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Thread: Australians in Afghanistan

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    Council Member Noble Industries's Avatar
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    Default Australians in Afghanistan

    Nice article looking at debunking the myth that Aussies are naturally gifted at COIN. That's not to say their not good, but that perhaps we have been resting when we should have been busy adapting, learning and changing the way we operate.

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/our-so...l.html?page=-1
    The French, advised by good intelligence...
    of this most dreadful preparation,
    shake in their fear...and with pale policy seek
    to divert the English purposes
    Hevry V Act 2

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Aussies are not "natural" COIN fighters

    Noble Industries,

    A good catch this article and perhaps a sign that some are thinking harder. I doubt the writer came to this without dialogue with the Defence Forces. Here in the UK it has taken years for those close to officialdom to openly say "we are in a mess".

    davidbfpo

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Excellent Australian analysis re Afghan Theater

    Cynthia Bynum, diplomatic correspondent out of Sydney, Australia, in her article which Noble Industries posted the link for, writes a masterful piece which I hope the Australian pols and top brass will read and seek to implement.

    Complacent "this is how we have always done it, nothing really new under the sun" is a dangerous attitude for any of us in today's world.

    The terrorist Taliban and al Qaida are irregular guerilla fighters whose patterns are changing frequently, simply said. We must do likewise and perpetually keep them off guard until they are KIA.

    Likewise, the Pakhtun "code or constitution" which is unwritten creates havoc as locals are brainwashed culturally to more often than not help the terrorists not the allies nor even the national forces of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. This cultural problem needs immediate heavy focus via psyops, Voice of America, the BBC, et al, as the backwoods civilian Pakhtun population are in many instances 100% dependent on TV and radio for all their news and information...*excluding the enemies use of low beam FM radio broadcasts to guide their troops in the field...we need a better "interrupter" fix for enemy FM, too.

    In Afghanistan specifically a huge number of Pakhtuns, and other ethnic groups of smaller numbers, are totally and literally illiterate. Similiar problems in Pakistan in FATA, N. & S. Waziristan, and parts of the NWFP, into Pak Occupied Kashmir. Swat formerly had a pretty good public education system which the Taliban and al Qaida have targeted and physically destroyed as much of as they could until now.
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 07-24-2009 at 11:49 AM.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default No one in the West is that good at it, nor will they likely be in the future.

    Quote Originally Posted by Noble Industries View Post
    ...that perhaps we have been resting when we should have been busy adapting, learning and changing the way we operate.
    Davidfbpo
    Here in the UK it has taken years for those close to officialdom to openly say "we are in a mess"
    George L. Singleton
    irregular guerilla fighters whose patterns are changing frequently, simply said. We must do likewise and perpetually keep them off guard until they are KIA.
    Western bureaucracies are contraindicated as coping mechanisms for insurgencies not nipped in the early stages by smart and aggressive intelligence, diplomatic and very low key, specially trained military element efforts. Major Western forces will always have a rotation and personnel turbulence problem plus other detrimental factors with which to cope. Those factors almost make the opposition an annoyance -- until it's too late.

    The first two comments quoted above are true and the same can be said of the US; we aren't doing this very well. The reasons lie in George's very valid point. Western Armies, lacking an existential threat, will never produce general purpose forces trained, equipped, organized, trusted and risked to properly prosecute a war against a very flexible, highly motivated, aggressive and ruthless enemy who uses our own laws, mores and media as a weapon. Simply, we are unlikely to do what he correctly says is necessary.

    All three of our nations and some others are in a constant learning mode due to legal, moral, training and personnel policies. Those policies also impose severe constraints on action. That is unlikely to change and thus we must accept that mediocre performance is the best we're going to get from most of our general purpose forces in such conflicts barring a major change in public and governmental attitudes -- which seems unlikely at this time.

