ONE TRIBE AT A TIME

One Tribe At A Time

A Report from embedded journalist Andrew Lubin

By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 7, 2009

[We'll be hearing again from Maj. Jim Gant in three weeks, but for this Monday and the next, I'm very pleased and honored to feature a "report from the trenches" from independent foreign correspondent Andrew Lubin, who has just returned from six weeks in Afghanistan where he was embedded with Army and Marine troops. Mr. Lubin's son Phil is a Marine artilleryman; Andy loves the troops; nothing gives him greater pleasure than to get out there in the tall cane with young Marines and soldiers and come back with the straight, unfiltered scoop. This recent trip is his 10th to Iraq, Afghanistan and Beirut. Andy's work appears regularly in Jane's Intelligence Review, Leatherneck and Proceedings. He is the author of the award-winning book, Charlie Battery: A Marine Artillery Battery in Iraq.]

Success Starts in the Villages

By Andrew Lubin

It’s more than just numbers of troops, it’s getting them off the Forward Operating Bases

Shopkeepers in Nawa greet Marines

Shopkeepers in Nawa greet Marines

The recent debate over troop strength is finally over; President Obama is sending 30,000 Marines and soldiers to bolster the 21,000 he added in March. As before, the Marine Corps will be leading the charge; 1st Bn, 6th Marines (infantry) will heading out in the next weeks, and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force will join them in the following months. The Army is sending three brigades, along with 7,000 headquarters troops.

Are the 34,000 enough? Too little? Too many? That question is best answered by defining the troops’ mission and how it is expected to be accomplished. Judging by the results of the Marine efforts in Helmand and Nimroz Provinces, the real issue is not one of troop strength, but rather one of how those troops are utilized once they’re on the ground.

It’s really very simple,” Col. Dale Alford said at the recent Marine Corps University Counterinsurgency Symposium in Washington, D.C,we want to make them pick our side.” Alford is correct; for all the different theories on counterinsurgency (COIN) from “oilspots” to “trickle down” to “governance,” American and NATO success in Afghanistan depends on the farmers and laborers in the countryside believing that “our way” is more beneficial to them and their families than what the Taliban offers.

ISAF commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal knows that the Coalition needs the cooperation of the locals, regardless of how many troops are in-country. “The key to success,he wrote to Sectretary of Defense Robert Gates, “will be strong personal relationships forged between security forces and local populations.” These relationships are not hard to initiate; Afghanistan’s Pashtunwali code of hospitality and honor lends itself to the tribesmen wanting good relationships with the Marines and soldiers–but the troops need to get off those FOB’s and meet the people.

Capt. Brian Huysman, Charlie Co., 1st Bn., 5th Marines, sharing a chai with local villagers

Capt. Brian Huysman, Charlie Co., 1st Bn., 5th Marines, sharing a chai with local villagers

Down in Helmand Province, Marines of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade are meeting the people. On the morning of 2 July, Afghan citizens and Taliban along the Helmand River Valley found 4,000 Marines had flown through the night and were on the ground, patrolling through their villages, engaging the bad guys and establishing multiple new bases. We go out to where the people are,” 2MEB commanding officer Brigadier General Lawrence Nicholson said. We don’t drive to work; we walk to work.”

This was the first time many of the villagers had seen Coalition forces, and they are responding positively to the Marine efforts. In Nawa, C Company, 1st Bn, 5th Marines was attacked by the Taliban within hours of its arrival–and responded by driving the enemy back where they came from. “The bad guys weren’t used to Marines,” explained 1st Sgt David Wilson. “We pursued them, we didn’t break contact, we hunted them down and we shot them–and in 10 days the area was secure.”

The first sign of successful “COIN” is when the local citizenry realizes that cooperating with Coalition troops improves their lives, and Charlie Company’s killing or driving the Taliban out of Nawa was an important first step. The next step was to build relationships with the locals, and to do that, the Marines went out on patrol two and three times daily. Showing up again and again in Nawa and the outlying villages, the Marines talked with shop owners, the money lender, farmers, children, the local Mullah, and everyone who would talk with them. In addition to becoming a familiar part of the landscape, their continued presence enabled them to ask questions as they bought small amounts of sodas, fruits, and vegetables from the shop owners: “What is the biggest problem facing your village? How would you solve it? Do your children go to school? Do you work?” Gathering this sort of intelligence, plus identifying key leaders and people of influence, enables the Marines along with Civil Affairs and USAID teams to sit with the village elders and address the issues of jobs and governance that will make Nawa a successful district again.

