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Thread: Kandahar Province: catch all thread

  1. #41
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default 1/17 IN: Kinetic Ops or COIN?

    From an Army Times article on 1/17th IN, a Stryker unit deployed in Afghanistan:

    Battle has been joined in the valley because of its proximity to Kandahar city, a rich prize two miles to the east across a razor-backed ridgeline. Until this summer, insurgent control of the valley was unchallenged. Then 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, moved in, and the fight was on.

    The vicious struggle in and around the Arghandab since the battalion’s arrival has killed 21 1/17 soldiers and more than 50 insurgents, led to a popular company commander’s controversial replacement and raised questions about the best role for Stryker units in Afghanistan.

    It has also caused the soldiers at the tip of the spear that the United States hurled into the Arghandab to accuse their battalion and brigade commanders of not following the guidance of senior coalition commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal to adopt a “population-centric” counterinsurgency approach. And now, reeling from the deaths of their comrades and the removal of their company commander, the troops have been ordered out of the Arghandab, a move they say feels like a defeat.
    To read the entire article click on the link below;

    http://www.armytimes.com/news/2009/1...gnals_122109w/

  2. #42
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Stryker in Kandahar

    Pete,

    Excellent catch and I moved the post to this thread on Kandahar - partly as earlier reporting on the campaign by the Stryker unit(s) were here too.

    Sad to read that the Stryker unit is being withdrawn, perhaps for good reasons I.e. highway protection, but it does appear to be "mowing the lawn" from this seat faraway.

    Appalling to read that in such an important campaign and location there was so little intelligence that they used open source material.
    davidbfpo

  3. #43
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default In Better Context Here

    Thanks for moving it--it's more in context within this thread. By the way, a step-grandfather of mine was in the 17th London during the First World War. He was one of the six remaining members of the original battalion still in the unit when the war ended. After the war he moved to Australia and then to San Francisco.

  4. #44
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    When it comes to articles that he pens for the MilitaryTimes rags, I hate Sean Naylor's writing. He wrote a good book in Not a Good Day to Die, but there is just something out of context and missing in pieces like this. He wrote an equally poorly-written article about my old battalion in 2006, when portions of it rotated to the Anah-Rawah area to relieve a Stryker Brigade that had been re-tasked out of Al Anbar. He tried to make the units look like unprepared fools, and they were the furthest thing from it.

    When 1/17 got to the Arghandab, the insurgents were lying in wait in the green zone, armed with homemade bombs similar to those that have killed thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This came as a shock to 1/17 commander Lt. Col. Jonathan Neumann, who hadn’t anticipated being drawn into a fight in such constrictive terrain, where the troops learned quickly that they needed to dismount from their Strykers and patrol on foot.
    This is a terrible point...if they were optimized to perform in an urban Iraqi environment, the rules don't change much when you get into constrictive terrain as Naylor describes. And even if the battalion did not anticipate it, the battle was joined because they had found the enemy...plain and simple. That's not the time to ask for a tactical time out and say, "Uhhhh, excuse me mister insurgent, could you please refrain from attacking me while I try to work key leader engagement and focus on the population?"

    It seems Naylor has tried to highlight an issue with the tactics employed, and I'll grant that there isn't enough in the article to go off of, to tell whether the CLEAR phase was working seamlessly, since there seems to be some beef about taking ground but not holding it. The larger question now seems to be whether getting to the left of boom would have happened faster with a focus on the population as opposed to counter-guerilla ops. Sadly, Naylor's lack of examples of the specific types of operations he thinks fit in each of those categories, shows that he doesn't really know what either are all about.

    The perceived disconnect between Tunnell’s approach and McChrystal’s guidance has led to intense frustration in Charlie Company. One young soldier said all the squad leaders in his platoon “have done COIN fights before, and they’re pissed that we’re not doing COIN properly.”
    Again, how is COIN "done properly"? It is so situationally dependent that the blurb above makes me a little sick to my stomach. The COIN fight they "did before" might mean nothing compared to the COIN fight they are in now, and it is time for folks to realize that you have to sense what is going on, adjust, and be very flexible. Going into these types of ops with an assumption that everything is going to be fine, based on previous experience, is a recipe for disaster. Not surprisingly, the window of heavy casualties resulting from IEDs ranged from July to October, very close to the "first 100 days" window when things are always most dangerous.

