Colonel makes case against COIN in Afghanistan

Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV (US Army photo)

Although a fan of counterinsurgency (COIN) in certain cases, I have publicly opposed the population-centric model of COIN utilized in Afghanistan for several years. But I am safe at home and feel that we should defer to those whose lives depend on how effective our warfighting doctrine is. I came across a wonderfully written letter by a former infantry commander, who is also an officially trained military historian, to the Secretary of the Army detailing why we are failing in Afghanistan.

I understand many folks in the military still support COIN in Afghanistan, but I doubt I am the only one that thinks something is wrong when the world’s most advanced military is 11 years into a war with an illiterate enemy that has no armor, navy, or air force.

An excerpt from my latest piece at The US Report:

Where did we go wrong? [Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV] said it’s mainly because our senior leaders, who have less combat maneuver experience now than perhaps at any time in U.S. military history, are “unwilling to conduct operations that reflect sound military art and science.”

Years ago, we abandoned our counterterrorism efforts in favor of counterinsurgency (COIN), a nebulous, and primarily political strategy aimed at protecting populations and addressing grievances. Killing the enemy and breaking their will to fight becomes secondary, and success hinges on an incredibly corrupt Afghan government.

Tunnell says that COIN “consists of musings from amateurs, contractors, plagiarized journal articles, etc.” and has contributed to “needless American casualties”:

COIN has become such a restrictive dogma that it cannot be questioned; any professional discussion about its strengths and weaknesses is discouraged. It has reached such a crisis that those who employ other Army doctrinal concepts do so at their own professional peril because they will be subject to censure for not adhering to COIN. This has created a dysfunctional and toxic leadership environment throughout our Army which has resulted in poor organization, unrealistic training, and indecisive battlefield performance.

Our military exists to protect American citizens, not Afghans. And if the Afghan people have grievances, that is their business – not ours. Our business should be to kill the terrorists that seek to kill Americans and then come home. The moment we quit doing that was the moment we abandoned our own best interests:

Our potential for greater coalition casualties does not have to be inevitable, but due to our flawed approach to operations we wind up enabling our enemy. The population-centric approach which places the population as the center of gravity is applied to the point of absurdity. The enemy is entrenching himself among the civilian population as we cede to him territory and lines of communication. […]

A gross lack of concern for subordinates manifests in guidance that “zero” civilian casualties are acceptable and coalition soldiers may have to be killed rather than defend themselves against a potential threat and risk being wrong and possibly resulting in injury or death of civilians…

The Battle of Ganjgal, in which Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer received the Medal of Honor, exemplifies Col. Tunnell’s point that COIN and restrictive rules of engagement result in needless American casualties: (more…)

Posted on October 15, 2012 at 16:06 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Articles, Military · Tagged with: ,

No sharia court for Koran-burning soldiers

A quick update: Stars and Stripes reports that the soldiers involved in last month’s burning of Korans used by enemy prisoners at Bagram Air Base will not face trial in sharia court:

A military investigation into the burning of the Qurans at Bagram could conclude as early as this weekend. Crocker and Allen have said the soldiers involved may face punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice but will not be turned over to the Afghan courts as requested by Karzai.

Perhaps we will discover what exactly the soldiers did that was wrong since I have yet to see an explanation. I doubt offending Muslims violates the UCMJ.

The article also featured an explanation from Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Afghanistan, as to what the heck we are doing in Afghanistan:

“We have not invested the billions of dollars we have and the lives of 1,900 Americans to see the Taliban retake this country and al-Qaida once again be able to restage here,” Crocker said.

“That’s why we’re here — to be sure al-Qaida is defeated and that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for forces that would seek to attack us on our own soil.”

Sounds great – will the ambassador clue us in as to what exactly the Obama administration is doing to “be sure al-Qaida is defeated and that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for forces that would seek to attack us on our own soil”?