Listening to the villagers helps the Marines understand what sort of jobs are required to make the area viable. As opposed to the big dollar projects ISAF touts, the Marines now have 260+ locals earning $5.00/day cleaning the irrigation canals–and with these canals now flowing freely, the locals are growing grapes, wheat and corn instead of opium.

But none of this would be happening if the Marines weren’t out patrolling, which is why recent comments from the Pentagon are worrisome. Concerns were raised that more big FOB’s need to be built before more soldiers are dispatched, that the soldiers need more chow halls, MRW shops, and hardened bunks with wireless internet. This is wrong; the troops need to live and work with their Afghan partners, abandon their MRAPs [heavily armored vehicles] and walk through the villages meeting those local citizens who are looking to be their friends. If you don’t get out and work with the locals and instead simply patrol from inside an MRAP, it makes no difference how many troops Mr. Obama dispatches.

Next week: It’s “Clear-Hold-Build-Transition” – Training the ANA


Posted in Afghanistan, Agora, Guest Blogger, One Tribe At A Time

14 Responses to “A Report from embedded journalist Andrew Lubin”

  1. Jim Gourley
    December 8, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Based on President Obama’s remarks at West Point and the emphasis with which General McChrystal highlighted the principle in his report, I’d like to know how many Afghan Army soldiers Mr. Lubin saw patrolling with the Marines.

    Also, if this is the first time in eight years these local villagers have seen coalition forces, I wonder with what frequency they’ve received contact from the Taliban or the Afghan government? Is this a population that ISAF and GIRoA simply haven’t had the resources to contest the Taliban for, or are these people completely on the sidelines in the enemy’s view as well?

    What is the nature and composition of the Taliban forces that the Marines engaged?

    What are the perceptions of the war and who’s winning among those who haven’t seen an American in all this time?

    I question the 1SG’s estimation that the area is now “secure”. I’d love to hear MAJ Gant’s or Chief Zazai’s take on whether a single streak of engagements over ten days will actually convince Taliban fighters that their real estate holdings have just decreased, or if they perceive this as another dispute.

  2. December 8, 2009 at 6:48 am

    Perceptive comments, Jim:
    1 – ANP were attached to Nawa after the Marines secured it. ANA froces were sent further south, andwere fighting with 2nd Bn, 8th Marines.
    2 – The locals had recieved lots of contact from the Taliban in previous years; very little from Karzai Gov. In 1 sure the locals were yelling at the Dist Gov that he’d promised them basic sevices, but not delivered. Hence my observations on Marine eforts to work on a local level.
    3 – Is the area secure? Yes, but it’s not perfect. No shooting, but attempts made at IED’s, which villagers were starting to report to Marines.
    3A. In upcoming month you’ll see a Marine assault into Marweh, a town a few miles off that’s the Taliban-controlled. FYI, the villagers have been asking the Marines when they’re going to clean it out.
    4 – The war in the south is different than that of Gant – Zazai in the east; different terrain, tribes, dynamics. East has 8 years of contact with Army, NATO in small numbers, and Pak-Taliban, whereas south has areas unseen by Coalition until very robust Operation Kandjar in July. Remember, until mid 2008, Mr Bush only has 15,000 +/- troops in A-stan; while, yes, Spec Ops on horseback was a neat way to liberate A’stan back in 2001, you need Marines on the ground working with the local to keep it liberated.

    • Jim Gourley
      December 8, 2009 at 7:17 am

      Mr. Lubin,

      Thanks for the responses. As always, more answers bring more questions.

      - I constantly receive the “basic services” demands with a bit of skepticism and probably cynicism as well. In these remote areas where people have gone without for so long, are they asking for things they’ve never had before (i.e., robust electric systems, more urban-constructed sewage, paved roads) or things that they had prior to the Taliban takeover?

