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MikeF
10-02-2009, 02:39 PM
Video is posted here (http://www.cnas.org/blogs/abumuqawama/2009/10/frontline-afghanistan.html). It is a much watch. Here are some of my initial thoughts from Mike's world of Coin. My comments are not to criticize/critique those Marines working their butts off. Rather, it is to provide some of my lessons learned for the group on the tactical level of COIN. I'd like to hear from the group to see if they concur or have better tips to offer.

A couple of thoughts on engaging the populace:

1. The squad leader should take off his body armor, helmet, glasses, and gloves when talking to the locals. Yes, one assumes some risks, but his men can pull perimeter.

2. I always tried to mimick everything my locals did from the way they sit, to how they hold their cigarettes, to how they laugh. It just helps you fit in. In this case, he may need to start squatting instead of standing up lecturing. He's not talking to his joes.

3. I doubt the interpreter issue is one the Marines are happy with. It's probably more of a resource problem (i.e. they can't find enough willing to venture to Helmand Province).

4. Is the commander going out? One of his many roles is to patrol with his boys and find out who's in charge and start to engage him.

On the tactical side (this is more speculation as I'm just monday-morning quarterbacking a video and not on the ground),

1. The squad is throwing down a lot of suppressive fire often without seeing the enemy. It's often better to wait and try to positively identify rather than to spray a mad minute. Listening to the incoming rate of fire, they're probably facing 2 guys with AKs and 1 with a PKM. Just 3 dudes, not 50.

2. Frequency/variation of patrols. In a limited space, it is challenge to NOT get into a routine. When my troop averaged 12 patrols a day at the peak of the Surge, I found myself planning the same patrols at the same time so I switched it. I made my 1SGT, PLs, and PSGs responsible for making the patrol schedule. Then, I could spot check it and ensure we maintained the frequency but kept up the variance. It worked.

3. Ambushes. I'd start having men covertly infiltrate into the treeline at night, dig in, and wait for the Taliban to occupy their ambush position the next day. A second option is to have preplanned indirect targets in known ambush positions. If the Taliban is going there, the locals will stay away, and one does not risk civilian casualties. A third option is to send recce patrols past the treeline to start observing the Taliban's infiltration. They ain't appearing out of thin air.

v/r

Mike

Steve Blair
10-02-2009, 02:50 PM
Good lessons, Mike, and it's interesting to me (as a historian) how many of them should not be new. Quite a bit of it is classic Vietnam (circa about 1968-69, but was being done earlier in some places). Not knocking your lessons at all, which are hard-earned, but more observing that we could/should do a better job of preserving those lessons. And on a possibly related note, many of them could have been pulled directly from the old Small Wars Manual.

MikeF
10-02-2009, 02:55 PM
Good lessons, Mike, and it's interesting to me (as a historian) how many of them should not be new. Quite a bit of it is classic Vietnam (circa about 1968-69, but was being done earlier in some places). Not knocking your lessons at all, which are hard-earned, but more observing that we could/should do a better job of preserving those lessons. And on a possibly related note, many of them could have been pulled directly from the old Small Wars Manual.

You're right Steve. None of that is new. At USMA, I studied mostly the Revolutionary War to the Korea War. In my army schools, we studied the Fulda Gap. Small wars were glossed over. I hope that's changing.

v/r

Mike

Schmedlap
10-02-2009, 03:19 PM
1. The squad is throwing down a lot of suppressive fire often without seeing the enemy. It's often better to wait and try to positively identify rather than to spray a mad minute. Listening to the incoming rate of fire, they're probably facing 2 guys with AKs and 1 with a PKM. Just 3 dudes, not 50.
They're probably not going to kill the attackers either way. To look at this from an IO angle - Firing back a few rounds can be interpreted as weakness or hesitation. Throwing down a hail of gunfire creates a "holy crap!" effect. A lot of Iraqis got frustrated at us for using well-aimed fire. As they saw it, the local terrorist cell was firing 6 magazines at us while we shot back with 10 rounds. To them, this demonstrated an unwillingness to protect them. Once we relaxed our fire control measures and encouraged more forceful responses, the people were more content. We did not fare any better or worse against adversaries - we did not kill them any more often - but the locals were reassured because they heard more barking from our guns.

Rob Thornton
10-02-2009, 03:20 PM
I saw the preview over at Noah S' Danger Room.

The two things that struck me in the 24 minutes of preview:

1) the contrast between the footage in D.C. and the footage of the Marines fighting to secure the population
2) the lack of USG civilians and GIRoA security forces (there were some ANA - I did not see any USG civilians.

I think I'll have to see the whoe thing.

It seemed to me they were geared up appropriately. It may be worth considering what message it might send if they took more than the one casualty they did, and what effect that might have on the Marines themselves - before, during and after. Its hard to tell where one event left off and another ocurred given what you can do with film.

While the ammount of fire recorded may have indicated only a few enemy, it may be wrong to assume that is all there were. I've been in a few fights where it started slow and then more showed up, and I've been in a few where it started intense than everyone seemed to decided they had other things to do.

Just hard to tell, and the footage may not tell the whole story.

On the leader side, it looks like the Echo leaders from team leader up were doing the right things as best they could given the conditions

I do look forward to the Frontine piece though, it seems to be well done judging the preview. The clip that sticks out is the one where it looks likeeither an RPG or a light mortar hit the berm and left the dirt cloud hanging in the air while still in contact and a few Marines sorting their selves out. ANother is the contact that put the camera man and the reporter on the ground. Both remind me of the struggle you go through when you are reacting to contact and have responsibilities.

Best, Rob

Steve Blair
10-02-2009, 03:37 PM
You're right Steve. None of that is new. At USMA, I studied mostly the Revolutionary War to the Korea War. In my army schools, we studied the Fulda Gap. Small wars were glossed over. I hope that's changing.

v/r

Mike

I hope so as well. That's actually been my biggest concern with all this...how long it would take the institution to "re-lose" all its "new" lessons.

MikeF
10-02-2009, 03:57 PM
Schmedlap brings up a good point that I didn't consider. I guess that just shows you there are many ways to skin the cat as long as it's within the reasonable application of METT-TC.

Rob,

Lately, I've observed several commentators on other mil blogs explaining that what we're doing in A'stan is FID. If this footage is accurate, we're doing what I thought- a unilateral clearance to occupy (with a few A'stan soldiers along to put an A'stan face on the mission). Now if the ratios were reversed (1 Astan company with a few SF advisors), then I'd call that FID. If the ratios were equal (1 Marine company with 1 A'stan company, then I'd call that SFA.

Is my terminology doctrinally correct?

v/r

Mike

John T. Fishel
10-02-2009, 04:20 PM
I don't know if your terms are doctrinally correct but they should be:cool:

Rob, if they aren't can you get folk to change them?;)

Cheers

JohnT

Rob Thornton
10-02-2009, 05:57 PM
Sure John,

The short answer:

When the U.S. helps a Host Nation Government prevent or defeat insurgency, lawlessness or subversion, DOD calls it FID.

It does not specify who does it - so, in this case the purpose defines the activity - so I'd say both of Mike's examples are FID.

SFA equates to those activities (organize, Train, Equip, Rebuild/Build and Advise) that support the development of FSF capability and capacity.

