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Thread: The USMC in Helmand (merged thread)

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    Council Member Wildcat's Avatar
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    Default The USMC in Helmand (merged thread)

    Early this morning, 24th MEU rolled into Helmand Province in force, using helos and Humvees to seize the Taliban-controlled town of Garmser.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/...n4053148.shtml

    U.S. Marines in helicopters and Humvees flooded into a Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan's most violent province early Tuesday in the first major American operation in the region in years.

    Several hundred Marines, many of them veterans of the conflict in Iraq, pushed into the town of Garmser in predawn light in an operation to drive out militants, stretching NATO's presence into an area littered with poppy fields and classified as Taliban territory.

    U.S. commanders say Taliban fighters have been expecting an assault and have been setting up improvised explosive devices in response. It wasn't known how much resistance the Marines would face in Garmser, where the British have a small base on the town's edge but whose main marketplace is closed because of the Taliban threat.

    The assault in Helmand province - backed by U.S. artillery in the desert and fighter aircraft in the sky - is the first major task undertaken by the 2,300 Marines in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which arrived last month from Camp Lejuene, North Carolina for a seven-month deployment. Another 1,200 Marines arrived to train Afghan police.
    Last edited by Wildcat; 04-29-2008 at 02:33 PM.

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    Council Member Wildcat's Avatar
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    Council Member Galrahn's Avatar
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    Default

    There is a remarkable lack of coverage on this issue, the European press is doing a good job though, probably because it is in the British zone.

    For all the discussion regarding the possibility of Marines deploying Afghanistan, now that they are there and on the offensive, I've seen only reporting, and virtually no analysis from the US observers, although a few of the British blogs are doing an excellent job.

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    Council Member Ron Humphrey's Avatar
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    Default What with the latest

    Quote Originally Posted by Galrahn View Post
    There is a remarkable lack of coverage on this issue, the European press is doing a good job though, probably because it is in the British zone.

    For all the discussion regarding the possibility of Marines deploying Afghanistan, now that they are there and on the offensive, I've seen only reporting, and virtually no analysis from the US observers, although a few of the British blogs are doing an excellent job.
    Military analyst on TV who should ,who shouldn't: should they be briefed should they not, where exactly do we expect the major networks to get any kind of real feedback thats in a form that they understand comfortably. And along with that comes the lack of sufficient insight on how to spin it to their purposes
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Musa Qala

    Musa Qala
    Adapting to the Realities of Modern Counterinsurgency
    by Thomas Donnelly and Gary J. Schmitt, Small Wars Journal

    Musa Qala (Full PDF Article)

    This SWJ article is an excerpt from a forthcoming American Enterprise Institute study on the war in Afghanistan and NATO’s future.

    The town of Musa Qala is, in many ways, a typical Afghan market town. “I saw no obvious concessions to modern living,” reported James Holland of his spring 2008 visit to Musa Qala.

    In fact, I was reminded of a picture book of ancient Persia I had as a boy. I suspect the scene would not have appeared unfamiliar to Alexander the Great, who passed through here in 329 B.C. My first sight of Musa Qala was of a gray, sprawling mass that far side of a 200-year wadi [or river bed]. It was raining, the skies were leaden and the concrete and mud-built building appeared monochrome and somber.

    The town sits on the Musa Qala River, an often-dry tributary of the Helmand River, the geographic feature – along with the Highway 1 ring road that ties Afghanistan together and connects the capital, Kabul, to the rest of the country – which defines Helmand province. It also links the ring road and lowland Helmand to the mountains of central Afghanistan. It is the last stop before the town of Baghran, in the northernmost tip of Helmand and near the border with the rugged Oruzgan and Daikundi provinces, which has been a Taliban redoubt since the initial U.S. invasion.

    The town also gives its name to Musa Qala District, but two other factors contribute to it real importance: it is the hometown of the Alizai tribe, Helmand’s largest Pashtun group – though the tribal politics are devilishly complex: the Alizai are comprised of six major clans, but are a sub-tribe of the Noorzai, which is one of the five major tribes that make up the Durrani Pashtuns, one of the two main Pashtun grouping in the Afghan-Pakistan border regions; altogether there may be as many as 400 clans among the Pashtun peoples. Musa Qala is also a crossroads in the opium trade. And these two factors – tribal politics and the drug trade – are linked.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Musa Qala: realities of COIN

    Excellent article and a good find. Whether it will work is a moot point. May return with comments another time. Did the defecting local Taliban leader bring any fighters with him or later? What national / international aid for the locals has arrived since?

