Saturday, May 29, 2010

Success in Kandahar Uncertain: Yet will have Dramatic Effect on the Future of the Afghanistan War

A lot is riding on the upcoming (or is it in progress already) Kandahar Offensive. Here is an excerpt from a recent news article in the Washington Post.
"The bet is that the Kandahar operation, backed by thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars, will break the mystique and morale of the insurgents, turn the tide of the war and validate the administration's Afghanistan strategy.

There is no Plan B."
Read the rest of the article in "Results of Kandahar offensive may affect future U.S. moves", The Washington Post, May 23, 2010.

Friday, May 28, 2010

'A Bleeding Ulcer' - McChrystal Comments on Marjah, Afghanistan

General McChrystal was not pleased with progress in Marjah on a recent trip.  Read more in
"McChrystal calls Marjah a bleeding ulcer in Afghan campaign", McClatchy, May 24, 2010.

New Sniper Rifle for Afghanistan: M-110 with 7.62 mm Round

The U.S military is providing nine Soldiers in each of its infantry companies with a new sniper rifle called the M-110.  It fires a 7.62 mm round.  It will be a vast improvement for Soldiers trying to engage the enemy at ranges greater than 300 meters.  Read more in "US rifles not suited to warfare in Afghan hills", The News Tribune, May 21, 2010.

Kandahar Offensive is Faltering

Recent news reports indicate that the long-awaited Kandahar offensive is faltering.  Regarded as the "next big push" in Afghanistan - following the battle for Marjah - the fight for Kandahar was expected to take place in early summer.  Now it appears it will be this coming fall.  See "Afghanistan war: Kandahar offensive is now in the slow lane", The Christian Science Monitor, May 17, 2010.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Marhah, Afghanistan - Not Going According to Plan

The taking of Marjah, Afghanistan is a bit off track.  The Afghan government has not established the services and government entities that were to solidify the military gains.  Read more in "Gen. McCrystal impatient with Marjah campaign", The Christian Science Monitor, May 25, 2010.

Life as a Cop in Kandahar, Afghanistan

A recent news article describes life as a policeman in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Read "A dangerous job in Kandahar", CNN Blog - Afghanistan Crossroads, May 20, 2010.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lessons from Marjah: Kandahar Battle Plans are Adjusted

The coalition forces have learned some lessons from the battle of Marjah, Afghanistan.  One is that the Afghan "government in a box" concept of moving into a liberated area failed (surprise, surprise). It was believed that the Afghans would be ready to move in and set up a local government, establish and maintain security, and take over with their Army and police forces.  A second is that the Taliban is resilent and once the major combat operation phase was over - resumed operations.  So this has delayed "the fight for Kandahar".  The roar of publicity by the coalition forces over upcoming "operations" in Kandahar has diminished.  The time table for "efforts" (no longer called operations) has slipped from early summer to the autumn.  Read more in:  "U.S. Military Tones Down Rhetoric On Kandahar", NPR, May 20, 2010.  Click here for more news on the fight for Kandahar.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More Fighting in Marjah, Afghanistan

Marjah, Afghanistan is still experiencing combat action.  Read a recent report of a firefight involving a small Marine patrol.  See "Fighting heats up again around Marjah in Afghanistan", Dallas News, May 20, 2010.  Click here for more news about Marjah, Afghanistan.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

IO, STRATCOM, Michael Furlong, and Secret Spy Rings

"Michael Furlong, the long-time Defense Department official who set up and ran network of private intelligence collectors for the military, is being hung out to dry by the very forces that precipitated the network's formation in the first place.

Here's the skinny: form follows function in the military, and the U.S. Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, has been aggressively moving into territory traditionally occupied by other military elements and the Central Intelligence Agency. They're doing it under the cover of something called IO -- Information Operations -- which they've adapted as one of their core missions. (The others: cybersecurity, which overlaps with IO, nuclear weapons, and space defense.)

Around 2004 or 2005, STRATCOM set up what it calls the Joint Information Operations Warfare Center in San Antonio, Texas. IO ops are run from here. Most everyone involved in this controversy, from Furlong to his superiors to the contractor intelligence gatherers, went through the JIOWC at some point in their careers."
Read more in "The Secret Pentagon Spy Ring", The Atlantic, May 20, 2010.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

C2 Changes in Southern Afghanistan

"Changes to the command and control of ISAF forces in southern Afghanistan, that will see the current Regional Command (South) split in two to better reflect the significant changes on the ground in recent months, have been announced today.

