Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Private Security Guards for State Department Diplomats Saves the Taxpayers Money!

The use of private security guards provided to the State Department by firms such as Blackwater, Triple Canopy, MVM, and others saves the taxpayers lots of money.  So says a new government report.  Read more in "Blackwater Saves Taxpayers Money", ABC News, March 12, 2010.  Click here to read more news reports about private security contractors.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Coalition Forces Hope to Take Kandahar by August

The American surge in Afghanistan is moving from the fight in Marjah to the fight for Kandahar.  Kandahar is Afghanistan's second largest city and the home of the Taliban.  The Afghan government troops and its allies have their work cut out for them.  The Kandahar offensive is believed to be starting in June (some say preparations are already ongoing).  The upcoming offensive is marked with lots of publicity (no element of surprise here).  It is hoped that the Taliban will vacate the city, government security forces will move in, the Afghan government can re-establish control over the city, and win the people over with good governance.  That is asking a lot of a government that has established itself as one of the most corrupt in the world. (Information taken from various news accounts and blogs).

Protecting Afghan Civilians: Does it Place U.S. Troops in Danger?

What many troops in Afghanistan see as a very restrictive ROE the higher command sees as the way to win the Afghan war.  The revised ROE puts extreme limits on "night raids", use of force, and dropping of ordnance from aircraft.  Many are wondering if we are putting our troops at risk by tying one hand behind their back while providing advantages to the insurgents.  Opinions are being voiced that range the spectrum.  Here is one opinion - "New rules of engagement don't pit civilians vs. soldiers", The Christian Science Monitor, March 10, 2010.  Read more news about the Afghan War.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Fight for Kandahar Takes Shape

A reporter from working in Afghanistan discusses the difficulty of the upcoming battle for Kandahar.  Read "Let's go - it's hunting season", Times Online, March 28, 2010.  Click here to read more news articles about how the fight for Kandahar is progressing.

Afghan Provincial Protection Force Program (AP3) Still Ongoing; Future is in Question

One of the endeavors that is working right in Afghanistan is the Afghan Provincial Protection Force Program (otherwise known as AP3).  This is essentially a locally-grown militia group that is provided some weapons, equipment and money by coalition forces.  In many instances they are more effective than the corrupt Afghan National Police (ANP) and the sometimes ineffective Afghan National Army (ANA).  The program was started and supported by U.S. Special Forces and it is still being evaluated by higher command.  Some Battle Space Owners (BSOs) are reluctant to endorse or support it while others recognize its value.  Read more in "Future unclear for widely-praised Afghan militias", Stars and Stripes, March 13, 2010.

Michael Vickers Talks About Future of Special Operations Forces

Michael Vickers, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for SO/LIC and Interdependent Capabilities recently conducted an interview where he laid out the future growth of Special Operations Forces.  Read more in this DefenseNews posting

(I know what SO/LIC is but I have to Google "Interdependent Capabilities" - not sure what that means. How do you fit that title on a business card?)

In the news article Vickers talks about the additional growth of SOF, budget increases for SOF, more airlift and UAVs, ISR platforms, the gunship light program, and the threats of the future.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Local vs National Control of Militias: LDI, CDI, and AP3 in Afghanistan

A blogger writes about how to control local forces (dare we call them militias?) that are not in the Afghan National Army or Afghan National Police (CDI, LDI, and AP3).  Should they be controlled at the local, district or national level?  Or is the dialogue a little late because these programs are being on the verge of being phased out?  Read more in "Local V. National Control", Registan.net, March 27, 2010.

A Glaring Account of the History of the Afghan Police Training Program

Read a discouraging report on the history of the Afghan police training program since 2002.  See "Policing Afghanistan: How Afghan Police Training Became a Train Wreck", Global Policy Forum, March 21, 2010.  Click here to read more news articles about the war in Afghanistan.

The Fight for Kandahar, Afghanistan

Now that the Marjah, Afghanistan offensive is somewhat complete (still doing the hold and build portion) the eyes of the military in Afghanistan are on Kandahar.  Once again, there is no surprise about the Afghan and coalition forces going into Kandahar.  However, Kandahar is much bigger than the rural environment of Marjah and will prove more difficult to "clear" (never mind the "hold" part).  Read more in "Kandahar, a Battlefield Even Before U.S. Offensive", The New York Times, March 26, 2010. Read more news clippings about the fight for Kandahar.

Training Indigenous Forces

General Petraeus and Admiral Olson testified before the House Armed Services Committee recently on the value of using Special Forces to train indigenous forces.  The leaders outlined this tactic as a cost-effective and realistic approach to countering the spread of terrorism in areas of the world such as Africa, Yemen, and other areas.  Read more in "Commanders Tout Value of Training Indigenous Forces", DoD Press, March 17, 2010.

Admiral Mullen's Three Principles for the Use of Military Force

Many will think that Gen McCrystal's strategy change in Afghanistan (which seems to engage the population instead of the Taliban) is his policy alone.  But it falls in line with the thoughts of others to include Admiral Mullen.  Admiral Mullen has outlined his philosophy on how to fight the war (compare this with Colin Powel's doctrine of the use of overwhelming force). 

