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Thread: Winning the War in Afghanistan

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    To quote the article,

    That is garbage. The job of an Army is to destroy the armed opponent. That may include conducting "Security Operations" and "good" Patrolling (as opposed to stupid) is essential to that.
    Standing still, doing nothing, is always bad.
    You might want to look up the real, official mission of ISAF.

    The whole concept of ISAF was Afghanisation from the beginning. The foreign forces are merely temporary substitutes till the Afghans take over. They shall provide security till the Afghans can do it, no victory over TB is required to declare mission success and leave (many seem to have forgotten this fact).


    Standing still, doing nothing, is NOT always bad.
    Exhibit A: Nukes.

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    You might want to look up the real, official mission of ISAF.

    The whole concept of ISAF was Afghanisation from the beginning. The foreign forces are merely temporary substitutes till the Afghans take over. They shall provide security till the Afghans can do it, no victory over TB is required to declare mission success and leave (many seem to have forgotten this fact).
    OK, the Policy may be very dumb, combined with a very bad strategy. That does not mean bad tactics, like passively sitting around doing nothing.
    Standing still, doing nothing, is NOT always bad.
    Exhibit A: Nukes.
    That's not really relevant to the context.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Wilf, you tend to think at the tactical level only.

    A tactic that doesn't serve the operational plan and a operational plan that doesn't serve the strategy - that's never good, no matter how well it looks on the tactical level.
    Basrah was a success. It sure didn't look like one, but the end result was a good one; moderate violence for years followed by a key event that empowered the central government. Mission accomplished. There are no marks for good looks in war.


    Nukes are very relevant. They're the embodiment of deterrence.
    A battalion ready to sortie is an effective deterrent against open warfare. Even sitting in the own camp and fighting only to protect camp & convoys serves a purpose. That purpose is not in what you achieve, but in what you prevent.


    I tell you what's dumb: It's dumb to do the job for your protégé, leaving him completely off the hook. They sit back and let the job be done by foreigners - and enjoy getting bribed at the same time.
    Let them fight themselves. They're no worse than their enemies (and much more numerous).
    It's stupid to attempt to win an Afghan War by yourself. Let them fight. They have their indigenous methods that are more worth than our high tech.

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    Fuchs brings up the obvious point that is both critical to the mission, and central to the metrics of that mission.

    Afghanization is the mission, or converting what we now consider as a foreign effort into an Afghan one.

    In that regard, doesn't the number of bad guys (or Talib brothers) NOT killed by ISAF provide a relevant metric of actual success in Afghanization?

    I'm all down with Wilf's and other's views that a military is "supposed to" be in the business of finding, fixing and immobilizing/killing and enemy, but that is not the mission here, and is probably impractical.

    If hearts and minds comes from "projects," how many projects? What have they accomplished toward hearts and minds?

    In the bad guy realm, is the ratio of detained/killed by Afghans vs. ISAF a better measure? How's that going?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    The whole concept of ISAF was Afghanisation from the beginning. The foreign forces are merely temporary substitutes till the Afghans take over. Standing still, doing nothing, is NOT always bad.
    I completely agree. I just finished some reading about the early days of OEF. There was an interesting debate between having the Coalition called ISAF or ISF (something along those lines). Several officials wanted the word "Assistance" in the group's title. Why? Because they want the Afghan's to know that they're going to have to take the lead sometime.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    I'm all down with Wilf's and other's views that a military is "supposed to" be in the business of finding, fixing and immobilizing/killing and enemy, but that is not the mission here, and is probably impractical.
    That's a very important point. Several policymakers (VP Biden for example) are big proponents of this kind of strategy. Why? It sounds easy and simple with little consequences. The problem is that it's impractical in some situations, and OEF Afghanistan is one of them. I'm all for this strategy-only if it can work in the current environment.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-30-2010 at 06:25 AM. Reason: Fix quote

