Thursday, March 28, 2013

Been Awhile Since I Had This Much Hate


...rage and revenge.

I'm currently focused on Green on Blue (Afghan Security Force members who attacked Coalition Force soldiers) targets and in the course of developing one of the targets I read the unit's incident report of the attack. I can't get into details about it but the way the attack was conducted builds up the anger. But it's not how the attack played out that is making me rage right now. It's who it was against.

1-14 Cav and 502nd MI.

This fuck and some of his buddies attacked soldiers from two of my old units.

I take all the GoB targets seriously and put the same effort into all the targets. However, this one is personal for me. My rage just adds more motivation. The hellfire for this guy can't come quickly enough.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Diyala...I Can't Quit You: Part II

This post is one of those posts that, if he reads it, will make my old warrant officer shake his head and say something along the lines of, "damnit sir."

I had a serious Diyala regression a couple of days ago. My curiosity got the best of me and I began to look up old reports from the Jalula-Tibij area just to see who was getting reported on and what 2-14 Cav was dealing with after 1-14 Cav left. I'm not proud of myself.

After 1-14 took over for 5-1 Cav in NE Diyala I would occasionally receive emails from 5-1's old S-2 asking about the situation and how things were going. I even got an email from him after we left Iraq. That guy really couldn't let Diyala go. As 1-14 was sitting around Balad Air Base waiting to go back to the States my warrant officer specifically warned me against emailing the 2-14 S2. "Just let it go," he said.

Well, I couldn't fully let it go. I never emailed 2-14 but followers of this blog know that I kept up on what was going on through open source news. There were just too many unanswered questions. Too many puzzle pieces left lying around. Too many nights staying up thinking about my mistakes and failures. It was the most painful, challenging, frustrating, glorious, amazing, and life-changing time in my life. I likely will never let Diyala go completely.

So I regressed and started looking up reports. But what did I find out?

- One of our top high value targets, hell he may have been my top guy by the end, I can't remember, with the initials ZM likely died in either Mosul or Baghdad from tuberculosis. Good, that guy pissed me off.

- Another of our HVTs, who Brigade nicknamed Bigfoot because they didn't think he existed, apparently took over AQI operations in the area and possibly began to have influence all the way to Baqubah. There was even a report I found on the guy that would have had me, and the S3, jumping for joy. Information, with specifics, that could have allowed us to use a UAV to find a track him. Actionable intel like that doesn't come around very often.

- Ansar Al Sunna was mentioned a few times. We had no reporting of AAS in the area while I was there except from the Iraqi Brigade S2 who claimed there were some individuals claiming to be AAS running around. I knew AAS had been in the area a few years prior to our arrival but had assessed they were either gone or had joined AQI or JRTN. Was my assessment wrong, had AAS returned, or did AQI, JRTN, and AAS just share members?

- There may have been more contact and coordination between the AQI group around Jalula and the AQI group in the Nidah Tribal Region than I thought.

Here I am doing research on my old stomping grounds when I should be focused on the current conflict. Diyala is more a part of me than I am willing to admit.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Counting Insurgents

Today's annoying question of the day (actually the past couple of days) comes from a random analyst out of RC-West (Regional Command West). The question was, "What percentage of the population of Farah Province are insurgents?"

I should back up a bit. Shortly before my arrival to IJC there was a governance analyst who developed a mathematical formula that (in theory) could determine the number of insurgents in Afghanistan. On his own he determined that knowing the exact number of insurgents would be useful for some reason and attempted to push his project off on my section. He argued that each RC should let us know how many insurgents they had. If they couldn't provide the answer, then the section NCO needed to travel around Afghanistan and determine the number. Yes, count insurgents.

Asking the Regional Commands seemed like the best answer instead of a traveling insurgent counting mission. This led to some humorous responses of answering the RFI (request for information) in ways that didn't actually answer the RFI. RC-North asked for a definition of what an insurgent is (gotta love the Germans). RC-East first claimed 6,000 insurgents and then 2 weeks later claimed 27,000 insurgents. When asked about this discrepancy RC-E replied that yes, the second number did seem a bit high, so they just split their two answers and claimed 18,000 insurgents.

The project quickly died after that and by the time I arrived insurgent counting was pretty much a running joke.

