Lashkar Gah 'about to fall to Taliban'

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/16_11_09_army_manual.pdf

Principles of COIN (UK Doctrine 2009)

How many were applied in Afghanistan?
That question is only worth asking, if it is a 'given' that the campaign in Afghanistan was truly one aimed at countering an insurgency. There's substantial evidence - in the book that MOD commissioned and then sought to suppress - that the violence was part of a much more complex set of long-term, culturally-embedded fights that were never recognised by Western combatants. As long as this was the case, Brits and Yanks et al doomed themselves to flailing around the region to no particular or good purpose.

Equally, if Western politicians or Generals had recognised the complexity of the web they had blundered into, it is vanishingly unlikely that they would have wished to continue trying to 'remedy' it, since the means to do so either don't exist or would have proven to be unaffordable, just as the vastly overmatched 'COIN' effort, with its scant/undetectable return on every ounce of gold or pint of blood spent in the dust of S Asia proved to be.
 
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Equally, if Western politicians or Generals had recognised the complexity of the web they had blundered into, it is vanishingly unlikely that they would have wished to continue trying to 'remedy' it, since the means to do so either don't exist or would have proven to be unaffordable, just as the vastly overmatched 'COIN' effort, with its scant/undetectable return on every ounce of gold or pint of blood spent in the dust of S Asia proved to be.

True until you admit that the Selected aim , was not about winning the conflict , but medals ,promotion and glory. Despite all the talk of punching above our weight, we were just a so small force to have any real influence on anything. LKG is a hole as is the entire country. I would not want to go back nor waste more lives. It’s their country let them find their own solution.
 
admit that the Selected aim , was not about winning the conflict , but medals ,promotion and glory.
Ultimately, that's what it boiled down to for the Brits.

But the issues that led to US/UK withdrawal were pretty much as you sketch in the rest of your post, and I don't think they cut across my view in any way.

The whole Western adventure was doomed from the get-go because it was based on a hubristic, untutored political over-estimation of 'modern western power', combined with an institutional military reluctance (as common to Unca Sam as to Brits, but the Septics are at least able to recognise and try to remedy their deficiencies) to confront complexity, Splash a thick coat of 'Can-Do' varnish on top of that lot, and you've a recipe for disaster, even without any of this - which is plentiful:
 

No.4 Mk.1

On ROPS
On ROPs
True until you admit that the Selected aim , was not about winning the conflict , but medals ,promotion and glory.
I think justifying the new train set played a huge part in the MoD & especially the army's eagerness to 'get stuck in' to Helmand.

The former UK ambassador to Kabul said it best i think:
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles said:
Ministers, military commanders and civil servants engaged in a "massive act of collective self-delusion" about the prospects for success in Afghanistan
 
That question is only worth asking, if it is a 'given' that the campaign in Afghanistan was truly one aimed at countering an insurgency. There's substantial evidence - in the book that MOD commissioned and then sought to suppress - that the violence was part of a much more complex set of long-term, culturally-embedded fights that were never recognised by Western combatants. As long as this was the case, Brits and Yanks et al doomed themselves to flailing around the region to no particular or good purpose.

Equally, if Western politicians or Generals had recognised the complexity of the web they had blundered into, it is vanishingly unlikely that they would have wished to continue trying to 'remedy' it, since the means to do so either don't exist or would have proven to be unaffordable, just as the vastly overmatched 'COIN' effort, with its scant/undetectable return on every ounce of gold or pint of blood spent in the dust of S Asia proved to be.
So what was the nature of the war?
 
So what was the nature of the war?
Well, for a start, in the sense that Western thinking has shaped itself since Napoleon, and including the 1914-18, and 1939-45, it was most definitely not a a war.

As far as I can see, Britain's best military minds didn't ask themselves, "What is the nature of this conflict, which we are so keen to resolve?", but instead looked at it from a distance, and concluded that it bore resemblances to the kind of war they imagined they were good at, and the kind of campaigns at which - in Malaya and Ulster - their predecessors had demonstrated competence.

Then they cherry picked doctrine, and went in search of a career enhancing fight, without further effort, for the most part, to sanity-check military tactical decisions against any wider policy framework, which didn't exist, but was clearly regarded as unnecessary, as long as the military were not insisting on having such explicit guidance.

Does that answer your question?
 

No.4 Mk.1

On ROPS
On ROPs
Latest reports are of Taliban flags flying in Lashkar Gah suburbs.

http://www.tolonews.com/en/afghanistan/27888-
... on Wednesday raised concerns over the infiltration of Taliban in suburbs of the provincial capital Lashkargah where the insurgents have in parts, including Bolan, hoisted their flags.

lashkar gah latest.png

edited to add...