      - Your reply to #4 intrigues me. If I have it right, MAJ Gant and Chief Zazai would contend that you don’t necessarily need a battalion of Marines in direct liaison with the locals. Instead, they would say an 8-10 man team of trained soldiers working with the tribe is the preferred solution. In the context of President Obama’s strategy, that may be the way to go at this point. Decreasing the American footprint to a force package only large enough to assist the Afghans may provide the epiphany that they have to organize themselves, which is what we want. I have nothing against giving the right people the right support, but perhaps the Marines doing all the heavy lifting for the people is contradictory to what we truly want to accomplish. At any rate, the lack of involvement by the ANP signals that McChrystal may not be getting that initiative up to speed while time continues to run out. It’s encouraging that forces were sent further south, though. At least they’ll continue expanding their visibility.

      - What’s your estimate of the strength of the Taliban and the civilian population in the neighboring village? Have you been able to discern any pattern or relationship between the size of a village and its relative ability to resist Taliban influence, or is the only determining factor the amount of support given by ISAF/GIRoA?

  3. December 8, 2009 at 11:10 am

    Jim:
    Their idea of basic services is very rudimentary (at least in the south). They want schools, security, and female doctors. Remember, it’s an agricultural area where 10 mud houses make up a village, a tribe. (unlike the cities in RC East; different terrain = different dynamics). Paved roads ? Well, if you pave the roads into the cities you improve business (you can get your crops to market), but that’s too big-picture for the villagers where I was at.

    No, you need the Marines to stay until the ANSF can handle it. But the point of my article is that when you’re off the FOB, like how the Marines are operating, you’ve got platoon-sized units living with and mentoring the ANA and ANP in the villages and towns. They help provide the security necessary so your ‘hold and build”, the NGO’s and all, can come work with the locals.

    Your last question is very, very hard to quantify. Remember, 1MEB has only been in the fight since July, so it;s a different dynamic than 8 yrs of Army and NATO in RC East. My impression based on talking to Marines in RC South is that 10-15 % of folks don’t like us, 25-35 % like us, and remainder like us, but are waiting to see if we stay before the commit. Here’s something of interest; to the locals, our committment is not measured in numbers of humvees or crew-served weapons; they like it when we upgrade our little FOB’s from tents to SWA huts to permanent – then they begin to have confidence that we’re here for the long term.

  4. Rob
    December 8, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    It seems our warrior-diplomats have been contained in zoos for risk management. Bottom to top, every level fears political hacks will kill the Afghan campaign before the men can prevail. Why go out in the dark, leave the moving fortress, gamble with the locals, if the US is going to choose to lose this thing in fifteen months? The guy on the ground with buddies back home, a baby to kiss, a hot wife to fuck, and no desire for career advancement, he has to soldier with the weight beating down, that his own commander in chief is too soft to use the word WIN in a speech. Trickle-down self-defeatonomics. America has a raging case of Resistance, as Pressfield would say. Maybe we can negociate a deal with the enemy, both sides can put down their metal and fight with rubber knives until the 2012 elections are over. This shit is more rediculous than the Spanish Inquisition. “Bring Out The Comfy Chair!”

  5. katie Thomas
    December 14, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    I have long thought that COIN is simply advanced (or perhaps primitive) social work with “Marine Artillery”. I haven’t said as much publically because social work is so passe and maligned. I’ve been a trained social worker for 30+ years. We really do know what works to change systems/people/politcal thinking. But/and because we’ve used public money and so carelessly and pathetically NOT held people accountable, encouraged dependency, and been weak kneed liberals the basic fundamentals of social work have lost credibility. That being said, as I read what you and your ilk write it is remarkable in it’s similarity to my training and education.

    So…..what we (social workers) have not had was a “Marine Artillery” or a court system, or more importantly a social enforcement system with balls. God forbid we hold anyone accountable. This has, over the last 40+ years created an excuse for laziness and entitlement….a culture of celebrity/addiction/explotionation/victimization.

