Our Brothers in Arms are done

Well it appears that our Brothers in Arms, the cousins from the North….Canada are now finished with their mission in Afghanistan.

Canada ended military operations in Afghanistan on Wednesday, ending a 12-year mission as the international community winds down its role in the country ahead of an end-of-year deadline for foreign combat operations to end.

The Canadians formally ended their combat role in southern Afghanistan in July 2011 but maintained a small training operation in Kabul.

“Canada played a critical role in securing Kandahar Province and had a strategic impact across the country with their contribution to the NATO training mission,” the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said during a flag-lowering ceremony at the headquarters for international forces in Kabul.

The Canadian Army has performed superbly and was one of our best coalition partners in Afghanistan. They found shoulder to shoulder with many American Forces, including ETTs, Special Forces, Conventional Army forces, and my Guest Blogger, Rusty Bradley. They were concentrated in the south, commonly referred to as 205th Corps Sector. Canada also gave up it’s sons and daughters for the people of Afghanistan.

According to the Canadian government, 158 soldiers, one diplomat, one journalist and two civilian contractors were killed in Afghanistan.

I guess this is just another sign that our mission is definitely coming to an end. I am curious if the USA will be the last ones left and have to turn out the lights on the way out.

Read the whole story at http://www.armytimes.com/article/20140312/NEWS08/303120036

Time for the final exam


The announcement was made this morning after a ceremony in Kabul marking the formal handover of combat operations in Afghanistan from NATO forces to the Afghan Government.

The handover of responsibility at a ceremony, attended by NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Mr Karzai, marks a significant milestone in the nearly 12-year war.

It also marks a turning point for US and NATO military forces, which will now move entirely into a supporting role and opens the way for their full withdrawal in 18 months.

So now they have taken over all combat operations in the country. I wonder how that will work out for them and how long it will take until the Taliban really tests them….

The handover came the same day as a large bomb exploded in the Afghan capital, killing at least three people.

The blast was in the Pul-e-Surkh area of the western part of Kabul.

Seeing that both these quotes are from the same article, I guess the answer is “not long”. So this is it, this is the time for the Afghans to truly step up and take it, this is the final exam before this 12 year class is over. I am sure the “leaders” (I use that term very loosely) in the Afghan government are very happy for this, but I am bet the Afghan soldiers aren’t.

I also how “support role” will be defined for the NATO forces. I mean, when I was there in 06-07 we were in a “support role” with every mission requiring an “afghan face” on it. Afghan face meant 15 Afghans in two Ford Ranger pickups at the front of a convoy of 4 heavily armed up-armored HUMVEES with TACSAT radios and bombers or jets just a radio call away.

I am sure the Afghan government and the military will do whatever they can to give themselves an advantage and avoid the true kinetic head to head fight…

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has said his government will send representatives to the Gulf state of Qatar as soon as possible to hold formal talks with the Taliban.

Yep, I would say trying to work out a deal with the enemy would qualify as doing whatever they can. An enemy that has no reason to give any consolations or even care to. They just need to hold on long enough for us to get our troops out, then the whole place can destroy itself because in the end the people are accountable to themselves.

Shirking accountability

Talk about a lack of accountability and responsibility. This is classic denial and spin on behalf of the Karzai staff. I guess maybe they think “their” people may believe this, but I can guarantee you there is no way the American people will give this a thought as being truthful.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s top advisers have said the rise in insider attacks on NATO troops recently is the product of foreign spy agencies infiltrating Afghanistan’s security forces.

After months of investigating, members of Karzai’s National Security Council have concluded that both Pakistani and Iranian intelligence organizations are recruiting young Afghans to enlist in the army and police with the intention of targeting Western service members and whose ultimate aim is to destabilize Afghanistan’s forces.

