Arghandab & The Battle for Kandahar

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13 December 2009
Kandahar, Afghanistan

People are confused about the war.  The situation is difficult to resolve even for those who are here.  For most of us, the conflict remains out of focus, lacking reference of almost any sort.  Vertigo leaves us seeking orientation from places like Vietnam—where most of us never have been.  So sad are our motley pundits-cum-navigators that those who have never have been to Afghanistan or Vietnam shamelessly use one to reference the other.  We saw this in Iraq.

The most we can do is pay attention, study hard, and try to bring something into focus that is always rolling, yawing, and seemingly changing course randomly, in more dimensions than even astronauts must consider.  All while gauging dozens of factors, such as Afghan Opinion, Coalition Will, Enemy Will and Capacity, Resources, Regional Actors (and, of course, the Thoroughly Unexpected).  Nobody will ever understand all these dynamic factors and track them at once and through time.  That’s the bad news.

The good news is that a tiger doesn’t need to completely understand the jungle to survive, navigate, and then dominate.  It is not necessary to know every anthropological and historical nuance of the people here.  If that were the case, our Coalition of over forty nations would not exist.   More important is to realize that they are humans like us.  They get hungry, happy, sad, and angry; they make friends and enemies (to the Nth degree); they are neither supermen nor vermin.  They’re just people.

But it always helps to know as much as you can.  This will take much time, many dispatches, and hard, dangerous work.  Let’s get started.

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The Taliban’s main effort at the moment is Kandahar City.  See it down there?  Let’s move closer.

The new troops likely will be deployed to the south and east of Afghanistan.

First, let’s talk about understanding “the borders.”  They are fictitious.  The “borders” that describe the “country” of Afghanistan have trivial effect on the enemy, but the borders (without quotes) greatly affect Pakistan and the Coalition.  The AfPak frontier will be sealed the day frogs stop croaking.  We complain that Pakistan should help, but they can’t do much.  We haven’t secured the Tex-Mex border.  Many Afghans are migratory in the way that we see Mexican laborers in the United States.  Only instead of just picking corn, some will pick corn and supplement their income by planting a bomb.  For some, it’s just business, like being a hired gun in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Lots of normal people will do those jobs.  We must consider this when thinking about the rent-a-Taliban.

Southern and Central Afghanistan along the 'border.'

Click on the above image for larger view.

President Obama and NATO will plan to send tens of thousands more troops.  The big fight shaping up will likely unfold in the south, in places like Helmand, Kandahar, and to a much lesser extent, Zabul, and also in other eastern provinces.  We could use far more troops, and so other places will be left to fester, but the surge and change of course might be enough to turn the war around.  We will find out.

Russians say we repeat their mistakes but they are wrong.  The Soviets employed true scorched-earth tactics—the same tactics that many armchair commanders at home would like to employ.  Every time the Soviets whacked the Afghan hive, more hornets raged out.  Soviets bullied their way around places like Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and were fantastically brutal in Afghanistan, using all the fire they could breathe.  Their “Rules of Engagement,” if any, were probably more concerned with conserving ammunition.  They tortured.

Our fighting is relatively limited compared to the Soviets.  The Bear had to fight anywhere it stepped because the soldiers bullied and abused people.

Click on the above image for larger view.

Soviet abuses enflamed the population and combat ranged from north to south—with much occurring in Kandahar Province, the capital of which is Kandahar City.  The Soviets fought in places like Bamian, where today Americans can literally go on vacation.  The Lithuanian Ambassador to Afghanistan told me he took some holidays in Bamian and loved it.  Last year, I drove about a thousand miles from Jalalabad to Kabul to Mazar-i-Sharif and back, and other places, with no problems and no soldiers.  Most of the country is not at war.  Much of this is a result of our strict “Rules of Engagement” (ROE) which seems to be driving people crazy at home (and many soldiers, too).  Many soldiers hate these new ROE, and there is little doubt that we will lose troops due to restrictive ROE.  My own thoughts are of little relevance.

Green valleys of the Helmand and Arghandab Rivers.

Left Green Zone

The Green Zone on the left is a result of the Helmand River Valley, and also widespread American construction projects last century.  These projects left goodwill toward Americans and fantastic agricultural opportunities for the drug lords, whose products are said to kill more people every year than the war itself.  The drugs are a crucial part of this war and must be correctively addressed.

The British are running the fight in Helmand Province—they are fighting well and courageously but are under-resourced.   There are US Marines, Danish, and other folks out there.  In Helmand, the fight is serious, and friendly troops are spread far too thinly.  Some experts believe that focusing on Helmand before securing Kandahar was a strategic error.  Most districts in Kandahar are said to be under Taliban control or heavy influence.  Some areas of the south are under complete, uncontested Taliban control.  The brown area comprising the lower third of the image above is a massive desert.

Right Green Zone

The Green Zone to the right is caused by the Arghandab River, just next to Kandahar.  The Taliban want Kandahar and are in a good position to get it.  The year 2010 likely will mark a true Battle for Kandahar, though it probably will not be punctuated by the sort of pitched battles we saw in places like Mosul and Baghdad.  This remains unknown.

The vast Arghandab River Valley, or 'ARV,' is crucial to securing Kandahar City. The enemy has complete freedom of movement in the city.  Easy access from ARV to KC can be seen in the image above.

Armies from at least three countries have ventured into the Arghandab River Valley: British, followed by Soviets, and more recently Canadians; all were unsuccessful.

In the book Three Campaigns in Afghanistan (on the subject of Britain’s three wars), difficult engagements are described: “Further west, however, there is a great gap in the hills, where the plain narrows and runs in the Arghandab Valley.  To force a passage in this direction, through thickly sown villages and gardens and vineyards, was ‘no child’s play.’  Without masses of well-trained infantry, the attempt could not have been made at all.”

The Soviets came.  The Bear Went Over the Mountain contains a description by Soviet Army LTC S.V. Zelenskiy: “In October 1982, our reconnaissance learned that 10 guerrilla forces with a total strength of approximately 350 men were operating north of Kandahar City in the ‘green zone’ bordering the Arghandab River.  This fertile ‘green zone’ stretches for 15-20 kilometers along the northern bank of the river and is up to seven kilometers wide.  It is an agricultural region of gardens and vineyards bisected by a network of irrigation ditches.  It is practically impassible for vehicles.”

LTC Zelenskiy continues:

“The brigade received an order to destroy these mujahideen.  The commander’s concept was to seal off the north with the broneguppa of three battalions.  Helicopter gunship patrols would fly patrol patterns to seal off the south and east.”

The Soviets were defeated.  That was 1982.  But the Soviets kept trying.  In 1987, the Soviets came with all they could muster.

The Battle for Chaharqulba Village

Today's JDCC in green.  One of Mullah Omar’s wives hails from Jelawar, where US forces operate today.  The valley is dotted by villages not depicted here.

The history is acutely relevant because the 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Lewis, Washington, is at this very moment fighting in the ARV, in the same villages described.

The book The Other Side of the Mountain: Mujahideen Tactics in the Soviet Afghan War recounts some experiences of Mujahideen Commander Akhtarjhan, who joined the Jihad at age 12.  At war’s end he was a twenty-five-year-old commander.

Akhtarjhan describes the 1987 battle:

“The Soviets were there in strength, but they stayed on the plain with their tanks and artillery and seldom committed their own infantry.” The Soviets pushed Afghan troops ahead.

The guerrillas had fortifications and thousands of mines. The Soviets employed the tactics that many people at home beg for today; massive artillery, bombings, helicopter attacks.

According to The Bear Trap: The Defeat of a Superpower, Soviet commanders did not search and destroy; they destroyed then searched in villages throughout Afghanistan.

The battle raged for days, then weeks.  The guerillas began to crack.  According to Commander Akhtarjhan, they had plenty of ammunition but were starving and would take food and supplies from soldiers they fought.

”…my base (was) in Babur village in the orchards on the west bank…”

(Today, leaders in 5/2 Stryker Brigade say that Taliban wounded are evacuated to Babur.)

During the big battle, Soviets crept with their vehicles from the Zhare Dashta plain, just west out of the Green Zone, toward the guerrilla base in the village of Chaharqulba.  Sandbags on the Soviet vehicles made them difficult to kill with RPGs, but “It took them a week of fighting to cover six kilometers to our base.”

According to Akhtarjhan, the District Government post was on the east side of the river (as today), and the guerrillas used the east side as R&R because the Soviets would not bomb that area.  Interestingly, today, there are relatively few actions in the northeast Arghandab Valley, but the west side of the river is a madhouse during fighting season.  Unlike the Iraqis who would fight in their own neighborhoods, Afghans take it somewhere else.

Commander Akhtarjhan recounted: “During the siege, however, we could not send our wounded to Pakistan.  We could not remove the shrapnel and so many of our seriously wounded died of their wounds.  We had a few Arabs in our base at this time.  They were there for Jihad credit and to see the fighting.  ‘If you are Muslims, help us collect the wounded,’ we would tell them.  They would refuse.”

