SMALL WARS COUNCIL
Go Back   Small Wars Council > Conflicts -- Current & Future > Other U.S. GWOT > OEF - Afghanistan

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 07-11-2009   #41
davidbfpo
Council Member
 
davidbfpo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 11,095
Default UK casualties mount

Extensive UK media coverage on the latest losses in Helmand Province, with eight dead in one day (fifteen in a week): http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8145603.stm and HMG's attempts to explain why: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...-Miliband.html

Note no figures for injuries and we know IEDs often cripple others. Morale and injuries are found in this (incredibly) upbeat: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...ing-point.html

I am mindful of Robert Haddick's comment on SWJ Blog:

Quote:
Using Stoker’s framework, it’s clear that while the Taliban’s ideas and tactics are unpopular, the militants have a resilient and adaptive structure. Most important, they are now employing a strategy that takes advantage of what they see as their adversary’s biggest weaknesses: the U.S. public’s impatience and aversion to casualties. Thus, unlike most modern insurgencies, the Taliban may not be making enough mistakes to lose.

Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-11-2009 at 10:58 AM. Reason: Adding more
davidbfpo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-11-2009   #42
Ken White
Council Member
 
Ken White's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,060
Default Three minor problems with Haddick's statement:

The US public is not nearly as adverse to casualties as many think. The public will accept casualties without a qualm (except for the chattering classes, who have qualms about everything...) provided results are being obtained -- fail to get results in your war, the public will eventually get angry at non-performance, not at casualties. The US Congress, OTOH, is a different thing. Congress always wants to appear as doing something about any problem, no matter minor or major, their reaction is the same -- panic! then pass another law, quickly! Idiots.

The larger issue is not US aversion to casualties, it is NATO aversion to them and therefor the potential for early departure from the theater and fragmentation of the coalition. That will create an added burden on the US to compensate as a result. Congress (not so much the public) will not be pleased.

The various fighting factions in Afghansitan, including but not limited to the Taliban are well aware of all that and while they will inflict a number of casualties on the US due to the sheer size of the troop commitments, they will concentrate on inflicting casualties on all the other Nation's forces in country. They are in particular targeting Canada and have said so, I suspect that their next in line targets are the UK and Germany as they are the two largest force elements aside from the US. They'll keep tweaking Canada just to insure the Canadians adhere to their stated 2011 withdrawal plan. I anticipate increased attacks on the Italians and Spanish as well.

All that said, Haddick is correct in that they are aiming for casualties versus western impatience as as a strategy. That should not be a surprise to anyone. It could easily have been predicted in 2001 -- or 1966 or 1952...
Ken White is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-11-2009   #43
davidbfpo
Council Member
 
davidbfpo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 11,095
Default Haddick adapted

Ken,

We have covered aversion to casualties before, when discussing public opinion in WW2 and other wars. I should have adapted Robert Haddick's comment on SWJ Blog and now have:

Quote:
Using Stokerís framework, itís clear that while the Talibanís ideas and tactics are unpopular, the militants have a resilient and adaptive structure. Most important, they are now employing a strategy that takes advantage of what they see as their adversaryís biggest weaknesses: the U.S. and ISAF allies publicís impatience and aversion to casualties. Thus, unlike most modern insurgencies, the Taliban may not be making enough mistakes to lose.
I am also mindful, without minimizing the impact of recent losses, that this is the UK press "silly season", when normal editorial priorities change and stories that would normally not get attention get headlines. Clearly the UK government would prefer that official reassurance is accepted without murmur, almost "All is well, don't panic".

Clarity of aim needs to be explained far better and saying that operations in Helmand are vital to the UK and will prevent terrorism here is simply incredible.

davidbfpo
davidbfpo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-11-2009   #44
Ken White
Council Member
 
Ken White's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,060
Default Heh. Much our two governments

do is simply incredible...

No intent to quibble with you or Haddick on the statement, just adding to it, really. Sometimes my add ons are clumsy.
Ken White is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-11-2009   #45
kingo1rtr
Council Member
 
kingo1rtr's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Salisbury, England
Posts: 21
Default Afghan Narrative

Alot of this debate, both within the media and also to mainstream politics, in UK and US, highlights the effects of a distinct lack of a coherent strategic narrative on the coalition effort in Afghanistan.