I will support a president from any party, provided the president is executing his duties as commander-in-chief effectively. What matters is trying to get it right. Both Obama and George W. Bush have got things right and wrong. I have been supportive and critical of both presidents in the War on Terror.

Perhaps letting these soldiers go to trial is the best path forward. If they violated military law, they should be punished. But I am not aware of any laws that were violated. If they were following protocol, then they should be exonerated.

But if these men are hung out to dry to appease barbarians, then Obama has dishonored the US military to a degree perhaps never before seen.

Posted on March 2, 2012 at 22:27 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: National Security · Tagged with: 

Will Obama hand over Koran-burning soldiers to Islamic court?

Update March 2, 2012, 9:28 pm: Stars and Stripes reports that the soldiers will face military trial, not sharia court.

An Afghan government website reports that NATO officials have promised to bring the American soldiers responsible for burning the Koran to justice in an open trial.

The website of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Government Media and Information Center (an official government site) states: “NATO officials promised to meet Afghan nation’s [sic] demand of bringing to justice, through an open trial, those responsible for the incident and it was agreed that the perpetrators of the crime be brought to justice as soon as possible.”

If this is true, and we do not know yet if it is, handing over US servicemembers to a sharia court in Afghanistan could be one of the most unconscionable acts ever conducted by our government.

Obama reportedly sent a three-page letter to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, but the White House won’t fully disclose the letter. A small portion of Obama’s letter – suspiciously (and perhaps deliberately) ambiguous – is floating around stating “We will take the appropriate steps to avoid any recurrence, to include holding accountable those responsible.”

What does the president mean, holding the soldiers accountable to military law? They didn’t do anything wrong. If they did, show us what code they violated. Or does he mean sharia law? Desecrating the Koran, especially by non-Muslims could result in the death penalty. But American soldiers are held only to US law, not Islamic law. Besides, depending on what jurist you talk to, burning of Korans is entirely permissible if the books are damaged – which the Korans in question were, at the hands of Muslims.

Of course, the White House and Pentagon are not answering questions. But this is nothing new for the president who proclaims his administration as the “most open and transparent in history.”

That letter belongs to the American people. What legitimate reason does the president have to keep it from us?

Instead of fanning the flames of discontent in our own country, our president must announce what the heck is going on with these soldiers. It would be easy, but Obama apparently prefers to keep Americans angry and in the dark over the lives of those he has sent into combat potentially hanging in the balance.

This president has, on multiple occasions, utilized similar tactics to smoke out his opponents; allowing the reaction to reach fever pitch before setting the record straight – in this case, releasing what could turn out to be a harmless letter. And what could possibly whip the people into a frenzy more than using American soldiers as bait?

This could be an information operation or it could simply be a misunderstanding. The only people who know aren’t talking.

[Originally published at The US Report]

Posted on March 1, 2012 at 09:00 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Articles, National Security · Tagged with: ,

Bible Burning vs. Koran Burning in Afghanistan

The political and military prostration to the Afghan people following the Koran-burning incident at Bagram served as the final straw for me; I once wholeheartedly supported the “war” in Afghanistan. Now, I don’t think Washington gives a hoot in hell for the troops they have sent to bleed and die in Afghanistan. So unless we can elect leaders who can formulate an effective counterterrorism strategy, I now say it’s time to bring the troops home.

As the Afghan police and army gun down our troops in numbers that now rival that of our enemies, the Obama administration thinks that WE are the ones that need to apologize. To them. And to top it all off, our military says that WE are the ones who require further sensitivity training.

At this point, “FUBAR” would be a compliment.

So how should America have responded to the burning of Korans used by detainees at Bagram Air Base you ask?

From my recent post at The US Report:

Military policy requires troops in combat zones to burn their trash. […] In 2009, the military confiscated and burned unsolicited Bibles sent by a church to Afghanistan. In this case, the Bibles were intended for distribution, not for enemy intelligence purposes. Christians did not respond by rioting and shooting US troops, and neither the military nor our government apologized. The military simply burned them and stated that it was policy.

