Friday, March 23, 2007


So what’s in the news about the war in Afghanistan today? Nothing in the New Haven Register, nothing in the New York Times…it must be just another day there.
Well, the press did report of another suicide attack on a convoy of “foreign forces” near Jalalabad Friday. Some nut-job in a car packed with explosives detonated his bomb about 20 miles from the city. Afghans said a child was killed. Any foreign forces in the J-bad area are likely to be US, but there was no release by the US military – again, we hide behind the NATO or coalition guise. (I’ve seen little coverage of this attack, just Agence France Presse and Iranian TV.)
“Foreign troops” cordoned off the area and prevented Afghan police from investigating, according to the AFP. Again, it’s step aside Mohammed – sure we’re making it sound like you are a trained police force – but we don’t want you messing with our investigation of how the bomb was constructed and detonated – if there is any evidence that could point our guys to who is launching these attacks. Surprisingly, the Taliban spokesman was not working the press on this one – maybe because the attack did not achieve much.
AFP also reported Friday that “NATO troops” shot and killed a 12-year-old Afghan boy in eastern Kabul. The boy was apparently in a car with his family. Poor little dude.
The “ISAF” troops – no nationality named – shot at the car because it was too close to them. The guys must be on edge after the suicide bomber hit the State department convoy earlier this week on the J-bad road. The traffic in that part of Kabul was often congested and there are no driving laws – it’s everyone for himself. Everyone drives erratically. So, who do you shoot and when do you shoot? Tough call.
It’s a frustrating predicament for our guys over there. On Mar. 4, our Marines lit up a bunch of civilians after a car bomb near J-bad. It’s clear that they are pissed off and frustrated. Only those guys know what went down, and unfortunately they will live forever with the memory of such an awful event – no one wants to kill innocent people, but war sucks and it happens. It’s the kind of memory that standard VA medication and some post-insanity-of-war-syndrome psycho-babble will be offered – but likely not help much.
And every time our guys fire up some locals – we lose ground on the battle to convince the average Afghans that we are there to help them foster in some new form of prosperity. Every time the Taliban spokesman wedges the insurgent’s statements into the press – we lose more ground.
Sadly, the U.S. military’s public affairs and even its larger strategic communication programs are in their infancy – they try hard, but rarely get their messages communicated to the masses. The hardcore infantry commanders never really saw that our piece of the war is the real fight. If we lose the information battle, we lose the end game. Tactically, the Taliban suck compared to our troops – no doubt. Infantry convince with hot metal – spokesman spit out the best truth.

The AP reported Friday that Waziristan tribesmen in Pakistan are fighting foreign militants – to include Chechens and Uzbeks. I don’t claim diplomacy, but why do we allow terrorists/insurgents to fester in the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan? We had no problem funding the mujahedeen, through the Pakistanis, in the 1980’s in the same areas. It was only a years ago that Pakistan supported the Taliban – now Musharraf apparently has to place nice with the tribals or he’ll face tougher domestic problems. And, Pakistan has nukes – so we have to play by different rules. What a mess! We know the bad guys are in Waziristan, let's find 'em and fix 'em.(sorry Pakistani ISI, we gotta get in there to ferret out the snakes)
The current mission in southern Afghanistan, Operation Achilles, has been put into the press as an Afghan-led mission. We’re just helping out, apparently. And the reporters are buying that. (It’s okay, most Americans and likely many other foreigners don’t even access news from this obscure part of the world.)
Put an Afghan face on the mission. How many times did I hear that? We provide the bulk of support, logistics and leadership – but let the fledgling Afghan military take the credit – it’s a strategy to make it appear that Afghanistan has a functioning security force that is under control of Karzai’s central government. The truth is...US and other Western forces kick the shit out of the Taliban. Afghans troops help in their own way, but I was never sold on them as a fighting force.
So now here’s the kicker – “Afghan-led forces” killed about 70 Taliban in a “major operation” in Helmand, near Gereshk. If that’s true, great for them – but it appears like a clever public relations tactic – give the Afghans the credit. Let them even talk it up in the press. They are calling the first operation where foreign forces did not participate. If so, damn good – even publicized a hefty body count – and only 7 Afghan “police” martyred – as they say.
The U.S.-led and funded NATO-ISAF Coalition of Forces Against Evil-doers said that they were on the flanks, flying close air support and offering medical support.
The US has pledged more than 8 million in the coming years to better train and equip the Afghans. The Europeans have been shelling out cash for a while too. So what is the truth, is the press buying into an information strategy aimed at bolstering the image of Afghan security forces. Or are they really coming into their own as a fighting force?


Thursday Next said...

When you say, "The hardcore infantry commanders never really saw that our piece of the war is the real fight," what do you mean by "our piece of the war"?

hoochBP12 said...

PRESS - Our piece of the war was to get the story told, the Afghan press, the US and the international press. Missing our opportunities with the Afghan press meant that the Taliban/insurgency message stood alone in local news reports.
Who will Afghans believe if they are only getting the insurgents' messages in their local press?
We started to change that in 2005 by buidling a rapport with Afghan reporters and I hear that the Afghan media outreach we started continues there today - how effective is it? That should be studied...