1.  Military Force is not the force of last resort.  It should never be the only tool, but one of many tools used to win the fight.

2.  Force should be applied in a precise and principled way.  Every time we kill a civilian we set our cause back and create more enemies.

3.  There will be a constant struggle between policy and strategy.  Strategy will change based on policy and the enemies strategy.

See "Three Principles for Use of Military", The Chairman's Corner, March 5, 2010.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Security in Marjah: Taliban Still Intimidating the Population

Although the fighting is over in Marjah (well not exactly, there are the IEDs and snipers) security for the population is still elusive.  The Taliban have either left or blended back into the population.  The Taliban's intimidation campaign appears to be working.  Read more in "Security Must Come First in Counterinsurgency", Captains Journal, March 25, 2010.  Click here for a chronological listing of news articles about Marjah, Afghanistan.

TSA Nominee Has Withdrawn His Name: MG (Ret) Robert Harding

The nominee for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has withdrawn his name.  Senators have been questioning his business firms' (he owned Harding Security Associates) past government and defense contracts.  He is a retired Major General with 33 years service.  Upon retirement he opened a firm providing intelligence and security services.  He sold the firm last year. He reportedly grew frustrated with the Senators accusations and decided to withdraw his name.  More than likely another example of our Congress discouraging a patriotic and well-qualified citizen from continuing to serve their country.  Read more in "Second TSA nominee withdraws his name", Washington Post, March 27, 2010.

Aviation Worldwide Services (Blackwater) Sold to AAR Corporation

"AAR Corp. is buying Aviation Worldwide Services, one of the units in the collection of companies owned by Xe Services, as Blackwater is now called. With annual sales of $1.4 billion, the 55-year-old AAR has about 6,000 employees in 13 countries. It maintains and repairs aircraft and handles logistics related to spare parts for commercial airlines and the U.S. military. It also makes pallets, containers and mobile hospitals.

Executives at AAR said they hope the purchase will boost the firm’s government business. Aviation Worldwide Services has several contracts with the U.S. government, including some to move personnel and cargo in Afghanistan, another to move supplies between ships in Guam, and a deal to handle transportation logistics and casualty evacuation services in Africa. The aviation unit also has a deal to modify Blackhawk helicopters for the United Arab Emirates."

"AAR buys former aircraft contractor of what was Blackwater", Overseas Civilian Contractors, March 26, 2010.

Order of Battle for Marjah, Afghanistan Offensive

The "clear" and "hold" part of the Marjah offensive is mostly over.  Now comes the "build" part.  But for those who are interested in which units took part in the offensive there is a listing of units found below:

Five Brigades of the Afghan National Army including elements of:
    Afghan National Army
    Afghan National Police
    Afghan Border Police
    Afghan Gendarmerie (formerly called the Afghan National Civil Order Police)

ISAF Forces include:
    1st Battalion, 3rd Marines (US)
    1st Battalion, 6th Marines (US)
    3rd Battalion, 6th Marines (US)
    4th Battalion, 23rd IN Stryker (US)
    Combat Engineer Battalion (US)
    Light Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (US)
    1 Coldstream Guards Battle Group (UK)
    1 Grenadier Guards Battle Group (UK)
    1 Royal Welsh Battle Group (UK)
    Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (UK)
    Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (UK)
    Task Force Pegasus
    Task Force Kandahar

Info taken from an ISAF document posted on the ISAF website.  See:
http://www.isaf.nato.int/images/stories/File/2010-02-CA-059-Backgrounder-Operation%20Moshtarak.pdf

p.s.  Not on the list is the mention of Special Forces units and the occasional CIA agent. 

Click here for more news about the "Battle for Marjah, Afghanistan".

Friday, March 26, 2010

Triple Canopy Gets Bad Press on Contract in Baghdad

I had just finished writing the post below about how Triple Canopy was avoiding the bad press that Blackwater faced in Iraq when I came across this news blog post:  "It's PMC Deja vu All Over Again", Huffington Post, March 26, 2010.  Evidently the firm (TC) is not complying with the contract because they have Spanish speaking supervisors who are in charge of Ugandans (who don't speak Spanish) who would keep English speakers (Americans) safe from harm.

Triple Canopy Scores Big on Baghdad Embassy Security

Triple Canopy is doing well in Baghdad. It has managed to avoid the bad press that Blackwater has endured in Iraq (and the U.S.) yet still make some money.  See "Despite Drawdown, Big Bucks for Baghadad Embassy Security", Danger Room, March 26, 2010.

Afghan Troop Deployments to Recognize Previous Afghan Experience: "Campaign Continuity" (or just plain common sense?)

The Pentagon has launched a new initiative called "Campaign Continuity".  This plan calls for sending combat units back to the same country and region of that country where it had previously deployed.  So hopefully the days of a Marine or Army unit deploying one year to Iraq, coming home for its dwell time of a year or two, and then deploying to Afghanistan are over.  The learning curve experienced by officers and NCOs going into a new country or new region of the country is just daunting.  In sending units back to where they have served before that learning curve is shortened.  It took the Pentagon a little while to figure this one out.  Read more in "U.S. Revamps Afghan Troop Deployments", The Wall Street Journal, March 26, 2010.

