The bankruptcy of political rhetoric

The bobble heads in the right wing media are still banging the drum that “Obama withdrew US forces from Iraq” and that this event foretold the rise of ISIS. They regurgitate this pablum for the masses even though the previous Administration agreed to the 2008 SOFA that not only stipulated US forces withdraw NLT 31 December 2011….but also decreed that any future SOFA agreements would have to be ratified by the Iraqi Council of Representatives [CoR]. As we well know…..the CoR was not about to ratify any renegotiation of the SOFA in 2011, at least not with legal immunity for US forces from the Iraqi judicial system. So either these bobble heads are stupid…or they think that their audience is stupid. Or, they would sacrifice the immunity of US forces to a corrupt and Iranian-backed regime in Baghdad.

These same bobble heads attempt to castigate the current Administration for announcing a withdrawal date for US forces in Afghanistan….when the previous Administration did exactly the same for US force in Iraq.

It makes me feel icky any time I have to speak up for the current regime at 1600 Penn….but when the opposition is just as shallow and bereft of reason…….I see any hope for our future dim.

Always a Brother…..

Soldiers dressed in full Army Dress Blues filled the front seats of Mountain View High School graduation ceremony on June 7, 2014; a unique sight, even for a city located just outside a military installation. As Lluvia Loeza’s name was called, the Soldiers rose to their feet and rendered a salute. 

Lluvia’s brother, Staff Sgt. Roberto Loeza, Jr., was an Infantry Rifle Squad Leader and Headquarters Platoon Sergeant in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Tx. He deployed with the unit to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2011. Before leaving, he made a promise to his youngest sister, Lluvia, that he would be at her graduation to watch her walk the stage but unfortunately could not keep that promise.  

Staff Sgt. William Berry a member of Charlie Company and a friend and comrade of Roberto, stated that, “Staff Sgt. Roberto Loeza, Jr. was a loving and caring father and family man. His Soldiers held him in very high regard and respected his leadership and presence.” 

Roberto died of injuries sustained by indirect fire on May 25, 2012 while serving in Logar Province, Afghanistan.  

Roberto’s brother, Esteban, wanted to surprise their sister. He sent out a message through Facebook to Roberto’s old unit asking for volunteers to stand in his place. The call was answered immediately.  

Though the majority of the unit is deployed once again to Afghanistan, the Battalion’s rear detachment known as Task Force Stalwart West led by the Battalion Executive Officer, Maj. George Chigi, along with Maj. Christopher Penwarden and Sgt. 1st Class Bernie Brooks, organized a group of Soldiers to attend Lluvia’s graduation.  

More than 30 Soldiers from 1-4 Infantry Battalion attended the graduation. Also in attendance were several Soldiers from the Ft Bliss area that knew Roberto well including Penwarden and Sgt. 1st Class Jason Yeazel.  

Lluvia was completely surprised by the Straight and Stalwart Battalion Soldiers who gathered in their Army Service Uniforms. Making the event even more special for her, Chigi was given permission by the school district’s superintendent to present Lluvia with her high school diploma.  

Lluvia was just as impressive as her older brother; her discipline and drive earned her the distinction of the 4th highest grade point average in her high school. Lluvia’s brother is sure to have been proud to know that Lluvia’s efforts earned her more than $100,000 in college scholarships. 

The entire Loeza family was overwhelmed with emotion. They were happy to see so much support from the Straight and Stalwart Battalion for their son and Lluvia. The families of the other graduating students were awestruck by 1-41 Infantry Battalion as it rendered honors to Lluvia, the family, and Roberto. 

“It was a very emotional and uplifting event for us and the family. All and all we fulfilled a fallen Soldier’s promise and we did it with pride and honor and represented the 1-41 Infantry Battalion with nothing but the upmost respect and pleasure doing it for the family,” said Brooks, the Charlie Company First Sergeant.

Link

If hear one more time…….

the equating of the Quetta Shura Taliban…with al Qaeda and 9/11…equating the aims, motivations and threat posed to the United States……

I’m going to lose my shit.