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuchs View Post
    Wilf, you tend to think at the tactical level only.
    Sorry but that is patently not true. How many times do I refer to the need for a strategy that reflects the policy and strategy achievable in tactics? Ever read any of my posts? This is what I spend most of my time writing and talking about.
    A tactic that doesn't serve the operational plan and a operational plan that doesn't serve the strategy - that's never good, no matter how well it looks on the tactical level.
    Strategy can only be enacted by tactics. An operational plan merely ensures that tactics occur in the time and place relevant to the strategy. There is NO linkage between tactics and operations, other to ensure the time and place relevant to the strategy.
    A battalion ready to sortie is an effective deterrent against open warfare. Even sitting in the own camp and fighting only to protect camp & convoys serves a purpose. That purpose is not in what you achieve, but in what you prevent.
    I disagree. Yes deterrence is critical/essential, but you have to do things to make it real. Traditional Deterrence only works if the enemy believes in the credibility of the threat. That means going out and being very threatening and real. Nuke deterrence was based on mutual destruction and thus the absence of strategy.
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default This highlights a couple of the critical problems with terming our ops as "COIN"

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve the Planner View Post
    Fuchs brings up the obvious point that is both critical to the mission, and central to the metrics of that mission.

    Afghanization is the mission, or converting what we now consider as a foreign effort into an Afghan one.

    In that regard, doesn't the number of bad guys (or Talib brothers) NOT killed by ISAF provide a relevant metric of actual success in Afghanization?

    I'm all down with Wilf's and other's views that a military is "supposed to" be in the business of finding, fixing and immobilizing/killing and enemy, but that is not the mission here, and is probably impractical.

    If hearts and minds comes from "projects," how many projects? What have they accomplished toward hearts and minds?

    In the bad guy realm, is the ratio of detained/killed by Afghans vs. ISAF a better measure? How's that going?

    1. The definition of COIN is written from the perspective of the HN government, but does not clarify that fine point, so when an intervening power comes in to assist and calls its mission COIN as well, they tend to take on roles and responsibilities that exceed thresholds in ways that often dis-enable the same HN whose capacity they are attempting to build; and also tend to reinforce perspective among an already wavering populace that their
    government is unable to serve them adequately.

    2. COIN also brings with it a presumption that "success" is measured by a defeat of the insurgent, coupled with a preservation of the current government. This lures the intervening power away from a broad focus on stability and the preservation of the national interests that led them to intervene to begin with that might be achievable in many ways, to a much narrower perspective that limits options tremendously.

    This is why I think it is important that we back away from the widely accepted terminology such as "COIN" and "War" for our interventions in places like Afghanistan; and instead see them in softer, more flexible terms such as "FID", "IDAD" and "MSCA". It is also why I suggest we need a more effective overarching construct for the approach globally than "CT" or "COIN" offer, the most accurate one being "Counter UW."

    WILF makes sound points for warfighting; and if indeed warfighting is what is required for success he is right. Others argue for approaching the problem in a very non-warlike way, but still cling to the "war" moniker.

    I think shaping the operation as a whole is critical to its proper execution, and that a recharacterization of this operation as something other than War and COIN frees our minds to design effective supporting engagement that is focused on our interests and adequate stability to support the same. This is far more that semantic namesmanship; it is as simple as painting lines on the road so that everyone understands what their lane is.
    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)

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    Council Member Fuchs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    Sorry but that is patently not true. How many times do I refer to the need for a strategy that reflects the policy and strategy achievable in tactics? Ever read any of my posts? This is what I spend most of my time writing and talking about.
    I've had the impression that you focus on the tactical level for more than a year and just dropped it as a remark here.

    Calling for a strategy is not the same as thinking about strategy.
    You seem to think of the higher levels primarily because you want a coherent plan that leads to your preferred tactics, to your understanding of what ground forces are supposed to do in war.

    I'm under the impression that your desired tactics (the super competent infantry that aggressively hunts down INS in the region) would not play a major part in any of the smart strategies and operational plans because really smart ones could eliminate the need for such tactical excellence.
    I'm also under the impression that you're too fixated on tactical excellence to think creatively about how such smart operational plans or strategies would look like.