Shutting Down "Luxary" Facilities in Afghanistan (MWR Outlets)

It seems the CSM for forces in Afghanistan has decided that getting to visit Pizza Hut and having an occasional ice cream at Dairy Queen is too good for the troops that have to spend a year of their lives in a place where they can't have sex, drink alcohol or see their families.  According to CSM Hall eating in the dining facility should be good enough.  Hmmmmmm.  What do I think about that?  "Not so much".  I say bring back the days when you could drink beer in a war zone; but then . . . that's just me.  Read CSM Hall's explanation in "Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) Facilities" on the ISAF website.  See other related news stories:

"Shutdown of U.S. outlets in Afghanistan won't affect Tim's", Times Colonist, March 25, 2010.

"Goodbye, Burger King: Top U.S. General Orders Closure of Western Comforts in Kandahar", Fox News, March 25, 2010.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Defense of Security Contractors

A recent online posting explores the world of the security contractor.  Issues such as "are they cost effective", "are they paid too much", "are they mercenaries", etc are discussed.  See the article by James Jay Carafno of the Heritage Foundation posted in on March 19, 2010 in the Canada Free Press here.

Afghan National Police: A Bad Start to a Worthy Goal

By now we all know that the Afghan National Army (ANA) is light years ahead of the Afghan National Police (ANP).  The ANP is corrupt, untrained, and a roadblock to fully implementing the COIN strategy adopted by ISAF, the U.S. and others.  There is an ongoing initiative to change that - to make the Afghan police more professional, less corrupt and part of the solution; not the problem.  Read "The Afghan National Police: Restoring Confidence", NATO Training Mission Blog, March 12, 2010.  Click here to read more Afghan war news.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Rift Between Al Qaeda and the Taliban?

U.S. officials are seeing indications that there is a rift developing between some Taliban forces and Al Qaeda.  They point to the recent offensive by the Pakistani military against Taliban strongholds in Pakistan and internal fighting taking place in parts of Afghanistan.  Read more in "Some U.S. officials see a growing Taliban-Al Qaeda rift", Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2010. Read more news about the war in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Critique of Marjah: Was it a Success?

The U.S. and its allies are promoting the battle for Marjah as a success story.  It encompassed the "McCrystal Doctrine" on making the civilians our allies rather than trying to kill the enemy; all the while trying to get the Afghan security forces to improve their performance.  One writer has done his analysis of the Marjah offensive.  See "Marjah push: Ups and downs are lessons for future", Google News, March 12, 2010.  Click here to read more news about Marjah.

Monday, March 22, 2010

JTF2 - Canada's Counterterrorist Force in Afghanistan

Little news comes out about JTF2 - Canada's premier counterterrorist force.  However, every once in a while there is a snippet of news to read.  Such as the following:

"Elite force operates in Kandahar shadows", The Star, February 26, 2010.

Taliban Shift Tactics in Marjah, Afghanistan

With the taking of the town and surrounding area of Marjah, Afghanistan by Afghan government, U.S. and other forces the Taliban have scattered or gone into hiding in the Marjah area.  But they are still doing what they can to harass the forces that now occupy Marjah.  While not directly confronting the security forces the Taliban are planting bombs (big and small) in hopes of producing casualties.  Read more in "Taliban adjust, wage bomb attacks in Afghanistan", The Washington Post, March 20, 2010.  Click here to read more news reports about the battle for Marjah, Afghanistan.

New Rules for the Afghanistan War

Admiral Mullen, with the support of high-ranking officers now engaged in fighting the war in Afghanistan, is stressing a new set of rules for warfare.  The basic premise is that the use of overwhelming force is sometimes counterproductive in certain instances (can you spell counterinsurgency?).  According to a recent news article on this topic CIA and Special Forces Soldiers with many tours in Afghanistan have been promoting this perspective for several years; as have our British allies (who have a rich history of fighting counterinsurgencies).  Read more in "US Re-Defines Its Rules for War", March 12, 2010, VOA News.  Click here for more news about the Afghan war.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Afghan Police Training Program: $6 Billion and Eight Years Wasted

If we have had one single area in Afghanistan where we can say we have utterly failed it would be in the Afghan police training program.  According to recent news reports we have wasted over 6 billion dollars in the Afghan police training effort.  The only thing produced is an ineffective and corrupt police force that is deeply resented by the Afghan population.  While there may be some isolated pockets of success (such as the Afghan National Civil Order Police), for the most part it has been failure.  Read more in "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight", Newsweek, March 19, 2009.

Special Operations May Not Draw Down in Iraq

Recent news articles indicate that Special Forces elements may not be reduced in strength during the drawdown in Iraq.  Read "U.S. might boost Iraq force structure during drawdown", Reuters, March 16, 2010.