“The National Security Council has enough evidence to prove that Afghans are being used and brainwashed by these foreign agencies. They see this as a way of attacking the buildup of the Afghan National Security Forces proving that they are weak and unable to protect the country,” the Washington Post quoted Aymal Faizi, a spokesman for the president, as saying.

Although members of Karzai’s administration referred publicly only to the spy agencies of “foreign countries,” officials confirmed that Pakistan and Iran were, by far, the biggest concerns, the paper said.

Karzai’s top national security advisers also blamed the vetting process for new army and police recruits and cited the Western pressure to expand rapidly as the reason.

To address these issues, the spokesman said Karzai has pledged that every recruit be vouched for by a reliable source, particularly those with family connections across the border, the paper said.

The president also suggested that counter-intelligence efforts be strengthened within the Afghan security forces and that “psychological operations” be used to render soldiers and police less amenable to enemy propaganda, it added. (ANI)

Green on Blue equals RED, Part II

This is Part II of a two-part series. Part one can be read at http://www.bouhammer.com/2012/08/green-on-blue-equals-red/

As the Sr. NCO on my team I always told my team to NEVER trust anyone that is not 100% American, even our terps. Even though we trusted them more than anyone else (we had to as our lives counted on them where there were only 2 or 3 Americans typically on mission), there was still a thread of suspicion. The reality is we were in a foreign country and we did not know what everyone’s allegiances were. I would constantly remind them to always have one in the chamber and be ready to drop ANY Afghan that poses an unmistakable threat. Of course that is easier said than done, as each person would have just milliseconds to made a shoot/no-shoot decision on what they see as a threat.

This is also why I always had my weapon in either RED or BLUE status. Just to be clear, I invited the BLUE status name. I would say it looks green (no magazine inserted) but it was really RED (one in the chamber), hence BLUE. I was never going to take for granted that just because I am on a large base or FOB, that every non-American there was not a threat. I understand commanders had to dumb down their protective measures to the “private” level who are pretty much trained to be afraid of their weapon. But I was confident in my weapon and its status at all times.

Another reason to have the weapon always ready is because we knew as embedded mentors with the Afghans there was always a threat. It was an accepted risk that we just dealt with and took as part of the job. Last week there were 3 MARSOC team members who were gunned down after being invited over to share in a Ramadan feast with the Afghan National Police chief they were mentoring. Some of the public have been outraged that our military has put these guys in such a risky position, but I can guarantee you that they were well aware of the risk, and much more aware than any civilian back in the states. What are they going to do, not do their job?

We are not fighting a conventional enemy and our enemy is using whatever tactics they can to inflict harm on us. This is why I referenced this as our “Achilles heel” in Part I of this series of posts. We have to accept that our soldiers will be at risk of doing their job. To mitigate this risk they can take certain counter-measures some of which can be seen and others that can’t. I am not going to discuss those here in an open forum, but I can guarantee you that they are all trained on them. One can only hope they don’t get complacent and continue to apply them.

So yes, losing our soldiers to our Afghan “friends” is terrible but as I mentioned in Part I it has to be expected. Sad but true.

What is truly a shame is when you see reports like this:

Three logisticians were shot to death — and a fourth was wounded — when a gunman opened fire on them as they worked out in the FOB’s gym.

This story can be read at http://militarytimes.com/blogs/battle-rattle/2012/08/18/report-deadly-attack-on-marines-at-fob-delhi-was-carried-out-by-afghan-teen/ and as you can read in the report, this attack was done not by a Afghan Security force member, but by a teenager who was a sexual play toy for the Afghan police chief. Of course that is whole separate issue and one I have talked about on this blog many times.

These guys were not “embedded” per se, but were back on what should have been the relative safety of their FOB working out during some off-time. It sounds like this FOB is just like the ones that I stayed on, with Afghans and Americans living in the same area. Like these guys, I also went to the little gym we had, the showers, latrines, etc. and did not carry any weapon with me. Again, back then the attacks were not as prevalent as they are now so the probability of an internal attack like this happening was lower, but still existed.

