Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weapons That Don't Shoot for Counterinsurgents

The Strategic Studies Institute of the United States Army War College has posted a paper on its web site entitled "Some of the Best Weapons for Counterinsurgents Do Not Shoot".  The paper is by Eric T. Olson and a synopsis and link to the Adobe Acrobat document is provided below.
"Even under the best circumstances, reconstruction in counterinsurgency is a difficult endeavor. The most critical tasks are numerous and complex. Many participating agencies must undertake missions that fall well out of their existing core competencies or operate in environments that are completely unfamiliar to them. The involvement of multiple agencies who are not accustomed to working together makes coordination difficult. And all this must take place in an environment where an armed, violent foe, who understands the disadvantage to him of a successful reconstruction effort, is determined to go to almost any length to resist progress or destroy what has been accomplished. If the counterinsurgent understands what needs to be accomplished and to what end, and he has a plan and can mount a coordinated effort to execute that plan, reconstruction can indeed then become one of the array of key weapons that do not shoot that are available to the counterinsurgent. Even as a weapon that does not shoot, reconstruction can end up being dangerous to the hunter as well as the hunted. A coordinated, skillfully executed reconstruction program is essential to a manageable security environment and strong national institutions that have the confidence and the support of the people. But reconstruction that is mismanaged, bungled, and obviously ineffectual not only represents a lost opportunity to advance the cause; it also may well put a weapon in the hands of the insurgent."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, November 21, 2010

NATO Talks About Afghanistan in Lisbon

The European countries want out, America wants assurance that its sacrifice is winning, and other allies are dealing with domestic resistance to the Afghan war.  NATO is currently meeting to discuss troop levels, exit strategies, trainers and more.  Read about the conference that NATO is having in Lisbon about Afghanistan in "NATO gives unpalatable Afghan facts a tweaking", Sydney Morning Herald, November 20, 2010.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tanks in Afghanistan Inspired by Canadians

"KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The United States is to follow Canada’s lead by deploying tanks to southern Afghanistan. The decision to significantly up the ante in the war against the Taliban by sending 68-ton Marine Corps M1 Abrams tanks to Helmand province comes as Canadian heavy armour plays a vital but little known role in the war. U.S. commanders have called on the tanks of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) to assist them during key combat operations against the Taliban including during a recent offensive. The German-built Leopards have also provided frequent fire support for American troops from within a base in Panjwaii District that overlooks Zhari District."
Read the rest of the article in "Canadian tanks in Afghanistan inspire U.S. deployment", National Post, November 18, 2010.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Operations Increase in Afghanistan - Special Operations Missions Raise in Tempo

Special Operations forces have dramatically increased the rate of operations in Afghanistan.  So many of the Taliban leadership has been rolled up that the average age of the Taliban leader has gone from the mid-30s to the mid-20s.  Read more in "NATO ramps up attacks on Taliban in Afghanistan", USA Today, November 19, 2010.

Heavy Tanks to Deploy to Afghanistan

The U.S. Marines are going to deploy a company of heavy tanks to Afghanistan in its counterinsurgency fight.  The M1 Abrams tanks will allow ground troops to target insurgents from a distance of up to a mile with accurate heavy fire from its 120-mm main gun.  Read more in "U.S. deploying heavily armored battle tanks for first time in Afghan war", The Washington Post, November 19, 2010.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Afghan Special Forces Growing

The Afghan Army is slowly growing its Special Forces capability.  The core of the first Afghan Special Forces teams was recruited from the Afghan Commando Kandaks.  However this was having the effect of lowering the quality of the Commando Kandaks.  Now recruits are selected from the Afghan National Army - although they must go through a longer training program.  Read more in "Afghanistan Grows Its Own Special Forces", Strategy Page, November 10, 2010.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan - Date Is Elusive

The American troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was widely announced as mid-summer 2011.  However, . . . it appears that is merely the start of the withdrawal.  The date slip provides more time for the U.S. military and its coalition partners to try and train up an Afghan army and police force and to rid the Karzai government of the massive problem of corruption.  In three more years the army may get trained up - the corruption problem, not so much. Read an article on the topic in "When Will Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan Ever End?", The Nation, November 12, 2010.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Operation Dragon Strike and the Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC)

The "clear, hold and build" concept of counterinsurgency is being done in Afghanistan in many ways by the different combat formations of the U.S. and its coalition allies.  Currently OPERATION DRAGON STRIKE is underway in the outskirts of Kandahar and the 101st Airborne Division is applying its version of "clear" to the operation using bulldozers and Mine Clearing Line Charge (MICLIC) devices.  Read more in "U.S. Military Bulldozes through Kandahar", CBS News, November 10, 2010.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MG Flynn to Shake Up Intel World

In a clear effort to shake up the intelligence community, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is bringing back the head of allied intelligence in Afghanistan, author of a highly critical report of allied intelligence efforts there, to handle relations with U.S. intelligence agencies, foreign partners and those who use intelligence.
Read more:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Training at West Point Criticized by Army Officer Who Taught There

An Army officer who served at West Point as an instructor has provided an opinon article highly critical of the training program for our aspiring officers who spend four years there.  Read more at the link below on Foreign Policy Magazine (October 29, 2010).