On June 05, 1987, the Manila Standard reported that Afghan forces “lost as many as 1,500 men through desertion and casualties,” and that “a 6,000 strong Soviet-Afghan force launched a massive operation on May 26 against their positions around Kandahar and nearby Arghandab. The sources said the anti-government units fought back and captured 300 Afghan troops and seven Soviet soldiers.  They added that guerrillas killed four of the Soviet soldiers while the other three joined guerrilla ranks.”

Akhtarjhan recounted, “We let the enemy get closer than ten meters to us before opening fire.  We let them get this close for two reasons.  First we wanted to be sure to get them with the first shot.  Second, we wanted to prevent their escape.  We laid thousands of PMN mines [anti-personnel] in the area – particularly on the infantry approaches from Jelawor.”

The guerrillas were having a hard time killing Soviet vehicles.  The mujahideen became dispirited and were ready to retreat.  But then Akhtarjhan’s Senior Commander, Mullah Naqib, said, “This is their last battle and will decide the battle between them and us.  They’ve tried to conquer the base for years and this is their last throw.”

Mullah Naqib strode out to fight alone, and his courage rallied the commanders behind him.  After 34 days the Soviets were defeated and retreated.

Of global significance, in what is perhaps ultimate Cosmic Justice, Soviet barbarity was a great factor leading to the downfall of the empire.

Mullah Naqib would become a leader of much influence and would later become helpful to us against the Taliban, who tried unsuccessfully to kill Mullah Naqib.  Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack in October 2007.  Demonstrating the fragility of the situation, Naqib’s death was a major setback for Kandahar city security and left an opening for the Taliban.  President Karzai appointed Mullah Naqib’s son to take over, but he is deemed both inexperienced and unable to handle the task.

Since the 2001 invasion, U.S. soldiers have come and gone from the Arghandab, but we’ve never had enough soldiers to sit still.  More recently, the Canadians made jabs at Arghandab but did not get far.  Some people believe the Canadians have been militarily defeated in their battlespace. No US officer has told me that the Canadians have been defeated, and none have denied it.  There is no doubt that Canadian troops earned much respect, and that more that more than 130 paid the ultimate price.

On current course, Canada will have fully retreated by 2011.  This is crucial: the enemy realizes that our greatest weakness is Coalition cohesion and they have defeated what was an important partner.

Now it’s mostly down to the U.S. and Afghan forces to saddle Arghandab, or lose Kandahar.

DUSTWUN
Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown

During the Soviet fighting, Babur had been a base.  Today, Babur is a Taliban medical evacuation destination.

Afghan elections were scheduled for 20 August 2009.  With the Canadians effectively neutralized by enemy resistance, the 5/2 Stryker Brigade combat team was tasked to operate in Arghandab to help facilitate voting.  The Brigade Commander, Colonel Harry Tunnell, had little intel on the region.  (Though I have found 5/2 soldiers reading and discussing everything they can find on the Soviet experience.)  The enemy started by making small bombs but those were not effective against Strykers, and so they kept upping the charges to a thousand pounds or more.  Enough to destroy any vehicle on the planet.

Early in the tour, two soldiers were killed about twenty minutes apart by IEDs.  Their buddies “knew” that the soldiers had been killed, but the bodies could not be found.  The U.S. military will practically stop the war to look for a missing soldier.   Every available asset was sent to Arghandab and they gained huge intelligence and flooded the place for the first time.  Remains were found and the men joined America’s honor roll.  The Taliban suffered humiliation.

The enemy is not defeated, but our people were now operating among them.  U.S. casualties continued during the next three months but there are indications that the enemy is today in disarray.  The enemy became afraid to sleep indoors where they might be killed by an airstrike—or by U.S. soldiers, who have a tendency to burst in during periods of maximum REM sleep.  The Taliban were terrorized and began sleeping in the orchards at night, rigging homes with explosives, which they arm at night.  (I’ve heard similar reports from Pakistan.  Pakistanis have said that drone strikes are demoralizing and terrorizing the Taliban, and though drone strikes are controversial, some Pakistanis want to see the strikes increased.)

Tactically, it is important to recognize that Arghandab is agriculturally rich in products such as grapes and pomegranates.  The valley is not like the big opium farm we see to the west in the Helmand green zone.  Famous for its pomegranates, Arghandab is considered a “breadbasket” for Afghanistan.

Pomegranate trees represent major long-term investments for farmers.  The trees take 5-7 years to mature and are productive for about 50 years.  The harvest occurs between about the first week of October to mid-November.  This is important because the trees are thick and provide good tactical cover for the Taliban, making them difficult to spot from the air, explaining why they sleep in the orchards at night.  This angers farmers; the Taliban plant bombs in the orchards, using their livelihoods for cover and concealment, and fighting during harvest season.  Bombs kill trees.

Mostly the enemy is gone for now.  Each year, many Taliban migrate to Pakistan.  The “snowbirds” return and fight during spring.  Our signals intelligence people intercepted communications from a senior Taliban leader in Pakistan, to the senior surviving leader in Arghandab, who was then heading to Pakistan.  The commander was ordered to return to Arghandab or risk losing to the Americans.  U.S. officers at 5/2 said the Taliban commander was very upset by the order.

Colonel Tunnell would say, “It is our assessment that the enemy has been defeated in the near term in the southern Arghandab River Valley, which has given us a few months’ breathing space.”  The Strykers will soon deploy to other missions in southern Afghanistan and will be replaced by the 82nd Airborne Division.

The Taliban in Arghandab got a serious whipping but they are not dead.   The winter season is providing our side a brief opportunity to earn local support with various projects in a relatively unmolested environment, while the snowbirds are in Pakistan, no doubt plotting their return.

The Battle for Kandahar is on.  Fresh troops in the United States have been given orders to get over here.  The chapter called “Arghandab” will be crucial.

 

Comments   

 
# http://thespiritofman.blogspot.com/ 2009-12-12 18:53
Excellent reporting... I just wonder if locating the stuff/things on google map would be a security breach for the coalition forces. Hopefully I am wrong on that. But thnx for reporting and keeping us informed.
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# Kasmir 2009-12-12 19:16
Nice summary, Michael. My understanding is that the "5/2 Stryker brigade" in ARV is actually just 1-17th IN BN. The 4-23rd IN BN is in Zabol, 2-1 IN BN is downriver in Maiwand, and the brigade cav sqdrn is down as Spin Boldak. What was scoped as a brigade+ mission was handed to a battalion. The 1-17th has paid a heavy price, and has earned the recognition. Charlie Company alone has lost over 20 soldiers KIA in the 4 months they've been there. All of the Stryker soldiers are performing magnificently, but 1-17th deserves special praise.
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# Michael Eyles 2009-12-12 21:18
My son served in Mosul with the 1-24, 25th ID. He would write home, send pictures, e-mails.
Now he is with 5-2: no pictures, no e-mail, security is tight. I ask him questions and he says
"sorry dad, I can't tell you anything." We should be more careful about what we write. The
smallest insignificant detail to us may be the missing link the bad guys need. Some of them are
good with computers and can find just about anything on the web.
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# David 2009-12-12 21:26
I wouldn't worry about google maps being a security risk. The enemy knows the land there better than we do, and Michael said very little that the enemy didn't already know. Nice reporting Michael. Its good to get a truly unbiased view of what is happening to my brothers and sisters in arms down in the AOR.
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# RattlerGator 2009-12-13 00:40
Mr. Eyles, Michael Yon is a pro. He's not filing dispatches willy-nilly or carelessly posting classified pictures easily pulled from Google.

I'm pleased to see Michael mention the drones. More people need to know that we should not bend on these drone attacks. The enemy is waging a P.R. campaign with help from some of our useful idiots to try and lessen or eliminate the use of these vital tools. We should stand firm.

Kudos to all of the Soldiers of 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, currently operating in Afghanistan.
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# Danger Girl 2009-12-13 01:52
For you to frame Canada's long planned departure has being the result of having "been defeated by the Taliban" is shameful on your part Mike.
As your friend Mike, and as a HUGE supporter of your work, of US troops, and being both an American & Canadian citizen who also supports the Canadian troops, I find this wordplay utterly shameful and somewhat contemptible . It goes beyond misleading, or innuendo... its an out and out lie!

Our mission commitment was originally slated to end in 2009, and in March 2008 it was extended to 2011 with some very clear goals outlined which included a goal as was borrowed by Pres. Obama: “transfer the responsibility to Afghanistan’s security forces as they meet unspecified political and civilian benchmarks" ---a goal that is NOW included in this new US strategy. (This is the Canadian language used * training the Afghan National Security Forces so that they can expeditiously take increasing responsibility for security in Kandahar and Afghanistan as a whole; * )

Canada's commitment in Afghanistan was extended at a time with the US had NO DAMN IDEA what it was going to do with Afghanistan: it had been losing the war in AFG for years, Bush was getting ready to leave office, and no one could be certain what a new President would do once elected. Despite those uncertainties and the lack of a clear commitment and strategy on the part of the US, Canada extended its mission. No easy feat when you consider that there is very little support in this country for our presence in AFG. It was an act of courage for PM Harper's minority gov't to push this extension forward.

