Monday, August 31, 2009

GEN McChrystal Demands Strategic Change in Afghanistan

In a move that will affect Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, US Army General Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in the country, said today as he handed over to US and NATO commanders a sweeping review of operations.

"The situation in Afghanistan is serious, but success is achievable and demands a revised implementation strategy, commitment and resolve, and increased unity of effort," General Stanley McChrystal said. His findings will be submitted to President Barack Obama, who faces a public increasingly restive over a war that has lasted eight years.

McChrystal has been working on the review since Obama put him in charge of the war in June after firing his predecessor, David McKiernan. The document has been sent to General David Petraeus, responsible for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The review is expected to confirm that protecting the Afghan people against the Taliban must be the top priority. The document has not been published yet, and the severity of McChrystal's assessment was difficult to gauge.

McChrystal says the aim should be for Afghan forces to take the lead, but that the Afghan army will not be ready for three years and the police will need longer.

Although the report does not mention increasing troop numbers, the implication is that more soldiers will be needed to turn around an unsuccessful strategy. Officers in Afghanistan consider much of the effort of the last eight years wasted, with too few troops deployed and many of them placed in the wrong regions and given the wrong orders.

"Over the next 12 to 15 months among the things you absolutely, positively have to do is persuade a sceptical American public that this can work, that you have a plan and a strategy that is feasible," Stephen Biddle, a military expert who advises the US-led command in Afghanistan, told the McClatchy-Tribune news service.

Another leading counter-insurgency expert said Afghanistan's government must fight corruption and deliver services to Afghans quickly, because Taliban militants were filling gaps and winning support. The Taliban were already running courts, hospitals and even an ombudsman in parallel to the government, making a real difference to local people, said David Kilcullen, a senior adviser to McChrystal and Petraeus.

"A government that is losing to a counter-insurgency isn't being outfought, it is being out-governed. And that's what's happening in Afghanistan," Kilcullen told Australia's National Press Club.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reality Check on Recent Events in Afghanistan

Tim Lynch has been living and working outside the wire in Afghanistan for the past five years. Through his blog Free Range International he and his partner Shem Bot have been providing us with very good analysis of what the situation is on the ground. Here, in part, is his latest report.

Ground Truth

by babatim on August 16th, 2009

As the elections approach there has been much in the news on Afghanistan and most of it is not terribly accurate. Yesterday’s VBIED in Kabul is a good example. Most news outlets are connecting this attack to a countrywide effort by Taliban groups to interfere with the Presidential election scheduled for Thursday. I’m not buying that and I don’t think the Taliban view this upcoming election as a significant event. Some groups have publicly stated they will not interfere, other groups say they will disrupt the process, but we are not seeing any real attempts to do that.

This Washington Post story is typical of the MSM reporting on the Kabul blast with the title of “Pre Vote Blast in Kabul Signal Taliban Intent.“ That is bullshit – what the blast signals is that somebody was able to bribe their way past the ANP check-posts and get right up to the U.S. Embassy checkpoint without being detected. This is the first successful Taliban attack in Kabul since last winter and although the execution was better than average the Taliban once again managed to kill or wound innocent Afghan civilians most of whom were undoubtedly children. I was interviewed for my take on the bombing by the Christian Science Monitor and remarked that it seemed this attack was executed better than the average Taliban lash up but after seeing the picture above I take it back. Poor bomb making with typically poor execution – there would be nothing left of the vehicle or that poor bike rider had this been a Baghdad VBIED.

Read the whole very interesting article here

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The French Forces in Combat in Afhanistan

The French have taken over parts of Kapisa province fom the Americans. In 2007 when Blue was there as part of a Police Mentoring Team (PMT) he wrote Working With Afghans is a Trip on his blog Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventures. Back then FOB Morales-Frazier was only a sparsly populated Firebase run by the Americans. Now, under the French it is more like a small town full of French and Afghan National Army Soldiers.

The French have been much maligned in the past for not taking an active part in the fight. That is no longer the case. I was made aware of the above video, part 8 of a 9 part series, by my friend KY Woman The French are in this to win. Now if only we get to the Germans.

What is written below is taken directly from the YouTube commentary. Some of the things mentioned below are from other segments of the documentary which is well worth watching in it's entirety.

The Battle of Alasay valley March 14 to March 24, 2009

The Alasay valley near Tagab in the Kapisa had to be taken from the Taliban.
The operation was called «Nan-E-Shab Berun» (which means « Dinner Out »).

