Independent Voter - Old Soldier view of Afghanistan War
(24 Sept 2009) As an Independent Voter and an Old Soldier I feel compelled to offer a view on the national debate brewing about the War Against Terrorism being conducted in Afghanistan known also as Operation Enduring Freedom. I have until now hesitated to comment as I am writing this safe in my office in Georgia, and my remaining son is not currently serving. I do however have a deep empathy with the Mothers, Wives, Husbands, and Fathers and Children of those deployed and know too well the pain of losing those you love when they are young.
During my deployment to Iraq as a Morale Welfare and Recreation Contractor I lost my wife to a blood cancer, and my youngest son to a car accident, within the span of four years. There are no worse feelings in the world than to bury your spouse except than to bury your child. While I was in Iraq I faithfully attended each memorial ceremony on my FOBs to pay my respects as a veteran and many times as a personal friend of the soldier remembered. So I have tried faithfully, and carefully to measure my words here.
There are three elements in this debate that need to be addressed. They are the Politics, the Strategy, and the Logistics. They all tie together and either create, support, or undermine our national will to continue. Some history may be appropriate as well.
The Politics- The War in Afghanistan was begun on September 11th, 2001. The invasion of Afghanistan happened a month or so later but the War began on that fateful and horrible day we watched 3,000 of our citizens die on national TV. How did that happen? The Taliban Government in Afghanistan harbored and abetted the terrorists of Al Quieda. Our current President during the campaign characterized it as a war of necessity. Our previous President through Defense Secretary Rumsfeld poorly managed this war, and we are now faced with a resurgent Taliban and Al Quieda operating out of Pakistan. Are we now to say “oops we goofed that one up, OK you guys you can have Afghanistan back.”? Make no mistake about it, that attitude will be the morale equivalent of blood in the water for the Taliban, if we even give a hint of this, our troops are gonna be in for an even tougher time. When the Soviet Union left Afghanistan, the last convoy of troops and tanks heading home was attacked just 5 miles from the border with devastating losses; when asked why they did this when the Soviets were leaving the Taliban Commander said words to this effect, ”We want them to remember why they left.”.
My Adopted Unit
Folks we have to get ‘real’ and understand politically that we are in such a fight and that the enemy is as vicious and evil as any we have ever fought. This is not just about 9/11 anymore this also is about deciding weather or not we as a nation and we as free nations (NATO) are going to allow a political philosophy cloaked in religion, that is even more cruel and with many of the same objectives, as the Nazis to continue to exist, perpetuate itself, and threaten the rest of the world with its terrorist guests.
I think sometimes you have to do tough things, for no other reason than because you are the guy who can. We may well be in this position if our NATO allies do not have the resolve to continue. We also have to recognize and steel our hearts that this fight is going to encompass generations of Americans and will have many bad days ahead. These are the politics of intestinal fortitude that we must come together and demonstrate as a nation. We cannot allow this evil to continue. We must defeat them in Afghanistan or we will end up fighting them here; America, pick one of the two there are no other options.
The Strategy-This is the area I have the least expertise in. I am on old Non-Commissioned Officer and all the strategy I ever needed was find the enemy and kill him. But I do recognize that this is an over simplification. Strategy and politics are as entwined as threads in a piece of yarn. What I do know is that the current Commander, Gen McChrystal is probably the best officer for the job at this moment in history. He has a unique career that has prepared him for this command better than any before him. He has asked for more troops among many other things and has put together a well reasoned plan based on over 30 years experience in Special Operations. To the President and the rest of the country I would ‘listen loud and talk soft’ on this subject and support this Officer.
The strategy of winning will not bring us an easy victory nor a swift one in this fight. Any who offer such a substitute just do not understand the problems with training people who are illiterate, who are suspicious of your commitment to them, and who have lived so long under one form of subjugation or another that they have developed a national ‘battered wife syndrome’, the instinct to ‘smell out’ who they think is the winner and go along with them to survive. When survival of yourself and your family is by necessity your fundamental value, all politics go out the window. The necessary strategy of ‘NationBuilding’ must first be anchored in the security of the population and convincing them you will be there to help and protect them into the future.
So our national strategy must be two pronged, first near term stability and second long term economic progress and then political reform etc. Look for this in Gen McChrystal’s plan.
Tied also in the Strategy are the Rules of Engagement, (ROE) these have recently changed and from what I have heard may be too restrictive on the units conducting combat operations. While understanding the necessity to provide the civilian population with some protections, we must first consider the protection of our forces and the accomplishment of the mission. This is a difficult juggling act that we have faced in many areas and not always with a good result. (I was and am in fact proud that as American soldiers we tend to care at all and err on the side of fewer civilian casualties than more, it is one of the things that makes us better than the rest) I will leave the discussion at that with the hope that it will be more closely reviewed where it needs to be and that is within the military. This is an area that requires the Command at all levels to weigh the benefits and risks to the troops and the mission and make a tough choice. That is what we have trained and paid these commanders to do.
The Logistics- There is a saying amongst the military that when folks get together and talk about battles won and lost the amateurs talk about strategy and tactics; the professionals talk about logistics. I have a few friends both military and civilian in Afghanistan, and logistics has been an issue, troops are not getting what they need where they need it and for that there is no excuse. The three B’s of Logistics are Beans, Bodies, and Bullets. It is fundamental for our military leadership to make sure they are all where they need to be. Our troops can do seemingly impossible things when they have the tools to do it. It is a fundamental obligation of the military command, the civilian leadership, and our nation as a whole to make sure our troops have what they need.