The announcement from ISAF, the International Security Assistance Force, confirms that the present Regional Command (South) will be split into two new headquarters.

A new Regional Command (South West), based in Helmand, will oversee Helmand and Nimruz provinces; while the existing Regional Command (South), headquartered in Kandahar, will continue to control ISAF forces in Kandahar, Daykundi, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces."
Read the rest of the article in "Command and control changes in southern Afghanistan", Helmand Blog, May 22, 2010.

Friday, May 21, 2010

New Rules for Overseas Security Contractors

"House defense authorizers are pressing ahead with efforts to weed out fraud, waste and performance debacles that have plagued private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Read the rest of the article in "Security contractors could face new rules", The Hill, May 18, 2010.  Learn more news about security contractors.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Afghan Special Forces

A Special Forces team has been charged with assisting in the establishment of the Afghan Special Forces. 
"CAMP MOREHEAD, WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Here on the outskirts of Kabul, a single Special Forces A-team has been charged with a responsibility unprecedented since the Vietnam era: creating an Afghan Special Forces organization from scratch.

The establishment of the Afghan National Army Special Forces, the first members of which graduated from their qualification course May 13, is part of a larger trend toward a more traditionally “indirect” counterinsurgency approach on the part of elite Afghan units trained by U.S. Special Forces. The 7,000-strong Afghan Commando Brigade — the country’s premier infantry force — is expanding beyond its core “direct action” mission set aimed at killing or capturing insurgents and now conducts disaster relief operations and what the military terms “key leader engagements” with tribal and village elders.

The Commandos and ANA Special Forces are also gaining trained information operations soldiers under the Afghan Information Dissemination Operations program while a plan to develop a special operations civil affairs program is in its infancy."
Read more in "No easy task: Making the Afghan Special Forces", Army Times, May 19, 2010.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Route Irish - A film about the death of a security contractor

A new film has come out about the death of a security contractor on "Route Irish" - the route from BIAP to Baghdad.  An English film that "might" be worth seeing.  I haven't seen the film (although I have driven Route Irish!).  Read a film review in "Route Irish", Hollywood Reporter, May 19, 2010.  Learn more about security contractors.

Lessons Learned from Operation Moshtarak (Marjah, Afghanistan)

The International Council on Security and Development has published a "lessons learned" report on the recent offensive in Marjah, Afghanistan called "Operation Moshtarak".  You can read a synopsis of the report online at the ICOS website and download the full report as well.  See "Operation Mostarak: Lessons Learned".  Read more news about the offensive mounted by coalition forces for Majah, Afghanistan.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Aussie SF Troops Build Up Prior to Push to Kandahar

"Australian special forces have begun ramping up their presence in Kandahar ahead of a major NATO-led push to oust Taliban insurgents from the key southern province.

The increasing troop numbers was confirmed today in a briefing by Defence head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, who said the offensive would involve Australian special forces, Chinook transport helicopters and possibly Afghan National Army kandaks (battalions) mentored by Australian forces."
Read more in "Aussie troops build presence in Kandahar ahead of NATO push", The Australian, May 17, 2010.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oversight of Security Contractors in Iraq

"A team of six has arrived in Iraq with a mission few would envy. They are looking for new insights into how to deal with the contractor phenomenon. The Congress-appointed Commission on Wartime Contracting is trying to figure out how the U.S. government can do a better job overseeing the virtual shadow army that has arisen from the private sector in less than a decade.

The bipartisan committee, co-chaired by Michael Thibault and Christopher Shays, is housed in a modest office facility in Virginia, not far from the Pentagon. On a recent visit, I was struck by the enormity of the task they've been given, to report back to Congress on better ways to manage this force multiplier. It's a huge task, seeing as how there are now more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than there are U.S. troops."
Read more in "A field trip to grapple with wartime contracts, accountability",, May 17, 2010.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crackdown on Afghanistan Security Contracting Firms by Afghan Government

A crackdown is taking place on selected security firms operating in Afghanistan.  It is hard to tell if this is a reaction to killings of innocent Afghan civilians by security firm employees or another attempt to "shake down" the firms for additional bribes so they can continue to operate in the country.  Read more in "Zero Tolerance for Security Firm Shootings", Mother Jones, May 14, 2010.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Regulation of Private Security Firms Aim of United Nations Body

"30 April 2010 – A United Nations expert body is urging broad support for the creation of a new global treaty to regulate the activities of private military and security contractors, stressing the need for strict control mechanisms for this “highly specific and dangerous trade.”