    The absence of good strategy and operations in Afghanistan for almost a decade (at last on our part) opens a huge area for discussions and original thinking. The tactical level (where troops run into the huge problem of the enemy's elusiveness again and again) is the least promising one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    1. The definition of COIN is written from the perspective of the HN government, but does not clarify that fine point, so when an intervening power comes in to assist and calls its mission COIN as well, they tend to take on roles and responsibilities that exceed thresholds in ways that often dis-enable the same HN whose capacity they are attempting to build; and also tend to reinforce perspective among an already wavering populace that their government is unable to serve them adequately.
    Agree. It also creates a great degree of confusion. How can we (the UK and US) be conducting COIN when we we are not directly facing an insurgent threat (the Afghan Government is)? Then we start misreading history and fail to realise that in many of the successful COIN campaigns it was COIN and we were the government, and in unsuccessfull campaigns it wsas not COIN and we were assisting an indigenous government. UW is better as it is so broad a concept it forces us to think harder about the nature of the conflict we are involved in.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    2. COIN also brings with it a presumption that "success" is measured by a defeat of the insurgent, coupled with a preservation of the current government. This lures the intervening power away from a broad focus on stability and the preservation of the national interests that led them to intervene to begin with that might be achievable in many ways, to a much narrower perspective that limits options tremendously.
    From the perspective of the government fighting an insurgency success is probably measured first in preservation of the government and secondly in defeating the insurgent. For an intervening or assisting nation both, one or neither of these may be true.
    RR

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    Agree. It also creates a great degree of confusion. How can we (the UK and US) be conducting COIN when we we are not directly facing an insurgent threat (the Afghan Government is)? Then we start misreading history and fail to realise that in many of the successful COIN campaigns it was COIN and we were the government, and in unsuccessfull campaigns it wsas not COIN and we were assisting an indigenous government. UW is better as it is so broad a concept it forces us to think harder about the nature of the conflict we are involved in.
    Exactly, we are not doing COIN and we can't do it since we are not the government. What we are doing is waging War by sub-contractor,we are outsourcing our war. We want an Afghan government that will fight our enemy the Taliban, and AQ. That is not COIN....that is UW....and that is exactly what it was meant to do when the concept was created, and that is why Special Forces were created in the first place.

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    Hat tip to milblogging.com and a new blog on OMLT work with the ANA:
    I am a Captain in the MN Army National Guard, and Blackhawk pilot. Spent 04/05 deployed to Kosovo and Bosnia, 07/08 deployed to Balad Air Base Iraq. Currently on a deployment to Afghanistan with an Operational Mentor Liason Team from MN to work to train the Afghan National Army.
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    He is based at Camp Spann, near Mazar-e-Shariff in the north.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    Agree. It also creates a great degree of confusion. How can we (the UK and US) be conducting COIN when we we are not directly facing an insurgent threat (the Afghan Government is)? Then we start misreading history and fail to realise that in many of the successful COIN campaigns it was COIN and we were the government, and in unsuccessfull campaigns it wsas not COIN and we were assisting an indigenous government. UW is better as it is so broad a concept it forces us to think harder about the nature of the conflict we are involved in.

    From the perspective of the government fighting an insurgency success is probably measured first in preservation of the government and secondly in defeating the insurgent. For an intervening or assisting nation both, one or neither of these may be true.
    With respect the brush is too broad here.

    What happened in the Oman? A lot of "outsiders" used there. Does the same theory apply?

    The more I read the COIN comment here I more I see that there is general confusion about insurgencies as if it were a totally different and unique form of warfare. What is really different? The enemy behaves differently. So you need to adapt. It becomes a corporals war and not a generals war.

    David Galula said: "“If the individual members of the organizations were of the same mind, if every organization worked according to a standard pattern, the problem would be solved."

    How, may I ask, do you get everyone of the same mind if you don't know what the illegitimate and corrupt government you are propping up is really thinking? Or when you wheel your troops through for six months at a time where they neither learn the ropes nor understand the people and the geography in that time scale.

    OK so lets take it that for reasons better known to the US and Britain they have decided to follow a policy that will ensure their troops do not become fully operationally effective in Afghanistan (through specialising in the tactics needed to successfully fight the Taliban and spending long enough in-country to learn about the enemy and the terrain to meet the Taliban on close to an even playing field.)

    I have mentioned it before that I see the danger that all levels of soldiers are starting to have their heads filled with all manner of the latest, the greatest, the bestest of the new fangled ideas that go under the heading COIN. It is merely a different set of fighting skills that are required. Radically different it seems. The enemy is the the once anticipated Soviet tank masses heading towards western Europe. It is a guy in sandals with an AK and pocket full of ammo moving about over terrain (both human and geographical) that he is expert and attacking a hapless government supporting soldier who is flailing around under these mosquito or flea like attacks.