    I worry that because the culture and attitude of victimization is so powerful in the west we will fail to pound hard with COIN….it will only work if we give with one hand and slap with the other. I’m not suggesting that the giving shouldn’t be genuine, but please don’t let the tribes rest in being “victims”. I doubt the American public, and sadly the current (or any) administration will have the courage to be tough. Republican ideology pro ports to be tough but can’t get elected being hawkish. Dems just piss on themselves trying to please everyone and continue to suggest that no one is responsible for themselves.

    • Jim Gourley
      December 16, 2009 at 4:49 am

      Katie,

      As a guy that’s been there, I can tell you with complete confidence that the “pounding” gets accomplished in our modern COIN strategy, though not with artillery as much. That’s not a bad thing.

      I’ve seen more than one comment on here assigning culpability to one political party or the other with regards to the current situation. The political statements are made, as is the disappointing fashion of our time, with great passion. It serves only to obscure the debate, because here we’re talking about warfighting. The warfighter can afford to be neither political nor passionate– he must be philosophical.

      I had the unique experience of serving on the Brigade staff of two very distinct commanders in the 101st Airborne; COL Michael D. Steele (of noterieity for his heroism in “Blackhawk Down” and COL Dominic Caraccilo, whose most recent book details his leadership of that Brigade in the most deadly areas of the Sunni Triangle in Iraq in 2008. Their leadership styles stood, as much as their stature, in stark contrast to each other. Yet they were incredibly successful in what they accomplished in their missions.

      COL Steele was on the 1980 Georgia Bulldogs football team, the only undefeated team in NCAA history. He stands 6′5″ and he’s got to be 300 lbs. He’s so large that it looks comical for him to carry an M4 rifle, so he carries a shotgun too. He is a man who fights to win, and only to win. On the Macchiavellian dilemma he decidedly sides with “fear”. During our time in Samarra, Tikrit, and Bayjii, COL Steele ordered the homes of several IED makers to be bulldozed to the ground and the entire city of Bayjii to have an earthern berm constructed around it to prevent weapons smuggling. We conducted the largest air assault operation since the invasion of Iraq and recovered thousands of weapons stored in caches in the desert by some of the worst insurgent fighters in Iraq. We lost 19 Soldiers that year. COL Steele was certainly feared, because the people knew he had little regard for their comfort. He did very little to help towns that continued to harbor violent men. I can do very little justice to the man’s character. I encourage you to google search “col steele speech”. The first result you get will be a Youtube video of the speech he gave prior to our deployment there. You’ll never see a more honest talk on what it means to be on the hot, hard streets of a combat zone.

      COL Caraccilo is about 5′7 and maybe 160 lbs dripping wet. He’s a long distance runner, though a larger frame might help him bear the load of his enormous brain. The man has a cunning intellect, and like a chess player never makes a move without having first considered what the consequences of it will be five moves from now. He was a voracious reader of intelligence reports, something for which COL Steele was not the greatest of fans. He was less interested in the enemy than he was the population. In his mind, the enemy needed the people. The enemy required a great deal of effort just to find. The people made themselves readily available. Thus, it was best to focus effort on the people. COL Caraccilo spent exhausting hours dealing with corrupt politicians, inept police, and poorly trained Iraqi soldiers, sometimes with little gain to show for those efforts. He forced his troops to live on postage-stamp-sized outposts with no air conditioning or chow halls like the ones on the big bases, he demanded that his battalion commanders submit daily reports and call in to nightly conference calls, and gave specific guidance that he demanded be followed to the letter. I once watched him frustrate an operations officer to no end, chastising the man for giving subordinate battalions UAV coverage on a “time share basis” by telling him “I don’t care what the units want or if they don’t feel like they’re getting their fair share. It’s not about fair share, it’s about results. Resources go where they’ll produce results. When they need the resource for something they’ll get it.”

      COL Steele was a pounder. COL Caraccilo was a social worker. Who was more successful? There’s no way to judge, really. The two commands were separated by 18 months and 250 miles, over which the conditions, culture, and nature of the fight changed drastically. I can say what I believe. I believe COL Steele dominated his battlespace and accomplished objectives that probably hastened improvements across the country. The amount of ordnance retrieved before insurgents could use it was staggering. However, for all the insurgents we captured several were third and fourth time offenders. The greater system was unable to deal with the material we provided them, and the bad guys got back on the streets. Some of our efforts were squandered. Likewise with the unit that relieved us. The security environment had primarily been associated with COL Steele. When the new unit came in, the insurgency decided to test their resolve, thus diminishing COL Steele’s gains. I believe that, on the whole, he did great things, but they weren’t the best things.

