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Thread: How to be the Biggest Tribe

  1. #1
    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default How to be the Biggest Tribe

    I thought I'd start a how-to thread on being the biggest tribe. None of this is new, but we seem to keep relearning history's lessons. My area of expertise is in the rural areas and villages. Niel,Schmedlap, and others can comment on how to do it in the urban areas.

    Here's some quick notes on the seizure of Zaganiyah. By July 2007, we were one of the first units in Iraq to 1. Clear AQ, 2. Bring Violence down to minimal levels, 3. Start reintegrating displaced families, 4. Start Re-establish governance and services, 5. Start Reconciliation talks. The boys did some great work. The entire process took us 90 days.

    1. Initial Entry. First, three weeks of covert/overt reconnaissance and shaping efforts to define the situation immediately followed with a massive deception operation to mask the timing/route of our clearance. Second, one week of squadron (+) clearance of Sadah, Qubbah, and Zaganiyah.

    2. Seizing Zaganiyah. I established a patrol base in the middle of town and blockaded all the roads in and out. We instituted curfews and limitations on both mounted and dismounted movement as population control measures. The patrol base was our inner ring. The CPs served as an outer-ring extension to extend our sphere of influence.

    3. Patrol Flooding. My boys spent 8 hours/day outside the wire on patrols. We flooded everything. It got so busy that for the first time, I could not go out anymore. My job was Command and Control or being a zombie running off caffeine and nicotine while holding two hand-mikes talking to CAS, AWT, the platoons, and squadron.

    4. Killing the enemy/Defeating the IED Network. I would send small teams into hide sites for 48-72 hours. We would kill emplacers. Eventually, the enemy countered by having women and 10 year old children emplace the IEDs. I restricted our fires. We would just watch them. Later, our intelligence collection helped us kill the Bomb-maker and capture two AQ LT's. That ended the IED problem- 1. We took away the expertise. 2. We made it too costly to emplace.

    5. Coercive Civil Affairs. Once a week, I would assemble all the elders and show a wad of $5000 to them. I would let them know that there was more where that came from, and I wanted peace. As soon as the violence stopped, we would build the town. The elders refused and would start complaining. I'd kick them out telling them we'd try again next week.

    6. Humanitarian Support. We identified that many infants were dying from cholera. We'd conduct patrols to teach the women simple ways of hydration to save their children and provide emergency food drops. Finally, the women got frustrated with the men and started telling us where the IEDs were emplaced, where the caches were hidden, and who the culprits were.

    7. Iraqi Army. I fired the first IA company there b/c they were Shia locals fighting a civil war with the Sunnis. They were replaced with MAJ Aziz and his boys from the Udaim. We partnered together, lived together, patrolled together, and became one unit. By July, he was working unilaterally in Zag with me helping with CAS, intelligence collection, and Medevac.

    Just some of the things that worked for us. It was COIN not enemy-centric, not pop-centric.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Default This war is not about Afghanistan...

    At a tangent, but relevant: Lets not forget what the regional stakes are. Being the "biggest tribe" is not just about Afghanistan. In fact, I would submit its not even primarily about Afghanistan. Why is the US IN Afghanistan? Why should the US care who rules Afghanistan and who is the biggest tribe there? I think NOW THAT ITS THERE, one of the big reasons to stay and win is because it shows regional powers who is the biggest tribe. And IF one buys into the whole superpower deal, then that is much more important than showing some small villages who the biggest tribe is. You can see this dynamic in action in Pakistan right now. The Pakistani army has looked at Obama's good hearted wavering on Afghanistan and reached the (probably correct) conclusion that this particular American tribe is outa here in the not too distant future. Hence the reluctance to accept Kerry-Lugar conditionalities about the role of the army in Pakistan AND about Pakistani efforts to use jihadi proxies against India. On both these counts, GHQ now seems to think they can get America to blink (again, I think they may be right; the first has not historically been an American priority, always loved military dictators in third world countries, and the second is India's headache, not America's). The sticking point right now is the "good taliban" (just my guess, I have no inside info) and GHQ may be calculating that if they hold out long enough, Obama will accept the good taliban at least in Eastern-Southern Afghanistan and a few years later the good taliban can take care of the rest of the country, by which time American troops will be gone and no one will care.
    Personally, I am not sure this is a correct assessment and even if it is, the net result is going to be a huge disaster for the region (where an American victory would be painful for some egos, but a net positive for the long suffering people of the region). But the american tribe is fast losing credibility and that means that eventually the coming civil war will be fought between India, Pakistan, Iran, Russia and China and their proxies. Thats bad for the region, but if I was an American officer, my main concern would be "If we are not going to win this tribal war and act all superpowerish, then we shouldnt be sacrificing men just to make it look good for a few years". Go in, or get out.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default

    Omarali,

    My example is for the tactical world of the company-grade level explaining some of the lessons we learned. Your post was more operational and strategic. That stuff doesn't matter to the guys on the ground trying to find solutions.