Note there is no purpose here, just activities. There is no taxonomy, there is an ontology.

If there is no development and no advising occurring, then its pretty much a combined action - e.g. two security forces from different countries working together against an enemy.

All of those actions may be part of a broader COIN effort, or part of some other effort.

Unlike other restrictive terms such as Security Assistance (Title 22 programs only) or Security Cooperation (DoD only), SFA is intended to enable all the agencies and organizations involved in developing FSF capabilities and capacities to coordinate, plan, synchronize and integrate all their FSF developmental activities in order to avoid gaps and to increase efficiency and effectiveness of those efforts. Policy and strategy has to determine where, when and why, and how much the U.S. should invest in developing FSF capabilities.

The attached image may help.

The longer answer with historical examples and a methodology to go about assessing and developing FSF capabilities in their operating and generating forces is in the forthcoming JCISFA SFA Planner's Guide for FSF Force Development. It will take the user though the process with examples and also discuss how organizations conducting OTERA can define their own requirements and develop or resource capabilities.

We are just waiting on the new Deputy Director to do his review so he can then send it up to the Director.

Best, Rob

davidbfpo
10-02-2009, 08:28 PM
I noted in the conversation between the USMC (NCO?) and a group of male villagers (not exact words):

USMC Why don't you do something about the Taliban?
Villager You have the helicopters and tanks we have nothing, just a sword.

I am not convinced nor advocate arming the locals is an option, especially when several hundred Taliban are nearby - are they locally recruited?

Yes, good footage.

davidbfpo

tequila
10-02-2009, 08:48 PM
The record of "arming the locals" is generally a poor one in Afghanistan.

Where local institutions (i.e. tribal institutions) are still strong, i.e. the Mangal in Loya Paktia, this may have some usefulness. But the Taliban are themselves a non-tribal organization which grew out of the breakdown of the tribal structures in the wake of the Soviet war and the civil war of the 1990s. Areas where the local structures remain strong are unlikely to be areas vulnerable to Taliban power in the first place.

Those villages most under threat by the Taliban are not going to be strong enough to fight off Taliban forces on their own, as those forces can leverage manpower and firepower greater than a village can withstand. Already many experiments in such have failed disastrously, as the village forces either made truces with the Taliban to avoid death, or went over to them with their weapons.

slapout9
10-02-2009, 09:01 PM
Don't know if this can be answered but has anyone ever tried surrounding the village and watching it for several days before they go patrolling through it?

Also the guy that drives off on the tractor.....where did he go? how does he know how to avoid the land mines/IED's?

davidbfpo
10-02-2009, 09:42 PM
Yes, note his tractor-mounted carrier is stacked with (yellow) sacks. Are these fertilser bags and in the UK sector there are report(s) of fertiliser-based IEDs. It would be an item for patrols, where is the fertiliser stored and any signs of discarded bags?

davidbfpo

Pol-Mil FSO
10-03-2009, 03:44 AM
Some thoughts on the video and comments in response to previous posts:

The NCO getting frustrated in his questioning of villagers was set up for failure. That task should have been left to a CA NCO or Officer, or a civilian. It's asking too much for an infantry squad leader to have the cultural sensitivity to see the situation from the perspective of Afghan villagers. Maybe the COINtras are right in their argument that population-centric COIN is not appropriate for GPF, even Marines?

Arming the population does have a bad track record in Afghanistan but I still think it is has to be considered as an answer to the force ratio problem. It could work if somebody - SF ODAs? - provided the required supervision, logistic support, and in-extremis reinforcement. Maybe it could take the form of a hybrid of the CIDG program? There is a SF Field Manual (I don't remember which one) that has an appendix on support to CIDG-type groups. I wanted to show it to my Canadian colleagues but couldn't do so since the material had a NOFORN designation. I suspect the Marines would have already formed some sort of group if they had been able to gain permission to do so (unlikely since when it comes to Security Force Assistance issues we share the Kabul-centric viewpoint of the Afghan Government).

One of the biggest complaints of the Marines in Helmand and Farah Provinces is a lack of ANA and ANP partners. There are not enough ANSF personnel for true partnering with the Marines, thus they become a token presence in most operations. As for USG civilians, it is not realistic to expect them to be present on patrols unless they are given infantry training. The leadership of the State Department (and probably most other agencies) is opposed to providing its personnel with weapons, let alone tactical training. It would probably also be a hard sell for most of the personnel of these agencies. During my tour I did have the opportunity to go out with an SF ODA on a couple of missions but my prior service as an 11B probably helped, and the Embassy in Kabul likely would have a strongly adverse reaction if they knew what it actually entailed.

Schmedlap
10-03-2009, 04:10 AM
The NCO getting frustrated in his questioning of villagers was set up for failure. That task should have been left to a CA NCO or Officer, or a civilian. It's asking too much for an infantry squad leader to have the cultural sensitivity to see the situation from the perspective of Afghan villagers.
Disagree on two levels.
First - that NCO is talking to the locals because there are so many of them to talk to. You're not going to have nearly enough CA or civilians to do that. Also, this wasn't some big meeting - it was just a routine interaction by a patrol with the populace from what I saw.
Second - I don't think it's asking too much for an infantryman - especially a leader - to have sufficient cultural sensitivity. I wouldn't even call it that. I'd just call it people skills. I've seen lots of NCOs whose only training in dealing with people was whatever interpersonal skills one acquires through the normal course of one's life. Backgrounds, education, and training didn't seem to have any correllation. Of course, this is an anecdotal observation, and I'm a data point of one.


Maybe the COINtras are right in their argument that population-centric COIN is not appropriate for GPF, even Marines?
I guess the argument is that pop-COIN requires a level of participation from all government agencies that we currently lack the ability to provide - and that we will continue to lack the ability to provide for the next decade. Not a real useful concept, imo.

Ken White
10-03-2009, 04:53 AM
The problem is that our training got dumbed down in the 1970s and 80s and we stopped teaching NCOs how to talk to people. I saw dozens if not hundreds of on NCOsS doing what that guy was doing on presence patrols in three countries. Most, not all doing it pretty well.

His only problem is that no one bothered to give him a ten minute class in people skills and then let him practice them for a grade for forty minutes. That i8s the fault of the USMC (the Army is little better). That also is done better in good units even today. Problem is, by definition, half the units are less good, half are more gooder... :wry:

Also, his comment:
I guess the argument is that pop-COIN requires a level of participation from all government agencies that we currently lack the ability to provide - and that we will continue to lack the ability to provide for the next decade. Not a real useful concept, imo.and your observation both illustrate the major flaws in 'Population centric COIN.' Resources and timing. We cannot afford to keep the civilian structure and military training regimens required for population centric COIN so each occurrence will be a from scratch exercise that will take entirely too long to get rolling. The effort will flounder before it gets going, literally. It is a badly flawed concept much loved by people whose desire to fix the rest of the world overwhelms their common sense. Great theory, won't work. We keep proving that -- and forgetting that we proved it... :mad:

That said, we can and must better train our entering enlisted persons and officers and better educate our leaders so that some COIN like efforts and capabilities are built into the structure while remembering that the GPF will never do better than marginally well at the job. :cool:

Back to the here and now -- that NCO is exemplary of a minor system glitch, not a major uncorrectable flaw.

