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Thread: The UK in Afghanistan

  1. #101
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The former UK top soldier adds

    Ex-CGS General Dannatt weighs in with his viewpoint:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...mys-hands.html

    I do wonder how the CGS (2006-2009) can say this (below) when our strategy in Helmand Province since 2006 is labelled "mowing the lawn" as soldiers fought over the same patch of ground again and again.

    There is an increasing awareness that this is a conflict truly conducted among the people – the people are the environment, the background to everything that the military is doing. We also know that it is a conflict that is about the people – about the people's hearts and minds, as we seek to persuade them that there is a better way of life than falling, once again, under the repressive extremism of the Taliban.
    More puzzling is where this fact comes from:
    The Helmand poppy crop, for example, was down by about a quarter last season.
    I suppose the General was saying this to the government whilst serving and I've seen this said IIRC by others (probably critics of the government):
    So of course we need to win the hearts and minds of the people in Helmand. But perhaps more critically, we also need to win the hearts and minds of the people of this country, too. The biggest threat to our success in Afghanistan is not the Taliban, but a loss of will by the people at home to see this vital task through.
    From my comfortable "armchair" faraway I shall now be reckless. I am not convinced 'hearts and minds' really applies in Afghanistan. The time to win that if it ever did apply has gone or is about to.
    davidbfpo

  2. #102
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    Smile It is an Interesting Book

    Quote Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
    I was just watching an author interview on CSPAN-2 with Sarah Chayes. She is a former foreign correspondent for NPR who reported from afghanistan during and after the fight for Kandehar and then stayed in Afghanistan to run an NGO. She seems to really have a finger on pulse of Afghan society. She has a book out called "The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban." During the interview she had some fairly sharp criticism for Karzai for his failure to remove the various warlords from power. She does not seem to be some shrinking violet bleeding heart. When I get some time I will have to check out her book.

    SFC W
    The book covers both before she left reporting for NPR, as well as after when she starts up a woman's NGO in Kandahar, , which speaks to her having a large set of ovaries, to say the least. Her financial support is from the Karzai family. It does not offer anything new in a macro sense to people who are already familiar with AFG; her run-ins with the US forces and others, such as trying to get on KAF, and the bureaucracy she deals with, are at least entertaining. I think it is useful both to help disillusion anyone about hope for the future here, and to overcome prejudices about NPR reporters (mine have greatly diminished ).

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    More puzzling is where this fact comes from:
    Quote:
    The Helmand poppy crop, for example, was down by about a quarter last season.
    I don't have the precise figures to hand but the UN's annual survey (Google Afghan Opium Survey or something akin) did report a sharp (ish) drop in Helmand's opium production between Sept 08 and Sept 09. Great fanfair ensued, though my own view is that high food prices made wheat and other crops more attractive than opium to some farmers. Secondly, cultivation has been so high over the last few years that the Taleban/narco traffickers could rely on vast stockpiles and direct that production be halted in order to try and drive up the price. A senior officer I briefed this view to seemed somewhat crestfallen that despite the myriad attempts at meaningful counter narco initiatives, it was good old market forces that produced results of a sort.

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    Default Maj Gen Mackay's paper on UK military in Afghanistan - full text

    Moderator's note: see Post No.2

    Ladies and gents

    I wonder if it might be of use if I provide a link to the full text of this paper. None of the media reports I've seen have given a link to it, or provided a title which one can Google. I've managed to dig it out, however. Timely stuff, given the recent release of Maj Gen Flynn's work. Though I've not had the opportunity to read it thoroughly yet, I would guesstimate that Maj Gen Mackay's paper is the closest publicly available UK equivalent, though it isn't J2 centric.

    http://www.da.mod.uk/publications/sf-publications and select the second link down.

    For those unfamiliar, find some background here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8439945.stm
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-07-2010 at 11:54 PM. Reason: Mods note and PM to author.

  5. #105
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Captured by SWC already

    Woland,

    The full paper did appear on SWJ just before Xmas, in full and is on this:
    http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9298 where seven comments are shown and a separate SWJ post when Col. Gian Gentile responded: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/200...ing-and-destr/ and thirty seven comments followed.

    I too have not read the Mackay & Tatham paper fully yet. In view of the current, renewed interest in intelligence management I will leave this thread open.

