone asks a question that never entered the minds of those who had done full tours through there before.

OK lets talk reality then. How is the US going to be able to cut and run from Afghanistan (having failed to suppress the Taliban) and still save face? Have you any ideas for the politicians and military brass?


A couple of individuals, none of whom have been on the ground in this AO, have stated that this is a major point. A few more individuals, at least one of whom HAS been on the ground in this AO, has stated that this isn't a major point.

So one is only allowed to comment if one has been on the ground in Helmand then? Even if that person is only a six month wonder?


Helmand is not Rhodesia, everything doesn't transfer.

I was a South African who went to Rhodesia. I remain in awe of how the Rhodesians adapted to a virtually unwinable situation with intelligence and initiative and the military kept on thinking, adapting and developing right up to the end. Remarkable. On my return to SA I found that apart from four units the military mindset was stagnant and locked in the peacetime mode.

In the thirty years since then I find that there are those thinking Rhodesians who have drawn on the Rhodesian experience in terms of what worked well and what not, what should have been done and what not and so on. They have ideas based on often hard experience. There is probably nothing tactically that could be simply be "cut-and-paste" out of Rhodesia without significant adaption to local conditions.

But certainly what could be learned from the Rhodesian experience is how to allow intelligent people to apply their minds in circumstances of severe resource restrictions and political restraints and come up with solutions. What is obvious from Afghanistan (from all that has been written and all that can be found on Youtube) is that the quality and standard of soldiering (not necessarily the potential ability of individual soldiers) and the intellect (or the ability to apply it) of senior officers has declined over the years by a significant multiple.

Take the lessons from the past and learn from them. The current crop of US and Brit commanders show no ability to do so and that is very sad. To be defeated by the Taliban must surely be the final humiliation for any army.

JMA
11-24-2011, 03:03 PM
I have read it. It makes sense within the parameters it sets, but those parameters are so limited that the conclusions he reaches bear little relevance to any real-world situation. For one thing, he approaches the issue of insurgency purely from a military perspective. Insurgency is in fact largely a political phenomenon and the political aspects of insurgency have to be addressed if the military effort is to achieve anything more than transient suppression of the insurgency. Of course the political aspects are not necessarily the concern of the military, but they are and must be the concern of any counterinsurgency effort.

Even more important, Wilf proceeds from the assumption that the the state is legitimate and the illegitimacy of any armed challenge to the state is beyond question. That assumption is arbitrary and insupportable, and no state involved in insurgency as a third party can afford to make it. A telling passage from Wilf:



Does anyone seriously believe that the Government that the US and Britain (among others) are seeking to install in Afghanistan "attempting to create an environment where the rule of law prevails"?

Wilf is quite correct that "no one supports people who seek to harm them". What he apparently fails to consider is the possibility that people may be fighting the government precisely because they believe their government seeks to harm them. They may be right. We have to consider those possibilities, and we have to consider the possibility that the people fighting the government may have reasonable grievances that the Government may be able to resolve without violence.

Wilf goes on...



That is not what the British or American armies are doing in Afghanistan. They're not trying to "provide an environment where law exists", they are trying to provide an environment where the GIRoA can impose its will in any way it chooses, which has little or nothing to do with the rule of law. If we try to pretend that we're backing good guys in white hats against bad guys in black hats, we're deceiving ourselves: we're backing one set of black hats against another.



Yes. Do you understand that if the Civil Power is the source of the problem, Military Support to the Civil Power is unlikely to resolve the problem?

Does it really make sense to apply Military Support to the Civil Power without first evaluating whether the Civil Power deserves support, or whether it's a liability?



When the events referred to began we still had a good old US-supported dictator in place. We referred to him as a bastion against Communism. Strangely, when he took power the Communists had 250 armed men in 4 provinces; when he was finally driven out of power they had 40,000 armed men spread over the country and were rapidly approaching strategic parity. The insurgency has since been substantially degraded, not by killing insurgents but by (albeit sporadically and inconsistently) removing some of the motivations that drove people to join the insurgency in the first place.

With all due respect to those who apply designations like "flawed democracy", there are places in the Philippines - and in many other "flawed democracies - where I'd rebel in a heartbeat if I'd been born into the underclass. I suspect that you would too. Not surprisingly, these are typically the places where insurgency flourishes.

For the record I choose to pass on replying to this nonsense.

JMA
11-24-2011, 03:21 PM
... a few questions came to mind.

Do Afghans eat soybeans? Is there any market for soybeans? Would the US have to buy and export the soybeans, then import corn to substitute for the corn that had been displaced by the soybeans (assuming that it's grown for local consumption)?

What do you think was being suggested by the soybean crop substitution? Would a low growing substitute for a high growing, cover providing maize crop sound reasonable to you? You have an alternative suggestion?

Now as to the potential of being cozy with the locals I certainly hope that neither you nor any other person around here still entertains the idiotic notion that the 'hearts and minds' of the people of Helmand is still up for grabs after five odd years of throwing zillions of dollars at them and countless hours/days/months/years of groveling butt-licking by assorted ISAF forces and the promise of leaving in three years?