Good job for going out with the guys. Been my observation here and there that all embassies, like all units in the services, are not equal. Some are more active than others and more tolerant of weapons and patrols and getting jobs done versus bureaucratic safety (All FSOs aren't equal, either, as I'm sure you know ;) ). Though I admit to being away from the bureaucracy for about 15 years, doubt things have changed so much as to greatly modify that.

jcustis
10-03-2009, 08:17 AM
It's asking too much for an infantry squad leader to have the cultural sensitivity to see the situation from the perspective of Afghan villagers. Maybe the COINtras are right in their argument that population-centric COIN is not appropriate for GPF, even Marines?

To add to the dogpile :D, your start early, and you do it often, and you start making that NCO think outside the box, wayyyy before you go to the MRX, and before the advon departs, and definitely before the first main body ULN gets on deck to start RIP. We have been at this stuff for 7 years now, and there are few NCOs who have not known war along the way.

If he doesn't "get it", you get another squad leader, plain and simple.

We all get frustrated in routine dealings with civilians at the pointy end of things. For most, it is not an issue of lacking cultural sensitivity. The ones who have issues are more often carefully weeded out.

slapout9
10-03-2009, 03:18 PM
Where is the Afghan Political Cadre that would follow the village elders everywhere they go 24/7? I say forget all this doctrine stuff......fight like a Guerrilla. Where is the Afghan Revolution? Where is the PSYOP Radio stations that should be broadcasting White Propaganda through the radios you handed out. Where is the Afghan Puff Daddy and The Real Slim Shady? You goota have some MoJo going on or ain't nobody gonna follow you anywhere:wry:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_3gHVRtX0U

Rank amateur
10-03-2009, 04:04 PM
3. Ambushes. I'd start having men covertly infiltrate into the treeline at night, dig in, and wait for the Taliban to occupy their ambush position the next day. A second option is to have preplanned indirect targets in known ambush positions. If the Taliban is going there, the locals will stay away, and one does not risk civilian casualties. A third option is to send recce patrols past the treeline to start observing the Taliban's infiltration. They ain't appearing out of thin air.


The way COIN is supposed to work is first you control the population, then the population tells you where the Taliban and are setting up the ambushes.


I wouldn't even call it that. I'd just call it people skills.

I was going to make the same point. The guy in the video appears to be doing the equivalent of walking up to a girl and saying, "Why aren't you willing to have sex with me." It takes time, patience, there has to be something in it for her and you need to prove yourself worthy of trust.

Ken White
10-03-2009, 04:08 PM
The way COIN is supposed to work is first you control the population, then the population tells you where the Taliban and are setting up the ambushes.'Cause you cannot control populations without draconian measures and we are not going to use those...

MikeF
10-03-2009, 06:29 PM
The way COIN is supposed to work is first you control the population, then the population tells you where the Taliban and are setting up the ambushes.

I'd submit that this reasoning is akin to your second point.


The guy in the video appears to be doing the equivalent of walking up to a girl and saying, "Why aren't you willing to have sex with me." It takes time, patience, there has to be something in it for her and you need to prove yourself worthy of trust.

If I control the populace, then they'll tell me where the Taliban are setting up ambushes. Or, the girl in the bar will have sex with me b/c I'm a badass Marine. Control doesn't work that way. You gotta have some Mojo- Influence, Persuasion, and sometimes Bribery (If you're into that type of tribe :D).

Same bar, same dance, same song.

v/r

Mike

John T. Fishel
10-03-2009, 06:59 PM
of controlling the population... In Malaya, the Brits relocated the Chinese population to "safe" controlled villages - not voluntarily - and it worked. In Vietnam, the GVN on US advice tried to do the same thing and called it the Strategic Hamlet program - it failed. In Guatemala, the govt relocated villages to "Development Poles" (read strategic hamlets) with armed militia patrols (PACs) - it worked. 3 cases of essentially the same program 2 of whichworked but for different reasons with differentg adaptations and one of which failed because of both poor execution and a failure to adapt.

A key to success is flexibility, ADAPTATION of what worked in the past and appropriate new TTP.

Cheers

JohnT

Pol-Mil FSO
10-03-2009, 08:27 PM
The problem with employing standard population control measures in Afghanistan is that they would quickly annoy Afghans and increase hostility towards foreign forces. Pashtuns do not like to be ordered around, especially by foreigners. I think it would take draconian measures as Ken White noted, to compel Afghan cooperation. Maybe something like public executions and other intimidation tactics but for very good political, ethical, and legal reasons we are not going to go there. That leaves us with the persuasion and bribery alternative to get the population on the government side.

The Guatemalan Army addressed both the population control and force ratio issues by going into the Mayan highlands in the early 1980's and forcing male inhabitants of the villages to join the self-defense patrols (PACs) with a penalty of death for refusal. Within a couple of years there were over a million villagers enrolled in the PACs - more than 10% of the total population. Each PAC was controlled by the military commissioner (an Army NCO) stationed in the village. The Army pursued a deliberate strategy of involving the PACs in massacres of unarmed civilians and other human rights abuses in order to exert psychological control over the PAC members and break any ties that PAC members might have had with the insurgents. This brutal but effective employment of PACs was part of a ruthless COIN strategy that earned Guatemala widespread international condemnation and left the Army without any overt international support in its fight against the insurgents, apart from some minor assistance from Israel and Taiwan.

John T. Fishel
10-03-2009, 10:11 PM
either the Brits or the Guats nor to excoriate the US and GVN but simply to point out the similar methods can work or fail depending on how employed and the culture in question. Obviously, strat hamlets did not work in Vietnam because the culture would not accept it. What I am suggesting it that there are likely to be effective ways of controlling population even in Pashtun areas with an appropriate understanding of the culture. As a start, one might begin by asking how the Brits successfully coopted Pashtun elements even incorporating them in the Corps of Guides. The questions to ask are what worked in the past, might they work now, how would we need to adapt them.

Cheers

JohnT

slapout9
10-03-2009, 10:34 PM
I was going to make the same point. The guy in the video appears to be doing the equivalent of walking up to a girl and saying, "Why aren't you willing to have sex with me." It takes time, patience, there has to be something in it for her and you need to prove yourself worthy of trust.

That is really a good lesson, you are trying to build a relationship. That is why most good Cops will spend as much time as possible trying to bond with the suspect/informant before you start on asking the hard questions.

1-So introduce yourself
2-Meet for coffee
3-Go to lunch
4-Go to dinner and start to define the relationship

Backwards Observer
10-04-2009, 09:54 AM
In Malaya, the Brits relocated the Chinese population to "safe" controlled villages - not voluntarily - and it worked. In Vietnam, the GVN on US advice tried to do the same thing and called it the Strategic Hamlet program - it failed.