At the time Canada extended its commitment the US was failing in AFG .but the Canadian mission was succeeding. For YEARS while the US focused on a failing war in Iraq until Petraeus took command and a surge was FINALLY approved, NO ONE, including you Mike, gave Canada credit for successfully holding down the fort in AFG and for all its accomplishment amid the MAJOR failures of the US mission in AFG.

Perhaps its because you have not been allowed to embed with the Canadian forces so you never got to see first hand what they were up against and what they accomplished with a very small force presence is AFG.

But your lack of knowledge about what we have done and what we have accomplished should NEVER give you license to frame Mission Termination as "losing to the Taliban". Fuck that shit!

NOW that the US has finally gotten off its ass and seriously committed to the war in AFG with a surge and a new strategy, Canada is being asked, rightly so ,to rethink it decision, and to YET AGAIN extend its commitment in AFG. We are being asked NOT because we were defeated by the Taliban as you posit, but because we SUCCEEDED in defeating the Taliban on many levels.

This isn't just about killing the bad guys---- its also about winning the hearts and minds of the population!! Something you should understand better than most, Mike!

And by the way-----Preside nt Obama has recently announced a Mission Termination of his own as he was announcing the surge and laying out the new strategy. THE US plans to begin to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011 ---despite what Gates said on the Sunday morning talk shows recently. Obama has NO intention of extending a US commitment beyond the timeline he put forward regardless of conditions on the ground.

Either McChrystal surge delivers the ideal conditions on the ground that ensure a US departure is seen as Mission Accomplished... .... or he doesn't. Either way, the US commitment ends when Obama said it would end. And if McChrystal's surge works, then the US can leave shouting "Mission Accomplished". And if it doesn't then US will simply move forward with 'Mission Termination" Perhaps you can then write about how the Taliban defeated the US!
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# Danger Girl 2009-12-13 01:54
Our accomplishments and successes in AFG are so greatly lauded by the US Military INCLUDING Gen McChrystal that he is coming to Ottawa to encourage Canada to extend the mission.

Quoting General James Jones " We hope that Canada and The Netherlands and other countries that are key members of this effort will be able to stay as long as they possibly can because they make such a critical contribution."

To drive home this plea, the very architect of the U.S. surge, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, flies into Ottawa next week to seek some clarity form Canada on what our plans are exactly.

Diplomatic protocol may well limit the amount of public arm-twisting that can be done, but McChrystal's selling job will drive home a clear message — that Canada is no minor player in Afghanistan; and that it's superbly skilled in the very tasks now being given top priority, such as the training and mentoring of Afghan troops.

Indeed, McChrystal is expected to note that Canada could play a very significant role in the proposed surge as the U.S. does not have anywhere near enough trainers to meet the goal of tripling the Afghan security forces within five years.

The Americans also respect the extraordinary experience Canadian officers have had working with different levels of government in the Balkans and now in Afghanistan.


The Taliban Have NOT Defeated Canadian Troops. Only YOU seem to believe that. It would appear wiser heads in the US Military know better.
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# Blue Collar Muse 2009-12-13 02:40
Mike -

If that was ever true for me, it is not any longer. My oldest son hit the ground there a couple of weeks ago. Knowing that he was headed there, I took comfort knowing that you were on the job and I could count on serious evaluation and comment from you about the situation on the ground. You did not disappoint. The only downside is that such reporting is few and far between when I consider how much I'd like to see.

Thanks for your tireless effort.
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# 33% God 2009-12-13 04:01
Thanks for helping out in the "Coalition cohesion " department by using terms like "retreated". Love your articles, but this doesn't do the alliance any good by using terms like these to describe the efforts of my brethren.
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# JoeS 2009-12-13 05:28
I deeply appreciate your articles, Mr. Yon. I am a high school government teacher and I yearn for the real story to relay to my students.

Dear Danger Girl (and 33Go;-))- I feel your emotions about words. I appreciate that you wrote in. This is a valuable forum.

It seems like our governments (both) fight wars politically rather than militarily. In the USA, it goes back to the Civil War with Congress fighting the war based on opinion back home. Our disadvantage in these wars against guerrillas is that the guerrillas live there and fight for their entire lives. We have armies that rotate in and out. We give the impressions that the guerrillas have won in examples like Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. The propaganda is more important than the reality. I think that is what Michael was referring to.

I pray that the Surge in Iraq will leave a lasting peace.

I dread the future with this President (Obama.) He is fighting this war as if he is McClellan and he defeated Lincoln in 1864. He is trying to lose (but making it look like he was trying to win.) Oh, the victory that our despicable enemies will claim.

The people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran will find themselves more deeply held in the slavery of radical Islam.

The terrorists will be able to destroy everyone who ever trusted the USA. "How could you trust them? You trusted Bush, Bush is gone. Obama stabbed you in the back."

I dread, most of all, the potential realization that the sacrifice of our Heroes will be wasted. The military won the war and our liberal politicians waste the peace.

Just like the way we stabbed the S Vietnamese in the back. Our school has many Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao and Hmong students who are the aftermath of this disgraceful period in our history.

I just try to spread information. I appreciate all of you.

God bless our Nations and Heroes who protect our God given Liberties. God bless you, Michael Yon.

Merry Christmas!
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# Danger Girl 2009-12-13 05:31
While Brits have already indicated they will boost their troops in Helmand and Italy has agreed to send another thousand soldiers. Canada has no more troops to send beyond the regiments tagged to rotate in next month.

It should be noted that the timeline for American troops starting to withdraw in July 2011, is exactly on track with Canada's earlier announced exit.

I guess one could say thatthe Americans will be "retreating" along side the Canadians.
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# Mike Morrissey 2009-12-13 05:33
Michael, I have to tell you that your comments about our Canadian soldiers having been defeated in Arghandab was the first time I have ever heard something to that effect. We know that 130 our our soldiers gave their life to the war in Afghanistan and your comments greatly hurt the husbands, wives and children of our fallen soldiers. If the Canadians were defeated, please tell me how....was it a great battle or were we so understaffed and outmanned that we didn't have the resources to do the job. If the big fight was in Arghandab, where were our brothers from the USA. I would like you to comment on this defeat some more as it struck a blow to my heart to hear you discredit our Canadian soldiers.
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# Snake Driver 68-69 2009-12-13 05:48
You need to go back and read the article again. Nowhere did Michael say Canada was defeated. He states how the "Canadian troops earned much respect." In retreating from the battlefield in 2011 or whenever, the Taliban will see it as a defeat of those who retreat regardless of the political situation that demands that retreat. I don't know what else you would call leaving the battlefield before it's ending other than a retreat. We retreated from Viet Nam and it was correctly described by the world as a defeat for the US.

Keep up the good work, Michael.
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# R. James 2/11th ACR back in the day! 2009-12-13 06:37
Dear Danger Girl,

Take off your rose colored glasses, “Either way, the US commitment ends when Obama said it would end.” Yea right! Obama said he would close down the prison in Cuba by the end of this year……that is happing NOT! Plus he has opened up a heck of a lot of problems in trying to do it.

You would think that as much as people did not like President Bush that the big change maker Obama would go a different direction…..aga in that is NOT happing.

Don’t mistake politics Gen McChrystal coming to Ottawa as a gold star for Canada’s work against the Taliban. There is world politics and then there is what happens in Afghanistan. In this case you are using/twisting the fact that Gen. McChrystal coming to Ottawa as proof that Canada was not defeated by the Taliban. Your word play to make your point is shameful!!!

This is from The Guardian Dec 13, 2009:

There has always been Canadian opposition to the war in Afghanistan. This opposition has grown as the troop commitment increased and their role changed. But in the first four years, Canadian troops were not heavily involved in fighting and Canadian casualties averaged two a year.

In 2005, Gen. Rick Hillier became chief of defense staff and Canada's role in Afghanistan changed. In 2006 there were 36 Canadian soldiers killed, 30 in 2007, 32 in 2008 and 27 so far in 2009. Given that there are only 2,500 Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, they are being killed at a higher rate than any of the other NATO forces. If America's more than 40,000 troops were killed at the same rate, they would have lost over 400 troops a year. American dead in Afghanistan now totals just over 850 for the eight years of the war. This is a grim and unpleasant reality, and a statistic that no one ever talks about. No one ever asks, why are Canadians dying at such a disproportionat e rate? Are they ill equipped? Poorly trained? In over their heads?


McClatchydc.com Aug 13th 2009:
And the Canadians who have been here for the past three years are openly skeptical that their U.S. brethren, with huge eight-wheeled Stryker armored fighting vehicles in the lush waist-high grape vines, will have any better luck subduing the Taliban than they did.
The Americans "need to understand this is the toughest environment" they'll face, said Capt. Chris Blouin of Canada's Royal 22nd Regiment. "It's not complicated. Expect everything."
For three years, a Canadian force of a few hundred has faced as many as 15,000 Taliban here. In those three years, however, the Canadians acknowledge that they've had little more than a "finger in the dike strategy" aimed at preventing Taliban forces from capturing Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, 20 miles to the east. With few resources, stalemate was the Canadians' strategy.
America's allies have no territorial gains to show for the effort. The schools they built were destroyed after the Taliban took them over and used them to stage ambushes. The small outposts they established, including the one in Sangsar, were abandoned in 2007 under constant Taliban attack.
"All we were really able to do, and have been able to do, is keep the insurgency sufficiently at bay that it doesn't become a real challenge to the state," said Canadian Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance, who commands 2,800 troops in Kandahar province, about 300 of them based in Sangsar. "And it's not a real challenge to the state."
The Canadians' efforts to guide and train their Afghan counterparts who share this base have been equally frustrating.
**** Now saying a unit was defeated does not take away the honor of a soldier. Comments here have the under tone that if you say a unit was defeated you are bad mouthing the fallen. In victor or defeat to give oneself for freedom and his brothers and sister that stand beside him is very noble. However right is right, wrong is wrong and if an Army was defeated who will tell you??? Mike Yon as called it right for the last 5 years, he is on the ground and has “always” known exactly what he is talking about, his readership demands it.
So don’t think he is taking away from our heroes but highlighting short comings and failures of governments and generals that need to be held to account as to why they left the Canadians so out gunned?