In the military the Rules of Engagement (ROE) are always changing, to include sometimes several times a day. In addition to ROE always changing, so does the defense posture of our forces. The defense posture is the level of defensive measures our forces take based on the threat at the time. I really hope their defensive postures are changing and raising in light of these attacks over the last year and especially the last two weeks. Our SecDef talking to Karzai isn’t going to do it (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/08/18/panetta-prods-afghan-president-on-insider-killings/), our men and women being ready for any threat at any time is the only way they can ensure their own safety.

 

Green on Blue equals RED

I remember when I wrote about Green on Blue attacks over the last few years and they were like anomalies that were devastating, but rare.  I can’t write about them like that anymore because they are just happening too damned often. We are losing our warfighters to the hands of our “friends” weekly, and that is unacceptable. This is why I and many other Americans are seeing RED over these green on blue attacks. Green represents the Afghan security forces we are training and mentoring, Blue represents our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

Time and time again I have talked about how the loss of any American at the hands of a “friendly” afghan is not acceptable, but I can’t say it is not expected. I will cover that in part II of this series of posts.

Unfortunately the enemy has finally figured out this Achilles heel of our military mission. When I was there in 2006-2007, my teammates and I would frequently say how lucky we were that the enemy did not know how soft or vulnerable we were, because if they did we would have all been wiped out several times over. In those days we were extremely lucky and blessed that the enemy we were fighting were very ignorant. But since that time they have learned their own lessons, plus new ones from the fighting in Iraq.

At the time we did not fully appreciate how much of a risk we truly were. Since my team has returned we commonly reflect and talk about our experiences and are amazed all of us made it back and many of us were not killed. Most of the time there were just two of us on a mission with around 15 Afghan soldiers. This lasted from a few hour mission to being on missions for weeks at a time. There were two different times that I was rolling around country with just one other American and a terp in our HUMVEE and no Afghans.  Those were truly risky missions even though we took every measure we could to ensure we were not a target.

You can go back and look at the archives of this blog and read through the posts from May 2006-April 2007 to find many posts where I talked about being out on the edge with just one or two other Americans with me. Heck there were some times I was by myself. I truly thank God for listening to the prayers of many family and friends and keeping me alive.

So I get it that Americans who are embedded with Afghans are at risk, constantly at risk but that does not mean seeing these attacks on our soldiers any easier to accept. They are happening just way too often and at all levels. This is evident when all soldiers are ordered to have their weapons in an Amber status at places like the ISAF HQ (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/08/17/coalition-troops-now-armed-at-all-times-on-afghan-bases-in-wake-insider/).

 

Worst briefing ever

This briefing given by some German General in ISAF has got to go one of the worse ones I have ever seen.

 

This shooting has nothing to do with respecting either side. These guys, these “trusted” guys are gunning down and murdering our troops. I can’t believe they let this tool talk on behalf of all the ISAF coalition.

Our troops are surrounded

The fight in Afghanistan is referred to as an asymmetric battlefield or a 360 degree battlefield. This is because it is not the standard linear type of fight we have faced in the past in many wars like WWI, WWII, Korea and many other wars of past. The 360 degree battlefield means that there is no real “front line”. The enemy is around our troops everywhere and all the time, inter-mingled with the civilian populous.

We have been calling it a 360 degree battlefield for a while, but it has never been more true than it has over the last 6 years, and especially this week.

A man in an Afghan army uniform shot and killed three American service members on Friday morning in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military command said, the third attack on coalition forces by their Afghan counterparts in a week. The Taliban claimed the shooter joined the insurgency after the attack.

These “green on blue” attacks have been happening for longer than the US Military has been tracking them, which started in 2007. No doubt this year is one of the worst and this last week is no exception with at least 3 of them happening in the last several days.