    But lower down the rank structure, 1/17 soldiers said that a major factor behind the battalion’s difficulties in the Arghandab was the failure of their battalion and brigade commanders to adhere to McChrystal’s published counterinsurgency guidance, which states up front: “Protecting the people is the mission. The conflict will not be won by destroying the enemy.”
    The thrust of that quote, and what it means to me, is that you cannot remain focused on the enemy the entire time and ignore the people and the support base they can be swayed or coerced to provide. But Chrissakes, when the enemy presents himself, it is time to engage him and start the FINISH phase, or have we forgotten that FIND-FIX-FINISH is a subset of CLEAR-HOLD-BUILD?

    As the casualties from IEDs began to rise, so did the troops’ anger with what they viewed as their leaders’ failure to prepare them for the threat.

    “The extent of the IED threat was a surprise to us all,” Kassulke said. “The enemy we faced in the Arghandab adapted to our TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures] faster and more effectively than anyone expected.”
    I'm sorry, did I just read what I think I read? From my armchair corner, this is a flaky quotation. Not prepared? I don't understand what is so challenging about countering the IED threat. Any troop who has been through a PTP workup the past five years (for either AO), has the basic level of understanding to operate in that IED environment, as far as I'm concerned. There is a lot more to defeating the cycle and getting to the left of boom, however, and if that was the issue, I could understand. This article presents none of those issues.

    Sadly, Naylor hits a foul ball with this piece.

    I suppose that this article opens this thread up to the question of what primary conditions are required to focus on a population-centric COIN effort. From this thin bit of reporting, did any of those conditions exist if the enemy still had the freedom of maneuver to mass and conduct larger-scale operations? Finally, what role do kinetic operations play in trying to gain access to the population? Naylor makes it sound that commanders like Kassulke wanted to focus on engagement in spite of the fact that the enemy was staring them right in the face. It doesn't have to be a all-or-nothing proposition and never has been. Perhaps this speaks to what Col Gentile was trying to say after all.
    Last edited by jcustis; 12-23-2009 at 05:59 AM.

  5. #45
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    @JCustis:

    A couple issues with what you wrote:

    Some would argue Arghandab, which was very low-violence and pro-government compared to the rest of the South until this summer, didn't require a "Clear" phase this year, so much as a reinforcing of the "Hold" already in place by ANSF supported by ISAF. Obviously the commander of 1/17 disagreed, and probably for excellent reasons; I'm merely pointing out your and his assumption that a Clear was necessary, which some of Naylor's sources appear to see as the primary point of contention here.

    I'm also not sure that when the enemy "presents himself" entirely in the form of IED attacks on you whenever you're in restrictive terrain, that there's really anything to "Find-Fix-Finish" in the traditional sense without a heavy application of Pop-centric COIN at the same time. Obviously the Finding in that case will rely heavily on gaining local support, which, again, some of Naylor's sources seem to see as the problem.

    Two of the big issues the 1/17 CO was probably dealing with that Naylor doesn't mention were the tangle of competing land claims in Arghandab, which makes it even more difficult to procure property for basing than usual in Afghanistan, combined with an unwillingness to take over public property like schools and district centres for that purpose and undermine an area where development and local governance was at least until recently working, after a fashion. They also would have had very few ANSF to work with. Given those limitations, which would have effectively prevented the rapid creation of the kind of dismounted patrol bases and security stations this kind of dense agricultural area needs (it really is mostly non-permissive to LAV-sized vehicles) and the distance of the main base (Frontenac) from the populated area, the battalion commander may not have seen any realistic alternative to sweep-and-pull-back ops in the early months. Sometimes grass-mowing may seem like all you've got.

    That said, the fact that the enemy will occasionally "mass into platoons" (largely in my experience to overrun isolated ANP stations at night) but never uses direct fire against ISAF (and even then only when they're dismounted), only that steady rain of IEDs, which is their TTP throughout the Zhari-Arghandab area, doesn't necessarily equate to them having sufficient "freedom of maneuver to mass and conduct larger-scale operations" for COIN to be set aside entirely, either.

    The coalition's fear in Arghandab, with a working economy, a successful development effort, and a neutral or positively inclined population, was that it would turn into Zhari next door, where repeated sweeps and kinetic activities against suspected IED layers rapidly shut down the basis of that economy through depopulation and property damage and undermining of local governance, making it even more fertile as an insurgent hiding and recruiting location, as well as negatively impacting Kandahar City itself with a new influx of unemployed and angry young men. Any overly aggressive series of ISAF "counter-guerilla" clear ops in theory could come with those kinds of unintended side effects in this terrain.

