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 Iraq, Afghanistan and COIN-failure

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PostSubject: Iraq, Afghanistan and COIN-failure   Wed Oct 14, 2009 10:04 pm

So, let's talk about counter-insurgency warfare, specifically so in Iraq and Afghanistan.

First of all, Obama has approved a decision to send 13,000 more troops to Afghanistan. We all know he promised to pull out of Iraq, but he made no such promise about Afghanistan. You see, the elite don't care about WHERE a war is fought, as long as it a) earns them money, b) causes countless human deaths and untold suffering, and c) puts a nation in debt. So while the people are cheering that they are pulling out of Iraq, they are soon going to have something far worse on their hands.

Let me tell you why. Before that, though, a warning; when I refer to "Americans" I mean no insult to the general American. I'm talking about American politicians, generals, or if specified, soldiers.

Now.

First of all, let's clarify. The war being fought in Afghanistan, and the war being fought in Iraq, are two of the same kind, so-called COIN-operations. That means Counter-Insurgency Operations. It is one of the most difficult sorts of operations in the world to carry out for a military. It's the same kind of war the US fought in Vietnam, where they moved in with massive forces to help South Vietnam crush the insurgency of Vietcong. They have also done the same in South America more times than anyone cares to count. Some times it's proven effective...most times, not so much.

The problem with Afghanistan now is that it's today again considered the world's largest exporter of opium. Now, you can say what you want about the Talebans. But at least, they forbade the growing of opium, which quenched the country's opium industry, at least until they had to fight an insurgency. And they're not the only ones engaged in the opium trade today in Afghanistan, or so it seems.

Normally, I'm the kind of guy who would say, "Hey, it's not like they put a gun to your head and force you to take that first needle of cocaine". I'm also the kind of guy who says "To each their own. If you want to take drugs, it's none of my business".

But it's a whole different matter when soldiers (and in this case, my main interest is the handful of Swedish soldiers who've already DIED in that country protecting the opium interests of the Elite, without even knowing why they really died. But every good and honest soldier's death is a loss for their country, not just Swedish ones.) are fighting a war, unknowingly - AND knowingly - so because they are protecting a drug industry funded by a government - in this case the Afghani government, and most likely the CIA. They did it in the Golden Triangle and Indochina, they did it in South America, and there's a good chance they're once again involved in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan.

This means, for one, the Afghani government is corrupt. And we've also seen that during the elections in Afghanistan a short while ago, which were, by no means, democratic. The UN employee who spoke out about it was, of course, fired. Instead of admitting they'd put their bets on the wrong people, the UN tried to silence him, whether because of weakness, or simply because they WANT the wrong people in charge.

And this is CRUCIAL in understanding why the COIN-operation in Afghanistan - and in Iraq, because it's the same thing - won't work. This is war that the United States and ISAF CANNOT win, unless they drastically change their tactics and choice of whom to support.

I'll now quote a man I admire greatly, South African ex-mercenary and military tactical genius Eeben Barlow on the issue of COIN-operations, from the comments section of his military security blog, where he by the way have three excellent posts on COIN-operations for anyone interested, which I'll get back to in a minute.

He says, and I quote:

Quote :
If the locals don’t buy in to the concept being applied it is doomed to failure, John. As I wrote “If the government attempting these reforms is deemed incompetent or corrupt, the locals will be lost to the insurgents”. It is at times like these that the “insurgency” becomes an “insurrection”. When that happens, the war will be lost.


Now, back to his COIN-posts. He have several good points on what is crucial in winning a COIN-operation:

x Maintaining the "hearts and minds" (i.e., the goodwill) of the civilian population. In this case - EPIC FAIL! In Iraq, Abu Ghrayb and the US soldiers' behavior and occupationist behavior, was enough to turn the Iraqis against them. In Afghanistan, the drug trade, the fail of defeating the talebans, and most likely, situations similar to the ones in Iraq, has also resuled in failure. Let's face it; the hearts and minds are NOT with the ISAF and Iraq-soldiers. At least not with the US soldiers, unfortunately.