The two gunmen wearing Afghan National Army uniforms fired on NATO troops at a base in Paktia province of eastern Afghanistan, killing a soldier, according to the U.S.-led coalition and Afghan officials.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting, the latest in a rising number of so-called “green-on-blue” attacks in which Afghan security forces, or insurgents disguised in their uniforms, kill their U.S. or NATO partners.

Last week I talked with my old friend, MG Robert Abrams on You Served Radio (http://www.blogtalkradio.com/youserved/2012/08/01/episode-203–mg-robert-abrams-and-michael-gold) and we talked about these green-on-blue incidents and the impact they have on the US warfighters and the relationships we have with our Afghan “partners”.

The fact is that our troops are surrounded, and literally serving “shoulder to shoulder” with the enemy. When it comes to tactics I can’t say I blame out enemy, as it is tactically smart. They have penetrated our Achilles heel as we have no choice but serve with the Afghan security forces in order for us to mentor them. In saying that, in order to be effective, we can’t work them all “kitted-up” in full tactical gear all the time. It just doesn’t work that way, even though that may be hard for some to understand who have never been there.

 

The author (closest to the camera on the right side) with his team members meeting with Afghan National Police in Paktika Province, Afghanistan (2007)

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/08/10/three-us-troops-killed-by-man-in-afghan-army-uniform/#ixzz239BZqkMl

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/kabul-police-roadside-bomb-kills-8-civilians/2012/08/07/75c9cc56-e048-11e1-8d48-2b1243f34c85_story.html

A view from the front

The war in Afghanistan is not “popular” anymore. It is not really considered…what did President Obama call it once….the “Good War”, so the mainstream media is not really there to bring you images and stories from the front.

Thank God we still have independent journalists and bloggers like my good friend Mark Seavey from the American Legion “The Burn Pit” blog who are willing and able to go there and bring some of the stories back.

Unlike some who wish they were there (instead of other places like Thailand), Mark spent a good month on the ground with the Black Knights of 3-66 Armor and was able to bring some of those stories back.

Here is a little video he has put together of images and videos he took while there.

 

Why is the media afraid to call it like it is?

I have watched a disturbing trend for a while and it has been eating away at me. At first I thought maybe it was just one biased, or inconsiderate editor, then I figured maybe it was just the stupid MSM not knowing what they were saying. However I have seen this trend happen so many times that I now realize this is intentional, but I am not sure why they are doing it.

Take a look at these headlines and story snippets

Marine killed in Afghanistan by person wearing Afghan army uniform

A Marine from Camp Pendleton has been killed in Afghanistan, fatally shot by someone wearing an Afghan army uniform, the Department of Defense announced Monday.

Sgt. John Huling, 25, of West Chester, Ohio, was killed Sunday in Helmand province. He was an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, from Camp Pendleton, Calif.

“The incident is under investigation,” the Department of Defense said.

The individual in the Afghan army uniform opened fire on U.S. troops in the Helmand province community of Marjah, a onetime Taliban stronghold.

Link to story at http://www.stripes.com/news/marine-corps/marine-killed-in-afghanistan-by-person-wearing-afghan-army-uniform-1.176619

Man wearing Afghan National Army uniform kills American soldier, official says

A man wearing an Afghan army uniform shot dead a U.S. service member in the east of the country, one of two NATO troops killed on Friday, military officials said. The Taliban took credit for the attack.

Also Friday, the U.S.-led military coalition offered condolences to the families of Afghan civilians who were killed in airstrikes earlier this month.

The shooting was the 15th incident this year in which Afghan soldiers or insurgents disguised in military uniforms have turned their weapons on foreign troops. The killings have increased the level of mistrust between the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan partners

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/05/11/attacker-in-afghan-uniform-kills-nato-trooper/?test=latestnews#ixzz1uakuc7LA

What is even more disturbing that in a story about how the military is under-reporting these incidents, they still word things the same way.

The military is under-reporting the number of times that Afghan soldiers and police open fire on American and other foreign troops.