Monday, November 8, 2010

U.S. Army to Expand National Guard and Active Duty Special Forces

WASHINGTON (10/28/10) -- The U.S. Army Special Operations Command will double in size by 2017, said its commander, compared to what it was before the war on terror.

The demand for Special Operations Forces (SOF), however, has almost quadrupled, said USASOC commander, Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland Jr., Oct. 26 during the first-ever panel on special operations at the Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition.

"The operations tempo for the force has skyrocketed," Mulholland said, later adding that not even the drawdown in Iraq has reduced the number of special operations Soldiers there. He said the deployment ratio for SOF is the highest in the Army, with Soldiers deployed more than they are at home station.

"We will never build enough capacity within the force to meet the demand for the skills and disciplines we bring," Mulholland said.

USASOC is adding a battalion to each of its five active-duty Special Forces groups and its two in the National Guard. The Ranger Regiment stood up a Special Troops Battalion a couple of years ago and additional companies are being planned for each of the Ranger battalions.

What was only a single active-duty civil affairs battalion a few years ago has grown to four battalions, now comprising a full brigade at Fort Bragg, N.C. And the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade plans to add a fifth battalion next year. In addition, plans call for adding a second active-duty CA brigade in the future.

Psychological operations underwent a change this month from PSYOPS to military information support operations, or MISO. The 4th PSYOPS Group became the 4th MISG and the 9th PSYOPS Battalion became the 9th MISB. In addition, the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review calls for more PSYOPS companies, but a USASOC spokesman said that growth depends on future funding.

Overall, the budget for U.S. Special Operations Command -- the joint organization of which USASOC is a part -- should triple by 2017, compared to what it was before Sept. 11, 2001, Mulholland projected. He also said USASOC actually comprises about half of SOCOM.

USASOC now has about 5,000 Soldiers and civilians deployed around the world in more than 50 countries. Small teams still train foreign militaries around the globe, but nowhere are SOF missions more in demand than in Afghanistan, Mulholland said.

Missions in Afghanistan range from high-end, direct-action against insurgents to working with tribal elders in villages, Mulholland said. SOF helped train the Afghan light infantry and they're now training the Afghan Special Forces. Every type of mission in the SOF quiver is being conducted nightly in Afghanistan, he said.

High in demand for night operations are the modified helicopters of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. Not enough MH-46s are available for the missions, and conventional aircraft must sometimes be used, officials said.

Over the next two years, USASOC plans to stand up an additional MH-47 company, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Mangum who recently transitioned from being deputy commanding general of the 1st Armored Division and U.S. Division-Center in Iraq to standing up a new Special Operations Aviation Command. Mangum said he arrived at Fort Bragg less than two weeks ago to stand up the new command.

"Our command will bring more capacity," he said, explaining that it will have responsibility for training, research and development, resourcing, and manning. What it will not do initially, though, is bring more helicopters to the fight, Mangum said. But he added that his command will free up the 160th SOAR to conduct its missions.

SOF is rubbing off on the conventional force, when it comes to capability and standards, said Lt. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, Army G-3/5/7. He said special operations forces set the standard and challenge the rest of the force to meet it.

SOF also provides innovation and inspiration to the entire force, said Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., now the J-5 for the Joint Staff and recently the corps commander in Iraq.

"They shared their stuff, they shared their people, they shared their experiences," he said about SOF interacting with the general-purpose force. He added that SOF should no longer ever be considered a "niche" capability, explaining that they are now "fundamental."

Maj. Gen. James L. Huggins Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said his Soldiers sometimes "bird dog" for SOF and often work together with special operations forces as a team. Some of his Soldiers eventually decide to cross over to special operations, he said, but added that SOF gives back to the regular force ten-fold.

Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Mellinger of Army Materiel Command was also on the panel. He was a Ranger in the 1970s, and said young Soldiers back then looked at SOF differently. Now there is more trust and teamwork, he said, and young Soldiers look to Special Operations Forces for an example -- "for what right looks like," he said.

One proof that Special Operations has become more integrated into the regular Army is the existence of the SOF panel itself at the AUSA annual meeting, several of the panel members said.

