Saturday, March 28, 2009
I'm feeling really angry these days about the AIG bailout/our foreign policy to just name a few...
I am not scheduled to go to the M-16 ranges for another couple of weeks. Hopefully then, I can channel my anger/frustration on targets. So here's some of the embers of my anger...but let me preface that I am not on some "America for Americans" nationalism or have I become some "Super Patriot". I am a brick in a wall that struggling to support a faulty foundation. We never learn from history. We think that we are entitled and full of hubris and that no one can do it better...let me stop ranting and breathe...breathe...breathe...
Here are my thoughts...
So the drug wars are outta control across the border with Mexico. I feel sorry for that Mexican border city called Juarez. I saw on CNN that they had over 1600 drug related murders last year. Mass graves and unknown victims. Not to mention, the Texas city of El Paso is also catching bodies like flies on flypaper too. The cartels are buying weapons in the US and supplying our country with cocoa. Supply an demand. Coke and a smile. Dollar, Dollar Bill Y'all...
We got 4,000 troops heading to A-stan in a few-most likely the 4th brigade combat team(BCT) of the 82nd Airborne stationed here at Fort Bragg. Less gate traffic and fewer lines at the food court(I'm with that on a selfish note ;-) but the real deal to me is priority.
US Border Patrol agents are understaffed/underequipped and outgunned. The National Guard is often stretched thin due to deployments and there aren't enough Federal Marshal's. If the cartels are a national security threat, then why won't we deal with them as such? We are so focused on the threat of Al Qaeda overseas in A-stan where the Commander in Chief runs the grave risk everydayof getting into a deeper quagmire. How many wars can you fight and again, what is the priority??? WTF - we are gonna give Pakistan about 1.5 Billion a year for the next five years but yet OUR economy/infrastructure is f****d up and corporate cocksuckers walk away with our taxpayer money. We're told to suck it up. F*** that!
Bring our troops home to fight the cartels with the same vim & vigor you want them to have in fighting this GWOT(Global War on Terror). Our border security is a military mission and the mission is clear: Follow the money. Kill the Cartels. BTW, The immigration issue is a whole another debate and is unfortunately mired in this drug war.
God forbid if Mr/Mrs. Al Qaeda or their friends The Talibans decide that they want to visit the US and the best travel deal is via Mexico and across the border. Or if an enough Americans get killed in the crossfire. Then what's the excuse????
Now that I have vented, I'm cool...for now.
I had no clue that the area was prone to tornadoes. Luckily, no one was severely hurt. There was some overturned cars and property damage reported. Here's a link to a video from a nearby area of the twister.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Sorry that my postings haven't been as frequent as of late. Lot of challenges going on behind the lines that I can't speak on at the moment. Always appreciate the visit and the words you all bring. "FayetteNam" is a lonely outpost. Life on the base can often be a very monotonous thing-the same physical training every morning, the drive to the base/office-I know it's the same back out in the world for a lot of folks -or maybe not that many because of the Dep(rec)ession. There's not a lot of Army video projects to do at the office. So one must practice the art of "nondoing" or "looking busy". The NCO's know this and frequently have to create things for us to do from the most mundane(sweeping/mopping/servicing the Hummvee) to soldier training exercises...it's truly a challenge many of days...The action seems to be out there on deployment... Anyway, last friday our commander took us out on a field trip to nearby Bentonville, NC where one of the last major Civil War battles was fought between the North/South. I was kinda resistant to the idea of going simply because we were going into Johnny Reb country and I wasn't in the mood to see some good ol' Southern pride flying in the sky bka the "Stars and Bars." It's bad enough to see that flag on license plates and stickers around the base. It reminds you that just because we wear all green, doesn't mean we're on the same team. So our unit goes to Bentonville where our Commander gives us a history lesson about the battle. This was the second Civil War battlefield I've been to. In 1987, I was a reenactor extra in the movie "Glory" that told the exploits of the all Black 54th Mass. Regiment. It was cool to have briefly participated in that movie but being a Civil War reenactor on the regular- representing the 54th wasn't my thing. Anyway, we were at the Bentonville battlefields and I felt a bit of some weird energy. Not as intense as I felt while filming Glory -where we camped out and filmed on the actual battlefields. Nevertheless, it was reminder of what Sherman once said, "War is Hell." The upside to the visit was the discovery of a photo in the Visitor's Center of a Union soldier with a young runaway slave.
The picture mentioned that the soldier, a volunteer from Connecticut, took the young brotha back with him to Norwich, Connecticut after the war. I wonder what became of them and the relationship that developed. I wonder if they have any descendants that are aware of this obscure Civil War footnote. Something for me to investigate at some point in time. Also I came across a piece of human remains near a burial plot. I took the bone fragment and put it in the bosom of an old tree before I left. I didn't want to bring back any more dead folks with me. I got enough following me already.
Friday, March 13, 2009
When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains and go to your gawd like a soldier.
The above quote is from Rudyard Kipling.
