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Politics, Economics or Victory- What Everyone Ought to Know about the troop withdrawal

With the Presidential decision to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan, the mission of the initial Counter Insurgency (COIN) plan of the surge just shrunk tenfold.  Back in 2009 when the surge was initiated the extra troops allowed NATO to push to the north & south of Afghanistan constricting the enemy into stalemate. Now with the reduction of the limited 2 year “surge” forces, US troops will have to withdraw from those northern & southern positions to fall back and reduce operations which will release the pressure on the enemy. To think a Counter Insurgency (COIN) fight would only last 2 years is unrealistic. In fact COIN wars usually last much longer than 10 years. This isn’t a “shock & awe” type of war.


Phases of Small Wars/COIN

By doctrine a counter insurgency (COIN) fight is typically conducted in five phases:

1.  Initial landing

2.  Additional arrival of forces

3.  Assumption of control of executive agencies

4.  Routine police functions (training security forces)

5.  Withdrawal

(Small Wars Manual)


Shortly after the attacks on 9-11, the US established troops within Afg  (Phase 1) and the US established a foothold. Within the scope of the surge mission (Phase 2), NATO commanders requested a surge of troops to secure and expand the area of operations in order to reinforce the training of Afghanistan Security Forces (ASF) (Phase 3-4) mainly in southern Afg which would prep the eventual withdrawal of the majority of NATO forces (Phase 5).   


President Obama, Mar 27 2009-“ So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future. That is the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just. And to the terrorists who oppose us, my message is the same: we will defeat you."


US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in October, 2008, "It's clear there is a need for more [troops] to try to deal with this increased security problem."


President Obama, Mar 27 2009- "For the Afghan people, a return to Taliban rule would condemn their country to brutal governance, international isolation, a paralyzed economy, and the denial of basic human rights to the Afghan people - especially women and girls. The return in force of al Qaeda terrorists who would accompany the core Taliban leadership would cast Afghanistan under the shadow of perpetual violence."  President Obama goes on to argue that the "surge" will help ensure that this does not happen.  And, the argument goes, even if a surge increases civilian deaths in the short-term, it is essential to long-term security and peace for Afghans.


Phase 4 must be completed before you can withdrawal

With the reduction of the two year “surge” troops, the Taliban have not been defeated, nor have they been defeated in Pakistan. The security issue addressed by Gates isn’t completed as two years isn’t sufficient time to build the ASF to a level it should be within the COIN fight and now with the removal of troops out of key influential areas of Afg, local Afghan people will fall back under control of the Taliban contrary to what the President sent the troops in to do “long term security”.  What does this tell those family members who have lost warriors in the past two years?


Phase five-“withdrawal” can only begin once the “responsible native agencies are prepared to handle the situation without other support.” (Small Wars Manual)


The surge was implemented to saturate the Taliban’s area of influence noted by the (red) areas in generic terms for example. The surge troops (blue) moved into those areas and established out posts dead smack in the middle of enemy territory and began applying pressure on the enemy knocking him back onto his heels and off balance. We began taking the momentum in Afg at this point and winning.

  Phase 3 pic a

During 2010, training with the ASF increased and progress was seen as more ASF began conducting patrols on their own thus building experience with the help of their NATO counterparts.

Phase 4 pic b

Now with the reduction of those “surge” troops and the extension of reduction of additional NTAO troops departing Afg, the area of influence of the NATO forces will shrink to an even smaller spectrum of that before the surge (Phase 3) and the training expertise and development of the ASF will fall as the red (enemy) will grow countering the guidance set for a successful COIN war as defined by our doctrine to include the Small Wars Manual.  


Withdrawal pic c

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who has 4,000 troops in Afghanistan, said: "France will begin a gradual withdrawal of reinforcement troops sent to Afghanistan 

The German defence minister, Guido Westerwelle, who has 4,800 troops in Afghanistan, echoed the French, saying he hoped "to be able to reduce our own troop contingent for the first time" by the end of the year.  Poland, which has 2,500 troops, is also to reduce its presence this year, according to the country's head of security, General Stanislaw Koziej.


Will the enemy regain the momentum?

With the reduction of US troops, other countries are reducing their forces shrinking the breathing space and augmentation that they provided for the US force, requiring the US forces to do more with less. This void will not only allow the enemy to have breathing room it will allow them to roll from their heels to their toes and take back the momentum that reflects our progress during 2008.

June 24th - A Taliban spokesman vowed in a rare English statement that “our armed struggle will increase from day to day,.” after hearing the US announced troop withdrawal.