From Born A Foreigner: A Memoir of the American Presence in Asia by Charles T. Cross (1999):


There was no talk of the crucial differences between Malaysia, where Thompsonís ideas originated, and Vietnam, where they were to be carried out. The British were in complete charge of the military, the police and the civil services in Malaysia. They had a cadre of experienced life-time colonial officials, speaking the languages of the country, who could in quiet, disciplined ways maneuver the political process toward clear, unambiguous goals of eliminating the communists and establishing self-government. Moreover, the war in Malaysia had been smaller, with only 8,000 to 10,000 armed guerillas in the whole country at the height of the Emergency. Single provinces in South Vietnam at times had that many or more, counting the North Vietnamese in regular conventional units. Our own political aims for South Vietnam were as confused as those of the South Vietnamese themselves, agreeing between us only on opposition to North Vietnam. p.158

Born A Foreigner (http://www.amazon.com/Born-Foreigner-Memoir-American-Presence/dp/0847694690) - (Amazon)

Charles T. Cross (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_T._Cross) (Wikipedia)

Killers in Retirement, the last chapter of Jim Morris', Fighting Men, has some war stories from the period.

Fighting Men (http://www.amazon.com/Fighting-Men-Jim-Morris/dp/0312984847)- (Amazon)

John T. Fishel
10-04-2009, 09:16 PM
Ambassador Cross should know (and his editors should have caught it) that the Emergency took place in Malaya, not Malaysia - the latter didn't exist. He is certainly correct that the Brits controlled everything -at least until 1957 when Malaya gained its independence. After that, the Brits had to deal with the govt of the PM Tunku Abdel Rahman. While the civil servants in Malaya - or a fair number of them - spoke Malay, how many spoke Chinese? Also, the language of Malaya was English as it is today in Singapore - then part of the Malay Federation - with its largely Chinese population. So, language was a factor but it was the native language of the colonial power.

Cheers

JohnT

Bill Moore
10-04-2009, 09:18 PM
Posted by Steve Blair,


Good lessons, Mike, and it's interesting to me (as a historian) how many of them should not be new. Quite a bit of it is classic Vietnam (circa about 1968-69, but was being done earlier in some places). Not knocking your lessons at all, which are hard-earned, but more observing that we could/should do a better job of preserving those lessons. And on a possibly related note, many of them could have been pulled directly from the old Small Wars Manual.

Posted by Ken White,


The problem is that our training got dumbed down in the 1970s and 80s and we stopped teaching NCOs how to talk to people. I saw dozens if not hundreds of on NCOsS doing what that guy was doing on presence patrols in three countries. Most, not all doing it pretty well.

The above comments simply reinforce the SECDEF's assertion that we have failed to institutionalize the lessons learned from our previous experiences in irregular warfare. It is not the same as conventional war, thus the argument if you can win in a conventional conflict you'll be able to win in an irregular conflict is dangerously misleading. While many of us disagree with the definitions and some of the new fangled theories being pushed (with no historical evidence to support them), most of us hope the SECDEF is successful in institutionalzing the study and practice of irregular warfare throughout DoD.

Ken White
10-04-2009, 10:31 PM
The above comments simply reinforce the SECDEF's assertion that we have failed to institutionalize the lessons learned from our previous experiences in irregular warfare.Not on that; that's totally correct and a lick on us.
It is not the same as conventional war, thus the argument if you can win in a conventional conflict you'll be able to win in an irregular conflict is dangerously misleading.Heretical comment -- I'm not that sure we would've done all that well in a conventional war against a near peer competitor. I'd rephrase that statement of yours a bit; "If you're well enough trained to win a conventional war, you're probably well enough trained to do okay in irregular conflict." Mostly because I do not think we were at all well trained for conventional war; we were and are too rigid, too reluctant to take risk and we do not trust our subordinates adequately.

Well trained troops can handle both and the Army and Marines both worked at being able to do that in the early 60s with some success, noting that there were a some units that specialized in MCO, a few that emphasized IW and an even smaller few who trained for full spectrum.

I'd also suggest that in most IW, the possibility of 'winning' is not good for anyone if the fight even somewhat approaches a mid level conflict -- as in Afghanistan or Iraq.
While many of us disagree with the definitions and some of the new fangled theories being pushed (with no historical evidence to support them), most of us hope the SECDEF is successful in institutionalzing the study and practice of irregular warfare throughout DoD.Yep. Needs to happen. Training required to win against a near peer in MCO needs only slight modification and additions to adapt to irregular war -- with the caveat that the GPF will never do more than an adequate job at IW or COIN. Not their thing...

Backwards Observer
10-05-2009, 05:31 AM
Ambassador Cross should know (and his editors should have caught it) that the Emergency took place in Malaya, not Malaysia - the latter didn't exist.

I thought that was strange too, but then you hear a lot of funny things from foreigners. We were having lunch with a gentleman (as in Southern Gentleman) from the US Embassy in Singapore, it was a long time ago and I can't remember what his position was, but he saw "Chicken Maryland" on the menu. He turns to us and says, "You know, any establishment that serves Chicken Maryland is probably run by the CIA." Then he orders the Chicken Maryland. A few years earlier, we'd seen Spiro Agnew at one of the tables there, I don't know if he had the Chicken Maryland.

Backwards Observer
10-06-2009, 09:12 AM
As a follow-up, I'd like to add that the afore-mentioned gentleman had the most impeccable manners and appearance, and was in his own way as inscrutable as a Mandarin. The trick was in figuring out whether his humour derived from something being outlandishly absurd or outlandishly true. Someone once asked him if he could describe the difference between Northerners and Southerners, to which he replied, "Ma'am, I was well past my youth before I could admit to myself that 'Damn Yankees' were even Americans." He was also popular with the ladies, which may have accounted for some of his world-weariness.

Schmedlap
10-12-2009, 03:51 PM
The two things that struck me in the 24 minutes of preview:

1) the contrast between the footage in D.C. and the footage of the Marines fighting to secure the population
2) the lack of USG civilians and GIRoA security forces (there were some ANA - I did not see any USG civilians.

Ditto on number 1. Those people have lots of neat ideas and some very sharp presentations. Meanwhile, back in the real world...

jkm_101_fso
10-14-2009, 02:37 AM
So I just finished watching it. Am I to understand that the main point of this episode was that the US military effort in AFG is mostly in vain until the U.S. makes REAL diplomatic progress with PAK, especially ISI who still supports the Taliban to this day?

Steve the Planner
10-14-2009, 01:14 PM
The diplomatic problem crossed a lot of lines, beginning at the local level.

Cavguy
10-14-2009, 01:31 PM
http://www.afcea.org/mission/intel/nightwatch.asp


Afghanistan: NightWatch comments on the Frontline Report on PBS. The one-hour special is important more for its visual images than for any words in the script or from interviews. The visual images add dimensions to understanding.

The script is about protecting people and establishing local rapport. The interviews with generals reinforce those messages. The video and audio of a local village encounter show that young US Marines are clueless. Even the more reflective Marine captain, with all the best intentions in the world, comes off as clueless, far too young and inexperienced for the task his superior set for him to establish rapport with the Pashtuns of Helmand Province.

The language of the script is that of Western academic study of insurgency. The ironic reality is that very young American men presume to preach about survival to Afghans old enough to be their grandfathers. There is no respect for age shown in any of the local encounters PBS filmed. The videos showed the Americans to be afraid, unprepared and ill-informed and the Afghans were uniformly defiant, in the NightWatch view. One wondered whether the young officer knew the clan of the men he was addressing?

The most startling segment of the telecast was a scene in which a Marine officer tried to persuade locals that the village was now safe because the Marines arrived. They wanted the locals to help them. The Afghans challenged how could the Afghans help the Marines? They did not even own a sword.

