Thursday, February 28, 2013

Poor Database Management

In a shocking bit of news, ISAF has announced that the drop in attacks that was reported is not actually correct, it was a mis-count of the stats.

Here's another article on the situation by the Christian Science Monitor.

This bit of "whoops we kind of screwed up the data" doesn't shock me at all from this organization. I'm not suggesting that ISAF Joint Command is a bunch of bumbling idiots, but battle tracking doesn't really seem to be their strong suit. They can certainly track incidents that occur on a big map that is displayed, but getting those incidents into the database seems to be a challenge. A few times I've been on current operations floor and seen an incident or two displayed that I've tried to look up when I got back to my desk only to discover that the incident isn't in the database.

Same for the next day, and the day after.

Hell, even the target set that I'm currently assisting in, Green on Blue attackers who have fled, is not immune to this problem. In the past couple of weeks there have been multiple GoB attacks that we have "discovered" that somehow never made it into the database and had to be added.

How does this happen? Is it incompetence or an attempt to hide the truth?

From my perspective it is neither. It's just what happens when you have a large headquarters with multiple different nations attempting to do several things at once. Plates are going to get dropped.

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating...the number of attacks isn't even that critical of a metric to track when it comes to an insurgency. A low number of attacks in an area may indicate that the insurgency is defeated in that area, or that there are no security forces in that area and the insurgents actually control it. The flip side, a high number of attacks may indicate that insurgents are not in control and are trying to gain dominance.

So I suppose what I'm trying to say is, this failure by ISAF to properly account for attacks isn't that big of a deal. However, ISAF needs to get its shit together.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ready For A Bit Of The Old Ultra-Violence

So other than defeating lawyers with nonsense words what has been going on in Afghanistan during the Winter lull prior to the start of the fighting season?

Well, ISAF/Coalition/US forces are methodically pulling out of all those smaller bases we (and by "we" I mean all those folks who were here when I was chilling in Iraq) had slowly and painstakingly established over the years. In most cases ISAF is handing the bases and outposts over to Afghan forces who hopefully are willing and able to continue the counter-insurgency operations ISAF troops were doing before. So what occurs when ISAF begins pulling troops out of these bases?

Violence of course. Those Taliban/Haqqanni forces still operating during the winter are attacking the retrograding troops as they pull out of those bases. As there are less and less ISAF troops the Taliban increases its attacks in order to attempt to retake territory previously lost. The article linked just discusses US forces but believe me, it's happening to other coalition partners as well.

We're also removing threats as they pop up. The author of the article makes it sound like the Special Forces shot the individual in cold blood on a base but that really wasn't the situation at all. Shocking, a news article that isn't accurate. Two quotes from the article I'd like to bring up:

“Even if he was supporting the Taliban, did the Americans have the right to kill him?” said Wali Khan, a Parliament member from Helmand...
Yes, yes we did. Why? Because of this other quote:

Mr. Khan was on the American military’s list of people to be killed or captured, known as the Joint Prioritized Effects List, according to officials
Don't get on my list people. It probably won't end well.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Unicorns and Rainbows

About two weeks ago we had a target come up to my section for nomination that to me appeared pretty straight forward. Intel reporting stated that he was a weapons dealer for the Taliban and one of the reports mentioned a large amount of ammunition that he was acquiring.

The lawyer who reviewed the packet, however, determined that the reports just weren't quite good enough for them to fully approve the target. I argued the point about the report that mentioned the large quantities of ammunition and how from an analyst's perspective it was clear that he wasn't using that ammunition for good things. I was quite animated about it in fact and if you know me you know that I don't usually get worked up about things. The lawyer remained stubborn.

During the weekly update to the general about our target nominations the lawyer brought up her concerns about the target, specifically that only one report stated he was working for the Taliban and that the report of acquiring large quantities of ammunition didn't necessarily mean he was affiliated with the insurgency. Her argument was lengthy and I will admit, a bit convincing.

The general then looked at me for a rebuttal after the lawyer was finished, and I stated: "he's obviously not using *insert ammunition amount here* for unicorns and rainbows."

There was a bit of a stunned silence in the room as you can imagine. The general's reply?

"This target's good (for lethal nomination). Next."

I love beating a lawyer with nonsense.

Unless the ammo really was for rainbows and unicorns...oh hell, what have I done?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Al Qaida Is All Gone I Swear It!


Hold on, need to catch my breath...


Apparently Pakistan's foreign secretary has his head buried in the sand. While I certainly assess Al Qaida's capabilities and size has been degraded, and much of its leadership killed/captured, Al Qaida is still very much active and running around in Pakistan.

If Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas truly believes that drone strikes are unnecessary and that Pakistani security forces have eliminated Al Qaida from its territory then maybe he should take a little trip to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and confirm this. Without a large military escort.

I want whatever Mr. Abbas is smoking, although I suspect he's just conducting some political posturing.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

PowerPoint Really Does Make Us Stupid

Yeah, that's an actual PowerPoint slide

From my short time here at ISAF Joint Command it has become way too apparent that some people have an obsession with PowerPoint. It's almost as if they believe the PowerPoint slide they are working on will give that key piece of information that will defeat the insurgency here. They have it in their mind that their presentation is so glorious that GEN Allen will view it and state, "that's it folks, the Taliban can't possibly beat us now. Time to go home."

The other day I received a panicked call from someone in another analyst section asking for a target pack (basically a whole bunch of PowerPoint slides) on an individual. I was curious since this analyst doesn't have an action arm (ability to conduct a lethal strike) but I found an older packet on the guy and sent it. The analyst called again with even more alarm and informed me that there must be a more updated packet and she needed this urgently for a PowerPoint brief that was to be in 2 days.


Your lack of planning does not constitute an emergency on my part.

I've produced slides in the past couple of months that come back to me with so much added information on it as to make the slides pretty much unreadable and therefore useful to no one. Less is more people, especially when it comes to PowerPoint.

Excel on the other hand...