Which ties in with this Taliban claim on their website:

Mujahideen take control over 4 bases in Lashkargah – Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
Mujahideen take control over 4 bases in Lashkargah

HELMAND, Oct. 19
Mujahideen attacked 4 compound turned posts of police and communist Jabar Khan’s militia in Bolan Kalla area of capital Lashkargah overnight, says Al Emarah news,
According to details all the posts were overrun after a brief resistance, forcing the enemy to flee while leaving 2 corpses on the battle ground as well as gaining a large area under control.




But VOA reporting ANDSF advances in the city for the last couple of days:

http://www.voanews.com/a/afghanistan-lashkar-gah/3553597.html
Security forces in Afghanistan claim to have pushed the Taliban from parts of a key southern provincial capital and inflicted heavy casualties on the opposition as insurgent hostilities appear to have subsided in other conflict-hit provinces.


The place seems to be held together by a very well trained & equipped Afghan special forces unit going from trouble spot to trouble spot. The ANA appears to melt away - if they were there in the first place that is. Half the ANDSF numbers in Helmand are ghost soldiers - i.e. they don't exist, but their wages are still paid by international donors.
 
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Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
That question is only worth asking, if it is a 'given' that the campaign in Afghanistan was truly one aimed at countering an insurgency. There's substantial evidence - in the book that MOD commissioned and then sought to suppress - that the violence was part of a much more complex set of long-term, culturally-embedded fights that were never recognised by Western combatants.
Why does that preclude it being a COIN campaign?
 
How many have been applied in any campaign?

I reckon there are three, perhaps four that have been applied in all successful campaigns and at least one that has never been applied. I don't think it's a great set of principles at all.
I'm not necessarily advocating rigidly sticking to doctrine in every situation but many would apply in all COIN situations.

Just because one hasn't been applied and a COIN has been successfully prosecuted doesn't mean it shouldn't have been
 

Caecilius

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I'm not necessarily advocating rigidly sticking to doctrine in every situation but many would apply in all COIN situations.

Just because one hasn't been applied and a COIN has been successfully prosecuted doesn't mean it shouldn't have been
I'm not suggesting they need to be rigidly applied in all situations. COIN is particularly problematic when trying to arrive at any form of prescriptive doctrine that isn't counterproductive.

That said, I'd argue that if your principles rarely apply then they aren't really principles but a set of interesting ideas. This is especially true if the principles have never been applied across several successive campaigns. Contrast the COIN ones with the principles of war which apply in most circumstances and it's easy to see how different they are in their application.
 
Just because they aren't applied doesn't mean they shouldn't have been.

Having said that maybe you can't apply some of them in some situations.

Imposing a central government in what would appear to be a feudal State may not instil confidence in the local population (therefore should it be imposed?)

Equally local police having primacy, but they are at based untrustworthy, does that mean it doesn't apply. Maybe create the space to allow them to develop and create mutual trust.
 
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Why does that preclude it being a COIN campaign?
You have either not read, or failed to grasp the importance of this particular book

A brief review by some bloke called F. Ledwidge should nudge you in the right direction:
If you are looking for a 'shoot' em up' of the kind that dominate the amazon sales rankings on the Afghan war, look elsewhere. The attitudes on display in such books are what got us into the mess so ably described in this excellent book which General Sir David Richards rightly called 'THE book on Helmand'. General Richards was right.

Some readers may remember that Michael Martin was (very publicly) forced to resign, because his army commanders believed that this book was too embarrassing to publish. This is despite the fact that the extraordinary, well-written and erudite work on display here was actually commissioned by the army as a PhD project.

Although we have not been well-endowed with bright, quick-learning Generals, there are plenty of highly intelligent more junior officers around. Most of them won't go beyond their current rank. Like Captain Martin, they will either resign or retire and with no change in promotion systems, there'll be no change in the quality of very senior officers. Like will always promote like; 'twas ever so. However, lets hope some more of our current crop of highly experienced, intelligent soldiers, like Michael Martin turn to writing and serious analysis like this. If they do they can help us learn how better to understand the wars we, rightly or wrongly, will fight.

It is not clear exactly what part of this book was so incendiary that the army tried to ban it. Because there is a lot for the frantic, desperate news-managers of the MOD to fret about. Maybe it was the accounts of US Special Forces arresting perfectly innocent men and sending them to Guantanamo for torture. Alternatively it might have been the stories of UK military intelligence being used by Helmandis as 'useful idiots', with people accusing business or tribal rivals of being 'insurgents' and having them 'lifted' or worse. Its all here.

Most likely though, it was the rather more fundamental problem that pervades the book. Neither the British nor the Americans who arrived in Helmand to bail them out had any real idea of what was really going on around them. Were they fighting the 'Taliban', and if so, what exactly is the 'Taliban'? Were they a sinister shadowy terrorist group, bent on domination? Were they narco-gangs fighting over turf? or were most of them just local guys fighting people (us) they saw as invaders?

Martin has the answers. His analysis is based, not on 'intelligence reports', journalism or other questionable sources, but on actually talking to many, many Helmandi people-imagine- in their own language over many, many months in rather dangerous circumstances. And it is there that the lesson for conflicts beyond this one lies. For this book is a model of what a study of a conflict should be. To the participants, every war is an intimate war.