IMO such a narrative needs to address why we are there, what we are doing there and gives some clear definition of what must be achieved before we can leave. In sum, a campaign vision that integrates the military and non-military strategic lines of development. From that will flow a campaign context allowing the operation to be better framed and a military campaign plan to be be more focussed on objectives. In turn that would allow the aims of the tactical level actions such as the ongoing Panther's Claw to be understood more clearly to a public [keen to support but short on understanding] and provide some rationale for the loss of lives. For the soldiers the old adage 'ours is not to reason why' remains a constant, BUT neither the public nor the media will be bought off so easily.
kingo1rtr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-11-2009   #46
Ken White
Council Member
 
Ken White's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,060
Default All true and I agree. But...

I'll avoid repeating my earlier comment on incredble actions.

I'm not sure how a narrative that reads:

"We sort of blundered into this without thinking it through, ignored the advice of those who were current and familiar with the area and essentially said we'd fix something that might not be fixable in the time we're willing or able to allot but we are now committed and are trying to get it organized. If the NATO Steering Committees will just cooperate, we can pro ..."

Will be received by a public that I agree is keen to support and that fails to understand what we have done thus far or now are doing. It's a public which has a surprisingly good appreciation for what we can actually do and who sense most of what both our governments say is not quite, umm, er, accurate. In view of all that, both nations peoples have been pretty patient...

Political spin to tarnish home opponents by all concerned, both sides of the aisles, is not only unhelpful, it is a distinct disservice to those they have sent to fight in this war.

You're absolutely correct that the effort must produce:
Quote:
"...a campaign vision that integrates the military and non-military strategic lines of development."
The good news is that It seems we are finally doing that. Bad news is that sooner or later, the public is gong to ask why it took eight years to get started doing that.

That will only take another three or four years to implement although we don't know what will then happen. The Japanese, more forward looking and more patient than we scruffy barbarians, are planning on aid and support in Afghanistan for 20 more years. No easy answers...

Fortunately, as you say, the Troops, Bless 'em all, will keep plugging.
Ken White is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-14-2009   #47
William F. Owen
Council Member
 
William F. Owen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: The State of Partachia, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean
Posts: 3,947
Default

This is probably worth taking some note of.
__________________
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
William F. Owen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-14-2009   #48
davidbfpo
Council Member
 
davidbfpo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 11,095
Default Echo that

Remarkable and candid diary by Mark Evison.

davidbfpo
davidbfpo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2009   #49
davidbfpo
Council Member
 
davidbfpo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 11,095
Default History

A short summary of the history of Afghanistan and UK (Imperial) interventions: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8151294.stm The last two paragraphs:

Quote:
The difference now is that much more attention is being devoted to understanding the culture of Afghanistan and to finding solutions that do not necessarily involve military action. Efforts are being made, with some success, to incorporate cultural understanding in all military activities, from fighting to reconstruction.

But with a resurgent Taliban, apparently committed to an extremist vision of Islam and harbouring terrorists, it will also be necessary and unavoidable to use military force. Awareness of the cultural dimension will not necessarily guarantee victory, but ignorance of it, history shows us, will guarantee defeat.
davidbfpo

Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-05-2010 at 11:12 AM. Reason: Add quote marks
davidbfpo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2009   #50
Fuchs
Council Member
 
Fuchs's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 3,189
Default

We don't know how much cultural empathy was in play in the early invasions.

The need to adapt to local culture and win over locals is not something that officials from a high civilization in Europe would have easily admitted in writing during the 19th century.
Fuchs is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2009   #51
davidbfpo
Council Member
 
davidbfpo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 11,095
Default Cultural empathy?

In the Afghan context I doubt that there was much cultural empathy between Imperial India - both civil and military - with the Afghans. Respect yes for their fighting skill and knowledge that they'd do unspeakable things to you. The stuff of legend.

The First Afghan War pre-dates the Indian Mutiny, when drammatic changes occurred in Imperial outlook and was only a few years after Imperial India came up to the north west border (not then so firmly established).

Later as North West Frontier fighting and managing was embedded deeper, almost the UK's only significant frontline military commitment, there was far greater culture awareness and maybe empathy along the border. Well illustated IMHO in 'The Frontier Scouts" by Charles Chevenix-Trench and John Master's writings: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Masters .

Anecdote today indicates that the Afghans continue to detest, if not worse, Punjabis more than other visitors.

davidbfpo
davidbfpo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-15-2009   #52
marct
Council Member
 
marct's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Posts: 3,682
Default Slightly off topic, but...

Quote:
RUNNING OUT OF TIME: ARGUMENTS FOR A NEW STRATEGY IN AFGHANISTAN

By GILLES DORRONSORO Professor of Political Science at the Institut d'ťtudes politiques in Rennes, France, and Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.

