Interesting Piece on Afghan Withdrawal

#1
This is a thoughtful op-Ed by Bing West, a combat USMC veteran and prolific military writer and correspondent:

WALL ST. JOURNAL October 1, 2012
On Patrol with Bravo Company in Afghanistan
By Bing West
Last Thursday the Pentagon announced that joint patrols between U.S. and Afghan troops had resumed after a 10-day hiatus. During that time, our commanders are said to have completed security reviews and beefed up measures to prevent more deadly “green-on-blue” attacks by Afghan forces on U.S. personnel. Yet over the weekend, another green-on-blue attack claimed the life of a U.S. soldier, the 2,000th to die in the 11-year war.
These joint patrols are crucial if we are to leave behind a secure Afghanistan in 2014, as the president intends. But we must make certain that their resumption isn’t merely a face-saving measure for a policy decided in Washington that fails to address the reality on the ground in Afghanistan. Joint patrols cannot substitute for Afghan troops who must believe in their own cause. Nothing is gained by “jointness” if the Afghan forces are getting ready to cut local deals and pull back as we leave.
A few weeks ago, I visited Sangin District in Helmand province, the most violent district in Afghanistan, and got a taste of the challenges facing those who actually carry out these joint patrols.
The first patrol I accompanied was typical of thousands. In 95-degree heat, 10 Marines of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment slogged through the stifling cornfields, careful to stay in the footsteps of the point man sweeping for IED with his mine detector. At one point, a 4-foot *cobra slithered across the patrol’s path. The Marines shrugged—a snake couldn’t blow off their legs.
The patrol emerged from the cornfield in front of a small madrassa, or Islamist school. A black-turbaned mullah quickly herded the schoolboys inside the courtyard, while outside a dozen farmers glared at the Marines. In five years, the coalition hadn’t made a favorable impression in the hamlet.
The patrol continued on to a tiny outpost named PBR, or Pabst Blue Ribbon, on the edge of the hostile hamlet. There, the Afghan Local Police—farmers hired to guard their own village—welcomed them with smiles. The home guard detested the hamlet next door and viewed the Americans as their guardians. A roving gang of about 40 Taliban had engaged the Marines in a firefight a few days earlier, and the Marines were searching for their hideout.
“We’re at war out here,” Lt. Col. David Bradney, the 1-7 Battalion commander said. “That means patrolling aggressively from the first to the last day of our deployment. The Taliban will cut us no slack, and we return the sentiment.”

The soldiers in the Afghan army in the district didn’t take part in the search. They were staying inside their bases until the corn stalks had withered and the Taliban couldn’t spring close-in ambushes. There were 46 such Afghan bases across the district; to the Marines, these static defenses guaranteed isolation and defeat.
“When we leave, they’ll pull back,” Sgt. Eric Johnson, who was stationed at PBR, said. “They won’t stay out here alone.”

Combat in Sangin has claimed the lives of more than 100 British and American troops since 2005. Battalion 1-7 controlled the district with half the number of Marines it had taken to seize it. Like similar progress across Helmand province, the achievement was due to an American offensive mind-set.
The Marines returned the next day, picked up four locals armed with AKs, and probed deeper into the Taliban-controlled area. When they reached a section of a narrow path that had been swept clean of footprints, they called up their explosives experts. In six months, Bravo Company had uncovered 60 IEDs in their 30-kilometer zone.
Scratching the dirt with his fingers, Staff Sgt. Edward Marini uncovered first one and then another wooden pressure plate attached to yellow plastic jugs filled with ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer produced in Pakistan. He blew both up in an explosion more powerful than an artillery shell.
“Those IEDs would cut a Marine in half,” he said.
The leader of the local police then insisted that a nearby compound be blown up because enemy snipers used it. The Bravo Company platoon commander, Lt. Kurt Hoening, explained that only the Afghan district chief could make that decision. In that case, the local leader retorted, his men would not patrol anymore.
There was a perverse logic to his threat. Over the past decade, an attitude of entitlement has taken hold among Afghans, many of whom believe the Americans need them more than they need the Americans. This explains how an obscure hamlet leader could demand that the Marines do his bidding.
Lt. Hoening handled the situation perfectly. He agreed that the local police didn’t have to patrol with the Marines. They could stay behind in Taliban territory, without Marine protection, instead. The police rejoined the patrol.
“The Afghans knew where the IEDs were,” Lt. Hoening said. “If we weren’t here, they’d dig them up and dump them in a canal. Sometimes I think we’re shoveling in a snowstorm. You see progress for a minute, then the hole is filled with snow again.”

