Monday, July 26, 2010

How we fight

Forget that our A-Number One "ally" in the Afghan War -- Pakistan -- is playing for the other side, too.

Forget that our whole game plan since 2001 has been that the locals are more or less just like us and want the same things as any reasonable Westerner, and that from such naiveté, much mayhem has ensued.

Forget that it wasn't that long ago that the Red Army got its ass handed to it by herdsmen with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and old rifles.

Forget that the U.S. Army, the Marine Corps and the whole NATO shooting match is getting their asses handed to them right now by herdsmen with heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, IEDs . . . and materiél that mysteriously made its way from the Afghan "government" to Taliban fighters.

FORGET THAT this war, and the one winding down in Iraq, are bleeding the U.S. treasury dry amid the ruins of a wrecked economy in an era of unsustainable sovereign debt.

Forget that we're writing $500 million checks to the double-crossing Pakistani government, while Congress for weeks and weeks refused to keep unemployment checks coming to millions of cast-off American workers.

Forget that the money spent each year on an unwinnable war fought for now-nebulous reasons could by itself fund --
and fund well -- cash-starved and unimplemented blueprints for restoring Louisiana's disappearing coastline.

Just remember -- with the
WikiLeaks release of this generation's Pentagon Papers -- that the South Vietnamese government looked like a model of legitimacy and propriety compared to the nightmare we're trying to prop up in Afghanistan, as graphically pointed out in one 2007 U.S. Army dispatch the Guardian has highlighted:
TM HADES (HHC 508th STB) conducts humanitarian assistance delivery on 200330ZMAR07 VIC VC 9126724284 IOT provide relief to citizens of the Kharwar District affected by winter weather and build trust between the ANP/IRoA and the local populace.

Initially, the only signs of town inhabitants were trash and feces in the streets. The people stayed inside until the Apaches left station; they were mostly unresponsive, even when we told them that we had brought HA- they were not impressed as they did not believe that they would get any of it. HUMINT collection was virtually fruitless.

What little infrastructure they have is crumbling and the quality of life is extremely poor. Come summer and spring, the hygiene conditions will worsen and be cause for concern.

HUMINT Assessment: As we walked into the Bazaar, we noticed no one was in the street. We could see people in their shops; doors were closed and very few smiles or waves were returned. A few people were receptive as we spoke to them. We did receive some mean looks. They wondered why we were coming in with such force. We told them that we had a lot EOF HA for their village. They expressed concern that the HA would not be fairly distributed. Security was not an issue, according to the people with whom we spoke. Their main concern is the water supply and buildings collapsing due to the recent rain. They said people who have been working outside of Afghanistan will be returning in a nother month or two. These people have been in Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Key Leader Engagement Assessment: Met with MAJ Rafiki (ANP Chief of Police), Mirr Akbar (Criminal Officer), COL Latifi (Logar ANP XO), and the Mullah/Platoon Leader. Took a tour of the compound and spoke about the physical security issues they were having and also made some recommendations about their improvements. We discussed previous attacks on the ANP station and the reasons for them (i.e.- why they were coming from different directions, etc). After the tour, we sat down to chai. We discussed the HA distribution in detail with the ANP CoP. From the first five minutes, there seemed to be an ongoing discussion between COL Latifi and MAJ Rafiki. As the engagement progressed, the interaction became more heated. The interpreter explained that MAJ Rafiki was complaining about something.

Absent was the Sub-governor. We were told that he would be there, but he decided not to come. He doesnt live in the town- he lives about 30-45 minutes away and drives himself to work. He does not have a driver or a bodyguard and it is strange that he drives himself (alone) to work in Kharwar. This may indicate that he is not worried about anti-government or government threats, which may mean he has both in his pocket.

The ANP CoP seems like the best among the worst; he understood what we were talking about concerning the equitable distribution of the HA. However, he made several comments about the people of Kharwar- how they should get jobs and how he had little influence. We got the impression that he has little concern for the needs of his people. We tried to impress upon him the difference between the people and a civil servant and he seemed to understand, if not agree. The ANP CoP is from the Konar district, so he has no family in Kharwar, which is a good thing as he may normally be tempted to give hand-outs to his family first. We discussed the plan to use the Shura, the Red Crescent and the Sub-governor to distribute the HA; he seemed to understand what we were saying about his job being easier if the people trusted him to support them. He mentioned that he had a meeting with the Taliban Leaders in Kharwar. At that point, we asked him Do you know who they are?! and he said yes, of course. At this point in the conversation, COL Latifi kicked out the criminal officer and the mullah/platoon leader. We began to discuss a mission that the ANP had with the 10th MTN. They were talking about what a failure the mission was because of the terrible intelligence they had received. We tried to ask about the Taliban leaders and the recent intel we have received, but at that point, the apaches returned on station and it was time to establish the HLZ.

As we were walking out, the heated discussion between COL Latifi and MAJ Rafiki flared up again- apparently, the Criminal Officer had drawn his weapon on MAJ Rafiki and threatened him either this morning or last night. According to MAJ Rafiki, the Criminal Officer had been bribed to kill him. MAJ Rafiki said that he was going to quit if he had to continue to work with the Criminal Officer. We were trying to leave, but a crowd of ANP gathered and the heated discussion almost came to a head. We loudly told COL Latifi that we had to get on the helicopter and if he wanted me to arrest the criminal officer, we would. He said that he didnt want to arrest him, but wanted to take him back to Pul-e-Alam for interrogation and to fire him at least. We searched the Criminal Officer and found one 9mm pistol with 3 rounds in the magazine. We took the weapon from him and returned it to COL Latifi after we landed at Pul-e-Alam.

The Mullah/Platoon Leader assumed himself in positions of closeness to whomever he felt was the most powerful of the group. We asked who he was, and was told he was a platoon leader. We asked his name and they called him Mullah- according to the Terp, this is strange.

Other: As we walked through the bazaar, there were no shop doors open and few people peeked out from behind windows or curtains. The bazaar was a canalizing tunnel and the impression was of walking into a trap/ambush. There were stray animals and barnyard feces in the street and trash was thrown out of doorways without concern. There were several dead dogs inside the ANP compound and throughout the town. Also, there was human feces everywhere, without regard for foot traffic or modesty. Several of the bunkers and trenches had obviously been used as latrines, despite the fact that there is a latrine facility in the compound. Not only was the facility in disrepair, it appeared as though the occupants were maliciously negligent. Yesterday, we gave several tarps and sandbags to the ANP to patch a caved in roof, but the tarps had not been used to make any repairs.

Note: The DSHKA gunner is a LT, who apparently spends his nights on the megaphone, talking to the Taliban- taunting them and telling them what a good shot he is. At least one person in Kharwar understands PsyOps.
AND REMEMBER that we are governed by men and women who think such a figurative -- and literal, too -- s***hole is worth the expenditure of a single American life (and billions of American dollars) long past the expiration date of any clear strategic rationale . . . or any reasonable chance at "victory," whatever that might look like anymore.

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