    Secondly on my reading of the linked comments etc intelligence was not the focus of the Mackay paper IMHO.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-08-2010 at 12:04 AM. Reason: Add links and more details.
    davidbfpo

  6. #106
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Understrength commandos

    This letter appeared in The Daily Telegraph 15th:

    SIR – In his letter concerning force levels available for combat, Kevan Jones MP (Letters, January 15) says that, despite the number of infantrymen who cannot be deployed, “all units deploy at the required strength for the tasks they are asked to complete”. What typically insulting rubbish.

    During Operation Herrick Five in Afghanistan,(My emphasis) 42 Commando Royal Marines had its force level capped by the Government at 555, when its planned fighting strength, and the strength at which it trains, was – and remains – in the region of 608. The same capping applied to the commandos during Operation Herrick Nine and I have no doubt the same for the Army’s battalions during the other Herricks.

    The fighting strength of a battalion – or commando – is not an arbitrary figure to be adjusted by a government to suit disingenuous politics and especially not prior to a complicated, six-month battle. It is a figure that has been agreed through empirical experience over many years to ensure success on the battlefield via a organisation plan that starts with – in the Commando Brigade – an eight-man section. When the politicians reduce this to six, the knock-on effect is felt upwards through the whole unit, but never more so than when in a firefight.

    Interviewing Royal Marines back from Helmand I have not heard one complaint about their role, their kit or the lack of helicopters. The only adverse comments I receive are towards politicians for preventing them, inexplicably, from fighting with the correct number of men to achieve their government-given mission.

    Fewer men, paradoxically, usually leads to more casualties.
    Lt-Col Ewen Southby-Tailyour
    Ermington, Devon
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/l...behaviour.html

    The original letter on the 15th, refers to a press story over unfit soldiers:
    Unfit to fight
    SIR – You report (January 13) Conservative claims that nearly 20 per cent of infantrymen cannot be deployed for health reasons.

    The majority of the infantry (80 per cent) are fit to deploy in their primary role as soldiers. But of the 9 per cent subject to limitations due to medical reasons, some will still do their normal job, and others will contribute in different roles.

    More than 5 per cent of infantrymen cannot be deployed for non-medical reasons, such as being under 18, or for disciplinary, compassionate and welfare reasons, or because they are in their last few months of service. Regardless, all units deploy at the required strength for the tasks they are asked to complete.

    A small number are not well enough to deploy but we are committed to providing excellent care for injured personnel and we continue to look for ways to improve it.

    Kevan Jones MP
    Minister for Veterans
    Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/l...npunished.html
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 01-22-2010 at 11:39 PM.
    davidbfpo

  7. #107
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Scathing review by former advocate of being there

    An article by Christina Lamb in 'The Spectator', which is a scathing IMHO review of the UK presence in Afghanistan.

    Link: http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/al...-targets.thtml

    (One particular part is on the ANP thread).
    davidbfpo

  8. #108
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Helmand Province Sept '09 review

    An open source review of the situation, dated September 2009, which I'd missed of Helmand Province, where the UK (with allies like the Danes) has concentrated its attention and now the junior partner to the USA: http://www.understandingwar.org/repo...sponding-enemy
    davidbfpo

  9. #109
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default Helmand Operation Announced in Advance

    The following is from The Times of London, February 4, 2010. One wonders why this operation is being announced in advance--perhaps it's being done in deference to the advocates of information operations, or some such rationale. Unconventional thinking has its place, and in the aftermath of 9/11 much was said about the need to think "outside of the box"--in hindsight what we got was a series of decisions made with little thought about the probable consequences.

    In an unusual departure from conventional military policy, the coming operation has been briefed to reporters in advance.

    Speaking at the Ministry of Defence, the director of communications for operations in Afghanistan, General Gordon Messenger, said that the coming offensive would feature British forces in "a central role".

    "Helmand is at the heart of General McChrystal's plan to demonstrate decisive success against the Taleban insurgency," said General Nick Parker, speaking from Kabul.

    However, it is understood that US Marines will form the majority of the forces in the push.

    The unusual openness from the military reflects a shift in strategic thinking driven by the US commander, General Stanley McChrystal, from a strategy focused on targeting and killing the Taleban to one rooted in the protection of the population.

    "The plan is to do it in the least aggressive way possible," General Messenger said. But he added: "Clearance operations by their very nature are high risk. We can't discount a fight and we can't discount casualties."
    The entire article can be viewed using the link below:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle7015193.ece

  10. #110
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default "Mowing the lawn"

    Pete,

    From faraway I am not unduly concerned. We know from recent history UK and allies have regularly fought over the same places, time after time, hence the "mowing the lawn" term - which IIRC first came from a British Army officer, who was killed there.

