After When British General Sir Charles Napier observed Hindus preparing their traditional religious practice of suttee – the burning of a still-living widow on her deceased husband’s funeral pyre – he told the Indian priests, “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
Fast forward two centuries – the United States is engaged in a war with jihadists that follow a religious tradition of terrorism and global conquest.
In an address to the American people this week, President Donald Trump announced a sharp departure from the Bush and Obama administrations’ handling of America’s longest war. The speech signaled what hopefully will mark the beginning of a campaign to restore American military resolve and strength after years of declining prestige. In just 20 minutes, Trump used the words “win” and “victory” more than Barack Obama uttered in eight years, a welcome replacement for politically correct terms like “degrade” and “courageous restraint.”
Undoubtedly, a willingness to use the formerly abandoned term “victory” and stronger military presence with an infusion of mettle is essential to combating our jihadist enemies, and our president signaled that he will not allow the Taliban to retake political control of the vacuums left behind for the Taliban and the Islamic State to fill in Afghanistan and Iraq.
While the president said that he will not announce troop deployments, operation schedules, and withdrawal timetables to our enemies, which he rightly refers to as “counterproductive,” we have since learned that Trump intends to commit more troops to Afghanistan. But whether we send four thousand, or forty thousand, or four hundred thousand American fighting men and women to Southwest Asia, recent history shows that military force alone will have no effect on the ideology that spawns Islamic terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Barcelona, or Orlando. No matter how deep Al Qaeda has dipped into the depth chart over the past several years to replace its fallen leaders, military counter-terrorism efforts by themselves have had little measurable effect on the operational capacity of terrorist groups.
Under past administrations, our troops were hamstrung by highly restrictive rules of engagement. Our enemies were able to exploit these politically motivated restrictions and used them to great advantage. We must unleash our military’s full capacity to bring destruction to the enemy, and Trump declared that not only has he done exactly that – we have already made significant progress on the battlefield as a result.
Rather than crafting a political narrative out of talking points that do not reflect reality, the president has already displayed a willingness to listen to the advice of his military commanders, granting the Pentagon more power when it comes to both strategy and decisions on the battlefield. This is another welcome change from the Obama era.
Trump also signaled that he intends to put diplomatic pressure on Pakistan for its support of jihadists that use the nation’s border areas with Afghanistan as a safe haven. We will apparently no longer continue financing a nation that is playing both sides.
To ultimately be successful in America’s longest war, Continue reading “Trump Should Follow Up Afghan Address with ‘Evil Empire’ Speech”
“We are pinned down. We are running low on ammo. We have no air. We’ve lost today,” Marine Maj. Kevin Williams told his Afghan translator as Afghan soldiers repeatedly asked for helicopter support. American military trainers and the Afghan soldiers they were working with had been pinned down by intense machine gun, rocket-propelled grenade, and mortar fire for several hours, and the artillery support they had been promised was being withheld by commanders at a nearby forward operating base.
The combined force of 60 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers, 20 Afghan border police, and 13 U.S. trainers set out before dawn on Sept. 8, 2009 to search the rugged Afghan village of Ganjgal in eastern Kunar province for weapons and to conduct a meeting with local officials. The town had just recently rejected the Taliban’s authority in favor of the Afghan government. The village elders had requested that Afghan troops would conduct the sweep, and the embedded American trainers were present in case air or artillery support was required.
As the unit approached the village, situated in a valley encircled by craggy mountains, the town’s lights suddenly turned off – a likely sign that the mission has been compromised. Minutes later, the first shots were fired at the column, and the force was quickly enveloped with heavy machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. The Americans and Afghans took cover behind rock walls, and the enemy began an attempt to flank the pinned-down unit.
As a force of about 100-150 enemy fighters maneuvered to flank the unit, the American commander called for the helicopter and artillery support that had been assured before the men set out. Although the unit was informed that helicopter support would arrive within five minutes, a reporter who had embedded with the unit stated that helicopters didn’t arrive for 80 minutes after the call – the helicopters were fighting another battle in the nearby Shuryak Valley, and two pilots had reportedly been shot.
The unit was taking heavy casualties, surrounded on three sides, their radio only working intermittently, when they learned that the artillery support they had been promised earlier was not coming. Despite assurances that the requested targets were not near the village, officers at the nearby forward operating base came back on the radio and informed the Americans that new rules of engagement prevented them from allowing any artillery near the village in order to prevent civilian casualties. When the team requested smoke rounds be fired to hide their retreat, the fire base did send white phosphorous rounds – 50 minutes later. Reports also state that commanders did not comply with repeated requests for reinforcements via the on-call quick reaction force.
On Sept. 8, 2009, three U.S. Marines, their Navy corpsman, and a soldier were killed as U.S. commanders withheld artillery support. As I write an article on the matter, I wanted to post my sources so others may read about this battle. If there can be a bright spot from this, the military is reportedly going through the process of determining whether former Cpl. Dakota Meyer of Kentucky is to receive the Medal of Honor. If confirmed, Meyer would be the second recipient of the nation’s highest award for valor since the Vietnam War.