Read this if you want to know what Helmand was really about. Read it to see how real 'intelligence' should look.
I've highlighted the most relevant of FL's paragraphs.

MOD and Army may jointly endeavour to dignify what went on in South Asia with the label of 'Counter Insurgency', but it's a difficult illusion to sustain in the face of evidence that says the locals were leading our commanders on a bloody dance, in which for much of the time Brits and other westerners were not so much prosecuting a professional, well-informed, intelligence-led campaign against the enemies of the Afghan state, but rather being fooled into acting as hired guns on behalf of assorted local warlords pursuing their own long-standing agendas, and laffing up the sleeves of their kameezes at the sheer stoopidity of the foreign interlopers, whose naive agendas were undermined time and again by their own actions.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
You have either not read, or failed to grasp the importance of this particular book

A brief review by some bloke called F. Ledwidge should nudge you in the right direction:

I've highlighted the most relevant of FL's paragraphs.

MOD and Army may jointly endeavour to dignify what went on in South Asia with the label of 'Counter Insurgency', but it's a difficult illusion to sustain in the face of evidence that says the locals were leading our commanders on a bloody dance, in which for much of the time Brits and other westerners were not so much prosecuting a professional, well-informed, intelligence-led campaign against the enemies of the Afghan state, but rather being fooled into acting as hired guns on behalf of assorted local warlords pursuing their own long-standing agendas, and laffing up the sleeves of their kameezes at the sheer stoopidity of the foreign interlopers, whose naive agendas were undermined time and again by their own actions.
I've read it. It's an excellent book and there's a lot in there that we need to take onboard.

I still don't see how any of that complexity precludes HERRICK being a COIN campaign unless we're using an extremely restricted definition of COIN. Most people regard it as more of a broad description, including those writing the doctrine to which Irlsgt refers, but I acknowledge that you've previously called on here for a much more precise taxonomy of conflict.

For my part, while probably more complex and less understood by UK/US forces, the mess in Afghanistan that you highlight is on a similar theme to Iraqi tribal dynamics. 'The Accidental Gureilla' covers much of this theme and I'm prepared to follow Kilcullen's lead on what is and isn't COIN.
 

Caecilius

LE
Kit Reviewer
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Just because they aren't applied doesn't mean they shouldn't have been.

Having said that maybe you can't apply some of them in some situations.

Imposing a central government in what would appear to be a feudal State may not instil confidence in the local population (therefore should it be imposed?)

Equally local police having primacy, but they are at based untrustworthy, does that mean it doesn't apply. Maybe create the space to allow them to develop and create mutual trust.
This is perhaps an anàl doctrinal point, but I'd argue that if something hasn't ever been applied on a successful campaign then it can hardly be a principle.

I'd restrict the principles to about four and then add a couple of my own. The major additions would be (ignore exact phrasing): 1. It's always different; there are no templates. 2. Prepare for a scrap. You'll never get away without high intensity fighting for a while.
 

Caecilius

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Like I said before:
I understand and acknowledge the facts. What isn't clear is the point that you're making because, as usual, you haven't explained it.

So far all that you've said is that HERRICK can't have been COIN because the situation was extremely complex and we didn't acknowledge or understand that. While the complexity and our lack of understanding are undoubtedly true, it's unclear why you think those factors prevent it from being COIN.

Why not start your explanation with your definition of COIN? It seems to be different to the conventional understanding of the term.
 
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I've read it. It's an excellent book and there's a lot in there that we need to take onboard.

I still don't see how any of that complexity precludes HERRICK being a COIN campaign unless we're using an extremely restricted definition of COIN. Most people regard it as more of a broad description, including those writing the doctrine to which Irlsgt refers, but I acknowledge that you've previously called on here for a much more precise taxonomy of conflict.

For my part, while probably more complex and less understood by UK/US forces, the mess in Afghanistan that you highlight is on a similar theme to Iraqi tribal dynamics. 'The Accidental Gureilla' covers much of this theme and I'm prepared to follow Kilcullen's lead on what is and isn't COIN.
I'd agree the fighting the Taliban was COIN, the rest well that made it an even more complex environment
 
I'd agree the fighting the Taliban was COIN, the rest well that made it an even more complex environment
The point is that for much of the time, only the Westerners thought that the people they were fighting were Taliban - because they had no real clue who was who, or what was really going on between the locals in any given AO at any point in time.

It may well have been the Brit intent to conduct a COIN campaign, but if the things that they were doing were as wildly mis-directed as appears often to have been the case, with the net effect that Brit military activity was inimical to whatever intent was in the minds of the Western leadership, it cannot be reasonable to claim that the methods used were good, or even systematic.

Anybody trying to pass off that kind of mess as somehow demonstrating even the most marginal doctrinal competence is deluded.
 

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