Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shout Out To Tampa-St Pete

I know there's a couple of readers down there, I can see you on the SiteMeter!

... Aunt Muriel? Cousin Larry? Anyone?

Please look at this and see if you can do a little to show some support. Perhaps a little cheering or something?

We each do what we each can do. It all adds up.


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Friday, February 27, 2009

Here Is Bacevich's Counterpoint; John McCain

A day after posting that there was no point/counterpoint between Nagl and Bacevich, SWJ puts up the content of Senator John McCain's remarks to the American Enterprise Institute.

Bacevich offered no counterpoint to Nagl. Nagl moves past the question of "why?" and gets to the "how," which Bacevich never does. McCain's remarks serve as an excellent rebuttal to Bacevich's stance. Nagl's piece stands without challenge in substance.

Anyone? COL Gentile?
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Two Very Smart Men; Missing The Point-Counterpoint

Dr. John Nagl is always ready for a point/counterpoint type of exchange with an opposing point of view. In his latest joust, Dr. Nagl takes on Professor Andrew Bacevich in U.S. News and World Report. Dr. Nagl offers a course of action that is predicated upon the belief that Afghanistan - and Central Asia - is vitally important to the security of the United States. Prof. Bacevich dismisses even addressing this issue in what appears to be a de facto assertion of the irrelevance of Central Asia to national security, and counsels that departing Afghanistan is the only way for President Obama to truly cast his legacy. This misses the Point/Counterpoint that was advertised.

More after the jump...

Dr. Nagl, the new President of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS,) a Washington-based think tank which was co-founded by Michelle Flournoy, a very smart woman in her own right and recently sworn in asAmerican goals in Afghanistan have suffered from the most fundamental of all strategic errors: insufficient resources to accomplish maximalist goals. Building a liberal democracy in Afghanistan may be possible, but after 30 years of war, the country simply does not have the human capital and institutions that democracy requires. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, presents the opinion that success in the Afghan Campaign of the GWOT is achievable. He also presents a pretty horrendous picture of what that success will cost in terms of troops deployed, at least initially. This is tempered by a call for transition to a sustainable Afghan force, backed by advisers and force multipliers such as air power, in order to maintain security gains. In the midst of this, Dr. Nagl notes that this needs to be more than a purely military solution.

While an expanded international commitment of security and development forces can assist in the achievement of these goals in the short term, ultimately Afghans must ensure stability and security in their own country. Building a state, even if it is a flawed one, that is able to provide a modicum of security and governance to its people is the American exit strategy from Afghanistan...

...Success in counterinsurgency requires the integration of military, diplomatic, and economic assistance to a country afflicted by insurgents; Gen. David McKiernan, the American commander responsible for the International Security Assistance Forces, briefed just such a strategy to a group of scholars visiting Afghanistan in November. Unfortunately, he has not been given the resources required to accomplish his mission.

These are things that have been said before here on this page, and are proof that I do not have an original thought in my head. The point here, and stated clearly in Prof. Bacevich's response, is that there is no purely military solution to any insurgency. It requires a holistic approach that we have not been pursuing.

I tend to agree strongly with most of Dr. Nagl's points, and the one that gives me pause is the troop requirement, which I believe to be excessive. On this point I may well be wrong, but my central point remains that if we were in fact performing full-spectrum counterinsurgency we would not be suffering so in Afghanistan. A quick review of the many ideas being bandied about, and the widely divergent opinions of such smart men as Nagl and Bacevich, display our absolute national confusion as to how to resolve this situation favorably. Our own Armed Forces, particularly the Army, struggle with the embrace of such strategies and tactics to the point that the institution itself has become practically schizophrenic.

Any Soldier who has deployed will tell you that there are two Armies; the one that is deployed and fighting and the one that resides in non-combat areas. This is not a statement of standards of living, but an observation of the training and preparation for war done at home station as opposed to the actual Soldiering that is done in the Theater of War. Some active duty units do a better job than others, but Guard units are still training for WW-III or at least some more conventional war. Even at pre-deployment training there are things that are taught as gospel that bear little to no resemblance to what is actually done in-theater, especially in Afghanistan.

A case in point was that of SSG Smokey Jackalacker. SSG Jackalacker was the subject of the subject of some humor on this site, but those humorous points had a purpose; to demonstrate the failure that we have had in preparing our Soldiers for this war. SSG Jackalacker and all of his compatriots underwent their pre-deployment train-up at Fort Bragg. You would think that, on a post which hosts elite units that have spent many months in the suck of Afghanistan, the pre-deployment training would be the very best theater-focused immersion training that the Army could possibly provide.

SSG Jackalacker and his men were "immersed" in a "FOB" complete with role players who frequently demonstrated outside the gates of the "FOB." Not once in a year in Afghanistan did I see, on any of the many FOBs I visited or worked out of, a single demonstration. Not once. Yet hours and hours of training and mental bandwidth were spent preparing for the most unlikely of potentialities while critical aspects of training were completely absent.

SSG Jackalacker had heard the word, "counterinsurgency," but really was utterly and completely clueless as to what it meant. Heavy on the "utterly" and the "clueless." SSG Jackalacker's mind was stuck on thirteen years of training for narrow-spectrum Infantry operations and all of the inapplicable training that he had been subjected to in a three month train-up at Ft Bragg. After a quick review of what his training, I had to sing to SSG Jackalacker the same song so many have heard upon arrival in the theater; "Forget everything they taught you except your weapons, your combat lifesaver, and your communications. We will show you how it is done for real."

Many of the active duty units that do a good job, due to repeated rotations, of training theater-specifically in counter-guerrilla tasks. Note that counter-guerrilla tasks are not the full spectrum of counterinsurgency tasks. While the survival and small unit combat skills are necessary, junior leaders, particularly NCO's, are woefully untrained in COIN. Commanders are not judged by how secure the populations are relative to the arrival and departure of their units. Success as a commander is measured by how many missions were executed, how much humanitarian aid was delivered, and their casualties relative to any apparent damage done to the enemy, among other things. Nowhere in the appraisal process is an attempt made to measure the opinion of the local populace, the center of influence in any counterinsurgency campaign.

Dr. Nagl points to a lack of resources made available to the highest military authority in Afghanistan to do what he knows to be the right thing. GEN Petraeus, who pushed down counterinsurgency behavior to the small unit level in Iraq, knows these things, too. The Armed Forces can only do so much in the counterinsurgency. Iraq has had more of the non-military resources devoted to it, and has a lot more of the basic material (such as the basis of an economy) than Afghanistan has. Iraq has an institutional memory of how to govern itself and provide basic services to its constituents. Dr. Nagl points out that Afghanistan lacks this.

Building a liberal democracy in Afghanistan may be possible, but after 30 years of war, the country simply does not have the human capital and institutions that democracy requires.

Dr. Nagl then presents a solution; but it is a solution predicated upon our Armed Forces conducting proper counterinsurgency and our civilian government making just as big a commitment to supporting the non-military organs of the Afghan government. This writer does not see these as foregone conclusions.

Additional troops will be successful only if they are employed correctly. Relearning the classic "clear, hold, and build" counterinsurgency model took several years in Iraq, but to date there are insufficient international or Afghan forces to hold areas that American troops have cleared of insurgents. As a result, the troops have had to clear the same areas repeatedly—paying a price for each operation in both American lives and in Afghan public support, which suffers from Taliban reprisals whenever we "clear and leave."

The alternative requires not just more troops but a different strategy. After an area is cleared of insurgents, it must be held by Afghan troops supported by American advisers and combat multipliers, including artillery and air support. Inside this bubble of security, the Afghan government can re-establish control and build a better and more prosperous community with the help of a surge of American civilian advisers.

Andrew Bacevich, also a very smart while very pessimistic man, weighs in from his angle and, perhaps unwittingly, points to the very deficiency in our current strategy that makes Afghanistan appear, to those who will not clearly see the solution, as an imponderably sodden mass of confusion.

Attention is now shifting back to Afghanistan, with President Obama seemingly intent on redeeming an ill-advised campaign pledge to increase the U.S. troop commitment to that theater of operations. Yet as the conflict continues, the correlation between American actions and America's interests is becoming increasingly difficult to discern. The fundamental incoherence of U.S. strategy becomes ever more apparent. Worst of all, there is no end in sight.

Bacevich then launches into a flawed and overly simplistic three-phase analysis of the war. His analysis is hamstrung by a traditional military analytical approach, and a total dismissal of any effects at all from the application of rudimentary counterinsurgency doctrine down to the unit level.

What Bacevich's analysis appeared to do, surprisingly, is bring to light the very inability of traditional military thought to accurately decipher the events that have occurred as the conflict changed from conventional warfare into irregular warfare. His analysis of the early phases of the war hint at a foreboding that simply defeating the armed defenses of Iraq and the Taliban regime would not be sufficient to bring relief from the threat, but as the analysis goes on Bacevich is only able to discern the failures without seeming to understand why they occurred. His attributions of the military and civilian failures on the local level are to the overarching political decision-making rather than on the inability of the United States to effectively shift gears with the changing needs of the situation. Bacevich appears to be stumped.

Yet efforts to achieve a military solution yielded not decision but escalating levels of violence. Confident chatter of ending tyranny and liberalizing the Islamic world ceased. The strategic focus narrowed further: In common parlance, "the war" no longer meant the larger struggle against terrorism; it meant Iraq. There, U.S. commanders had willy-nilly adopted a strategy of attrition, which produced frustration on the battlefield and backlash on the home front.

In frustration Bacevich dismisses any American change of doctrinal behavior by utterly ignoring it and instead launches upon a political analysis of the presidential campaign and the war's effect upon it. While this appears to be diversionary, it is not.