That is how exactly how the military should have handled the Koran incident. Once the burnings were reported, announce that prisoners were using them for intelligence, and we disposed of them as per policy. And let Muslims know that if they don’t want non-Muslims to destroy their Korans, then they shouldn’t desecrate them in the first place.

Why the constant appeasement of Islam? If we are truly a nation of religious freedom, then what works for the Christians should work for the Muslims.

We can’t please everybody, but all these serial apologies have done is pour fuel on the fire – and the Afghans have responded by murdering even more of our troops. At such a rate that ISAF decided to no longer report on casualties caused by Afghan soldiers or policemen.

Trust me, I understand the threat that jihadists pose to our country. However, we can’t defeat these barbarians if we are continually showing them weakness. Sure, we have the finest military ever assembled in human history, but if the political masters lack the will to win, what does it matter to our enemies?

Posted on February 29, 2012 at 13:45 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: National Security · Tagged with: 

Koran-burning apologies are ineffective and counter-productive

The Obama administration has been busy apologizing to the Afghan people for the burning of Korans at a military base in Afghanistan that has sparked a massive and deadly uprising. But this political prostration is actually undermining our mission and further endangering US service members.

US troops seized Korans from prisoners who allegedly used the books to pass information to other prisoners at Bagram Air Base’s detention facility. Following a plethora of apologies from the Obama administration and the military, Gen. John Allen, the commander of both US and international security forces in Afghanistan, has promised that the military will undergo more training in the “proper handling of religious materials.”

Perhaps it’s the Afghans themselves that need the sensitivity training.

Military policy requires troops in combat zones to burn their trash. So while the government is busy prostrating itself to the Afghan president, they should ask themselves what the troops are supposed to do with Korans that allegedly were used to convey enemy intelligence (besides collecting said intelligence).

In 2009, the military confiscated and burned unsolicited Bibles sent by a church to Afghanistan. In this case, the Bibles were intended for distribution, not for enemy intelligence purposes. Christians did not respond by rioting and shooting US troops, and neither the military nor our government apologized. The military simply burned them and stated that it was policy.

That is how exactly how the military should have handled the Koran incident. Once the burnings were reported, announce that prisoners were using them for intelligence, and we disposed of them as per policy. And let Muslims know that if they don’t want non-Muslims to destroy their Korans, then they shouldn’t desecrate them in the first place.

Instead, our government has thrown those responsible under the bus and dishonored their service— for following the government’s own policy!

We could require every warrior we send to Afghanistan to have a master’s degree in Islamic sensitivity and the outcome would be no different. Trying to appease an enemy (and the population that supports them) that is so barbaric that they attack little girls on the way to school should be out of the question.

John Bernard, a retired Marine who has written extensively on the conflict in Afghanistan at his website Let Them Fight Or Bring Them Home told The US Report that Washington’s reaction has been ineffective and counter-productive and that further sensitivity training would only make the situation worse.

“Sensitivity training is a fruitless effort,” Bernard said, “because it is a reflection of the [US government’s] flawed understanding of the ideology [Islam] and the adherent. In essence, all it does is compound the problem by neutering an otherwise affective military presence.”

Sanitation of anything critical to Islam in the US government or military documents and lexicon began under the George W. Bush administration and expanded under the Obama administration.

Bernard wrote:

“Our leadership chose to do a knee-jerk apology rather than explain the truth of the matter,  that those texts had already been desecrated by [enemy prisoners of war] who had used them as combat field notebooks, writing in them against Koranic instruction and rendering them necessary for destruction, ironically, by fire.

The ensuing riots and murders were orchestrated by the base urges of men who have been seeking to kill American, NATO, and ISAF forces all along. This allowed their consciences what they needed to engage in uncivilized, animalistic behavior. Apologizing only further justified the belief of their seared consciences, that they were justified in their acts of violence.”

Bernard added, “Apologies in this part of the world are not seen in the same context as they are in western society. They are seen as admissions of guilt and of weakness. They are then acted upon as a pretext to violence. This cycle will not end until the Muslims get what they want.”