Magazine Article on Gen McCrystal by Robert D. Kaplan in "The Atlantic"

A lengthy magazine article by Robert A. Kaplan in "The Atlantic" has been posted about Gen McCrystal and his quest to win in Afghanistan.  Interesting reading about the head warrior directing the fight agaist the Taliban.  See "Man Versus Afghanistan" in the April edition of "The Atlantic".  Read a critique of the Kaplan article by Amy Davidson of "The New Yorker" published March 12, 2010 entitled "A Man's War in Afghanistan".  Click here to read more news and magazine articles about the war in Afghanistan.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Women in the Infantry (and Special Forces)

With the iminent lifting of the ban on gays in the military (or the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy) others are looking at advancing their social agendas.  Soon the effort for integrating women into the Infantry and Special Forces will appear on the horizon.  Folks are talking about it already.  See "Pentagon to Review Combat Restriction", Ms. Magazine, March 1, 2010.

Danger Room Comments on Michael Furlong and the Rogue Intel Network

Lots of commentary is taking place about the latest "security contractor news du jour'.  The press is unrelenting whenever they sense that security contractors have overstep their bounds.  The buzz about Mr. Michael Furlong and his 'Jason Bourne network' that was operating in Afghanistan is unrelenting - however some are wondering what the hype is about.  Read a different perspective in "Danger Room Explainer: Outsourced Intel in Afghanistan", Wired.com, March 17, 2010.

Friday, March 19, 2010

SOCAFRICA and OEF-TS

While the eyes of the United States are focused on Iraq (monitoring the recent elections and wondering how that affects the troop withdrawal) and on Afghanistan (the buildup to the Kandahar offensive) other United States military forces are at work in a more indirect way in Africa to fight America's battles.  SOCAFRICA is conducting
" . . . OEF-TS to counter the terrorism threat in North and West Africa.  OEF-TS supports the DOS-led Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership (TSCTP) by increasing our partners' capabilities to deny safe havens to terrorists, improving border security, promoting democratic governance, and reinforcing regional as well as bilateral military ties.  OEF-TS activities are designed to defeat violent extremist organizations throughout the region".  (taken from page 27 of the document below).
  Read more in a statement of General William Ward of US Africa Command on March 9, 2010 before the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Click here to view the PDF file.

400 Bases in Afghanistan

A reporter, Nick Turse, back from a recent trip to Afghanistan has responded to questions asked of him by the Nieman Watchdog.  The Q&A report centers on the vast array of bases found in Afghanistan that have been built by the U.S. military.  While the online article is informative it certainly has an anti-military flavor.  Brace yourself.  See "Digging in for the long haul in Afghanistan", Neiman Watchdog, March 1, 2010.  Click here for other news articles about Afghanistan.

Contractor Expenses in War Zones Come Under Scrutiny

The oversight of contractors in war zones has been a topic of discussion for a while.  Here is another news article exploring that subject area.  Read "Contractor Expenses Come Under Scrutiny", Aviation Week, March 15, 2010.  Read more security contracting news.

DynCorp and Training the Afghan Police

There are some who say DynCorp should lose the contract to train the Afghan police.  Apparently many feel that DynCorp has not done a good job with this venture.  Read one recent news article on the topic entitled "DynCorp and the Afghan Police", The Huffington Post, February 25, 2010.

Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG): Help Wanted

The Asymmetric Warfare Group (AWG) is looking for help.  You must be an 'innovative thinker'.  The AWG was established in 2004 and provides 'advisors' to SOF and General Purpose Forces.  Many are former Special Forces members either on active duty or contracting (some contractors are retired and some belong to the SF National Guard Groups).  Other Soldiers (or former Soldiers) are out of the box thinkers and come from a diverse background. Read more about the recruiting efforts of the AWG in "Army unit recruiting 'innovative thinkers'", Stars and Stripes, March 18, 2010. Many of the members of AWG spend time in Afghanistan.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jason Bourne Affair (Afghanistan)

The news wires are full of reports on the latest from Afghanistan.  Now that the battle for Marjah has been completed (sort of - we still have yet to see how the buildup phase goes) and the fight for Kandahar is still in its infancy - the press is focused on the "Jason Bourne Affair" in Afghanistan.  There is nothing the press likes better than to give black eyes to the 'security contractor' sector.  Read more in "Pentagon investigates Jason Bourne spy Program", Examiner.com, March 18, 2010.

TSA Nominee's Firm Under Fire: Harding Security Associates

The nominee to head up the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is under fire.  Harding Security Associates supposedly provided "debriefers" and "interrogators" to the military in Iraq during the 2004 timeframe and some are questioning whether these contractors worked at Abu Ghraib.  The nominee, retired Army MG Robert Harding, founded Harding Security Associates in 2003 and later sold it in 2009.  The personnel were under contract to the DIA.  An official has stated that the personnel actually worked at Camp Slayer for the Iraq Survey Group.  Read more in "Interrogation work by TSA nominee's firm under review", Government Executive, March 18, 2010.