Last Friday our unit was informed of a possible June departure to Afghanistan as part of the "surge". The announcement came in a restaurant after we finished a generous lunch bought by the commander. Looking back, I wonder if the lunch was symbolic of "fattening us up before the kill" ;-) I felt the timing of his announcement at lunch was kinda questionable especially after we just left an Army suicide prevention lecture (btw, the Army is experiencing unprecedented suicides from those who have been deployed and not deployed). I thought this announcement should of been done back at our unit office. It left quite a few of us in shock and surprise. As it stands now, we are still awaiting official word and follow up. Here's a couple of articles I came across recently that I hope our (CnC) Commander and Chief and his crew are reflecting on.
How to Leave Afghanistan
ONLY if our troop levels hit 100,000 and fighting floods over into Taliban havens in Pakistan will Washington be likely to look hard at the alternative policy for Afghanistan — withdrawing most American forces and refocusing our power on containing, deterring and diplomatically encircling the terrorist threat. But by then it will be too late.
President Obama is now confronting the classic problem from hell: either do more to stave off defeat and hope to get lucky, or withdraw and face charges of defeatism and perhaps new terrorist attacks. Mr. Obama’s goal is to “ensure” that Afghanistan is not a sanctuary for terrorists, which effectively restates his campaign call for victory there. Thus, he recently decided to add 17,000 American troops to the more than 35,000 already in Afghanistan. But his goal of eliminating the Taliban threat is not achievable.
Mr. Obama needs to consider another path. Our strategy in Afghanistan should emphasize what we do best (containing and deterring, and forging coalitions) and downgrade what we do worst (nation-building in open-ended wars). It should cut our growing costs and secure our interests by employing our power more creatively and practically. It must also permit us — and this is critical — to focus more American resources and influence on the far more dire situation in Pakistan.
We can’t defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan, as the last seven years have shown. Numbers are part of the problem: most Taliban are members of Afghanistan’s majority tribe, the Pashtuns. More confounding, the Taliban and their Qaeda allies have found in northwestern Pakistan a refuge that has proved almost impregnable. These factors make overcoming the enemy in Afghanistan infinitely harder than it was in Iraq.
What we can do is effectively reduce the risk of terrorist attacks from Afghanistan against its neighbors, the United States and its allies. We can do this in a way that would allow for the withdrawal of American forces, though economic and military aid would continue.
The first step is to provide significantly increased economic support, arms and training to friendly Afghans as United States combat forces gradually depart over, say, three years. We could use the intervening time to increase present counterinsurgency operations to better protect Afghans and give them a boost to fight on their own, if they have the will.
The second step is to try to separate less extremist elements of the Taliban from their leadership and from Al Qaeda. Mr. Obama is already considering reaching out to Taliban moderates, and he could do this through the Afghan government and covert contacts. No group is monolithic once tested with carrots and sticks, as we saw in Northern Ireland and Iraq.
The Taliban are no exception. While most of them want to drive America out, they have no inherent interest in exporting terrorism. As nasty as the Taliban are, America’s vital interests do not require their exclusion from power in Afghanistan, so long as they don’t support international terrorists.
Third, while we should talk to the Taliban, Washington can’t rely on their word and so must fashion a credible deterrent. The more the Taliban set up shop inside Afghanistan, the more vulnerable they will be to American punishment. Taliban leaders must have good reason to fear America’s military reach. Their leaders could be hit by drones or air strikes. The same goes for their poppy fields, from which they derive considerable income. Most important, Mr. Obama must do what the Bush team inexplicably never seemed to succeed in doing — stop the flow of funds to the Taliban that comes mainly through the Arab Gulf states. At the same time, he could let some money trickle in to reward good behavior.
Fourth, President Obama has to ring Afghanistan with a coalition of neighbors to show the Taliban they have no place to seek succor, even after an American departure. The group would include China, India, Russia, NATO allies, and yes, Iran. They all share a considerable interest in stemming the spread of Afghan drugs and Islamic extremism. China and Russia should be more willing to help in this anti-Taliban effort as the American military presence recedes from their sensitive borders.
Then there’s Pakistan, both the heart of the problem and the key to its solution. The peaceful future of the region depends on the resolve and ability of Pakistan’s secular and moderate religious leaders to provide decent government to their people. China, India, Iran and Russia might cooperate with Washington simply because there’s no motivation greater than the nightmare of extremists controlling Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.
India in particular wants to combat extremism in Pakistan. It could do that by reducing its forces on the border with Pakistan, for example, thereby allowing Pakistani moderates to focus their attention more on the growing and already formidable extremist threat within.
Withdrawal need not mean defeat for America and victory for terrorists, if the full range of American power is used effectively. Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger proved that by countering the nasty aftereffects of Vietnam’s fall to communism in a virtuoso display of American power. They did this by engaging in triangular diplomacy with China and the Soviet Union; brokering a de facto peace between Israel and Egypt; and re-establishing American prowess in Asia as a counterweight to emerging Chinese power. By 1978, three years after Saigon’s fall, America’s position in the area was stronger than at any time since the end of World War II.