Having said all that let me also explain to the general population that there are the necessities and the nice to have. When I wrote home to my parents and later my wife I asked for cookies, toiletries, etc be sent in care packages no matter where I was. In the current operations, many of our troops are stationed on what are called “Combat Outposts” these are very small bases that may only consist of one building or several small tents. Surrounded by concrete T Wall Barriers or Hesco Barriers, these are the places troops operate out of when they are on training missions or security missions. They may or may not have hot chow on site, while MRE’s do have a heating element, it’s not the same as a good hot ‘not in a bag’ meal. The larger bases have PX’s and it could be months before they get to go to one so the simple necessities become scarce. Mail however gets to them somewhat regularly and it is a surer avenue of supply than the road trip to the FOB is for most. Consequently they ask for those necessities to build up their stash when they can and to share with their buddies when they are out. We (soldiers) are by are nature hoarders of these comforts and are always on the look out for more. Now I want to be clear here, I am not minimizing the needs, I am just pointing out that troops are troops and this is what we do. To the nation I would say send more of everything, send more till it hurts; get your kids to adopt a soldier through one of the many support programs and have them give up some allowance or undertake some job to help pay for it, teach them to do their part to support our troops in harms way. They are risking everything for us, I believe it should be fundamental to the American psyche that when ever, where ever our troops are deployed we support them as much through deed as we do through words.
In summary our nation is at a crossroads, and one that will have even wider implications than just the successful conduct of the war on terrorism. We ditched South Viet Nam for many of the same reasons that are being brought up now. (We abandoned Somalia and Lebanon for even less.) Viet Nam was a war where we never lost a battle; we spent eight years training the South Vietnamese military, and then cut the legs out from under them when after withdrawing our troops the US Congress refused to give them the bullets and spare parts to fight with. That turned all the blood and sacrifice into a wasted pile of rubbish that those of us who served during this time will never forget.
Our nation’s political leadership must review, and either endorse or modify, and proceed with Gen McChrystal’s plan in short order. I do not subscribe to the idea that our President has to take a great deal of time on this, we pay for a large staff of subject matter experts, our nation elected him to multitask on issues; so Mr. President light a fire under the butts of your staff and get done what you need to and proceed.
It seems eight years is turning out to be our national outside limit on our resolve to undertake the hard road. We get tired, and we let all things war related drift into the background of a 30 second spot on the evening news. We just want it to end and forget about the reasons we went in the first place. Abandoning the people of Afghanistan now will have the effect of setting in concrete the idea that we are sunshine friends that cannot be counted on. It will give both Al Quieda and the Taliban a propaganda tool that those who have to choose between fighting for their freedom and surviving tyranny will pay close attention to. That is the choice facing many around the world today, not just in Afghanistan. Here though is where we must draw the line and say no to terrorism, no to tyranny. Here and now we make our stand; here, now, and forever we must stand for freedom.
Finally, a word about our troops. I recently attended a ceremony at Fort Stewart Georgia and got to spend some moments talking to Brigadier General Thomas Vandal, Deputy CG (Support) 3rd Infantry Division. We talked about the troops and the prevailing attitude amongst them about Operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan (elements of the 3rd Infantry Division are deploying to both areas of operations). Afghanistan in particular has a focus with our younger troops. Most of them watched the TwinTowers fall while they were in grade school all have chosen to serve in the military knowing full well they would more than likely be deployed. They are resolute in their focus to successfully accomplish their mission. This is what soldiers do.
I read an article not too long ago where the correspondent had been with Marines through an ambush in Afghanistan and the troops complained about rules of engagement, the chow, and not enough ammo. He asked the Sergeant in charge of this small unit after the fight, after they had taken wounded, if things could be any worse, his answer was “Yeah we could have been left at Camp Le June.” I think that is a message that is both powerful in its spirit, and elegant in its simplicity; heed his message well America…
John H Ellis Sr (USA, ret)
Hammer Jammer 1
We need the same resolve..
Hmrjmr1 on HubPages
JH "Big John" AKA as Hammer Jammer 1
A simple man who loves God, Family, and Country...
22yrs Service in US Army (now retired)
9 yrs Service in USPS (resigned to serve in Iraq)
Served as Contractor MWR Coordinator, Technician and Supervisor at various Forward Operating Bases in Iraq from Jul 2004 - Nov 2008. Now developing and publishing Hammerjammeru.com providing Technical advice to MWR professionals and informational articles with (I hope) useful advice, ideas, and prespective for Family Resource Groups (FRG) and deployed Contractors.
Mail Services Supervisor at Joint Military Mail Terminal Joint Base Balad (JMMT JBB)Dec 2008 - Mar 2009 (now retired)
Widwed from wife Zena in Oct 2005 after more than 23yrs of marriage.
Father of two sons,
Daniel -A young man who makes me proud just to know his name.
John II -A wonderful personality who is now in the comfort of his mums loving arms. 1984 - 2008
The Obstacles on the road both before us and behind us pale in camparison to those that lie within us.
Fark ek Fidele - Uk Prasim
Some pertanent Links
- contact The White House here
WhiteHouse.gov is the official web site for the White House and President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States. This site is a source for information about the President, White House news and policies, White House history, and the fe
- Stanley A. McChrystal - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
- US army commander in Afghanistan asks for more troops in leaked report - Wikinews, the free news sou
- Dust-Up: Does the U.S. have a vital national interest in Afghanistan anymore? -- latimes.com
Today's topic: Does the U.S. have a vital interest in the war in Afghanistan anymore? What are we to make of President Obama 's reluctance to increase troop levels there even though he has called Afghanistan a "war of necessity"?