This is also something one has to prepare for way before entering a region, because one has to know and be able to respect the customs of the civilian population. This, the US failed to do in Iraq.

x Civilian population supporting the government and the military of their country. In Afghanistan we've already seen this is a fail. In Iraq, I'm not sure how the Iraqis feel about the government, but the behavior of the US military, private military contractors and Iraqi army is again enough to cause enough badwill to lure people to the insurgents.

x Good equipment. The US drive Humvees in a country loaded with IED's. Humvees aren't armored, and armored vehicles are KEY in COIN-operations EXACTLY because of IED's. Likewise, the enemy, using Ak47's with 7,62 mm ammunition, weapons that NEVER fail to fire, are more heavily armed than the US soldiers. Furthermore, the US' M4-rifle is known for its proneness to jam when fired, and the US 5,56 mm calibre is weaker than the 7,62 mm ammunition. This might look like no biggie, but again - a force carrying out COIN-operations MUST be better and heavier equipped and armed than the insurgents they fight. The situation here is the same in both Iraq and Afghanistan. And the fact is, the US forces actually PREFER the Ak47 rather than their own weapon. That should say something about their equipment.

x Solid military tactics. Unfortunately, whoever those wannabe-generals are that lead the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are, they do not seem to have any solid knowledge about COIN-operations. Furthermore, they seem nigh incapable of looking back in history and seeing both experiences made and lessons learned from previous COIN-ops.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, the US had the chance to stop the insurgency before they even entered Iraq in the first place, and that goes for Afghanistan as well. Because of various reasons, however, they got an insurgency on their hands. And in response to the growing momentum of the talebans in Afghanistan, they resort to shipping in more and more troops, just like in Vietnam. The solution, however, is NOT more troops, not unless those new troops know better how to fight a COIN-operation than the ones already there.

An example: In the 1990's, there was civil war, an "Insurgency" of the RUF, if you will, in Sierra Leone. Eeben Barlow, with at most (I'm uncertain of how many he actually used, but this is the maximum possible number) 3000 men of the mercenary company Executive Outcomes, moved into the country. With 3000 men, he destroyed the insurgency and brought peace to the country.

And yet in Afghanistan we need tens of thousands of soldiers? No, it is simply a matter of the fact whoever is in charge of ISAF operations cannot admit they run their COIN-operations the wrong way. Just like in Vietnam, they cannot admit they were wrong, and so they resort to try and crush the insurgents and talebans with brute force. Of course, this will never succeed, and of course it will only mean more people will join the talebans in the end.



There's another aspect I'd like to adress too, namely the behavior of the soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've all seen them behave like crap, in Abu Ghrayb for example. And the result is stuff like the beheading of Nick Berg on prime-time television.

If you are a poorly trained soldier - I'm not saying that US soldiers are bad, but they are clearly not well trained enough to counter an insurgency... You're a recruit, fighting a war in a country where you always have to be on guard. Every civilian you see, you see as a possible insurgent, you drive around in unarmored vehicles knowing at any time you can drive onto an IED and get your leg blown off... This is bad enough in itself, which is why it takes a special kind of soldier to fight a COIN-war - it takes truly professional soldiers, not just contract employed soldiers.

If then your commanders are corrupt, it only makes things worse. We all know that it was the intelligence wing that gave orders for torture to take place in Abu Ghrayb, even if everyone in Pentagon denies it. Frustration, mixed with horrible violence that you've seen, mutilated comrades, and then orders from above to act in an inhumane way towards "suspected" insurgents=Iraq. And of course, when you deal with corrupt politics that caused the war in the first place, and even moreso, when the purpose behind the war itself, is corrupt...things just get worse, and quickly get out of hand.

I don't think it's an exaggeration to say these are key components in killing a soldier's soul, their "innocense" if you will. That's why we can see US soldiers on television executing wounded insurgents and/or civilians, and why we can see US soldiers in Iraq throwing puppies off of cliffs.

Remember, there HAVE been COIN-operations before, and it HAVE NOT made the soldiers go completely insane. It's not something that comes with every COIN-operation, only with COIN-operations that have failed because they weren't legitimate in the first place - i.e., the leadership the COIN-forces backed weren't the same the people wanted. And so the insurgency became an insurrection, and the COIN-forces became an occupational force.


So, in conclusion, ladies and gents, these are some of the reasons why the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have failed, and will never be won, unless the US seriously revise their strategies. And I believe, at least in Iraq, it is already too late, and is time for damage control.

I don't presume to be an expert on COIN-operations. But with what little knowledge I have, and with the insightful blog of Eeben Barlow, as well as common sense... Well, let's just say, if I know this, then the career generals who run these wars should realize it too, before it's too late.



Though of course...they want it this way, that's why they don't do it.

This was supposed to be a post about Obama shipping new soldiers to Afghanistan, but turned into a long digressing rant about COIN-operations instead. Hope you all don't mind. And sorry for my absence for a while. I'll make up for it with this post. blu wink

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