This is the President’s decision, make no argument about it, and as Commander in Chief, military leaders will salute smartly and execute as the disciplined warriors they are.  However, some are expressing that although they gave the Commander in Chief (CINC) many options that had lesser risks, the option of withdrawing this many troops this soon was chosen.


Just following the Presidents TV speech this was released June 24, "Senior administration officials said the president’s decision had the full support of the national security team"


On the contrary....


June 25th-Admiral Mike Mullen says withdrawal of 23,000 troops by next summer was bigger than he had been prepared to back and is “risky”. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the reductions were "more aggressive and incur more risk" than he considered prudent.


June 25th- "The ultimate decision was a more aggressive formulation than what we had recommended," General Petraeus said.

June 25th- Potential Republican candidate Mitt Romney said, "We all want our troops to come home as soon as possible, but we shouldn't adhere to an arbitrary timetable on the withdrawal.  This decision should not be based on politics or economics.”


Do more with less?

 With the 10,000 troops out of Afghanistan by end of this year and another 23,000 by September 2012 leaving approximately 70,000 troops in Afghanistan, how would anyone think American forces could keep up the same momentum we are currently conducting in Afghanistan?  I will tell you we can’t.  70,000 troops cannot do the work of 100,000 troops. Our overall mission hasn’t changed with this new troop withdrawal. The same outcome expected back in 2002 -2008 will still be our mission in 2012 but with less troops. This comes with an implemented risk and danger as we won’t be able to secure the same ground as before and that will bring more casualties.  Watch the casualty number grow following July and sequential withdrawals. .

 The ideology of dwindling down the forces indicates that there is a satisfactory level of competence with the ASF (Phase 4) to provide security against the Taliban. There has been instrumental growth with the ASF but they aren’t at the proficiency level they need to be at yet in order to bring home a substantial number of our warriors that are there mentoring them and fighting the enemy.  This is where the quote from the Small Wars Manual hits the core.  We can’t begin Phase 5 (withdrawal) until “responsible native agencies are prepared to handle the situation without other support” (until Phase 4 is finished).


Are we really ready to transition into Phase 5?

The message is being sold that the ASF are at a capable level to handle the Taliban on their own, that they are 100% efficient and can “handle the situation” by themselves. (This would mean Phase 4 is completed, nothing more to improve on, finished.)  The US forces are good but to think we could have done this in the two years during Phase 3 is unrealistic.  There has not been any statistics or reports or milestones published that support that this has happened.  I would love to see any official release in terms that Phase 4 is completed 100% and the material they are using to support that statement. It isn’t being said because Phase 4 isn’t finished.


 From the White House home page June 24: “We have made substantial progress.  We are seeking to consolidate the momentum the surge troops have gained over the last 18 months while continuing to train and partner with Afghan National Security Forces.” This says we have begun to win and we have to “continue” to train the ASF. (Phase 4 not complete).


“As the President and President Karzai agreed in May 2010, we will have a strategic partnership between our nations that provides a long-term framework for our bilateral cooperation in the areas of security, economic and social development, and institution building,” which translates to keeping a small contingency of US service members in Afghanistan, as a “bilateral cooperation” to continue to train the ASF or really to say we are still trying to help them with very few troops.  This never leads to Phase 5 – withdrawal.  Never.


If the job is done, why not pull all of them out?

Furthermore, if there was the confidence to bring home 30,000 because of the ASF achieved competency (Phase 4) then why not bring the remaining 70,000 home as well?  If they are trained, they are trained, mission accomplished.  Wait, unless you think the ASF will still need mentoring or “bilateral cooperation” and if that’s the case then why would we ask our warriors to do the same mentoring they had to do in 2009 with 30,000 less troops? They can’t and the result will be very detrimental to the remaining US forces (bilateral cooperation) in theater.  Commanders will have to go back to the tactical drawing board, scratch off the lesser of two evil missions and focus on the “circle the wagon” mentality and “circling the wagons” doesn’t win wars, especially the COIN fight.  


5 Wars?

The US is currently conducting five Wars  large scale military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan and Yemen and now dropping bombs in Somalia as of June 25 11. Who does this withdraw of troops really benefit?  Afghanistan?  The security of the United States & war on terrorism?  The servicemembers fighting and paying the price or is there another agenda for recalling the troops at this particular time?

Politics, Economics or Victory- What Everyone Ought to Know about the troop withdrawal.


Time for a Cgar!

 This is a guest post from Maj Pain, the founder of a blog about your service members and what they are doing for America!