      COL Caraccilo spent a lot of time to achieve some things that should have been very easy but weren’t. He didn’t have an American system that wasn’t ready to support him– he had an Iraqi system that couldn’t even help itself. If you looked at it from a cost-benefit analysis in terms of time, you could argue that what he did wasn’t worth it. Then again, if your analysis considers the capabilities that he instilled in the governmental functions in his area then it’s pure gold. He took the time to do what other commanders had previously ignored because they could not see the benefits. COL Caraccilo took the time to analyze the situation and determine what the benefits were before dismissing them. He accomplished very little in some ways. However, what he accomplished lasted and set conditions for success in his area.

      Was COL Steele too “hawkish”? Was COL Caraccilo too “soft”? No. It wasn’t about that. Each man had a different view of the problem, and indeed they faced legitimately different problems. From their views they developed solutions. Each one set conditions for others to succeed in their areas, and ultimately that’s what it’s all about. Whether a unit takes the “social work” or the “artillery” approach matters little. What counts is the willingness and the capability of the people to take advantage of those conditions. Iraq suffered 20 years of Saddam Hussein prior to their liberation. Afghanistan went through 10 years of the Russians and 10 years of the Taliban. In relative terms our presence there is just another tick on the calender, and a combat brigade’s one-year deployment is small potatoes. There certainly aren’t feelings of “victimization” or entitlement in Afghanistan. As they say (half) jokingly in Khandahar… “see you soon, if we’re still alive”.

      No American can hold the Afghans accountable, because the Afghans know their accountability is to a much higher power; their code, the unforgiving environment and, to an uncomfortable extent, fate. A model that demands we “give with one hand and slap with the other” fails because it’s based on a belief that we, more than those factors, can instill accountability. Our efforts can not be politically or passionately motivated to establish our brand of justice or government. They must shape the conditions of the country such that the people themselves can take advantage. Being “fair but tough” works with children because they understand adults are in charge, and will always be in charge. That’s not the case with Afghanistan. Giving responsibility back to the people isn’t “weak kneed”, it’s our ultimate objective. Simultaneously, there’s no greater motivator than to look at an indigenous force commander and tell him “see those Taliban guys I’ve been fighting for you? Tomorrow– they’re all yours!” At some point, we have to let go and start allowing them the opportunity to fail or succeed. Either way, the country will do it on its own, and that’s the key.

  6. Randy
    December 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    Jim’s comments, in particular the last para point to the prevailing and overriding strategic question of…can we “win or buy the hearts and minds” and the trust of the Afghan people.

    The Pashtuns are the world’s largest (patriarchal) segmentary lineage ethnic group. The total population of the group is estimated to be around 42 million of which about one half or perhaps a little more live on the Pakistan side of the “border”.

    The Pashtuns move from Afghanistan into Pakistan and back again without any consideration as to the separation of each country-their tribal heritage is their “country”. As such, until which time ISAF and our coalition partners can also “win the hearts and minds” of all the Pashtun’s will some permanent peace come to South and Southeastern Afghanistan.

    Frankly, what metric or historical marker can we use to validate building schools (staffed by whom) or clinics (again staffed by whom) will result in the locals not supporting(involuntarily or voluntarily) the Taliban (as defined: those who seek religious knowledge-plural-Talib means religious student-singular).

    How does a family react when a cousin comes across the border from Pakistan to “free” his oppressed people from the coalition and western powers..so says the propaganda from nearly all of the religious schools in Pakistan? Does the family attempt to “convert” the cousin or simply assists in a passive manner without endangering their own family?