Petraeus launched what was in effect a salvage operation. The emphasis shifted from chasing insurgents to protecting the Iraqi people. Under what was styled as the Sunni Awakening, the United States offered money and arms to militants who promised to cease attacking coalition forces. Thanks to this "surge," the level of violence in Iraq diminished appreciably. Although Petraeus by no means solved the Iraqi conundrum, he pulled that country back from the precipice of disintegration.

This limited success did not suffice to redeem the presidential hopes of Sen. John McCain, who made his support for the surge the centerpiece of his campaign. Barack Obama, a consistent critic of the war, beat McCain handily.

Bacevich then lends more credence to what has become a common meme; that the conflict in Afghanistan suddenly and nearly inexplicably degenerated in 2008 and that the safe zones in Pakistan were somehow a new problem.

In 2008, the Taliban returned to the offensive. Allied casualties increased. Fighting spilled across the border into Pakistan, which became the Long War's de facto third front.

Any veteran of Afghanistan who spent much time "outside the wire" in the past several years could tell you that the Taliban had been getting bolder and bolder with each passing year. Until 2008, 2007 had been by far the most violent year in Afghanistan, and there was plenty of cross-border activity that year including air strikes on Taliban and al Qaeda targets in the FATA. While Musharraf's government was much more amenable to such cross-border activity, they are by no means new. Bacevich's depiction of the apparently sudden resurgence of the Taliban demonstrates that his awareness of Afghanistan, like that of the American public's, is lost in a fog prior to this year. Until this year Afghanistan was "the forgotten war," and everyone who slogged around in the dust of the Hindu Kush knew it. Even the Army forgot that it existed. In our preparations for deployment as embedded advisers, it became a running joke that our briefings would start off on the wrong foot.

"When you arrive in Iraq..."

"Uh, Sir?"


"We're going to Afghanistan."


While Bacevich is not alone in his misunderstanding of Afghanistan, the entire tone of his piece is a political viewpoint. This is not a point/counterpoint, as the two men are discussing two completely different topics. Nagl's advice for how to bring about success is an appeal to both military leadership and political leadership to take a well-rounded counterinsurgent approach, while Bacevich's ultimate appeal is not to military decision-makers but to one man; President Obama.

The time to address these questions is now. Obama's freedom of action will never be greater than it is today. Should he dodge these issues and plunge more deeply into Afghanistan, the Long War will very soon become Obama's War. And he will richly deserve the obloquy to be heaped on his head as a consequence.

The real difference between these two men begin with their respective appraisals of the national security implications of Central Asia and Afghanistan's role in it. If you feel that Afghanistan is in any way significant as a key to national security in the future, listen to Dr. Nagl very carefully. If you are convinced that retreat from that theater will not bring adverse consequences for our security, then cite Professor Bacevich liberally.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Yep, It Quacks Just Like A Duck

With the kind permission of Neptunus Lex, I bring two comments out of his vault, both made today. I'll let you be the judge.

I say it quacks just like a duck.

RYP // Feb 24, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Sadly, yet another series of untruths from Old Blue in addition to the ones he has already corrected. I have never met Ted Turner or Wes Clark and I have no business relationship with them.

You can see the site I own at Not that exciting or even close to being a Human Terrain program killer. I gave Steve and his crew free subscriptions after I first met him and offered to hook him up with a number of research sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I like Steve and wish him well.

There are quite a few errors, inventions and misstatements in his latest iteration. Its clear that he steadfastly keeps the focus off the actual problems in the HTT program by desperately tries keep pulling rabbits out his hat.

And yes, I would think that most people on this forum would agree that the truth is always worth a ferocious defense but invented offense is probably worth ignoring.

Emphasis mine.

Old Blue // Feb 24, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Please allow me to deposit the BS flag as gently as possible.

So after he left CNN, Mr. Jordan called up his former boss and longtime mentor, Ted Turner.

“I didn’t ask for money, but for his advice and guidance,” Mr. Jordan said. Mr. Turner sits on Praedict’s advisory board, as do former Presidential hopeful Gen. Wesley Clark, Iraqi Red Crescent president Dr. Said Hakki, Gen. James Marks and Lord Richard Bethell Westbury.

“The company has been largely funded out of my pocket, with some help from a couple of angel investors,” Mr. Jordan said. Mr. Jordan declined to specify who the angels were, beyond saying that they were not members of the advisory board.

Praedict’s U.S. staff consists of co-founder Robert Pelton, author of a book on the inner workings of military contractors; journalist Nir Rosen, who chronicled the Sunni and Shiite resistance starting in 2003; Zeyad, an Iraqi CUNY student who uses only his first name; Amer Mohsen, who critiques the Iraqi press; and Ms. Shen.

Just sayin’…

I do not understand how one can not have a business relationship with someone on the advisory board of a company in which you are a co-founder. Can anyone help me to sharpen my business acumen? I'm obviously missing something here. Can this possibly make any sense at all?
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Picasso Pelton: Old Blue’s Paint By Numbers

We are going to play a paint-by-numbers game. I’m going to lay out the lines with the facts that I know, and I’ll supply the paints. You just paint by the numbers, and we’ll see what picture presents itself by the time we are done. This article includes a basic description of the Human Terrain System and why it is important to the counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, and series of related events that may threaten the program at a critical stage in its development. This will show that Robert Pelton's business partner approached HTS with a proposal to sell intelligence to the program, and failing that, Pelton sought an embed, marketed his own services directly to ISAF without the knowledge of those who had gotten him cleared to enter the country, and then wrote a scathing article about the program.

Overview of the Human Terrain System

The Human Terrain System is a $132 million program that provides social science information to the United States Armed Forces to assist them in understanding the populations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They map out the social networks in areas of operation, provide context about the concerns of the local population, and assist the military staffs with understanding the human elements of the local environment providing valuable information to commanders on the ground. This assists the commanders in working with and around the populations. It helps the Army to stay population-centric in the solutions that it arrives at when selecting courses of action. This means more effective counterinsurgency strategies. The efficient operation of this program is in the best interest of the Army, and therefore the nation. It is an item of public interest.

Anthropology not being an Army branch, the social scientists have in most cases been civilian contractors. This has provided for the social scientists to be very well compensated, making it a bit more worthwhile to subject themselves to the rigors of combat zones.

The program is not without its critics, both within the Armed Forces and without. The American Association for Anthropology has a very vocal minority that cries out that the program is an unethical use of anthropological science. They claim that anthropologists are using the data to target individuals for death. Commanders who have actually used the output disagree. COL Schweitzer, Commander of the 82nd Airborne's 4th Brigade Combat Team had this to say:

Schweitzer was unequivocal in his support for the HTT. He was conscious of how that might sound to his peers—“whacked,” was how he put it. But he assured me his enthusiasm was grounded in facts. Since February, his brigade had reduced kinetic operations by 60 percent in favor of “non-lethal forms and sets of maneuver,” which had reduced both American and Afghan casualties. More than one third of the districts in his area of operations pledged their support to the Afghan government for the first time. ~ Steven Featherstone, “Human quicksand for the U.S. Army, a crash course in cultural studies,” Harpers Magazine, September, 2008

Delicate times for HTS

HTS is in part comprised of Human Terrain Teams (HTT’s,) of which there are 20 in Iraq and 6 in Afghanistan. The Army has orders for 13 more teams in Afghanistan. Due to the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in Iraq, civilian contractors will be subject to Iraqi law and under new regulations will not be covered for basic health care by military doctors at military installations. This has forced the HTS to convert the HTT personnel who are currently contractors to government employees. Many of the social scientists are finding themselves looking at pay cuts that in some cases work out to about 70% .

“It’s the only thing that we could do for the long term health of the program,” says a senior program official at the HTS. “I know it’s hard for individuals because it’s not as lucrative, but in the coming weeks we are going to see many programs affected by this making similar choices.”

The $132 million program, a significant enabler of COIN in-theater, is making its way through some rocky parts in its road, perhaps facing the greatest challenges since its inception. There is another challenge.

Eason Jordan markets intelligence to HTS

In the summer of 2008, Eason Jordan, former Chief News Executive at CNN and a partner in two intelligence ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, approached COL(R) Steven Fondacaro of the Human Terrain System (HTS) with a business proposal. He wanted to sell HTS-related intelligence provided through Praedict in Iraq and AfPax Insider in Afghanistan/Pakistan to HTS. Not having any way to verify information provided through such an outside contract, Fondacaro politely declined.

Pelton seeks an embed

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Montgomery McFate co-author of FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency, was approached by a journalist, Robert Young Pelton, at a social function. Pelton sought to do an embed with an HTT in Afghanistan. Through Dr. McFate, Pelton was then introduced to Steve Fondacaro. Fondacaro, who describes himself as, “the operational side of HTS,” and Dr. McFate as “the social scientist side of HTS,” agreed to embed Pelton with one of their teams.

“We had no idea at the time that Pelton was associated with Eason Jordan,” Fondacaro told me. Eason Jordan’s partners in IraqSlogger, Praedict, and AfPax Insider are Ted Turner, GEN(R) Wesley Clark and Robert Young Pelton.

Fondacaro and McFate approved Pelton to the Army PAO (Public Affairs Office,) which then completed the necessary steps to certify Pelton for the embed. Pelton was put through the process, including signing agreements to abide by the Army’s terms, including agreeing to comply with Army directives while embedded with American units, including a prohibition on gambling, pornography, extramarital sex and alcohol. These are the prohibitions of “General Order Number 1” which apply to all American forces in the theaters of combat. Finally, the embed was cleared.

Pelton travels alone, markets to ISAF

“We planned to take Mr. Pelton on a planned official visit to Afghanistan with us,” Dr. McFate told me, “but then he called us and told us he had found his own way to Afghanistan. We didn’t think much of it.” Pelton arrived in Afghanistan days before the embed was to begin. He spent this time in Kabul, marketing his intelligence services to International Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF, commanded by GEN McKiernan.