In this working paper, co-produced by CIPS and the Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Professor Dorronsoro argues that even with the addition of more US troops this year, there has been a startling lack of strategic innovation in the Afghanistan mission. There is very limited time to change the dynamics of the conflict. NATO should focus on redeploying its forces to the cities and to more stable areas of the country where it has a chance of making a difference, as a step towards eventual NATO withdrawal.

Full Text of this Working Paper
.............
__________________
Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
Senior Research Fellow,
The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
Carleton University
http://marctyrrell.com/
marct is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-16-2009   #53
davidbfpo
Council Member
 
davidbfpo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 11,095
Default A not embedded reporter reports

THis is a very odd story in The Scotsman: http://www.scotsman.com/latestnews/A...the.5464013.jp

Whatever the truth it is an illustration of how the locals may view our presence.

davidbfpo
davidbfpo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-16-2009   #54
William F. Owen
Council Member
 
William F. Owen's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: The State of Partachia, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean
Posts: 3,947
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post

Whatever the truth it is an illustration of how the locals may view our presence.
So much for information Ops. How do you compete with local legend, popular opinion and cultural myth?

As keep saying, most folks believe in flying saucers, despite the complete lack proper evidence.
__________________
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
William F. Owen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-16-2009   #55
marct
Council Member
 
marct's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Posts: 3,682
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
Whatever the truth it is an illustration of how the locals may view our presence.
Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
So much for information Ops. How do you compete with local legend, popular opinion and cultural myth?
I found this to be quite interesting:

Quote:
He had fond memories of Taleban rule. "The Taleban are the enemies of the international community, but they were good for the welfare of ordinary Afghans, for poor people like us," he said. "In Taleban times, there was punishment for criminals. They didn't mind executing people, or cutting off their hands, so from one lesson, a hundred others would learn."
It's a really good example of idealization, i.e. taking a past reality and remembering only the good parts about it that are applicable to current problems. To my mind, it indicates several things: a breakdown in the ability of tribes/clans to maintain justice, a belief that the Taleban will provide it, and a belief that the Afghan government is part of the criminal "factions" attacking the average person.
__________________
Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
Senior Research Fellow,
The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
Carleton University
http://marctyrrell.com/
marct is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-16-2009   #56
Ken White
Council Member
 
Ken White's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,060
Default But. But...

Quote:
Originally Posted by marct View Post
...a belief that the Afghan government is part of the criminal "factions" attacking the average person.
Is that not true of most of us?

I'll paraphrase Rodney Dangerfield; 'Take my Congress...'
Ken White is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-18-2009   #57
Kevin23
Council Member
 
Kevin23's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Washington DC
Posts: 216
Default Britain at home and the war in Afghanistan?

I was reading a weekly column on Foreign Policy Magazine in joint collaboration with Small Wars Journal. About the war in Afghanistan and it's effects on polls on the UK homefront and British politics. From it as I'm sure many of you have read is that discontent over how the British Government and it's handling of it's part of the conflict in Afghanistan is growing stronger then ever before as the article stated. As casualties mount I'm strongly curious as to if the British commitment in Afghanistan will remain open ended? Or will the government under the very unpopular Gordon Brown and Labour Party opt to establish a timeline for a withdrawal date like Canada has kind of done or other countries have actually done? This should be especially interesting given that Britain is going to be having Parliamentary elections next year and how all three major parties will approach this increasingly loud debate.

Any opinions?

For one I could see Labour try to attach a date some considerable time from now to wind down the British commitment in Afghanistan. I also find it hard to see how the Conservatives will deal with this issue.
Kevin23 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-18-2009   #58
davidbfpo
Council Member
 
davidbfpo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 11,095
Default Initial comments from the UK

Kevin23,

I posted some earlier comments on SWJ Blog:

The current public and political debate over the UK's role in Afghanistan reflects the longstanding opposition to the policy, not the soldiers. Yes, the losses have been the catalyst. So has the USMC operation just to the south of the UK campaigning - with apparently fewer casualties.

The UK role in Helmand has appalling explained by the government before now. What are we doing, is it worth it and what national interests are involved.

A few weeks ago the Whitehall-Westminster coalition were all gloomy about the potential impact on the cherished 'special relationship' and sometimes that is still mentioned in press articles. That is not the argument the public will accept now; for a variety of local reasons the 'relationship' is no longer highly regarded and is under strain.