Thanks for risking your life Mike Yon!
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# Deborah 2009-12-13 07:11
You failed to mention the contributions by the 5/2 Stryker Brigade that have been in the region since the beginning of August. The 1-17, a regiment within the 5/2, alone have lost 32 soldiers; a substantial cost in this war. Your article is a huge disappointment and as mentioned throughout the comments, you don't seem to quite get the facts right.
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# Joseph Rooney 2009-12-13 08:33
Michael:
Thank you for focusing us in on what we can expect. Keep up the good work, God Bless You and be smart. Every time I read one of your releases I finish the article better educated on the war. God Bless our valiant soldiers.

Semper Fi,
Joe Rooney

PS An ROE that is expected to get more of our soldiers killed should be a Court Martial Offense for the anonymous, cowardly authors of that ROE.
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# JAG 2009-12-13 09:00
As a Canadian with American relatives I support the troops from both of our countries, but saying the Canadians have been defeated is utter crap. After 9/11 we did not want to become involved in Bush's crusade against Iraq, but being American allies, we jumped into AFG where the real threat was. But while American forces were bogged down in Iraq, and our European allies doing little real fighting in AFG, Canada rightfully concluded that there was no "real commitment" on the part of our allies to winning the war in Afghanistan. Yet Canada, along with the Dutch and British, soldiered on year after year in the south where the heaviest fighting was. We didn't do it because we felt threatened by the Taliban or by Al Qaeda... I'll tell you that. And now that Canada has decided enough is enough, after repeated calls to our allies to take this war seriously, Canada has been defeated? When your own president has said he will start pulling troops out of AFG in the same year Canada will? Maybe you should embed with the Canadians and tell them they have been defeated..

I followed your reporting in Iraq, and even supported your efforts by buying your book, but so far your reports from Afghanistan have been less than stellar..
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# Sean 2009-12-13 09:13
Michael,

Your analysis was great, but you should have had someone edit this for you.

One example is: whatever point you were trying to make about the Canadian effort was lost, and sorely for anyone who values the contributions of our northern neighbors.

I for one am unsure of the point you were trying to make. Were the Canadians slackers? Did the coalition and their government put them into a no-win situation and they fared particularly well against the odds?

You did not need to be so vague and scattered with your words.
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# Kasmir 2009-12-13 09:55
The Canadians had no chance to police all of Kandahar province with only two battalions. When 1-17th 5/2 SBCT took over in ARV, the mission was still under resourced. The September Kagan report, which is basically a leak of the McChrystal recommendation, specifies that an additional 4.5 *brigades* need to be added to Kandahar, and an additional full brigade needed for ARV alone:

http://www.aei.org/docLib/20090921-Kagan-Afghanistan.pdf

The losses the Canadians suffered shows they fought hard in ARV. The heavy losses that 1-17th has suffered since taking over from the Canadians show how difficult the fight has been there. Rumor has it that the 82nd Airborne is now arriving in ARV, likely in brigade strength. Hopefully between the Canadians, the Strykers, and the Airborne, there are finally enough soldiers to do the job.
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# Crafty Hunter 2009-12-13 10:37
The Taliban is getting much of their money from the artificially high price of (recreational) drugs. End the insane, unConstitutiona l "Drug War", and instantly terrorist groups all over the world, not just the Taliban, lose a great deal of strength. This is blaringly obvious, and needs to said said repeatedly until the drug thugs (cops and prosecutors eager for easy arrest and conviction statistics) are reined in sharply and made to do *real* police work.

It's obscene to ask soldiers to continue to die for the sake of a strutting, arrogant desire on the part of a self-interested minority to tell people what to do with their own bodies, their own sacred lives.
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# berserker 2009-12-13 10:57
Please could we have some clarification?

"Some people believe the Canadians have been militarily defeated in their battlespace. No US officer has told me that the Canadians have been defeated, and none have denied it."

Who are "some people"? Was it the cook? Your cleaning lady?

Inquiring minds would like to know.
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# MrKenneth 2009-12-13 13:19
Any chance of destroying their poppy crops and helping them plant something else that they might be able to eat in country?
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# Matt 2009-12-13 13:54
I think that you guys need to reread what Michael wrote. At no time did he write that you guys got defeated by the Taliban. He wrote that others said that and then acknowledged the sacrifices Canada has made in Afghanistan. Canada didn't have the resources available to them to effectively deal with the Taliban. It's as simple as that...has nothing to do with Canada's ability to fight (which is pretty good).
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# Rick James 2/11th ACR back in the day 2009-12-13 14:13
When you are a modern army with satellites, helicopters, jets, and good supply lines and your General makes this statement:

"All we were really able to do, and have been able to do, is keep the insurgency sufficiently at bay that it doesn't become a real challenge to the state," said Canadian Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance, who commands 2,800 troops in Kandahar province, about 300 of them based in Sangsar.

With the modern advantage of an updated military the best you can do is keep them at bay for years……..ok I guess that would technically be called a draw and not a defeat.
Technically speaking….maybe that will make ya’ll feel better.

This statement comes from a Canadian General and not a cook or cleaning lady. However both the cook and cleaning lady knows that when you have the military advantage in assets the best you can do over the years is keep “them” at bay is a defeat, you can’t call it a victory.

This technical draw is in no way a reflection of brave hard fighting men and women, however a failure in command from both the military and governments.

You don’t need to beat up the reporter but need to beat up on the ones in charge that allowed this to happen over “years”.

Mike Yon is keeping the fire to the feet of the governments and command staff for bringing this issue out into the light. No one likes the sound of it but the same was true in Vietnam.

I hit the tip jar on the way out, keep up the good work!
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# David 2009-12-14 02:43
I have a good feeling about this strategy though I wish Obama had the courage to put many more boots on the ground and decidedly done so much quicker. After all, the Bush administration and Gen. McChyrstal already laid out the AfPak vision before the power transition back in January '09. All the Dems had to do is follow it and listen and learn from those in the military.

Thanks for the inside scoop and historical background as they are always key to making sound judgements and actions.

As always Michael keep up the great work as you are an example to all journalists who seek to find the truth in any matter.

Dave
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# David M 2009-12-14 04:51
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 12/14/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

http://www.thunderrun.us/2009/12/from-front-12142009.html
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# Timhogs 2009-12-14 04:54
I'm an American who works for a US defense contractor, and I've had the opportunity to look at the work of National Defence. While my Canadian friends and family pride themselves on living in a pacifist country (and there is some local debate around whether Canada actually needs a military), I can tell you that anyone who thinks of Canada as weak or impotent is, at best, not paying attention. DND/CF are extremely capable, hard nosed, and well trained; so much so that we spend a lot of time in my company studying their tools and techniques. Take into account that DND/CF's entire development budget is about as big as one mid-sized American program, and I think it's obvious that Canadians are justified in being proud of their troops.
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# Mike E 2009-12-14 07:25
"After 9/11 we did not want to become involved in Bush's crusade against Iraq, but being American allies, we jumped into AFG where the real threat was."

Your poor choice of words betray your bias. You belittle the liberation of 30 million Iraqis from Saddams brutal dictatorship and the birth of a new democracy in the heart of the Middle East as a crusade by evil Booosh. The "real threat" was in Iraq as much as Afghanistan. A nation that had made and used WMD, that had 500 tonnes of yellow cake uranium and that sheltered Islamo - fascist terrorists from around the globe was as much a threat as stone age Afghanistan. I am extreamly proud of Bush, my nation and the US military and its coalition partners for the just war fought and won in Iraq. I am sad that Canada chose not to participate in the liberation because Canadians would have done noble and valuable work, just like they did in Afghanistan.
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# Scott Klimczak 2009-12-14 07:26
To the hypercritical.. .a quick recap:

"Some people believe the Canadians have been militarily defeated in their battlespace. No US officer has told me that the Canadians have been defeated, and none have denied it. There is no doubt that Canadian troops earned much respect, and that more that more than 130 paid the ultimate price.

"On current course, Canada will have fully retreated by 2011. This is crucial: the enemy realizes that our greatest weakness is Coalition cohesion and they have defeated what was an important partner."

"Afghan elections were scheduled for 20 August 2009. With the Canadians effectively neutralized by enemy resistance..."