Local Defense Initiative (LDI) in Afghanistan Continues to Operate

The little-known Local Defense Initiative (LDI) - formerly called Community Defense Initiative (CDI) is still functioning in Afghanistan.  While controversial to some - many others consider the local militia program an important stop-gap measure to hold the Taliban back while the Afghan central government gets its act together (a multi-year endeavor, could take a few years).  Read more about the militias in "US keeps secret anti-Taliban militia on a bright leash", Guardian, March 8, 2010.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CIA Intelligence vs Private Sector Intelligence

The quality of the CIA's intelligence is somewhat in question - it would seem.  First we get the January 2010 report from MG Flynn, the top intel officer in Afghanistan, stating that the intel provided by traditional sources (CIA and others) is not good enough for the war effort in Afghanistan (see footnote below).  Now we find that private security contractors are stepping up to the plate providing what has been lacking.  Firms like American International Security Corporation are providing seasoned special operations veterans to do the work that others are supposed to be doing.  These same firms are now being spotlighted, vilified by the press, and possibly shut down.  Read a recent news article that explores this:  "When the CIA's intelligence-gathering isn't enough", The Washington Post, March 18, 2010.

Footnote:  "Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan", Center for a New American Security (CNAS.org), January 2010.

Jason Bourne Lives in Afghanistan

A network of private security contractors were providing intel to the U.S. military in Afghanistan - and probably operating a little bit out of the boundaries while doing so.  Two firms were hired to support effort. One was American International Security Corporation of Boston, Massachusetts headed up by Mike Taylor - a former Green Beret.  Another firm was International Media Ventures.  The official who headed up the network, Michael Furlong, referred to his employees as "my Jason Bournes".   The episode is now under close scruntiny and his 'network' probably isn't at work any longer.  According to recent news reports the CIA station chief brought the issue up to the Pentagon.  Hmmmmmmm.  I wonder who had the more effective networks?  Be nice to know.  Read more on this in "Senior US official Michael Furlong questioned over private security contractors", Times Online, March 17, 2010.

Special Forces Brought Under Control of Gen McCrystal in Afghanistan

It appears that the conventional forces have brought Special Forces elements in Afghanistan under greater control than in the past.  This has always been a point of contention - and it appears the SOF community is losing some of its autonomy.  While this might work with the special relationships that Gen McCrystal has in the SOF community; what happens in a year or two when we have a conventional (artillery, armor, etc.) officer in charge.  Hmmmmmm.  See "McChrystal Consolidates Control of Special Forces in Afghanistan", The Washington Independent, March 16, 2010.

Congress Looking at Blackwater's Role in Afghanistan

Congress is continuing its investigation into Blackwater's role in Afghanistan.  With its tarnished reputation and the big contracts yet to be awarded members of Congress are turning up the heat on the defense contracting firm.  Read more in "Congress Questions Blackwater's Service in Afghanistan", U.S. News and World Report, March 16, 2010.

Asymmetric Warfare - An Explanation

Ever wonder what asymmetrical warfare is?  Read this explanation - "The Challenges of Asymmetric Warfare", Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, March 9, 2010.

Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations - Info Document

A Congressional Research Service publication is now available that provides background information and explores issues associated with the U.S. Navy's Irregular Warfare program.  The document was published in December 2009 so it is fairly recent.  The document touches on topics such as Navy IW operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, IW intiatives in the Navy budget, the Navy Irregular Warfare Office, and more.  The 28 page pdf file can be downloaded at the DTIC.mil website link below:

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA512796&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Afghan Police Training Cut in Half

The training for Afghan police used to be 12-weeks long.  It is now half that length due to a recent decision to get more recruits out on the street.  Read more in "To Speed Recruits, U.S. Cuts Afghan Police Training to Six Weeks", The Huffington Post Investigative Fund, March 15, 2010.

GAO Blocks Blackwater (Xe) from Afghan Police Training Contract

In a decision that could ultimately benefit DynCorp, the GAO has blocked the Army from awarding a lucrative contract to Blackwater (now known as Xe).  The contract is for the training of the Afghan police.  Something that DynCorp has not done a very good job with; but a contract many liberals do not want to see Xe get.  The contract involves millions of dollars.  The GAO says that the process to award the contract was flawed.   Xe may still get the contract in the end but . . . Read more in "GAO blocks contract to firm formerly known as Blackwater to train Afghan police", The Washington Post, March 16, 2010.  Read more about security contractors in the news.

Gen McChrystal Tightens Control of Special Forces in Afghanistan

Gen McChrystal has tightened control of Special Forces elements within Afghanistan.  SF operators have traditionally been able to operate somewhat independently of conventional commanders; however, it appears that control of SF teams in country will be even more restrictive.  Read more in "Gen. McChrystal reins in, controls Special Operations forces", Cleveland.com, March 15, 2010.  Click here to read more news on the war in Afghanistan or Special Operations.

