RANGER AGAINST WAR: Jailhouse Rock <

Monday, June 16, 2008

Jailhouse Rock

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense

--Mending Wall
, Robert Frost

Only a fool or a fraud sentimentalizes
the merciless reality of war

--John McCain

Can't anybody here play this game?

--Casey Stengel


A phased Taliban attack on the main prison in Southern Afghanistan Saturday sprung possibly upwards of 1,000 inmates, leading to our subtitle:
COIN in Afghanistan, or How to Lose an Insurgency (4 Marines Die in Afghanistan; 870 inmates Escape.)

Why the subtitle? Let us start with the simple observation that facts are elusive in the Phony War on Terror (PWOT ©). How many Taliban escaped? The article begins with an unattributed "about 870," but reports the police chief of Kandahar Provine says 390, while the NATO spokesman says "around 1,100."

This is a simple prison operation and someone should know the number of escapees. If we can't tally up a prison population, how do we account for monetary expenditures?
There must be accountability and accuracy in figures, otherwise how do you gauge progress? If we can not count former prisoners in an exact manner, can there be any hope of winning the war?

While Brigadier Gen. Carlos Branco admitted that the assault was a success, he said it does not have a strategic impact. "We should not draw any conclusion about the deterioration of the military operations in the area. We should not draw any conclusion about the strength of the Taliban."

Clearly, however, these Taliban fighters have a tactical acuity on par with U.S./NATO elements. They demonstrate planning and execution right out of the Ranger Handbook.

"The complex attack included a truck bombing at the main gate, a suicide bomber who struck a back wall and rockets fired from inside the prison courtyard, setting off a series of explosions that rattled Kandahar, the country's second biggest city."

This was a phased raid, a difficult operation for any military unit. It indicates rehearsals, intelligence, leaders reconnaissance, rally points and avenues of approach and escape were carefully evaluated prior to the successful execution phase of the operation. A Taliban spokesman said "militants had been planning the assault for two months."

Regardless of whether this operation was UW/GW/COIN/criminal or terrorist,
why did intelligence functions miss the fact that this operation was afoot? There had to be turbulence, which would be an indicator. Because police are being used as soldiers, these indicators were not picked up and evaluated.

That these indicators were missed indicates the government does not have a firm grasp on "population and resource control" -- what used to be the basis of all operations in the UW/COIN scenario.

If the liberators of this prison were local or mobile, the local government should have been aware of their movements. The fact that the police, military and intelligence of Afghanistan's second largest city cannot discern the movement of the indigenous citizens is not a sign that Afghanistan is winning the insurgency.

Further, Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai, a deputy minister at the Justice Ministry, said
"the [Sarposa] jail did not meet international minimum standards for a prison." The Kandahar facility was not built as a prison but had been modified into one, he said." So if the prison did not meet minimum standards, then why were prisoners being sent there?

This is not the first instance of substandard jail conditions revealed in this PWOT ©. Does democracy mean that nasty prison conditions are permissible in a Civil War/I
nsurgent War? The jailbreak also reveals Afghan government war crimes or crimes against humanity, all done in complicity with U.S. policy. This type of activity by government forces only raises the ante in this campaign.

Hashimzai said there are plans "to renovate all the prisons around the country."
One can assume that once these prisons are built then democracy will really take off in Afghanistan. Good prisons = good citizens, a proven U.S. formula. But Americans need to ask if prisons and all that go with them are the best of the U.S. Is this the vision of the future?

On the same day, a bomb in the western Afghan province of Farah wounded one and killed four Marines "helping to train Afghanistan's fledgling police force, said U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. David Johnson."

Why are Marines training Afghan police? Unless these are law and order MP's, there is no legitimacy in this endeavor.
Afghan police are not Marine recruits; the skill sets are not interchangeable.

"Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment based in Twentynine Palms, California, arrived in Afghanistan earlier this year and were sent to southern and western Afghanistan to train police."