"The schools they built were destroyed after the Taliban took them over and used them to stage ambushes. The small outposts they established, including the one in Sangsar, were abandoned in 2007 under constant Taliban attack. All we were really able to do, and have been able to do, is keep the insurgency sufficiently at bay that it doesn't become a real challenge to the state," said Canadian Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance..."

Reading comprehension.. .I'm sorry, I don't wish to be mean, especially with the obviously emotional investment that's been displayed for Canadian involvement, but to bristle with such indignation at a perceived slight without actually understanding the conversation only displays ignorance...des pite good intention.

Michael has consistently praised the men and units of nearly ALL the services actively in-theatre, and has also consistently questioned the resolve and support of the ignorant public and politicians, as well as some of the REMF C&C.

Any impression that the message equated to "You blew it and now we have to save the day" is framed by the reader's own insecurities and agendas.

I'll repeat the quote here to highlight my point..."There is no doubt that Canadian troops earned much respect, and that more that more than 130 paid the ultimate price."

To describe a force that admittedly is unable to accomplish its' goals due to persistent resistance, without the support and resources necessary, that then leaves while the battle is still active, as retreating and defeated is DESCRIPTIVE. It's not a judgement. He's ALWAYS lauded the soldiers. It does nothing to tarnish their Honor and Sacrifice. The '300' at Thermopylae were defeated...but how is that 'accomplishment ' viewed in history? If all the Canadian involvement to-date has done was to statically oppose the tide while others removed their heads from the sand and rallied a proper - or at least adequate - force, then those lost will stand RIGHTLY alongside the Greek Legends.

Do not take offense at the recorder, but at those that cause the circumstances BEING recorded. Do the American public and politicians share some of that deserved scorn?...absolu tely! But look closer to home for some of the same. And THAT is the ultimate message.

I'll never be able to fully live up to the sacrifices made on my behalf. The best I can do is to hold open the door to the Gates of Heaven while they pass ahead of me.
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# Scott Dudley 2009-12-14 07:27
We have come to expect and have always (in my view) received straight shooting from Michael about what is going on in various parts of the world. His views are forged by his experiences, past and present and by those with who he comes into contact. For the most part, he eschews politics which is refreshing. He has criticized lack of support for troops from most coalition governments. When underresourced, most countries adopt a FOB mentality (US included) of risk avoidance. There appears a sea change coming in that kind of thinking.

While we're at it, lets's stop trying to rewrite history. Afghanistan is in its current state because it was neglected for Iraq. Requests for additional troops were ignored until early this year when Obama sent in 20,000 more. That he took his time in making a decision from all bad choices is a good thing. This war is not just about military. There are geopolitical and economic vectors as well.
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# Dad of a soldier 2009-12-14 09:27
The Canadians are leaving before finishing the job. They are by definition defeated. The Americans are also going to leave before finishing the job. We, too, are going to therefore be defeated. In Vietnam America never lost a major battle and essentially destroyed the Viet Cong in the Tet Offensive. Yet we walked away. We allowed ourselves to be defeated. Time after time, despite the heroic sacrifices of American and allied soldiers our politicians and their allies in the mainstream media pull defeat from the jaws of victory. Sorry Canadians but your forces were defeated...by your own government. Our American forces will be right behind you, also defeated by our own government. That means that all the soldiers who fought and died for the cause will have done so pointlessly even though their cause was just. This is what happens when Western democracies elect pacifists and naive people into power. People who unfortunately actually agree in principle with the enemy that the West in general and America in particular is fundamentally evil and deserving of defeat.
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# Paul sparling 2009-12-14 09:42
I don't take issue with stating "some people believe that the Canadians have been militarily defeated in their space" because it's not a bad question to ask. The short answers is no, it hasn't been but it has been set back awaiting more support and the Taliban have made gains. In 2006 the Canadians launched a major conventional war (Operation Medusa) which was the largest Canadian offensive since Korea and it was a major success and a major Taliban defeat with over 6,000 Taliban dead. Since then the Taliban have changed tactics and using guerilla warfare and intimidation of the population with incremental creeping success. Through 2007 and 2008 the Canadians launched a large number of small scale operations that succeeded but didn't hold because of lack of troops. 2500 versus a million people in Kandahar City alone are tough numbers. In 2009 the strategy has been to hold on as best they can around Kandahar and they have been doing that awaiting the cavalry. Meanwhile the Canadians have had some fragile successes in mentoring and training the Afgan Army, some fragile success with model villages, some fragile success with major projects and some fragile success with training afgan police. The hope now is with increased troops these small successes will become big ones. And I think that is the strategy and that the currect surge can build on Canada's local knowledge and the excellent expertise it has developed in unconventional warfare. Thats why there are now more American troops under Canadian control than Canadian troops under canadian control in Kandahar.
I'm one Canadian that hopes that Canada doesn't leave and I have great respect for our American comrades in arms. Neither country has been defeated yet
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# Actual_Canadian 2009-12-14 10:52
Okay, firstly I would like to thank Micheal for his frank and excellent reporting. Next let me say that I have served 3 tours in Afghanistan as a Canadian Infantry soldier and will shortly depart for my 4th. I was on Op Medusa, and guess what - IT WAS A MESS!!! We certainly beat them, but then the Dutch didn't seal the back door, and more enemy escaped then were killed. They will never launch a conventional offensive against Canadians again because we crushed them, but in the aftermath we totally failed to employ our rebuilding resources and didn't capitalize on our victory. There are still people being killed on the ground that I secured in 2006/2007.

Now, are we beaten? NOBODY can say, because we haven't set real objectives yet. Each operation is an isolated incident. Only now with McChristal in charge has the coalition realised that we need an all encompassing strategy. A real counterinsurgen cy campaign.

I will also note that Arghandab is now under Canadian control. Although the majority of the troops there will be the American Stryker brigade, but under Canadian command. Here are some further links explaining the public portion of our current strategy. Please read them.

http://www.canada.com/news/Afghan+spot+back+Canadians/2289317/story.html

http://www.metronews.ca/edmonton/canada/article/396034--canadian-troops-to-leave-safety-of-bases-to-live-with-afghans

Micheal, thanks again for your reporting, even when I don't always agree. I will actually be printing this article to help explain things to my soldiers.
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# Armchair Warlord 2009-12-14 11:29
The American plan as outlined by the administration is to begin withdrawing forces from Afghanistan once we have defeated the Taliban and the Afghans can take over their own security. The July 2011 date is the expected time when that can begin to happen, and that is the end of that particular story. We will be in Afghanistan for a very long time to come.

The Canadian withdrawal comes at a time when we need them the most and is not based on conditions on the ground - it is occurring in spite of them. That sounds like defeat to me. If the Canadians here are outraged then perhaps they should pressure their government to remain in Afghanistan, finish the job and bring their troops home in victory. When NATO is sending thousands of reinforcements it is more than a little tone-deaf that Canada still plans to pull out and leave the fighting to the US.
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# Glen 2009-12-14 11:33
Hey Mike E,

Saddam most certainly did not shelter islamo-fascist terrorists. Foreign jihadi's entered Iraq only after coalition forces entered Iraq. In fact, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet said on 60 Minutes, "We could never verify that there was any Iraqi authority, direction and control, complicity with al-Qaeda for 9/11 or any operational act against America, period."

Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups were a direct threat to Saddam's rule and to Iraq in general, one of the few secular Arab states in the region. Islamic theocracy was anethema to Saddam; why do you think Iraq went to war with their theocratic neighbors in Iran? Saddam was an iron-fisted despot, no doubt about it, but he was supported by American foreign policy efforts of the 1980's. Lest we forget, we helped create that monster.

Mike E, you need to go back and reevaluate the facts in this case. You are clearly blinded by your political ideology and that is a terrible shame.
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# Jan D 2009-12-14 13:54
I am truly grateful for the Canadian soldiers who courageously joined our American forces and have put their lives in harm’s way. I'm so sorry for your losses. My heart goes out to all the families and friends of these brave and selfless souls. I pray for the safe return of all our soldiers.

I believe that with, and only with, the support of our coalition forces will we be successful in Afghanistan. I deeply thank you for all your support (40+ countries).

"We are with you as you are with us."

U. S. Citizen
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# hardmanb 2009-12-14 15:21
Thanks, Mike for the coverage, may God protect you.

To all those Americans and brave allies who are fighting, May God protect you.

To our leaders: Either give our brave fighters top priority support of all the resources and equipment that we can, and let them fight to win...or pull them out. These lives are too important and too precious to be the subject of political games.
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# Mike E 2009-12-14 17:08
"Mike E, you need to go back and reevaluate the facts in this case. You are clearly blinded by your political ideology and that is a terrible shame."

You may be unaware that Saddam hosted conferences of anti-American, anti-Israeli terror groups that included the Muslim Brotherhood, funded the Islamist Hamas group, that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi frequently traveled to Iraq pre-liberation and that Taliban trained Ansar al Sunna fighter battled against the Kurds in northern Iraq.

It is weird how divorced from reality neo-liberal group think has become.
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# Scott D. 2009-12-14 17:23
Hello,

I have to admit that when I first read "More recently, the Canadians made jabs at Arghandab but did not get far. Some people believe the Canadians have been militarily defeated in their battlespace. No US officer has told me that the Canadians have been defeated, and none have denied it," I was outraged.