The setting was a village that was empty of inhabitants who fled when they learned the Marines were coming to save them from the Taliban. Nevertheless, inexplicably and in an empty village, the Marine officer was interrogating a dozen or so Afghan men, using an interrogator who did not speak the local dialect.

The US officer got impatient with the Afghans because they were not being cooperative, the script indicated. He could not speak the language and his interpreter was not qualified but he directed his anger at the Afghans Ö and the insanity of the situation, no doubt. Th4e video showed him to be arrogant and disrespectful of the residents and especially of the elders in the group. He probably was mostly scared and maybe a little embarrassed.

Neither PBS nor the Marine officer noticed that a significant portion of the men wore black turbans, the signature headdress of the Taliban. Who can know for sure, but experience suggests any men found in a Helmand village without children or women are Taliban. These facts raise a significant probability that the Marine officer was issuing orders to and expressing frustrations with the actual rulers of the village, who were Taliban or Taliban sympathizers and apparently was not aware. It was like watching films from the early period of the Vietnam War all over again.

And when did governance, or more accurately government, become so important in Afghanistan? A significant portion of the video focused on this issue in interviews and commentary.

This is an American obsession. Louis Dupree, the foremost US expert on Afghanistan before he died, never thought good government was important. His writings and experience indicate that Afghans prefer no government outside the local shura. What westerners call corruption Afghans call survival.

The message of the Frontline special is not in the script, but rather in the images which invariably put the lie to the words. The take away is that US words to not match US actions. That is the fundamental Afghan gripe against the US: it promised a lot and did not deliver. The Pashtuns judge they were better off under their own leaders, after waiting eight years for some benefits from having ousted the Taliban.

Entropy
10-14-2009, 02:57 PM
Pretty brutal Cavguy. I haven't watched it yet (got it on DVR for tonight, hopefully), but I will see if my interpretation squares with Mr. McCreary's.

tequila
10-14-2009, 03:46 PM
Didn't watch the entire thing, had to DVR so will watch tonight. But it's worth mentioning that the most of the interactions in the FRONTLINE piece were filmed at the very beginning of Operation Khanjar this past summer. It'd be very interesting to hear an update on how Helmand is progressing (or not) now that the Marines have been on the ground for awhile.

Ken White
10-14-2009, 04:06 PM
Cav Guys link, though, resonates with me -- I saw the same sorts of errors all too frequently in other places at other times. We just flat do not do this stuff well...

I also went to the provided LINK (http://nightwatch.afcea.org/NightWatch_20091013.htm)and saw this Note appended to the Cav Guy quote:
Note: this comment is not a criticism of the American soldiers and Marines. It is a criticism of those who prepared them, or rather failed to prepare them. Watching US helicopters sweep across the broad expanses of Helmand Province, the words from officials in Kabul about progress, protecting people, development and governance seemed otherworldly.

At the risk of repetition, the US Army and probably all the NATO armies are not large enough to protect the villages, were they entirely deployed in Afghanistan. That is a key NightWatch takeaway from the Frontline special.The first paragraph properly ascribes blame to poor strategy, poor operational deployment and poor tactics -- the latter two exacerbated by poor military training and education.

The strategic error is neatly summed up by the last quoted paragraph.

MikeF
10-14-2009, 04:09 PM
http://www.afcea.org/mission/intel/nightwatch.asp

Good article Niel. That would probably be my assessment on a cranky day when I am convinced that GPF are not suited for COIN. On more optimistic days, I think that we can do it, and we just need to train better. Still, someone needs to decide if we SHOULD be doing it.

Outside of all the different literature and doctrine on COIN, I'd suggest the one quality that CANNOT be neglected is people skills and the ability to communicate.

In Iraq, during initial infiltration, I would spend long hours just listening and asking various questions to establish repoire. These talks had nothing to do with the immediate fight...

- So how was life under Saddam?
- How did your government use to work?
- Tell me about fighting in the Iran-Iraq war or Kuwait. This was a money question. Every veteran loves to tell war stories. This transcends culture.
- Why do y'all hate Israel?
- So, tell me about Islam.

Later, after repoire was established:
- So, when are you going to quit fighting?
- What type of world do you want your children to grow up in?
- What are you going to do about it?

These talks probably served as one of the best shaping maneuvers for my troop. Over time, regardless of if the sheik was a sunni who backed the resistance or a shia who backed JAM/BADR, my troop was humanized to the leaders in my area. It didn't solve all the problems, but it was a good start.

v/r

Mike

IntelTrooper
10-14-2009, 07:07 PM
In Iraq, during initial infiltration, I would spend long hours just listening and asking various questions to establish repoire. These talks had nothing to do with the immediate fight...

- So how was life under Saddam?
- How did your government use to work?
- Tell me about fighting in the Iran-Iraq war or Kuwait. This was a money question. Every veteran loves to tell war stories. This transcends culture.
- Why do y'all hate Israel?
- So, tell me about Islam.

Later, after repoire was established:
- So, when are you going to quit fighting?
- What type of world do you want your children to grow up in?
- What are you going to do about it?



They need to clone you, sir!

Steve the Planner
10-14-2009, 08:47 PM
Back in January, I gave a briefing on administrative, political, economic and infrastructure mapping in Northern Iraq---that had only been put together in 2008. Hard to believe that we spent six years there and knew very little about the actual structure of the society, government and economy. Build first, plan second.

Fortunately, I was told, Afghanistan was different. Everything had been mapped to a tee and we knew everything about the place. Yeah, right.

Recent articles and reports on the political, administrative side already told me that the civilian side is a Lost Ball in Tall Grass, with most everybody hunkered down and killing time.

Just makes me want to spit, though, seeing these young troops dropped into the middle of a very dangerous nowhere without a clue of what's going on. No context, no understanding. No effective translator.

Whatever the President decides, I hope it is not just "more of the same."





Just an empty commitment made by some big shots to put boots on the ground in Helmand.

MikeF
10-15-2009, 12:02 AM
They need to clone you, sir!

That would be a bad, bad idea. Schemdlap likes to say that he doesn't do strategy; Mike doesn't do garrison. One of me is enough. Every sergeant major would either immediately retire or be stricken with a heart attack if there were more of me running around. We'd win Iraq and Afghanistan, but we'd be left we a standing army that only jumped outta planes, played rugby, surfed and drank too much calling it work. :eek:.

Mike

MikeF
10-15-2009, 12:30 AM
So I just finished watching it. Am I to understand that the main point of this episode was that the US military effort in AFG is mostly in vain until the U.S. makes REAL diplomatic progress with PAK, especially ISI who still supports the Taliban to this day?

Jake, that's a tough one, and I don't know if I have the "right" answers for it, but here it goes.

First, for six years, we just threw money at the problem. Money without any recourse thinking that the Pakistani's would use it to tackle AQ. They didn't. In some ways, it's similar to our decision to throw money to the banks thinking it would solve the average citizen's mortgage problem. It didn't. Instead, the banks consolidated and paid big bonuses. It's all human nature. Their perceived enemy is India, and they used the billions to build up their conventional forces along the eastern border of Kashmir. In the latter years of the Bush Administration, we finally started fixing that issue.