Day after day, thousands of American patrols leave the wire. The average grunt in Bravo Company strapped on 95 pounds of armor and ammo and made 100 patrols over a seven-month deployment. Last year in this sector of Sangin, Marines cinched tourniquets around their legs before going on patrol. Expecting to step on a pressure plate, they were ready to tie off their own bloody stumps. A year later, most carry tourniquets in their pockets and say they have it easier than those who preceded them.
That’s true. Throughout Helmand, the progress has been remarkable. Roads are open, markets are bustling, schools are full. The reason has been the gritty persistence of our Marines, deployment after deployment. One hundred patrols per man—one million footsteps, with tourniquets at the ready. The infantryman has done his job. It’s time for the Afghans to shovel the snow from their own doorsteps.
Mr. West, a former assistant secretary of defense and Marine, is the co-author with Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. Dakota Meyer of “Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War,” by Random House. www.westwrite.com
I for one agree with him and Gen. Allen:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobil...tan-insider-attacks-60-minutes_n_1927727.html
 
#2
An interesting story jj, thanks for posting it.
 
#3
Bing West talks common sense. The politicians will have a hard time understanding.
 
#5
The politicians that matter have only one thing in mind and that takes place in about 6 weeks time.

Once that is over we can expect the politicians to start listening to their senior commanders and producing policies that make some sense - and that does not include throwing your hands up and handing it all back to the Taliban!
 
#6
Good piece, although it does disappoint me slightly that despite being involved in Afghanistan for over a decade, we still translate madrassa as 'Islamist school'.
 
#7
Good piece, although it does disappoint me slightly that despite being involved in Afghanistan for over a decade, we still translate madrassa as 'Islamist school'.
I always thought that's what it is, please educate me.
 
#8
#9
It just means school, mate.
A pedantic point really because any school in a muslim country will teach in accordance with islam and sharia law
 
#10
A pedantic point really because any school in a muslim country will teach in accordance with islam and sharia law
In the same way as CofE schools teach about Jesus and British law. But not 'Islamist' and I don't like the connotations.
 
#11
In the same way as CofE schools teach about Jesus and British law. But not 'Islamist' and I don't like the connotations.
I think you need to take a breath and relax. While I realize that as people do all over the world, especially concerning things not generally known, we over-generalize. To the extent some in the "west" have negative connotations about madrasahs I think it is a result of both ignorance and having seen the material taught in some of them both here in the US and in Muslim countries where the children are indoctrinated to hate the infidel etc. I have personally seen such school materials.

In contrast when I last checked, i am unaware of any parochial Christian schools teaching a corresponding view that encourages hatred of those of other cultures and religions.
 

OldSnowy

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#13
My favourite of the comments below that piece:
"People can write critically (rightly) of the wars and the defence spending but they still tiptoe around the matter of the soldiers - they're still either heroic or noble or faultless. Nobody dare criticise them. Soldiers are stupid, trained killers doing the dirty work of the ruling classes. You meet soldiers and they're not nice people. They kill for a living, they're violent towards anyone who aren't like them, such as liberals, pinkos, students, smartarses, women, gays...They will fire on their own people in times of domestic protest. A few soldiers who have experienced the futility of these wars and poor treatment from the authorities afterwards see the light but most are brainwashed lackeys killing people and risking their own lives to make a few rich powerful people even richer and more powerful. If they're killed, what has killed them is their own stupidity. This needs to be said by somebody."

The (Manchester) Guardian. Home to nonsensical idiots for over 100 years.
 
#14
My favourite of the comments below that piece:
"People can write critically (rightly) of the wars and the defence spending but they still tiptoe around the matter of the soldiers - they're still either heroic or noble or faultless. Nobody dare criticise them. Soldiers are stupid, trained killers doing the dirty work of the ruling classes. You meet soldiers and they're not nice people. They kill for a living, they're violent towards anyone who aren't like them, such as liberals, pinkos, students, smartarses, women, gays...They will fire on their own people in times of domestic protest. A few soldiers who have experienced the futility of these wars and poor treatment from the authorities afterwards see the light but most are brainwashed lackeys killing people and risking their own lives to make a few rich powerful people even richer and more powerful. If they're killed, what has killed them is their own stupidity. This needs to be said by somebody."

The (Manchester) Guardian. Home to nonsensical idiots for over 100 years.
Makes me burst with pride, that does. Where do I join?
 
#15
And the British view:

British soldiers are dying in Afghanistan to win the war of Whitehall | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian
What planet is Simon Jenkins on?
 
#18
#19
Planet Guardian. He makes some valid points but over-eggs the piece to the point of farce.
this was my feeling tbh. afghan is pointless, whitehall has vested interests, fair enough. we dont even need an armed forces, the next war will be fought exclusively in cyberspace, err....no simon.
 

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