    Note the role of the Danish and (tiny) Estonian contingents alongside those normally in the foreground.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default No fighters materialized

    At least during the battle for Musa Qala, no fighters materialized. In my post:

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2008/...-abdul-salaam/

    I linked this from the Times:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle3174835.ece

    Saying:

    There was no uprising. When Afghan, British and US units closed in on Musa Qala last month, Mullah Salaam stayed in his compound in Shakahraz, ten miles east, with a small cortège of fighters, where he made increasingly desperate pleas for help.

    “He said that he would bring all the tribes with him but they never materialised,” recalled one British officer at the forefront of the operation. “Instead, all that happened was a series of increasingly fraught and frantic calls from him for help to Karzai.”

    So there you have it. One of my major problems with this whole deal. It is a pitiful substitute for the awakening, and if you cannot bring fighters with you, then you're nothing more than a shyster.

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Default Marines find Iraq tactics don't work in Afghanistan

    U.S. Marines find Iraq tactics don't work in Afghanistan

    ... The men of the 3rd Batallion, 8th Marine Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, are discovering in their first two months in Afghanistan that the tactics they learned in nearly six years of combat in Iraq are of little value here — and may even inhibit their ability to fight their Taliban foes.


    Their MRAP mine-resistant vehicles, which cost $1 million each, were specially developed to combat the terrible effects of roadside bombs, the single biggest killer of Americans in Iraq. But Iraq is a country of highways and paved roads, and the heavily armored vehicles are cumbersome on Afghanistan's unpaved roads and rough terrain where roadside bombs are much less of a threat.


    Body armor is critical to warding off snipers in Iraq, where Sunni Muslim insurgents once made video of American soldiers falling to well-placed sniper shots a staple of recruiting efforts. But the added weight makes Marines awkward and slow when they have to dismount to chase after Taliban gunmen in Afghanistan's rough terrain.


    Even the Humvees, finally carrying heavy armor after years of complaints that they did little to mitigate the impact of roadside explosives in Iraq, are proving a liability. Marines say the heavy armor added for protection in Iraq is too rough on the vehicles' transmissions in Afghanistan's much hillier terrain, and the vehicles frequently break down — so often in fact that before every patrol Marine units here designate one Humvee as the tow vehicle.


    The Marines have found other differences:


    In Iraq, American forces could win over remote farmlands by swaying urban centers. In Afghanistan, there's little connection between the farmlands and the mudhut villages that pass for towns.


    In Iraq, armored vehicles could travel on both the roads and the desert. Here, the paved roads are mostly for outsiders - travelers, truckers and foreign troops; to reach the populace, American forces must find unmapped caravan routes that run through treacherous terrain, routes not designed for their modern military vehicles.


    In Iraq, a half-hour firefight was considered a long engagement; here, Marines have fought battles that have lasted as long as eight hours against an enemy whose attacking forces have grown from platoon-size to company-size.

    ...

    "Hopefully we have not become wedded to the vehicles," White said, a reference to the MRAPs, which currently are required for every patrol. "We have to set the standard operation procedure for how to do this. This not Iraq."
    Two of my best friends from SOI were killed last week with 3/8. All I want is to get away from the driving-around-in-circles boredom here in Anbar and get into the real fight. That's pretty much all the grunts around here talk about.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I've been posting here for a couple of years.

    I don't know how many posts here have in essence pointed out that little in Iraq can be transferred to Afghanistan -- but there have been a bunch...

    Nor do I know how many posts here have bemoaned that fact that US Forces cannot seem to learn from the lessons of others -- but there have been a bunch...

    Sigh.

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Condolences on the loss of two of your young friends

    Please accept condolences on the loss of your two young Marine Corp friends KIA last week.

    A quote in your excellent posting today:
    American forces must find unmapped caravan routes that run through treacherous terrain, routes not designed for their modern military vehicles.
    The Afghan Army/national government/or the National Geographic/Geodedic survey of Afghanistan...terrain maps or plats...should be of some help to you Marines to map out and plan routes of travel off the establishe roads.

    QUESTION: Have you gone onto the Internet; selected a sector to look at from satellite view on your computer and then tried to use that satellite viewed overview to plan or test plan unique land routes? Just a thought.

    Stay safe, hope you get into the type of action you indicate you want, and that God always has His hand on your shoulder.