I was further enraged by this comment "On current course, Canada will have fully retreated by 2011. This is crucial: the enemy realizes that our greatest weakness is Coalition cohesion and they have defeated what was an important partner."

I think I misread what Michael meant and was almost to distracted to the point of missing the great information in the rest of his dispatch.

However, other readers comments have helped clear up what he was saying "If all the Canadian involvement to-date has done was to statically oppose the tide while others removed their heads from the sand and rallied a proper - or at least adequate - force, then those lost will stand RIGHTLY alongside the Greek Legends."

The word retreat and defeat are not easy for people emotionally and physically invested in this fight to hear-- from anyone.

People talk about cohesion; Canada will have been on the ground for nearly ten years if we leave in 2011. Our departure is not sudden or precipitous or unexpected. Our government made it clear that there was a deadline, which was not a result of our defeat or being neutralised by the enemy. We've stuck by our allies and it looks like we'll be leaving at the same time.

However, there are some facets to this deadline and retreat; in 2008 our government set a list of conditions to met before they would consider extending the mission beyond Feb 2009. Those conditions were met and the mission was extended to 2011. The government has already announced that it may not be a complete withdrawal in 2011. At a minimum the PRT will stay behind in Kandahar and maybe more "We are still in dialogue with them about the nature of their contributions going forward. And we very much hope that they will continue to stay with us and find a way to continue to contribute to the mission," Michele Flournoy, U.S. undersecretary of defence for policy.

I hope our government makes a sensible choice and extends the combat mission as well.

The discussion of proportional casualties intrigued me. The Canadian army has suffered a disproportionat e number of casualties during this mission-- that's a fact. We've also contributed disproportional ly. Our Army is deployed at 100 percent capacity in Afghanistan. This doesn't mean we have all of our army there, but allowing for rotations and training our army is maxed out. I would like to know if the other NATO nations are maxed out-- other than the ones fighting two or three wars at a time. If they're not I'd like to know why not.

I will not say that our government has done it right; we've undergone a lot of internal turmoil in the mean time. So, it would be hard to say if there has been a coherent strategy for the whole time, or that the government has provided the financial support required to Army. We probably could have done a better. Perhaps by better educating the public we could have created a more supportive environment and therefore funneled more money to arming, training and expanding our army so it could better support our allies. On a positive note the government has managed to stick with the mission for this long and may agree to stay longer. I don't think any government could make this claim, nor do I think any nation could have bettered us, with our resources, in Afghanistan.

Speaking of resources I think some of the poster have made assumptions as well "With the modern advantage of an updated military the best you can do is keep them at bay for years……..ok I guess that would technically be called a draw and not a defeat.
Technically speaking….maybe that will make ya’ll feel better. "

First that's a rather nasty way to phrase a response. Secondly the Canadian Army did not arrive with modern equipment for the mission. Through the entire mission the army has received new Armour, Arti, support vehicles, personal equipment and training meant to react to the conditions. We did not have a modern updated military when we arrived. We might now, but you'd have to ask guys on the ground. Oh, and we do not have our own modern helicopters, modern tactical airlift, organic close air support. We don't have all of the kit or advantages of our better equipped NATO allies, therefore we have to rely on our allies.

I wish Michael could or would spend time with Canadian soldiers.

However, I still feel he is doing valuable work for all of us. If we could get some of his writing into the Canadian media maybe we could stir things up at home and regenerate some our lost inertia.
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# Glen 2009-12-15 08:28
"You may be unaware that Saddam hosted conferences of anti-American, anti-Israeli terror groups that included the Muslim Brotherhood, funded the Islamist Hamas group, that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi frequently traveled to Iraq pre-liberation and that Taliban trained Ansar al Sunna fighter battled against the Kurds in northern Iraq."

You may be unaware that the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 and is a transnational Sunni political opposition group. The Muslim Brotherhood (in Iraq they were known as the "Iraqi Islamic Party") was against the secular Baathists (including Saddam!). The Baathists (including Saddam!) worked to repress the Iraqi Islamic Party due to their ideological differences. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had no connection to Saddam. A CIA report in late 2004 concluded that there was no evidence Saddam's government was involved or even aware of [al-Zarqawi's] medical treatment (in Iraq), and found no conclusive evidence the Saddam Hussein regime had harbored Zarqawi. Also, Ansar al Sunna was founded in September 2003, several months after coalition forces invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. Again, no connection with Saddam.

These facts are not "neo liberal group think," they are facts. Facts are things that actually happen and can be proven based on something called evidence. The evidence in these cases is provided by the CIA, who know more about this than you do. Mike E, your ideology is factually bankrupt. Your ideology lead to setbacks in Afghanistan because we were distracted in Iraq. The sad thing is, your side is now protesting Obama's troop increase as "dithering" and "too slow" when Bush failed to provide the troop levels needed. In fact, Bush couldn't even get troop levels in Iraq right, let alone Afghanistan. Remember when General Shinseki said "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would be needed in post-war Iraq? Rumsfeld and Wolfowits rejected this. What happened then? We had huge problems in Iraq until the Surge of 2007. 2007! That's FOUR YEARS after the invasion of Iraq!!!! That is obscene.

I bet it's hard for you right wingers to accept that Yon agrees with Obama's troop increases. The cognitive dissonance must be a terrible psychological burden.
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# Gerry 2009-12-15 09:25
Merry Christmas everybody.

I am a retired Canadian-ex RCAF,and I create slide shows as a hobby.This show is a Christmas Greeting to the Canadian Armed Forces.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3h8hiHDZ44U

Enjoy and please pass it on to the troops, their families, friends and forums or blogs you may visit.
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# Divebomber 2009-12-15 09:53
Sorry - not a "fact". Ansar al Sunni, was not founded in 2003. It evolved into Ansar al-Islam which was an active terrorist group in Northern Iraq in 2001 and was very active before and during OIF in March 2003.

However, as usual, those bent on proving a negative miss the point. The reality is that Saddam was a mass murderer who funded terrorist against the Western world (that includes you) and had every intention of restarting his WMD programs and becoming a nuclear power... all he had to do was get the UN to lift sanctions, which he was working with France to accomplish. (All facts verified by the same CIA reports you cited above.)

But let's jump back a few years to 1941... When the US entered what became the second world war, the stated strategy was to defeat Germany first... to the howls of many prominent Nazi supporters here in the US. (Lindberg being one of them.) "Hitler didn't attack the US" they cried. "Why are we attacking Germany?"

Good question - given your logic, we should have never attacked Germany and only focused on Japan... but that would have lead to the fall of Britain and Soviet Russia. In retrospect, that's all very obvious. But to those protesting in front of the Whitehouse in 1942 with banners decrying Roosevelt's decision to first focus on Hitler, it was not the right choice. They also felt that the war against Germany was a "distraction". But time has proven them wrong, as time will eventually relegate your comments to the dustbin of idiocy.

And as for "Obama's" troop increases, that was the Bush plan. I'm not sure how you deduce that Bush failed to produce troop levels needed when in fact the Bush-approved surge did exactly what it was supposed to do - win the war in Iraq. And by the way, Obama opposed the surge and had to be goaded into admitting that it worked afterall. Now, it's taken him months to agree to try the same successful tactic in Afghanistan. And he did not agree to the level of troops that he was advised to send - something you accuse Bush of doing.

Only time will tell if the Obama plan will succeed. But one thing is for certain; he'll have people like you defending his decisions and rewriting history no matter what the outcome.
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# Glen 2009-12-15 10:41
Nice Godwin in your third paragraph. When you jump from discussing current issues to comparing someone to a Nazi appeaser, you lose the rhetorical high ground (if you ever had it in the first place). Nevertheless, I'll bite: Iraq and Nazi Germany are two entirely different things and being against the Iraq war so that we could instead KILL OSAMA BIN LADEN does not make one a Lindbergian appeaser. First, prior to Japan's attack on Pearl harbor, Nazi Germany had already invaded surrounding countries like Poland, Denmark, Norway, France and the Low Countries. They broke their non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union and were nearly in Moscow. Back to Iraq: Accept for Kuwait back in in 90', how many countries had Iraq invaded? None. Nazi Germany had an excellent military infrastructure that posed an imminent threat to the US and her allies. What kind of standing army did Iraq have and how threatening were their WMD's? Again, nil (and where exactly are those WMD's again?). Also, the fact that the surge needed to occur proves that there weren't enough troops. Rumsfeld and Wofowitz rejected Shinseki's outlines for larger amounts of troops. General McKiernan himself told the Washington Post about his appointment to command ISAF troops in Afghanistan in June 2008: "There was a saying when I got there: If you're in Iraq and you need something, you ask for it. If you're in Afghanistan and you need it, you figure out how to do without it." How about that?

