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Thread: The USMC in Helmand (merged thread)

  1. #81
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Hard to know if there is some substance behind the catchy headline of the NYTimes. They report sporadic instances of decent marksmanship by the opponents.

    Other than that the military part seems to go well. The bridgeheads/outposts created by the heli-inserted troops are getting linked up.

    Firn

  2. #82
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    I thought some of you might find this interesting, espcially since jcustis was aking about TTP...

    US Marines seize Taliban headquarters, IDs, photosStory

    After a fierce gunfight, U.S. Marines seized a strongly defended compound Friday that appears to have been a Taliban headquarters — complete with photos of fighters posing with their weapons, dozens of Taliban-issued ID cards and graduation diplomas from a training camp in Pakistan.
    Firn, maybe "instances of decent marksmanship" were a result of the fighters attending the University of the Taliban extension classes for the working mujahadeens.

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    CSIS, 18 Feb 09: The Afghan Test Bed in Marjah: Key Tests of Victory are Still Months and Years Away
    The fighting in Marja is important. It challenges the Taliban on its home ground and will provide visible evidence that it cannot hold an area it has dominated for years and one whose drugs play an important role in its financing. The Marja offensive will test the President’s new strategy, and show whether a population centered strategy can work. At the same time, this means that “winning” involves far more than tactical victory, and that the aftermath of the fighting will be much more important than the immediate outcome of the battle.....

    ....This means that the core phases of the struggle for Marja (and Helmand) will play out over at least another year and probably much longer. It is one thing to make initial gains when so many ISAF and Afghan resources are concentrated in a small area. It is another thing to show that these gains can be sustained for years in an area that has been a Taliban stronghold. More importantly, ISAF and the Afghan government may have little more than the current campaign season to show that the new strategy can credibly succeed outside the Helmand River area, and do so on the scale necessary to win the country and the war....

  4. #84
    Council Member S-2's Avatar
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    Default Dope

    I think opium is planted in the fall and harvested in the spring. If so, I hope this is a controlled harvest and, while we're not in the business of buying, purchased en toto by us.

    Last crop I'd think with all the government in a box waiting to go. There are plenty of provinces near opium-free. See Pg. 2 of UNODC's Opium Survey-

    Afghan Opium Survey 2009-UNODC

    Now Ali district, including Marjah, needs to moving in that direction.
    Last edited by S-2; 02-20-2010 at 01:22 PM.
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  5. #85
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Tanks?

    Been offline for a few days and puzzled slightly at the two AFP photos on this BBC report:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8527266.stm

    The armour look like German-made Leopards, which to my knowledge are deployed by only two ISAF nations in Afghanistan: the Canadians (in Kandahar) and the Danes (in Helmand).

    Can anyone confirm what they are? I'm not familiar with the Stryker profile.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Leopard 2A4 or 6s. Probably Danes

    Both have 2A4s and 6s but the Camouflage is different, the Canadians also have some bar armor and I believe they now have the L55 gun in country.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Both have 2A4s and 6s but the Camouflage is different, the Canadians also have some bar armor and I believe they now have the L55 gun in country.
    Kudos on your recognition skills Ken. I was just reaching for my "small boys guide to modern armour...."

    Why on earth the UK has not deployed armour, I just do not know. One of the things I think I didn't quite realise was how much of a war winner MBTs are if correctly employed in irregular warfare.

    Now it may well be that the desired think is a 120/105mm fire control stabilised main gun with TI sighting, but in most sensible terms that takes you to some sort of big AFV.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
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  8. #88
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Why on earth the UK has not deployed armour, I just do not know. One of the things I think I didn't quite realise was how much of a war winner MBTs are if correctly employed in irregular warfare.

    Now it may well be that the desired think is a 120/105mm fire control stabilised main gun with TI sighting, but in most sensible terms that takes you to some sort of big AFV.
    I'm pretty sure that most would like that sort of over-watch. The terrain in many parts of Afghanistan seems to be actually very suitable for tanks, especially in the southern regions. IIRC the Canadians published something rather positive about their experience with their in Afghanistan.

    Still it takes of course many resources to push them into the fight and keep them in it.


