This is for real

HMS Victory in paper

This is for real – details on PM here

…but are these guys?

There have been a growing number of reports from Afghanistan that senior ISAF commanders are losing in their desperation to win the information war with the Taliban on collateral damage. Two of the latest ‘initiatives’ include the creation of a medal awarded for not using lethal force during war and ordering soldiers to conduct patrols without a round chambered in their weapons. It seems clear that the ‘commanders’ fail to grasp that the role of the military in this environment is the application of force in support of national objectives – everything is subordinate to this role, unique to the military amongst other instruments of national power.  If the situation in Afghanistan is now so benign that soldiers no longer need to keep their weapons in an ‘action’ state, then we should be seeing an immediate transition from a military campaign to a civil campaign.

Of course, the fact that applying restraint in the use of lethal force in Afghanistan implies that there is still a significant threat against which lethal force might be used; and both ‘initiatives’ are is stark contrast to the indifference to collateral damage inherent in current cross-border UAV strikes into Pakistan. Possibly the further you are, and can keep the media, from collateral damage, the more palatable it is.

The Rules of War provide for the right of every soldier to use force in their own defence should they believe this to be warranted. Both of these ‘initiatives’ seek to undermine this right. Training provides both the means of applying that force and the means to determine a proportionate level of response. This training builds upon the organisational ethos and values developed throughout an individuals career. Maybe, in seeking to win what appears more and more tobe an unwinnable war, ISAF commanders are leading their own ethos and values be eroded in placing their soldiers at risk in favour of a population that doesn’t appear to be particularly supportive of either ISAF or the Karzai government.

One of the reports quotes one source linking this to the rules of engagement that contributed to the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Lebanon: this line is interesting…”…do not chamber a round unless told to do so by a commissioned officer unless you must act in immediate self-defense where deadly force is authorized…” …and we all saw how well that turned out…There’s never an officer around when you need one which is why most credible armies rely on the training and experience of their NON-Commissioned Officers to apply their judgement to any particular tactical situation. There must be a balance between experience and qualification which is a point that Dusty discusses in Security NZ this week.

On reconstruction

I see a recent note in the Marine Corps Gazette (real land forces have professional journals) that “…officials told lawmakers in Washington Thursday the reconstruction of Afghanistan is poised to become the largest overseas rebuilding operation in U.S. history…” Is there any point in rebuilding anything that is unlikely to last beyond that last helicopter lifting off the Embassy roof…? Who really gains from this rebuilding operation, the people of Afghanistan – or the corporate parasites clambering over them in search of profit before President Obama turns off the tap…?

Incidentally, I’m not sure that rebuilding Afghanistan will be a larger operation that the rebuilding of Germany and Japan and the Marshall Plan post-WW2…possibly only in terms of modern dollar levels…?

On networking…”

Michael Yon has been reporting from Bangkok and offering a distinct contrast to the pro-Red Shirt line taken by most of the mainstream media. One thing I have noticed is that large number of Thai people commenting on his Facebook page posts. Even accepting that Thailand is far more connected than Afghanistan, it is interesting to compare this with the number of Afghans commenting on his page which appears to be minimal at best. The  Sicuro Group report from 19 May states that there are 3.8 million Afghans subscribed to Roshan, the largest telecommunications operator in Afghanistan. You’d really think that if any of those 3.8 million people cared, they might offer up some comments; that they don’t might be an indicator to the true level of support for ISAF and the fantasy of a central government led by Karzai or anyone else.

2 thoughts on “This is for real

  1. I don’t know about the round chambered issue but there was a brief discussion about the ‘courageous restraint’ medal at the COIN conference and it’s wasn’t as reported in your links. I’ve got my take on it over at my place.

    Those paper models are gorgeous. I can’t even imagine the level of patience, concentration and focus you have to have to build those. I can barely get a paper airplane made.


    • Cheers, Dean…have replied over at your place…just CnP here for the record…Simon

      I’d say that your example does indicate that the ‘COIN’ message is getting down to the lowest levels. If anything, it is having trouble penetrating a few skulls far higher up the food chain.

      We do already, and have done for decades, recognise non-kinetic achievements above and beyond the call of normal duty up to and including the level of the VC and MOH. That there is even discussion of need for a specific award for restraint is indicative of a perception that there is a need for such incentives; that such incentives will mean diddly-squat to soldiers at the sharp end; and that training and ethical development for the COE is not adequate.

      I must admit that I was a bit lazy in linking my sources this morning but there had been discussion of both the restraint medal and an ‘unloaded weapon’ policy around the time of the opening of the Marjah offensive – I suppose we can’t be offensive anymore so that should more correctly be the Marjah nicety – but I also discounted them at the time as a bit of a joke…but if you start to hear the same joke again and again…

      One rather narrow perception of COIN (based largely on myths of the Commonwealth campaigns in Malaya and Kenya) focus solely on the people. In reality the people who count the most in the ‘COIN’ environment are the people at home, whose waning support is more critical to maintaining the Afghan Campaign that those of the mythical ‘people’ of Afghanistan – which is comprised of ‘peoples’ aka tribes.

      As I said this morning, the role of the military is the application of force, in the case of the Afghan Campaign, to develop a secure environment for reconstruction efforts to bolster a government that will collapse as soon as the last ISAF aircraft goes wheels up. This breaches another more important fundamental of COIN, two of them in fact. The first is the need for realistic (realpolitik) and practical campaign objectives e.g. destroy AQ training camps and cadres and discourage their return. The second is the you can’t set a timetable for COIN i.e. no statements like ‘withdrawal by mid-2011′.

      If anything, it is starting to sound like FM 3-24 and JP 3024 have been put on the back burner in favour of the Canadian equivalent which favours minimal use of force (force is just a tool) and the application/infliction of domestic values and mores on the host nation people (and we wonder why they kick back!)…


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