Monday, October 27, 2008

Hopeful signs from Pakistan?

The following editorial appeared in the National Post this past weekend, Saturday October 25, and rightly points the finger at Pakistan as the key to either a solution or a much greater war than Iraq turned out to be. My own personal concern is what the hell is going on with our British Allies. Not the troops on the ground; they've been fighting like the the Brits we know and love.

It's the general staff that concerns me. They insisted on treating their part of the Iraq war, Basrah, as if it was Northern Ireland in the waning days of the troubles. Consequently, Basrah became ruled by the thugs and murdering scum of the Mahdi Army and other competeing mafia stylye Militias.

Things got so bad in Basrah that Prime Minister Nouri Al- Maliki ordered his generals to draw up a plan of battle in March 2008, without American support and move in and take back control of the city and province. Despite what the early wire service reports had to say the operation was a success. During it Maliki refused to meet with the British commander in the area because he rightly blamed the British for the mess. He was outraged.

Now we have a so called British Brigadier-General saying the war in Afghanistan can't be won! Churchill must be turning in his grave. Monty would have had the man shot! Patton would have shot him himself! (Of course Patton would have shot Monty too if he had the chance. Hee Hee)

In any case, here is a well thought out piece from the National Post outlining the situation we, as allies, face in the very near future. What the writer fails to put into the equation is an Obama Presidency. Give us strength. (Joe Biden says we'll need it).

National Post Editorial Staff, October 25, 2008

The outcome of the war in Afghanistan will be determined as much in the madrassas, safe houses and training camps of Pakistan's north-western provinces as on the roadsides and battlegrounds of Afghanistan itself. The Taliban were an early-1990s creation of fundamentalist elements within the Pakistani secret service-- the ISI -- and they continue to be a force inside Afghanistan today only because they are constantly funded, resupplied and sent new recruits through Pakistan.

So it was encouraging to learn this week that the new Pakistani government has undertaken two new campaigns to eliminate Taliban activity on its soil. Pakistani military commanders have begun enlisting the help of local tribal militias, or lashkars, to battle pockets of Taliban within Pakistan's largely lawless territories. And the Pakistani military has accepted nearly three dozen U. S. special forces trainers to help improve the effectiveness of their own counterterrorist forces.

Both, admittedly, are but small first steps. But at least they are steps in the right direction.
During the past month, many Western leaders have doubted out loud our chances of winning the war against Taliban insurgency outright.

Earlier this month, the commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Brigadier-General Mark Carleton-Smith, told London's Sunday Times that NATO troops may have to withdraw before the insurgents are entirely defeated. "We're not going to win this war," he said. "It's about reducing it to a manageable level of insurgency that's not a strategic threat and can be managed by the Afghan army."

In recommending that NATO nations sit down with the Taliban at the negotiating table, United Nations special envoy to Afghanistan Kai Eide, insisted, "We all know that we cannot win it militarily. It has to be won through political means." Even our own Prime Minister Stephen Harper admitted during the recent election campaign that it was an "unrealistic objective" for Canada and its allies to attempt to defeat the insurgency "in a few short years."
There are several reasons for NATO's inability to dispatch the Taliban, among them the failure of NATO nations -- beyond Canada, the United States, Britain and Australia -- to commit significant forces to combat.

The biggest reason, though, is likely the material support our enemies get from Pakistan, and even from radical Islamic elements with the Pakistani government. When Pervez Musharraf was president, despite his professed devotion to combating terrorism, there were always suspicions that he was wilfully blind to the aid pouring into the Taliban through his nation. Our troops have occasionally witnessed Pakistani agents and border guards loading Taliban trucks or cheering them on as they drive over the Pakistan border and into Afghanistan.

Since General Musharraf resigned earlier this year, the situation in the tribal regions has worsened, and there have emerged hints that the mood in Islamabad has changed. In many foothills regions along Pakistan's western border with Afghanistan, the Taliban are the de facto government, levying taxes, setting up bases and defending supply lines. They even issue business permits and run a rough sort of court system. The challenge to Pakistan's national integrity is so great that the country's government has felt compelled to respond with more than token force.

The Pakistani army is afraid to operate in these areas, so the new national government has recently begun using a tactic that proved highly successful in Iraq, especially in the once Qaeda-dominated western desert region of the country. It now partners with local militias to root out the Taliban and provide a modicum of civil order.