RC-N's response is probably the most correct. Who should be counted? The individual emplacing an IED because he has been threatened by the Taliban? The part timer who only conducts insurgent attacks when he needs money? Or the die-hard, ideological fueled individual? There are so many factors at play that the number of insurgents can and will fluctuate, often day to day.

So this analyst at RC-W apparently saw some product that the Governance Section created months ago and called up one of the poor analysts here. She tried to explain that the product was outdated and no longer used but this RC-W individual just wouldn't quit and so the inquiry got passed on to my section. My NCO is sitting on his response so that he can come up with a politically correct way of telling the RC-W analyst to "get his head out of his ass."

It doesn't matter how many insurgents there are. Like I said, it fluctuates. Asking for an insurgent count is exactly like the problem in Vietnam of body count. It's an irrelevant statistic and isn't really a metric of anything. If you kill 10 insurgents, that only means that the insurgents left will just work a bit harder until they replace those 10 guys they like a day or two.

As our Marine 2-star general here said:

"We're never going to defeat an insurgency through attrition."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Donkey Had It Coming

I had promised a couple of weeks ago to write about a situation which shows how ISAF is pretty much beating itself here in Afghanistan. Well I got busy with work and approving people to get whacked by hellfires as well as a couple of other projects so I didn't have much time to write a post. I'm still pretty busy but screw it, I'll take some time to blog...and this is why we'll lose the war. This and Facebook.

Anyway, a few weeks back the SOF guys (special forces) were tracking an individual moving rockets and other bad stuff through the mountains on his donkey. Because this indivdual wasn't on our "kill list" they had to do up a packet real quick like and submit him to get on the list. It should be a quick process, but on this day it wasn't because the Regional Command (RC...think division headquarters) had some issues with the target and dragged their feet on it.

We had learned about the target and the situation early in the day and my first comment about the whole thing was, "why not just shoot the donkey?"

Shooting the donkey would probably start a blood feud with the donkey's relatives though...

There is nothing saying we can't fire a hellfire at a donkey loaded with weapons. If the guy leading the donkey accidently gets killed, well he shouldn't have been near a donkey loaded with weapons. Even the lawyers agreed with me.

It took several hours for the RC to finally give concurrence to go after the target but by that time the target was no longer targetable and the donkey had run off. I'm not going to say that by removing this individual (or his donkey) from the battlefield would win the war or anything, but at the very least removing the rockets would prevent some future attack that would be rather annoying for somebody in the near future. We're so hung up on legalities and fear of doing something wrong that we're tying our own hands behind our back.

Of course now PETA is going to see this and start some stupid protest campain.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Syria Bleeds Into Iraq

I was going to write about a situation that occurred that illustrates how ISAF is beating itself here in Afghanistan but an incident in Iraq (because I can't let go) caught my eye so you get my thoughts on that instead. Perhaps in a couple of days I'll get to writing more about the insanity that is ISAF.

Back in August I wrote about how it appeared that the civil war in Syria was spilling over into Turkey. Well now it appears that the civil war is spilling over another border, and what border is that?

Iraq of course. Fighting had occurred near one of the Syrian/Iraqi border crossings between Syrian troops and rebels. 48 wounded Syrian soldiers crossed into Iraq seeking medical treatment...or possibly trying to defect. While being transported to another border crossing to be transferred back to Syria they were ambushed by gunmen who had apparently crossed into Iraq from Syria. All of the (unarmed) Syrian soldiers as well as the 9 Iraqi guards escorting them were killed.

The article doesn't state who was responsible for the attack but I suspect it was the Al Nusra Front which is the most aggressive and successful rebel group operating in Syria. They are also affiliated with Al Qaida...there's a shocker. I also suspect that the Al Nusra Front is really just a re-branding of Al Qaida in Iraq.

I'm not naive enough to believe the insurgency in Iraq was completely done with but I did think that it was fading. With Al Nusra able to control territory in Syria as a base the group may be able to breathe some life into AQI and make life hell for Iraqis in the Anbar Province. And until the Kirkuk issue is completely settled I don't think Iraq will ever be able to completely remove the insurgent cancer.

And now I'm thinking about how the Arab Spring movement is linked to Mali/central Africa, Syria, Kirkuk, and the Iraqi insurgency. Hopefully someone writes a good historical narrative of it all in the future.