Chuck Spinney: Predictable Meltdown in Afghanistan – Strategic Decrepitude and Lack of Integrity Go Hand in Hand

Corruption, Government, Ineptitude, Lessons, Military, Officers Call
Chuck Spinney

The below BBC report, Afghanistan’s ‘green on blue’ collapse of trust,  places the fatal flaw in the McChrystal plan used by Mr. Obama to justify the Afghan surge in 2010 — namely General McChrystal’s failure to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the plan to rapidly build up the Afghan Army/police — into sharp relief.

This flaw was unconscionable for at least two reasons:
First, Obama’s surge was premised on achieving quick results that would enable a rapid withdrawal of the “surge” force.  That withdrawal that has now take place, despite the fact the surge did not achieve its desired result, namely weakening the Taliban to a level where it would be forced to parley on our terms.
Second, our disastrous experience with South Vietnamese army should have taught the American military the fallacy of rapidly building up a huge army, cut out of whole cloth, in America’s own high-cost, logistics-intensive image.  Armies — at least successful ones — take time to build and must be compatible with the culture from which they emanate.
That this fatal flaw was easy to see well before the fact. For example, I wrote about it  herehere,  here, and here in 2009 and early 2010, before the surge took effect — and I was not alone.  
This grotesque oversight proves the post-Vietnam reforms touted by the US military and the Reagan Administration (which chose to throw money at the problem) were entirely cosmetic and did not get to the roots of the malaise that led to our defeat in Vietnam, notwithstanding the parades, yellow ribbons, and juvenile braggadocio that accompanied  our rout of Saddam’s tin pot army in 1991.  Kosovo (for reasons explained in Domestic Roots of Perpetual War), the 2nd Iraq War (the existence of which gave made a lie of our claim of a decisive victory in 1991), and now our clear defeat in Afghanistan are or ought to be lessons to the contrary.  They certainly would be treated as such in a healthy society that endeavors to correct its errors instead of compounding them by sweeping them under a rug.
But of course, a real course correction, embodying meaningful reforms, would require turning off the big scoop shovel that is dumping ever increasing gobs of money on the Military – Industrial – Congressional Complex.  And that, dear reader, is something no one wants to even think about, the fears of sequestration nothwithstanding.
Chuck Spinney
Marina Di Ragusa, Sicilia

Afghanistan’s ‘green on blue’ collapse of trust

By Quentin Sommerville BBC News, Kabul – BBC – 07/10/12

As the number of Nato troops killed by their Afghan counterparts continues to rise – attacks known as “green on blue” – many are left wondering if the breakdown of this relationship will result in an early exit for international forces in Afghanistan.

In a circle of trees at the heart of the international mission’s headquarters in Kabul, there are 50 flags. One for each of the coalition countries that make up the force that is fighting the Taliban.

Under the branches, in the early morning shade, a few hundred soldiers stand still, listening, as the names of that week’s dead are read aloud.

The first was that of a Jordanian soldier, then a British sergeant and two British captains. Next an American gunner’s mate, and two more sergeants.

An Afghan officer stepped forward. He read just a number: 31. The service is short, it barely lasts five minutes. There is not enough time to read the names of all the Afghan dead.

Some names give more pause for thought than others. Sgt Gareth Thursby and Pte Thomas Wroe were killed earlier in the month in Nahr-e Saraj in Helmand.

They were not killed by the Taliban, but by an Afghan policeman they were serving alongside.

As the number of these “green on blue” or insider attacks has risen, British soldiers have taken extra precautions. One is to be armed at all times, even when men are sleeping. These men are called “guardian angels”.

In the Nahr-e Saraj killings the Afghan policeman looked like he was in pain. The British soldiers reacted with compassion. The guardian angel put down his weapon as he tried to help – and that is when the killer, the policeman, struck.

“Murder” is a word you rarely hear in war. Killing is part of the business, and is viewed by most as lawful according to international protocols.

But recently, the commander of international forces here, General John Allen, sat opposite his Afghan counterparts and said that while his troops were prepared to die for Afghanistan, they were not prepared to be murdered.

A quarter of all British soldiers who have been killed here this year were killed by Afghan police or army colleagues.

Some were Taliban infiltrators. Others, men with a grievance, who shot those they served with in the back, or in the face, or somewhere their body armour and helmets offered no protection.

Trust is collapsing between these two forces, who should be united in their fight against the Taliban.

The international mission suspended many routine joint patrols with Afghans as it sought to stop the attacks. A huge step, since Nato’s strategy relies on training Afghans to fight the Taliban when most international forces leave at the end of 2014.

Senior generals and the Ministry of Defence claimed that this was no big deal, but few believe them.

One senior diplomat told me the switch would go down in the history books.

It could be a “game changer,” he said. Afghan generals were furious – they felt abandoned and claimed a propaganda victory had been handed to the insurgents.

The Taliban may be cruel but they are also adaptable. “Crafty” is the word one marine used to describe them when speaking to me a week or so ago. He had just lost two colleagues to Taliban grenades.

When the insurgents realised they could not beat the coalition in a head-on battle, they introduced roadside bombs. [mines/booby traps are one of the guerrilla’s oldest weapons]

And now they realise that this war, already deeply unpopular at home, can only become more so if Afghan troops keep killing British, American and other servicemen.

“What do you say to the wife of a soldier killed by an Afghan soldier,” a coalition general said to me last week. “There is nothing you can say.”

The fear among those leading this war is that the relentless green on blue killings will accelerate the exit of troops.

The public is already sick of these killings and they could provide Western politicians with a good excuse to quit. After all, why hang around for another two years if the Taliban cannot be defeated militarily, and your allies keep shooting you dead?

A substantial and early drawdown of British troops is already being privately considered.

President Karzai might not realise it, said another diplomat, but you cannot underestimate Western fatigue with this war and with corruption here.

There is a shift taking place in the coalition’s vision of the future of Afghanistan.

Speak to senior generals and diplomats and they have a view of what the country looks like after they have gone. Kabul and other cities remain in government hands, the east will remain as lawless as ever, and the south, well… “there will have to be some accommodation in the south”.

What does that mean?

It means that the Taliban, in some areas, will be back for good.

One of the most senior diplomats here sat in my garden recently and sighed.

This is a war of diminished expectations and one where the West will never utter the word “victory”.

He said, “Do not ask me if it was worth it, because it was not.”

So what, I asked, was the best possible outcome?

He replied, “All we want is a country that we can forget about.”