Even this morning on BBC Radio 4 two politicians were asked why. One of them, Patrick Mercer, Tory ex-soldier, mentioned the importance of Pakistan to UK national security and the impact of a retreat from Helmand. Explaining the role of Pakistan in UK national security is not made loud enough here.

The press and politicians have focussed on the lack of helicopters, that is one of many equipment issues. Yes, it is a scandal that so few are in theatre for so many who need them.

davidbfpo
davidbfpo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-18-2009   #59
davidbfpo
Council Member
 
davidbfpo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 11,095
Default Kevin's questions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
(taken from) 1. As casualties mount I'm strongly curious as to if the British commitment in Afghanistan will remain open ended? 2. Or will the government under the very unpopular Gordon Brown and Labour Party opt to establish a timeline for a withdrawal date like Canada has kind of done or other countries have actually done? 3.This should be especially interesting given that Britain is going to be having Parliamentary elections next year and how all three major parties will approach this increasingly loud debate.
1. Currently the UK commitment is open ended, although not well explained or understood outside government. IMHO our commitment is not as strong as the USA, largely due to the public imagery of 9/11 and the quest to eliminate AQ as a threat (leaving aside many issues, like Saudi Arabia). I cannot see the UK being there in the long term, due to Afghan history (as I have posted on other threads before).

2. No, in my opinion this Labour government will not establish a timeline for withdrawal. The UK role in Iraq was far more unpopular at home, amongst the Labour Party and with Muslim voters in key marginal parliamentary seats. No timeline appeared, I think it would have been an astute domestic political move, but damaging to UK national interest - notably with the USA.

3. It is too early to see any impact on the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Note the UK media are in the annual "silly season" when stories get unusual attention when parliament goes on holiday (in fact on 21/7 for three months) and holidays for others. None of the main parties are against this overseas role, although the Lib-Dem leader has broken the collective vow of silence to challenge policy.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin23 View Post
Any opinions? For one I could see Labour try to attach a date some considerable time from now to wind down the British commitment in Afghanistan. I also find it hard to see how the Conservatives will deal with this issue.
A future date to exit sounds nice, but is unlikely for political and national interest reasons. There is such institutional loyalty to the 'special relationship' with the USA, reflected in many of the editorial or comment articles now and recently before the body count climbed - similar to "we must not disappoint our ally, so must stay firm". Try the RUSI website: http://www.rusi.org/ or any mainstream newspaper like the Daily Telegraph or The Times.

It is our shaky financial position that is far more likely to decide. Can any UK party cut welfare spending for example and transfer the funds to defence? There are cheaper options, but the Ministry of Defence appears to avoid those - view this for far more detail and comment: http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com/

I hope this helps.

davidbfpo

Last edited by davidbfpo; 07-18-2009 at 07:25 PM. Reason: Add links and get quotes in right boxes.
davidbfpo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-18-2009   #60
kingo1rtr
Council Member
 
kingo1rtr's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Salisbury, England
Posts: 21
Default A Brief Answer

At the strategic level the support is there and senior military figures have appeared to achieve a concensus amongst poilitical leaders (note - not necessarily their followers) that this may be a long campaign. I think Rory Stewart's view will gain traction.

Recent casualties are tragic and regrettable and cause the public, quite understandably, to doubt the need for our involvement. The public debate is very useful as it is forcing a discussion that will generate greater clarity on the narrative of why we are there and equally importantly, will underline the need for cross government departmental support.

The key outcome I suspect will be to set some context for the upcoming strategic defence review; by that I mean that the SDR will be forced to take account of the need for success on current operations (accepting now that the timeframe for involvement in Afghanistan is long enough to butt into the SDR timeline). That in turn should allow for a much more focussed debate in SDR on the things the Army feel it needs now and in the short term, putting pressure on things like carriers and joint strike fighters.

So in sum, definite disquiet amongst the public, but service chiefs giving clear signals on sustaining a campaign in Afghanistan. Clear evidence that lessons learned from some of the concerns over how we managed the perception of the UK drawdown in Iraq, within both public and political domains, here and in US, have been taken on board.
kingo1rtr is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Tags
afghanistan, ana, anp, british army, counter insurgency, counter-insurgency, counterinsurgency, drugs, education, experience, helmand, isaf, lessons learnt, musa qala, nato, pakistan, sfghanistan, strategy, taliban, training, united kingdom, usa, usmc

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 12:02 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.9. ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Registered Users are solely responsible for their messages.
Operated by, and site design © 2005-2009, Small Wars Foundation