  6. #46
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default 1/17 IN: Heaviest Losses in an Army Battalion Since 9/11

    Here's to you, soldiers of the 1-17 in Afghanistan

    By David Ignatius
    Washington Post
    Thursday, December 24, 2009; A15

    BASE FRONTENAC, AFGHANISTAN--It's a week before Christmas Eve, and the chow hall of this forward operating base north of Kandahar is decorated with twinkling blue and white lights for the holidays. There are posters of Santa and a snowman on the walls, and in the center of the room there's a big sign that exhorts the soldiers: "Enjoy Meal." Christmas will be "a day to take your boots off" for the 800 members of the Army's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment based here, says their commander, Lt. Col. Jonathan Neumann. It also will be a day to remember the 21 comrades who have been killed since the battalion arrived in August, and the 41 who have been seriously wounded.

    The 1-17 has the grim distinction of having lost more soldiers in action than any other battalion in the Army since Sept. 11, 2001. The men's names are recorded on a concrete slab in the center of the compound, bearing the legend "Fallen But Not Forgotten."

    "After a catastrophic incident, you come together and take care of your brothers," says Neumann. "Then you resolve to get back to the mission at hand." Christmas will be a moment to relax -- a day of sports, award ceremonies and a special meal. But because of combat rotation, the battalion will have to celebrate it over a series of days.

    I traveled here with Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was making a holiday visit to the war zone. Amid the twinkling lights of the mess hall, he addressed the soldiers of the 1-17, their automatic rifles stowed under the meal tables.

    "I know you've been in a very tough fight, and I'm aware of those you've lost," Mullen told the troops, assuring them: "We have the right strategy." He met afterward with a small group from units that had been especially hard hit.

    This holiday season is a good time to remember these faraway soldiers. The debate over Afghanistan has provoked strong feelings, pro and con. But the country seems united in its appreciation for a military that has been suffering the stresses of war, without complaint, for the past eight years.

    Soldiers are usually stoics. But the members of this battalion seem highly motivated. The sergeant of a platoon that lost nine men in two weeks asked to reenlist after a memorial service for his buddies. On the day Mullen visited here, the admiral reenlisted 10 soldiers.

    The base lies in a dusty plain surrounded by jagged peaks. Nearby is the Arghandab River, which feeds a lush area of orchards and mud-walled agricultural plots that the soldiers call "the green zone." That's where the Taliban fighters hide and where the battalion has fought some of its toughest battles.

    When the battalion arrived on Aug. 7, about 150 Taliban fighters were well entrenched. Neumann says his soldiers had to "fight our way to the people." By early November, the situation had begun to change. The Taliban's cadres had been killed or had scattered, their supply caches had been destroyed -- and the local population began providing intelligence.

    That's the model the Obama administration hopes will be replicated in other population centers as the United States sends in 30,000 more soldiers. One thing that's painfully clear when you visit this base is that success won't come cheap. The new strategy will mean more battles, more targets for roadside bombs, and more dead and wounded American soldiers.

    The White House debate over Afghanistan took place as the battalion was suffering its worst casualties. The policy-wrangling directly affected these troops, but it became "white noise," says their commander. "We knew there was a debate in Washington, but there's always a debate." The 17th Infantry has a history of tough fights. Its nickname, the "Buffaloes," dates back to the Korean War, where it fought in the battle of Pork Chop Hill, a bloody push to win territory that arguably had little strategic value. But even that conflict was easier to measure than the one the Buffaloes are fighting now. "Here, it's one small incident at a time," says Neumann.

    There's a scraggly Christmas tree atop one of the prefabricated trailers where the soldiers of the 1-17 bunk when they're not out on missions. It's not a place any of us would want to spend the holidays, but in conversations with soldiers here, I didn't hear any complaints.

    In this season of peace, here's a holiday toast to people everywhere who don't have that blessing today.

    *****

    Today SWJ Blog has a commentary piece from Wired which discusses the recent article on the 1/17th in Army Times. Click on the link to read it.