On September 17th, 2008, Pelton called a member of a team at Bagram Air Field (BAF,) according to insiders. In notes on the conversation, it is noted that Pelton, “bragged about his intel/HT (Human Terrain) consulting contract with ISAF,” says a source who declines to be named, citing security concerns. The source goes on to say that the contract Pelton bragged about included, "cultural advisors, area specialists, polling, and other services." Pelton, the source explains, “claimed he wanted to see how HTS was operating and that writing an article about us was the best way to get that information.”

The embed

When Pelton joined the team days later at Bagram, arrangements had been made for him to participate in a scheduled mission “outside the wire.” Pelton missed the movement and was left behind while the mission was performed. The team went to great lengths to arrange an ad hoc mission so that Pelton would get a chance to go on a mission. This was when the trouble began.

“I had to tell my interpreter not to interpret his questions to the locals,” a team member reports. “Every time I spoke with an Afghan civilian, he would inject himself into the conversation.” He goes on to say, “He kept asking where the Taliban were. We never ask that. It interferes with what we really need to know. During one engagement that was going well, he blurted out, ‘Ask him where the Taliban are!’ The elder we were speaking with clammed up after that and wouldn’t speak to anyone.”

Pelton was asked repeatedly to cease such activities by 1LT Jones, the military team leader for the mission. At the end of the mission, 1LT Jones complained to his leadership about the trouble that Pelton had given him out in the field. 1LT Jones would later pay the price for his professionalism.

The article

Pelton wrote the article published in Men’s Journal trashing the team with which he was embedded and the HTS in general. He cast 1LT Jones as an idiot. In the final stab at the young First Lieutenant, Pelton claimed that Jones had shared some of the contraband whiskey that Pelton had smuggled into FOB Morales-Frazier. 1LT Jones is now undergoing an investigation into the allegation made by Pelton in his article. The Army had no choice but to investigate such a claim.

The article itself painted a bizarre picture of places, and of operations the types of which this writer is intimately familiar with. Pelton’s article just did not carry the ring of truth. Blogger Tim Lynch stated in his blog, Free Range International that Pelton appeared to be trying to capture the surreal character of Michael Herr’s Dispatches. His description of places and the behaviors of the Soldiers and Marines conducting operations in these places bore little resemblance to what my direct experience would lead me to find believable.

Pelton’s description of the HTT at Bagram was even less kind. Pelton nitpicks the team to pieces in a few sentences.

“What I find most disturbing,” Dr. McFate says, “is that he can take a man who has devoted twenty years of his life to studying Afghanistan and call him a Laotian DNA expert. I don’t understand why he would describe LTC Rotzoll as if he didn’t know what he was doing. LTC Rotzoll is on his fourth tour in Afghanistan, and he is very professional. The team that Mr. Pelton described in that article bore no resemblance to the team that I know.”

This writer took Pelton to task for his article, and in response received a barrage of emails from Pelton containing threats to sue for libel.

Threats to the blogger

If you do even the slightest bit of research on my background you will understand why your unfounded insults will not go uncorrected. I can also tell you that without an earnest attempt on your behalf to correct your malicious actions, the appropriate corrective and punitive relief available to me will be fully enforced. If you choose to be unresponsive, I will take that as proof that you choose to ignore polite requests to mitigate the damage. I strongly encourage you to consult your lawyer and have him define the term "libel" and its potential impact. I will print out a pdf of your website and other comments at exactly 9pm tomorrow evening Pacific time. (from an email dated February 19th, 2009 to me from Robert Young Pelton)

Mr. Pelton bragged on his own site about the tactics of intimidation.

...of all the things on the planet that need to be written about and the last person on earth you would want to call out... Most bloggers can't actually pay up but the cost of defending themselves (whether they are right or wrong) is enough to convince them that their economic model is going to get a whole lot costlier if they can't back up their statements. … often its the only way people realize the gravity and cost of the mistake they have made.

The mistake he’s talking about is pointing out something potentially unflattering about Mr. Robert Young Pelton. He was pointing out that his deep pockets make him right, and he’s not afraid to use them.

Questions raised

These very aggressive emails sent to a relatively unknown blogger caught my interest. It wasn’t fear of a lawsuit as much as curiosity as to why such a vicious response would be directed over a criticism of an obviously flawed and at least partially fabricated story in a second rate men’s magazine. As curiosity took hold, bits of what Mr. Pelton’s disjointed and rambling emails said made more sense.

Pelton even tried to lead me to believe that Fondacaro and McFate had approached him, as if they were begging him to do the embed:

Despite this one embed to satisfy Steve and Mitzi's request…

I talked to Fondacaro and McFate and discovered not only that Pelton had approached them, but also that his partner Eason Jordan had preceded him, a fact that came to light unbidden.

The discovery that he had bragged about marketing his services to ISAF made this passage from a separate email sent the same day as the one quoted above seem to make more sense:

You may not tell people that I work directly for the highest military command in Afghansitan and that my embed was set up at the highest level...but more importantly you need to respect that I busted my ass to see how this program work and it was a fucking disaster at every level. Jones, Rotzell, Fondacaro and McFate believe in this program passionately but are faced with almost insurmountable problems. This article clearly sends a message to the public, congress and the military that people like LT Jones (at 30K a year) do the heavy lifting while lazy anthros cost our government half a million dollars each and do fuck all.

A quick read of the article itself shows no evidence of attempting to show that 1LT Jones was even trying to do his own job. 1LT Jones’ behavior and professionalism was cast into such doubt by the fallacious article that his very career as an Army officer is subject to being ended. The end result of the type of investigation he is being subjected to as a result of Pelton’s writing is a Court Martial. While the assertions of holding 1LT Jones up as a shining example are obviously false, the email does seem to confirm that Pelton feels incredibly empowered and in control of the situation. It also begs more questions.

Assuming that every other person, or even most of them involved in this story may be truthful, Mr. Pelton’s story is slanted in general and at times flatly untrue. Is it possible that everyone else is lying and Pelton alone is telling the truth? If one is to doubt Mr. Pelton’s veracity in the article, which is a conclusion that is reasonably reached, then what is the purpose of, “This article clearly sends a message to the public, congress and the military…?” What message? Why sell this message so strongly in the public forum? What is the goal? Why defend it so viciously against question from even a blogger who is unknown to the general public? What is worth such a ferocious defense?

Would it make his own intelligence services more marketable if HTS and its management were discredited? Was this article written to assist in furthering his business objectives?

Dr. McFate says, “I don’t feel proprietary about this. I believe in the concept and I want the Army to be successful. If Mr. Pelton feels that he can do this properly, then he can try. It’s a lot harder than it looks.”

Asked about the disturbance caused to the HTS at a very delicate time it its young history, Dr. McFate says, “It’s upsetting if this is an attempt to damage the program. This is not in the public interest.”

The picture

I’m calling this one a duck. You can rest assured, based on his previous behavior, that Mr. Pelton will bluster and bully and call it an eagle. He will demand retractions and apologies and insist that I print an apology and call it an eagle. It looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, and it quacks just like a duck.

Once you’ve filled in the numbered areas with the paints provided, tell me what picture you come up with. I bet it’s a duck.

You can vote at the top left of this page.
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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

I'm writing you today as a Soldier in the Army over which you preside as Commander in Chief. I'm writing because should the time ever come that my wishes need to be heard, I shall not be able to utter them. Please allow me to speak them to you now, and please hear me. Please remember these words should I not be able to speak them.

It is not my wish to be overly dramatic. I have seen others who have failed to ask for such favors before, who have waited until too late to make their wishes known, who have been made a mockery to their own values. I do not wish to be one of those, and so I speak while I still carry breath. I speak it now because I fear that I have reason to be concerned that such things would happen if I were to return home without my life from my next deployment.

Each of us who has gone into harm's way has had an opportunity to reflect in our own way on our mortality and what the possibility of the ultimate sacrifice means to us. I have had this moment, and before I left for my tour, I considered very carefully what I would like for those who know and care for me to know should I not return home with my life intact. Among other things, I wrote them a letter, to this point unopened, detailing my wishes for their conduct surrounding my death. I made it clear that should the ultimate sacrifice be taken from me, and rest assured that I risk this willingly but do not suffer it willingly, I do not wish to be made use of for anyone's purposes or for the influence of my fellow citizens.

When I went into harm's way before, I had no fear that my return to the United States would be made with less than perfect dignity. The recent consideration of revising the policy concerning the return of our fallen to Dover has caused me to feel that I need to express my wishes now. Consider this, if you will, an addendum to my Last Will and Testament.

I do not wish for the press to have access to the repatriation of my remains, Sir. I do not wish for the image of my returning casket to made available to anyone. I wish to maintain the privacy and dignity that my return to my native soil has been promised to this point in my service. I will not be able to defend myself from predation for the use of others, Sir. Please protect me when and if I cannot protect myself; when I cannot open my own mouth in protest, when I will not have breath in my body to form the words, "Please, leave me in peace. I just want to go home."

Once the image of my returning remains has been captured, you cannot control its use. It does not matter that no one can see my remains, Sir. It is my body, and the vessel that carries it will belong to me, too. It will be the last possession I have, and one of very few that I will take to my grave with me. Please don't allow others, who do not know me, who do not love me, who do not care for what I wish, to make use of me in such a way when I may not respond. Please do not even risk that I may be in one of those caskets used for a purpose of which I would not approve. Please do not chance letting the risk I took as a willing Soldier for what I believe be used as a tool for someone with whom in life I respectfully disagree. This, Sir, to me, would be the ultimate insult and disrespect to my service.

Please, Sir, do not let them count coup on my defenseless remains.

These are my wishes, Sir. I wish, should my life be required of me so that my children may live in a country that remains free from terror, for the same dignity that has been afforded those who have gone before me in this effort.

If the day comes when I am on that plane, unable to speak for myself, please remember what I have asked of you. Please defend me then, Sir.