Since 2/7 Marines are an Infantry unit, what values of police work can they impart? A police mission does not include "close with and destroy," despite those who would wish a move towards the militarization of police in the U.S.
The Marines should be training Afghan Army elements, a task which would be commensurate with their skill set.

Police forces are not fighting units, although that is the role assigned to them by a faulty U.S. COIN policy.
One can be either police, or one can be military; one can not be both (MP's do not count.)

Militarized police and overcrowded, inadequate prisons -- two parts of a recipe for disaster.

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Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

wow. the taliban (who many in afghanistan, and kandahar in particular, still regard as the legitimate government of afghanistan) has managed to pull off something we tried, unsuccesfully to pull off on three operations in vietnam.

i was impressed. one of the tactical advantages an attack on a prison tends to have is that their main vigilance is focused inward, not outward. i would not be surprised at all for there to have been inside complicity in the act. the prisoners who were the main focus of the op would have been tipped off to be ready and in their traveling shower shoes, then the basic criminal elements would have simply siezed the opportunity.

as a statement, releasing prisoners during a revolution is always a powerful political move. the liberation of prisoners in boston, trenton, and princeton was one of the biggest consolidations of power and respect that george washington made. he was being beset by a cabal of congress to replace him with nathaniel green. liberating the POWs held by the british in the jersy campaign was both a bolstering of his troops and a firming of his support as supreme commander of the continental army.

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 10:51:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys said...

Minstrel was faster than me...I read the entire thing thinking, "Wow, if WE pulled off the break-out and rescue of that many of our people, jubilation and medals would be the result." Do they really think everyone is stupid enough not to notice as long as they call all the participants "terrorists"?

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 11:28:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


Don't forget Desert One when discussing failed operations. This one in Afghanistan rivals the heroism and professionalism of the Jessica Lynch rescue.

Your comment on the shower shoes is wonderful--so many fail to grasp the fact that our enemies fight in shower slippers often in temp. below freezing and in high altitudes. This fact alone tells us all we need to know about their dedication and fitness to complete their mission.


Monday, June 16, 2008 at 1:06:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


A very valid observation.

Follow-up to come, as I've had further thoughts on the topic and feel this is a significant action. Definitely not one to be swept under the prayer rug, as our leaders wish to do.

This is a classic example of the spectrum of war. If the Taliban are terrorists, which I don't accept, then this action shows that they have entered into the UW/GW phase of their existence.

Not a good sign for the forces of freedom.


Monday, June 16, 2008 at 1:11:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



Ugly Women/Gay Women?

University of Washington/George Washington?

Enlighten us, Jim!

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 2:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

Ark-hark-unconventional warfare/guerrila warfare. jim

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 3:56:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

i keep hearing the voice of the british diplomat rory stewart at the end of his brilliant memoir prince of the marshes

we are not losing in iraq and afghanistan because of things we have done or not done.

we are losing because we are who we are, and they are who they are.

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 5:37:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...


Thank you for Rory Stewart's excellent encapsulation. Kipling, born about 100 years earlier said as much in "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet."

We'll keep cycling through 'til we get it.

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 9:02:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger Lisa said...

For those confused:

Ranger omitted an emoticon after his statement on the "professionalism of the Jessica Lynch rescue." Not.

Monday, June 16, 2008 at 9:03:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...

MB, it's really rather simple-a leader must ask what do we win IF we win and is it worth the effort AND what do we lose if the chips stack against us.Also what if it's a goat screw that can't be won.
These are the questions that were ignored prior to our entry into the PWOT.
One must painfully wonder why nobody asked these questions.WHY WOULD ANYONE RISK THE REPUTATION OF AMERICA ON SUCH A SHAKY OPERATION? jim

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 9:29:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger Terrible said...

Lisa @ 9:03:00, thanks for that clearification because the reference certainly had me wondering some.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 9:52:00 AM GMT-5  
Anonymous Labrys said...

Not good news for the "forces of freedom"? Whose FoF...theirs or ours??
(Yes, I HAD to say it!)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 at 11:20:00 AM GMT-5  

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