The five-member UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries, created in 2005, is currently drafting a possible new legally binding instrument that aims to set minimum global standards for States to regulate private military and security companies’ activities at the international level."
Read more in "UN body urges support for treaty regulating private military, security companies", UN News Centre, April 30, 2010.

Friday, May 14, 2010

NATO in Afghanistan: Numbers, Casualties, and Growth of Mission

"Since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization took control of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in 2003 the amount of troops serving under that command has grown from 5,000 to over 100,000.

There are currently 134,000 foreign troops in the nation counting U.S. soldiers serving separately with Operation Enduring Freedom, although the aggregate number is to reach 150,000 by the summer and most American troops not now under NATO command will soon be. There are 47,000 troops from NATO member and partner countries in the nation.

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan will soon outnumber those in Iraq.  Over 1,600 U.S., NATO and allied troops have been killed in the war theater, with 520 of those killed last year. U.S. deaths more than doubled from 2008 to 2009, from 155 to 318."
Read the rest of this article in "NATO In Afghanistan: World War in One Country", News, May 14, 2010.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

U.S. Military Still Troubled with Roadside Bombs in Afghanistan

"The top leadership of the Defense Department has called for new and better ways to defeat roadside bombs. Nonetheless, the process of acquiring and delivering technologies to counter this threat is still too slow and cumbersome, said Army Lt. Gen. Michael Oates.

Oates is the director of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization, which was created six years ago to help expedite the fielding of technologies to counter roadside bombs. Although the organization has the authority to bypass traditional acquisition routes, the process is still not moving fast enough, Oates said yesterday in remarks at an industry conference sponsored by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute."
Read the rest of the article in "U.S. Military Still Lacks a Winning Strategy for Fighting Roadside Bombs", National Defense Magazine, May 12, 2010.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Views of ANCOP Differ: Are they the "Good" Afghan Police Force?

The Afghan National Civil Order Police or ANCOP as they are referred to have been touted as the answer to professionalizing the corrupt, ineffective, costly, and highly disrepected Afghan National Police (ANP).  However, there are differing views on their performance.  Some are pointing them out as being almost as bad as the ANP (see "Corruption, incompetence charges plague new Afghan police force", Miami Herald, May 10, 2010).  Others are holding them up to be a model of the way forward for training up the much larger ANP (see "Elite Afghan Police Return from Marjah", ISAF News, May 9, 2010).  Read more news about the war in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Operation Hamkari: The Fight for Kandahar

The fight for Kandahar has been designated "Operation Hamkari" by the coalition forces.  It has been highly publicized and touted as much an information operations (IO) campaign as an on the ground battle.  Read more in "When information hits harder than firepower in military campaigns", Times Online UK, May 11, 2010.  Read more about the fight for Kandahar.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Security Contractors Who Blog

Want to know what is really going on in Afghanistan from folks that are seeing it everyday?  Read some blogs by security contractors.  Seems they are posting and not holding back how they feel about the course of the war.  Read "Meet the New Frontline Bloggers: Security Contractors", Danger Room, May 6, 2010.  Click here to read more news about security contractors and blogs about the Afghanistan war.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hybrid Warfare - a New Military Term to Get Use To

Just when you thought you had seen the last of new (or redefined) terms that reflect certain aspects of the conflict spectrum - a new one comes along. The newest one I have just heard is "hybrid warfare".  I first heard the term at a conference a few weeks back and now I just read a news article that used the term a few times (see "Army Prepares to be at War Indefinitely", National Defense Magazine, May 6, 2010).  So after reading the article I Googled "hybrid warfare definition" and lots came up.  Much to my surprise the term has been around for awhile (see "Are We Ready for Hybrid Wars", Small Wars Journal Blog, February 2, 2009).  The SWJ blog makes reference to a paper entitled "Conflict in the 21st Century: The Rise of Hybrid Wars", by Frank Hoffman of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.  Further investigation (using Google of course) shows the term being used as early as 2006.  It appears that "Hybrid warfare" is a combination of traditional warfare mixed with terrorism or insurgency.  Is this a new type of warfare or just a way to redefined what has already existed with a new name?  Maybe I am behind the times.  Perhaps I should read more and write less!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Russian Special Forces Free Ship Captured by Somali Pirates

Russian forces reacted quickly to the capture of one of their merchant ships by Somalia pirates.  It was freed from pirate control rather quickly with no injuries to the crew (all Russian) and one death of a Somali pirate.  Read more in "Russian special forces storm oil tanker, free ship",, May 6, 2010.