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009...power-playbook

  7. #47
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Not exactly correct

    I was a member of 5-73 CAV, 3BCT, 82nd (ABN). Out of some 450 paratroopers, we had 24 KIA and 100 WIA in the cauldron of Diyala Province during the Surge.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    Here's to you, soldiers of the 1-17 in Afghanistan

    By David Ignatius
    Washington Post
    Thursday, December 24, 2009; A15

    BASE FRONTENAC, AFGHANISTAN--It's a week before Christmas Eve, and the chow hall of this forward operating base north of Kandahar is decorated with twinkling blue and white lights for the holidays. There are posters of Santa and a snowman on the walls, and in the center of the room there's a big sign that exhorts the soldiers: "Enjoy Meal." Christmas will be "a day to take your boots off" for the 800 members of the Army's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment based here, says their commander, Lt. Col. Jonathan Neumann. It also will be a day to remember the 21 comrades who have been killed since the battalion arrived in August, and the 41 who have been seriously wounded.

    The 1-17 has the grim distinction of having lost more soldiers in action than any other battalion in the Army since Sept. 11, 2001. The men's names are recorded on a concrete slab in the center of the compound, bearing the legend "Fallen But Not Forgotten."

    "After a catastrophic incident, you come together and take care of your brothers," says Neumann. "Then you resolve to get back to the mission at hand." Christmas will be a moment to relax -- a day of sports, award ceremonies and a special meal. But because of combat rotation, the battalion will have to celebrate it over a series of days.

    I traveled here with Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was making a holiday visit to the war zone. Amid the twinkling lights of the mess hall, he addressed the soldiers of the 1-17, their automatic rifles stowed under the meal tables.

    "I know you've been in a very tough fight, and I'm aware of those you've lost," Mullen told the troops, assuring them: "We have the right strategy." He met afterward with a small group from units that had been especially hard hit.

    This holiday season is a good time to remember these faraway soldiers. The debate over Afghanistan has provoked strong feelings, pro and con. But the country seems united in its appreciation for a military that has been suffering the stresses of war, without complaint, for the past eight years.

    Soldiers are usually stoics. But the members of this battalion seem highly motivated. The sergeant of a platoon that lost nine men in two weeks asked to reenlist after a memorial service for his buddies. On the day Mullen visited here, the admiral reenlisted 10 soldiers.

    The base lies in a dusty plain surrounded by jagged peaks. Nearby is the Arghandab River, which feeds a lush area of orchards and mud-walled agricultural plots that the soldiers call "the green zone." That's where the Taliban fighters hide and where the battalion has fought some of its toughest battles.

    When the battalion arrived on Aug. 7, about 150 Taliban fighters were well entrenched. Neumann says his soldiers had to "fight our way to the people." By early November, the situation had begun to change. The Taliban's cadres had been killed or had scattered, their supply caches had been destroyed -- and the local population began providing intelligence.

    That's the model the Obama administration hopes will be replicated in other population centers as the United States sends in 30,000 more soldiers. One thing that's painfully clear when you visit this base is that success won't come cheap. The new strategy will mean more battles, more targets for roadside bombs, and more dead and wounded American soldiers.

    The White House debate over Afghanistan took place as the battalion was suffering its worst casualties. The policy-wrangling directly affected these troops, but it became "white noise," says their commander. "We knew there was a debate in Washington, but there's always a debate." The 17th Infantry has a history of tough fights. Its nickname, the "Buffaloes," dates back to the Korean War, where it fought in the battle of Pork Chop Hill, a bloody push to win territory that arguably had little strategic value. But even that conflict was easier to measure than the one the Buffaloes are fighting now. "Here, it's one small incident at a time," says Neumann.

    There's a scraggly Christmas tree atop one of the prefabricated trailers where the soldiers of the 1-17 bunk when they're not out on missions. It's not a place any of us would want to spend the holidays, but in conversations with soldiers here, I didn't hear any complaints.

    In this season of peace, here's a holiday toast to people everywhere who don't have that blessing today.

    *****

    Today SWJ Blog has a commentary piece from Wired which discusses the recent article on the 1/17th in Army Times. Click on the link to read it.

    http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009...power-playbook

  8. #48
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default Casualty Figures

    You may be right about the casualty figures. My late dad spent 30 years at the Washington Post from 1956 to 1986 and one of his cardinal rules was to avoid using superlatives in news stories because someone out there will prove you to be wrong. He was a combat veteran in World War II and was also one of the earliest staff members of Stars and Stripes-Pacific in Japan in 1945. Not all of the ad hominem remarks these days about journalists and the MSM are true.

