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Aug 31st, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Kandahar is not Fallujah
Sgt Jason Carter - DVIDS

Sgt Jason Carter - DVIDS

While Kandahar and Fallujah are both located at ancient crossroads of civilization, the cities could not be more different. Fallujah lies in the heart of the ancient Assyrian civilization while Kandahar has always skirted two ancient empires. Fallujah is made up of a compact, densely-populated middle-eastern urban center while Kandahar is spread out over many thousands of acres with a central urban center and hundreds of outlying villages, nestled in some of the most rugged terrain on the face of the earth.

If you think it was difficult isolating the Fallujah battlefield, it was easy compared to the challenges of cordoning Kandahar. Clearing Kandahar will be a momentous task. The International Security Assistance Forces and the Afghan Army and Police will have a very difficult time clearing and holding Kandahar.

In the fall of 2004, Coalition Forces isolated Fallujah and evacuated most of the population before sweeping into the city to clear every room of every house. Then, they cordoned the city and only let residents back in. ISAF has no hope of isolating the battlefield of Kandahar, we will have to work to clear the area and we will have to work among the population. The Taliban know this truth. They will continue to use the people as shields and they will try to illicit violence that will cause civilian deaths.

The coming operation to wrest control of Kandahar and its surrounding districts will be tricky. I expect to see a sudden increase in ISAF military presence, followed by an inkwell strategy of expanding the ISAF security zone. There will be no massive sweep through the area like the fight to free Fallujah. Instead, the Taliban will wake up one morning and American, Afghan and Canadian soldiers will be on their doorstep. And, once there – they will stay.

Taliban leaders will be targeted; rounded up or killed. The rank and file Taliban soldiers will be given a choice – fight and die or surrender and re-integrate into the Afghan society. Once the streets of Kandahar City, Zhari, Panjwaii, and Arghandab are secure, the real work will begin.

The people of southern Afghanistan have lived through almost continuing struggles for control of their land for centuries. The only thing that the tribal elders know is struggle and maneuvering for power. They have learned that when their schemes fail, violence rules supreme. It will take more than a generation to change this mindset. Once there is a modicum of security in Kandahar, ISAF will help to set the people on the right track to peace and prosperity. Attempting to impose the Federal government in Kabul on the people of southern Afghanistan will not work. We must build a brand new Afghanistan from the ground up, not from the top-down. Let us all pray that General Petraeus succeeds.

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Aug 28th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
There is a gathering storm in Kandahar

4734787723_bfdab412d2Step one in winning the war in Afghanistan is to protect the population from the Taliban. “Life is terrible,” said Muhammad Nazer, a farmer who calls the Kandahar suburb of Panjwaii home. “The Taliban want everything from us, food, money and help, and we cannot reject them.” He told a reporter from The Vancouver Sun.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has been working for months to slowly improve security in, and around, Kandahar City, the traditional home of the Taliban. There has been a rising tide of security over the last several weeks. ISAF has established a cordon around the city and has worked very hard to push the Taliban out of the Arghandab River Valley, northwest of the city.

Now, the coalition is preparing for the third phase of Operation Hamkari, the Dari word for co-operation. American, Canadian and Afghan troops are closing on Kandahar province. They are preparing the battlefield of Zhari and Panjawaii. They are conducting reconnaissance by fire patrols and rounding up suspected Taliban insurgents – 116 have been detained in the last week.

The Taliban know ISAF is coming. Many are fleeing the area, but some are digging in. The diehards are planting more IEDs and building fortifications and waiting for their final confrontation. Local villagers know we are coming too. Many are packing up their belongings and fleeing their homes as Canadian, U.S., and Afghan forces intensify a long-planned campaign against insurgents in the area.

Everyone in the coalition command would like nothing more than for the Taliban to slip away and not fight. For once the Taliban have released their grip on the people of Kandahar, the real job will begin. ISAF will stay in Arghandab, Zhari, Panjwaii and Kandahar City to provide continued security for the people of this vital region. Then, and only then, will they bring hope to the people for a better future.

When everyday Afghans like Muhammad Nazer know that their family is safe and that they can send their children to school and that they will have a better life the Taliban will be defeated. But, this will take years. There is no short-term solution in Afghanistan.