Second, I've never been to Pakistan, but I had the opportunity to go to school with a handful of their best and brightest Air Force and Army officers. They are highly competent- most have served in high intensity conflict, small wars, and peace-keeping missions. I have the utmost respect for them, but they don't view AQ as an existential threat like we do. AQ is third on their list. They've dealt with the non-governed FATA for nearly 50 years, and I think that this history sometimes blinds them into accepting that there are just some areas within their borders that will never be modernized.

Third, the Pakistanis are finally pushing into the ungoverned areas at a high cost. They've suffered several thousand casualties over the last several years that are unreported in the news.

They are good people and willing partners, and it is a sensitive subject on sovereignty. Personally, outside of the initial "outrage," I think the Pakistanis would accept and understand if we simply invaded the FATA to finally capture UBL and Zawahari and destroy AQ; however, we must be willing to spend the time, money, and effort to modernize the area in the aftermath.

Sometimes you have to listen past the static to understand the problem.

Just my .02 cents for what it's worth. I realize my voice is a minority.

v/r

Mike

Ken White
10-15-2009, 12:51 AM
...Every sergeant major would either immediately retire or be stricken with a heart attack if there were more of me running around. :eek:Of which there are too many -- what happens when you have a promotion system that rewards time in service and no disciplinary actions above all else.

AR 600-200 says all those SSG and above Boards select and the individual will be promoted unless his Commander writes a letter to pull for cause. Backwards. When you get to be Chief of staff, change it to say the individual will be promoted only when the Commander writes a letter concurring. Commanders will not take time to write letters for marginal people, so currently system, too many marginal folks get promoted -- change it and they won't...

Then you can go for broke with no fear of causing cardiac arrest...:D

slapout9
10-15-2009, 02:30 AM
Couldn't find Garret Trooper by Sadler..... but found Trooper's Lamentby him.....for all them super duper Paratroopers like Mike:)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWJcgQTYyQI&feature=related

slapout9
10-15-2009, 02:46 AM
Found the lyrics but no sound yet.


Garet Trooper
by SSgt. Barry Sadler

This is dedicated to the parade field trooper
Who never leaves that nice soft garrison
And always looks real pretty

Now in the war torn jungles of Vietnam
Youíll find a certain kind of man
Youíll see him everywhere
Heís a trooper, a garet trooper

Yeah, heís five foot four, 228 pounds of blubber
Got him a nickel plated 45 tied down low, quick draw holster
Two bandoliers of brasso-ed ammo
Yeah heís a trooper, a garet trooper

Heís fought from Saigon to Ninh Thuan
In every bar that is, and then only with the girls
And he ainít won one yet
But heís a trooper, a garet trooper (garet trooper)

Heís got a hip knife, a side knife, a boot knife, a shoulder knife
And a little bitty one thatís a combination flare gun, dinner set,
and genuine police whistle
But heís a trooper, a garet trooper

Now I run into one the other day, He told me a story,
He said he'd just this minute come back from
a fifteen day runniní fight with the Cong
Said he captured a lot of loot
You know what I saw when I looked down? A spit shined boot
Yeah, heís a trooper, a garet trooper (garet trooper)

Now poor ole pilot come back today
Half his crew was killed, aircraft shot to hell
But he donít say much
Heís not a trooper, a garet trooper

And out in the hills and the jungles and the swamps
Living like a bunch of dogs
Are some men wearing funny little green hats
They stay out there and fight for months on end
They donít say much Ďcause theyíre not troopers,
garet troopers (garet troopers)

And I bet finally, when I leave this war torn land
The last thing Iíll see will be,
though I may be in a drunken stupor
I bet itíll be a garet trooper (garet trooper)

Yeah, theyíre all over the place
Ainít hardly worth going to war no more

carl
10-15-2009, 02:51 AM
Mike:

i stopped reading after the "We'd win" part. the rest didn't seem important.

general comments:
about the SGTs lack of people skills. there must be one guy in the squad who does have the people skills. why not let him handle the street interviews? and there must be a handful in the company, why not move them around so every patrol has one?

also i think most every successful small war, FID, coin, pacification etc, has established some kind of local self defense force. it may be more or less difficult in Afghanistan but i think it must be done.

MikeF
10-15-2009, 03:06 AM
Mike:

i stopped reading after the "We'd win" part. the rest didn't seem important.

general comments:
about the SGTs lack of people skills. there must be one guy in the squad who does have the people skills. why not let him handle the street interviews? and there must be a handful in the company, why not move them around so every patrol has one?

also i think most every successful small war, FID, coin, pacification etc, has established some kind of local self defense force. it may be more or less difficult in Afghanistan but i think it must be done.

The answers would suprise you, and I probably should address Ken's post on a seperate thread.

-My best private under hostile fire was grossly overweight. Seriously, he was super fat, but he never quit regardless of how much we pushed him. That's why I never chaptered him. However, he had a heart of gold. He deserved a silver star. I couldn't even give him an AAM b/c he never met height and weight standards. In four combat deployments, he was the best soldier that I ever served with. He just struggled with his weight.

-My best sergeant was a multiple-tour Fallujah battle type guy. He taught himself arabaic, learned the culture, and was a master photographer. After multiple patrols, he stayed up late in the night assisting me with intel analysis. He was turned down twice from the E-6 board b/c he didn't memorize some stupid Sh*t about protocal. After surviving ten IED blast, he finally had to take a knee.

Go back and watch the beginnings of "We were soldiers once, and young." Look at the misfits that Hal Moore picked for his crew.

v/r

Mike

jmm99
10-15-2009, 04:14 AM
depicts the Death of Groupement Mobile No. 100 at the Battle of Mang Yang Pass (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Mang_Yang_Pass) (June 1954) and its aftermath. That unit (~ an RCT) was the elite of the French Far Eastern Expeditionary Forces; but most of them had just arrived from Korea - and didn't have a real clue about warfare in the Central Highlands. A lot of Marines had to exchange "colonialements" in another world. A real tragedy for the TdM (link to their article on DBP and this battle at the bottom of the Wiki).

Ken would have a competent opinion on the quality of Hal Moore's Bn. Based on reading the book, his guys didn't seem to be misfits. Of course, since Hal Moore was from That Place on the Hudson, anything is possible. :D

The relief Bn (second part of book) got clobbered, but not as bad as GM 100. Our KIAs (23 Oct - 26 Nov 1965) were 305 (234 in 4 days). One wonders what the MSM reaction today would be.

A somber topic.

Mike

Ken White
10-15-2009, 01:54 PM
Ken would have a competent opinion on the quality of Hal Moore's Bn. Based on reading the book, his guys didn't seem to be misfits. Of course, since Hal Moore was from That Place on the Hudson, anything is possible. :DNo more misfits than most others. Marginally trained but there was a lot of that going around. Moore was a blowhard -- lot of that going around as well...

Missed the Ia Drang but worked with them in the aftermath of the battle at Trung Luong in June of 66 and for a few weeks afterward. Marshall discussed that fight in The Fields of Bamboo.

jkm_101_fso
10-16-2009, 05:00 AM
First, for six years, we just threw money at the problem. Money without any recourse thinking that the Pakistani's would use it to tackle AQ. They didn't.

I don't think we should be shocked by that and I'm surprised that is what we expected them to do???