    My example is only one of many.

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Omarali,

    My example is for the tactical world of the company-grade level explaining some of the lessons we learned. Your post was more operational and strategic. That stuff doesn't matter to the guys on the ground trying to find solutions.

    My example is only one of many.

    Mike
    I understand, which is why I said "this is at a tangent". I just feel bad that excellent officers and men may end up doing tactically brilliant things in a larger cause that the leadership has already abandoned (in the case of Obama, probably without knowing what he is abandoning; I voted for him and I think he is a good man, but not instinctively a "biggest tribe" badass..maybe that is good. The liberal in me thinks so. But even if its "good", its NOT good to sacrifice good men in a cause you dont really want to push for). I am a near-pacifist who also thinks that peace in that region is unlikely unless the US fights a really good war. I am probably confused. or just realistic.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default It is not possible to be realistic without being confused.

    Beware of those who are not confused; they're unrealistic dreamers, those who think they have all the answers...

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Default Sounds kinda definitive...

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Beware of those who are not confused; they're unrealistic dreamers, those who think they have all the answers...
    Yet there are a a shocking number of absolutes in nature.

    The speed of light or sound, gravity, relativity, etc, etc, etc. Behind all of the chaos and noise of facts of every unique individual situation there is this tremendous base of unyielding natural law that lends order to the chaos. I'm no scientist, but I have always been amazed by this fact.

    The same is true for human interactions as well. Sure, we have the ability to think, react, make decsions; but there is nothing new under the sun and beneath all of our tremendous chaos and independence is a foundation of relatively stable "natural law" if you will, that once understood helps to make sense of the tremendous chaos that is in your face. This is what I see as a strategic level of understanding; a pursuit of the natural laws shaping a particular dynamic, and also any unique dynamics that may also shape things in predictable ways.

    IMHO, The role of ideology in insurgency fits into this; as does the dynamics between governance and the governed. Are these absolutes? No, but they provide a very solid start point for understanding any particular situation of the same nature.
    Robert C. Jones
    Intellectus Supra Scientia
    (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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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Beware of those who are not confused; they're unrealistic dreamers, those who think they have all the answers...
    "This, therefore, is a faded dream of the time when I went down into the dust and noise of the Eastern market-place, and with my brain and muscles, with sweat and constant thinking, made others see my visions coming true. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible."

    Who, in Afghanistan, are the Dreamers of the Day?
    John Wolfsberger, Jr.

    An unruffled person with some useful skills.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Finally, the women got frustrated with the men and started telling us where the IEDs were emplaced, where the caches were hidden, and who the culprits were.
    I've been meaning to discuss this exact issue in a thread about Afghan geography and COIN, but I don't see this working in Afghanistan. Too many miles of road, too few villages, too many bad guys coming across the border. Even if you get the locals onside, they won't know where the IEDs are and who is placing them.

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    blockaded all the roads in and out.
    Seems to me "imprisoning" the population is the key to all successful COIN. Take away everyone's freedom and the insurgents lose freedom of movement. But fence in the entire population of Astan, and I still think you'll have lots of bad guys running around the mountains.
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 10-07-2009 at 09:38 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Absolutes in nature and in science are one thing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    Yet there are a a shocking number of absolutes in nature...Are these absolutes? No, but they provide a very solid start point for understanding any particular situation of the same nature.
    Yep -- no doubt about most of that. However, that doesn't address those who become convinced they've got the solution.

    Absolutism in people is another thing. Having a great degree of self confidence is desirable; have a great degree of certitude is less so. The guy with self confidence listens to and learns from others improving his and their lot; the certitudinous don't listen because they already have all the answers (or they listen but discard immediately). They're dangerous. See McNamara, R.; Rumsfeld D. for examples.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    I've been meaning to discuss this exact issue in a thread about Afghan geography and COIN, but I don't see this working in Afghanistan. Too many miles of road, too few villages, too many bad guys coming across the border. Even if you get the locals onside, they won't know where the IEDs are and who is placing them.