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    Marston says: "The questions some coalition commanders are asking is when is Australia, as in senior commanders and politicians, going to become embedded within this huge debate that has occurred within the US and British militaries about what went wrong and what went correct in Iraq as well as what needs to be done in Afghanistan?"
    A little bit of research goes along way. This is more sensational journalism, than reporting the facts on the ground. There is some scope to criticising the ADF's approach to FID/SFA, however, they are being addressed, to say otherwise is completely false and a disservice to those who are working very hard to come up with solutions. I have no real respect for Australia's media, they are very similar to US media. All to quick to point out our faults but very silent on the atrocities committed by the other side. In many ways they have become little more than tools for A'Q propaganda. Facts don't sell copy anymore, beat ups and sensationalism do. Its fairly obvious that the academic is promoting himself by overstating the case (from now on I shall call it the Kilcullen Syndrome!), a simple one minute search, that any under-grad could of done, would of lead him to such examples of the debate as:

    1. Lt. C. John Blaxland: 'Revisiting Counterinsurgency: A Manoeuvrists Response to the 'War on Terror' for the Australian Army. July 2006

    2. http://www.defence.gov.au/Army/lwsc/...r_2008_2_2.pdf more recent publications on COIN, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    3. Jim Molan has been and is very vocal on this subject area. He is giving a seminar at my Uni on Tuesday title 'Lessons Learnt From Iraq'. His book 'Running the War in Iraq' is now in its second reprint.

    There are plenty of other sources and ample evidence of the debate, like I said a little bit of research goes a long way.

    While the Americans, in short, are fighting a counter-insurgency campaign, consider what the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, said about Australia's mission this week. The "underpinning reason" for being there, aside from the US alliance, was "acting against the global threat of terrorism".
    One wonders if Miss Banham understands the difference between political messages directed toward public consumption, its easier to sell the war in Afghanistan this way, and the actual political and military focus in Afghanistan. Then again may be its good that she doesn't, why tell the enemy what we are doing?
    Last edited by Taiko; 07-25-2009 at 03:58 AM.

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Excerpt from THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY JOURNAL

    Taiko's link to THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY JOURNAL curren issue provides the partial quote below, and is much appreciated by this old trooper, even if I am Air Force. I did much work with US Special Operations Command as with FORSCOM as a "purple suit" and have some appreciation of what you land guys and gals are up against.

    Only wish the Pakistani Army would pay more attention to land operations, at least special ops, in N. and S. Waziristan, which they cannot subdue, overcome, and occupy without land forces vs. just air and artillery ops.

    I have quoted only part of the lead in Editorial to the current issue of THE AUSTRALIAN ARMY JOURNAL which attempts to jump start an ongoing future articles dialogue over counterinsurgency strategy and tactics as applied in Afghanistan today.

    Although we had developed considerable proficiency in operating against classical Maoist guerrilla movements in the jungles of South-East Asia, the character of insurgency has undergone significant change since the end of the Cold War. This point is emphasised by Major General Jim Molan in his article in this special edition. He dismisses the hoary myth that our army—or any army—is naturally adept at counterinsurgency. And he stresses the importance of fully grasping the lethality and motivation of the modern jihadist insurgent.

    Nor is past success a guarantee of current competence. The Australian Army Journal has consistently advocated the careful study of military history by members of the profession of arms. But, as Professor Jeffrey Grey reminds us, every war is sui generis, and caution must be exercised in seeking to glean lessons from past campaigns.

    The pressing importance of understanding counterinsurgency led the Chief of Army to direct the urgent rewriting of Australian Army doctrine for counterinsurgency.

    In February this year he convened a two-day seminar to frame an authors’ brief to inform the doctrine writing team. This task is now being undertaken against a tight schedule. That is the reason that this edition of the Australian Army Journal is a thematic special edition. It also explains why we have expedited its production, in an effort to stimulate thinking across the Army about this important issue.

    Accordingly, a number of qualifications need to be expressed. This issue is built around a significant number of articles expressly reprinted from foreign military journals. This does not reflect a want of confidence in the calibre of our own officers and soldiers. Nor will it become the standard practice of the Australian Army Journal, which is committed to maintaining its authentic Australian voice.

    We hope that Australian readers will read these articles with a critical attitude and ponder their validity in the light of their own experiences of current operations, before writing their own opinions for this Journal.

    It would, however, be parochial in the extreme not to acknowledge the vast experience that our allies have accumulated over the past few years. For that reason we have sought the views of some of the leading experts in this field from other nations. We are honoured to publish the views of General David Petraeus and Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszley, whose contributions in this area are without peer. Likewise, the expertise of Ian Beckett and Stephen Metz—highly esteemed scholars both—are valuable additions to this Journal.

    Furthermore, there is a distinct land bias in this edition. As Major General Molan emphasises, successful counterinsurgency demands seamless orchestration of joint effects. And the Chief of Army stresses that the multi-agency, comprehensive approach is vital to counterinsurgency, which requires more intimate coordination of political effects than other forms of warfare.