Until then, Sir, I remain,

Very respectfully,

An American Soldier
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Friday, February 20, 2009

Mea Culpa

I stated in a comment exchange with Mr. Pelton on The Stupidest Man on Earth that I would print a post entitled, "Mea Culpa" if he could show me any pictures proving any assertions that I contended with in the prior post. I also said that I would apologize.

Last night Pelton sent me a number of photographs to prove his assertions to be facts. I promised beforehand not to share, publish, distribute, fold, spindle or mutilate them. There, included in the pictures were two pictures of a standard issue Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter which upon closer inspection had some sort of illustration on the rear part of the engine nacelle. I could only see the right side of the bird. A picture taken from about four feet away clarified the illustration; a faded Grim Reaper about two feet long by a foot tall with scythe, robes flowing back from, you guessed it, a skeletal face.

Well, there you have it.

Mr. Pelton, I'm sorry. There was, technically, at least one skull on that bird. I had stated categorically that no General Officer in the United States Army would fly around in a helicopter with a skull on it, and I have been proved wrong. Please accept my apology.

I have kept my word. I have not, nor will I, distribute or publish those pictures. I am a man of my word. There were other pictures which Pelton presumed would assuage my other concerns with his veracity. Those, however, fall short. One picture designed to demonstrate that you can in fact see the gunner from the top of the vehicle was taken as Pelton was standing atop a stationary vehicle prepared for a CONOP. No one rides vertically on the outside of the armor during movement. I take it that his inference was that he was in this position during the movement in which he described all of the gunner's gestures.

I'm still not buying that part. Nice try, though.

Another was, by his description, taken out the back window of an MRAP of another MRAP, apparently to demonstrate that he could make out what the other gunner was doing. Either that picture was taken from outside the vehicle or that is the most transparent green-tinted ballistic glass that has ever made a long dusty convoy movement without getting dust on it.

Again, the check is in the mail.

There were pictures of 1LT Jones around others who were clearly drinking (they were French or Pelton, and they were drinking beer) but there is not one picture of the Lieutenant drinking. There is certainly not a photo of him enjoying a "smuggled nightcap" on the HESCOs in the starlight. I stand by my statement that this is a fabrication until he can prove otherwise. Of course, if he can do that, he would be assisting in the destruction of a young officer's career, already in jeopardy due to his article. I asked him about that.

There is no "young officer fighting for his career" if you mean Jones. He deserve a medal or at least half the salary of the nearest social scientist. Jones can come an work for me in Kabul if he is out of job.

It's amazing how the story changes. 1LT Jones deserves a medal. Is that the picture that the article paints? No, clearly not; but when questioned about if he even cares about this man's career, this flippant response and an off-the-cuff offer of a job at his new venture in Kabul (an intelligence venture that apparently provides very similar producets as HTS.) AFPax Insider hasn't officially been rolled out yet, but there are rumblings over at about it. With the recent damage done to HTS and all the negative publicity, the rollout may be sooner than we think. Getting officers to lose their commissions is a really original recruiting tool, I've got to admit.

It is my opinion that Mr. Pelton considers me an idiot. He also considers me to be weak and easily frightened.

I have been subjected to a barrage of emails from Pelton over the course of the past two days alternating between compliments and belligerent threats. His bipolar fits of lets-be-reasonable-about-this-you're-a-nice-guy-I'm-going-to-smash-you-over-the-head have been mind boggling in their rambling complexity.

The intensity, bordering on desperation, of these emails has caught me off guard. "Why," I ask myself, "would this public figure, a published author and television personality, be so bothered by what this lowly blogger has to say?"

I'm just a little guy. Look at my webcounter. I'm not the Washington Post. Why work so hard to silence me? That is what he is trying to do; silence me.

If you do even the slightest bit of research on my background you will understand why your unfounded insults will not go uncorrected. I can also tell you that without an earnest attempt on your behalf to correct your malicious actions, the appropriate corrective and punitive relief available to me will be fully enforced.

I recognize bullying when I see it. I remarked on The Stupidest Man on Earth that Mr. Pelton had been threatening me. He responded to that with, "I don't threaten." I remember that from the playground, etc... the unspoken part was, "I promise." Message received, Mr. Pelton. A swirl rose up within me; a bit of a tingling up the back of my neck. I hadn't felt this feeling for a pretty long time... since...

Since the first time I read the Constitution of the United States of America. You never really appreciate the Constitution as much as when you really need it. I like the Amendments a lot, too. I'm pretty fond of the Second Amendment, but today I'm finding that the First Amendment is pretty cool. It assures me that I have the freedom of speech.

Is this a great country or what?

If you choose to be unresponsive, I will take that as proof that you choose to ignore polite requests to mitigate the damage.

I didn't feel as if I was approached politely.

What is it that you expect from this? Your approach earlier was like a man beckoning a dog while he clutched a baseball bat in his hand.

I think you have me pegged correctly.

Glad I'm wearing my drool bib and hockey helmet then. I'm not a smart man, but I do know what rights are. Thankfully there are smart men who know, too. The Supreme Court has clarified things quite a bit, as I've had explained to me by some smart people. I have nothing to fear.

The Constitution feels like body armor. Mmmmmm... toasty.

I strongly encourage you to consult your lawyer and have him define the term "libel" and its potential impact. I will print out a pdf of your website and other comments at exactly 9pm tomorrow evening Pacific time.

If I don't hear from you by this time tomorrow or see significant evidence of retraction. I will publish and circulate your transcript with the photographs proving that the information in the Men's Journal article is accurate and correct. I then reserve the right to enforce legal action against you.

I'm thinking, "not so much," Bob. I don't have a thing to worry about. My opinion is protected speech, and you as a journalist should know that. I have and am giving my opinion on an issue of public concern. Yep, you were right. Discovering the definition of "libel" is was certainly a comfort and a joy. You see, the changes to my blog did retract statements that you had proved to be factual technically. Being a man of my word, and ego not being my main issue, I am happy to correct that which is factually proven.

However, there is a big difference between the logo in the picture on the helicopter and "hot-rodded Black Hawks adorned with skulls." Technically there was a skull face, and adorned means "worn or decorated with," but when you paint a word picture, you know what you're doing. I and everyone else who read that expected big, obvious skulls... you know, big white skulls prominently displayed like on the nose of the chopper, not some half-eroded two-foot Grim Reaper with a skull face no bigger than a few inches on the back half of the engine nacelle. Sheesh.

Many have asked why Pelton hasn't published his pictures. I will tell you why, because I have seen some of them. They don't support his crazy, hazy, opium-smoke-filled image of the days he spent with the HTT's. Pelton described FOB Kutschbach as if it were some ramshackle hunker-down-or-they'll-hit-you type of place, with spent shell casings and "discarded shipping containers." The picture he sent me of a PSD member with a >gasp< stylized skull with hair >gasp< on his backpack showed one of the (normal) Blackhawks on the white gravel LZ at a very tidy (for a war zone) FOB Kutschbach. They've done some nice things with the place. That area was all dirt the last time I was there.

The changes made to my posting do not change the meanings of "fabrication," "stylization" or "stretches of imagination." I clarified that these are, in my opinion, questionable assertions. Some, I'm sure, are untruths. That is my opinion informed by my experience, an experience much of the readership of that dreadful, fragmented adventurist pipe dream do not have. I am just a blogger; a little guy who Pelton has described himself today as having no respect for as he exulted in his success in intimidating me over at "The Black Flag Cafe."

Even a couple of Pelton's own hangers-on expressed disappointment in how easily I backed down. Be of good cheer, guys; I'm still here. I'm aware of where I stand, and if Mr. Pelton cares to go through the minor effort of finding me and suing me for no result, then all's the better.

I am an American, and I am not afraid.

This exercise has taught me a great deal. I've learned some things that are comforting. I've been drawn closer to one of the cherished rights which I myself have risked all for. I've once again become acquainted with what bullying looks like, especially wrapped in the mantle of righteousness (or self-righteousness, as the case may be.)

I've also become familiar with some very disturbing things. There will be more on that. For today, I promised that I would apologize, and that the title of the post would be, "Mea Culpa." I have fulfilled that promise. I'm a man of my word. This is much more than I can say for a man who admittedly broke his word by smuggling alcohol downrange in Afghanistan.

In the meantime, today will not be the day that a Canadian millionaire suppresses an American citizen/Soldier in the exercise of his First Amendments rights.

Peace Out.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Adventurist Gut Punches HTS... Shades Of Meo? (Edited To Clarify Personal Opinion On A Matter Of Public Interest)

This post has been modified in order to clarify what, in my opinion, are facts of questionable reliability or assertions that are, in my opinion, distortions of actual events. Any expressions on my part that something is questionable or unbelievable are my opinion, informed by my experience on the ground in that specific area, my experience in dealing with military organizations, and correspondence with individuals who were either involved or are currently present in the area.

I would rather be discussing GEN Petraeus' encouraging speech last week at the 45th Munich Security Conference and how it relates to Ann Marlow's excellent article in the WSJ, but the metaphorical cat threw up on the carpet right at my feet and I've got a little work to do.

The HTS (Human Terrain System) has been the subject of much controversy in certain circles, not least of which is among anthropologists. Since Afghanistan has been back in the news in the past year, many people have become amateur social anthropologists. It has become all the vogue to demonstrate how intelligent one is by spouting off about the various tribes of Afghanistan, prognosticating about the Pashtuns and Tajiks and whatnots. Hey, it's cheap, it's easy, and someone who has done nothing more than read a few articles can suddenly sound like they understand the vast impenetrables of Afghanistan.

Very often, it's little more than hot air. The social networks and interactions in Afghanistan very often bear little resemblance to the trendy pronouncements heard from suddenly savvy armchair quarterbacks. Mostly these guys just add to the Kiplingesque air of mystic intrigue that clings to Afghanistan like Scotch tape that has made contact with itself.