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Aug 19th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Operation New Dawn begins
New Dawn

New Dawn

American combat operations have ceased and our work in Iraq has shifted to a support role under a new operation name. Now, with the departure of the last combat battalion, the effort will change to Operation New Dawn.

When LTG Thomas Metz, CG of The Phantom Brigade, began preparations for the final fight to free Fallujah in 2004, he named the US military Operation – Phantom Fury. Generals Metz and Casey worked very hard to bring the Iraqi Army on board. They wanted the new Iraqi Army to become a partner in Operation Phantom Fury and to help bring peace and stability to Fallujah.

When the Iraqi Army made the commitment to participate, they assigned their own name to the Operation – Al Fajr or “The Dawn.” Al Fajr is a passage in the Koran. It speaks of wrongdoers returning to the graces of Allah and of a “New Dawn” of peace and enlightenment.

I could have easily named my book “The Dawn,” but I took literary license and used NEW DAWN. There has never been an operation named “New Dawn.” The 2004 attack on Fallujah was Operation al Fajr.

Earlier this year, after reading an advance copy of New Dawn, General David Petraeus requested that the name of America’s operations in Iraq be renamed. Today, the Iraqis are free to forge their own destiny and Operation Iraqi Freedom is over. Many wrongdoers have returned to the graces of Allah and there is a New Dawn of hope for the Iraqi people.

But, in the words of one of the 21st Century’s foremost experts in counterinsurgent warfare, David Kilcullen, ““In modern counterinsurgency, ‘victory’ may not be final…”

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Aug 13th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
The Screaming Eagles stand ready in Afghanistan

101st Airborne Division

All 20,000 soldiers of the entire 101st Airborne Division have deployed as part of the recent surge of forces to Afghanistan. The Screaming Eagles have had a short but honored history. The Division was one of two formed at the beginning of World War II by forward-thinking military planners who believed soldiers could be brought into battle by aircraft. Major General William C. Lee, the Father of the American Airborne, became the 101st Airborne Division’s first commander on 16 August 1942. Shortly thereafter he inaugurated the Division’s tradition in one of his first written General Orders:

The 101st…” he wrote, “has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny. Let me call your attention to the fact that our badge is the great American eagle. This is a fitting emblem for a division that will crush our enemies by falling upon them like a thunderbolt from the skies.”

The 101st’s first rendezvous was in the flooded fields of Normandy on June 6, 1944 when division pathfinders were the first Americans to set foot in occupied France. The Division’s paratroopers and glider soldiers distinguished themselves throughout the remainder of the war in Europe. Over the years, technology has changed their equipment, but not their role.

Today, the 101st Airborne Division is comprised of four Brigade Combat Teams, a Sustainment Brigade, a Special Troops Brigade and a Combat Aviation Brigade. It is arguably the most capable division in America’s army today, with unequaled strategic and tactical mobility, as well as theater- and national-level intelligence support.

Now in place, the Screaming Eagles have responsibility for the security in Eastern Afghanistan and in portions of Kandahar Province. The United States Army’s finest are ready for their next “rendezvous with destiny.”

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Aug 4th, 2010 by Richard Lowry
Finally, the truth about the Afghan Rules of Engagement
General David Petraeus

General David Petraeus

Picture a group of convicted murderers holed up in a house in your neighborhood. News helicopters are hovering overhead and your local police department has surrounded the house. The SWAT Team is preparing to enter the building to rescue your neighbors who are being held hostage.

The number one priority is the safety of the hostages. The police are equipped and trained to kill the criminals, but their goal is to rescue the home’s inhabitants. They are prepared to risk their own lives to rescue that family.

The Taliban are a group of murdering thugs and they are attempting to take an entire nation hostage. Think of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) as a giant SWAT team. They must protect the Afghan people to win this fight in Afghanistan and they too are risking their own lives to rescue a nation.

Today, ISAF released General Petraeus’ new guidance to his troops. He has reaffirmed that our troops may protect themselves while fighting to bring peace and security to the people of Afghanistan. Please take a moment to read his directive.