  9. #49
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    I'm also not sure that when the enemy "presents himself" entirely in the form of IED attacks on you whenever you're in restrictive terrain, that there's really anything to "Find-Fix-Finish" in the traditional sense without a heavy application of Pop-centric COIN at the same time. Obviously the Finding in that case will rely heavily on gaining local support, which, again, some of Naylor's sources seem to see as the problem.
    Agreed, and perhaps all the more reason to stay afield, instead of commuting to work along a constrictive route.

    Given those limitations, which would have effectively prevented the rapid creation of the kind of dismounted patrol bases and security stations this kind of dense agricultural area needs (it really is mostly non-permissive to LAV-sized vehicles)
    Since I am in the USMC's LAV community I'm curious what your assessment of restrictive is, as it relates to the platform. As for establishing patrol bases, they already have them in the form of the vehicles themselves. Employ some shallow entrenchment at night in a coil and wholla!...you've got the basic force protection you need.

    Any overly aggressive series of ISAF "counter-guerilla" clear ops in theory could come with those kinds of unintended side effects in this terrain.
    I agree wholeheartedly, but when a 1,500 pound HME IED is employed:

    That said, the fact that the enemy will occasionally "mass into platoons" (largely in my experience to overrun isolated ANP stations at night) but never uses direct fire against ISAF (and even then only when they're dismounted), only that steady rain of IEDs, which is their TTP throughout the Zhari-Arghandab area, doesn't necessarily equate to them having sufficient "freedom of maneuver to mass and conduct larger-scale operations" for COIN to be set aside entirely, either.
    I'd call that a large-scale operation. It might not be a platoon-sized element maneuvering around at will, but I find it a large-scale op nonetheless.

    It looks as though you drifted in to the SWC as a result of a Google string hit when researching material for your blog. That's great, but please find the introduction thread and post a little bit more about yourself.

    Finally, you appear to have a knowledge of LAVs that can assist with my understanding of employment constraints in AFG (personally, I don't believe there are any real constraints save deep mud ), and I invite you to an exchange of PMs to learn more about what you know. I'm also impressed if you in fact generated a mod for CC2. Thumbs up for that!
    Last edited by jcustis; 12-24-2009 at 03:38 PM.

  10. #50
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    Default Comments on Arghandab and Army Times article

    @Maj Custis:

    In response to your last post:

    I'll leave it to Bruce Rolston to respond to your request for bio information, but I want to say that I consider him to be the most authoritative source for information on Kandahar as well as one of the best sources of information on working with the Afghan National Army. In my opinion he and Joshua Foust (on the RC-East AOR) are the gold standard in the blogosphere for Afghanistan issues.

    Arghandab District is restrictive in terms of vehicle access because of the nature of the road network. Apart from one primary north-south paved road, many of the roads have width and load bearing restrictions that prevent use by large and heavy military vehicles. The valley has an extensive canal network with most of the bridges being footbridges that will not take any kind of motor vehicle other than a motorcycle. Dismounted foot patrols are the only way to access many zones in the valley. An example of the problems associated with vehicle use in the Arghandab - in June 2008 7th SFG lost three members who drowned when the road surface gave way and pitched a RG-31 MRAP upside down into a canal.

    Bruce is exactly on the mark about land use issues inhibiting establishment of combat outposts or small patrol bases. In addition, there is strong local resistance to having a patrol base as a neighbor because of the belief that such bases are IED and RPG magnets, a sentiment that I heard expressed at several shuras in the Arghandab District in 2007-2008. Finally, patrol bases should involve co-location with ANSF personnel, a requirement that may rule out your field-expedient patrol bases of LAVs with concertina perimeters.

    As for the Naylor article, I suspect that the situation is more complicated than presented in this piece, but I also wonder if there is too much of an enemy-centric focus. The Alokozai in the Arghandab District did have an intelligence net and a militia force that seemed to be somewhat effective in 2006-2007, at least to the point that the Taliban was not actively challenging control of the district. Maybe the priority should be placed on strengthening the Alokozai and assisting them in regenerating these capabilities?