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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default Tactics, Techniques and Procedures

    I too and sorry for the loss of your SOI buddies. I have a Marine son and I know how you all feel about sitting in the desert. My son wasn't because he was in Fallujah 2007. But doesn't want to go back. Marines don't want to waste time.

    I have been rebuked for linking my own posts so I won't do that on this one issue (I discussed this report on my own blog). But I will send one link your direction, and the moderators will just have to chill about it. I don't get much traffic from SWJ anyway, so that isn't the point.

    The link I am sending your direction concerns what may be in my estimation the most important thing you will see coming from Afghanistan on TTPs. Remember your SOI / MCT, they report says. Iraq has allowed us to become tactically sloppy. The only place you will find this PPT presentation is Michael Yon's site and mine (the down side is, I suppose, that you need Powerpoint to view it). I discussed this with Michael Yon and we both wanted this to get the maximum exposure possible.

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2009/...nd-procedures/

    As for the initial report to which you point, I am concerned too about trying to implement Iraq tactics in 'Stan. Satellite patrols, for instance, will be useless. Body armor, for instance, needs to be lighter. We have discussed this.

    But chasing the Taliban around is not the answer. We need more troops to secure the human and rural terrain.

    Best, HPS

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    Council Member ODB's Avatar
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    Default Perplexed

    All I want is to get away from the driving-around-in-circles boredom here in Anbar and get into the real fight. That's pretty much all the grunts around here talk about.
    Where is the "real" fight you so seek?

    Condolences on the loss of brothers.

    Ken: Looks like I'm the one who needs a new shine on my boots this time.
    ODB

    Exchange with an Iraqi soldier during FID:

    Why did you not clear your corner?

    Because we are on a base and it is secure.

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    Council Member ODB's Avatar
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    Default IEDs

    Their MRAP mine-resistant vehicles, which cost $1 million each, were specially developed to combat the terrible effects of roadside bombs, the single biggest killer of Americans in Iraq. But Iraq is a country of highways and paved roads, and the heavily armored vehicles are cumbersome on Afghanistan's unpaved roads and rough terrain where roadside bombs are much less of a threat.
    Based off who's statistics? Seems to me that is just as much a threat, buddy of mine was the only survior in the vehicle and he landed 50 feet away with the turret.....

    They are just as much a threat in Afghanistan.....
    Iraq/Afghanistan IED comparison
    ODB

    Exchange with an Iraqi soldier during FID:

    Why did you not clear your corner?

    Because we are on a base and it is secure.

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    According to an ISAF document (FOUO) on Wikileaks (dated 14 Jan 09), Afghanistan saw a 27% in increase in IED incidents in 2008 (from previous year), and a 29% increase in casualties resulting from IEDs - making them the single largest cause of casualties in 2008.



    Full pdf presentation here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I don't know how many posts here have in essence pointed out that little in Iraq can be transferred to Afghanistan -- but there have been a bunch...

    Nor do I know how many posts here have bemoaned that fact that US Forces cannot seem to learn from the lessons of others -- but there have been a bunch...

    Sigh.

    Did you read the whole article or did you just draw a conclusion off yet another poorly titled article that was looking for a name to draw readers in.

    B/c had you read the article it was already known to the Marines that tactics were going to vastly different in A'stan prior to them deploying.

    However the article is mostly about how the Marines were equipped, equipped for Iraq instead of A'stan. B/c HEY, what do ya know, they were trained & equipped to go to Iraq until about 2mths b4 they actually left & found they only had 2mths to get ready for A'stan.

    They then had to retrain, but their gear was already allocated, so they had to make due.



    Your comment was that "US Forces hadn't learned the lessons other forces."

    Thats funny b/c the 2 COIN programs that were intiated by USMC's Task Force 2/7 starting in April of '08, of Focused District Development (FDD) Program & the In-District Reform (IDR) Program, were called 2 of the most successful in the country in the last 7yrs.

    Both Programs designed SPECIFICALLY for those Provinces in A'stan, not borrowed fr/ Iraq.



    So again the Article was NOT about the Marines having the WRONG STRATEGY for A'stan but the wrong Equipment, which was unpreventable due to time constraints.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Mattter of fact, I did

    Quote Originally Posted by COMMAR View Post
    Did you read the whole article or did you just draw a conclusion off yet another poorly titled article that was looking for a name to draw readers in.

    B/c had you read the article it was already known to the Marines that tactics were going to vastly different in A'stan prior to them deploying.
    And if you had read what I said instead of playing 'Ready, Shoot, Aim' you'd realize that I was pointing out two things -- neither of which was an attack on the Marines of which I was one before you were born:

    - Afghanistan is not Iraq. TTP must be modified -- that was directed at many here and the civilians in the Think Tanks and anyone who has not been to both countries who have suggested the two are similar.