I expect nothing less than vacant-eyed, mouth-breathing, slack-jawed sensationalism from our shit media……but I would really like to hold Congress to a higher standard.

Pipe dream, I know.

The Curious Case of the Walkabout Deserter

So Bowe Bergdahl has been released in exchange for five Taliban detainees. I’m happy we have him back, but what would otherwise be euphoria over the return of a Brother-in-Arms, is tempered by the fact that he deserted during wartime.

UCMJ Article 85. Desertion 

(a) Any member of the armed forces who– 

(1) without authority goes or remains absent from his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to remain away therefrom permanently;(2) quits his unit, organization, or place of duty with intent to avoid hazardous duty or to shirk important service; or(3) without being regularly separated from one of the armed forces enlists or accepts an appointment in the same or another on of the armed forces without fully disclosing the fact that he has not been regularly separated, or enters any foreign armed service except when authorized by the United States; is guilty of desertion. 

(b) Any commissioned officer of the armed forces who, after tender of his resignation and before notice of its acceptance, quits his post or proper duties without leave and with intent to remain away therefrom permanently is guilty of desertion. 

(c) Any person found guilty of desertion or attempt to desert shall be punished, if the offense is committed in time of war, by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct, but if the desertion or attempt to desert occurs at any other time, by such punishment, other than death, as a court-martial may direct.

Bowe Bergdahl left OP Mest in Paktika Province, where he was a member of B 1/501st (ABN). He left in the dead of night, without his weapon and kit. And according to some who served with him, he left after acting and speaking strangely…about the war, his ‘purpose in life’, etc….

Some of his teammates have stated other points about his ‘capture’…but that isn’t confirmed, at least for public knowledge. But we do know this…..as soon as he entered status as a DUSTWUN [Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown]…a massive amount of resources were pulled away from scheduled missions, countless lives were endangered [and some quite possibly lost] looking for Bergdahl and his ‘captors’. Some accounting can be read over at The Liberty Zone. Another unverified source is the Twitter account of one who claims to have been in Bergdahl’s platoon at OP Mest. I can’t vouch for the account, but as a longtime Infantry guy….his accounts ring true.

Although he will be the subject of an Article 15-6 investigation, I think it is likely that the ruling will be that he had ‘suffered’ enough at hands of his captors, and he will be medically discharged from service with a pretty enormous amount of back pay and the status of former prisoner of war. Nobody is going to wish to shine light on how Bergdahl’s actions prior to his ‘capture’ went unnoticed, unreported, or un-actioned. Nobody is going to wish to shine lift on how Bergdahl was able to leave OP Mest undetected and unmolested.

Much hay is being made of the fact that we ‘negotiated with terrorists’, and the underlying implication that this position is US policy and something we simply do not do. However, a cursory scan of the history of US foreign policy will reveal that we always negotiate with terrorists. And we always will. Much of it doesn’t come to light, and much of it is whitewashed for public consumption, but the fact remains.

Frankly, I’m not worried abut the five Taliban detainees that were released in exchange for Bergdahl. The Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani Network, HiG and lesser groups, do not pose a transitional threat to the homeland.

But this will be another act in the politico-media theater that drives most people’s lives and gives them something to bitch about.

Courage and Character Personified……



Army Ranger Josh Hargis was unconscious, hooked to a breathing tube at a military hospital in Afghanistan after losing both his legs in battle last week.

But when the Purple Heart ceremony began at Hargis’ bedside, it turned out he was not unconscious, as doctors believed. Instead, he struggled with an attending doctor to raise his heavily bandaged hand to salute a commanding officer presenting him with the medal.

“I cannot impart on you the level of emotion that poured through the intensive care unit that day,” the commander wrote to the Ranger’s wife. “Grown men began to weep, and we were speechless at a gesture that speaks volumes about Josh’s courage and character.”

There were about 50 fellow Rangers, doctors and nurses in the hospital room during the ceremony. The commanding officer said the salute was the “most beautiful” any person in the room had ever seen.

Link

Afghan Disconnect

An excellent interview in Small Wars Journal with Rajiv Chandrasekaran, author of Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan.

