Gray skies are gonna clear up,
Put on a happy face;
Brush off the clouds and cheer up,
Put on a happy face
--Put on a Happy Face, Bye, Bye Birdie
Ranger recently received a lengthy letter from a serviceman in response to recent Wanat articles, mostly echoing the institutional party line, while agreeing with Ranger on a point or two. In the name of anonymity, we will call him "Paul".
Paul specifically agreed with Ranger that he did not care about Iraq or Afghanistan, and yet he felt it was imperative that the U.S. "win the war" and go whole hog with counterinsurgency (CI).
Unfortunately, this misses the entire point of CI: You cannot say you want to win a COIN operation, because the only people who would win would be the indigenous, and you have stated you do not care about them. You then come around to my position: The war is a lie. It is not about COIN, it is about us.
The two possible missions are non-parallel -- there is the "Win" mission (for oil, or whatever it is we win), or the COIN mission. It is disingenuous to claim for both.
Though Paul seemed upset that Ranger was engaging in "armchair quarterbacking," four typed pages of letter belied his same concerns. He wrote --
"Security is high on the hierarchy of needs. These Combat Outposts (COPs) are typically co-located with local national COPs and are eventually turned over to local forces when an area is deemed secure enough. Loyalty to the government, local, provincial, or otherwise, is complex at times because of tribal and religious affiliations, but generally occurs when an area is secure enough for the government to meet and function effectively. This was proven in the “restive” Diyala Province, Iraq. "Prior to Feb 2008, no legislation could be passed because there was no quorum in the Provincial Counsel (Baqubah, the former capital of the “Islamic State of Iraq,” was not safe for the Counsel members. Since then, the counsel has executed about ½ of 3 annual budgets and they did it inside of a 9 month period. At this point, it’s probably all been committed and work, real capacity building work that improves people’s lives, is now underway. It is worth noting that we, in the US, struggle with executing 1 year’s worth of budget most years… without the threat of car bombs and assassination."
Only time will tell if this is true. Even if it does play out, what benefit has accrued to the U.S. taxpayer who shouldered this burden? Improving lives in Baghdad is not purpose or reason for the existence of the U.S. Army. This is an Iraqi concern.
If improving lives is a U.S. military mission, then let them work their magic in Cleveland or Detroit.
He said, "While the locals are no doubt not happy with a US presence in their neighborhood, they’re likely no more or less thrilled with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, either," but where is the proof of an al-Qaeda presence in Wanat?
"TOWs would be attached to deal with VBIEDs, as insurgents have been known to “Up Armor” them, dump trucks in particular, and then drive at speed into friendly formations causing a lot of damage and casualties. 50 CALs have failed to stop a fair number of these in the past. Further, many of the areas that what we would formerly have called “the Mujahedeen” occupied in the mountains during their late unpleasantness with the Soviets were fortified with concrete and construction equipment provided by none other than Osama Bin Laden and his family’s construction company (…this was a major contribution of his to the war effort…). That reason, coupled with tasks such as clearing caves, are two more possible reasons for having this capability along."
What was the maximum range for the TOW employment at Wanat? Would AT4's served defensively for this position? Couldn't the engineers crater the road for protection, if necessary? Since no overlays or topo maps are available, what were the high-speed avenues of approach into the village?
Since the mission was initially defensive, it is doubtful that the Combat Outpost would be attacked by a cave. This leaves up-armored VBIED's, which aren't exactly tactical vehicles. If a .50 cal with Ap and API will not stop them, then why not employ AT4's?
Also, what about mortars to stop vehicles? This is a standard mortar technique. Where were these vehicles parked, and were they arrayed tactically?
He mentions the 24 attached Afghan troops: Was the Afghan element under the command and control of the Platoon leader, or were they in a separate chain of command? What was the rank of the two USMC advisers, and why have we not heard any comments from these individuals?
Of the 24 Afghan paratroopers he says,
"I’d suggest one likely possibility is that they didn’t patrol. I think that this may be a function of uneasiness with their situation in terms of force protection, as you seem to indicate, but also because of a desire to keep their combat power massed together. This would have allowed them to finish their work on the foothold they were clearly seeking to establish in relative security, with operations beginning in earnest after the site was completed. I’m not saying this is what happened, I’m saying this is a possibility based on the fact that counterinsurgency is a slow growth enterprise and that leadership was probably taking a longer view of their operation… for better or for worse."
This indicates that Brigade and Battalion did not have a thorough, well thought out plan. If they did, more assets would have been assigned during the key period of establishing a perimeter defense. He is confusing COIN with conventional Platoon in the defense doctrine; the two are not the same.
Finally, Paul says, "[Y]ou seem as though you’re treating the men and women who actually fight this war like they are idiots… they are most certainly not that." Ranger thinks all the fights he has commented on were idiotic. Any Platoon Leader executing suicidal orders and losing nine men KIA is not a brain surgeon.
The upshot is, the U.S. will abandon the Aghanis and Iraqis that have fought on our side now as readily as we did our Vietnamese Montagnard allies in the Vietnam war. Though you say, "America practically invented modern insurgency/counterinsurgency warfare," we left their hearts and minds behind when we hooked up.