In some ways, it's similar to our decision to throw money to the banks thinking it would solve the average citizen's mortgage problem. It didn't. Instead, the banks consolidated and paid big bonuses. It's all human nature. Their perceived enemy is India, and they used the billions to build up their conventional forces along the eastern border of Kashmir. In the latter years of the Bush Administration, we finally started fixing that issue.

Good analogy. Although I would rather an American banker had my tax dollars than a PAK politician...well maybe not.


Second, I've never been to Pakistan, but I had the opportunity to go to school with a handful of their best and brightest Air Force and Army officers. They are highly competent- most have served in high intensity conflict, small wars, and peace-keeping missions.

Absolutely. Key phrase was best and brightest. Imagine if officers in foreign armies judged the U.S. by the caliber of our military officers...they sure would be disappointed when they met our politicians.


I have the utmost respect for them, but they don't view AQ as an existential threat like we do. AQ is third on their list. They've dealt with the non-governed FATA for nearly 50 years, and I think that this history sometimes blinds them into accepting that there are just some areas within their borders that will never be modernized.

It's not really the military I'm concerned with. How much of our money did they see?


Third, the Pakistanis are finally pushing into the ungoverned areas at a high cost. They've suffered several thousand casualties over the last several years that are unreported in the news.

Well, that's good. What kind of progress have they made?


Personally, outside of the initial "outrage," I think the Pakistanis would accept and understand if we simply invaded the FATA to finally capture UBL and Zawahari and destroy AQ;

I've always wondered if they would even care? They would probably just say "good luck".


however, we must be willing to spend the time, money, and effort to modernize the area in the aftermath.

Funny you mention that...I watched Charlie Wilson's War last night.

slapout9
10-16-2009, 02:09 PM
Funny you mention that...I watched Charlie Wilson's War last night.


Speaking of Charlie Wilson some one told me he was asked about A'stan recently and his advice was to get out:eek: Does anybody know how accurate that statement is?

Entropy
10-16-2009, 03:05 PM
Watched the show last night and I thought it was pretty good. Those Marines really do have a tough job considering the population they are supposed to protect basically got up and left. Kinda makes it hard to protect and engage with them.

The show brings to light a number of problems, in my estimation:

1. The population is very diffuse. One company in one village in one area is not going to cut it. Are 40k more troops, what Gen. McChrystal is asking for, enough to put a company in every village to prevent the population from simply displacing?

2. What about translators? If we can't get a competent translator for this one company, how are we going to support a much larger presence?

3. There is no Afghan face. Why isn't there at least some official government representative present at these meetings with villagers?

Overall, this documentary is not very encouraging.

jmm99
10-16-2009, 05:35 PM
First a thanks (a week late) for your maps (http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/showpost.php?p=84180&postcount=11) based on open-source reporting of incidents in the various Astan districts. It brings home the fact that Astan is no monolith; and that the country has to be analyzed on a district to district basis. :( Good job. :)

As to your questions,


1. The population is very diffuse. One company in one village in one area is not going to cut it. Are 40k more troops, what Gen. McChrystal is asking for, enough to put a company in every village to prevent the population from simply displacing?

2. What about translators? If we can't get a competent translator for this one company, how are we going to support a much larger presence?

3. There is no Afghan face. Why isn't there at least some official government representative present at these meetings with villagers?

here are some armchair thoughts.

1. Based on World Bank stats, Kilcullen (TAG, p.47n.12) gives Astan 40,020 villages (love the exactness of that 20 villages ;)). So, adding the 40K to what is there - and putting everyone out in the field (:eek:) - gives less than a fireteam per village. Not a large army for you to fight with, Mr Lance Corporal.

2. Astan, as your maps point out, is not an ethnic monolith. Leaving aside all of the different languages and dialects of them in the "Northern Alliance" area (Dari is something of a lingua franca), look at Pashto (or Pakhto). There are four major dialect groups, in which different pronounciation of the middle consonent complex (e.g., -sht- vs -kht-) is the marker. The bottom line is that interpreters have to be somewhat local. As such, they stand a good chance of being whacked (to say nothing of their families), especially when we leave.

3. From the candid assesments I've read re: the judicial system and local governance, the judges, police, lawyers and local government officials are often hiding in the provincial capitals (preferred) or district capitals (less preferred, and sometimes denied).

Best to all

Mike

Steve the Planner
10-16-2009, 05:51 PM
Entropy/JMM:

There are, perhaps, 40,020 "places" that could be identified as villages, but as you have done an excellent job of indicating, the problems in establishing a deployment strategy are localized, not ubiquitous.

Basic economic/social geography suggests a "hierarchy" of interconnections between "places," settlements, villages and towns that needs to be studied, in the critical areas, to align resources with geography. Where are the strategic places to be located? What are the linkages between these places?

I was concerned in the Frontline report that the patrols were wandering into small settlements where people were moving from one market to another, moving their families out of the way of the obvious hazards that logically arise if both Taliban and US forces will be confronting each other.

What concerned me is not that it was happening, but that, apparently, the squad and company was deploying and reacting to a logical human and geographic environment which they, apparently, did not understand.

Surely, a little bit of core background information about the land and its people could sharpen the effectiveness of these young soldiers' efforts.

Steve

slapout9
10-16-2009, 06:00 PM
Basic economic/social geography suggests a "hierarchy" of interconnections between "places," settlements, villages and towns that needs to be studied, in the critical areas, to align resources with geography. Where are the strategic places to be located? What are the linkages between these places?

I was concerned in the Frontline report that the patrols were wandering into small settlements where people were moving from one market to another, moving their families out of the way of the obvious hazards that logically arise if both Taliban and US forces will be confronting each other.


Steve

Yes, especially the remark in the video about how they have to go to another market to get their flour!! That is a big interruption in daily life that they probably view the Marines as the cause of. Which is why I say the first critical items that should be supplied even if they are temporally supplied by the military are water,food,shelter,medical care. The situation should not be allowed to deteriorate while you are establishing security.

Steve the Planner
10-16-2009, 06:14 PM
slapout:

Right, but even to do that, we have to start with some basic geographic info.

If you track the momentum of urbanization/rural abandonment, it is pretty clear that many of the 40,020 "places, like in Iraq, are simply abandoned settlements of a handful of buildings. (Great for bad guys, but of no importance to service delivery).

UN and the related mapping/pop agencies maintain records of these "places," but, a quick fly over or field assessment will show thounsands of them to be, in fact, abandoned.

So, take the 40,020, and knock it down to, say, 10,005 in the areas of interest; eliminate 33% as either abandoned settlements, or, so closely related to another village as to be a difference without a distinction; then, identify from the remaining 6,603 the critical geographic locations central to transportation, food and relief distribution, and there are probably, at best, about 2,000 places that warrant focus.

I would suggest that the 2,000 critical places for relief distribution are probably the same 2,000 that warrant consideration for military bases of some kind or another.

One of the great demographic assets in Iraq was the PDS system for food registration/distribution. 95% of the population was registered at some local registration/distribution point, allowing a lot more accuracy to population-based analysis and planning.

Food as a weapon for data? Food as a vehicle for centralizing, and thus, monitoring, populations?

slapout9
10-16-2009, 06:29 PM
I would suggest that the 2,000 critical places for relief distribution are probably the same 2,000 that warrant consideration for military bases of some kind or another.