    Let the soldiers get on with fighting the war (20%) and let the politicians handle the rest (80%) and for heavens sake put a civilian in charge of the whole bang shooting match (not a general).

    The loss of the war in Afghanistan will be chalked down to:
    * The illegitimate and corrupt nature of the government.
    * A lack of unity of purpose between government and outside forces.
    * The inability of the government supporting forces to adapt to the tactics used by the Taliban.

    So lets answer these easy questions:
    * Is there any chance of defeating an insurgency when the government is illegitimate and corrupt?
    * Is it possible to plan a winning counterinsurgency strategy when there is no unity of purpose between the government and the foreign military?
    * How does one expect to win the shooting war when government forces don't have the locally required tactical skills to defeat the Taliban in the field?

    I suggest that we not search for a scapegoat when we probably know exactly where the problem lies. Afghanistan for the US and Brit militaries is a self inflected wound.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Good post, JMA.

    I can -- regrettably and unfortunately -- broadly agree with you. I could quibble about the edges but your essential point is correct. The governments and the institutional Armed Forces of both the UK and US are excessively hidebound and bureaucratic and have not served their citizens or their Forces members at all well.

    In defense of those forces and the people in them, they are reflections of the society from which they spring. Thus I'm inclined to fault the governmental milieu and the total populace a bit more than you but there is little question that the Force's approach has been poorly chosen even in view of the admittedly limited discretion they have. The institutional Forces did not foresee the pitfalls clearly. The fact that many senior people did not know what they were getting into due to doctrinal, educational and training errors of omission by their predecessors is a sad excuse, more so because in the US (and I expect also in the UK) there were Force members who cautioned against many aspects of the effort. Regardless, the senior leaders almost certainly did not speak up as forthrightly and strongly as they should have before the decisions to deploy were made.

    Thus it is indeed a self inflicted wound -- and the fact they had a lot of help and were directed to do something is not much solace. The other fact, that both Forces had and have historically induced limitations, may provide the reasons for many things but it provides little to no excuse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    With respect the brush is too broad here.

    What happened in the Oman? A lot of "outsiders" used there. Does the same theory apply?
    Hmm, I look on Oman as a campaign where things were got right. We supported the in-place government, when that looked to be ineffective in meeting our interests we supported the coup against the government. And we did Loan Service. But I do not see Oman as a COIN campaign waged by UK plc, it was a COIN campaign conducted by the Omani government supported by the UK government. It was also (significantly) not a Coalition effort.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    The more I read the COIN comment here I more I see that there is general confusion about insurgencies as if it were a totally different and unique form of warfare.
    I quite agree with you, there is a fundamental confusion over this. War is war, the character changes but not much else. I am off to brief this heresy to the Infantry Battle School next month

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    What is really different? The enemy behaves differently. So you need to adapt. It becomes a corporals war and not a generals war.
    Yes, but if corporals are doing all the right stuff for the wrong reasons (strategy) it still is not going to turn out well.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    David Galula said: "“If the individual members of the organizations were of the same mind, if every organization worked according to a standard pattern, the problem would be solved."
    That is what doctrine is supposed to do.
    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    How, may I ask, do you get everyone of the same mind if you don't know what the illegitimate and corrupt government you are propping up is really thinking? Or when you wheel your troops through for six months at a time where they neither learn the ropes nor understand the people and the geography in that time scale.
    Two separate points here. The first I agree with. It is difficult to get everyone of the same mind if the government whom you are supporting in its counter-insurgency efforts may not see its best interests as necessarily coinciding with yours. Hence IMHO some of the issues we are having in Afghanistan.

    The second is understanding the people. It is the degree to which you understand the people. Even in a 2 year tour, or four year tour or a 10 year tour there will still be soldiers who do not understand the language or people. Hell - I know soldiers who have spent 16 years in Germany, married a German lass and still do not speak a word of German! Most soldiers will spend 4-6 years in Germany and come away only knowing how to ask for 'fumf bier bitte!' Now 6 months is plenty time to learn the local geography, most boys in a ground holding company will know their patch inside out in about a month - the AOs are not physically that large. Knowing the human terrain takes much much longer - but you need an aptitude for it as well as the time to learn it. Gaining tactical proficiency probably takes about a month as well.