One gets the sense in looking back over the 2009 White House strategy review that then led to the President’s decision to largely accept McChrystal’s request for more forces that the military’s view of Afghanistan was sort of like Henry Ford and the color of your car.  You can have any strategy you like as long as it’s COIN.  The senior military leadership really coalesced around one option and alternative points of view, such as a narrower focus on counterterrorism as advocated by Gen Cartwright, were really cast aside by the rest of the military leadership. 

While we were trying to get our head around Afghanistan, I do think it behooved the nation’s military community to really more fully understand what happened with the surge in Iraq and the application of counterinsurgency.  It had its benefits, but it had its limitations.  It wasn’t a panacea, and understanding the truth of itm and moving beyond the politics, is essential to understanding how this strategy can and should be applied in the future. 

You opened your question with a fundamental disconnect in America’s war strategy.  The goal was narrow – to go after al Qaeda – yet the approach was broad – population-centric COIN.  And it did involve a civ-mil mission creep.  I think both sides fed on each other.  Yes, the military had a very expansive view on what to do with governance, anti-corruption, and so forth as epitomized by Gen Petraeus’s Anaconda slide, but the civilians in many cases were goading them along.  Karl Eikenberry who outlined accurately the many failings of the Afghan government and the many reasons why a COIN strategy wouldn’t work as hoped for then went along with these grand efforts to try to rebuild the government, to create government in many cases where the Afghans didn’t have it–to bring in dozens and dozens of American investigators to pursue corruption cases which further frayed our relationship with Hamid Karzai.  We tried to do two things that were in conflict.  We wanted a war with narrow goals, but we fought it broadly.  And that just doesn’t work.  If really what we wanted to do was just go after al Qaeda, then that’s what we should have done.  If the overall stability of Afghanistan, the defeat of the Taliban, the improvement of lives for the Afghans was something that we found to be in the American national interest, then a comprehensive COIN strategy was defensible.  But if that wasn’t the overall goal, then the record shows that we should have been narrower.

COINsanity

I’ve followed the ongoing debates around the Counterinsurgency [COIN] theory of warfare for quite some time, especially during my ramp up to spend 15 months in Baghdad during the much vaunted ‘Surge’. Folks like Gentile, Metz, McMasters and Nagl would take to the wonkish forums like Small Wars Journal and the Center for Defense Studies to defend their strategy of taming asymmetric warfare in the 21st century. The discussions waxed and waned over topics like understanding indigenuous cultural values and the efficacy of armor and artillery in a COIN environment. These men are not superstars outside of their arena, as the media has not given due diligence to the architects of strategies that have influenced national policy and news cycles….though one name had stood out the brightest and for the longest. LTC John Nagl [Ret] wrote Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, which was published in 2002, and soon became the rising star of a cadre nicknamed the COINdinistas.

COIN soon became the new currency of strategic success, coming at a time when our outlook for obtainable metrics in Iraq was rapidly diminishing. But as many have noted, COIN is not a band aid for bad national policy, nor poor planning.

Nagl is leaving the world of strategic studies and the Center for a New American Security, but the debate still rages on.

Learning to Eat Soup with a Spoon
The American Conservative

Cogent commentary on the TAC article
Small Wars Journal

Green on Blue attacks and the illogic of national policy

Nothing like friends and allies, eh? This is what we get when we attempt to nation build in a loose, tribal confederation…while propping still corrupt, former warlords as national leaders. The current Administration should be ashamed at not only not addressing this issue earlier with the Kabul regime….but for not addressing this issue with the American people. Political sensitivities should never outweigh the consequence when the lives of our forces are in danger from within.

Of course, had the previous Administration opted to continue the fight against al Qaeda, instead of embarking on both an errant civil and political reconstruction plan – and – an invasion of the nation that previously served as the counterweight to Iranian hegemony in the Persian Gulf…….we’d likely not be in this position today.

The political and social makeup of Afghanistan has not lent itself to the type of vetting processes needed to ensure that our freinds and allies really are our friends and allies. That we apparently thought different at the national level, is exasperated by the fact that we made much the same mistake in Iraq.

