Tuesday, December 25, 2012

"This f*ck needs to die."

Merry Christmas everyone.

Quick disclaimer on this post, it's not intended to be bitter, cynical, angry, or anything like that. It's just a commentary on reality in Afghanistan.

How did I spend Christmas Eve? I participated in a target approval board where my section and I brief a major general on the individuals we're nominating each week. What does that mean? In a nutshell we're approving people to die.

Great way to spread Christmas cheer, peace on Earth, and goodwill towards men. Hellfire missiles.

The quote in the title was said by the major general in the approval board when a certain target was briefed. Rarely in my time as an intelligence analyst in both Iraq and Afghanistan has a situation been more black and white with little to no gray. Killing the target in question wouldn't just aid the US or Afghanistan, his removal from this existance would be a benefit to the whole world and mankind. The dude is just a psychopath.

His crime? Besides being an insurgent leader he has a habit of kidnapping individuals and beheading them. He has been known to target Afghan police, cut them up, and send their body parts to their families. Seriously, fuck this dude.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hellfires!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Afghanistan's Future?

Here are some of my current thoughts and questions about what the situation in Afghanistan may look like after coalition forces leave in 2014:

- Will the Karzai (or the guy who comes after him) administration completely collapse shortly after we leave?

- Will the ANA (Afghan National Army) collapse shortly after we leave?

- The Taliban believe they can re-take Afghanistan in about a month after Coalition Forces leave, are they over-estimating their own strength and under-estimating the resolve of the ANA?

- Most analysts (citation? fuck citations) believed the communist regime in Kabul would collapse as soon as the Soviets left in 1989. It didn't fall until 1992. With a little bit of international support (ok, a lot of support), the current government in Kabul may be able to hold off a Taliban-led insurrection.

- How much of the ANA defects to the Taliban?

- Will the Taliban continue to utilize insurgency style warfare to errode GIRoA (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) influence and power or will they adopt full-scale war?

- If the Taliban do adopt full-scale war, can international (i.e. US) airpower slow down or even prevent Taliban capture of major urban centers. Basically, how many pickup trucks full of Taliban soldiers need to be taken out by F-16s/Predator UAVs to halt an attack against, say, Jalalabad.

- How much popular support does the Taliban actually have?

What are my thoughts on all of this? I believe we're looking at a repeat of the 1990s after the Soviets left. The Karzai administration will likely hold out for a couple of years but as international support slowly disappears, GIRoA will eventually control less and less territory. ANA defections will exacerbate the situation. Divisions amongst the Taliban, along with warlords and other powerful individuals who don't follow the Taliban's extremist ways, will divide Afghanistan and create an ugly mess of a civil war.

Solution? Bring the Taliban into the current government and maintain significant international airpower in the region (either Pakistan or Afghanistan).

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Marines Doing It Better: Part III

I've mentioned a few times in this blog that I admire the Marines and their (often superior) counter insurgency skills. From the Combined Action Program in Vietnam to foot patrols in Afghanistan, the Marines tend to figure things out quicker...probably because they have less to work with and are forced to figure things out quicker.

I found myself admiring Marines once again during a briefing to MG Nicholson (Marine general in charge of ISAF's Ops...essentially) the other day. We were discussing how the people of Afghanistan have a "group think" attitude. No one does anything without permission of the tribe/tribal elders. While this was generally the case in Iraq, it's much more the norm in Afghan culture. A young man in Afghanistan won't/can't join the army/police, get married, start a business, etc., without first receiving consent from the tribe.

MG Nicholson mentioned that when he was in Helmand Province the headquarters had two maps. One indicated areas where young men were joining the army (green/red) and another indicated areas where people were attending school (once again...red/green). Those areas that were green showed districts that were likely pro-goverment while those that were red were likely pro-Taliban. If the Taliban controlled an area then the tribal elders likely wouldn't let their people join the security forces or attend government-run schools. An interesting way of measuring metrics.

From my perspective, utilizing these maps is a pretty intelligent way of determining how your counter insurgency fight is going. Most staffs tend to focus on insurgents killed/captured or number of IEDs that go boom as a metric...which fails to really illustrate the overall situation. There is no "cookie-cutter" approach either and just because one system works in a certain area doesn't mean it will work in another. How long did it take the Marines in Helmand to figure out this particular solution?

As for my little corner of Iraq? We didn't use any official metrics that I can recall. I had my own unofficial ones, but I didn't track them on any PowerPoint or map. I looked at the number of attacks on civilians compared to attacks on Iraqi security forces and against 1-14 Cav. I figured if the insurgents were primarily attacking Strykers and not civilians the area was doing alright. Also, if the Kurds and Iraqis were willing to meet in the same room and not argue too much...or kill eachother, we were successful.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Moving Up

So there I was sitting fat and happy at the DFIP working a fairly simple job and living a deployment life that doesn't get much better when my company decided to move people around.

The background of this situation is that the company that I'm currently worked for bid on and won a contract but couldn't hire enough people to fill the contract (primarily because they cut salaries). The company then made the decision to move people from other contracts in Afghanistan to the one they needed to fill immediately.

I have now found myself on Camp KAIA (Kabul International Airport) working in ISAF's targeting cell. That means I'm on a NATO/ISAF base, eating better food, shopping in various nationalities' PX's, and working with multiple other foreign military officers. The head of my cell is a British lieutenant colonel; behind me sits a row of Italians; across from me is a Greek warrant officer; I think I even saw a Swede.

My job is review the target packets from the different Regional Commands (division HQs) for those individuals they want to kill/capture. In other words, if Coalition Forces want to kill someone in Afghanistan (that's not currently shooting at them), they have to go through me...my cell anyway.

It's a rather odd feeling.

In terms of job and base, I've definately moved up in the deployment world. While I'm currently living in a transient tent which I'm not likely to move from in the near term, the attractive French nurses and various Eastern European female soldiers more than make up for that minor inconvenience.

This new contract also gives me a guaranteed job back in the States when I get home. Bonus.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

There Is No Black and White: Redux

Nearly 3 years ago (has it been that long?!) I wrote about an insurgent leader that 1-14 Cav was targeting in the area around the town of Jalula, Iraq. He had claimed that he become an insurgent when in 2004 some US soldiers allegedly shot up a car full of his relatives, killing several of them. I had pointed out that his insurgent involvement was directly caused by our failure at counterinsurgency at the time.

Here and now in Afghanistan I am encountering situations that continue to add to the gray area of insurgent vs counterinsurgent. Some of the detainee packets that come across my desk/computer are of individuals who are only 17-19 years old. That means that when the US invaded Afghanistan, these detainees were about 6-8 years old; they have grown up with the American occupation. What caused them to go over to the insurgents...whether it be Al Qaida, the Taliban, Haqqani, etc? In one of the cases, the detainee's family is influential in the community with no real ties to the insurgency. He was recruited in the high school. The only reason I can see for joining any of the insurgent groups is hatred of the occupiers. But did we do anything specific to anger him?

What does this mean for counterinsurgency?

The only thing for certain that it tells me is that the metric of number of insurgents killed/captured as a tool to determine how well your counterinsurgency fight is going is a false one. More insurgents will always be recruited or created, you can't kill/capture them away.