Result : Coalition victory; Taliban retreat.
Commanders : Colonel Le Nen (France) and Colonel Hussein (Afghanistan).
Coalition : France 1 KIA, 1 WIA ANA : 6 WIA.
Taliban : 35 killed confirmed (70 supposed) ; 40 wounded confirmed (80 supposed).
800 men (and women in the French Army) Afghan National Army (ANA) and French Forces fought against the Talibans during this operation. They had amazing US AirForce A-10 air support (firing 30mm "Death Burp on the Insurgents). Most of the French Forces were from the French 27th « Alpine Hunters » Mountain Infantry Brigade. The report is focused on these guys, who they are, where they're from, their civil life, their families, their motivations and their soldier life in A-stan.

Highlights :

Some ScientificArmy Police (Gendarmerie) are sent to help Coalition Forces to discover some evidences using Scientific Police know-how like Biometric Digital Cameras connected through satellite to Most Wanted Bad Guys list and taking and analyzing DNA samples.
IED (Explosive Device) discovery and dismanteling by Legion Etrangère (French Foreign Legion).
Metal Detectors to find ammunitions buried on the ground by the Talibans (film shows the discovery of Chinese-made 82mm Rockets Ammos).
Insurgents dressed in civil clothes filmed just before they attacked the Coalition Forces.
Amazing US AirForce A-10 air support firing 30mm "Death Burp on the Insurgents.
French lauching rain of Milan Missiles against the Taliban positions.
VAB driver KIA body recovery. Driver was killed by a rocket hit the front window of « Charlie 20 », an Armored Personnel Carrier (23 Y.O. VAB driver). A rescue team was sent (Night Vision Shots) to recover the body by night.

R.I.P. To Caporal-Chef Nicolas Belda - 27th French Alpine Hunters (23 Y.O. KIA).

Monday, August 10, 2009

5th Stryker Brigade in place in Spin Boldak

The 5th Stryker Brigade is in position in Spin Boldak roughly 63 miles south of Kandahar. I found this out reading Alex Horton's blog, Army of Dude. Alex is a former member of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT) and a veteran of the Iraq war. He is currently studying journalism in Texas and is a brilliant writer.

This will be great news for the over stretched Canadian Army as Spin Boldak has been part of their responsibility since 2007. The 103-km Kandahar-Spin Boldak highway is one of the most important highways in Afghanistan. Canada is funding the construction of a 42-km segment that remains to be completed. The area has been the site of recent increase in Taliban attacks most commonly with IED's.

As Alex points out: "It's a town about five miles from the Durand Line and the second major entry point for Afghanistan and Pakistan. This location might be an indicator of 5th Brigade's mission in the coming months."

The Stryker is a variant of the Canadian Forces LAV III and has proven to be very effective in Iraq. Khandahar province is the right terrain for the 5-2 SBCT as it is mostly desert. They can expect to see action very soon. I wish them well.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Healing Power of Death Metal

Musicorps from Musicorps on Vimeo.

This video regards a program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center that uses music as part of the healing process. The largest number of injuries related to the Iraq and Aghanistan Wars are traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Music uses so many elements of the brain that it can be a healer for Soldiers suffering from TBI. Thanks toUncle Jimbo of BLACKFIVE.

Monday, August 03, 2009

2 More Canadian Soldiers Killed by Roadside Bombs

Canadian military officials in Kandahar today identified the second soldier killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan on Saturday.

He is Sapper Mathieu Allard (top picture)of the 5th Combat Engineer Regiment, based in Valcartier, Que.

Allard, 21, was killed alongside his friend, Cpl. Christian Bobbitt, 23, in the Zhari district, west of Kandahar.

Military officials had withheld Allard's name until officials contacted next of kin.

The explosion took place around 3:20 pm. local time Saturday, 15 kilometres west of Kandahar city.

The soldiers had dismounted from their vehicle to secure an area west of Kandahar after an earlier blast when another improvised explosive device detonated.

A third soldier was seriously injured and is in stable condition in hospital.
Bobbit was a member of the 5th Combat Engineer Regiment. The soldiers had been in Kandahar since March, as part of the 2e Batallion of the Royal 22e Regiment, known as the Van Doos.

The two soldiers were combat engineers and belonged to a unit that specialize in clearing the roads of IEDs. It is likely they had been involved in defusing half the roadside bombs found in Kandahar in July.

"I can say with confidence that these two brave combat engineers saved the lives of dozens of innocent people last month alone.'' Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance said.

Since 2002, 127 Canadian soldiers have been killed while serving their county in the Afghanistan mission.

These two Soldiers and good friends, who did one of the most dangerous jobs in a war zone, are true Canadian heroes. May they rest in peace.