You say "But one thing is for certain; [Obama] will have people like you defending his decisions and rewriting history no matter what the outcome." OK then, your turn: why didn't Bush get OBL? While I await your response on that one, I'll enjoy thinking about how it must tear you up inside that FDR, a liberal, was right about something.
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# Mike E 2009-12-15 11:35
"You may be unaware that the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in 1928 and is a transnational Sunni political opposition group. The Muslim Brotherhood (in Iraq they were known as the "Iraqi Islamic Party") was against the secular Baathists (including Saddam!). "

That is an interesting theory that is rather fanciful in light of the fact that Saddam invited the Muslim Brotherhood to Iraq to participate in anti-Israel conferences! Neo-liberal bizarro world group think rears its head again?

"Also, Ansar al Sunna was founded in September 2003, several months after coalition forces invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. Again, no connection with Saddam. "

Actually Ansar al Sunna arose from Sunni militant groups with ties to al-Qaeda, and motivated by Wahhabism, that fought the anti-Saddam Kurds in northern Iraq as early as 2001! Many members were Taliban trained. Nice try.

"Remember when General Shinseki said "something in the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would be needed in post-war Iraq? Rumsfeld and Wolfowits rejected this."

Shinseki was a political general with his lips planted firmly on the backsides of Clinton and the democrats. He opposed the liberation of Iraq and claimed, foolishly, that 600 thousand (yes 600 thousand) troops would be needed to liberate Iraq. His goal was to stop OIF, the US could barely muster such numbers. The ease of the initial thrust to Baghdad and the fact that the Rumsfeldian "light footprint" worked in the early days and was sufficient to move Iraq towards elections and rebuilding illustrates the errors of his approach. Even after the shrine bombing when things started spinning out of control the "surge" only came close to half of the Shinseki 600 000 number. You do your argument no favors by invoking a boob like Shinseki.

"Your ideology lead to setbacks in Afghanistan because we were distracted in Iraq.”

We were DISTRACTED by the CENTRAL FRONT of the GWOT which was Iraq? LOL. Iraq, as a modern nation with the industrial capability to make WMD was far more important battle field than Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda has said as much. Never mind, BOTH wars will be won.

“I bet it's hard for you right wingers to accept that Yon agrees with Obama's troop increases. The cognitive dissonance must be a terrible psychological burden.”

LOL. Ogabes troop increase is the only thing he’s done right. Even a broken watch is right twice a day! I know you are upset, Bush and the evil neo-cons won the central front of the global war on terror in Iraq, that’s probably were some of your irrationality comes from. Chin up, time heals all.
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# Mike E 2009-12-15 12:07
"Nice Godwin in your third paragraph. When you jump from discussing current issues to comparing someone to a Nazi appeaser, you lose the rhetorical high ground (if you ever had it in the first place). "

Actually its a relevent and illuninating comparison. The anti-war US left have been a damaging influence for a long time.
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# Glen 2009-12-15 15:44
Mike E,

"The ease of the initial thrust to Baghdad and the fact that the Rumsfeldian "light footprint" worked" Rumsfeld and Bush do not deserve credit for the ease of the initial thrust. The hardworking men and women of the US armed forces deserve credit for this, not Bush & Co. The right wing seems eager to deprive the US military of credit and materiel wherever possible. It's pathetic. This also proves my point that Iraq did not have a strong military infrastructure. You lose again.
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# Johnson 2009-12-16 00:11
Reason Canada is still there is because the USA is gonna invade their underpopulated big ass country if they don't and they probably is nothing Canada could do about it but start flying American flags, this will cause a civil war in canada and force canada to break into many parts, Quebec and Montreal will form the French Alliance, Toronto will be the gay and lesbians alliance, America will then install a puppet Born in America but have dual citizenship Canadian to rule the rest of the country and funnel out all their gold resources.
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# Matthew Aamot 2009-12-16 04:33
Dear Michael,
When my brother deployed to Afghanistan in July I wrote to him about your dispatches and hoped that you might be able to cover his unit, the 1-17th Infantry. I am very glad to see you starting coverage of the 5-2- I wish my brother was still there to see it. A IED in Jelewar on November 5th destroyed his Stryker. We laid him to rest on November 14th in the little cemetery a few miles from where we all grew up, and I was there when his good friend Gary Gooch was buried last Thursday at Arlington National Cemetery. "The cost of freedom is high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission". (JFK)

To the Afghanistan people- those who want liberty, who want freedom to live as they choose, to send their children to schools of their choosing and vote as they please, our family stands with you. We are grieving yet proud of my brother's service, and are even more dedicated to the cause which our troops there have committed themselves to.

To the Jihadists, to the Taliban which seek to keep the people enslaved to a culture of ignorance, fear, and repression: your time has ended. You may either adapt to the sea of change which will wash your nation clean, and choose to be a part of the solution and the rebuilding of your nation, or you will die. Remember, you are the ones who started this war - but we are the ones who will finish it, and finish you.

Michael, keep reporting the stories the other folks won't. You have my support and my best wishes. Go to 1-17 if you can and tell their story. Tell the guys of Charlie Co. we are praying for them. (and we hope they liked the care packages). And tell the leaders there to keep up the good fight.

"My aim, then, was to whip the rebels, to humble their pride, to follow them to their inmost recesses, and make them fear and dread us. Fear is the beginning of wisdom. " General Sherman's exit strategy should be our own.

**** Spec. Aaron Seth Aamot 12 April 1987 - 5 November 2009 **** ~"Truth and Courage"
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# Modfab 2009-12-16 06:03
Rand Paul Tea Party money bomb today.
RandPaulGraphs. He’s raised about 50 thousand so far. That’s pretty good.
,
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# Sean M. Maloney, PhD 2009-12-16 18:08
Allow me to clarify.

1) There were essentially three battles for Arghandab district during my time in Afghanistan: fall 2007, summer 2008 and throughout 2009. The process was initiated with the assassination attempt against Mullah Naquib, which eventually resulted in his demise, and the generation of a power vacuum in the district. Up until then there were few problems in Arghandab district when I was there in 2003, 2004, 2005, and even during 2006.

2) Arghandab I and II were nearly identical-a relatively small enemy incursion (100+ fighters) generated near mass panic in Kandahar City assisted by the media, followed by a combined Canadian-Afghan -American sweep through the district which drove out the enemy forces. These affairs lasted a couple of days each. See my depiction of Arghandab I in Bernt Horn's (ed) "Fortune Favours the Brave."

3) Arghandab III was different: it was protracted and under the radar. The enemy mounted an influence campaign consisting of selective assassination, intimidation, slow and numerically small infiltration of the western part of the district and the deliberate undermining of any attempts by the Afghans to govern the district. This process was facilitated by the fact that ISAF did not have enough forces in the province to cover Zharey, Panjwayi, Dand and Arghandab districts, let alone the City itself. Arghandab was an economy of effort task in 2008-09.

The suggestion that "Canada failed" is erroneous and insulting to those of us who have been deeply involved in advising and supporting the American-led and NATO-led efforts in Afghanistan since 2001. Canada's Task Force Kandahar (and its predecessors) has essentially conducted a three-year disruption operation with a single battalion-sized battle group in the districts west of the city awaiting reinforcements that only started to arrive in late 2008-reinforcem ents that consist solely of American forces-not European, not Afghan. The enemy does not control the City. He does not exert total control over any of the adjacent districts, though he seriously challenges us in some of them, including Arghandab. The first reinforcements to arrive were 2-2 Infantry of the US Army which was placed under Canadian command, followed by the occasional British light infantry battalion also placed under Canadian command for limited periods. The Afghan National Army brigade in the province, consisting of three to five small light infantry battalions, did not exist in real terms in 2006, was built up slowly in 2007, and by 2008 parts of it kept getting redeployed to help the British in Helmand province. These forces were not under Canadian command, though they had Canadian OMLTs with them. Those OMLTs were drawn from a second Canadian infantry battalion stationed in Canada. Canada only has nine conventional infantry battalions and has a six-month rotation policy. You do the math.
Fundamentally, there were not enough forces available to TFK to cover all of the districts and priorities was made depending on the circumstances. Furthermore, the decision by some to prioritize the effort in Helmand had in some cases detrimental effects on the efforts in and around Kandahar City. Again, priorities were made at Regional Command (South) HQ because there were not enough forces to cover everything in southern Afghanistan and because of national priorities by troop contributing nations. Examine who commands RC (South) and when and you get an idea about what agendas receive what priorities.
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# Debbie 2009-12-18 03:37
Matthew, I am so sorry for you and families loss. My son is a medic attached to Charlie Company and knew your brother. The Company has been hit so hard, it's . . . well there are no words to even describe it. I wish Michael would hook up with these guys for a while and let us now how they're holding out. Your family is and will remain in my prayers.
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# Dale Prickett 2009-12-18 08:38
Mike is just reporting on what he is seeing and hearing on the ground. He is truthful in his assessments, rarely if ever embellishes the truth, and is accurate in the information he provides to his readers. If he is hearing rumblings on the ground that the Canadian forces were unable to get the job done in Arghandab, that is information that he has likely heard from reliable sources and has obseved from the current situation on the ground. If you don't like his reporting maybe there is another journalist out there that can blow some smoke up your asses, rather than providing you with an accurate assement.
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# Sean M. Maloney 2009-12-18 12:45
Dale: I'm not taking shots at Mike. I'm just adding more information for everybody. I've watched Arghandab unfold over the past couple of years while on the ground and thought people would like to know more.
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# MikefromCanmore 2009-12-19 06:23
@Dale Prickett

whare did ue lern 2 spel so goood? Tankhs four shairing thad wid us. God luvs alll umericans. Jesus is mekin.
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# R. James 2/11th ACR 2009-12-19 15:32
MikefromCanmore , If all you can do is make fun of someone else, why don't you just go somewhere else with your bullshit. If you have something to say that adds to this Awesome Thread then do that. Other wise take your school boy making fun of other people ass down the road.
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# Paul Hunt 2009-12-21 12:07
Dear Sean (Dr Maloney)

Excellent post about Canadian operations and the problems posed by RC ( South) decision to place Helmland before Kandahar.
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# Nate wishes he was combat camera 2009-12-24 12:29
Thank you Sean for posting that concise response that raised the signal to noise ratio here. I wish our CF got more respect in the popular opinion, I know they do on the ground.
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# Jan D USA 2009-12-24 15:30
The Thunder Run linked to the following post in the blog post From the Front 12/24/09.

