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Trigger Puller Boots on the ground, steel on target -- the pointy end of the spear.

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Old 10-06-2009   #41
Schmedlap
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As far as resourcing goes, I'm sure we could muster 500 soldiers from the Green Beans, internet cafes, and gyms of the Big FOBs.
Not gonna happen. I made that very same appeal, in person, to my battalion and brigade commanders as we were preparing to provide security for the referendum vote on the IZ constitution. I even recommended the specific FOBs and proposed a much lower number of bodies needed. That vote was regarded as having strategic significance and the answer was not just "no" - not even "hell no" - but just a blank look that said, "are you that naive?" Nuristan is operational-level economy-of-force in a country where the FOBs are less plentiful and there are probably only 29 flavors of Baskin Robbins. Don't expect anyone to cut back on the non-essentials in order to plus up the essentials. What do you think this is, a war? We've got people getting skinny and you want to take away their fat pills.
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Old 10-06-2009   #42
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Not gonna happen. I made that very same appeal, in person, to my battalion and brigade commanders as we were preparing to provide security for the referendum vote on the IZ constitution. I even recommended the specific FOBs and proposed a much lower number of bodies needed. That vote was regarded as having strategic significance and the answer was not just "no" - not even "hell no" - but just a blank look that said, "are you that naive?" Nuristan is operational-level economy-of-force in a country where the FOBs are less plentiful and there are probably only 29 flavors of Baskin Robbins. Don't expect anyone to cut back on the non-essentials in order to plus up the essentials. What do you think this is, a war? We've got people getting skinny and you want to take away their fat pills.
Sad but true.

Along with Ken's comments on the bureacracy and institution. Take a look at the 15,000 soldiers on LSAA- pimping out their shiny new HMMWVS and MRAPs. An hour or two from the fight, dwelling on college courses, the olympic sized swimming pool, open mike night, and the suf and turf night, we could have them reinforcing Nuristan in the larger fight.

Just my two cents for what it's worth.

Maybe I'm that naive...and, I haven't even seen Kabul or Khandarhar.

v/r

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Old 10-06-2009   #43
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Default Sadness of casualities

When I read about the casualities, I was very sad. I saw an article in the L.A. Times about how Gen. McChrystal's strategy was meant to avoid casualities like that. I also saw on the cover of Time magazine, newest October issue at my work today, a picture of a wounded US soldier on a stretcher. Then there was a series of pictures showing the lives of US troops in Afghanistan. You folks in the military are very brave to go through such grueling living situations like having a lack of water, etc...
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Old 10-06-2009   #44
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The current situation is about 50 soldiers in a patrol base in gateway for AQ from Pakistan. Is that all the soldiers we can muster of an Army of 1.5 million and a population of 350 million?

50 men to bridge the gap?

I think not.

Still, I'd rather be with those 50 men than in LSAA, Monterey, or DC.

v/r

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Old 10-06-2009   #45
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...pimping out their shiny new HMMWVS and MRAPs. An hour or two from the fight, dwelling on college courses, the olympic sized swimming pool, open mike night, and the suf and turf night, we could have them reinforcing Nuristan in the larger fight.
I just heard second hand a recent pre-command course addressed by a very senior NCO was informed that if the prospective Commanders went on a FOB and the troops were wearing their pouches and gear in other than a uniform fashion, that unit was not disciplined.

Silly me, outside of a tourniquet and battle dressings so everyone knew where to find those, I'd have told people to put stuff where it worked best for them. Want to keep your mags in an old Canteen pouch? Go for it...

We've been in a war for nine years and people in high places are saying things that stupid? I said earlier we've forgotten how to fight on foot. Maybe we've forgotten how to fight altogether...

Sad. Scary.
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Old 10-06-2009   #46
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Default Fighter Camps

It's been a while since my last post but, I recently returned from AF. We sent elements in and around the mountianous regions on the AF/PAK border to target fighter camps. It is very unforgiving terrian and even with resources was a challanging enviroment to fight in, however we did have some good effects from going in and clearing out targeted areas where we were.