    - US Forces means 'we' -- all the US Armed Forces. Not just the Marines; If I'd meant Marines, I'd have said Marines.

    We are badly parochial. The Army won't adopt a lot of smart things Marines do, the Marines won't accept that the Army might do something right. The Air force and Navy are just as bad. Some of that is normal and healthy, an excess is not. There are of course exceptions and there is no doubt we are better about cross feed today than we were when the Marines replaced 1/82 in Fallujah in 2003. We need to learn and adapt from each other. We're getting better, we need to get better yet.

    If you perceived any of that as an attack on the Marines, you need to get your eyeball recalibrated.
    So again the Article was NOT about the Marines having the WRONG STRATEGY for A'stan but the wrong Equipment, which was unpreventable due to time constraints.
    Nor did I say it was. If you want to get defensive, your call -- do it with me in the future, please shoot at what I say instead of addressing what you want to think I said.

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    Council Member ODB's Avatar
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    Default Equipment

    This has been debated, redebated, reguritated, and debated again. LINK No one is going to tell someone else how to suck that egg. Bottom line, politics and public opinion have driven that train off the end of the bridge to nowhere and it's still going. Until commanders are willing to assume risk, we will have to figure out ways to make things happen.

    If you checked the article I linked in my above post, the main threat is not all that different. When entire vehicles are being blown to hell in Feb in Afghanistan it tells the enemy is changing. Afghans historically do not fight through the winter months, but guess what they are this year. So we can play the who is outfitted properly with what equipment and what training game all day long. Bottom line, you go to war with what you got, not with what you wish you had. I'm not going to say it, aw hell.......TRAINING. Does not matter what country, basics are basics and they apply no matter where you go to fight.

    Lastly what are the statistics of gun shot wounds/deaths vs IED wounds/deaths? If I was a betting man, I'd bet a paycheck IEDs are winning in Afghanistan. Answered my own question here OEF Database

    Did the leg work

    US Deaths
    IED - 183
    Small arms fire - 84
    RPGs - 61

    Total CF Deaths
    IED - 329
    Small arms fire - 122
    RPGs - 80
    ODB

    Exchange with an Iraqi soldier during FID:

    Why did you not clear your corner?

    Because we are on a base and it is secure.

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    Default Another important difference maybe, ...

    (from the McClatchy article)
    U.S. troops also are frustrated by the different rules of engagement they must operate under in Afghanistan. Until Jan. 1, U.S. forces in Iraq operated under their own rules of engagement. If they saw something suspicious, they could kick down a door, search a home or detain a suspicious person.

    But in Afghanistan, they operate under the rules of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, of which U.S. troops are part. Under those regulations, only Afghans can search buildings and detain people.
    Since the Law of War, as seen by most NATO nations, tends to follow the path taken by the Eminent Jurists report (discussed in this thread, posts 188-190), there might be more "one hand tied behind the back" in Astan than in Iraq.

    On the other hand, US Forces (including USMC) might not find the ROEs a practical problem - adapt, improvise, overcome, etc. So, are the NATO ROEs[*] part of the problem ?

    [*] If they are as classified as ours, discussion would have to be limited.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ODB View Post
    Afghans historically do not fight through the winter months, but guess what they are this year.
    The Afghans are not fighting this winter. I just got back from that area and the activity went down considerably from the summer time. Just because they reduce their activity does not mean they stop however.

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    Council Member ODB's Avatar
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    Default Conflicting reports

    Quote Originally Posted by Teufel View Post
    The Afghans are not fighting this winter. I just got back from that area and the activity went down considerably from the summer time. Just because they reduce their activity does not mean they stop however.
    From my boys there and the numbers here:

    Jan-Feb 2008 = 8 US Deaths

    Jan-Feb 2009 = 29 US Deaths

    There is more to it than just them ramping up in the winter months, there are also 10,000 more service members this year than this time last year. It does have my boys thinking as they have been hit hard already and at the time of the year when it is realatively calm. Big country a lot depends on what part your in as well. Been some years since I set foot in Afghanistan, but been following it closely as I'm sure my focus will be shifted from OIF to OEF soon.
    ODB

    Exchange with an Iraqi soldier during FID:

    Why did you not clear your corner?

    Because we are on a base and it is secure.

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