American Elephants

Obama’s Touchy-Feely Foreign Policy Isn’t Working! by The Elephant's Child

As the United States plans to complete the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the US military and its Coalition partners are increasingly shifting security responsibilities to Afghan forces.  If the transition is going to succeed, it depends a lot on the competence and strength of the Afghan military and security forces. So training has become a major focus of Coalition strategy, which depends on the work of the trainers with Afghan security forces.

The US Army has been ramping up instruction in the languages of Afghanistan, and in Afghan customs as well. Key installations have added several hundred speakers of Pashto and Dari to their ranks, more than doubling the number of soldiers trained in Afghan languages.

Attacks on Coalition forces — called green-on-blue attacks — have increased dramatically and emerged as a major threat, accounting for 14% of Coalition casualties. Commanders estimate that attacks are due to cultural differences and personal disagreement, but others estimate that about half have been carried out by Taliban infiltrators. Nevertheless the US military has become so concerned that they have ordered a designated ‘guardian angel” whose job is to provide security for troops working with Afghans. ISAF commander John Allen has recently directed all US and NATO troops to carry a loaded weapon at all times. They were previously forbidden to carry magazines in their weapons as a sign of trust, while Afghan trainees carried loaded weapons. There have been a total of 57 attacks. 

The US consulate where the American ambassador to Libya was killed is an “interim facility” which was NOT protected by the contingent of Marines that safeguards embassies. It was an unfortified building in a volatile city that has been targeted by jihadis before— and it was the anniversary of 9/11.

According to Marine blogs, the US Marines defending the US embassy in Egypt were not permitted by the State Department to carry live ammunition, limiting their ability to respond to attacks such at the storming of our embassy in Cairo this week. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson “did not permit US Marine guards to carry live ammunition. She neutralized any US military capability that was dedicated to preserve her life and protect the American Embassy. The Pentagon denies this and says no restrictions have been imposed. Reports indicate  the Obama administration was relying on Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood-backed government to ensure American security.

— When the elite Border Patrol tactical unit known as BORTAC late on the night of Dec. 14, was working Peck Canyon, northwest of Nogales, they were hunting a predatory criminal gang that targeted drug couriers and illegals being smuggled over the border.  They ambush the victims for their drugs or possessions sure that it will never be reported.

The team, with night-vision equipment spotted five men carrying rifles moving through the canyon. One of the officers demanded that they drop their weapons. The suspects did not, so two Border Patrol Agents deployed their “less than lethal” beanbags at them. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was hit with one bullet and died shortly after. One of the suspects was also hit. Agency policy: beanbag rounds are one of the “less than lethal” shotgun rounds designed to deliver a stunning, momentarily incapacitating  blow to allow officers to rush in and physically control an ‘uncooperative’ suspect.

The standard doctrine is that less-than lethal weapons will only be used in situations where the suspects are not armed with deadly weapons of their own.

Filled with less-than legal shells, the shotgun is still a shotgun, when fired, a shotgun blast is heard, a flash and puff of smoke and the weapon recoils. Any person not immediately incapacitated is apt to return fire. Border Patrol officials lied at least once about the order to use beanbags, in an effort to cover up the murder of Brian Terry with “fast and furious” weapons.

— There is a discernible pattern here — born of notions that the United States must be just one nation among many, no more exceptional than any other nation, never throwing our weight around, appreciating diversity, respecting other cultures, and above all not being judgmental. People who live lives of apparent safety and comfort have difficulty appreciating how fragile the world is. We are always in more danger from our fellow man, and from bad ideas celebrated by those living their lives of safety and comfort.

Worse Than Carelessness. Needless, Heartbreaking and Just Wrong by The Elephant's Child

U.S. and NATO troops have fallen to attacks by Afghan insiders— trainees or  Afghan police — in increasing numbers.   The troop deaths from so-called green-on-blue attacks have climbed past 100, and it is only now becoming clear why it is happening. There has been a standing order from military brass requiring troops to remove the magazines from their weapons while quartered inside their bases with their “trusted Afghan partners.”

Jihadist Afghan soldiers or police have easily gotten the jump on their trainers, shooting them in cold blood with the rifles and ammunition issued by the United States. Ten of our troops have died in just this way in the past two weeks.  Since the beginning of 2012, there have been 32 attacks that have resulted in 40 deaths.  Last year there were 21 insider attacks.

Earlier this month, an Afghan security commander ambushed U.S. troops. The officer, who was helping U.S. special forces train the local police force, lured elite U.S. soldiers to a Ramadan meal at his outpost to talk security. He then opened fire on them at close range, killing three and wounding one.