I don’t know whether the power extrication strategy sketched out here would be less or more risky than our present course. But trying to eliminate the Taliban and Qaeda threat in Afghanistan is unattainable, while finding a way to live with, contain and deter the Taliban is an achievable goal. After all, we don’t insist on eliminating terrorist threats from Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. Furthermore, this strategy of containing and deterring is far better suited to American power than the current approach of counterinsurgency and nation-building.
President Obama and Congress owe it to both Afghans and Americans to explore a strategy of power extrication before they make another major decision to expand the war.Leslie H. Gelb, a former editor and columnist for The Times, is the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the forthcoming “Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy.”
March 10, 2009
In Afghanistan, Less Can Be More
Op-Ed Contributor - In Afghanistan, Less Can Be More - NYT... http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/10/opinion/10keller.html?_r...
By ARTHUR KELLER
AS President Obama moves to ramp up the United States’ presence in Afghanistan, he might benefit from the lessons learned by one of the C.I.A.’s legends of covert operations, Bill Lair. Mr. Lair ran the C.I.A.’s covert action in the 1960s in Laos, which at its height included 30,000 Hmong tribesmen battling Communist insurgents. I met Bill Lair when he came to the C.I.A.’s training center in Virginia in 2000 to speak at the graduation ceremony for my class of trainees. His agency career had started in the 1950s in Thailand, where he trained an elite force called the Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit. By the early ’60s, Mr. Lair was in neighboring Laos, trying to build an anti-Communist resistance. Corruption was endemic, poppy cultivation was widespread and the poorly educated Hmong tribesmen of northern Laos were barely out of the Stone Age. Yet Mr. Lair and his unit quickly taught the Hmong to resist the Communist tide using guerrilla tactics suited to their terrain and temperament. By 1966, his C.I.A. bosses looked to tap into this momentum and started throwing more men and money at Mr. Lair — personnel and funds he felt only bloated the operation. He knew his initial successes with the Hmong came because his Thai troops were the perfect people to train the Hmong: they looked like the Hmong, spoke their language and understood their culture. Mr. Lair didn’t want or need more white guys from headquarters who couldn’t speak Laotian and lorded it over the locals. When he resisted, his superiors overruled him. As the 1960s progressed, the fighting in Laos intensified. Unfortunately, as United States involvement escalated, the Hmong came to rely more and more on American air power to support their missions. Over time, this dependence on foreign aid eroded the will of the Hmong to fight their own battles. Along the way, tiny Laos became the most heavily bombed country in the world, and the overuse of American airpower led to untold civilian deaths and tremendous resentment of the United States. Eventually it became clear that no amount of bombing would be sufficient to stem the Communist tide. America cut and ran from Laos, and the Communists swallowed up the little kingdom, just as they did neighboring Vietnam. Flash forward 40 years. United States forces scramble to train Afghan Army and police units to take on the Taliban forces crossing the border from Pakistan. Many of these raw Afghan recruits come from poorly educated Pashtun tribes. Corruption is endemic. Drug trafficking is flourishing. Complaints that use of American airpower is killing civilians are routine. As they say, déjà vu all over again. The counterinsurgency lessons that Bill Lair tried to impart to us young spies are relevant today: Keep your footprint small. Don’t use trainers who don’t know the language or culture. Don’t let the locals become dependant on American airpower. Train them in tactics suited to their circumstances. Don’t ever let the locals think mighty America will fight their battles or solve all their problems for them; focus on getting them ready to fix their own problems. Keep the folks in Washington out of the way of the people doing the work in the field. This is why President Obama’s plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan should be seen as a mixed blessing. In fact, it may be equally significant that the Pentagon has announced it is sending 900 new special operations people to Afghanistan over the spring and summer, including Green Berets, Navy Seals and Marine special operations forces. Ideally, these troops will be well trained in Afghan languages and culture, and prepared to fight in the dry, mountainous terrain the Taliban occupy. The goal, one hopes, is that these forces will work alongside and train the fledgling Afghan Army commando battalions. Since early 2007, some 3,600 Afghan Army troops have been put through Army Ranger-type training at a former Taliban base six miles south of Kabul. With American help, they have proved adept at such tasks as capturing Taliban leaders, rescuing hostages and destroying drug-smuggling rings. This is not a war we can win ourselves; the Afghans are going to have to win it by fighting to retake their own country from both Taliban thugs and corrupt government officials. While additional American troops may be an unavoidable necessity to provide security in the short and medium term, we should never forget that doing too much for a weak ally can be just as bad as doing too little. Arthur Keller is a former C.I.A. case officer in Pakistan.
Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company
Michelle Obama came to Fort Bragg yesterday and my first cousin,Robin Roberts from ABC's "Good Morning America" interviewed her. I unfortunately was at Hummvee driver's training and wasn't able to seize upon the opportunity to attend.