The U.S.-led coalition routinely reports each time an American or other foreign soldier is killed by an Afghan in uniform. But The Associated Press has learned it does not report insider attacks in which the Afghan wounds — or misses — his U.S. or allied target. It also doesn’t report the wounding of troops who were attacked alongside those who were killed.

Such attacks reveal a level of mistrust and ill will between the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan counterparts in an increasingly unpopular war. The U.S. and its military partners are working more closely with Afghan troops in preparation for handing off security responsibility to them by the end of 2014.

In recent weeks an Afghan soldier opened fire on a group of American soldiers but missed the group entirely. The Americans quickly shot him to death. Not a word about this was reported by the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, as the coalition is formally known. It was disclosed to the AP by a U.S. official who was granted anonymity in order to give a fuller picture of the “insider” problem.

Read the story at: http://civiliancontractors.wordpress.com/tag/us-soldier-killed/

Do you see the trend that has been disturbing me? Every time an Afghan security force member turns on us or our coalition, they are not listed as Police member or Army soldier but as Afghan in Uniform or Someone wearing a uniform.

However the second one of our warriors is alleged to have done something like pose with bodies, pee on bodies or murder civilians they are called out, many times identified, convicted not only in the press but essentially by our military and civilian leadership who race to give apologies and tout they will “investigate and punish to the fullest extent of the law”.

Why is that? Why are our brave soldiers who lose it, snap, make bad judgments, or whatever essentially crucified in the public arena while the soldiers and police of Afghanistan are never held accountable and always referred to as some “Afghan” in a uniform.

I don’t like it, not one bit and it makes me hate the media that much more.

The more things change, the more they stay the same


Adm. Bill McRaven, the head of U.S. special operations, is mapping out a potential Afghanistan war plan that would replace thousands of U.S. troops with small special operations teams paired with Afghans to help an inexperienced Afghan force withstand a Taliban onslaught as U.S. troops withdraw.

While the overall campaign would still be led by conventional military, the handfuls of special operators would become the leading force to help Afghans secure the large tracts of territory won in more than a decade of U.S. combat. They would give the Afghans practical advice on how to repel attacks, intelligence to help spot the enemy and communications to help call for U.S. air support if overwhelmed by a superior force.

If approved by the administration, the pared-down structure could become the enduring force that Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak indicated Tuesday at the Pentagon that his country needs, possibly long after the U.S. drawdown date of 2014.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/04/12/potential-afghan-war-plan-that-would-replace-thousands-us-troops-with-special/?test=latestnews#ixzz1rpqYw8rA

Wow this seems like such a cutting-edge and new idea….NOT. This was the model we had in Afghanistan from 2002-2007. During that time we had only one active duty brigade combat team in Afghanistan to conduct kinetic operations. There was also this little group called Task Force Phoenix which was filled with National Guard members whom were charged with “pairing with Afghans to help train an inexperienced Afghan Force”. They were called ETT members which stands for Embedded Training Team. It is also what US Army Special Forces have had as a main mission for years, but there will be more on that later.

The difference being back then they were truly inexperienced as compared to now where the Afghans have been working with, fighting with, receiving medical support from, receiving logistics support from and receiving close air support from American and Coalition forces for 10 years.

This “high-speed” special operations war plan is what the National Guard soldiers of TF Phoenix did for years and did with much success, until TF Phoenix was dissolved in 2009. We always said when I was there that we performed a Special Forces mission without Special Forces resources. This is what the mission is, a Special Forces mission. It is not a Special Ops mission, or Navy Seal Mission or anything like that. It is called FID, or Foreign Internal Defense. This has been the classic SF mission since SF was established. It calls for partnering with local national defense forces, training them, mentoring them and providing assistance during combat operations when needed.

So there is nothing “new” or “shiny” or “cutting-edge” about this new war plan, it is a war plan that we have had and executed very well for years.