In reading some of the objections that anthropologists have to the HTS, it appears that they are more influenced by their personal politics than by any code of professional ethics. When someone labels the nation-building efforts of our counterinsurgency campaign as an "occupation," that is a political statement, not a scientific observation. I'm not saying that they are a bunch of daisy-munching, Birkenstock-wearing, patchouli-smelling social dreamers, but the vocalists in the American Anthropological Association would probably not be found among the crowd at a Soldiers' Angels convention. They might be found applauding at an IVAW Winter Soldier blitherfest, though.

The Ugly American detailed some of the basic errors that we made in Southeast Asia. Many of these mistakes were due to the lack of social anthropological understanding on many levels. We didn't know what else to do, so we were attempting to offer American solutions to Asian problems, often with disastrous results. Learning from these mistakes was part of the objective of the HTS. One commander in Afghanistan, COL Schweitzer, told journalist Steve Featherstone that the information that the HTT (Human Terrain Team) in Khost provided had enabled him to cut back on kinetic operations by 60%. This means less death and destruction and more engagement of the population. That's a good thing.

The HTS is undergoing some serious troubles right now. All of the contractors are being offered the option to either quit or become GS-type Federal employees. Most are seeing about a 70% cut in pay should they choose to stay. It appears that many aren't staying. There are lots of other jobs out there that pay better than government jobs right now. Many of them are still defense-related, but they are not on the ground in Afghanistan or Iraq. They will not provide much, if any, useful ground-level information about the realities of social networks in the valleys and villages. It's not like the program had really ramped up to any great capacity. There are as yet only a few teams fielded, and many commanders are still in the process of getting their heads wrapped around what to do with the information provided. It is unclear if the program will survive its current troubles.

You can't do social anthropology with no social anthropologists. Well, you could, but it would look like the products the armchair know-it-all's are coming up with in blog posts and discussion threads all over the internet. While this is a thrilling prospect to the "in" crowd at the American Anthropological Association, I fear that it will be yet again lopping off a finger to spite our hand. The cheering from the triple-A in crowd couldn't have been more intense, however, than the cheering that ensued from the article written by Robert Young Pelton in the February, 2009 edition of Men's Journal.

I'm sorry, folks, it's a lengthy article, and I'm going to do my best to deconstruct it. I have to; not because it's my job, but because somebody has got to do it. I could just say that it's a pile of steaming fresh tripe and leave it at that, but I'm going to be a bit more definitive than that. Let's start off with this, though; there are unbelievable assertions in the article. Not only are there unbelievable statements, but there are what are in my opinion misrepresentations; manipulations and twists of actual places or people to paint the picture that Mr. Pelton wants to paint. In addition, there is what appears to me to be the obvious attempt to cast a certain light on some of the persons who are key to his telling of the story. There is also a refutation from COL(R) Steve Fondacaro, the HTS program manager, followed by a glib dismissal from the author, again claiming to simply be reporting his observations with prejudice or slant.

Read the article and see for yourself the "objectivity." In the meantime, how about a discussion of the high points?

A lady press officer is professionally happy to see us. “We didn’t even know what a ‘human terrain team’ was until you called,” she chirps as another soldier carefully cleans the Afghani dust out of her nose with rolled-up Kleenex. Then she adds, kindergarten-teacher style, “You are helping us to learn about these people.”

My, he doesn't wait long to start painting American officers as kindergarten-teacher style boobs, does he? Yes, he did use the word Kindergarten... it's a subtle tone-setter. Nice literary device usage, don't you think. It bleeds objectivity. Note to "RYP" as he likes to refer to himself: it's Afghan dust, not "Afghani." Afghani is the money, but being the world-savvy adventurer that you are, you knew that. Just sayin'...

There are now six five-to-nine-person human terrain teams in Afghanistan and 21 teams in Iraq. If the concept proves successful, the $120 million–plus program would grow to 700 HTT and support staff in those countries and other hot spots.

I've heard $250 million elsewhere. That's quite a chunk of change there. It's the price of intelligence. Hey, there aren't many people out there that can provide that type of intelligence, are there? I wonder if anyone else might be trying? It probably doesn't matter since there's already someone who is doing that job though, right?

Unless something... untoward... should happen to that person or group, that is. Oh, but that's just silliness. Let's get back to the article.

The man charged with managing the program is retired special operations colonel Steve Fondacaro. He is so passionate about it that when I interviewed him back in the States, he held forth for nine hours straight. Seven hours in, he walked into a door, breaking his jaw, but resumed talking. Fondacaro freely admits that one of the biggest obstacles to injecting social science into the military will be the military itself. “We are like a virus infecting the host,” he told me. “Either the army will be inoculated and be stronger, or they will expel us in a torrent of puke.”

More nice buffoonish imagery. I'm wondering if it is a factual statement concerning COL(R) Fondacaro's injury. So, COL(R) Fondacaro is excited about what he does. I'm wondering if that isn't the most interesting part, though... I've heard that a certain someone else who was present may be on the board of the American Society for the Advancement of Military Bulimia. That's just a vicious rumor, though.


Already there have been problems. The academic community has been critical of giving traditionally “do no harm” anthros combat uniforms and letting them carry guns.

This has been discussed above, but here is where Pelton points it out.

Still, getting a handle on the human landscape made a dramatic difference in Iraq. It helped Petraeus and his Ph.D. cadre convert enemies into allies, recasting a conflict that looked as if it would drag on for decades into one that could essentially be over within a year.

Uh-huh, uh-huh... the value statement; we're tracking...

But Afghanistan is not Iraq.

Really? Pray tell...

It’s a fractious nation whose dirt-poor people are scattered mostly outside of cities, across a harsh landscape of deserts and mountains, making it much harder to win hearts and minds. This is a country, remember, that some of the most daunting forces in modern history — the Russians, the British, and now the Americans — have been unable to conquer.

Needle across spinning vinyl... toilet flushing. Perhaps italics will help; we are not trying to conquer Afghanistan, we are trying to help Afghanistan conquer itself.

So could Fondacaro and his army of eggheads solve this? That’s what I’d come here to find out. But what I would get over the next two weeks would be a much larger, more bizarre, and in many ways more disturbing glimpse of what happens when 21st-century warfare is waged in a Third World country.

Ah, yes... the lead in to bizarre and disturbing. The scene-setter. Get some popcorn. There is a brief interlude while Pelton does the obligatory "my impression of Bagram" routine along with the gratuitous "bad haircuts" comment and describing an internally-framed "clamshell" structure as "a giant inflatable tent."

I thought this guy was an adventurer. Giant inflatable tent? A New York City housewife who had never been camping would know better than that. Giant inflatable tent is funnier, though. I think that's what he's going after, though. Facts aren't as important as the picture of boobery that he is struggling to paint. When he finally meets the team the picture of boobery is easier because he has actual human beings to paint as boobs.

The unit consists of one social scientist, three research managers, an IT guy, and three translators, or “terps.”

Pelton finally manages to write a descriptive sentence that does not include some kind of attempt to put a nipple on someone or something. This is not a pattern that's going to last. Hell, it doesn't even become a pattern.

The scientist, Jim, is easy to identify as he is the one who begs not to his have his photo taken or last name used. It seems that within left-leaning academic circles, hanging out with the military is the equivalent of a movie star doing infomercials. He’s a 50-something anthro who worked in Afghanistan two decades ago but seems more preoccupied with the subject of how unique the genetic makeup of Laotians is.

Pelton will later describe his writings as "objective," but there seems to be a lot of ignorant editorializing. This isn't even the best example of that. Mr. Pelton, he is not asking you not to use his name because he is embarrassed, it is for his safety. Note how he introduces the man and basically renders him a boob in precisely three sentences. There was another one that followed that in the same vein, but you get the idea. Objectivity. Wonder where he's taking this?

Two of the research managers are reserve officers, and the other is an ex-soldier who served in Kurdish areas of Iraq. Of the two civilian interpreters, one describes himself as “Persian,” which I take to mean that he’s a Shia Iranian-American working in an environment mostly hostile to Shias, and the other, Gulam, is an Afghan mechanic from Colorado who hasn’t been here since he left in the ’70s.

Two sentences, five men who are now blue-footed boobies. He's managed to give the subtle impression that this team is a mess. One paragraph and not a single individual out of six seems remotely professional. Two have their feet painted blue with two simple words; "reserve officers." It was clearly not meant as a compliment. "Officers" would have sufficed. Six blue-footed ungainly seagoing birds in a B-hut. Let's see what kind of idiocy they can cook up to entertain Mr. Pelton.

Ooops... forgot... Mr. Pelton, the Iraq expert (check his business venture with the disgraced Mr. Jordan who had to leave CNN in a hurry) doesn't know that Afghans really aren't too concerned with the Sunni-Shia thing. Of course, Afghans will sometimes refer to Dari speakers as Persians, but Mr. Pelton clearly didn't know that, either. Looks like there were seven blue-footed ungainly seagoing birds in that B-hut.

Or was it one?

Lieutenant Colonel Eric Rotzoll is the man in charge. He is 5-foot-2 and Buddha-like in demeanor and shape. A former analyst for the CIA, his special skill is that he is fluent in Chinese.

Buddha-like in demeanor and shape? Other than the fact that Mr. Pelton was asked not to publish the fact that LTC Rotzoll had worked for the CIA (a fact he lies about later,) any blue-footed booby would realize that you just don't print stuff like that.