    Tonight the ITN News have explained that the target area contains 600-1500 Taliban, including 150 foreign fighters and suggests that the publicity might encourage them to fade away. Pop-centric strategy - fighters fade away, leaving civilians behind.

    This is not a new approach as previous offensives have been trumpeted before.
    davidbfpo

  11. #111
    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default

    If the idea is that they just fade away, how do you stop them fading back again?

    Based on a number of conversations I have had recently, I think the UK is actually killing very few Taliban, compared to what is claimed.

    Thus "Mowing the lawn" speaks to a failure of tactics, and/or lack of resources. Either way it's not being done well.

    The options we seem to be opting for now seem borne of that realisation.
    I hope I am wrong
    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

  12. #112
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    Default

    Operations Vigilant Resolve and Phantom Fury were trumpeted widely as well. I remember the first Fallujah operation was widely blamed for the insurgent offensive that swamped Mosul in 2004, as insurgent leadership moved into western Mosul and nearly overran the city.

  13. #113
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    Default More spin, more effect?

    The 'we are coming' operation to take Marjah, in Helmand Province has led to more stories, like this one, which is odd and psyops implied 'Special forces assassins infiltrate Taliban stronghold in Afghanistan': http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle7017921.ece

    From Kings of War http://kingsofwar.org.uk/2010/02/ope...+(Kings+of+War)

    Here they come. You must have read about it already. Didn’t anyone tell them surprise was a key Principle of War? Is that sensible?
    The man from the WSJ, among the many hacks briefed ahead of time, had doubts:

    By surrendering the element of surprise, the coalition has given its enemy time to dig entrenched fighting positions and tunnel networks. Perhaps worse for the attacking infantrymen, the insurgents have had time to booby-trap buildings and bury bombs along paths, roads and irrigated fields. Such hidden devices inflict the majority of U.S. and allied casualties.
    Two very sound reasons for the lack of operational secrecy suggest themselves. First, I’d back the insurgents to know something was coming, even without a subscription to the Journal.

    Second, more importantly, avoiding a big fight is the name of the game for the coalition. Preserving your force and securing the people are key objectives if you’re going to do population-focused counterinsurgency. Ideally you want to take control of the populous areas with minimal fighting, and you want the insurgent out in the sticks, where he can be hunted down more readily than among the population, and where there’s less chance of large-scale civilian casualties.

    The insurgent, meanwhile, must fight among the people, not just for safety, but to retain his relevance. Announcing that you’re coming gives him a tough choice.
    davidbfpo

  14. #114
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I think the principal reason for announcing the operation

    is, as was done in Fallujah, to allow the civilians in the town to leave. I imagine that several other towns will follow at about quarterly interval ending with Kandahar at the end of next year...

    Some of the lesser committed bad guys will also leave and as Wilf says, will then return -- but those will not be the hard over zealots so that's no big thing. He's also correct in that it is not an ideal strategy but lacking troop numbers (which the west doesn't and won't have) it's a reasonable alternative.

    That Western troop strength problem is not going away and thus, hopefully, future politicians will make more informed decisions and avoid such operations which are a residual not of Cold War thinking as many pundits (and a few Posters on this board. Yes, Bob... ) like to say but really of WWI / WW II thinking -- the western military personnel systems are not the only thing stuck in a time warp. So too is training -- and, obviously, 'strategic' (read mass armies and balance of power politics) and even so-called 'operational' thought (a flawed concept unnecessarily adopted from two Armies which are no more...).
    Last edited by Ken White; 02-07-2010 at 11:31 PM. Reason: Moved link

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    Default Two links:


  16. #116
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    Default Operational Level of War

    My understanding is that the operational level of war was introduced in the 1981 version of Field Manual 100-5, Operations, the one that introduced the AirLand Battle concept. The operational level is below the strategic level and above the tactical.

    The following is part of what the 2001 version of FM 3-0, Operations, says about the operational level. (I believe the Army is changing to the joint service numbering scheme for its field manuals.) There is a more recent version of FM 3-0 but I don't have HTML access to it.

    2-7. Operations usually imply broader dimensions of time and space than tactics; the strategic orientation at the operational level requires commanders to look beyond the immediate situation. While tactical commanders fight the current battle, operational commanders look deeper in time, space, and events. They seek to shape the possibilities of upcoming events in advance to create the most favorable conditions possible for subordinate commanders, whose tactical activities execute the campaign. Likewise, operational commanders anticipate the results of battles and engagements, and prepare to exploit them to obtain the greatest strategic advantage.