Private Military Contractors in Afghanistan

With the surge of 30,000 troops into Afghanistan comes a vast number of contractors.  In addition, more contractors are going to Afghanistan to support many of the costly programs involved in training and supporting the Afghan military.  Firms like MPRI and DynCorp are reaping huge benefits.  Read more in "Private Military Contractors as Buzz Lightyear: To Afghanistan and Beyond", Huffington Post, March 11, 2010.  Read more news articles about contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Presidential Airways, Inc. Awarded Afghanistan Transport Contract

Presidential Airways, an affiliate of Blackwater, has been awarded another government contract to transport personnel and cargo in Afghanistan.  See "Affiliate of Blackwater awarded $39M contract", PilotOnline.com, March 12, 2010.  See the airline website at http://www.presidentialairways.com/.

Private Contractors Aiding in Intelligence Gathering Effort in Afghanistan

A non-traditional intelligence gathering program that involved the use of private contractors in Afghanistan has been exposed by The New York Times.  Private firms involved in the intelligence operation include International Media Ventures and American International Security Corporation.  Read more in "Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants", The New York Times, March 14, 2010. Click here to read more news about private security firms aiding the war effort.

Lack of Allied Helicopters in Afghanistan Prompts Private Contracting Support for Rotary Wing Support

The reluctance of the NATO allies to provide rotary wing support to Afghanistan has forced the U.S. and others to contract for private firms to provide helicoptors for the fight.  Read more in "Allies Absent in Afghanistan - Helicopters Hired", Defense Industry Daily, March 10, 2010.

With Iraq Withdrawal; KBR Work Diminishes

KBR will soon be seeing some lean times.  The down-sizing of U.S. forces in Iraq means less work projects for KBR.  Read more in "For KBR, it's time to hunt for private sector work", Chron Business, February 25, 2010.  Click here for more news about defense contractors.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Bring Back Alcohol for War Zones

Senator Jim Webb has given thought to bringing back alcohol in the war zones.  The Senator sits on the Senate Armed Services committee and is influential in such matters.  Webb served in Vietnam as a Marine, is the author of several books, and a former Secretary of the Navy.  Gee, a senator with some common sense.  Read more in "Rethink alcohol ban in war zones, Webb says", Army Times, March 11, 2010.

Private Military Contractors, Mental Health, PTSD, and Insurance

Here is an interesting news article about security contractors and mental health: 
"Although it is infrequently mentioned, and it is often unfashionable to say, the truth about most private military and security contractors is that they are mostly regular folks trying to make a living doing often difficult jobs in frequently chaotic and dangerous conditions. Yes, many of them are military veterans but they are certainly not mercenaries in any meaningful sense of the word. But often they do have one thing in common with regular military personnel, namely, they frequently get screwed over."
Read the rest of the article "Mental Health and Private Military Contractors", The Huffington Post, February 26, 2010.  Click here for more news articles about private military contractors.

Contractors, Blogs, and Policy

An intriguing article posted by The Nation poses an interesting proposition.  That the military, blogs, think tanks, and private military corporations are all interrelated.  No kidding!  Read the article at "Coalition of the Shilling", The Nation, March 11, 2010.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blackwater Aviation Honored for Supporting the Afghan Child Project

Blackwater Aviation does more than fly planes in distant locations around the world.  They also provide vital services (for free) for worthwhile endeavors such as the "Afghan Child Project".  Read how Blackwater Aviation helps in "Afghan Child Project Honors Blackwater Aviation", Children in Afghanistan blog, March 11, 2010.  Looking to donate to a worthwhile cause?  Check out the "Afghan Child Project" at the link below:

http://www.afghanchildproject.org/

Interview of Peter Moore - British Hostage Taken in Iraq

Peter Moore, a contractor doing IT work in Iraq, was kidnapped and held for more than two years.  His four bodyguards were killed during their captivity.  Read more in "Iraq hostage Peter Moore - my ordeal", Times Online, March 11, 2010.

South Park Character in Kabul, Afghanistan

No one can fault security contractors working in Afghanistan with a lack of humor.  It seems a security contractor named "Eric Cartman" (of South Park fame) signed for a number of weapons from an arms bunker.  The problem is some of the weapons are unaccounted for and they were meant for Afghan forces.  The press is having fun with this one and . . . of course . . . critics of security contracting firms as well.  Read more in "Cartman in Kabul", The New Yorker, February 24, 2010. Click here for more news articles about security contractors around the world.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Marjah, Afghanistan: Analysis After the Battle

Now that the battle for Marjah, Afghanistan is almost complete the pundits have commenced their analysis - and there is no shortage of that.  Read an enlighting blog posting that discusses the ongoing analysis - "Confused Narratives on Marjah", The Captain's Journal, March 11, 2010.  Click here for more news reports on Marjah.