Posted on February 29, 2012 at 13:45 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Articles, National Security · Tagged with: 

John Bernard on Afghan apologies

I recently asked friend and Victory Institute consultant John Bernard whether any amount of apologies or sensitivity training result in a positive outcome for our mission following the burning of Korans that enemy prisoners were using for intelligence documents. His answer is too long to publish in its entirety for my article at The US Report, but I opted to post the full version here:

This exercise in apologizing for every single “infraction” of some incredibly ill-defined set of rules, ideologically taught or traditionally handed down and not universally adhered to, is not only ineffective (as we have seen) but is in fact counter-productive. It is counter-productive from the vantage point of the original “Commander’s Intent” statement handed down – publicly, by then President George Bush shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. It was clearly stated and I will paraphrase; “Locate, Close With and destroy Al Qaida and hold all those who give them help, comfort and financial aid (The Taliban Regime), accountable.”

While the original assault on Afghanistan met that narrowly defined mission statement, the events that have unfolded since then have shown a consistent devolution away from that intent and toward the very kind of “mission” that mired us in Vietnam in the 60’s and which eventually failed there.

This notion that we, as a free and affluent society are responsible for the safety and well-being of every nation or society on the earth is not only not consistent with constitutional thought, it is not, in fact, consistent with anything except United Nations vision. By strict United States Constitutional law, our armed forces are assembled, trained, funded and should be used for the defense of this nation. In fact, if you read the various versions of the oath of service, you will find that their use is even narrower than that statement suggests. All of us who have ever served in uniform, who currently serve and who will serve, do so for the protection of the constitution of the United States nearly exclusively. By extension, we are then preserving the sanctity of American lives and American property. It is difficult – at best to explain coherently how preserving the lives of those in other cultures which are threatened by their own people, on their own sovereign soil, meets that narrow definition of use.

Because we strayed so far not only from the mandates of the Constitution and the vision of the Founding Fathers during this latest episode as well as the original Commander’s Intent Statement, we have, as a consequence fallen prey to the personal proclivities of men with visions not consistent with that of either the Constitution or the Founding Fathers. And because we have followed those proclivities, we have proceeded without clear vision or the sanctity of Constitutional law.

We have also failed to heed history or the clear actions of our enemies and the cultures amongst whom we have been operating during these past nearly eleven years and have therefore faltered at nearly every step. This has caused us to leave our forces exposed to hostiles for far longer than was necessary and has left them far more exposed because our “understanding” of the enemy and the civilian population we have working among, was so flawed. Sensitivity training then, is a fruitless effort because it is a reflection of the flawed understanding of the ideology and the adherent. In essence, all it does is compound the problem by neutering an otherwise affective military presence.

In this latest episode where the charge of “desecrating” Islamic “holy books” has been levied against our forces, our leadership chose to do a knee jerk apology rather than explain the truth of the matter, that those texts had already been “desecrated” by EPW’s who had used them as combat field notebooks, writing in them against Koranic instruction and rendering them necessary for destruction, ironically, by fire. The ensuing riots and murders were orchestrated by the base urges of men who have been seeking to kill Americans, NATO and ISAF forces all along. This allowed their consciences what they needed to engage in uncivilized, animalistic behavior. Apologizing for these “disrespectful acts of desecration”, only further justified the belief of their seared consciences, that they were justified in their acts of violence.

Apologies in this part of the world are not seen in the same context as they are in western society, they are seen as admissions of guilt and of weakness. They are then acted upon as a pretext to violence. This cycle will not end until the Afghan and the Muslim get what they want. In the short run that means expulsion of foreign troops from their land. In the long run, it means world domination and forced submission to the Koran, and Allah.

John is a retired Marine whose website is “Let Them Fight or Bring Them Home.” If you aren’t already subscribed to his posts, you should be.