    This assertion includes those who fight us because of criminal trade, ideological differences or simply on the “bad guy” payroll. I can recall in eastern Khost looking up at the mountain and seeing thousands of opium poppy blooming plants..as far as the eye could see. The fields were in perfect harmony with the sloping terrain to assist the water as it flowed back and forth down the mountain from the 11,000 foot peaks..we were at about 9,000 feet. These fields (as alleged) are owned by people who live not in the mountain villages, but Quetta, Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere around the work feeding on the opium/heroin trade.

    These are the people who hire locals to lob those 105mm rockets propped by with rocks with pencil fuses at our FOB’s.

    The proof source, at least on its face, it that logistics support for the insurgents is coming from “somewhere” to include medical… and intelligence about the movement of US forces. In short, the insurgents don’t have FOB’s, yet seem to put up a sustained “fight” whenever possible.

    Lastly, I and perhaps a few others who have drank a lot of green tea and driven those hard rock roads in Paktia or Khost Province believe there is no amount of infrastructure development which will make the Pashtun people turn from their brethren and side with the “infidels” from the west. Let’s hope I am wrong…

    • Jim Gant
      December 20, 2009 at 7:31 pm

      Randy,

      Thank you for writing…You obviousely know what you are talking about and thank you for your service and the risks you have faced. I would say that all of the reasons that you mention above make it even clearer to me that we must “become” them. Your comment, “there is no amount of infrastructure development which will make the Pashtun people turn from their brethen and side with the “infidels” from the west…” I completely agree with…100%, if we keep doing “business as usual”. Therefore, I believe we must assimilate ourselves into the tribes through the use of TETs so we can better understand and help them flourish…help them flourish, literally one tribe at a time.

      Thank you again for your time.

      Have a good one. Just my simple thoughts.

      STRENGTH AND HONOR

      Jim

      • Jim Gourley
        December 22, 2009 at 10:59 am

        Jim,

        If you agree with Randy’s point here, I wonder how you feel about Andrew Lubin’s assertion that paying the Afghan Army soldiers more will sway more troops out of Taliban ranks and onto our side of the fight. My feeling is the money makes people who were already on our side believe that the pay is worth the risk, but it does nothing to change a tribal warrior’s allegiance. Your opinion?

        • Jim Gant
          December 23, 2009 at 6:04 am

          Jim,

          Hope all is well. I have some very strong opoinions about the ANA and the ANP, but will not get into them in great detail here. I preface my remarks by saying I volunteered to go back to Afghanistan and work on a transition team in Afghanistan mainly becuase I believed I could make a difference with the ANA and the ANP at the tactical level and also with this: The situation in Afghanistan is so complex that it boggles the mind. The east, the south, the north, and the west are completely different. To make things even more difficult, even within those areas, the strengths and weaknesses of each “tribe” or “group” or “valley” or “region” or “city” is different. Their motivations and fears are all different. There is not one answer or one strategy that will achieve “success” in Afghanistan (even a tribal engagement strategy (TES) will not work as a stand alone strategy nor will it work in every part of the country or even within the same tribal group; it will be different wherever it is applied). That is what makes the overall problem so difficult. There are 15 to 25 different strategies with 15 to 25, or even a hundred different results that have to be applied and accepted. “One strategy fits all” will not work, which makes it a very difficult situation.

          And once again, if one does not believe that tribes are central to our success in Afghanistan and if one does not believe that Pashtunwali is a real and current “code” in use by the Pastun tribes, then continuing to read this is a waste of time.

          So to answer your question, I will say two things:

          First, the policy to recruit, then train an “Afghan” and then move him out of his “area” to work in another province or somewhere other than where he grew up is not a good idea, in my opinion. The reason this is not a good idea is because of the Pastunwali code of “ghayrat” and “nang”. My experience, research and study is, as you know, with the Pashtun tribes, specifically in the Konar (I think I can say the “east” and be comfortable with that). In the tribal people that I have dealt with, being a warrior is the center-piece of their existance and their society. They will fight ANYONE that they percieve as a threat to them, their family, their sub-clan, their clan, and their tribe. Now in a broader sense, they will fight for “Afghanistan” in really only one situation – when they are allowed to fight locally. When you take these tribesman away from their tribe, where their “ghayrat” (physical bravery) and “nang” (honor) cannot be seen or even talked about by their tribe and family…why do it? What are they fighting for? An “Afghanistan” that does not exist? A central gov’t that most “Afghans” (and Americans) see as corrupt? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