The Taliban took credit for the attack. The terror group released a video indicating it has heavily infiltrated the Afghan national army and police force.

“I opened fire on three Americans who were sitting together,” a rogue Afghan soldier, identified as Ghazi Mahmood, says while smiling for the camera. “The reason I killed them is because they have occupied our country. They are enemies of our religion.” He said that there are many other uniformed Afghans “looking for the opportunity to kill infidels.”

This was conceived as a “gesture of trust” toward Muslim partners.  Commanders ordered U.S. soldiers to remover their magazines from their weapons while training and working alongside them. The Afghans were allowed to remain armed. Most troops generally removed their heavy Kevlar body armor once they got inside the base, making them even more vulnerable to “friendly fire.”

Investors says:

Disarming the Afghans would have been the obvious solution. But of course that would expose this whole “training partnership” as the farce it really is. Training and standing up a national security force in Afghanistan is the linchpin of President Obama’s withdrawal strategy. He has set a 2014 deadline for troop pullout.

But the Pentagon is already reducing troop presence by 30,000 by the end of the summer. Many of the remaining soldiers will switch from fighting to training and advising Afghan forces. This means even more of them will be exposed to insider attacks.

But we’re not just training Afghans to replace soldiers. We’re hiring them to protect our soldiers right now, and many of them have also turned on our soldiers. Obama has insisted on using Afghan security guards for base security as a way to limit the size of the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan.  Hiring local Afghans to protect troops obviates the need to deploy some 20,000 additional troops as MPs, or to move existing troops out of combat roles.

Obama’s rush to withdraw has needlessly cost at least 100 soldiers’ lives and wounded countless others.

Obama Said the Troops are Fighting on His Behalf. Not really.. by The Elephant's Child

Uncle Jimbo, from Blackfive, takes exception to President Obama’s ‘strategy’ in Afghanistan. He wouldn’t have gone for the idea that the troops were fighting on Obama’s behalf either. The administration’s plans to ‘dialogue’ with the Taliban seem to be some vague part of the ‘strategy,’ whatever that is. It seems to be about— getting out before the election. There’s certainly a lot of rather large problems that must succumb to electoral politics.

For Some Reason I have The Housemartins’ “World’s on Fire” running through my head by American Elephant
January 28, 2011, 12:01 pm
Filed under: Foreign Policy, Music, News, Politics, Progressivism | Tags: , , , ,

Hmm. Wonder why.

At least Obama is on top of the situation!  Paper: “[events] moving too fast for Obama administration”.

Sigh. The country’s in the very best of hands. “Smart Power!”

Bush was right/Democrats lied #379: by American Elephant

Democrats unanimously confirm the four-star General they previously accused of lying about the Surge and referred to as General “Betray Us.”

How anyone who votes Democrat can even face themselves in the mirror is utterly beyond me.

I’m Posting this Because I Like It a Lot! by The Elephant's Child
March 15, 2010, 12:03 am
Filed under: Freedom, Military, News the Media Doesn't Want You to Hear | Tags: , ,

(h/t: Ace of Spades)

Some Welcome News from General David Petraeus. by The Elephant's Child
January 26, 2010, 12:42 am
Filed under: Freedom, Military, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

Nearly all of the U.S. Combat troops slated to deploy to Afghanistan to take part in the military buildup there should arrive by the end of August, General David Petraeus said. Everybody engaged in this deployment is making an effort to get there as rapidly as possible.

Army General Stanley McChrystal is leading the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan. His strategy includes the securing of the Afghan people against insurgent violence and reprisals and improving citizens’ quality of life through reconstruction and infrastructure projects.

Afghanistan is experiencing a building boom as part of efforts to support incoming troops, Petraeus said. There is a huge amount of construction to develop additional airfields, additional ramp space, additional forward operating bases and combat outposts.

Pakistan, Gen. Petraeus says, has committed to the right side, and deserves the unwavering support of the U.S. in its battle against Islamist groups.  He noted a “true change” in Pakistani public opinion last summer, saying that political leaders and even clerics began to recognise the Pakistani Taliban as a threat to the country, when the Taliban challenged the government’s writ in the Swat valley.

“So this became Pakistan’s war on terror, not Pakistanis fighting America’s war on terror.  That is an enormous shift in thinking.”

Getting to Know the People of Afghanistan. by The Elephant's Child
January 12, 2010, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Heartwarming, Military, National Security, News | Tags: , ,

The American military in Afghanistan is intent on protecting the Afghan people. To win the confidence of the people and get their cooperation, the people must feel safe.