"A lot of things that began in Special Operations are now ingrained into the Army," Mellinger added.
The above story is an Army News Release dated October 28, 2010 and can be found at the link below:

Learn more about Special Forces at the link below:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Taliban Resilent in Face of NATO Attacks

American intelligence officials have indicated that the Taliban are surviving the stepped up attacks that NATO has mounted over the past several months.
"The Taliban and other insurgents in Afghanistan have been largely unaffected by NATO's campaign, according to assessments by US intelligence services.  The Washington Post reports that the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and other US intelligence services are in broad agreement that the Taliban and the Haqqani network, an independent militant group allied with the Taliban, have suffered only minor setbacks due to NATO's campaign."
Read the rest of the article in "NATO campaign having little impact on Taliban, say US intelligence agencies", The Christian Science Monitor, October 27, 2010.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Militias in Afghanistan and the Afghan Local Police Initiative (ALP)

The U.S. military is in search of a solution to how to win the war in Afghanistan but to still withdraw in accordance with Obama's time frame - next July.  Unfortunately the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) are not quite up to the task to take over.  In addition, the ANA and ANP do not have ties to the local population - an essential ingredient in counterinsurgency operations.  The Afghan Local Police initiative is an attempt to close this gap.  A 'bottom-up' approach some have called it.  Read a criticism of the ALP in "Afghanistan: Can Iraq-Style Militias Tackle the Taliban?", Time, October 27, 2010.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some Advocate CIA Control of Special Operations Activities in Yemen

There are some in the Obama administration who are advocating for CIA control of Special Operations activities in Yemen.  The CIA and Special Forces have a long history of working together from the early 1950s to the current war in Afghanistan.  Read more in "Support Grows for CIA Control of SpecOps",, November 1, 2010.

Special Forces Combat Diver Course in Key West, Florida

"On the southern tip of the Florida Keys, at what was a fallout shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis era, is the Special Forces Underwater Operations School. It's where the military's elite special-operations forces train at some of the most physically demanding courses in the Army: the Combat Diver Qualification, Combat Diving Supervisor and Diving Medical Technician courses. Soldiers of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Training Group, run the school as part of Fort Bragg's U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

During the six-week qualification course, Special Forces Soldiers learn more than basic scuba diving-they learn a new method of transportation. Master Sgt. J.T. Reed, the operations sergeant for the school, said the schoolhouse focuses on more than the skill of diving; it also focuses on the overall spectrum of waterborne operations, to include tactical infiltration and search and recovery operations." 
Read the rest of the article in "The water sorts it out", US Army News,  November 1, 2010.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Afghan Special Forces and Village Stability Program

The Afghan Army is fielding its first Special Forces teams after an intensive training effort.  These teams are fighting side-by-side with U.S. Army Special Forces detachments.  Read a report on how well the first Afghan Army Special Forces team is doing.  See "Afghan Special Forces team 'incredible', counterpart says", DefenseNews, October 27, 2010.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Training of Afghan's in Australia Causes Stir | PRC and Matiullah Khan

Reports of members of the Provincial Response Company - a part of the Afghan National Police under the Ministry of Interior - are training in Australia with the Australian Special Operations forces.  This has caused quite a stir as the PRC is part of a force in Uruzgan Province headed up by Matiullah Khan - a Karzai ally and warlord in that part of Afghanistan.  The Australian defence department has issued a statement about the training.  Read more in "Response from Department of Defence", The Age, October 29, 2010.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Can the CIA Still Do Its Job?

An observer of the CIA's activities and operations has recently penned an opinion piece posted on the CNN website that questions the CIA's ability to do its job.  See "Can the CIA still accomplish its mission?", CNN, October 26, 2010.

Interest in and Support of Afghan War Diminishing According to Report by Council on Foreign Relations

The Council on Foreign Relations has released an article that states that interest in the war in Afghanistan has slipped.  This can be seen in the lack of debate on the war during the mid-term election period.  In addition, support has diminished as well.  Read more in "Foreign Policy and the 2010 Midterms: War in Afghanistan", Council on Foreign Relations, October 28, 2010.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Kabul Embassy Still Has Security Contractor Problems

A recent report has high-lighted some lingering security contractor problems at the Kabul, Afghanistan embassy.  Read more in "Report: Massive flaws in Kabul embassy security", Salon War Room, October 28, 2010.

A Glimpse of the Pakistan Border Area - A View from Pakistan

A correspondent provides us with an account of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area - from the viewpoint of a local Pakistan Army unit (called the Frontier Scouts) charged with securing the border.  Read "A different story emerges from Pakistan",, October 29, 2010.