"What Child is This" written by Terry Glavin, Canada
http://transmontanus.blogspot.com/2009/12/what-child-is-this.html

Terry Glavin says 'Truth is an arrow, and the gate is narrow that it passes through'.

Michael Yon, thank you for being the gate the truth passes through.
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# Andrew 2009-12-25 14:39
Here's a little more to the story of the 5/2 Stryker Brigade that Michael leaves out:

www.armytimes.com/news/2009/12/army_afghanistan_mixed_signals_122109w/

"The vicious struggle in and around the Arghandab since the battalion’s arrival has killed 21 1/17 soldiers and more than 50 insurgents, led to a popular company commander’s controversial replacement and raised questions about the best role for Stryker units in Afghanistan.

It has also caused the soldiers at the tip of the spear that the United States hurled into the Arghandab to accuse their battalion and brigade commanders of not following the guidance of senior coalition commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal to adopt a “population-cen tric” counterinsurgen cy approach. And now, reeling from the deaths of their comrades and the removal of their company commander, the troops have been ordered out of the Arghandab, a move they say feels like a defeat."

"However, 1/17 soldiers said their training, which had been focused on highly “kinetic” urban warfare drills such as room clearing, did not change much to accommodate the change in mission. “The COIN-intensive fight here … isn’t so much what we trained on,” said 1st Lt. Kevin Turnblom, Charlie Company’s fire support officer."

”We have done absolutely nothing as a company to improve the quality of life for the average Afghan living in the central Arghandab Valley,” Sanders said. “What we’re doing is not working, and we need to go on a different tack.” Asked what that tack should be, Sanders replied: “Basic counter-insurge ncy — give them a better option than Islamic extremism.”

"Soldiers in both Bravo and Charlie companies said the order to pull out felt like “a defeat.” For Charlie Company, with the heavy toll it has taken, the move is particularly painful. Soldiers feel they are leaving the Arghandab without being given the chance to achieve success in the mission for which their comrades died. “I’ve lost 14 friends since I’ve gotten out here,” said White. “Now what have they died for?”

The words of the actual soldiers on the ground paint a far different picture then your article lets on. It would seem a bit more relevant why the soldiers of the 5/2 feel like their pullout was a defeat then pronouncing Canada's 2001 pullout a defeat?

Also, how exactly is the experience of the Canadians different then the experiences of the 5/2? Did you feel that the US soldiers were practicing proper COIN well you were there? Did you speak to them about Capt. Kassulke's removal?
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# michelle 2010-01-02 15:04
beautiful world of ours. There is no world like our world that exist. I love you earth.
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# daniel 2010-01-29 06:53
Afghanistan and Pakistan have always had radical elements. That is why the Arabs had so many Madrasses there. Then the CIA et all encouraged the radical phenomena and helped recruit foreign fighters. With all the above confusion and arguing and tactical bullshit- it boils down to one obvious reality. Both wars have multiplied militancy, and not reduced it- look it up in any analyses you want- the stats are there. So, that being the case- how long then should the US remain in afghanistan? 2020? Take Iraq- which appears to be "pacified".
No more sectarian violence... It will have a Shiite dominated government and has already shown to have close ties to Iran. When we "pacify" the Afghanis and win their hearts and minds, and say bye bye- do you really think that this country is going to be an oasis of democratic Tribes? So what if we take all of Helmand? So what if we take the Provinces to the North toward Herat and secure Kabul? Once we leave, it is the Afghanis that are going to have to "work it out" and that has never been a pretty picture. The "Taliban" which is about as accurate as "Al Qaeda" does not fight large loosing battles- that is why they disappeared for the most part after 2001. They can do this again. As it has been said, the West have watches, they have time, and they have children that have time, and very few want to see any permanent Western Presence.
As a soldier, Mike explains things as a soldier. The big picture is what I would be concerned about. Does everyone really think that we will eliminate radical islam in this war even if it was fought until 2020? Really- ask yourself that. Hmmm Pakistan FATA, NWFP, Northern Territories (Chitral) Uzbecs, Chechens. To the west Iran, etc etc etc.
Maybe.... a better idea might be to buy oil from friendlies and keep our bases out of muslim lands and stop supporting Israel, and have a good Intel and Special Op program that monitors what ever groups that might still have a grudge. Notice that the Russians are not getting too many planned attacks from Afghanistan or the Middle East. They only get it form their own occupation of Muslim areas like Chechenya etc. They do not have military bases scattered all over the middle east etc and they do not support Israel.
It is an interesting analysis, and quite accurate short term and militarily....b ut the above comments and discussion show glaringly the futility of it all. Afghanistan will not become Israel or Saudi Arabia for chrissakes.
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# Alan Asbury 2010-01-30 07:28
The Talib are aware of the ISAF movements and deployments, particularly the Stryker Brigades which they are quickly learning to fear. They are Infantry first, and hunt them aggressively. Security is very tight, and I rarely hear from my Stryker son. I do know that they have moved toward the valley for the winter to support humanitarian operations while keeping pressure on. They're also gearing up for a siege on a major stronghold in Helmand.The Talib in the area know this and they know they're trapped for the winter. Come Spring they will be too weak to rage a full strength offensive. I cannot stress enough that Stryker soldiers are Infantry first and foremost and their task is to take the fight to the enemy. All of these men have High School diplomas and at least half in my son's Company have 2 years or more of college. They are very dedicated to each other and I believe they will have great success and will have the full support and gratitude of the Afghan people. They prefer we weren't there, but they want the Taliban defeated even more.
I do not support this war because it is all about oil. Yes, I know Afghanistan doesn't have any oil but both the Russians and the Americans and many other nations have wanted to build a crucial oil and gas pipeline running through the country for decades. Afghanistan has always balked at this because they wanted an ownership stake in this enterprise, which doesn't sit well with the decision makers. Shortly before 9/11 the Taliban met with U.S. officials to discuss the issue and when the Taliban refused the land lease offer they were told in effect "silver or lead". It is rumored one U.S official stated "we'd bomb you back to the stone age, but you're already there" or something to that effect.
I pray for the safety of the Afghan people and hope our efforts, regardless of our ulterior motives, create a better life for a people who have known suffering and hardship for far too long. Mostly I pray for the safe return of every person we have put in harm's way.
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# CG Marine Mom 2010-12-17 02:15
I appreciate the articles, however, what I don't appreciate are the comments related to any country's commitment to this war. Most of which, I believe, come from individuals who have no one over there or any first hand experience. My son was there, and I personally appreciate that we are all working together. We are working as a team, we all succeed or fail together as a team. Bless all the soldiers, they are all heroes in my eyes. And some of you are so wrong about what you think or believe, really you have no idea.
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# Wulf Gundersson 2011-02-11 19:03
I told the truth on Michael's Facebook page. So did someone else. I'm an American soldier of a sort and I did my time in the Arghandab, she's a soldier's wife. Neither of us are "milkooks", whatever that is. Sure it's his site, but I won my freedom of speech with blood, and so did this woman's husband. What he did was wrong, and whether this is allowed up here or not, I'm here to say it. She told the truth, and if he edits the truth from the public, nothing secured BTW, then how much truth is he editing out of his books and articles. I've looked at his photographs, and some a beautiful, and some show enough information to the enemy to make me wonder what side he's on. Ours I hope. He should be ashamed for what he's left out of the stories or dispatches, and for what he did to 2 red-blooded military Americans tonight. Read with care what he writes here, in his books and on Facebook, and doublecheck everything.
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-2 # RE: Arghandab & The Battle for Kandaharnonlinearwarfare 2011-05-13 22:52
After looking at 5/2 deployment I must say that it was an epic failure of the entire SBCT, 5/2 took number of casualties, and was pulled from Arghandab Valley due to its incompetence to operate in non-linear battlefield. Lets face it, you cannot purposely intensify battlefield dynamics with brigade level clearing operations,, you cannot use wheeled vehicles with poor off-road capabilities to provide fighting platform for ground elements. And as for canadiens, they were also defeated by Taliban, but at least canadiens did not look for excuses. I'm sorry if my words are too harsh, but similar failures happened in IQ, and yet our commanders do not want to learn.
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