According to a new BBC poll, Afghans are much more likely than Americans to think that their country is on the right track (70% approval).  They think more highly of their President Karzai ( 72% approval) than Americans do of President Obama.  And they really don’t like the Taliban, 90% prefer their present government over the Taliban.  And 68% say they support the presence of American troops.

Afghanistan has many tiny villages in hard to get-to places, so it’s hard to know how representative such a poll is, but the results are better than one might expect.

The Weekly Standard has a most interesting article on the military’s move to engage the people of Afghanistan.  An important innovation are the Human Terrain Teams (HTTs).  These teams consist of five to nine civilians with military, intelligence, or social-science expertise, analytical skill, and cross-cultural training.  The teams are embedded with units in the field, and ideally, each team includes at least one Afghan-American, one or more women, and a PhD-level social scientist.

Their mission is to “fill the socio-cultural knowledge gap” in ways that are valuable to the soldiers they advise.  They are specially charged with helping devise non-lethal approaches to improving security in a given place.  These are not civil affairs units, off building schools and digging wells, but eyes and ears for the military officers who plan and lead operations.

HTTs are to learn all they can about the people among whom their units operate — their tribal background and power structures and livelihood, their recent experiences with local government and with Kabul, their contacts with the Taliban and warlords and coalition forces, and any matters of special concern to the commander.  They do this by developing personal relationships in the surrounding communities and systematically interviewing Afghans.  As they go, they are to analyze their findings and then package them in forms digestible by soldiers.

The article explains the rationale for the innovation, and the training the teams receive before they deploy.  It’s very encouraging, and will give you a much better understanding of the military’s mission in Afghanistan.

Can We Have a Little Clear Thinking Here Please? by The Elephant's Child
January 5, 2010, 1:22 am
Filed under: Islam, Military, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , , , ,

Just an observation.  We are a nation at war.  It is not a bunch of separate wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and so on.  It’s not an “overseas contingency operation,”and their actions are not “man-caused disasters.”   To claim that the war in Afghanistan is a “good war” and the war in Iraq was a “bad war” shows a lack of understanding of either effort.

We call it the War on Terror.  Terror is their chosen weapon.  We have no trouble referring to the air war or the submarine war. Prissy complaints about language are out-of-place.

They want to kill Americans because we will not submit to Islam.

A Speech Before the Corps of Cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point. by The Elephant's Child
December 2, 2009, 3:30 am
Filed under: Islam, Military, National Security, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

President Obama’s speech announcing his strategy on Afghanistan at The United States Military Academy at West Point was an odd speech.  He announced a surge of 30,000 troops, partly in the hope that NATO would make up the rest of the 40,000 that General Stanley McChrystal requested.  His strong words about the necessity for success were belied by his defensiveness about doing so.

To be fair, the President is stuck between a rock and a hard place.  He clearly doesn’t want to be involved in Afghanistan, and is much more comfortable with his hard left base who oppose all war on general principles.  He made sure to mention that he “opposed the War in Iraq which left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort.”

Obama seems unable to recognize that his constant attempts to blame everything on Bush, denigrate everything that the Bush administration did, is not only classless, but exactly what has created a “highly polarized and partisan background.”  When politics permeates everything, it doesn’t stop at the water’s edge, as our tradition demands.

The Left opposed the War in Iraq by claiming that the “right war” was instead in Afghanistan — going after al Qaeda.  That allowed the Left to avoid being characterized as anti-war;  but now, faced with Afghanistan, they have no excuses and are united in opposition.  And they really don’t want to spend any money on the war.  The money is needed for their dream of socialized medicine, and that is going to be very expensive indeed.  Spending the rest of the stimulus money on the war or scaling back health care is, of course, not an option.  They’ll tax “the rich” some more.

Obama is trying to have it both ways.  He doesn’t like the war, and wants “to end the era of war and suffering,” but it had better be cost-effective and cost-effective within 18 months.

The Left got onto this “exit strategy” thing with Iraq, demanding to know what Bush’s “exit strategy” was.  Those a little more familiar with war find the question foolish.  The exit strategy is when you win, when you accomplish your objective, but not a date which the enemy can just wait for.

We want President Obama and his strategy to succeed in Afghanistan.  We want success on the battlefield.  There is a lot of talk about “nation building”, but our aim is to protect the citizens and to train the Afghan army to protect the citizens.  The people fear the Taliban, and will not help unless and until they feel secure.

