>>Military Analysis – Marines Do Heavy Lifting as Afghan Army Lags in Battle – NYTimes.com
Posted February 21, 2010on:
The United States has discovered when they have tried to help develop any of the Muslim countries armies that it was just not possible. It didn’t happen in Iraq. Remember the “Mother of all Armies” and how they threw down their weapons and ran at the first site of an American? Remember our on going efforts to develop an Iraqi army and police force? It is failing and the country will fall into chaos as soon as we leave. This chaos will end only when one strong man emerges who is a bigger thug than the rest. The so called “legitimate government” will fall. Our officials know this, our army commanders know this and actually the world knows this. These Muslim armies simply can not operate as a unit and in a stand up army to army battle. There are too many factions to ever get a combined loyal force willing to trust each other soldier to soldier, or the brotherhood of warriors which is an essential component in any army.
We are finding this again in trying to form an army in Afghanistan. These men simply will not or can not fight as a united force. So, again the United States will find itself bogged down and with our troops dying in a lost cause with our troops leading and fighting the battle having the burden of trying to “pretend” that the Afghan troops are really in charge and leading. Also having the worry of having these Afghan troops at their backs so our troops are caught between two enemies: the Taliban in front and the unknown in back.
The solution is for the United States to get out of Iraq and the Afghanistan/Pakistan areas altogether and let the chips fall. Nothing dire will happen and the world will continue to turn on its axis and in a decade or so the situation will normalize, or “fall out” with the strongest thugs on top. Vietnam is the past we keep forgetting!
Scenes from this corner of the battlefield, observed over eight days by two New York Times journalists, suggest that the day when the Afghan Army will be well led and able to perform complex operations independently, rather than merely assist American missions, remains far off.
The effort to train the Afghan Army has long been troubled, with soldiers and officers repeatedly falling short. And yet after nearly a decade of American and European mentorship and many billions of dollars of American taxpayer investment, American and Afghan officials have portrayed the Afghan Army as the force out front in this important offensive against the Taliban.
In every engagement between the Taliban and one front-line American Marine unit, the operation has been led in almost every significant sense by American officers and troops. They organized the forces for battle, transported them in American vehicles and helicopters from Western-run bases into Taliban-held ground, and have been the primary fighting force each day.The Afghan National Army, or A.N.A., has participated. At the squad level it has been a source of effective, if modestly skilled, manpower. Its soldiers have shown courage and a willingness to fight. Afghan soldiers have also proved, as they have for years, to be more proficient than Americans at searching Afghan homes and identifying potential Taliban members — two tasks difficult for outsiders to perform.
By all other important measures, though — from transporting troops, directing them in battle and coordinating fire support to arranging modern communications, logistics, aviation and medical support — the mission in Marja has been a Marine operation conducted in the presence of fledgling Afghan Army units, whose officers and soldiers follow behind the Americans and do what they are told.
There have been ample examples in the offensive of weak Afghan leadership and poor discipline to boot.
In northern Marja, a platoon of Afghan soldiers landed with a reinforced Marine rifle company, Company K, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, which was inserted by American Army helicopters. The Marine officers and noncommissioned officers here quickly developed a mixed impression of the Afghan platoon, whose soldiers were distributed through their ranks.
After several days, no Marine officer had seen an Afghan use a map or plan a complicated patrol. In another indicator of marginal military readiness, the Afghan platoon had no weapons heavier than a machine gun or a rocket-propelled grenade.
Afghan officers organized no indirect fire support whatsoever in the week of fighting. All supporting fire for Company K — airstrikes, rockets, artillery and mortars — was coordinated by Marines. The Afghans also relied entirely on the American military for battlefield resupply.
Moreover, in multiple firefights in which Times journalists were present, many Afghan soldiers did not aim — they pointed their American-issued M-16 rifles in the rough direction of the incoming small-arms fire and pulled their triggers without putting rifle sights to their eyes. Their rifle muzzles were often elevated several degrees high.
Shouts from the Marines were common. “What you shooting at, Hoss?” one yelled during a long battle on the second day, as an Afghan pulled the trigger repeatedly and nonchalantly at nothing that was visible to anyone else.
I recall seeing a TV interview of one American soldier in Iraq and during the interview an Iranian soldier aimed his rifle at the sky and started shooting. The American soldier looked at the Iraqi soldier in disgust and made the statement,”I wish they would stop doing that. Those shells are going to come down somewhere.”
Shortfalls in the Afghan junior officer corps were starkly visible at times. On the third day of fighting, when Company K was short of water and food, the company command group walked to the eastern limit of its operations area to supervise two Marine platoons as they seized a bridge, and to arrange fire support. The group was ambushed twice en route, coming under small-arms fire from Taliban fighters hiding on the far side of a canal.
After the bridge was seized, Captain Biggers prepared his group for the walk back. Helicopters had dropped food and water near the bridge. He ordered his Marines and the Afghans to fill their packs with it and carry it to another platoon to the west that was nearly out of supplies.
The Marines loaded up. They would walk across the danger area again, this time laden with all the water and food they could carry. Captain Biggers asked the Afghan platoon commander, Capt. Amanullah, to have his men pack their share. He refused, though his own soldiers to the west were out of food, too.
Captain Biggers told the interpreter to put his position in more clear terms. “Tell him that if he doesn’t carry water and chow, he and his soldiers can’t have any of ours,” he said, his voice rising.
Captain Amanullah at last directed one or two of his soldiers to carry a sleeve of bottled water or a carton of rations — a small concession. The next day, the Afghan soldiers to the west complained that they had no more food and were hungry.
It was not the first time that Captain Amanullah’s sense of entitlement, and indifference toward his troops’ well-being, had manifested itself. The day before the helicopter assault, at Camp Leatherneck, the largest Marine base in Helmand Province, a Marine offered a can of Red Bull energy drink to an Afghan soldier in exchange for one of the patches on the soldier’s uniform.
Captain Amanullah, reclining on his cot, saw the deal struck. After the Afghan soldier had taken possession of his Red Bull, the captain ordered him to hand him the can. The captain opened it and took a long drink, then gave what was left to his lieutenant and sergeants, who each had a sip. The last sergeant handed the empty can back to the soldier, and ordered him to throw it away.
The Marines watched with mixed amusement and disgust. In their culture, the officers and senior enlisted Marines eat last. “So much for troop welfare,” one of them said.
Lackluster leadership took other forms. On Friday night, a week into the operation, Captain Biggers told the Afghan soldiers that they would accompany him the next day to a large meeting with local elders. In the morning, the Afghans were not ready.
The Marines stood impatiently, waiting while the forces that were said by the officials in Kabul to be leading the operation slowly mustered. Captain Biggers, by now used to the delays, muttered an acronym that might sum up a war now deep into its ninth year.
“W.O.A.,” he said. “Waiting on the A.N.A.”
This is life for American soldiers in Muslim countries. Our troops are dying for this! Our government and State Department don’t want the American people to know about these failures and cultural deficiencies. Our government panders to the false and disgusting “pride” of these so-called leaders.
It’s way past time to bring our soldiers home and let these people continue rotting in their part of the world. Our army should be used to secure our own borders and protect our own people. BB