I don't belive that the COPS in this area where or will produce the desired effect they were put in place for. DA agianst fighter camps and targeted strikes would produce greater effects. If I am catching the wind right closing these isolated outpost down and pushing those forces to more populated areas to conduct a COIN mission will pay greater dividens in the long run.

Along the mountianous regoins near the AF/PAK border we will not when hearts or minds, but we may with the greater application of force be able to cut some of the supply lines and flow of FF and destroy key training nodes in the region and provide some breathing room for forces on the ground.
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Old 10-06-2009   #47
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I just heard second hand a recent pre-command course addressed by a very senior NCO was informed that if the prospective Commanders went on a FOB and the troops were wearing their pouches and gear in other than a uniform fashion, that unit was not disciplined.

Silly me, outside of a tourniquet and battle dressings so everyone knew where to find those, I'd have told people to put stuff where it worked best for them. Want to keep your mags in an old Canteen pouch? Go for it...

We've been in a war for nine years and people in high places are saying things that stupid? I said earlier we've forgotten how to fight on foot. Maybe we've forgotten how to fight altogether...

Sad. Scary.
15,000 soldiers at LSAA in 2005. Who knows what it is now?

And I didn't even start with the contractors...

50 men at that patrol base.

I don't see any even coming close to right.

Last edited by MikeF; 10-06-2009 at 04:13 AM.
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Old 10-06-2009   #48
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Default Telling

From an article dated Sept 22: (emphasis mine)

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At Combat Outpost Lowell, about 110 U.S. and Afghan troops regularly visit the village of Kamu, which is right outside the base and has approximately 70 men. But the troops aren't able to patrol any of the other villages in the area, some of which are less than two miles away, because the security in the area is too precarious and the terrain surrounding their base is too rugged.

U.S. and Afghan forces at Combat Outpost Keating, also in Nurestan, are even more constrained. The base is about one mile from the Taliban-controlled village of Kamdesh, but more than 100 U.S. and Afghan troops there haven't set foot in the village in more than three months. On rare occasions, the elders from the local shura, or council, will come and discuss reconstruction projects with troops at the outpost.

The troops there could be put to far better use in other regions, said George, who first developed plans to shut down the two outposts in December. "They are protecting themselves in those areas, and the bottom line is that is not enough," he said. "They don't get off the base enough because of what it takes to defend those places and the security situation up there."
And this:

It seems this is COP Keating, occupied by 3-61 Cavalry, part of TF Mountain Warrior. From surveying all the open sources, it seems the COP outside the village was overrun and set on fire prior to being re-taken, and is now mostly burnt to the ground. The overall fight lasted approx 18h. Close air support was liberally used to support the troops. I recommend ABC's website because they have a reporter in the AO and also some information I couldn't find elsewhere. Heartening story below:

http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=8754347
Quote:
Exclusive: Wounded U.S. Soldiers Refused to Leave Taliban Fight
Afghan Attacks: Darkness, Smoke Forced Medevac Doctors to Work by Touch
By KAREN RUSSO

KAMDESH, Afghanistan Oct. 5, 2009—

ABC News' Karen Russo was the only reporter to get to the scene of this weekend's bloody firefight between U.S. troops and hundreds of Taliban insurgents when she went in on a MEDEVAC helicopter. Here is her report:

Flying into the besieged Afghan base

during a nighttime firefight this weekend was a harrowing mix of overwhelming noise, stomach dropping maneuvers and shadows hurrying through the gloom.

When the chopper lifted off moments later with three wounded soldiers, it left behind others who were wounded but refused to be MEDEVACED out of the combat zone so they could return to fight with their buddies.

Fighting raged at two remote U.S. outposts near the Pakistan border this weekend, that left eight U.S. soldiers dead and 24 wounded. The battle was fought from Friday night through Sunday as hundreds of Taliban insurgents and their allies tried to overrun the Americans.

During the fighting, the insurgents succeeded in breaching the outer defense of the base at times before being repelled with the help of attack helicopters, fighter jets and drones. It was the bloodiest battle in a year for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

During the fight, the MEDEVAC team at a nearby base waited - with both patience and frustration. MEDEVAC teams are known for flying into some of the most deadly areas in the world
to rescue injured soldiers. MEDEVAC helicopters are unarmed so they often need supporting aircraft to protect them, and sometimes the cover of darkness is their only defense.