  17. #117
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Sort of correct -- it was hashed out here, pro and con,

    to an extent back in October. Almost 30 posts worth:LINK. That thread is one I recall, it's been discussed off and on.

    My point on it was and is that the US army had not used that 'level,' that it was adopted during the heyday of 'The USSR will clean our clock unless...' (a line I never believed. FWIW, neither did Barry McCaffery among others). We were in love with all things German and the USSR was allegedly ahead of us in many ways. We see how that ended...

    As Tom Odom said on that thread, it was created to give the Corps some tasks -- and as I said, it was an early 80s justification to retain the Corps which some senior folks had wanted to disappear in the mid 70s...

    All I can see that it has accomplished is giving us LOO (for whatever benefit one sees in them) and further complicating the MDMP...

    That and we still have the Corps. Keep it, I guess -- but either it or the Division should go -- unless, of course, one needs those flags to justify spaces...

  18. #118
    Council Member Pete's Avatar
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    Default

    First off, to amend my previous message in this thread, I should have said the 1982 version of FM 100-5, not 1981. The article "The Origin of the AirLand Battle Concept" by John M. Romjue in the May-June 1984 issue of Air University Review magazine had the following to say about the origin of the operational level of war:

    The new FM 100-5 [of 1982] adds precision to earlier statements of the AirLand Battle concept. It is explicit about the intent of U.S. Army doctrine, and it conveys a vigorous offensive spirit. AirLand Battle doctrine "is based on securing or retaining the initiative and exercising it aggressively to defeat the enemy. . . . Army units will. . . . attack the enemy in depth with fire and maneuver and synchronize all efforts to attain the objective." it also notes that "our operations must be rapid, unpredictable, violent, and disorienting to the enemy."

    An increase in clarity has been added by inserting into the manual a new level of military art. Between tactics and strategy, the manual inserts the intermediate level traditionally recognized by the German and other armies as the operational level of large units (i.e., the operations of armies and corps that involve activities below the level of military strategy and above the level of tactics). Throughout the manual, the writers held to a clarifying distinction between circumstances and actions at the tactical level and those at the operational level.

    The addition of the operational level resulted from a decision made by General Starry's successor at TRADOC, General Glenn K. Otis. This decision was made late in the writing of the manual. The addition of the operational level had been strongly urged by the Army War College and was discussed by German Army reviewers during the staff review process. Indeed, there was much doctrinal interaction with the German Army General Staff during the course of the Army's development of the new FM 100-5. General Starry favored a close doctrinal compatibility with German Army manual 100-100, Command and Control in Battle.
    In the thread you referred me to in one of your messages you said that the introduction of the operational level was a way of tailoring U.S. doctrine to a specific theater--you're right, AirLand Battle and the 1982 FM 100-5 were refinements of the old Fulda Gap scenario. Deep attack in AirLand Battle was seen a way of disrupting the echelons of the Warsaw Pact forces that would be following the first wave to hit us. Thus the division would be fighting at the tactical level of engaging forces with which we were then in contact with while corps and army on the operational level would anticipate the fight with the echelons that would be hitting us several days or weeks later.

    The entire article from Air University Review is in the link below. It's a good read if you like "evolution of doctrine" stuff.

    http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/a...un/romjue.html
    Last edited by Pete; 02-08-2010 at 03:49 AM. Reason: Add name of author of article

  19. #119
    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Yep.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete View Post
    ...the introduction of the operational level was a way of tailoring U.S. doctrine to a specific theater...Thus the division would be fighting at the tactical level of engaging forces with which we were then in contact with while corps and army on the operational level would anticipate the fight with the echelons that would be hitting us several days or weeks later.
    That was pretty much the official version, the actuality was that accommodation with the Germans was VERY important -- in order to get the Pershing IIs and USAF BGM 109 Cruise Missiles into Germany -- and the Army was told to do whatever the Germans suggested. Plus Glenn Otis knew he'd probably go to CinCUSAREUR (not SACEur, Bernie Rogers was presumed to have a lock on that until Doomsaday... ) and that cooperating with the Germans was simply good business. Add the evil hordes from the east and its easy to see why the Operational level was adopted when it was and for what potential war and location.

    The fact that it justified the Corps -- which Bernie Rogers and Shy Meyer had sort of eyed for elimination was a bonus.

    The issue and question is really how useful it might be in other wars or theaters against other enemies...

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    Great recent news report (11mins or so) showing a patrol by a British infantry section in Nad-e-Ali district, Helmand province:

    http://link.brightcove.com/services/...id=66448008001

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