Let Me Add My Two Cents To The "McChrystal To Resign" Chorus

I Know What Gen. McChrystal is Trying To Say....

I know that some in the blogosphere don’t really understand what General McChrystal was saying when he was speaking about the development of our “Fortress” mentality in our prosecution of the war (oops, “contingency operation”).

And it was something that I was asking for (along with many others) all along…

McChrystal is equally critical of the command he has led since June 15. The key weakness of ISAF, he says, is that it is not aggressively defending the Afghan population. "Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us -- physically and psychologically -- from the people we seek to protect. . . . The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves."

I understand exactly where he is coming from because I consistently was unable to understand how we ever got anything done when soldiers from the 10th Mountain division with the battalion operating in the 203rd Corps AO could not go anywhere outside the wire without four vehicles, a Route Clearance Package (this, for those not familiar with what I am talking about, is about a Company Minus sized operation).  As a result, the enemy always knew when we were leaving and which direction we were headed, because you couldn’t miss us from the cloud of dust we were making.

And OMG was it slow to move.  On a night convoy to get to Bermel to start an Operation out on the border, it took us (me, Capt. Jack and our Afghan Weapons Company traveling with an American Infantry Company) 6 hours to move 20 Kilometers.  This same trip the week before had taken Capt. Jack and I about 2 hours, including stopping for 30 minutes to talk to some of the local elders in a village that had come up on our radar for some bad guys.  The reason for the length was that the American Infantry C/O was required to check in via SATCOM every hour with position updates, and as he could not do that on the move, we needed to stop and the RCP is using engineer equipment that is designed for the plains of the Fulda Gap, and not the crappy roads (if you could call them that) of Afghanistan; which complicates matters related to swiftness and mobility greatly.

Another time on the same OP, we were securing a site waiting to be relieved by an American Infantry Company.  They announced their presence in the AO with two circling A-10’s that arrived on station about 5 mintues before they did.  When they got there, with their TAC-P FAC Team, Mortar crew and array of gun-trucks being watched over by the aforementioned A-10s, their C/O walked up to me and my Afghan 1SG counterpart and without a hint of irony said that he needed my Afghan Soldiers to secure the high ground around the objective because my soldiers were more able to move quickly around in the mountains.


I apologize for the windbaggedness, and I could truly go on and on with stories like this, but let me get to my point….

General McChrystal is absolutely correct that we (ISAF especially) are preoccupied with their own safety versus the accomplishment of the mission.  I left the wire many times with my Afghans, me, and Captain Jack in order to conduct missions that other American units would not be conducting with us, because they needed to move in larger "force packages."  Capt. Jack and I applied our community policing skills, mixed in with some of our combat skills to go out and see areas in our AO and not only show the flag, but demonstrate to the Afghan People that they did indeed have an army and it was indeed being given good direction and mentorship.

ISAF (stands for I Saw Americans Fight or I Suck At Fighting) especially is pre-occupied with their own safety, and in getting as much really good chow as they can from the KBR chow hall.  The Germans were able to do their jobs, but only within the safety of the FOBs because their government wouldn’t let them operate anywhere else.  The French sent pilots who we could never get to come down from altitude and do their job.  The Romanians assigned to our team were told by their command that they could only leave the wire with Americans and had to have Blue Force Tracker and American weapons.  They were of no help at all. The Poles (thank God for them by the way) sent actual soldiers who wanted to get in fights and kick the enemy’s ass, and we have thanked them for their help by abandoning them on the stage of world affairs.

In order to defeat the resilient insurgency we are now facing in Afghanistan, we have to be light enough and mobile enough to be where the enemy is and defeat him on his ground, but on our terms.  We need to be seen daily among the population by letting company and platoon sized elements operate independently without commanders micromanaging them with hourly SATCOM check-ins and busywork missions that enhance OERs, but nothing else.  We need to live among them at night and demonstrate our resoeve and fearlessness to our enemy.

The enemy is able to put IED’s in the road because we are not driving on them to catch them.  They are able to harass villages and coerce them into giving material aid and shelter because we have only been to that village once in the past six months.  They are able to keep their rat lines going because we are not putting massive H&I fires on them.  We are not able to track this enemy because we are trying to fight like we are in the middle ages.  We are the armored knight on horseback prepared to meet and kill another knight, only to be dragged from our horse and killed by a peasant armed with a dagger who stabs us in the face; because our armor is too heavy to allow us to defend ourselves.

The Russians made the mistake of hiding in their fortresses at night (among other things) and the Mujahadeen made them pay for it.  If we continue, as General McChrystal has said, we are assured of military victory, but overall defeat.

I for one, would rather sacrifice having A-10’s circling my position for being able to move swiftly to annihilate the enemy when they show themselves.  I would also desire to have the freedom to own my AO (like when I was in Zormat) and do the work in my AO that I know is necessary without someone far removed from the action telling me that, based on some matrix of responsibility, that handling a 2.4 million dollar road contract is too much responsibility for a SSG or a 1LT.

If we hope to defeat this insurgency, we must be ever present, always where the enemy is, and have senior leaders that are willing to allow junior leaders the freedom to operate and use resources such as contracting and money to affect their AO and demonstrate our power and our resolve to local leaders.

And above all, we must shed any notion that we can do all of this inside the comforts of a FOB.  We have to accept the idea that we have to get our ass in the grass for long periods of time, getting our hands dirty with the business of pulverizing the insurgency.

I know this works, because I have done it...