Here's part of COL(R) Fondacaro's feedback:

First, he published the fact that a member of the Human Terrain team was a former, non-covert analyst employed by the CIA. He was told this information “off the record” and agreed verbally not to publish it. ~ COL(R) Steve Fondacaro

There's more:

Mr. Pelton grossly distorted the backgrounds of the personnel on the Task Force Warrior Human Terrain Team (HTT). He neglected to inform his readers that Team Leader LTC Rotzoll served two previous tours in Afghanistan as a Civil Affairs officer, served on two different Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and has over twenty-seven years of service in the US Army. Mr. Pelton also misrepresented the HTT Social Scientist as an expert on Laotian DNA. On the contrary, this Social Scientist has been conducting research in Afghanistan for over twenty years. He made several trips into Afghanistan with the Mujahedeen during the 1980s to report on the Soviet occupation, and also served as the director of an Afghan Relief Committee. ~ COL(R) Steve Fondacaro

What? You mean that these men may actually have been more qualified than Mr. Pelton would lead us to believe? Whoa. That's heavy. Why would Mr. Pelton misrepresent the qualifications of the men he was "embedding" with? Hmmmm.

So that’s a Laotian DNA expert, a Chin­ese speaker, an ex–army grunt, and an auto mechanic.

That's the picture you're painting there, Picasso.

From what I’ve gathered so far, when it comes to getting out in the field and talking to locals, the research manager who seems to do much of the heavy lifting is Lieutenant Jeremy Jones. From Indiana. And therefore “Indiana Jones.” He has sandy brown hair, with an eager face and pink cheeks, and, like Rotzoll, is very short: 5-foot-4 in this case. He will turn 26 in two weeks.

And, with one fell swoop, Lieutenant Jones becomes the default whipping boy for the rest of the story. I do wonder whether or not his teammates call him "Indiana Jones" or if that is another fabrication, in my opinion, like when Mr. Pelton refers FOB Kutschbach as "The Cooch," which I find to be a fabrication and completely insulting to SFC Kutschbach, the Green Beret who was killed in October, 2007 while working out of then Firebase Pathfinder and gave it his name. I don't think for a minute that any service member would then denigrate the memory of this warrior by comparing his name to the vernacular for the intimate parts of a woman's body, but then what do I know? I only served in that valley when the firebase was built and took his name. It is most often referred to as "K-B" when someone feels the need to shorten the name.

This Pelton is one glib dude. Perhaps I should just nickname him "The Pelch." He likes his initials, "RYP." As in "RYP" Torn, the comedic actor, but that's an insult to the integrity of Mr. Torn, who has made me laugh. The Pelch just pisses me off.

The son of missionaries, Jones went to a lower-tier liberal arts college and got a bachelor’s in history. His last civilian employment was selling weight-loss products and waiting tables at a Cheesecake Factory in Indianapolis. “I was an engineer in the reserve army, and I couldn’t get a job,” he says. “So here I am.”

The Pelch has just reduced 26 year old Lieutenant Jones to a pitiable waif who is saved from the ignominy of the Cheesecake Factory by employment in war. Now, would someone please explain to me the purpose of describing his schooling as being from a "lower-tier liberal arts college?" I'm just curious... is this objective journalism, because it sounds a lot like editorializing to me. Pelch Picasso is not through painting his surreal impressionistic take on Afghanistan and the HTT. He continues to assassinate Lieutenant Jones...

But Jones does have cool toys. During our initial chat he is constantly pulling his Beretta pistol out of his belt, playing with it, putting it on the desk, then back in his pants. He has a custom-made cowboy holster and a tricked-out assault rifle. “No one who is cool carries an M16,” he says. “The army owns this” — he points to the standard base — “but it doesn’t own this” — he points to the multiple accessories, such as an optical sight and the collapsing light stock, that convert his M16 into an M4. “It gives me more credibility.”

The LT has now been reduced to a wannabe cowboy who is probably too dangerously childish to be allowed outside the wire. Is anyone buying this? I can tell you that I'm not. I was steaming as I read this, wondering how a man can get away with such slander. Then I wondered why he would want to.

The enterprising Jones comes up with a trip for us to a forward operating base about two hours northeast. FOB Morales-Frazier covers the bottom part of a valley that provides a smuggling corridor into Pakistan. Depending on where you go, it’s either a calm Tajik area or a hostile Pashtun one.

Adventure boy can't read a map? FOB M-F is about an hour southeast of Bagram. I should know; I've made the trip many many many times. His description of the Nijrab District is pathetic. The Afghania (or Afghanya, if you wish) Valley is a mixture of Pashtun, Tajik and Pashai.

It's hard to judge time, distance and direction when you're in the back of an MRAP and you can't see anything, isn't it?

Pelton then introduces us to an inappropriately violent SECFOR Soldier he dubs, "Krieger," no doubt named after an unpredictably violent sociopathic video game character. This is a sideshow. What has come before may be manipulated truths, half-truths, and fabrications that I can't speak to... they most assuredly aren't the whole truth. "Krieger's" actions are quite possibly an outright fabrication, but could be an immature Soldier showing off for the journos. I can't prove whether he did or did not do his violent pantomime. There are some fabrications coming that I can, in my opinion, pretty clearly point out.

Morales-Frazier, the base we’re headed to, was originally named after its Afghan location of Nijrab but now, in the curious American cultural overlay, takes its name from two U.S. soldiers killed in action.

I guess he forgot that naming convention when his tendency to give things and people nicknames caused him to reflexively change Kutchbach to "The Cooch." Very self-important behavior.

It’s a mishmash of nations, groups, goals, and activities — the perfect petri dish for culture clash and confusion. It’s also a dangerous place. A week earlier a French patrol was ambushed nearby and lost 10 men. And a few days before that three marines were killed in an explosion.

It seems to me that Pelton was the confused one on that FOB. That ambush happened near Surobi, well over twenty kilometers, about an hour's journey on bad roads south from FOB Nijrab. Nearby. Meo couldn't have done it better.

The armored vehicles lumber and sway up switchbacks and through narrow village streets. The top gunners on the MRAPs give alternating fists, waves, or verbal threats to scatter the locals — mostly waving children and indifferent donkey herders. The contrast between our futuristic ride and the mud-village Tatooine-type poverty makes us look like the ultimate Imperial Stormtrooper, made-in-America, million-dollar-a-copy, fuck-you occupation parade.

I've been through those villages many many many times. Here's something I can tell you; from inside an MRAP or a humvee you can't tell what the hell the gunner is doing with his hands. In my opinion, this is a fabrication. It is a patchouli-sniffing crowd-pleaser, though. Pelch Picasso is painting an impressionistic if stylized picture of Afghanistan. This is starting to smell a little like Star Wars meets Apocalypse Now. What is this drama queen thinking about?

Jones is eager to find some human terrain to map, so he’s psyched to learn that there is a mission forming out of Morales-Frazier. But first he has to check in with the provincial reconstruction team commander. The PRT commander is an air force lieutenant colonel who wears a tan T-shirt with “FUBAR” (as in “fucked up beyond all recognition”) printed in large black capital letters across the front. FUBAR is playing cards with his team in what looks like a boys club, complete with a crude plywood door that carries a sign: “Knock before entering.”

So now an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel is to be given a glib nickname, too? This guy truly feels empowered. What a disrespectful son of a bitch. Pelton never does call the officer by his correct name or even have the respect to correctly capitalize his rank. Ready for some of what, in my opinion, appear to be fabrications? Here comes a whopper...

Near the porch of my hut I see Jones talking to a team of three burly, geared-up men. They introduce themselves as Peter; an Afghan-American translator, Joseph; and Peter’s partner, who introduces himself as “Paris.” “Paris Hilton,” to be exact. The trio are heading out on a midnight mission, and we chat with them as they snap on and check their night-vision goggles, extra magazines, pistols, and other tools. I ask Paris what they do. “We are the HTT,” he says.

Confused, I ask him if his HTT is related to Jones and his HTT. “No, no, we are HUMINT tactical collection teams.” HUMINT is mil-speak for “human intelligence.” So what’s the distinction?

Peter purses his helmeted brow. “I s’pose we are the shooty-shooty guys rather than the talky-talky guys,” he says.

This, ladies and gentlemen is, in my opinion, complete horseshit. I didn't even have to be there to know that. Do you know how I know? (yes, it is experiential) Everyone knows what their job is. Paris and his buddies were part of a THT (Tactical HUMINT Team.) HUMINT means Human Intelligence... what is gained from people as opposed to photographic intelligence or signals intelligence. THT's are basically highly skilled interrogators; interviewers. They know how to ask questions in such ways as to trip up liars and to glean useful information in innocuous ways. They are bearded nerds like the HTT's, just not as highly educated. They are generally enlisted, and they do carry weapons but they are not "shooty-shooty" (nobody says that. Nobody. Except The Pelch, that is.)

He explains that their job is essentially to sneak around at night and yank Afghans out of their bed and interrogate them or even bring them back to Bagram. And if these Afghans make the mistake of fighting back…well, then there isn’t much to talk about. It has been a good month for Peter and Paris. They and their cohorts have managed to wipe out half a dozen high-level Taliban.

See my paragraph above. One word; bullshit. In my opinion a blatant fabrication. Flower-chomping Birkenboys believe this crap, but Soldiers know better. It's our job to point this out to the patchouli and hemp ankle bracelet crowd. IF these men left the FOB, it was with other people in case they captured anyone and needed to have them interrogated. Here comes an assertion that has gotten someone in trouble. It's Pelton trying to be the swashbuckling adventurer, but his story about it changes later.

Jones, his interpreter Gulam, and I climb up the Hescos — the wire-mesh dirt baskets used as blast barriers — to enjoy a smuggled nightcap under the canopy of stars. Off to the north we watch silent bright white flashes outline the jagged mountains.

When Pelton sought the embed, he had to agree to the Army's rules: No gambling, no porn, no alcohol. Robert Young Pelton violated General Order Number 1 and smuggled (like the highly principled man that he is) a fifth of whiskey downrange. What a turd. Now watch this song and dance...

Third, he brought a bottle of whiskey with him to Forward Operating Base Morales-Frazier and offered some to the team’s interpreter, which is a violation of US Army general orders. ~ COL(R) Steve Fondacaro

To which The Pelch responds glibly, forgetting what he wrote above...

