February 22, 2010

Uruzgan, again

A fatal airstrike on civilians in Uruzgan province, this time.

The strike appears to have occurred near the border between Kijran (aka Gujran) District in Dai Kundi Province and Char Chino (formerly Shahidi Hassas) District in Uruzgan Province. That means the ISAF forces involved here were most likely American SF, operating out of Firebase Cobra, rather than Dutch or Australian.

Posted by BruceR at 04:34 PM

Weekend reading: the Aitken Congo piece

I found BGen Larry Aitken's piece on his experiences with the Chapter VII UN mission in the Congo to be highly interesting.

It's hard to predict the verdict of history, of course, but the Congo is increasingly becoming an interesting counter-example, opposed to Afghanistan, to how Western governments can provide military support to the legitimate government of a failing state fighting a counterinsurgency. Of course the circumstances of MONUC would have been impossible to replicate in Afghanistan in 2002-2005. One can't help but feel, however, if the West been less slightly less hysterical about enabling OEF to go on "hunting terrorists" in those years, and more focussed on a holistic approach preventing the conditions that spawned the Taliban from recurring in the first place, we might have ended up with something similar. Now of course, it's a barn door left open too long. But I thought this was interesting:

SRSG Swing and Lieutenant General Gaye were careful not to become embroiled in the process of solving problems for the government. Rather, they supported actions that were led by the national government. Military operations were initiated from a joint context, and, although the UN was required to provide additional logistical support for the FARDC, MONUC did not act independently of the FARDC in conducting operations against militia groups. When asked to intervene against General Níkunda in North Kivu, MONUC did not take independent action, as this would have placed UN personnel and NGOs at risk of attack by the rebel forces, and generated an escalation of military action when a political compromise was needed.

Also this:

Accordingly, MONUC worked to achieve the effect of holding the national government responsible by reporting human rights abuses to them while, at the same time, working through training and joint operations to stop these incidents from occurring. Security sector reform, although very much the Ďlong pole in the tent,í would take years to achieve, but could be started through joint actions between the UN forces and those of the DRC. A joint doctrine was developed that focused, not only on the issues of command and control, and logistical support of operations, but, more importantly, upon action to stop human rights abuses wherever they were reported or observed.

I expect there's going to be a lot more written on this. It's certainly very different from the Afghan model.

Also worthy of a read in the same issue is an outright slam on Gen. (retd.) Rick Hillier's popularization of Krulak's "three-block war" idea as a foundational theme for Canadian Forces transformation back in mid-decade. It's pretty devastating.

Posted by BruceR at 12:25 PM

Failure in Kunar


The acting commander and "all commissioned staff officers" failed to "monitor a rapidly degenerating tactical situation," the report said. That mistake "prevented timely supporting fires in the critical early phases of the operation and ensured that higher headquarters did not grasp the tactical situation."

Leaving the TOC in the middle of a firefight for 4 hours. No artillery support in 10 hours of fighting. A nearby air asset that refuses to leave its mission to come to their aid. Simply appalling. And note this was U.S. Army failing to support U.S. Marine mentors. The risks for ANSF mentors drawn from one NATO country trying to get the support of another country's battle group in a crisis should be self-evident.

Interesting that the piece says that restrictive ROE were not a factor, but also says the reasons artillery fire was denied included "proximity to a village." The conclusion presumably is that the ROE would not have been a factor if they had not been over-cautiously applied by TOC staff.

See also this piece, which ties the deadly ambush in Kunar to another deadly action a month later at COP Keating:

The area was so "expansive" that a quick reaction force that would have been dispatched to relieve the ambushed force in the Ganjgal Valley had been disbanded, the unidentified officer said in his sworn statement.

No QRF, either? Good lord. Those guys seem to have been screwed before they crossed the line of departure. The whole thing is increasingly (and unpleasantly) evocative of what happens to Willem Dafoe's guys in Clear and Present Danger... all you need now is Jack Ryan and an evil national security adviser. (One of the widows has added her choice thoughts to a Registan thread, I see.) I first wrote about it here.

Posted by BruceR at 08:05 AM

The 96-hour rule

Fox News:

NATO forces are also hampered by what's known as the "96 hour rule". Last summer NATO instituted a new detainee policy which says that if any NATO or International Security Assistance Force soldiers, including Americans, can't transfer captured terrorists or enemy combatants to the Afghan justice system within 96 hours, they have to be released. The problem is that in many cases there isnít enough time or resources to move detainees, and they end up going free. Some in the military are calling it the "catch and release rule."

For the record, this is an improvement: a year ago it was a "72-hour rule". And all ANSF are bound by it, too. As far as their detainees were concerned, no one but the usual suspects seemed to stay detained for long while I was there. Catch and release was the de facto policy: we called it the 72-hour timeout. And the movement of detainees, although often problematic, wasn't the biggest issue: it was building any kind of a good case against them in that time meriting detention, given that the time to turn around written translations of the guy's pocket litter or declassify and translate our own evidence of malfeasance would often far exceed the time limit.

The rule, which did have the positive effect of limiting the abuse of prisoners, also made questioning in detention effectively impossible. So the intelligence value of any Afghan detentions to either us or the Afghans was extremely circumscribed. I discussed this in detail in "The Prisoner of Mushan."

Posted by BruceR at 07:37 AM

Gardez, again

Tim from Free Range International thinks the Americans in Gardez are clueless.

Posted by BruceR at 07:30 AM