    Personally I think we should extend tours but given the current intensity of combat I suspect that 9 months would be enough, after that it would not make sense due to the overall impact on military effectiveness.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    OK so lets take it that for reasons better known to the US and Britain they have decided to follow a policy that will ensure their troops do not become fully operationally effective in Afghanistan (through specialising in the tactics needed to successfully fight the Taliban and spending long enough in-country to learn about the enemy and the terrain to meet the Taliban on close to an even playing field.)
    I think what you are saying is not that troops 'do not become fully operationally effective' (we do not send them out there unless we think they are!) but that we could optimise further their effectiveness. That is true, and I think that we could extend their tours somewhat, but there are advantages to the way we do things as well as disadvantages. Again I hark back to 'this is a limited war with limited resources'. We cannot specialise in the tactics we use in Afghanistan partly for the simple reason we do not have the kit to do so and I do not see that changing for the forseeable future.
    Secondly TTPs evolve constantly and we need to train our soldiers on the constants and not the variables. You train on the variables when they are certainties. When we ran Iraq and Afghanistan concurrently the training for each was quite different as the fighting was very different in the two different theatres. If all we were ever going to do was Afghanistan then maybe we would change things more (if we had the money!).

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    I have mentioned it before that I see the danger that all levels of soldiers are starting to have their heads filled with all manner of the latest, the greatest, the bestest of the new fangled ideas that go under the heading COIN.
    More of an officer problem!

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    It is merely a different set of fighting skills that are required. Radically different it seems. The enemy is the the once anticipated Soviet tank masses heading towards western Europe. It is a guy in sandals with an AK and pocket full of ammo moving about over terrain (both human and geographical) that he is expert and attacking a hapless government supporting soldier who is flailing around under these mosquito or flea like attacks.
    It is a guy with sandals an AK and a plentiful supply of IEDs. The basics of the fighting skills are not that different for the close combat infantryman from that which were taught in the Cold War or from what you would recognise from your experience. The biggest difference in TTPs has been brought about by the IED threat. In WW2 we faced the same threat (but we called them 'schuh mines' (now it would be called a 'low metal content victim operated IED') and various other bits of nasty stuff) but that was an unlimited war and we were not quite so sensitive about casualties (although the Kangaroo APC was specifically developed to counter the issue of AP mines and in particular schuh mines which were a bugger to detect). Away from the grunt on the ground the biggest difference at HQ level is the complexity and amount of battlespace management, information management and consequence management required.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    Let the soldiers get on with fighting the war (20%) and let the politicians handle the rest (80%) and for heavens sake put a civilian in charge of the whole bang shooting match (not a general).
    "War is too serious a matter to leave to soldiers" Georges Clemenceau. I am completely with you on this one. Unfortunately the politicians seem to think that war should be left to the generals. One of the clear lessons from the UK Iraq Inquiry Iraq Inquiry is that there was no clear command (and no interest) at UK Cabinet level. Personally I would call the former UK Governments attitude neglectful, bordering on 'criminal neglect'. This jury is still out on the current regime.

    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    The loss of the war in Afghanistan will be chalked down to:
    * The illegitimate and corrupt nature of the government.
    * A lack of unity of purpose between government and outside forces.
    * The inability of the government supporting forces to adapt to the tactics used by the Taliban.

    So lets answer these easy questions:
    * Is there any chance of defeating an insurgency when the government is illegitimate and corrupt?
    * Is it possible to plan a winning counterinsurgency strategy when there is no unity of purpose between the government and the foreign military?
    * How does one expect to win the shooting war when government forces don't have the locally required tactical skills to defeat the Taliban in the field?

    I suggest that we not search for a scapegoat when we probably know exactly where the problem lies. Afghanistan for the US and Brit militaries is a self inflected wound.
    In answer to your questions:
    1) Yes. Numerous examples of this having happened.
    • Imperial Germany in the Herero Campaign in German South-West Africa (modern day Namibia) from 1904 until 1907.
    • Sri Lanka against the Tamil Tigers
    • Russia against the Chechens (eventually )


    From all the perspective of respective governments (Imperial German, Sri Lankan and Russian) these were and are successful campaigns. From the perspective of the insurgent or rebellious supporting population the governments were illegitmate and very often corrupt as well; they still lost.

    2) Very difficult, and I can think of no example.