          The last comment above leads to my second point. In most cases (not all) the central gov’t is seen as corrupt. Therefore, there policies and actions are also viewed that way. So, how is the ANA and ANP as a part of that apparatus viewed? Corrupt. As much as I believe that the COIN fight will be won from the ground level – up – I also believe that the corruption problem has to be dealt with from the top – down. This is where one of the most difficult problem is…how do we “help” the central gov’t with the perception that is corrupt? Our gov’t is not perfect and I would venture to say that a vast majority of the decisions our gov’t (at all levels) makes is about money and politics. How much does it cost? Will it hurt my chances to get re-elected? But I also believe that a vast majority of our poloticians do what they do out of a sense of “public service”, therefore even when decisions are made for political reason there is very little (in most cases) personal or monetary gain involved. That is generally not the case in Afganistan. I said all that to say this – the perception of what the ANA and ANP stands for has to change; and that is going to take a long time.

          The “locality” and the “corruption” issues are two of the reasons that I believe “arming, advising and assisting” the tribes – is the way to go – atleast in some parts of the country.

          Take care and have a good one. I didn’t mean to get so long-winded!

          STRENGTH AND HONOR

          Jim Gant

          • Jim Gant
            December 23, 2009 at 7:04 am

            Jim and Mr. Lubin,

            Do I think building an Afghan National Army and an Afghan National Police is important? Without question – yes – if we are interested in long-term “nation-building” and “capacity-building”. Being able to do this becomes a critical task if we want “Afghanistan” to be able to stand on its “own two feet” per se…but I ask: How long have we had troops in Germany? Korea? The Phillipines? Japan? Columbia? Etc…Building this capacity is a very long-term comittment and one that atleast until this point has been under-resourced and under-manned. There are some extremely capable Afghan units out there. Look at the Afghan Commando Program. In 03-04 the CTPT elements I worked with were hands down the most capable “indigenous” units out there. Can it be done? Yes. Should it be done? Yes. We just need to make sure we are doing it in such a way that it can sustain itself for the long haul…and the question is – can we do that?

            STRENGTH AND HONOR

            Jim Gant

          • Jim Gourley
            December 29, 2009 at 9:39 am

            Jim,

            I think you see in Mr. Lubin’s other post where I stand in regard to the long-term aspects of our commitment. I’m not sure if America’s presence in Germany or Japan are good parallels, but Alexander and the Persian armies that invaded Greece certainly are. Sure, Alexander and Xerxes brought the warriors of conquered peoples into their own ranks, but it was far from “assimilation” on some far fetched “Star Trek Borg” level. They were typically more than happy to let Afghan cavalrymen and Egyptian chariots ride according to their own tactics within the greater strategy. In essence, fight your way, but make sure you hold your end of the line. You could say that they had less of a unified army than they did a “comprehensively-partnered force”.

            That’s what I think would succeed with the ANA and ANP. The crucial aspect of this is ensuring there are strong leaders within the Afghan forces to make sure the troops do, in fact, hold the line.

            I think the corruption issue is a top-down situation, but we have an incredible opportunity with the ANA to cleave the beast in half even as we continue to wrestle it at the neck. If the ANA can be imbued with capable and honorable officers and NCOs, then it can serve as a vital go-between for the people and the government. It can be the “man on the ground” providing security for the people and legitimizing the new (and hopefully righteous) “man in the big office”, thus taking a big bite out of the ignominious reputation currently casting a shadow over things in Kabul.

            And that’s why I believe we shouldn’t rush to let the Army fight now as Lubin argues. Like you said, the process will take time, and trying to cut corners only means you have to go back and fix mistakes later. It’s trading one step back in the future to get two steps forward now. There are no doubt countless tactically proficient fighters out there in Afghanistan. Our responsibility, and a boon to great success, lies in the patience to make fighters into responsible and obedient soldiers, and from that into honorable warriors.

            “Go and tell the Afghans”, you might say. And who better to tell them than their own countrymen?