Posted on February 27, 2012 at 09:14 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: National Security · Tagged with: 

Afghan soldiers killing US soldiers; are we being kept in the dark?

[Originally published at The US Report Jan. 26, 2012]

Afghan soldiers turned guns on their US and NATO trainers more in 2011 than perhaps any other year, and the military organization running the war in Afghanistan has responded by choosing not to report details of these incidents.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led security mission established by the UN Security Council in 2001 to secure Afghanistan, has opted to leave the announcements up to the respective nation whose soldiers are killed.

Sometimes, the incidents are simply not reported.

Last week, a rogue Afghan National Army soldier turned his weapon on his French trainers in Kapisa Province, killing four, and he wounded over a dozen others. The Afghans were preparing to go on a joint training patrol with the French advisors.

On January 20, ISAF issued the following press release on the incident:

Four International Security Assistance Force service members were killed today in eastern Afghanistan by a member of the Afghan National Army.

The suspected shooter has been apprehended.

It is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities.

On December 29, another Afghan soldier killed two French Foreign Legion soldiers in the same province. There is no record of the attack on ISAF’s website.

The New York Times cited a classified report stating that between May 2007 and May 2011, Afghan soldiers or police killed 58 Western troops in 26 separate attacks. In April, 2011, 14 US service members and one US contractor were killed in just two fratricide incidents.

Six percent of all coalition hostile deaths in Afghanistan were due to Afghans killing their trainers, and the majority of the attacks occurred since October 2009.

Multiple service members have already been murdered by rogue Afghans in 2012, including one US Army soldier, Pfc. Dustin P. Napier, who was reportedly killed while playing volleyball in Zabul Province on January 8.

ISAF’s press release reads: “An International Security Assistance Force service member was killed today in southern Afghanistan apparently by a member of the Afghan National Army.”

At least two other US soldiers were injured in the attack.

It takes some investigative journalism to learn whether US service members are killed by their Afghan counterparts. The New York Times determined the name of the fallen soldier from “Afghan officials” – the Pentagon disclosed Napier’s cause of death simply as “injuries from small-arms fire.”

No link to the Times article can be found, but Stars and Stripes has a brief write-up mentioning the connection.

Whether or not Americans know if “friendly” or enemy bullets killed Pfc. Napier is not the point. What matters is that our mission in Afghanistan is nearly over, and our supposed “allies” are murdering our soldiers. And these attacks are increasing.

Rather than whitewashing fratricide events in Afghanistan, military leaders should be working to stop them.

The US and NATO plan to transfer security responsibility to the Afghan government in 2014, so the fate of the mission rests in the ability of military advisers to train Afghan army and police units. But when there is an increasing epidemic of fratricide, and NATO responds by not publicly disclosing the attacks, one has to wonder whether victory is even possible at this point.

Posted on February 25, 2012 at 09:34 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military · Tagged with: ,

Battle of Ganjgal Lessons Learned Video

Posted on February 7, 2012 at 11:17 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military · Tagged with: ,

Walking the beat

U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Lane Edward Morrow, of Susanville, CA, of 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/4 Marines, walks during an early morning guard shift at a vehicle checkpoint near Patrol Base 302, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. The Marines living in austere conditions at PB302 exchange fire regularly with Taliban who attack from multiple positions. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Posted on September 29, 2011 at 06:07 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Images, Military · Tagged with: , ,

Gold Star mom says military may be complicit in Taliban ambush

Susan Price, the mother of fallen Marine Gunnery Sergeant Aaron Kenefick, said on the Tom Bauerle radio show that military commanders may have been complicit in the ambush that killed her son and four other soldiers and Marines.

The action she describes is the infamous Battle of Ganjgal, where Marine Corporal Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor and former Army Captain Will Swenson has reportedly been nominated for the Medal of Honor as well.

Her son was a Recon Marine and was “Marine of the Year” twice in ten years.

Posted on September 25, 2011 at 21:16 by Chris Carter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Military · Tagged with: , ,