    The absence of RAN, RAAF, AFP or NGO perspectives from this edition does not imply a lack of recognition of their fundamental importance to effective counterinsurgency operations.

    However, this Australian Army Journal • Volume V, Number 2 • page 7 Editorial edition has been compiled within the serious time constraints applicable to the doctrine writers. In the interests of publishing this contribution in time to be of any relevance to the Army, we necessarily focused on our primary audience.
    I am hopeful that contributing Aussie field officers, NCOs, and related Australian government civilians will be addressing psyops and how you deal with essentially illiterate populations whose unwritten variably interpreted by oral tradition Islamic teachings at present enable our enemies in being provided shelter and hiding places vs. the populations having a better awareness that the terrorists are the enemies of Islam and hence their enemies, too. My two cents here, of course.
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 07-25-2009 at 12:10 PM.

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    My apologies I should of put Maj. Gen. in front of MG Jim Molan's name.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noble Industries View Post
    Nice article looking at debunking the myth that Aussies are naturally gifted at COIN. That's not to say their not good, but that perhaps we have been resting when we should have been busy adapting, learning and changing the way we operate.

    http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/our-so...l.html?page=-1
    I quote: "A hallmark of a counter-insurgency - the war the Americans, British and Canadians are fighting - is the ability to constantly adapt to new circumstances."

    Constantly adapt? Is anyone near doing this? I doubt it.

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    Council Member Chris jM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JMA View Post
    I quote: "A hallmark of a counter-insurgency - the war the Americans, British and Canadians are fighting - is the ability to constantly adapt to new circumstances."

    Constantly adapt? Is anyone near doing this? I doubt it.
    I'd say that the western armies already have adapted to all the influences and factors imposed upon them.

    Remember, they are not just fighting insurgencies in the East, they are also serving government policy. The military systems have adapted to serve their/our political masters and populace who are inherently risk-adverse and safety-orientated.

    I find the accusation that militaries are not adapting misleading and of no benefit. If the political will was there for victory at higher cost, we would see longer deployments in country, soldiers stripped of body-armor and allowed to show greater audacity in hunting and fighting the Tb, etc. As it is the demand is for the mission to be sustained, which means the military is inadvertently serving the demand back home for maximum force protection. The fact that mid- to long-term operational success is potentially compromised is not a decision consciously taken at any level but it has become reality - or at least, it has from my point of view.

    I am of the belief that the smaller coalition partners, Australia included, have elevated a 'zero casualty priority' to operational policy. It's not good for the force nor the mission, but it is there.
    '...the gods of war are capricious, and boldness often brings better results than reason would predict.'
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    Default Aussies and COIN

    You are right. Ive just returned from 8 months in Afghanistan and cant believe the benign picture that is being put to the Australian public about the situation in AFG by the Government and Opposition. There is also very little mentioned about what exactly the ADF (apart from the Special Force dudes) are actually doing. How strict are the rules of engagement and ability for the Aussies to get out and build relationships with the population?

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    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A revealing army report

    Hat tip to the Lowry Institute, an Australian think tank, for highlighting an ADF report, issued by the land Warfare Studies Centre:http://www.army.gov.au/lwsc/SP321.asp

    The commentary opens with:
    Colonel Peter Connolly's account of his time in command of the ADF's Second Mentoring and Reconstruction Task Force in Uruzgan between May and December 2009. 'Counterinsurgency in Uruzgan 2009' reads a lot like an edited post-operation report and its great to see an Australian Army officer writing about his combat experience for a public audience.

    (For JMA in particular)...a lack of equipment for pre-deployment training in Australia and meant that his battlegroup never had the opportunity to train together in one location before deploying to Afghanistan.

    (Last paragraph) Connolly also concludes that 'it would be very useful to have a strategy from Canberra to synchronise and prioritise whole-of-government efforts in nation building effects, but no such strategy is apparent at this stage'. There seems to be increasing concern within the ADF about the lack of strategic direction from government as to what troops should be doing in Afghanistan.....
    Link to the comments by the Lowry:http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/...my-report.aspx

    About to read the report.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Hat tip to the Lowry Institute, an Australian think tank, for highlighting an ADF report, issued by the land Warfare Studies Centre:http://www.army.gov.au/lwsc/SP321.asp

    The commentary opens with:

    Link to the comments by the Lowry:http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/...my-report.aspx

    About to read the report.
    David, within the context of this thread it should be noted that the writer of the link provided is at odds with the first post and still sells the line that the Aussies are naturals at counter-insurgency. It took two years to package that report and quite frankly I think it is no more than a propaganda piece.

