Monday, August 31, 2009

Two Old Farts Sound Off on Afghanistan

Pardon the rude intro, but since I fall into the same demographics as the two gentlemen I am referring too, I feel compelled to take that liberty.

Last week Small Wars Journal linked this next article and a report by Karl Saileu, a 64 year old member of the Army's Human Terrain project in Afghanistan. Reading that someone a bit older than I, was out there serving his country alongside men young enough to be his grandsons gave me a shot of pride, that an OG can still contribute to protecting the country. As I began to read the story I realized he also has come up with some sound ideas that offer a new tactical and strategic direction to our current approach of walking and driving about, waiting to get picked off, much like the British Army did as they were picked off by our own Minutemen during the Revolutionary War. Then to make matters worse, after being hit, our forces end up channeling the worst of Vietnam by blasting the enemy from above, an creating a whole new generation of haters.

The article begins:

The deployment of U.S. soldiers to Maywand was an experiment. So, too, was the Human Terrain project and the road map to progress envisioned by the bespectacled social scientist joining the patrol that day. The war had not gone well. This was not a time for old approaches but for bold new ones that might seem crazy or that just might work.

Karl Slaikeu had asked for this assignment. A 64-year-old psychologist and conflict-resolution specialist from Texas, Karl had been nursing an idea that he thought could change the course of the war. He was looking for a village that, with concerted attention, could be turned into a model of development and security. Pir Zadeh, where the patrol was bound, was a place where locals had formed a neighborhood watch and where the village elder seemed to like Americans.

........What if soldiers provided real, dependable security to even one Afghan village? If the village were actually safe, development and jobs could follow.

In counterinsurgency circles, this is called the "oil spot" strategy. The term was coined by the French soldier and administrator Louis Hubert Lyautey, who was sent to colonial Morocco and Indochina in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In Hanoi, he watched as soldiers set up a network of military posts to protect villagers and keep out insurgents, and armed locals to defend themselves. With "pacification a great band of civilization advances like a spot of oil," Lyautey wrote.

In the months before Karl's deployment, his enthusiasm for this approach had grown so noticeable that Banger and others had taken to calling him Oil Spot Spock. Karl envisioned soldiers securing a single village or area -- the first spot of oil -- and using its success to spread safety and development drop by drop. Areas outside the chosen villages would be treated as battle zones, where soldiers would know unequivocally that they were at war. If the conflict were divided into hot and cool zones, Karl thought, soldiers could focus their humanitarian aid and development efforts in friendly areas and fight in unfriendly ones. They might have a better chance of avoiding an explosion such as the one in the bazaar.
Read more:
Rough Terrain - Vanessa M. Gezari, Washington Post.

To take Karl's idea to heart, one must stop and read his "Oil Spot Plus" strategy for securing the country one spreading oil spot at a time. One of his suggestions hearkens back to Vietnam and the search and destroy missions, but with a twist.

De-emphasize CF patrols outside the new oil spot villages, thereby denying the enemy IED/suicide bomber opportunities;

Replace these patrols with search and destroy missions to take the fight to the Taliban.Stop playing to Taliban strengths that are now aimed at our weakness (vulnerability of patrols on roads). Turn the tables on the Taliban by launching attacks from our own secure FOBs, at times and places of our choosing. These missions will aim to keep the enemy in a perpetual state of imbalance and continued deterioration of fighting capability.

That twist is in line with some of the tactics employed by the late, Col David Hackworth, USA, who coined the phrase “out gee-ing the G” in the book, The Vietnam Primer, and later when he wrote of putting those tactics to use in, Steel My Soldiers' Hearts: The Hopeless to Hardcore Transformation of the U.S. Army, 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry, Vietnam .

I recommend reading Karl's concept in full to see if it passes the makes sense test:
Winning the War in Afghanistan (Full PDF Article)

Now as I said when I titled this piece that it was about two old farts sounding off on Afghanistan. I was referring a report that conservative commentator George Will 68, was going to call for the withdrawal of all Coalition Forces from Afghanistan in his column tomorrow. If this report is true it demonstrates that he has truly slipped into the negative category of an old fart sounding off on a subject that he sees from the clouded pinnacles of the elite media crags he shares with other pundits who have sounded off without ever setting a foot on the terra firma of Afghanistan.

As Reported in POLITICO:

George F. Will, the elite conservative commentator, will call in his next column for U.S. ground troops to leave Afghanistan, according to publishing sources. “[F]orces should be substantially reduced to serve a comprehensively revised policy: America should do only what can be done from offshore, using intelligence, drones, cruise missiles, airstrikes and small, potent special forces units, concentrating on the porous 1,500-mile border with Pakistan, a nation that actually matters,” Will writes in the column, scheduled for publication later this week.

Read more:

Now I like George Will, but on this subject I think he should stick to baseball. Lets face it, pontificating on Afghanistan is like trying to write about baseball without ever going to the ballpark and watching the game.

True to the above report. George Will consuls that the United States should follow an "off-shore" strategy of drones, aerial surveillance and attack, with special force insertions when needed. Taking this recommendation to the max, why not just nuke the whole country, instead of turning the whole country into a human petri dish where we watch from above and kill off any human bacteria that threatens to spread from it's borders. Afghanistan is a bitch for sure, but to consign the whole country to being collateral damage is hubris beyond reason. Our options are few, but as a nation who has reaped the riches of the planet for over a half century, we can stand to try a little harder to hold the course.

For more: Is the War in Afghanistan Worth Fighting? by SWJ Editors

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Nice post, Tom.