Afghan Roundup

I’m glad to see that the members of the infamous ‘Kill Team’ are heading off to jail.  Cases like this just leave me shaking my head wondering where the leadership was while this was going on.  Could platoon sergeants and leaders, first sergeants and company commanders really have had no idea?

But reserve special malice for Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs.  This platoon sergeant facilitated and led the effort by all accounts and now seeks to provide a pathetic defense.

…many members of the unit were regularly smoking hash when Gibbs arrived. But he also admitted that Gibbs did take victims’ fingers, saying that while it was wrong, soldiers are taught to emotionally distance themselves from war casualties.

Apart from the acts themselves I find this ‘I’m not to blame, my unit was screwed up when I got here.’ defense to be offensive.

I’ve taught COIN to soldiers getting ready to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan about a half a dozen times and I’ve incorporated the ‘Kill Team’ in every one of those briefings.  I tell them that soldiers like Gibbs do just as much to endanger their lives as any message by al-Qaida or Taliban commander recruiting new insurgents.  Because, in fact, it’s acts like those of the ‘Kill Team’ that provide impetuous to calls for action.

Still, I note with concern the fact that it does not appear that more senior leaders are held accountable for their lack of…leadership.  Some officers and senior level NCOs should have their careers ended by allowing this sort of thing to go on under their noses.

——

I recently wrote about the German experience in Afghanistan and Der Spiegal, obligingly, runs with an overview of the same subject.

Interesting piece of trivia:  July 2010 was the first time German forces used artillery in combat since WWII.

The article says that the Germans have turned over a new leaf and now are more aggressive in their approach to the insurgency.

It’s a long way from the old Bundeswehr that one senior British officer referred to a few years ago, only half-jokingly, as “an aggressive camping organization.” …Germany had long been criticized by its allies for the “caveats” that meant its troops could not be deployed with the same flexibility as their ISAF partners…Until a change in 2009, they also could not fire at fleeing assailants.

Still, according to the article, the key difference in German operations are due to the addition of a few thousand American troops placed under the command of RC-North as a result of the ‘surge’.

“Operational flexibility of forces was extremely limited due to lack of air mobility,” he says. Since then, the German military has adapted and developed its own counter-insurgency doctrine…

Seems a bit late in the game to start to develop a COIN doctrine, especially since everyone seems to have an eye on the door.

Ah…they must have a new strategy…get ready for the old ‘heads we’re winning, tails they’re losing’ use of metrics:

The Taliban has responded to the new NATO strategy with spectacular attacks such as the assassination in May of the chief of the Afghan police for the northern region in an incident that also killed two German soldiers…

Ready?  I should let you fill in the next bit.

However, the German government says that these attacks should not be seen as an expression of the Taliban’s strength but rather as a reaction to the pressure they have been under since NATO began engaging them more aggressively in the north.

Fewer attacks = We’re winning since the Taliban obviously doesn’t have enough strength to launch attacks.  Yah!

More attacks= The insurgency is in its last throws and the Taliban are fighting out of pathetic desperation.  Yah!

Still, it’ll be interesting to see what years of actual combat do to the culture of national militaries that haven’t been involved in combat missions for decades.

——

Remember ‘Clear, hold, build’?  Well, forget it.  We’re replacing that with ‘Fight, talk, build‘.  My initial thought upon hearing that line was ‘Oh, we’re going back to 2006-2008.’

Ackerman points out one of the difficulties of this new, catchy ‘strategy’.

The insurgents don’t seem particularly interested in talking. They’ve instead pulled off audacious recent attacks in the heart of the Afghan capitol. Last year, the U.S. was fooled by an insurgent impostor, revealing that it doesn’t even know to whom it can talk.

I don’t have a good feeling about this…

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