There are signs that our military leaders have learned lessons from both our 7 years of operations in Afghanistan and our successes in Iraq. They have begun a major shift in strategy and tactics to reflect that. We have discussed some aspects of it here including the decision announced to limit bombing of residential dwellings even if we are receiving fire from them. While this decision may seem counter-intuitive at first. when examined in the framework of a larger shift toward safeguarding populations v. killing bad guys it becomes very understandable.
This same change in Iraq, to take territory and then stay there alongside the populace, was instrumental in shifting public opinion in Iraq. In conjunction with increased security from local forces it led to our ability to let the Iraqis take care of themselves. A similar strategy is now being employed in Afghanistan, but faces many more challenges. The Afghan security forces are near useless as currently constituted. Tribal issues make it almost impossible for any national forces to be used in an area where they are not native. Our training efforts have focused on attempting to put together Afghan police and military units but the problem is that other than perhaps Hamid Karzai there are no Afghans. There are a patchwork of tribes and villages and cliques that speak different languages, hold centuries long beefs and don't see themselves as part of this larger, artificial thing we call Afghanistan.
When the Anbar Awakening happened in response to al Qaeda brutality, local sheiks said "enough" to the outsiders who were wreaking so much havoc in their areas. They formed their own security forces to combat them and safeguard their people. US forces midwived these actions and supported the efforts of what became the "Sons of Iraq". local folks protecting their neighborhoods and villages. To do the same in Afghanistan is a much more challenging puzzle as the same model must be adapted and constructed dozens of times for different tribes and we must be willing to stay and share the danger as they stand up against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Instead of kicking on doors and confiscating weapons, we have to prepare to arm villagers and stand with them when the militants come to pressure them.Complicating things further is the sheer number of separate places we must do this in some of the most hellacious terrain on the planet.
Our ability to place troops on the ground and support them in the case of concerted attacks against them is limited. We must be very judicious in how we expand our footprint and attempt to deny the enemy the ability to mass forces to attack these new outposts. This will be slow and difficult and requires a long war mentality. Alliances with tribal leaders must be formed and fostered, and then we must empower them to secure their own people. We must help them increase quality of life, hovel by hovel. They must begin to see that working with us causes less killing and strife and then they can be expected to work with us.
Call it oil spots or whatever you want, but we have to strategically spread security and prosperity out in a de-centralized fashion. The national government and security forces have almost zero credibility and it will take much greater efforts to change that. Commanders at the local level have the ability and expertise now to build personal relationships and to show concrete results. They are the building blocks for this strategy, they and the strategic corporals can show both physical, moral and ethical courage that can win the tribal leaders over. We don't want them on our side as much as we need to convince them we are on their side. This will take concepts like returning the same units to the same locations in rotation, leaving cadres of officers and NCOs in the same AOs for extended periods to build a continuity that lasts beyond one unit's deployment. And most of all it takes a commitment from our government to support these efforts over a time fram longer than the next election cycle. That is one of the biggest dangers to this new strategy.
Former Paratrooper and Army Officer, "Blackfive" started this blog upon learning of the valorous sacrifice of a friend that was not reported by the journalist whose life he saved. Email: blackfive AT gmail DOT com
Retired Special Operations Master Sergeant, Jim Hanson ("Uncle Jimbo") is now focused on writing about the military, politics, intelligence operations and foreign policy. Email: jimbo AT unclejimbo DOT com
Writer, photographer, and raconteur C. Blake Powers is the Laughing Wolf. He is independent in politics and covers topics including journalism, military, weapons, preparedness, space, science, cooking, food and wine, product and book reviews, and even spirituality. Email: wolf1 AT laughingwolf DOT net Laughing Wolf's Amazon Wish List
Bill Paisley, otherwise known as Pinch, is a 22 year (ongoing) active and
reserve naval aviator. He blogs over at www.instapinch.com on a veritable
cornucopia of various and sundry items and will bring a tactical naval
aviator's perspective to Blackfive. Readers be warned: any comments of or
about the F-14 Tomcat will be reverential and spoken in low, hushed tones.
Email: wpaisley AT comcast DOT net
Mr. Wolf has over 26 years in the Army, Army NG, and USAR. He’s Airborne with 5 years as an NCO, before becoming an officer. Mr. Wolf has had 4 company commands. Signal Corp is his basic branch, and Public Affairs is his functional area. He recently served 22 straight months in Kuwait and Iraq, in Intel, PA, and senior staff of MNF-I. Mr. Wolf is now an IT executive. He is currently working on a book on media and the Iraq war. Functional gearhead.
In Iraq, he received the moniker of Mr. Wolf after the Harvey Kietel character in Pulp Fiction, when "challenges" arose, they called on Mr. Wolf...
Email: TheDOTMrDOTWolfAT gmail DOT com
Deebow is a Staff Sergeant and a Military Police Squad Leader in the Army National Guard. In a previous life, he served in the US Navy. He has over 19 years of experience in both the Maritime and Land Warfare; including deployments to Southwest Asia, Thailand, the South Pacific, South America and Egypt. He has served as a Military Police Team Leader and Protective Services Team Leader and he has served on assignments with the US State Department, US Air Force Security Police, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Administration. He recently spent time in Afghanistan working with, training and fighting alongside Afghan Soldiers and is now focused on putting his 4 year Political Science degree to work by writing about foreign policy, military security policy and politics.
McQ has 28 years active and reserve service. Retired. Infantry officer. Airborne and Ranger. Consider my 3 years with the 82nd as the most fun I ever had with my clothes on. Interests include military issues and policy and veteran's affairs.
Email: mcq51 -at - bellsouth -dot- net
Tantor is a former USAF navigator/weapon system officer (WSO) in F-4E Phantoms who served in the US, Asia, and Europe. He is now a curmudgeonly computer geek in Washington, DC, picking the taxpayers pocket. His avocations are current events, aviation, history, and conservative politics.
Twenty-three years of Active and Reserve service in the US Army in SF (18B), Infantry and SOF Signal jobs with operational deployments to Bosnia and Africa. Since retiring he's worked as Senior Defense Analyst on SOF and Irregular Warfare projects and currently ensconced in the emerging world of Cyberspace.
Major Pain --
A Marine who began his blog in Iraq and reflects back on what he learned there and in Afghanistan. To the point opinions, ideas and thoughts on military, political and the media from One Marine’s View. Email: onemarinesview AT yahoo DOT com
Uber Pig was an Infantryman from late 1991 until early 1996, serving with Second Ranger Battalion, I Corps, and then 25th Infantry Division. At the time, the Army discriminated against enlisted soldiers who wanted use the "Green to Gold" program to become officers, so he left to attend Stanford University. There, he became expert in detecting, avoiding, and surviving L-shaped ambushes, before dropping out to be as entrepreneurial as he could be. He is now the founder of a software startup serving the insurance and construction industries, and splits time between Lake Tahoe, Boonville, and San Francisco, CA.
Uber Pig writes for Blackfive a) because he's the proud brother of an enlisted Civil Affairs Reservist who currently serves in Iraq, b) because he looks unkindly on people who make it harder for the military in general, and for his brother in particular, to succeed at their missions and come home in victory, and c) because the Blackfive readers and commenters help keep him sane.
COB6 spent 24 years in the active duty Army that included 5 combat tours with service in the 1st Ranger Battalion and 1st Special Forces Group . COB6 was enlisted (E-7) and took the OCS route to a commission. COB6 retired a few years back as a field grade Infantry officer.
Currently COB6 has a son in the 82nd Airborne that just returned from his third tour and has a newly commissioned daughter in the 4th Infantry Division.