    Firn

  9. #89
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Previous post on tanks

    The use of armour, notably MBT, has appeared before, wayback in 2008: from the Canadian Army Journal, Winter '08:Canadian Armour in Afghanistan and on this link: http://www.afghanconflictmonitor.org...an-armour.html
    davidbfpo

  10. #90
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    Default We need luck too

    A long comment article on the campaign, amidst the optimism is this vignette which illustrates luck is important, just imagine if it had not been present:

    At dawn on the third day of Operation Moshtarak, I watched alongside a small huddle of soldiers as the Taliban’s flag was hurled down from a disused crane in Showal, the small town that was the capital of its shadow government, and replaced with the national ensign. It had been there for almost two years.

    Within hours, the news spread, and a stampede of generals and politicians ensued, which culminated in the arrival of Gen Stanley McChrystal, the American military commander, the Afghan governor of Helmand and the defence and interior ministers.

    We only discovered two days later that, within 20 yards of where the crowd gathered, lay an unexploded 20kg IED, but for now it appears that luck is with the Nato forces.
    Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...n-Helmand.html
    davidbfpo

  11. #91
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Kudos on your recognition skills Ken. I was just reaching for my "small boys guide to modern armour...."
    long gun, front turret armour with triangle shape = A6M or A6
    short gun, front turret armour with triangle shape = A5
    short gun, boxy turret: A1 to A4That's for the German versions - the export versions usually either look similar to A4 or A6.


    Can anyone confirm this location for Marjah?
    31°31′N 64°07′E

    It appears to be a meaningless, extremely small settlement which has only marginally more population density than the heavily compartmentalized fields surrounding it. It's hardly a village, yet some report speak of a city.

    edit1:
    A "Marjeh" is supposed to be near 33N 65E, but there's nothing noteworthy either.

    edit2:
    I looked at many maps and still cannot find it. Some articles refer to Marjah as in the south of Helmand. Where?
    http://www.afghana.com/GetLocal/Afgh...cs/Helmand.JPG

    edit3:
    This map shows Marja at the coordinates I mentioned first - hardly a real village.
    http://www.understandingwar.org/file...vince_main.jpg
    Last edited by Fuchs; 02-22-2010 at 01:32 PM. Reason: added alternative location guess

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    Fuchs,

    "Marjeh" is extensively mis-reported in the press, but it isn't suprising - place names are frequently confusing in Afghanistan. There are two Marjeh's - there's the small, dispersed village located at the coordinates you gave, and there's the Marjeh agricultural area which is the name given to one of the major irrigation projects built in the 1950's (the other is Nad-i-ali). This old map may help explain things - you can see the two planned areas which have since expanded beyond their original boundaries (as can be seen on google earth imagery).

    Your coordinates are roughly in the northern central part of the Marjeh area. Plug in your coordinates to google earth and look for the green agricultural areas. The big block of green to the south is all part of "Marjeh" as well as a smaller area to the northeast. The large agricultural area further northeast is Nad-i-ali. Again, you can compare the old map linked above to modern satellite imagery to give you an idea of the area and where things are.

    So this operation is not in any single city or town or village - it's really covering the span of the Marjeh agricultural district.

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    Here's another old map that gives an even better idea. It's copied from this 1970 Farm Survey, which is hosted on Richard Scott's website, the one American who probably knows this area better than anyone else.

    BTW, I think it's rather pathetic that I after 9 years of war, I still have to rely on 40 year old maps to show basic geography.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  14. #94
    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Ah, an agricultural district with a lousy centre.
    The terrain offers an unlimited choice of routes of approach and it should be quite easy to seal off the area with a moderate troop strength because of the open terrain surrounding it.

    The news reports sound as if the action was directed against a major settlement, some articles even speak of a 80,000 inhabitants city.

    It seems that the reporting is quite messed up.

    I still wonder how Afghanistan can feed, cook and heat for itself with this little agriculture and no forests or coal production to speak of.

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    Fuchs,

    Some additional info and maps can be found here.

  16. #96
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    Arrow

    There are certainly several reasons why "the largest operation yet" was directed at this area. The terrain is one of them.