Whiskey: Yes, I had a fifth. You may not be aware that there are a number of bars on the base. Gulam is Muslim, so there was no reason to offer him alcohol.

Oh. I see. He's a Muslim, so there's no reason to offer him alcohol, only to drink it with him. He invited himself... which I'm sure he did not. Mr. Pelton then excuses breaking his agreement by allowing that there are other "bars" on FOB M-F. There are. The French operate a bar and are not under the American General Order Number 1. That is like your kid saying, "I know that I said that I wouldn't drink, but there was beer there and the other kids were doing it." Then your busted teenager accuses others of doing it as well to drag them down with him. This all reeks of bullshit, in my opinion. The 1LT is currently under investigation due to Pelton's assertion. We've already caught this man breaking his word. It is my opinion that his word shouldn't be trusted in a case against an officer.

Why would he smuggle alcohol downrange for a trip only supposed to last for a couple of days? Why would he break his agreement and risk being kicked out of the field and the country because he couldn't wait to drink? It's not that hard not to drink for a couple of weeks, folks. Our guys do it for a year at a time. Pelton is too good for that... or too dependent. Speculation on my part.

“Imagine if dudes with guns like that come into your house at 2 am,” Jones says. He has stumbled across the dirty secret of “human terrain” mapping. In order to snip the connective tissue between the network of evildoers, someone has to figure out who they are. Whether you snip the web by being nice or nasty is irrelevant. The information Jones and his team collect with good intentions is all part of a massive database that may eventually lead to Paris Hilton knocking on someone’s door.

I do not believe that this conversation ever happened. Lieutenant Jones knows what THT's are for, too, you see. He knows that they don't drag anyone from their beds. There is no massive database meant to offer the souls of the living to some great night-stalking beast. This is where Picasso goes all Apocalypse Now meets Minority Report on us. This to me as a work of fiction. It gets better... or deeper, anyway...

My wake-up call the next morning is a fighter bomber screaming over our hooch. It’s 6:30 am. The odd effect of living on a base is that you are relegated to reading intelligence reports to understand what’s happening outside the walls. More news comes from Googling on my BlackBerry than from the soldiers around me, who are focused on their specific tasks. Simply not being able to see over the base walls, to the valley below, is disorienting.

In months and months and months spent in and around M-F, an F-15 buzzed it once. He's there one night and gets treated. Amazing. Apparently the place has gone all crazy now that the surrounding area is even calmer than it was when I was there. I bet that place hasn't been rocketed since I was there. But now they get jet wake up calls. Nice. Wonder how he got that Blackberry to work on the analog-only cell system there. Hey, with the alcohol habit, do you think that perhaps he meant, "Crackberry?"

The “carrot and stick” approach is to build rapport with the locals by providing basics — something akin to the conquistadores bringing shiny trinkets for the Mayans....If the locals remain hostile they get the “stick,” which can be anything from being ignored to suffering an air strike.

Nice word picture there, Picasso. He purposely states this in such a way as to say that if a village doesn't do what we want it to, we hit it with air. This is getting old. He misspelled "conquistadors." I guess he knows better than spell-check, too.

What the marines fail to grasp is that rural conservative Pashtun elders are, by any definition, Taliban themselves.

Oh, so now Adventure Boy can teach the Marines what they fail to grasp? What an arrogant son of a bitch. Have I said that before? He's also a Taliban-hound, and can spot insurgents everywhere. What a talent. Where was this guy when I needed him to spot Taliban? I don't know how those Marines are going to get along without him. I'm still trying to figure out how I did it. You know, if I had known what this guy knew when I was there, I'd have been so scared I've had just sat down and screamed until my heart stopped. Ignorance is bliss.

Jones has run out of Afghans to talk to, so our next task is to escape Morales-Frazier.

Uh-huh... COL(R) Fondacaro has this to say about talking to Afghans...

Second, Mr. Pelton interfered with LT Jones’ work in the field. While LT Jones was trying to conduct interviews, Mr. Pelton interjected himself into the conversations and questioned the villagers about the Taliban, which is the domain of trained intelligence collectors not visiting journalists.

Pelton has a glib answer for this one, too...

- Interference: When Jones was working I stood well back and discussed his conversations with him later. When he was just chatting with Afghans, I also chatted with Afghans. The fundamental problem seemed to be Jones’s inability to get relevant face time with Afghans so I respected his brief time with his subjects.

So apparently there is "relevant face time" and there is "just chatting." I've got news for Mr. Pelton; every interaction with Afghans is important for an HTT. You are not the one who decides what's important and what's just chatting. The very best conversations are the chatty ones, the ones you felt it was okay to "share."

This next part, while colorful, has been proven to my satisfaction by photographs provided by Mr. Pelton to be true... at least the part about the skulls. The skulls were part of Grim Reapers painted on the aft part of the engine nacelles to the rear of the troop compartment. I initially contended with this statement.

As if summoned on command we are greeted by the aerial circus of four inbound skull-adorned black helicopters. A pair of hot-rodded Black Hawks land while two Kiowas circle in an angry dance above.

Here is where I defied the man to come up with a single picture of a helicopter with a skull on it. He did. I stand corrected. My apologies.

But moments after we lift off I realize that we are not heading southwest back to Bagram but southeast, farther down the valley and deeper into enemy territory.

Awwwww, it seems that Adventure Boy doesn't want to go further down the valley. Wow, he makes it sound so... dramatic. Ummmm... southwest would take you to Kabul, Adventure Boy. He's going pretty much south at this point. Bagram is northwest of Nijrab. It's about a five minute flight to Tag Ab. Hey, he's the travel guide guy... just sayin...

“The Cooch” is the end of the line, a hastily constructed firebase deep in the heart of “Indian country,” as American soldiers call hostile regions.

No, FOB Kutschbach is found in Tag Ab, which has a rich history. It has B-huts and latrine trailers with showers. It has a small chow hall. He makes it sound like Kurtz' jungle lair. It's not.

Pelton goes on to rattle on about a humvee test firing outside the back of the FOB and some drivel about "discarded" shipping containers... those would be the ones neatly lined up against the wall that are used for dry storage. He describes shell casings all over a roof that is pitched at an angle that spent casings would roll right off of. The smooth metal roof makes a terrible brass catcher. Dreamland, folks. This man was not at the FOB that I was inside many times all during its construction and afterwards. Picasso's been taking acid.

Jones, as usual, is gear-talking and comparing M4 goodies.

This is not the only jab at the LT. He's managed to make it sound throughout the article as if the LT does pretty much nothing but compare his M-4 to everyone else's. Folks, there's a picture of poor Lieutenant Jones on the magazine's site. That's a standard stock and a standard sight. Nothing special. Just like everyone else's. I'm telling you, in my opinion this man is full of crap. My question is, "Why?"

There is one last thing. Pelton discussed the injury by fire of a social scientist with the HTT's several months ago. Paula Lloyd, 36, had burning fuel thrown on her while talking with villagers about the availability of cooking fuel. Her teammate, Don Ayala, shot and killed the attacker minutes later. Paula Lloyd died on January 7th. Pelton didn't even bother to check on that before going to press weeks later. Perhaps his slamming of her compatriots wouldn't have had such a good taste to those who ate it up if that tidbit had been included. More like he didn't care.

Read the comments over there. Several people have taken him to task. "I sense anger in this one," he replies, Yoda-like, to one man who calls him out on his story. His answer is an innocent-sounding plea of "I'm only reporting what I saw."

No, Robert Young Pelton, you are, in my opinion, embellishing in order to discredit the program. There are what appear to me to be blatant stylizations and stretches of imagination all through the article. That poor Lieutenant, a guy who seeks opportunities to do his job, is mercilessly made to look like an idiot in your portrayal of him.

This man was in places that I know, and he makes it sound nothing like anything remotely resembling any experience I had there... except what the villagers were asking for. That's pretty much it.

Contrast this article with the article published in September, 2007's edition of Harper's Monthly by embed Steve Featherstone. Featherstone embedded with the HTT's in Khost and also met Fondacaro during his work. I've never been in that area of Afghanistan, but it was easy for me as a recent veteran to say, "Yup, that's how it is." Read his article over again, if you've read it, and pick up on the difference between truth and the surreal. When you compare the two on the scales of reason, it's so crystal clear that you'd have to be blinded by agenda to not see it.

Okay, if you're as pissed as I am, here's the email address. I don't know about you, but once again I'm going to let a publication know that it has printed a load of crap and it is in fact responsible for the poor editing that allowed such a piece of indefensible garbage to be published in its pages. Some of Pelton's assertions, which I contend with, could actually be harmful. I can't see how it could help but harm Lieutenant Jones' reputation if not in Afghanistan, here at home in his own community. That's assuming that he can defend himself against the charges he may face due to this story. No Soldier fighting in this war deserves to have his service denigrated for the amusement of some fantasy writer who fancies himself a Geraldo Rivera wannabe.

I am still interested in knowing what his motivation was. There are other interesting aspects to this sordid tale, and I'll be following up on them in the coming days. I'll let you know what I find. I do know that the 101st PAO has moved to have him "blacklisted" from Afghanistan, but there is word floating around that Pelton is well-connected. Does this cat have friends higher than a division commander who will get his back even after a stunt like this? He is apparently business partners with Ted Turner and retired General Wesley Clark in a company that has an "intelligence offering" in Iraq that provides information for "much less than the price of a single seasoned intelligence analyst." This same company is offering something called "AFPax Insider" for Afghanistan and Pakistan, but has of yet not officially rolled it out. You can find some announcements about it at
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Revenge On The Nerds (Exclusive Preview Of The New Movie Due Out Soon In A Theater Or News Show Near You)

The people that Andrew Basevich calls "The Crusaders" and COL Gentile calls "True Believers," the people who are committed to the concept that this war requires consummate counterinsurgency, are the geeks of the Army. The Army is an organization that has embraced an athletic form of elitism that has in many ways helped the organization to transform from the troubled post-Viet Nam Army of Carter to the capable and professional force of today. My whole career has been served under this transformation, from the early days of the revolution that Reagan demanded to the present day problems of embracing the geekery of COIN.