My sense of this is that President Obama is completely uncomfortable with war.  He has little knowledge of combat or battle, and little understanding of the military or how it works.  “Victory” was never mentioned.  He said “As President, I refuse to set goals that go beyond our responsibility, our means, or our interests.  And I must weigh all of the challenges that our nation faces.  I don’t have the luxury of committing to just one.”

I suspect that he never watches war movies, nor has read accounts of battles.  It’s just unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory.  Which is why he thinks an exit strategy is important, and a goal of eliminating nuclear weapons is plausible. And why he dithered for three months about simply making a choice.

And why he brags about his small efforts to recognize the military like “signing a letter of condolence to each family, reading letters from parents and spouses, and traveling to Dover to meet flag-draped coffins.” The commitment and pride with which Americans volunteer to serve in the military must be near incomprehensible.

“Ive spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships,” he said.  “And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world — one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity.” Soaring words, but with little relation to the real world. An odd speech, very odd.

I will support the effort in Afghanistan unreservedly.  I hope the President does as well. The men and women who serve deserve our full support.

Most of the Pessimism About Afghanistan is Only Half-Truth. by The Elephant's Child
November 14, 2009, 12:29 am
Filed under: Middle East, Military, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

President Obama is apparently going to throw out whatever was undecided after all his meetings with everyone concerned, and unconcerned, with Afghanistan except General McChrystal.

Mr. Obama is trapped between a rock and several hard places, with his supporters on the hard left urging him to abandon the whole thing on one side; the General who is the world-renowned expert in counterinsurgency and the other Generals who have been fighting this war on the other side, and everything in between.

The President would like to find a nice middle road that will please everybody and reflect well on him — and that undoubtedly doesn’t exist.  The choices are all crappy.  Unfortunately, making hard choices  is the job of the President.

President Obama seems to want a clear “exit strategy.”  He wants to know when the Afghan army and police will be up to the challenge, so he can make a promise to his very, very angry left about how soon we will leave.

The far left wants us out of Iraq and Afghanistan right now, as far as I can tell, because they hate George W. Bush, and they want to repudiate his wars to prove how much they hate him.  Bush Derangement Syndrome is still very much alive, particularly in the White House.

There are all sorts of spurious arguments about why we should abandon Afghanistan immediately.  The length of the war is usually mentioned, as if all wars were expected to last 5 years and not a moment longer.  Doesn’t work like that. Historically we have a range from the Hundred Years War, to the Six Day War.  Wars begin when someone is attacked and end when someone surrenders.  Endings (“exit strategies”) cannot be planned in advance, war is an uncertain activity.

There is the “graveyard of empires” argument, the we can’t do “nation-building” argument (counterinsurgency is not “nation-building).” You can’t create a democracy in the Middle East argument. (We did. You may not have noticed, but we won in Iraq.  General Petraeus says it’s more like “Iraqracy,” a form of their own.   They are increasingly having their fights and arguments in their Parliament rather than shooting each other).  That’s what we wanted.

What is important about Afghanistan are the consequences.  And the consequences should not arise from domestic popularity polls.  There are consequences that arise from an undefeated al Qaeda, there are consequences that arise from either al Qaeda or the Taliban undefeated and becoming bigger and stronger because they drove the Great Satan out. We have already experienced the consequences of a strong and resurgent al Qaeda.

David Kilcullen, one of the world’s leading authorities on counterinsurgency and a key adviser to NATO as well as the British Government and the U.S. State Department said that Obama’s delay in reaching a decision over extra troops has been “messy,” and creates uncertainty the Taliban could exploit. He said:

Obama, in a speech to troops in Jacksonville , Florida, a fortnight ago, had said he would never lightly put them in harm’s way.

That’s not the situation we are in.  As an analogy, you have a building on fire, and it’s got a bunch of firemen inside.  There are not enough firemen to put it out.  You have to send in more or you have to leave.  It is not appropriate to stand outside pontificating about not taking lightly the responsibility of sending firemen into harm’s way.  Either put in enough firemen to put the fire out or get out of the house.

Before his Fort Hood trip this week, Obama said the visit “absolutely has an impact because it reminds me that these aren’t abstractions.”  He needs reminding?

If the American people are opposed to sending more troops, or to our being in Afghanistan, a good part of the opposition is directly due to the indecision and lack of leadership from the White House. The more Obama dithers, the more the public doubts that he will give our troops wholehearted support, and those doubts are also consequences.

Blackfive’s Uncle Jimbo Shares His Thoughts About Afghanistan. by The Elephant's Child
October 29, 2009, 2:11 am
Filed under: Freedom, History, Military, Terrorism | Tags: , , ,

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