Our military is designed for – and maintains the Constitutional mandate to – shoot people in the face when they threaten US national security. The Taliban does not pose that threat, yet the overwhelming majority of military, analytical and fiscal assets are directed towards what can politely be called a mob of illiterate goat herders, who can infiltrate the ANSF with apparent ease – all the while al Qaeda remains aloof and largely unengaged.

A pretty good article on this recent rise on Green v. Blue attacks over at Defense IQ:

For the enemy in Afghanistan, nothing succeeds like success. The last year in Afghanistan has seen an increase in the frequency of attacks upon U.S. and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel by Afghans who were soldiers, recruits undergoing training, acting as embedded advisors, or otherwise occupying low-level security positions at bases or outposts jointly occupied.

If IEDs were eliminated as causal factors since July 2010, the percentage of all ISAF casualties in Afghanistan through hostile action reaches a staggering 33% caused by the intentional actions of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) or Afghan Security Guard (ASG) personnel. Put simply, one out of every three ISAF killed since June 2010 has been murdered by the Afghans he is training or otherwise serving with.[i] This may be the highest incidence of intentional fratricide in recorded military history.

The media have made much of this phenomenon and recent press statements on this issue by members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and President Obama indicate the depth to which it continues to influence strategic policy. Defense Secretary Panetta’s recent trip to Afghanistan included a specific discussion of the issue with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, followed by yet another press statement which was gobbled up by a Western news media anxious to seize upon it as evidence of yet another strategic miscalculation by a superpower in quagmire.
 

Read the rest

My new favorite Pundit

To be sure, I’ll not be agreeing with everything she writes, but I was taken this morning by Katie Kieffer’s stunning beauty and her Memorial Day post on her website:

Let’s make foreign policy like it’s 2000. I think we will support our troops and vets by revisiting the foreign policy that former President Bush expressed in 2000. Otherwise, we will send brave hearts into vain battles.

In October, 2000, George W. Bush debated Al Gore on C-SPAN. He said:

“I think one way for us to end up being viewed as the ugly American is for us to go around the world saying: 

‘We do it this way, so should you.’ … It really depends upon how our nation conducts itself on foreign policy; if we’re an arrogant nation they’ll resent us; if we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. …Somalia started out as a humanitarian mission then changed into a nation-building mission and that’s where the mission went wrong; the mission was changed, and, as a result, our nation paid a price and so I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building. …If we don’t stop extending our troops all around the world and [conducting] nation-building missions, then we are going to have a serious problem coming down the road and I’m going to prevent that.”

As we know, Bush did not fulfill his 2000 foreign policy goals. I think he was right to enter Afghanistan and route the Taliban immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately, he overextended our stay and his executive reach. Today, Bush’s successor, President Obama, is proof that Bush was right in 2000. For, Obama’s efforts to ramp up Bush’s post-2000 expansionism are failing.

This month, Obama gathered his NATO partners in Chicago and signed an agreement that hands major combat operations over to Afghan security forces by the summer of 2013. (So much for consulting Congress and the Constitution.)

Nearly 11 years of war and $642 billion dollars are the temporal and monetary costs to U.S. taxpayers for the War in Afghanistan. No metric, however, quantifies the cost of elongated war to U.S. troops and veterans.

Obama should never have sent an additional 33,000 troops to risk their lives in this hopeless region in 2010. This month, bipartisan leaders of the congressional intelligence committee reported that the Taliban has become stronger since Obama’s troop surge. And, American troops are increasingly dying at the hands of our allies. Since 2007, around 80 Americans have died at the hands of our Afghan “partners.”

Obama should bring the troops home now—not in the summer of 2013. He can better utilize our troops on the U.S.-Mexico border where drug cartel violence threatens American ranchers, farmers and the U.S. food supply.

By keeping our troops and resources abroad, Obama is perpetuating a situation where current and former armed forces deal with suicidal depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

And I would be remiss if I didn’t share the smoking goodness that is Katie.

I hope this post is formatted well, as I cannot preview. The filters on my domain at work block my blog due to “Adult Content”.

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