On Saturday night, the team finally received the go-ahead as the sun set. Within moments of receiving the call, we rushed to the helicopter and quickly sped to the outposts.

As we were flying into the attack space, the MEDEVAC team with one medic and a doctor were preparing for the oncoming patients, setting up IV's, pulling out medical equipment and making other last minute preparations.

Apache helicopter gunships escorted us as we neared the combat zone to ensure our safety as we hovered at 10,000 feet awaiting word to descend. When word came, we plummeted in a corkscrew manner, making the descent in a matter of seconds, landing in a valley at the bottom of steep mountains. It felt very vulnerable to attack.

One of the pilots said that even though he had night vision goggles and ordinarily he can see in that sort of situation, because the fighting was intense there was so much smoke it was actually fogged over and it was difficult for him to see. Fortunately he could make out the landing zone, but it was touch and go.

Doctors in MEDEVAC Chopper Work By Touch.

Once on the ground, I hopped out of the chopper, but could see little other than smoke wafting through the moonlight, likely from a fire that was burning much of the base. Then I could make out the shadows of soldiers as they carried the wounded towards the helicopter.

Any noise of the conflict was drowned out by the propellers of the helicopter. The area smelled of burned out pine trees something one solider described as "death and hell."

Three wounded soldiers, one U.S. and two Afghan, were carried down the steep incline and quickly placed on the helicopter.

Some of the injured refused to be MEDEVACED out of the combat zone and continued to fight despite their wounds, according to soldiers at the base. Soldiers told the MEDEVAC crew that troops were donating blood during the battle, so it could be transfused into wounded comrades.

Between the gloom of night and the smoke, it was too dark to see much and the roar of the chopper made it almost impossible to hear commands.

I was quickly sort of touched by a crew member to get on the flight. I hopped on and even before I was on, the medical team was already working on the wounded.

Doctors wore night vision goggles, but still found it difficult to see. One doctor said it was like working by touch.

We were on the ground for a little more than five minutes, but in the chaos of noise and darkness, it felt like it could have been anything from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.

Moments later, the chopper lifted into the air and flew to the nearest medical facility. Despite the heroism of the crew, one of the soldiers died after reaching the facility. It wasn't immediately announced whether the soldier who died was American or Afghan.

Copyright 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures
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Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-06-2009 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 10-06-2009   #49
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I just heard second hand a recent pre-command course addressed by a very senior NCO was informed that if the prospective Commanders went on a FOB and the troops were wearing their pouches and gear in other than a uniform fashion, that unit was not disciplined.
This type of stupidity is "still" much too common within our senior NCO and Officer ranks. While we have all types, I admire the senior NCOs who enforce standards that matter such as maintaining physical fitness, combat skills, and taking care of Soldiers (pay, mail, discipline [not moronic uniform regulations], advising the commander on the men's readiness/morale, etc.). There are plenty of good ones out there, don't let this idiot taint your impression of the NCO Corps. Although I agree, after 8 plus years in combat, you would have thought we would have purged these weaker links.

Quote:
The troops there could be put to far better use in other regions, said George, who first developed plans to shut down the two outposts in December. "They are protecting themselves in those areas, and the bottom line is that is not enough," he said. "They don't get off the base enough because of what it takes to defend those places and the security situation up there."
Well said. I'm sure the critics will keep jumping out of the wood work over this fire fight, but it appears to me the leadership identified the problem and were in the process of fixing it. Unfortunately, it takes time to plan the logistics and the IO message to support closing the COP. While news articles can be misleading, it appears that the troops handled themselves well, and based on the amount of fire support that "apparently" was available, it doesn't sound like the rules of engagement argument has any legs (as though it ever did). It's combat and ugly stuff happens. If we repeat the same mistakes, then voice your discontent. Losing any Soldier is tragic, losing eight Soldiers in one fire fight is esceptionally painful, but we didn't lose the battle nor the war. Our men held the line, give them the credit they're due.
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Old 10-06-2009   #50
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I've been meaning to write a post about it, but one of the major differences between Iraq and Afghanistan is population diffusion. In general, the number of counterinsurgents needed increases the more diffuse a population is.
And terrain. And no history of effective central government. And a history of successfulyl resisting COIN efforts. And sanctuary in Pakistan.
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Old 10-06-2009   #51
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I just heard second hand a recent pre-command course addressed by a very senior NCO was ....
Sad. Scary.
The problem is that these very senior NCOs exist outside of where they are needed. CSMs can do a lot of good at the BN level. Above that, they probably don't need to exist. If a COL hasn't figured out leadership issues by the time he is selected for BDE command, having someone to whisper in his ear isn't going to help.
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Old 10-06-2009   #52
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Default Ab so lutely. IF the current personnel and rank system remains in place.

