Afghanistan 2017 — Mission Improbable

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One of the bigger problems in the Stan is continuity. The Military come and go with a frequency that is mind numbing.

They also have the WIAS tasking group. They come in one of the following categories:

  1. SMs not wanted at their command
  2. ROAD Scholars
  3. Guys who volunteered

Category 1 are usually exemplified by a willingness to sit around and do nothing (aka shitheads or duds). They either don’t want to do anything and don’t care about the mission or they truly suck and are incapable of doing anything but damage.

We recently had the pleasure of a guy of the second sort receiving the heave ho from our area. He tried poorly to do everything and I mean everything but accomplished nothing. We likened him to a puppy chasing around silver, bouncy balls. He’d catch one. He’d start a project. Then he’d see another shiny ball bouncing down the path and chase after that one. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

This, of course, left others playing catch the ball behind him because much of what he’d start affected other lines of effort or, more accurately, threw wrenches in other lines of effort. We had just been getting the Afghans to take responsibility for themselves and to actually DO things on their own. It all ended within a month of his arrival as he let them do what they do all too well. They suckered him into doing their work so that they could sit back and relax. This Captain thought that it made him popular with the Afghans. Alas, they all saw him for what he was and couldn’t stand him.

He also had an issue with Black people. I couldn’t pin it down but the guy had problems with any Black person who did not outrank him or couldn’t help him chase bouncy, shiny balls around camp.

This guy was worse than worthless. He did real damage to the effort.  This should not be tolerated. Unfortunately, this is the affect of a great many of the WIAS Tasking output. In many AORs, WIAS tasker is a profane curse.

Another of these WIAS worthies used open source email to put out SECRET information. This mental giant was actually an Intel Officer. Yes, they’re that bad.

Category 2 are usually lazy and are just riding out the year. Some of them can be motivated to act. Some of them can be tricked into acting. Others couldn’t be dislodged from their complacency and F’hobbitian methods with a strike from Thor’s Mjolnir.

Category 3 are usually guys who are motivated and will help get things done. Most of these folks will listen to those who have been here a minute. They have military imperatives that they must, at least, attempt to accomplish and that a guy like me must understand and, if possible, assist him in accomplishing.

Cat 3 guys usually do some good. Especially if they listen well and/or have taken some time to learn about Afghan culture and the history of the ANDSF.

Unfortunately, Cat 3s are about One in 10,000.

Some Special Units rotate in for 90 days a pop. These guys are hard chargers who want to go to war and kill something. Some of them do well and do good. Others…well, not so much.

Last but not least, the Commanders. We get guys who go with the flow. We get guys who think they are making GREAT CHANGES that are mere reinventions of wheels tried in’ 07 or ’13. You get Commanders who land on the ground with a Squadron of Good Idea Fairies with unworkable nonsense. And you get some good Commanders who try to take what is working and improve it, discard foolishness and try to rework seemingly insoluble problems.

Back to continuity.

Individuals pop in and out of Afghanistan on 90 day to 9 Month tours. The WIAS tasker guys may stay a full year or may not. We’ve had quite a few of these guys get Pink Slips and head home 3 to 6 months early.

Some Contractors do a year and roll out.

However, you also have Contractors who stay for years at a time and know the lay of the land.

By and large, the Contractor is ignored…as long as he’s doing something. The Contractor doesn’t have to accomplish anything as long as it looks like it is delivering on the DELIVERABLEs.

Deliverables may or may not be vague as hell.

You’ve got some Contractors who do some really great things AND you’ve got some who sit around and do as little as possible. Skaters who do just enough to seem relevant and not be descoped.
There are contractors over here who are hot shit and WANT desperately to accomplish something…anything. BUT, for the most part, if a Contractor makes a suggestion, the suggestion is all but ignored.
It’s not an atmosphere conducive to accomplishing much.

Contracts in the Stan are horribly written and are, oft times, inflexible.

Another huge problem is the low pay of the interpreters. The interpreter/translator is key. You get what you pay for. When I worked with Dyncorp, I was able to draw in the best around the country because we paid them better than anyone else.

Other contracts throw interpreter/translators into the verbiage as if an afterthought. “Oh yeah, we need some of those local talky fuckers.” That makes for some wretched hiring practices. You get guys who can barely speak English and can’t translate to save their lives.

These are some of the issues.

With high Military turnover, no one really cares. They’re here to do their year and roll out. You get a few who do care but not many.

We have one Major who thinks that it is his job to make the Afghans fail.

We have Generals who tell us that the Afghans cannot fail.

There are zero consequences for failure, corruption, incompetence, outright criminality, etc within the Afghan Army.

The ANSSF conduct something like 80% of the operations against the enemy even though they make up less than 15% of the force. The regular ANDSF who make up 80 to 85% of the force can’t fight their way out of their own FOBs.

It’s a seriously and incredibly strange endeavor in the Stan.

Personally, I think we’ve done about all we can do. UNLESS we have a serious leadership paradigm change.
And maybe we’ve got that with Trump/Mattis. Somehow, I doubt it.

Oh yeah…don’t get me started on the ISAF folks. The turks are worthless.
The Spaniards can’t do anything. The Italians drink wine. The Brits look hard but do very little except create rules that adds red tape to everything that they touch.

I went over to RS HQ once. You need a letter signed by a Colonel in triplicate just to get a room for the night. Everything else is correspondingly difficult to accomplish there.