Friday, May 7, 2010

How Much Does the Afghan War Costs Us?

So how much have we spent on the war in Afghanistan?  Reuters tries to break down the costs.  It estimates we have spent $345 billon so far.  See "A look at costs of Afghan war to U.S. taxpayers",, May 6, 2010.  Click here to read more news about the war in Afghanistan.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Talk of Withdrawal from Afghanistan Has the Concern of Troops Fighting the War

The fact that President Obama has publicly provided a withdrawal date for U.S. troops in Afghanistan has the Soldiers and Marines on the battlefield in Afghanistan concerned. By providing a date for taking the troops out of this war Obama has given the Taliban the amount of time they have to hold out before they can march to victory.  Read more in "U.S. military growing concerned with Obama's Afghan policy", San Francisco Examiner, May 4, 2010.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Interview of Marine Officer About Operation Moshtarak - Marjah, Afghanistan

Leatherneck Magazine offers an interview of the commanding officer of 3/6th Marines.  He provides insight into Operation Moshtarak - the offensive for Marjah, Afghanistan.  Interview is dated March 6, 2010.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Small Victory in Afghanistan: Getting Kids to Stop Throwing Rocks

A Soldier from Maine (a member of the 172nd Infantry of the Maine Army National Guard) writes home on how he got some Afghan kids to stop throwing rocks at his troops every time the convoy passed by the boy's schoolhouse.  While not a huge advancement in the progress of the war - it is a little step forward.  Read "One small victory in Afghanistan", Portland Press Herald, May 4, 2010.  Read more news about the war in Afghanistan.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"Why Corporations Hire Private Contractors"

D. Alan Johnson, the author of Asgaard (A Novel of Africa), has wrote three articles posted on the "Blogger News Network" about the use of private military contractors by corporations doing work in dangerous places overseas.  The articles are entitled "Why Corporations Hire Private Military Contractors" and were published in April 2010. 
"Introduction: Private Military Contractors are in demand all over the world by governments seeking to augment their military and maintain an edge over their adversaries. Contractors take care of high tech missiles and free up fighting soldiers by managing mess halls. But another facet of this PMC business is the corporate sector. These jobs are never advertised, but contractors play a part in the strategic decision making and vital running of a large multinational."
Part I
Part II
Part III

Dexter Filkin's Assessment of Afghanistan (April 2010)

A foreign correspondent for the New York Times and author of a book on the Iraq and Afghanistan war has filed a story with National Public Radio about Afghanistan. 
"Dexter Filkins, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, has just returned to the United States from Afghanistan, where he spent the past several months reporting on the troop surge and the challenges the U.S. faces in trying to drive the Taliban out of the country. Filkins says that he's growing increasingly "less hopeful" that the U.S. government can leave the country with a stable government because the Afghan government is in itself "a rotten shell."
  Read the story at "Afghanistan's 'Make or Break' Time", NPR, April 20, 2010.  Find out more about Dexter Filkins book at The Forever War.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Contractors Paying the Price in Iraq: Deaths in Combat Zone Continue

Contractors, bearing a large part of the burden of the war on terror in combat zones, are continuing to pay a high price.  This is still true in Iraq. 
"Military contractors are a fact of life in Iraq - doing everything from protecting diplomats and those involved in the reconstruction process to delivering supplies.

In September of 2008, there were some 160,000 of them working for the Department of Defense alone, today that number is closer to 100.000. Just over 50,000 are Iraqi nationals - but nearly 28,000 are U.S. citizens. And their service comes at a high price.

I'm not talking about the monetary cost of contracting out, (on which there has been a protracted debate over whether hiring them is more cost efficient than having troops do the same work.) I'm talking about the price that's paid in blood.

The Special Inpector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) notes that 25 contractor deaths were reported in the first quarter of 2010, bringing the total number of contractors killed since the Department of Labor began keeping figures in March of 2003, to 1,471."
Read the rest of the article in "Security Brief: Contractors pay the price in Iraq", CNN Blog, April 30, 2010.  Click here to learn more about contractors in war zones.