2010 DTIC Conference - March 22-24, 2010 - Alexandria, Virginia

The Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) is hosting its annual conference on March 22-24, 2010 in Alexandria, Virginia.
"DTIC's customers include scientists, engineers and professionals in the federal technology research, development, information science and acquisition communities. Conference participants represent the Department of Defense, other federal agencies, their contractors and potential contractors."
http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/annualconf/2010/2010Home.html

Blackwater in Running for Expansive Afghan Training Program

Blackwater (or should we say Xe) is in the running for some major contracts in Afghanistan.  One of these contracts is a bid to train up the Afghan police.  Other firms in the running include Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin Integrated Systems, and ARINC.  Learn more by reading "Controversial contractor eligible for lucrative new Pentagon bids", CNN World, February 26, 2010.  Click on the links below to learn more about security contractors in Afghanistan.

http://www.securityinfonet.com/news_articles_on_security_contractors.htm

http://www.securityinfonet.com/contract_security_firms.htm

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Summit on Haiti Reconstruction Held in Miami

A conference held in Miami explored the possibilities of what the private sector can do to assist in humanitarian assistance in Haiti.  Attending were representatives from medical supply groups, venture capital firms, aid groups, and private security firms.  Read more in "Rebuilding of Haiti Begins in Miami", Miami NBC, March 11, 2010.

Kidnapping Of Aid Workers in Haiti

Aid workers are now threatened with kidnapping along with the other challenges they face in Haiti.  Two European women workers were kidnapped and held for over a week recently.  They were members of the Frence-based Medecins Sans Frontieres.  Read more in "Kidnapping raises risks for aid workers in Haiti", Google News, March 11, 2010.

Reaching the Women of Afghanistan

The Small Wars Journal has a post (February 18, 2010) about reaching the women of Afghanistan in an effort to win over the Afghan populace.  There is a link to an article (Acrobat Reader pdf file) entitled "Trying to Win Afghanistan without Afghan Women" by Captain Matt Pottinger, Hali Jilani, and Claire Russo.  Essentially they submit that half the population of Afghanistan is made up of women yet the coalition forces ignore this possible base of support.  Discussed are the founding and training of the Female Engagement Teams by the Marines and also of interest are numerous comments debating the utility of approaching women for support.

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2010/02/trying-to-win-afghanistan-with/

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Civilians Adapting to Life in Afghanistan Alongside the Army

Folks deployed to Afghanistan as part of the "civilian surge" are adapting to a rugged life living alongside their Army collegues.  Read more in "Civilian experts adapt to life in the US Army", AFP, March 1, 2010.

U.S. Embassy in Kabul Failing to Oversee Afghan Projects

An internal report has cited the State Department in failing to properly oversee contracts in Afghanistan.  The contracts are for battling the drug trade, reconstruction, and numerous other activities.  Read more about the report and the State Department failure in "Internal report issues black eye for U.S. Embassy in Kabul", USA Today, March 10, 2010.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Irregular Warfare Summit - May 24-26, 2010 - Washington DC

An Irregular Warfare Summit will be held in Washington, DC on May 24-26, 2010.  This conference will provide delegates with the policies, doctrine, training requirements, and necesary capabilities to conduct irregular warfare.  The following components of irregular warfare will be emphasized during the conferences: counterinsurgency (COIN), unconventional warfare (UW), foreign internal defense (FID) and civil-military operations (CMO).  The conference is presented by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).  Guest speakers include ADM Olson (Cdr of USSOCOM), LTG Mulholland (Cdr of USASOC), Gary Reid (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combating Terrorism), Lt Gen Wurster (Cdr of AFSOC), and others.  To learn more about this conference click on http://www.irregularwarfaresummit.com/.  To learn of other conferences, summits, exhibitions and seminars dealing with security, defense, and terrorism view this conference listing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Marjah, Afghanistan: A Long Stay

U.S. troops will be in the Marjah, Afghanistan area for quite some time.  After a hard-fought battle to take the town and the surrounding area, the U.S. has decided not to vacate the area and give it back to the enemy.  I guess this is the "hold" part of the "clear, hold, build" strategy to defeat the Taliban.  About time we decided to "hold" something.  It is estimated that 2,000 U.S. Marines and 1,000 Afghan troops will stay in the area.  Read more in "Marines, Afghan troops to stay months in Marjah", USA Today, February 28, 2010.  Read a collection of news articles about the battle for Marjah, Afghanistan.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Building a Legal System in Afghanistan

Have you ever wondered how one goes about building a legal system in a country as corrupt as Afghanistan?  It is almost impossible.  Read about the difficulties of establishing a legal and correctional system in "In Afghanistan, U.S. seeks to fix a tattered system of justice", The Washington Post, February 28, 2010.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

NATO Set to Take Southern Kandahar Region of Afghanistan

NATO troops are readying themselves for an upcoming offensive to take the southern region of Kandahar province.  Now that the offensive in Marjah has concluded they have set their sights on another Taliban stronghold area of Afghanistan.  Read more in "NATO set for new stage into Taliban heartland", The Australian, March 1, 2010.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Afghan Militias Do What Western Forces and Afghan Govt Can't: Keep Their Village Safe

ISAF, U.S troops, and the Afghan government forces can't be everywhere.  That is why small unit militias are springing up across the country-side in Afghanistan.  While it was a nobel idea to think that the Afghan government would field an Army and police force that would protect the villages from the Taliban it never came to pass.  The Army still is not large or effective enough and the police force treats the population worse than the Taliban.  Read more in "Afghan Militias Take on Taliban", De Spiegel Online International, March 2, 2010.