    The shift of the Stryker Brigade to securing Highway One may be a better fit for a vehicle-heavy unit but it also illustrates one of the basic dilemmas in Afghanistan – the fact that the Taliban use of IEDs has forced ISAF to devote significant resources, in both maneuver elements and intelligence assets, to the counter-IED operation to keep the MSRs open. As the Taliban likely intended, these are resources that cannot be used to contest Taliban efforts to gain control over the population.

  11. #51
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    As for the Naylor article, I suspect that the situation is more complicated than presented in this piece, but I also wonder if there is too much of an enemy-centric focus. The Alokozai in the Arghandab District did have an intelligence net and a militia force that seemed to be somewhat effective in 2006-2007, at least to the point that the Taliban was not actively challenging control of the district. Maybe the priority should be placed on strengthening the Alokozai and assisting them in regenerating these capabilities?
    They emphasis on Alokozai structures may have the most merit indeed. I wonder at the same time though, if coalition forces might be forced nonetheless to adopt enemy-centric approaches in the wake of successful population-centric approaches. If we subscribe to the Sexton model of how the Taliban take over a village (yup, that piece has gained a ton of traction with me ), I think we could expect to see the Taliban exert effort to regain control if the district/area in question is truly worth it.

    This makes me wonder what made Arghandab District worth it to the Taliban; to the point that they employed an IED campaign on that scale to defend their interests.

    In addition, there is strong local resistance to having a patrol base as a neighbor because of the belief that such bases are IED and RPG magnets, a sentiment that I heard expressed at several shuras in the Arghandab District in 2007-2008.
    An excellent IO target if I ever read of one. Siting patrol bases, either temporary or HESCO-based, is potentially critical enough that we need to get past those reservations somehow.
    Last edited by jcustis; 12-25-2009 at 03:50 AM.

  12. #52
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Following up Bruce Rolston posting

    Hat Tip to Pol-Mil FSO,

    Bruce who posted (No.17)is a Canadian OMLT leader who has just been in Kandahar Province, his blogsite is:http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/ which I have just started reading through.

    He links to an open source account of the fighting by Carl Fosberg: http://www.understandingwar.org/repo...paign-kandahar the summary is IMHO faraway a good, easy read.

    There is also a commentary on Bruce's blogsite on the 'Army Times' article recently and I noted this remark on the Arghandab valley:
    trying to keep on side a population that until recently was strongly pro-government.
    A point that was missing from the 'Army Times' article IIRC.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 12-30-2009 at 08:01 PM.
    davidbfpo

  13. #53
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Army Times article: a response

    Update, no a response to the 'Army Times' article on the Stryker brigade operations: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/200...k-force-buffa/ added here for continuity.
    davidbfpo

  14. #54
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    Default May depnd where you sit. . . .

    Recieved the following through forwarded email; cannot attest to its veracity:

    If the generals training the Afghan Army and Police can train them well enough to occupy these villages cleared by our warriors things will improve in Afghanistan. We all need a police force of some size whether it be in Afghanistan or in our own home town. When our warriors depart to clean up another village or area, the one just left must be occupied by friendlies with guns; otherwise the Talaban will be back. Training the Afghan Army and Police will take a lot longer than one might surmise. Patience is needed. That does not seem to abound in this society.
    From an in-country Company Commander of the Third Battalion, Fourth Marines.

    I finally have a minute to sit down and write a letter concerning the past few weeks here in Now Zad. I wanted to make sure that I got the word out to everyone, so please send this out to friends and family that I may have missed on the distro list. I first want to say how incredibly proud of my boys I am. These Marines have been amazing and continue to be amazing. Between them and the amazing support staff that we have in 3/4 that allows us to do quite literally whatever we want to the Taliban, this has almost been an easy operation.