    Just as in the Brit experience in Afghanistan there is nothing to be learned from anything that has been officially published. Sadly it takes outsiders (journalists) and ex-servicemen to provide the truth of what is going on on the ground.

    You picked up an important aspect about pre-deployment training. So if this pre-deployment training was limited by equipment shortages then it would naturally follow that the troops deployed without being fully prepared, yes?

    ...and these same under prepared (by their own admission) and probably inexperienced troops are then used to 'mentor' the ANA. Something is not right here.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Public opinion shifts

    Afghanistan is also a thorny issue. Public opinion is turning against Australia's continued involvement, especially after a number of tragic recent incidents. A poll earlier this month, conducted after three Australian diggers were killed, suggested 72% thought it was time for Australia to withdraw. Back in May, the figure was 40%.
    Taken from a longer article on the Australian-US alliance. Link:http://www.lowyinterpreter.org/post/...Australia.aspx
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default 'Diggers' see the "light"

    A BBC News report:
    Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Australia will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan earlier than planned... troops would begin pulling out this year and most would be home by the end of 2013 - an election year in Australia...Australia has some 1,550 troops serving in Afghanistan, mainly in the Uruzgan region....withdrawal would begin once Afghans took on responsibility for security in Uruzgan province...

    Ms Gillard's minority administration has been slipping in popularity and some observers say Labor could be heading for defeat at the polls.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17737592

    If Australia one of the US's leading allies decides to exit a year early, one wonders what the impact will be on other ISAF contributors.

    I await the observations of the one Australian think tank I monitor, the Lowy Institute.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    This is not surprising. The Aussies have been and will continue to be a tremendous ally for America, but they have more than done their duty to that relationship in Afghanistan.

    My take is that for many countries, particularly NATO countries, they saw little to no national interest in operations in Afghanistan as defined for everyone by the US, but absolutely had a powerful interest in maintaining positive relations with the US. We have all at sometime in our lives joined a friend on a misguided adventure simply because of our valued for the friendship, rather than our belief in the cause we were embarking upon. This is little different for many I suspect.

    It is clear the US is walking away from this adventure, so it stands to reason that many allies will beat us to the door. The US can only thank the Aussies for their loyalty and their service. Tremendous mates all.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "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 J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    "Ms Gillard's minority administration has been slipping in popularity and some observers say Labor could be heading for defeat at the polls."

    Labor has suffered crushing defeats in state elections (e.g. it is no longer certified as a political party in Queensland). "Slipping at the polls" and "heading for defeat" are understating Gillard's problems.

    This was likely done in an effort to reverse the collapse, but I doubt it will have any effect.
    John Wolfsberger, Jr.

    An unruffled person with some useful skills.

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    Default Oops... all is not well it seems

    From the Kings of War blog we get this article:

    The (Colour Sergeant) Bourne Legacy: Soldierly Discipline

    Starts with:

    An excerpt from one Australian officerís end of tour report as the CO of a Mentoring Task Force in Afghanistan laments what he sees as a pitiful level of ill-discipline amongst soldiers, their NCOs, and junior officers. The document, of course, is based on one personís observations and opinions, but it is revealing nevertheless. And while it focuses on the current state of Australian soldiery, it would not be too far off the mark in describing the behaviour and mindset from other ABCA nations.

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    It's been said before, the U.S. hasn't been in Afghanistan for 10 years, we've been there for 1 year, 10 times in a row...

    And I gotta ask this of George Singleton, who posted:

    "In Afghanistan specifically a huge number of Pashtuns, and other ethnic groups of smaller numbers, are totally and literally illiterate."

    "Literally illiterate" gave me a chuckle...so that would imply that they're "figuratively literate" then? lol...

    I read thru that article that was at the beginning of this post, and if they don't understand if their main mission is COIN or CT, then they're in a world of hurt as far as organizing, training, and equipping their troops for mission success. I hate to say this, but I think VP Joe Biden got it right when he said that our focus in Afghanistan should be on CT, not COIN. CT doesn't require anywhere near the amount of resources or risk that COIN does.
    "We're here to preserve democracy, not practice it." from the move, Crimson Tide

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