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The problem is that these very senior NCOs exist outside of where they are needed. CSMs can do a lot of good at the BN level. Above that, they probably don't need to exist. If a COL hasn't figured out leadership issues by the time he is selected for BDE command, having someone to whisper in his ear isn't going to help.
I totally agree. I've been both a Bn and a Bde CSM in peacetime in and in combat; three Bns, two Bdes. The Bde CSM is a totally wasted slot. A Bde CSM has a lot of negative influence but very little positive capability unless many factors hit just right. I had more positive influence as a Bde Ops SGM --also both in peacetime and in combat -- than I did as a Bde CSM -- and in both Bdes I was fortunate in being able to work for very fine Colonels and in both I was the Ops guy who became the CSM (that worked often for many people until the number of CSMs grew to its current proportions. I'm old... ).

A Bn Ops Sgt (I also disagree with making them SGMs) is too busy so at Bn the CSM makes sense. At Bde, with the larger (too large?) staff, the Ops SGM has adequate time to counsel COLs who are about to step on something and they can also arrange troop help stuff better than can their counterparts at Bn.

The CSMs are generally a waste at Bde; above Bde they literally have no function and some have a terrible propensity to concentrate on eyewash and little else -- except their next job...

I'll caveat all that by saying that a portion of that relative lack of merit is in many senses a function of how the guy is employed; the Army has not directed adequate responsibilities to and for the job, so in most cases, the guy or gal writes his or her own job description. Some do that better than others. Some Commanders give them far more to do and place far more trust in them than others. I have literally been directed to take command of a Company in a fire fight and OTOH, been barely listened to (in peacetime by a fair LTC who was an Aviator on a ground tour and who almost certainly had a really poor Platoon sergeant when he was a 2LT...).

It can be fixed and improved significantly. First and easiest by making those guys (and 1SGs) the unit trainers. Not responsible for training, that's the Cdr -- but trainers; doers and subordinate directors. That's still a band-aid. The entire personnel system still reflects 17th century practice and WW I methodologies. It and the pay system are in need of major overhaul. We need to be able to reward or pay people more without applying the Peter Principle and promoting them past their optimum level. That and moving them too often contribute to a lack of trust up and down the chain...
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Old 10-07-2009   #53
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100 instead of 50 men in that base wouldn't have changed much.

The enemy would have massed against another base instead.

Double outpost strength everywhere won't cut it either - still not enough outposts.

Many more outposts at double ordinary strength won't do much either (except risking to alienate more indigenous folks) - the enemy could mass against a convoy instead.

More powerful convoys don't help much because convoys are stretched by definition and always have weak spots. All those troops in-country need also more supply than today, so more convoys - or longer ones.


And even if you somehow managed to deter each and every attack by strength (or turn it into a hopeless action), you would still not come much closer to mission accomplishment.
The enemy could turn his attention on the ANA.

Better ANA ... attack on ANP ... better ANP ... larger concentration ... larger ANP ... attacks on civilian authorities ....


That's why there's so much written about initiative in all those old-fashioned field manuals.
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Old 10-07-2009   #54
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That's why there's so much written about initiative in all those old-fashioned field manuals.
Hmmmm, good post. And on the money me thinks.
It does appear that the unintended consequences of NATO strategy create an environment that provides the enemy with ample opportunity for initiative, while we keep struggling to figure out why we keep missing it.
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Old 10-07-2009   #55
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Default Yes. Even better -- don't do fixed bases in bad places...