Rep. wants answers on Ganjgal ambush probe
Heroism in ambush may yield top valor awards
Ambush survivor up for Medal of Honor
Report: Army denied aid to team under fire
Deadly Afghan ambush shows perils of ill-supplied deployment
‘We’re pinned down:’ 4 U.S. Marines die in Afghan ambush
Diana West wrote months ago that Gen. Stan McChrystal had several serious flaws (seven by her count), worthy of dismissing the general only weeks after taking command of all troops in Afghanistan. To me, this one was the worst:
“Preoccupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us – physically and psychologically – from the
people we seek to protect,” McChrystal wrote in a 2009 memo.
First, there is nothing that we can do to win the hearts and minds of the “people we seek to protect” whom it just so happens are religiously commanded to either kill, convert, or subjugate non-Muslims. And how on earth is putting the protection of our own forces first a negative in the eyes of a military officer? West writes:
That a general could write so disparagingly of the means to preserve his soldiers at least to fight another day is despicable. But this is what zealots do. They serve theories, not men; they see visions, not reality. And that theory, that vision is akin to the familiar Marxist notion, likely imbibed during PC school days, that denies that identity, religion, and culture matter. In the resulting tunnel vision, the so-called hearts and minds strategy looks like a winner.
This is the underlying basis of the counterinsurgency warfare now in vogue. “Hearts and minds” is not only the flawed rationale behind “nation building,” it also inspires the restrictive rules of engagement finally causing unease at home. This strategy – now framed as “the battle for the support of the [Afghan] people” — must be junked if our military is ever to be used effectively and appropriately.
McChrystal did say one thing in the memo that I agreed with: “The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves.”
That is exactly what is happening. But with a new commander in Afghanistan, we can push for Congressional hearings on the Rules of Engagement. Untying the hands of our troops will go a long way towards defeating the Taliban and al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist groups. But that will not happen unless Americans unite behind our troops, and press Congress to investigate the ROE.
The military’s rules of engagement (ROE) in Afghanistan have become so emasculated that commanders are now considering the creation of a medal awarded for not using lethal force during war.
NATO Commander General Stanley McChrystal is currently reviewing the “Courageous Restraint” medal, which was suggested by British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter following an incident where U.S. soldiers fired on a bus carrying Afghan civilians.
“The idea is being reviewed at Headquarters [International Security Force Afghanistan],” said Lt. Col. Edward Sholtis, the spokesman for Gen. McChrystal. “The idea is consistent with our approach. Our young men and women display remarkable courage every day, including situations where they refrain from using lethal force, even at risk to themselves, in order to prevent possible harm to civilians. … That restraint is an act of discipline and courage not much different than those seen in combat actions.”
However, restraint hasn’t translated into progress on the battlefield. A recent report from the Pentagon revealed that violence in Afghanistan is increasing – up 87% from last year – and that more districts support the Taliban than did six months ago (none of the 92 districts surveyed actively support the Karzai government while 42 are sympathetic to the Taliban).
While our forces build infrastructure, provide medical care, and show restraint on the battlefield, the Taliban acts like barbarians – intimidating, raping, and murdering. Yet when our troops act in self-defense, Afghans gather in protest, chanting “Death to America.”
In April, a bus approached a convoy of engineers in Kandahar City at a high rate of speed, ignoring multiple attempts to get the driver to slow down. Due to poor visibility conditions, and the high threat of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices in the district, the soldiers opened fire, killing four passengers and wounding 18.
A congressman said that Congress should review the military’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan, saying, “They have proved too often to be fatal” to US troops.
Rep. Walter Jones (R – N.C.), whose district includes Camp Lejeune, called for the House Armed Services Committee to hold a hearing on the rules, which families of fallen Marines have called “shameful” and “suicidal.”
When Gen. Stanley McChrystal, US Army, became the Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan in July, he released directives calling for “leaders at all levels to scrutinize and limit the use of force like close-air support against residential compounds and other locations likely to produce civilian casualties.” In addition to limiting air support, the new ROE also limit artillery support and require troops to break contact when civilians are present.
Gen. McChrystal’s efforts to reduce or eliminate noncombatant casualties are undoubtedly well-intentioned, but limiting our forces offers the enemy numerous tactical advantages that they otherwise lacked.
During one battle in September, four Marines, their Navy Corpsman, eight Afghan soldiers, and the unit’s interpreter died when commanders rejected repeated calls for artillery or air support, despite assurances that enemy forces were nowhere near the village. When the team decided to pull back, they requested smoke rounds to mask their withdrawal, but that support wasn’t approved for nearly an hour. Helicopters did appear – two hours after the battle began.
Numerous families have expressed outrage over the military’s rules, including parents of fallen service members. John Bernard, a retired Marine first sergeant and father of fallen Marine Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard calls the rules “murderous.”
Photo of the Day: Spring Training for Leap Frogs
North Korea has threatened to stop returning remains of American soldiers killed during the Korean War. JPAC informs me that currently 8,034 Americans are listed as missing from the conflict.
SEAL 3 Update: Falsification charges have been dropped against two SEALs accused of mistreating an al Qaeda detainee in Iraq.
DADT Update: The Marine Corps Commandant says if Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is repealed, he will not let gay Marines bunk with heterosexual ones.
ROE Update: Gen. McChrystal strikes again – this time limiting night raids, reviewing Rules of Engagement. Developing: It appears that members of Congress think things have gone too far. Congressman Walter Jones (R – N.C.) has called for the House Armed Services Committee to conduct its own hearings on ROE. More on this in further updates.