    3) You cannot. But both Afghan Government and Coalition forces appear to have the tactical skills concerned in Afghanistan, there just are not enough of them and I am not convinced by the strategy either.

    Finally a question from my end. I agree that we are meeting the insurgent on nothing close to an even playing field; it is (at the tactical level) considerably skewed towards us. What makes you think it isn't?
    Last edited by Red Rat; 08-03-2010 at 07:21 PM. Reason: emphasis, typo
    RR

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    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    Finally a question from my end. I agree that we are meeting the insurgent on nothing close to an even playing field; it is (at the tactical level) considerably skewed towards us. What makes you think it isn't?
    Hmmmm, I'm not so sure. Sure, we have greater firepower and more or less complete dominance in the air, but there are a number of factors, both inherent and self-imposed, that limit our ability to apply firepower or exploit our air power. We are also, for the most part, better at fire and maneuver. But even with those advantages we cannot always impose our tactical will on the enemy. The terrain is often the insurgent's friend, from mountains to the corrugated fields around Kandahar that offer cover, concealment, and numerous avenues of approach or withdrawal to the bad guys.

    More important, though, is our lack of mobility. Our inability to pursue in any meaningful sense (due to poor off road ability, too few helicopters, heavily burdened infantry, and a reluctance to accept the inherent risks of pursuit) means that we can rarely exploit the tactical dominance we enjoy. In other words, the enemy normally enjoys the initiative and freedom to maneuver...and in my experience this tends to cancel out our dominance in precision application of firepower

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    I can -- regrettably and unfortunately -- broadly agree with you. I could quibble about the edges but your essential point is correct. The governments and the institutional Armed Forces of both the UK and US are excessively hidebound and bureaucratic and have not served their citizens or their Forces members at all well.

    In defense of those forces and the people in them, they are reflections of the society from which they spring. Thus I'm inclined to fault the governmental milieu and the total populace a bit more than you but there is little question that the Force's approach has been poorly chosen even in view of the admittedly limited discretion they have. The institutional Forces did not foresee the pitfalls clearly. The fact that many senior people did not know what they were getting into due to doctrinal, educational and training errors of omission by their predecessors is a sad excuse, more so because in the US (and I expect also in the UK) there were Force members who cautioned against many aspects of the effort. Regardless, the senior leaders almost certainly did not speak up as forthrightly and strongly as they should have before the decisions to deploy were made.

    Thus it is indeed a self inflicted wound -- and the fact they had a lot of help and were directed to do something is not much solace. The other fact, that both Forces had and have historically induced limitations, may provide the reasons for many things but it provides little to no excuse.

    Sclerosis is a pain. Political correctness is more than an annoyance...
    Ken it seems so damn sad. I know little of US soldiers but met some fine men, Marine and army types, who came out to Rhodesia. The same with the Brits we had a number of officers and men who were quite frankly outstanding. So there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the soldiers. Yes the politicians blow in the wind (they always have) but it is maddening that increasingly so do the generals. With the right training and equipment the US forces will be unstoppable and that depends on having the correct doctrine. There lies the crunch.

  17. #697
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eden View Post
    Hmmmm, I'm not so sure. Sure, we have greater firepower and more or less complete dominance in the air, but there are a number of factors, both inherent and self-imposed, that limit our ability to apply firepower or exploit our air power. We are also, for the most part, better at fire and maneuver. But even with those advantages we cannot always impose our tactical will on the enemy. The terrain is often the insurgent's friend, from mountains to the corrugated fields around Kandahar that offer cover, concealment, and numerous avenues of approach or withdrawal to the bad guys.

    More important, though, is our lack of mobility. Our inability to pursue in any meaningful sense (due to poor off road ability, too few helicopters, heavily burdened infantry, and a reluctance to accept the inherent risks of pursuit) means that we can rarely exploit the tactical dominance we enjoy. In other words, the enemy normally enjoys the initiative and freedom to maneuver...and in my experience this tends to cancel out our dominance in precision application of firepower
    Hmm yes and no. I agree with what you have said , but in the overwhelming majority of tactical engagements Coalition forces still come off the better. The issue is our perceived inablility to tie these tactical successes into anything more meaningful. Our lack of tactical mobility linked to lack of resources (manpower) and risk aversion (self-constraining our ability to manoeuvre effectively what we have) does mean that we are tied to a slow process of securing areas by lots of FOBs in order to generate stability in order to gain support.