One of the great demographic assets in Iraq was the PDS system for food registration/distribution. 95% of the population was registered at some local registration/distribution point, allowing a lot more accuracy to population-based analysis and planning.

Food as a weapon for data? Food as a vehicle for centralizing, and thus, monitoring, populations?

Absolutely and medical aid as detailed human terrain analysis. don't know if it would work in 3rd world countries but water and electric bill analysis can produce some interesting Intelligence at least from an LE perspective.

MikeF
10-16-2009, 06:29 PM
Food as a weapon for data? Food as a vehicle for centralizing, and thus, monitoring, populations?

to any humanitarian missions...

- Food that gets pushed to feed the Taliban.
- Fertilizer that gets pushed to make bombs.
- Medicine that gets pushed to care for wounded Taliban.
- Weapons and ammo distributed for village protection that arms the Taliban.

If you're not living there, then you can assume the enemy takes anything you give out.

Mike

slapout9
10-16-2009, 06:32 PM
If you're not living there, then you can assume the enemy takes anything you give out.

Mike

Mike I would assume that and I would be following all that which should help lead you to the enemy Infrastructure.

omarali50
10-16-2009, 06:51 PM
How about feeding them right at the base gate? especially kids. Though I can foresee that could lead to lot of innocent kids being killed in taliban bombings at the same gates...

MikeF
10-16-2009, 07:07 PM
How about feeding them right at the base gate? especially kids. Though I can foresee that could lead to lot of innocent kids being killed in taliban bombings at the same gates...

Here's what we did.

I established curfew after sunset. We conducted night patrols to enforce the curfew. Trust me, it's hard to differentiate from someone emplacing an IED at night and some drunken farmer sneaking out of his house to have a drink (and not let his wife find out).

During the night patrols, we stopped in at houses for several purposes:

1. Establish our presence.
2. Spot-check to make sure our food was going to the families.
3. Provide medical care to kids.
4. Covertly talk to our trusted sources.

As time passed, the women started telling us where the bombs were planted and where the safehouses were.

v/r

Mike

Entropy
10-16-2009, 07:12 PM
I just did a quick calculation. The Afghan Central Statistics Office (CSO) has about 32k "settlements" in its database (available here (http://www.aims.org.af/sroots.aspx?seckeys=76&seckeyo=44&seckeyz=37)). I selected those settlements from the Pashtun areas and came up with about 14k total. For Helmand province there are 1709 listed.

I think Steve is probably correct that some of these are abandoned and others are going to be too small to worry about. Even so, we'll still be dealing with a huge number. That's a major problem for us and a major difference from Iraq, where the population was a lot more concentrated.

Incidentally, I've been reading some American history on our own insurgency and there is a comparison. America's population was quite diffuse and the British strategy of holding major population centers didn't work well for them as a result. They also tried to control some areas and put garrisons in less populated areas, but they simply didn't have the forces to do this everywhere and inevitably the forces would be withdrawn for one reason or another. This ended up hurting them in the end because once they left it was easy for the rebels to determine who the loyalists were.

After eight years it will be a huge challenge to convince Afghans, who are already fence-sitters, to support the Afghan government and coalition and risk the consequences.

Steve the Planner
10-16-2009, 07:25 PM
First, as Omarali50 suggests, is the problem of how to distribute food aid.

Do you feed them from the gate, or post, or do you distribute food rations (triggering Mike's concern of pass through to the Taliban)?

I would suggest that if we are to bolster local, district, national, tribal, village and/or governmental strengths, the distribution process, like in Iraq, must be handled by some form of non-US distribution strategy. Otherwise, particularly, you are directly endangering those recipients.

There is no question that much of the Iraqi PDS distributions were either so rotten as to be only useful as chicken feed, or, if useful, ended up on the black market. But, it was traceable, provided locals with sustenance (even if through dollars raised by black market resale), and, had the effect of centralizing population/data, etc...

Second, the trade-offs, as Mike F suggests between military security/Taliban support and population services/resources.

Without doubt, any resource injected into conflict areas holds the potential for mis-use by an opponent. So, is there a wise choice to be made somewhere, especially if our focus is on a hybrid strategy aimed at improving the population while denying resources to an enemy?

From experience, ours is the only reconstruction effort that has focused on fertilizer denial as a pre-condition for post-conflict agricultural stabilization. Since, an enemy could use it, we must deprive everyone of it. The evidence, thus far, does not suggest that improved crop production results from fertilizer depreviation, or the use of sub-optimal alternatives. Where is that trade-off going? Do we distribute food to make up for crop inefficencies resulting from fertilizer deprivation?

My suggestion would be that a properly organized and Afghan-faced relief process (whether through central gov, NSF, or local govs/village/tribes) for food and medicine provides an organizational principal for improved perceptions of ISAF (helping the people), while creating a checkpoint for a lot of valuable data and strategy resulting from an economic force and organizing principle being applied to an otherwise chaotic geography.

Every agriculturally-based village that engages in trade of any kind is related to some market/grain silo/supply source dictated by some rational geographic hierarchy. Food distribution would either reinforce or reshape that hierarchy, and, secondarily, provide other benefits to either understand or affect the land and people.

Figuring out how and where to do it is a next step after somebody decides how to do it.

Also, I strongly suspect that future phases of our Iraq engagement are going to substantially refocus on urban and informal settlements vs. scattering about the countryside, whether anybody plans it or not. That urban vs. rural shift is a substantial change across the military and civilian sphere.

Steve

Steve the Planner
10-16-2009, 07:41 PM
Mike's got it:


During the night patrols, we stopped in at houses for several purposes:

1. Establish our presence.
2. Spot-check to make sure our food was going to the families.
3. Provide medical care to kids.
4. Covertly talk to our trusted sources.

As time passed, the women started telling us where the bombs were planted and where the safehouses were.

But how do we apply the same around an Afghan landscape in the areas that matter.

Entropy, as usual, is johnny-on-the-spot with data. I note that Iraq's PDS system for some 30 million registered people was handled through only two dozen centrally placed facilities (with satellite re-distribution). I assume the diffuse nature of Afghanistan will not lend itself to so central and efficeint a process (at all).

Funny thing about the corrolation of British colonial strategies. The more "far out," the more the pressure to "quarter troops" in people's houses, eat their scarce rations, and generally make yourself an undesirable lot.

And the huge cost of all that inefficiency, first to protect the settlers from Indians and those pesky Frenchies, was unbearable to the Brits at home (during a recession), forcing them to impose those draconian taxes on the colonials to pay for the cost of their highly inefficient defenses, thus, leading to a revolt. Isn't that a reasonable snapshot?

History as a guidepost?

Entropy
03-05-2010, 12:39 AM
I'm posting this here - mods if you think this should be in a new thread, feel free to move it.

Frontline came out with a new episode on the "Taliban" (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/talibanlines/?utm_campaign=homepage&utm_medium=bigimage&utm_source=bigimage) (actually they are mostly HiG) which is quite good. An afghan reporter "embeds" with the insurgents in Baglan province and follows and films them on a mission to ambush coalition forces with IED's, RPG's etc. Provides some valuable insight on fighter TTP and motivation. All in all, well worth the time to watch.