Make no mistake; the true COINdinistas are the major geeks of the Army and the supporting actors who operate with us. This is strange, because the Special Forces are the traditional home of the counterinsurgents in the Army. They are the ones who thrill to FID (Foreign Internal Defense... advising and mentoring) and those guys are never thought of as geeks. Snakeaters, voodoo practitioners, spooky types, perhaps; but not usually geeks. Those outside of the shadowy SF world who carry the sword and clown horn for COIN are geeks, though.

The geekiest of the geeks, the Nerd Mages, would have to be the Human Terrain Teams. "What," you may ask, "are Human Terrain Teams?" You know, I'd explain it to you, but it'd probably make your eyes glaze over. "What," you would ask, "do social scientists have to do with war?"

In the massive, conventional Desert Storm type warfare that our Army craves, not much. In a counterinsurgency on a complex human landscape like Afghanistan, they can help you plan your interactions and even missions and projects such as irrigation and electrical power. They help keep you from making the mistakes of the ugly American. They are civilians, very well educated, mostly all contractors. Most commanders see them as chicken bone readers and frequently ignore them. Many would rather consult a Ouji Board or an Eight Ball; but their information can be vital, and can save both blood and treasure. This is what is called an enabler. This information, shared down to the Soldier level, wields incredible power, becoming a combat multiplier.

That, of course, was an incredibly geeky thing to say.

Side note: have you ever read, The Ugly American? It makes a great impression... shows how smart people can screw up COIN from the get-go. It's more from the USAID type perspective.

There is something horrible going on in Afghanistan. The Human Terrain Teams are being gutted by a massive change in the organization that is requiring many of these social scientists mapping out the complex social networks in local areas to take up to a 70% cut in pay, obviously as part of an economic stimulus package.

Or they can quit.

Many are quitting and going home. They can now find much safer work for more money and actually be appreciated.

Who was the mastermind behind this? Does GEN Petraeus know about this? Why is that mastermind someone not being suspended by the toenails, strung from rusty chains in a musty, dripping dungeon echoing with screams?

Why, just when we should be doing our best to embrace our inner geek or overcome our inner jock in order to master geekery in the name of duty, are we chasing away the Nerd Mages?

It's almost like we are trying to screw this up.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Propaganda, Agendas, And The Sanctity Of Dover

Ed Henry at CNN has a point that he'd like to make. The Communist News Network, as we in the military often fondly refer to CNN, has not been a great buddy of Soldiers and Marines downrange who are doing the heavy lifting. They occasionally wrap a flag around something, but we often get the impression that it's just theatrics. The flag is rather eye-catching.

CNN is one of those organizations with the schizophrenia to pretend in their reporting that they are somehow an outsider. They aren't really Americans, they're detached observers. This lofty perch that they claim for themselves sets them outside of the pettiness of actually belonging to something other than the brotherhood of The Media. Anyway, we disdain them for their biased reporting and little agendas.

One of these agendas appears to be demonstrating to Americans the "real cost of the war." Ed Henry is hoping that President Obama will side with CNN on this, and asked at the press conference on Monday (which was about the "Stimulus Package") if the President will be removing the restriction keeping the media away from the repatriation of the fallen at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware.

If you haven't seen this response to Mr. Henry's question, please do so. It is profound.

There is no doubt that this was not only Mr. Henry's question, but that of CNN. It certainly had nothing to do with the topic of the evening. CNN has a point to make, and the flag they want to wrap around themselves in this case is already wrapped around the casket of a servicemember who has given their all for their country. Even asking to be able to use such images for any reason other than to honor the fallen is heinous.

As Mr. Henry explained in his question to the President, CNN's reason is not to honor the fallen, but to demonstrate cost. Criteria for heinousness met.

CNN sucks.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

When The Water Reviles The Fish

Galula and Trinquier, two of the French authors of counterinsurgency texts back in the 1960's, tried to describe how the insurgent hides among the people, they described the people as the water in which the insurgent... the fish... swims. They described the problems of separating the fish from the water. Trinquier had a more active solution. He's the guy who advocated "strategic hamlets." He coined the phrase, actually.

That phrase became famous during Viet Nam, when the US created strategic hamlets in some areas of Viet Nam to protect the villagers from the predations of the Viet Cong. It was actually somewhat successful where it was used, but our understanding of counterinsurgency was incomplete and we substituted counter-guerrilla for counterinsurgent a lot, reaping commensurate results. We do a lot of that now, and it's part of the reason that Afghanistan is in such shape. That's a long story, but history will prove this assertion correct.

The Conservatives, as Andrew Bacevich describes them, will argue otherwise, as they are doing currently about Iraq, claiming that the Anbar awakening would have happened regardless of what the Army and Marines did there. They claim that the awakenings were a spontaneous and newfound revulsion for al Qaeda and its ilk. Of course, that's poppycock (twice in two days...) as the Sunni awakening had everything to do with what the counterinsurgents were doing in those areas. The fact that some of this happened pre-surge is simply a demonstration that when COIN is done right, good things happen. Also a long story.

What makes insurgents hard to catch is that they, obviously, look just like everyone else. They do their deeds and melt into the background. They don't wear uniforms and they usually don't have bases with the insurgent flag flying above them. They depend on the cooperation of the people for this maintenance of obscurity. The insurgent obtains this cooperation through a number of methods. These methods may be simultaneous, but they usually include appeals to the needs of the people and some form of coercion. They will kill a few people to demonstrate that the government can't protect them. They assassinate local officials, often government functionaries and police. This demonstrates that cooperating with or working for the government is hazardous to your health. Only the most patriotic or those who depend most upon the corruption will serve as part of the government. Only the most committed will even whisper the identities of insurgents to the forces of order. The only way to assure the safety of yourself and your family is to become either a passive or an active supporter of the insurgent.

Most people just want to live their lives in peace, so they will go along with the whole thing passively. That means that if a group of insurgents show up demanding food, it is handed over without dickering. They won't risk telling the government or its agents anything that may cause trouble. They become part of their own problem. Some will become active supporters either out of ambition to be part of the new order or because they are swayed by the insurgent message, which is designed to appeal to the people in some way; in this case religiously. The government can make things worse by being a poor government. The Afghan government is certainly adding to their own problems. We are most often not interfering with the corruption and misuse of resources that add to the insurgent's strength by verifying his message.

It is at this point that inept would-be counterinsurgents spend a lot of time "chasing ghosts." They try to track down the insurgents kinetically. This reversion to counter-guerrilla warfare instead of counterinsurgency is often referred to by the poor counterinsurgent as COIN, but don't be fooled; it is not COIN in and of itself. They will experience some successes, and good COIN does include some counter-guerrilla activities, but it is not COIN. This is often what we are doing these days, and the results show. Chase some insurgents, do a few projects, drop off a few bales of HA (Humanitarian Aid) and you're a great COIN operator, right?

Not. This is a conversation had often in Afghanistan:

American: "We dug you a new well, had a new school built, and gave your kids winter jackets, but you say you don't know who keeps shooting at us!(or planting bombs)"

Afghan: "What am I do do? You come here once a week and they are here every night!"

American: "Tell us who they are and we'll take care of them for you."

Afghan thinking: "And then you will leave and I will wind up slaughtered like a sheep before you come back next week."

Afghan: "We don't know who they are. They just leave night letters, or they wear masks."

American: "Bullshit. You know who they are. How can we help you if you won't help yourselves?"

Good counterinsurgency works to relieve the people of the need to go along with the insurgent just to exist without fear of reprisal. This is the provision of security that we keep hearing about... staying where the people are and owning the night. Most of that is being present, and it's most often boring. Good COIN works to solve the issues that the insurgent exploits to gather support and proclaim the righteousness of his cause; so long as that doesn't damage the government's cause. These are issues such as corruption or unprofessional police in the neighborhoods. This is hard, frustrating work that requires uncompromising patience and persistence. These two efforts work to separate the fish from the water; and they work, when they are done right. Otherwise, the insurgent gains strength and begins to render the government more and more irrelevant to the daily lives of the populace.

Eventually a "shadow government" is formed. Initially, the shadow governor and his minions will be in title only... a symbol and nothing more. As the insurgency gains strength in an area, weakens the government and solidifies its sway over the people, the shadow government works to provide essential services to demonstrate its authority; to establish itself as the legitimate government in that area. This is a very serious problem for the government, and this is what we are seeing in parts of Afghanistan.

But sometimes the insurgent can go too far. This is likely not an example of good COIN, but an example of an insurgent mistake. They overreached and paid the price.

I could be wrong. There could have been good COIN done that made the people feel like they could stand up to the insurgents. That happens in spots. "In spots" isn't going to bring success in Afghanistan. Poor COIN is what needs to be done "in spots," and failures need to be rewarded with retarded career growth and not medals. It needs to be the exception and not the rule. It's not the Soldier's fault. It's not even the junior leaders. The average junior NCO (Staff Sergeant and below) have never heard of Galula and have probably never even physically seen a copy of FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency.

I'm probably not wrong. The anti-Taliban commander, Hazrat Ali, is probably who is making the people feel empowered to take a stand. If the Taliban manage to kill that guy the locals are screwed.

All the while the Army keeps preparing for the mythical WW-III, neglecting to train the junior leaders and Soldiers in the doctrine that they are expected to execute in this shooting war... other than to hear the word, "COIN" so often it makes them sick.

In the meantime, every once in great while, some villagers will get fed up or insurgents will cross a line and will get hammered; not because of us but in spite of us.
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