Marjah: A New Approach to the Afghan War

A lot of new angles have been tried with the Marjah, Afghanistan offensive.  Publicizing the event before the attack, using Afghan troops along side allied troops, having Afghan police and government leaders ready to enter the city once taken, and less use of airpower.  Perhaps the new direction in fighting the war will have positive results.  Lord knows we haven't been doing it right the last several years.  Read more in "Marjah as a Test Case", Bangor Daily News, March 1, 2010.  Click here to read more news articles about the offensive in Marjah, Afghanistan.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Afghan Police Make Progress in Implementation of Biometrics

The Afghan National Security Forces are making progress in the implementation of their biometrics program.  So far over 121,000 biometric records have been collected.  The records go into the central database known as the Afghan Automated Biometric System (AABIS).  Read more in "Fight against Afghan corruption", NTM-A, March 6, 2010.

"COIN Common Sense" - New Publication from ISAF Afghanistan

ISAF is now distributing a new electronic publication on a monthly basis called "COIN Common Sense".  The first issue was published in Feb 2010.  It is an Adobe Acrobat pdf file that is 12 pages long and available on the ISAF website.  Some of the short articles within the first issue are:

- "How to Win in Afghanistan, and How to Lose", by Michael Hall, CSM of ISAF
- "Be COIN Mindful, Always" by Stanley A. McChrystal, COMISAF
- "Afghan Perceptions of Civilian Casualties"
- "Actions Speak Louder than Words: Escalation of Force and CIVCAS"
- "The Enemy is Using Your Mistakes Against You"
- "Civilian Casualties, Vehicle Control Points/Cordons & CIVCAS"
- "De-escalation of Force: An example of relationship building in RC-West"
- "Warning Shot Situational Review 101"
- "Muzzle the Insurgents"
- "Out-of-the-Box SOP, Adaptiveness and Protecting the People: Bicycle Patrols in Uruzgan"

You can view a press release about the new publication and if you want to view the pub follow a link within the press release to read online or download.  See the link below:

http://www.centcom.mil/en/press-releases/isafs-coin-common-sense-issue-1.html

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

7th Commando Kandak Graduates from Course

The 7th Commando Kandak recently held its graduation at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan in January.  This unit will join six other Commando Kandaks currently deployed throughout Afghanistan.  U.S. Special Forces and other SOF forces have been assisting Afghan commando instructors since September 2006 in the formation of the commando battalions.  The course is 12-weeks long.  The commando units are a " . . . light infantry unit capable of being rapidly deployed to conduct raids and strikes against insurgents."

News source:  "Commandos Train for Afghanistan's Future", ISAF, January 21, 2010.

Haiti Conference: Resources for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance - March 9-10, 2010

A conference will be presented by the Global Investment Summits firm and the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) that will provide an opportunity for firms that can provide assistance to Haiti relief efforts to link up with other organizations seeking help.  Below is an excerpt from the website for the conference: 
"This not-for-profit event constitutes a partnership between Global Investment Summits and the IPOA. Jointly, we plan to bring relevant international organisations and aid agencies together with key players from the private sector. The discussion and meeting-oriented format of the summit will allow the parties involved to begin addressing the vast efforts required to reconstruct Haitian infrastructure and rehabilitate the country’s economy and society. Most significantly, all profits from the event will be donated to leading Haitian relief funds.

The objective of the summit is to help rebuild the political, economic and commercial hubs of Haiti, particularly in the devastated capital, Port-au-Prince. With an estimated 60% of the country’s GDP eradicated, up to half of building infrastructure ruined and damaged in the capital, and nearly 1 million displaced people, rebuilding the nation will prove to be a massively complex process. The summit aims to contribute to the reconstruction efforts in fields spanning from logistics, transport and communications infrastructure to security sector reform, whilst helping ensure stability for and the welfare of Haitians in terms of medical and nutritional aid and shelter."
Visit the website at:  http://www.hdpsummit.org/summit/haiti/index.htm

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Looking for a Drink in Kabul? Visit Gandamack Lodge

Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen need not venture here.  Only those allowed to drink (State Department workers, journalists, security contractors, NGO workers, and the occasional CIA agent) should visit.  For those seeking some diversion in Afghanistan and also a little bit of history - a venture to the Gandamack Lodge is in order.  This resurrection of Victorian England in the Afghan capital is worth a visit.  Read more in "Eccentric lodge pays tribute to history", San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 2010.  Visit the website for the Gandamack Lodge.  Click here for news about the war in Afghanistan.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Representative Grayson, a Critic of Security Contracting Firms, Rescued by Xe in Niger

Representative Alan Grayson was assisted in escaping violence in the African country of Niger recently by security contractors from Xe (formerly called Blackwater).  A coup was in progress in Niger and Grayson took flight in an aircraft flown by Xe pilots.  Grayson is a frequent critic of security contracting firms.  Read more about this in an online article by the Washington Examiner.