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100 instead of 50 men in that base wouldn't have changed much. The enemy would have massed against another base instead.
Double outpost strength everywhere won't cut it either - still not enough outposts...
All true.
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Better ANA ... attack on ANP ... better ANP ... larger concentration ... larger ANP ... attacks on civilian authorities ....

That's why there's so much written about initiative in all those old-fashioned field manuals.
Yes...
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Old 10-07-2009   #56
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Hmmmm, good post. And on the money me thinks.
It does appear that the unintended consequences of NATO strategy create an environment that provides the enemy with ample opportunity for initiative, while we keep struggling to figure out why we keep missing it.
I don't think it's strategy so much as terrain. There's a reason all the other counter insurgents failed too. Np one can cover all the terrain.

But it's starting to look like this attack is pure Sun Tzu. They knew exactly what was happening inisde the wire. We had no idea what was happening outside it.


From CNN:

The United States now believes that about 200 insurgents -- mostly local fighters, with some Taliban organizers and leaders -- had been planning the attack for days, hiding mortars, rockets and heavy machine guns in the mountains. Sources said the Taliban may have been watching the troops make preparations to depart and launched their attack at a time of vulnerability.




Forward Operating Base Keating, seen in 2007, is surrounded by tall ridge lines.
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Old 10-07-2009   #57
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But it's starting to look like this attack is pure Sun Tzu. They knew exactly what was happening inisde the wire. We had no idea what was happening outside it.
True. That's what happens when you don't conduct patrols. Not that the US Army hasn't learned that lesson literally thousands of times before...
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Old 10-08-2009   #58
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And even if you somehow managed to deter each and every attack by strength (or turn it into a hopeless action), you would still not come much closer to mission accomplishment.
The enemy could turn his attention on the ANA.

Better ANA ... attack on ANP ... better ANP ... larger concentration ... larger ANP ... attacks on civilian authorities ....
Fuchs, I love the idea but you didn't take it far enough. Attacks on civilian authorities...leads to alienation of the local population...alienation leads to spontaneous uprising called Sunni Awakening...Awakening leads to better intelligence...better intelligence leads to much more effective search and destroy missions...government establishes a strong foothold.

Now in Afghanistan, it obviously wouldn't be a Sunni Awakening, it would be something else. But right now, the Taliban and their ilk don't have to threaten the local populations to live off of them. They get to do so willingly. Now, if they had to attack local populations with force to survive, the population would be driven into our hands.


As to the attack at FOB Keating compared to the luxury life at BAF. Don't just look at the numbers, look at the amount of ordinance dropped. Something like 1 percent of all ordinance expended in Afghanistan occurs around BAF. Basically, when historians write the history about failure in Afghanistan it will be a history of greed, gluttony and sloth by upper leadership (division level and up).
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Old 10-08-2009   #59
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Fuchs, I love the idea but you didn't take it far enough. Attacks on civilian authorities...leads to alienation of the local population...alienation leads to spontaneous uprising called Sunni Awakening...Awakening leads to better intelligence...better intelligence leads to much more effective search and destroy missions...government establishes a strong foothold.
It doesn't alienate the population much if you kill a super-corrupt police chief (who had been assigned to his post from far away) by blowing up his house with him and his family.
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Old 10-09-2009   #60
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Looks like the base was abandoned:

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KABUL (AP) - U.S. forces have withdrawn from an isolated base in eastern Afghanistan that insurgents attacked last week in one of the deadliest battles of the war for U.S. troops, the NATO-led coalition said Friday.

The pullout from the Kamdesh outpost near the Pakistani border is likely to embolden insurgent fighters in the region. The Taliban swiftly claimed "victory" for forcing the coalition to leave and said they had raised their flag above the town.

The withdrawal, however, had been planned well before the Oct. 3 battle and is part of a wider strategy outlined by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has said for months he plans to shut down such isolated strongholds to focus on more heavily populated areas in an effort to protect civilians.
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