Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another Mission Ends...Sort Of

As 2014 comes to a close I would be remiss if I didn't remind my readers that ISAF mission in Afghanistan is officially over. The conflict, of course, is far from over; but the combat mission for NATO and the US has come to an end. I still have some colleagues and friends over there at the moment and I doubt they see Afghanistan as anything close to over.

The Taliban, to no one's surprise, is claiming victory. However, I don't believe true victory will come for them very easily, or at all, in the near future.

My thoughts on this official ending to the United States' longest conflict: meh. Iraq was much more important to my life, and during my time in the Army Afghanistan was always "that other thing happening". Even though I did a year in the Stan, it felt much more like a job than anything else. I never felt a true part of it. The best way to describe my feelings are those of an individual who shows up late to a movie and asks those around him to catch him up. I had a better understanding of Iraq, and likely always will.

Friday, December 19, 2014

At Least There Wasn't Any Torture

My original idea for this week's blog was to discuss the Afghan Taliban's condemnation of the attack against a school by the Pakistani Taliban. However, that topic is waaaaaaaaaay out of my knowledge league when it comes to having an intelligent discussion about why the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban dislike each other (short answer: it's tribal).

Then I decided to write about the ISIS attack on Al Assad Air Base in Iraq, but became irked when all the reporting on it stated it was the first time US ground troops and ISIS have fought. First time US troops have fought ISIS since the group changed its name perhaps. I recall several years in Iraq where I tried hunting down AQI/ISI assholes. This is either a case of lazy or shitty reporting. Take your pick.

Today, however, was my lucky day. It was reported yesterday that the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO for short, I really love acronyms that include acronyms in the actual name), which was established to help fight the IED problem in Iraq and Afghanistan, apparently did some intelligence collection no no's. JIEDDO had established a program called the Counter-IED Operations Intelligence Integration Center (COIC) which it then staffed with contractors. These contractors acted as intelligence analysts and were tasked with the mission of analyzing intelligence dealing with IEDs and the various insurgent IED networks.

I'm going to break here for a moment just to inform you of my bias on this subject. COIC was one of the main rivals to the program I was employed with for a time, the Counter Insurgency Targeting Program (CITP). Mildly interesting fact, the "I" in CITP was changed from "IED" to "insurgency" in an attempt to stay relevant as combat forces (and money) were reduced in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So what did COIC do wrong? It's analysts, at this instruction of COIC leadership (likely both military and civilian), collected information and intelligence on US persons and companies. Collecting information on US persons/companies is absolutely illegal for intelligence analysts working for the US military. The organization also was collecting information on SGT Bowe Bergdahl, which is two violations...the first being collecting on Bergdahl who is a US citizen, and the second being gathering information on a subject that had nothing to do with IEDs...a mission outside of COIC's scope.

 As an analyst, both military and civilian, I've had it beaten into my head that collecting on US persons/companies is against federal regulations and therefore illegal. I also know that fighting a complex insurgency is extremely challenging (understatement of the week). People are going to slip up on occasion, but from what I read in the article this was a systemic issue. I'm shocked that no one in the leadership of COIC or JIEDDO stepped in to stop these violations.

No wait, I'm not shocked.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Short Comment On Torture

I've been enjoying beautifully scenic Killeen, Texas for the past week and half or so assisting with a training exercise on Fort Hood so I have not been paying too much attention to anything outside of "The Great Place". What did catch my eye was the release of the Senate's study of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques (torture). I have not had time to read it, nor do I think I will (because...boring) but based on the little I've seen from the news people are pretty angry at the CIA, and for good reason. Here are my thoughts:

Torture is wrong. The end.

To expand a bit...torture doesn't work. Under torture people will say whatever you want them to say. Using torture also puts a dark stain on the United States. Our and in the past...use torture. We should and need to be above such despicable practices.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Is Helmand Falling To the Taliban Already?

It may no longer be the fighting season in Afghanistan due to the onset of winter but someone forgot to tell that to the Taliban operating in Helmand Province. Late last month, Taliban forces attacked Camp Bastion which was turned over to Afghanistan by U.S. Marines and the British Army in October. According to Afghan press, the fighting lasted a couple of days and the Taliban were able to breach the base perimeter and occupy some buildings.

You may remember, Camp Bastion was attacked in September 2012 and the Taliban were able to destroy several Marine aircraft in that assault.

Taliban forces have also attacked Afghan Army bases in the Sangin and Shorabak areas of Helmand Province. These guys aren't messing around.

Next Spring is going to be very very interesting.