    However:

    1) The tactics we are using are very troop intensive - the one thing we lack above all else. With our lack of troops we should be manoeuvering more (not less) and taking the fight to the enemy. It is a matter of balance and I am not convinced that we have the balance right.
    2) The strategy of stabilising at district level in order to win support for the Government of Afghanistan IMHO appears flawed because I am not too sure if the Afghan Government is very interested in many of the districts in an altruistic manner.
    3) The successes and gains we do have are not perceived as such, quite possibly because intuitively people (the media) recognise that stabilising at district level is not going to lead to conflict resolution without change at national level.
    Last edited by Red Rat; 08-03-2010 at 07:58 PM.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

  18. #698
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
    ...With our lack of troops we should be manoeuvering more (not less) and taking the fight to the enemy. It is a matter of balance and I am not convinced that we have the balance right.
    And an emphatic yes at that. Terrible thing is that most of the Troops are more than willing...
    ...I am not too sure if the Afghan Government is very interested in many of the districts in an altruistic manner.
    Agree and if we can see that, why cannot the policy makers...

    Great understatement, BTW.
    3) The successes and gains we do have are not perceived as such, quite possibly because intuitively people (the media) recognise that stabilising at district level is not going to lead to conflict resolution without change at national level.
    Yea, verily. Raises the same question...

    Sigh.

  19. #699
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    Default Oman: a coalition war that was won

    Originally Posted by JMA:
    With respect the brush is too broad here.
    What happened in the Oman? A lot of "outsiders" used there. Does the same theory apply?
    Which Red Rat replied to:
    Hmm, I look on Oman as a campaign where things were got right. We supported the in-place government, when that looked to be ineffective in meeting our interests we supported the coup against the government. And we did Loan Service. But I do not see Oman as a COIN campaign waged by UK plc, it was a COIN campaign conducted by the Omani government supported by the UK government. It was also (significantly) not a Coalition effort.
    JMA is right the Oman campaign (1970-1976), mainly in the border province, Dhofar, with then South Yemen, involved a lot of "outsiders" and it was a coalition effort ( RR is wrong). I am not familiar with how the Omani government, the Sultan, asserted national control or oversight, but present on the ground were: UK SAS, a large brigade-sized Imperial Iranian force, a Jordanian contingent, mercenary Baluchis from Pakistan made up a good part of the Omani Army and in the air were the RAF, Iranian AF and an Omani AF with a good number of Brits and Rhodesians on contracts.

    From 1958-1978 a UK officer was the Omani Armed Forces No.2, a Brigadier Colin Maxwell and a UK loan officer was the Dhofar Brigadier, John Akehurst (who wrote a book 'We Won the War:The campaign in Oman 1965-1975). 'SAS Operation Oman' by Tony Jeapes is another book.
    davidbfpo

  20. #700
    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Originally Posted by JMA:

    Which Red Rat replied to:

    JMA is right the Oman campaign (1970-1976), mainly in the border province, Dhofar, with then South Yemen, involved a lot of "outsiders" and it was a coalition effort ( RR is wrong).

    I stand corrected!

    My understanding is that the other elements were under Operational Control (OPCON) the Omani Armed Forces. I do not recall there being a Coalition structure per se, it was all under a unified chain of command crossing both political and miltary spheres. The UK No 2, Brigadier Colin Maxwell, certainly started off as a contract officer with the Omani armed forces which until the early 1970s (for the rank and file) consisted largely of Baluchis (circa 70% and arabs (30%), a ratio which was reversed over the 1970s.

    I wait for someone to enlighten me on the pol/mil command arrangements for the Iranian contingent (who manned the so called 'Red Line') and others.

    We seemed to be much more pragmatic about command arrangements then. The equivalent now would be to make an American 4 star general Afghan Minister of Defence, an American Ambassador as the Minister of Interior (the UK dominated the Ministry of the Interior in the 1950s and 1960s as well) and double hat the Minister of Defence as COMISAF. While we are at it we officer the ANP and ANA with contract officers on attractive salaries and run similar schemes in the civil service for 10-15 years until the locals can take over.
    RR

    "War is an option of difficulties"

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