    Here are the up sides:
    1) Not a single Marine was killed or seriously wounded during this operation.
    2) We have taken more ground, run off more Taliban, liberated more villages, and seized more weapons and Home Made Explosives than has ever happened in Now Zad. One of the caches of HME that we blew up was over 1100 lbs of HME (for a reference, that's over 16 "Mine-Proof" vehicles completely destroyed) and it was the largest find in Helmand Province. Ever.
    3) We air inserted two companies, behind enemy lines, while my company went straight up the gut of the enemy's defense on the ground. The enemy was so terrified that he abandoned his stockpiles and ran away to where he thought he was safe. Some of them ran right into the arms of the British Battalion to our East, some of them we have hunted down since they ran. More importantly, we have begun to HOLD the ground by immediately building coalition positions in strategic locations all over the valley and partnering with the local Police and Army units. Let's not forget, the infantry is a TERRAIN based organization. We don't have to kill people in order to do our job, only if those people don't want us on that specific piece of dirt and wants to come get a taste.
    4) We aggressively sought out and crushed a Murder and Intimidation racket that was going on in our AO. (M&I campaigns are used when the enemy has no other tactic but overwhelming fear to instill on the local population. The 'night letters' that were being delivered said things like:
    "If you accept help from Coalition Forces we will kill your children one by one..." Except that Marines got to the letter writers first. Whammy.
    5) We have re-opened a once deserted town to the people and have begun to pay them to clean it up. Quick cash infusion + Heavy labor for young men + promise of more work = no young guys re-enlisting in the Taliban. One of the key components of this plan was to instantly follow up with a Civil Affairs Group that would handle local national problems that weren't related
    to the Taliban (food, shelter, work, etc...)
    6) We have begun Medical Programs for the locals with what supplies we have. Those supplies are limited, but they are able to cover things like burns, and kids stepping on mines (yes, we MedEvac them just like we would a Marine), and skin rashes, and even an infant with pneumonia who is just fine, now.
    7) Our engineers breached a mine-field that had completely frozen other forces. Our Danish friends brought some tanks to help us out and they were able to break up one or two ambushes for us. Nothing is cooler than getting ambushed and having tanks with you to respond. Nothing
    8) Your Marines stayed on point, in the freezing cold weather, with the rain soaking them to the bone, to hunt down the Taliban who had been abusing, killing, and stealing from the people of the Now Zad Valley.
    9) We are bringing back government into Now Zad, so people have an alternative than the Taliban to settle their legal disputes, and have someone to hold accountable for a lack of medical coverage, and to go to with their grievances about farming and commerce and security. They won't NEED us to hold them up any longer.

    If all of this sounds like hubris, maybe it is. But I'm so proud of my Company and my Battalion for the planning and the execution and the follow through that they have done. Be proud of your Marines, they did good work in December. Merry Christmas to everyone. Much Love to all, let your friends know, we're winning and it feels good.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-25-2010 at 02:39 PM. Reason: Quote marks added and spacing changed

  15. #55
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Bring Us More

    Icepak 6 you need to find more emails like that one

  16. #56
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Kandahar: the next target of the surge? And AWK's murder (amended title)

    An open source provincial overview and added to a separate thread as the city of Kandahar maybe the next major target of the ISAF surge.

    Link:http:http://www.nps.edu/programs/CCS/Docs...view_Jan09.pdf

    The mapping of who is in control dates from January 2008 and I expect many who read this know it may have changed.

    There is another, recent thread 'Wheels coming off the bus in Kandahar?', which refers mainly to the recent fighting: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=8082 and at least five other, older threads on Kandahar.

    Via http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/there is a Canada’s Engagement in Afghanistan - Quarterly Report to Parliament for the Period of October 1 to December 31, 2009, which alas has no up to date map and some interesting benchmark gaps: http://www.afghanistan.gc.ca/canada-...x.aspx?lang=en

    There are some national maps on MG Flynn's presentation, up to December 2009, that give an overview, but not down to district level: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9578

    Anyone else who knows of a more current provincial map or open source items please add them here.
    davidbfpo

  17. #57
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Cross posting

    NYT article from SWJ Roundup: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/27/wo...ndahar.html?hp

    Only 5 of 17 districts in the province are accessible for government officials. Four districts are completely under the control of the insurgents, according to Nader Nadery, deputy head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
    Alas there is no map and the website has no apparent details.
    davidbfpo

  18. #58
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Looking forward

    Steve Coll's column on Kandahar and a certain local politician's future. Note he was accompanying Admiral Mullen on tour.

    Link:http://www.newyorker.com/online/blog....html#comments
    davidbfpo

  19. #59
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Governance

    hat tip to al Sahwa for a short review of the campaign:http://al-sahwa.blogspot.com/2010/04...-kandahar.html

    Ends with:
    Ultimately, though, there will be no enduring success in Kandahar (or Afghanistan at all) until we're able to establish an effective and legitimate alternative to the Taliban's shadow government.
    davidbfpo

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    Wink

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    hat tip to al Sahwa for a short review of the campaign:http://al-sahwa.blogspot.com/2010/04...-kandahar.html

    Ends with:
    AWK doesn't count?

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