    Seems to me "imprisoning" the population is the key to all successful COIN. Take away everyone's freedom and the insurgents lose freedom of movement. But fence in the entire population of Astan, and I still think you'll have lots of bad guys running around the mountains.
    Good points. That's one thing that I've wondered about A'stan. How do you secure the populace and conduct COIN when the terrain (both human and geographic) is extremely harsh? I'm having lunch with a buddy of mine next week. His SF team owned Helmund Province in and out for two years. We continue to discuss the tactics of it we no clear-cut solutions.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Good points. That's one thing that I've wondered about A'stan. How do you secure the populace and conduct COIN when the terrain (both human and geographic) is extremely harsh? I'm having lunch with a buddy of mine next week. His SF team owned Helmund Province in and out for two years. We continue to discuss the tactics of it we no clear-cut solutions.

    v/r

    Mike
    I think you need a little McChrystal a little Biden. COIN in the cities, CT in the mountains. Unfortunately, that requires the maximum resources and there is no end game. You're doing CT as long as the T continue to come across the border. Also, you have that gray area, the little isolated mountain villages. Every one you don't occupy is a recruiting ground for the Taliban. You also have an intelligence problem. If you're not there, how do you know if AQ is in a particular village or not?

    The one thing I think we could do with the mountain villages is burn the poppies near every village that cooperates with AQ, let the narco bucks flow into the ones that don't. Politically difficult, (in the US I mean) but I think it could work.

    Basically, that's what we do with prostitutes here: selective enforcement. (If they move into residential neighborhoods, we arrest them. If they stay out of sight, the cops don't bother them.) Of course, even that strategy is difficult to execute because if you're not on the ground, you still have an intelligence problem.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Burn poppies?

    The one thing I think we could do with the mountain villages is burn the poppies near every village that cooperates with AQ, let the narco bucks flow into the ones that don't. Politically difficult, (in the US I mean) but I think it could work
    Mountain villagers may grow poppies, but nothing like the scale of production in prime land - which is flat - in Helmand. Would burning the only cash crop (excluding timber etc) be that effective?

    In this harsh situation I'd revert to announcing 24hrs beforehand you are going to strike (artillery or bomb) a specified location - a compound. That for this armchair observer eliminates the need to be on the ground to burn; yes I know other air-delivered methods exist.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Drug Bust

    Looks like the Marines are taking Rank Amateur's advice and getting after it.

    Afghan, US forces seize 50 tonnes of opium, kill 17 Taliban: official

    US and Afghan forces seized 50 tonnes of opium and 1.8 tonnes of heroin, and killed 17 Taliban insurgents in a joint operation in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the defence ministry said.

    The drug haul, one of the biggest in recent memory, was worth five million dollars, Mohammad Zahir Azimi, ministry spokesman, told AFP.

    In a five-hour operation that began at 11:00 am (0630 GMT), the soldiers dropped from helicopters into the Kajaki district of troubled Helmand province, source of most of the world's heroin, he said.

    "According to our calculation, we have destroyed five million dollars' worth of drugs today," he said.

    "We seized and destroyed 30 tonnes of fertiliser, 1,000 boxes of AK-47 and TK machinegun bullets and other weapons," he said, adding that a factory for making remote-controlled bombs was also destroyed.

    "Seventeen Taliban were killed, three were arrested alive," he said.

    "The joint forces also destroyed a heroin-making factory," he said, adding that the joint forces suffered no casualties.

    He said the fertiliser was of a type used to manufacture improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the main weapon in the Taliban arsenal and causing a large proportion of deaths among forces under US and NATO command.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default What does this tell us?

    Mike F,

    This joint Afghan-USMC operation I note is well inside the UK sector of Helmand. Does this indicate the UK's airmobile infantry battallion there, the former Black Watch (now 3rd Batt., Royal Regiment of Scotland), is committed or more plausibly hasn't got the helicopter lift? Even if shared with the US and others - Google will help explain.

    A Google satellite map: http://www.maplandia.com/afghanistan.../kajaki-sofla/

    Secondly the press report also refers to:

    16 boxes of C4 explosive made in Iran had also been seized in the operation.
    Digging way the Black Watch struck the other day and seized 1.5 tons of cannabis: http://www.thesun.co.uk/scotsol/home...ghanistan.html .Two weeks they did an airmobile operation, with three waves of six Chinooks: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/new...cle6856366.ece

    Finally the Black Watch are about to leave Afghanistan.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default

    David asked,

    What does this tell us?
    Currently, probably not much. I would assume that they're trying different tactics to break through a perceived impervious terrain.

    That's a good thing.

    v/r

    Mike

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    Council Member Red Rat's Avatar
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    I think it is interesting that they appear to be going more for drug processing centres. I would hope that they are trying to break the local insurgent/narcotics nexus. I do not know all that much about the poppy/heroin cultivation process and timelines, but it would be interesting to map the timeline of the strikes against the poppy planting/cultivating/ harvesting/processing timeline and guage the impact on cash flow in the area.
    Men fight for many things, but in a poor area with limited means money always figures pretty highly!

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