This week, it was also announced that American special forces advisors have been invited by the Pakistanis to help train their counterinsurgency troops. While the Americans have come in small numbers and will be in the country no more than few weeks, under Gen. Musharraf, they could never get invited at all.

Canadians will have to withdraw from Afghanistan at some point, perhaps even before the Taliban have been eliminated. There is a greater chance of the Afghan army and police being able to take over effectively at that point if Pakistan is no longer a sheltering friend for the Taliban.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Scott Kesterson: Afghanistan Redux

Scott Kesterson is an award winning Documentary Filmaker, a Photo Journaiist and a former American Soldier. He is also a friend of Canadian Soldiers. In the summer of 2006, Kesterson went into battle with Canadian Soldiers, Troops from Alpha Company, 2nd Platoon, "Red Devils" 1PPCLI, based in Edmonton, against the Taliban. These were some of the fiercest battles Canadian Soldiers had faced in Afghanistan to date and indeed since Korea.

Scott was sponsored in Afghanistan, by KGW, a Portland Oregon TV Station. According to the KGW website: "Three videos were produced and aired on from Operation Mountain Thrust in July of 2006. These videos captured Canadian soldiers in heavy fighting in Panjawi, Hydarabad and Sangin. This was some of the first footage of Canadians in combat since the Korean war. The videos played on, YouTube and were awarded the Emmy for Best Photography for web-based media in May of 2007 from the Lone Star Chapter of the Emmy Awards.

Troy Steward, a First Sergeant with the New York National Guard and writer of Bouhammer's Afghan Blog and a friend of Kesterson's, was serving in Afghanistan as an ETT (Embedded Tactical Trainer) with the ANA (Afghan National Army) in very dangerous conditions, situations and locations in Afghanistan at roughly the same time as Scott.

As Steward and Kesterson were writing and posting photos of conditions in Afghanistan, Old Blue, a 26 year Army veteran, was back in his home state of Ohio reading everything they wrote as he prepared himself to deploy to Afghanistan as an ETT. (It turned out to be much more complex than that, but to find out why please read his blog: Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure one of the most compelling series of posts from a war zone that you are likely to find.)

Now home from that deployment, he recently wrote "Scott Kesterson touched me deeply with several of his posts, and became one of my heroes for his ability to convey the experience. Having had the experience, my respect for his ability has only grown. I hoped to meet him in Afghanistan; it was not to be."

Of Bouhammer he writes, "Troy's blog gave me the ability to peek inside the mission and get a glimpse of what men were going through seven thousand miles from my home. His blog inspired me and, with my own innate desire to serve, convinced me that the ETT mission was more than worthwhile; it was a calling."

Now back from their deployments in Afghanistan, Old Blue and Bouhammer have been trying to get the word out about what's really happening in Afghanistan and why we need a course correction. And Scott Kesterson? He's back in Afghanistan with the New York National Guard. Scott wanted to get a feel for what motivated these Soldiers, many of whom mobilized and served at Ground Zero in New York City on September 11, 2001, and their view on the mission now. Along with MICHAEL YON these men endeavour to get the word out regarding the importance of the mission in Afghanistan.

Recently Scott Kesterson wrote from Gardez, Afghanistan, "In July 2006 I filmed the operations of 1PPCLI from Edmonton, Canada as part of Operation Mountain Thrust. During a course of three weeks of fighting, under the leadership of LTC Hope, Taliban strong holds were disrupted or destroyed, while key elements of Taliban command and control, disrupted. A large part of the success of the Canadian’s operations were based LTC Hope’s ability to integrate the doctrine of unity of command within the battle space he controlled. In short, unity of command dictates a singular leader rather than multiple leaders or command structures competing for the same thing."

If the situation in Afghanistan is important to you, whether Canadian or American, you need to read Scott Kesterson at Bouhammer's Afghan Blog written by a man who has been in the suck. You can also follow his progress at KGW Afghanistan Blog.

“Sadly, peace is probably only understood by those that have walked in the shadow of death. War is the teacher.” - Scott Kesterson

Three videos Scott shot with 2nd Platoon, 1PPCLI in July 2006, appear below and are a vivid visulization of Scott's words above, taken from a recent e-mail to Troy Steward.

David Leeson is putting the finish to their documentary At War Film, complete with trailers, Bios and Blog at

Canadian Ambushed in Afghanistan, video by Scott Kesterson

Canadian Firefight in Afghanistan, video by Scott Kesterson

CF dawn raid on a Taliban compoud, video by Scott Kesterson