The RS (ISAF) Badge is a great example of the cohesion of the effort here.

US bases won’t accept the ISAF badge for much, if anything.

In order to get onto HKIA, one must have an ISAF badge or one must be escorted. Even if one has a CAC.

It is quite possibly the dumbest thing in the world.

All of this is before anyone even thinks of going outside of the wire which doesn’t happen for about 99% of the US and Coalition Forces. Thanks to Dan Bolger, the whole of the US and Coalition Forces are F’hobbitized. Stuck on some base somewhere and can’t find their way to a local Nan shop much less a Taliban stronghold even though most any Afghan knows exactly where the Talibs. Insurgents and bandits are holed up at any given moment.

Hell, I used to be able to ride around Kabul and tell you exactly where the insurgents were hiding. I could point out bandit houses.

Now, though, I doubt that there are more than 20 American SMs who know jackshit about the Afghan countryside or where and who a local insurgent, bandit or bad guy might be.

Yet, even Hekmetyar has come in from the cold. lol That old bastard is playing some game. I can smell it.

 

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Red Alert! Red Alert!

I’m sitting at my desk surfing the web when in rushes the boss whom I like to call War Granny Six. “We are going to be attacked between 2100 and 2130!” He says in excited tones. I look at him as if to say; “And?” He starts telling me and the other guy in the office that we need to go to the bunkers and assume a “defensive posture.” I chuckle under my breath. I have no weapon so I’m left to wonder exactly what kind of defense I’m supposed to mount on this night. Commando Blade Attack!!! That’d be posturing alright and not much more. He tells us that we need to turn off the lights and head to the bunker. I don’t feel like arguing so I just gather my iPod and head out across camp to our deluxe bunker in my sector of camp.

It’s about 2050hrs as we head out to the bunkers. Along the way, we pass the “Camp Theatre.” It’s 20 foot screen on the outside of the Dining Facility. All the lights are still on in the camp. The Post CSM is sitting outside with about 20 other soldiers watching Employee of the Month. Our Med cadre walks to the front of the screen and announces that we have been informed of an imminent attack. I chuckle and move on towards the bunker. I don’t want to be seen with Chicken Little Prime.

So here is how it went down–our warning order.

Apparently, the ANA had captured a talib or a drug smuggler. The Talib confessed to all manner of crimes. More than likely after the ANA beat him to within an inch of his life. Among the confessions is a plan to attack our little compound on the outskirts of Herat.

The ANA “intel” guys relay this to the ANA TOC who relay it to the U.S. TOC (Tactical Operations Center).

That’s when we get the message.

That may be the truth of how that information was obtained. It may even have been good data. But I doubt it.

I’ve been in Afghanistan for a while now. I think I have a good feel for how things happen here. I’ve been through several of these Rocket Attacks. I won’t lie. The first few. I was “Oh GAWD, I”M GONNA DIE” scared. I sat in the bunker and damn near soiled myself. But after going through a few of these attacks. After sitting around watching rockets fly over, hearing the reports, hearing the rounds fall on the far side of this base or that FOB and The bandits or talibs or whoever hit nothing. Then you hear the tales of all of the masterful (READ: Incompetent, insha’allah, idiotic) tactics. One can become immune to fear of these guys. I’m sure it’s different in Iraq. But here in Afghanistan, they shoot and run. They don’t stay and fight. Most often, they lean a rocket against a rock or tree and point it in the general direction of a target and leave. Trusting to God that the strike will be a grand success. The tried and true “Insha’allah targeting system.”

Well, God must not be on their side. Though, occasionally luck is with them.

I’ve heard of one guy killed in an attack of this nature down in Qandahar and one Army Major wounded by shrapnel in Bagram. The 18 months that I was in Bagram, only the one Major was wounded.

Most times, the bandits hit the major bases around Midnight or early morning like 0200. I know that some FOBs in the east and south are hit during the daytime. If they were smart they would target the DFACs at the Noon or Evening meal. A packed house would allow for max casualties. But, thank God, these people are lazy and ignorant.

On this night, I stopped by my hooch to pick up my camera just in case. If I see a rocket screaming overhead, maybe I can get a picture of it.

So we mosey on over to the bunkers. I walk in and immediately offer odds. 20 to one that it’s a false alarm.

I seriously doubt that we got any real “intel.” My guess is it’s fabricated because the Afghan Intel guys are under pressure because they had no idea that there was going to be an attack two nights prior. So they make this up to make themselves look good. If there is an attack, they warned us. If not, no skin off their backs. They knew it wasn’t going to happen anyway. This wouldn’t be the first time that the Afghans have done such a thing to save face. Sorry ass insha’allah bastards that they are.

So we sit in the bunkers from 2100 to 2130. Of course, nothing happens. We all mosey on back to our hooches to go to sleep or continue our nights activities. I laugh out loud because I knew it was all nonsense. And so, Ron and I stop to take pictures to irreverently commemorate the nights hilarity.

This video was taken here in Afghanistan. It will give you an idea of your average rocket attack. Although, I’ve never been through a daytime attack. I’ve been shot at once or twice with small arms fire in the daytime. Never rockets or mortars, though. Again, though, the FOBs and the areas in the East and South are far different than the West and North. Kabul and the Centre are entirely different animals. Anything goes there. And it’s not always who you’d suspect. Or maybe it is…