Helmand “grunt” war still ongoing, Afghan Army contribution not ideal, strategy lacking…Bing West on Afghanistan
No significant comment from me needed here. This is a very interesting article from Bing West, who has the impressive spread of a CV that takes him from US Marine right up to Assistant Secretary of Defense. He routinely sends missives from the front, ie the Helmand front, where he still appears to feel more comfortable. It is worth reading in full, if only to remind you that, at a time when the seemingly irreversible process of down-sizing ISAF force levels is ongoing, some serious fighting is still taking place. West highlights this vividly and concludes with the key message – there is a crucial absence of strategy here which is not for the troops on the ground to solve.
The commander of 1/7, Lieutenant Colonel David Bradney, had no illusions about permanent progress. The Taliban kept coming back, and the war went on.
“You could say I’m brushing back water,” he said
The key points I take away from this:
- Good tactics, but where is the strategy?
- These tactics – small patrols, get hit by occasional ambushes, get hit by occasional IEDs, return to base to report seem to be the flavour for the last five years or more – not much progress?
- In an insurgency, a military report that claims that, in the course of a year, half as many soldiers are needed to control an area twice as big sounds very much like progress.
- This news would have been welcome in 2006 and 2008 (and even 2010?). But now it smacks of impressive tactical gains at great cost to life that look to lead nowhere…
- …particularly because, on the rare occasion when the Afghan National Army do feature in this report, it does not get a favourable review – the gap in trust caused by “Green on Blue” has done much to exacerbate the problem.
The goal was for the Afghans to gain skills, confidence, and independence by following our example in operations. That process has ceased, with no known replacement program. Now, without American firepower, reinforcements, and medical evacuation, Afghan forces are even more reluctant to patrol. The Taliban have gained freedom of movement and a psychological edge.