Bob's World
11-24-2011, 03:58 PM
"Hearts and Minds" is a phrase hijacked and much abused by nouveau COINdinistas preaching the unproven power of "effectiveness" and "development" as a counter to the equally unproven power of military domination.

One can force a populace to submit to any government, but one cannot make them like and accept that same government through such force. Similarly one can attempt bribe a populace into not actively resisting a government being forced upon them, but that too cannot make a populace accept a government they find unacceptable.

"Hearts and Minds" means creating a government that the populace finds to be acceptable. It is molding the government to the populace, not bribing, building or killing the populace into submitting to the government.

But this thread is about how to best force a government deemed to be unacceptable and illegitimate by the majority of Afghans. How to minimize casualties among the foreign and domestic military forces sent out to force the populace to submit. Cut down their trees, knock down their walls, fill in their irrigation ditches and Karzez systems. Give them soy beans and irrigation pipes instead, that they cannot use for cover and concealment in their efforts to resist this situation they find unacceptable.

"Tactics without strategy" is indeed "the noise before defeat." (Sun Tzu)

The Noorzai tribe is a force to be reckoned with. 4.5 Million on the Afghan side of the border, 1 Million on the Pakistan side. Dispossessed of much of their wealth, power and influence by the US elevation of the Northern Alliance into power over all of Afghanistan they choose to resist. No amount of violence will make them (and other similarly affected groups) accept this situation, no amount of development either. What price dignity? What price honor? We find certain people to be inconvenient, so we attempt to push them aside or kill them if they don't push. We find their homes and the mechanisms of their very livelihood inconvenient as well, so now we discuss how to best push that aside as well?

Strategy
The US has no vital national interests in Afghanistan or Pakistan that are well served by our presence or our current approaches in that region.

Afghanistan and Pakistan has little geostrategic value to the US as well. We are a maritime nation not of that continent. Our commerce and resources flow freely around and never cross this region nor can they be impacted from it.

Reality
The only way the US can "lose" in Afghanistan is if it commits itself to stay and attempt to "win" in Afghanistan. Solve this tactical problem of cover and concealment in the green zones and another equally problematic tactical problem will emerge. Solve the strategic problem and all of that is moot. The essence of this thread is moot.

jcustis
11-24-2011, 06:56 PM
Everyone concerned,

Infractions have been issued out for posts that do not meet the standard of decorum that the moderators are responsible for upholding.

Please endeavor to keep posts relevant to the topic, and avoid getting into a discussion or debate which would be more appropriate to any of the dozens of more appropriate threads at the SWC.

Carry on.

ganulv
11-24-2011, 07:20 PM
Am I incorrect in assuming that if a plan to clear the canal edges of their secondary growth were announced (and even if it were not I am sure word would go out on Radio Bemba) that the ACM would start an aggressive IED-laying effort in said environment? In the absence of a USDA ordnance disposal program no such plan is going to come about without the commitment of military assets. Even if an operation like that could be accomplished with zero casualties is the best judgment still that those resources arenít of better use elsewhere?

jcustis
11-24-2011, 07:44 PM
IEDs would be one obstacle for sure. Widespread razing of the scrub brush border (of which there really isn't a lot that affects our sensors) is sort of like using the hammer to swat a fly, and yes, the time and resources would be better expended elsewhere. The swath of arable land bordering the Helmand might be narrow, but it is massive when taken in sum.

We have had a hard fight in the Korengal, but we're not going to be razing the hillsides there to clear out the tree cover.

The root systems of the vegetation bordering land plots also serves to support the hand wrought canal troughs. When the seasonal floodings occur, the vegetation actually contributes to the farmer's livelihood. Destroying that can only have terrible second and third order effects, and again lead to pissing more people off, and turning then deeper towards the insurgency. Gen McChrystal had that concern right, and that's part of the reason why we don't swing hammers like that.

Dayuhan
11-25-2011, 02:12 AM
What do you think was being suggested by the soybean crop substitution? Would a low growing substitute for a high growing, cover providing maize crop sound reasonable to you? You have an alternative suggestion?

Now as to the potential of being cozy with the locals I certainly hope that neither you nor any other person around here still entertains the idiotic notion that the 'hearts and minds' of the people of Helmand is still up for grabs after five odd years of throwing zillions of dollars at them and countless hours/days/months/years of groveling butt-licking by assorted ISAF forces and the promise of leaving in three years?

Substituting a low crop for a high one sounds like a wonderful solution. Bringing in a bunch of USDA technical people to introduce new crops and replace canals with piped irrigation sounds like a wonderful solution. Then you think about what you'd have to do to make that happen, and it sounds less wonderful.

Your troops are being shot at from cultivated areas and from cover provided by agricultural infrastructure. That's a problem. The proposed "solution" involves bringing in a large technical staff with zero local knowledge, finding and training local counterparts (how many USDA technical people speak Pashto?), hiring a large labor force, and trying to impose a total and immediate change in agricultural practice on a heavily armed populace that hates you, loathes your idea, and will do anything in their power to sabotage the project.

Now guess who gets the privilege of trying to secure and protect all the widely dispersed civilian managers, laborers, and equipment involved in this? Have you solved your problem or replaced it with a bigger one?

It's not about winning hearts and minds, it's about not shooting yourself in the putz.