    It is rather impressive how much those green zones stand out on the satellite maps of Helmland. Given the high number or persons (especially children) per household the population densitiy is certainly much higher than one would guess accustomed by western standards.


    Firn

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    The fields are currently knee-deep mud and water; the roads and built up areas are thick with complex and often massive IEDs; all intersected by canals; and every home a small fortress as likely to contain a family as it is fighters. Wide open fields of fire with hundreds of meters between cover.

    If you have a mental picture of an urban fight, feel free to adjust your picture.
    Robert C. Jones
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    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

  18. #98
    Council Member Firn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    The fields are currently knee-deep mud and water; the roads and built up areas are thick with complex and often massive IEDs; all intersected by canals; and every home a small fortress as likely to contain a family as it is fighters. Wide open fields of fire with hundreds of meters between cover.

    If you have a mental picture of an urban fight, feel free to adjust your picture.

    True enough. But on the other hand it offers quite some advantages. As Fuchs wrote, "the terrain offers an unlimited choice of routes of approach and it should be quite easy to seal off the area with a moderate troop strength because of the open terrain surrounding it."

    The peculiarities of the area with the long, straight roads flanked by the canals and walls should make it also easier then in most green zones of Helmland to cut it up and isolate parts of it. The heli-inserted troops could quickly get a firm hold and do their part in this operations.

    There is also now little hope for the enemy to escape. It is hard to say if the announcement of this operation decreased or increased the number of enemy fighters in this area.


    Firn

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    Default More "beefy" platforms headed for Afghanistan

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Been offline for a few days and puzzled slightly at the two AFP photos on this BBC report:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/8527266.stm

    The armour look like German-made Leopards, which to my knowledge are deployed by only two ISAF nations in Afghanistan: the Canadians (in Kandahar) and the Danes (in Helmand).

    Can anyone confirm what they are? I'm not familiar with the Stryker profile.
    Apparently the French are also sending their Caesar wheeled 155mm howitzers http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/hta.../20090712.aspx


    ... whilst the Dutch are deploying their "panzer howitzers" (actually German made PzH2000) http://www.eucom.mil/english/FullSto...4C8D701CF85%7D

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    Default What next?

    From the articles I have read, the Battle seems to have secured major population centers, but much of this place remains out of our reach.

    Rajiv Chandrasekaran's coverage of the arrival of the town's newly appointed Mayor---the government in a box---sound like the box has yet to be filled or sealed:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...022201660.html

    He arrived in Marja aboard a Marine MV-22B Osprey helicopter with a contingent of Marine officers and a small retinue of tribal elders who have been living in other parts of Helmand province. He was on the ground for about two hours, not venturing more than 100 yards from where his aircraft landed. He did not travel to the site of the new municipal center the Marines plan to construct, less than a half-mile away.
    But, behind that is his more telling story about the Mayor behind the Mayor---Karzai's "chosen man" for the area:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/90785856-1...0779e2340.html

    A key challenge for the stabilisation team and Marine commanders will be transforming Zahir, who does not hail from Marjah and knows few people there, into an influential local figure. Helmand provincial governor Gulab Mangal selected him for the post largely because he is a friend, but in meetings of tribal elders before the operation, he was primarily a backbencher.

    The man with the most sway in Marjah is Abdul Rahman Jan, the former police chief in Helmand. His officers in Marjah were so corrupt and ruthless – their trademark was summary executions – that many residents welcomed the Taliban as a more humane alternative.

    Although Jan, who has extensive ties to narcotics traffickers, was removed from his post in 2005 after pressure from the British government, which was then about to send forces to Helmand, he remains close to Karzai.

    Jan injected himself into discussions with tribal leaders in the run-up to the current operation. US and British diplomats say they think he will seek to influence the shape of the future Marja government and police force, in an effort to protect his interests in the area.

    “Karzai wants A.R.J. to be the guy calling the shots in Marjah, not Haji Zahir,” said a western diplomat familiar with the issue. “That makes building an effective, stable government there a very challenging proposition.”
    So much for the "government in a box."

    Did somebody say that the reason the military is involved in this stuff only because no one else is? Ditto
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 02-23-2010 at 07:23 PM. Reason: Add quote marks

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