Once you have read the press release below, please take the time to read General Petraeus’ Guidance in full, he sent me the entire document and it indicates that we are in this fight to win. COMISAF’s COIN Guidance, 1Aug10

The updated directive is classified; unclassified portions of the document are included below.

“This directive applies to all ISAF and US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) forces operating under operational or tactical control … Subordinate commanders are not authorized to further restrict this guidance without my approval.

Our counterinsurgency strategy is achieving progress in the face of tough enemies and a number of other challenges.  Concentrating our efforts on protecting the population is having a significant effect.  We have increased security in some key areas, and we have reduced the number of civilian casualties caused by coalition forces.

The Afghan population is, in a number of areas, increasingly supportive of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and of coalition forces.  We have also seen support for the insurgency decrease in various areas as the number of insurgent-caused civilian casualties has risen dramatically.  We must build on this momentum.

This effort is a contest of wills.  Our enemies will do all that they can to shake our confidence and the confidence of the Afghan people.  In turn, we must continue to demonstrate our resolve to the enemy.  We will do so through our relentless pursuit of the Taliban and others who mean Afghanistan harm, through our compassion for the Afghan people, and through the example we provide to our Afghan partners.

We must continue – indeed, redouble – our efforts to reduce the loss of innocent civilian life to an absolute minimum.  Every Afghan civilian death diminishes our cause. If we use excessive force or operate contrary to our counterinsurgency principles, tactical victories may prove to be strategic setbacks.

We must never forget that the center of gravity in this struggle is the Afghan people; it is they who will ultimately determine the future of Afghanistan …

Prior to the use of fires, the commander approving the strike must determine that no civilians are present.  If unable to assess the risk of civilian presence, fires are prohibited, except under of the following two conditions (specific conditions deleted due to operational security; however, they have to do with the risk to ISAF and Afghan forces).

(NOTE) This directive, as with the previous version, does not prevent commanders from protecting the lives of their men and women as a matter of self-defense where it is determined no other options are available to effectively counter the threat.

… Protecting the Afghan people does require killing, capturing, or turning the insurgents.  Indeed, as I noted earlier, we must pursue the Taliban tenaciously.  But we must fight with great discipline and tactical patience.

We must balance our pursuit of the enemy with our efforts to minimize loss of innocent civilian life, and with our obligation to protect our troops.  Our forces have been striving to do that, and we will continue to do so.

In so doing, however, we must remember that it is a moral imperative both to protect Afghan civilians and to bring all assets to bear to protect our men and women in uniform and the Afghan security forces with whom we are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder when they are in a tough spot.

We must be consistent throughout the force in our application of this directive and our rules of engagement.  All commanders must reinforce the right and obligation of self-defense of coalition forces, of our Afghan partners, and of others as authorized by the rules of engagement.

We must train our forces to know and understand the rules of engagement and the intent of the tactical directive.  We must give our troopers the confidence to take all necessary actions when it matters most, while understanding the strategic consequences of civilian casualties.  Indeed, I expect our troopers to exert their best judgment according to the situation on the ground.  Beyond that, every Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine has my full support as we take the fight to the enemy.

… Partnering is how we operate.  Some civilian casualties result from a misunderstanding or ignorance of local customs and behaviors.  No individuals are more attuned to the Afghan culture than our Afghan partners.  Accordingly, it is essential that all operations be partnered with an ANSF unit and that our Afghan partners be part of the planning and execution phases.  Their presence will ensure greater situational awareness.  It will also serve to alleviate anxiety on the part of the local population and build confidence in Afghan security forces.

I expect every operation and patrol to be partnered.  If there are operational reasons why partnership is not possible for a particular operation, the CONOP approval authority must be informed …

Partnership is an essential aspect of our counterinsurgency strategy.  It is also an indispensible element of the transition of security responsibility to ANSF.

Again, we need to build on the momentum we are achieving.  I expect every trooper and commander to use force judiciously, especially in situations where civilians may be present.  At the same time, we must employ all assets to ensure our troopers’ safety, keeping in mind the importance of protecting the Afghan people as we do.

This is a critical challenge at a critical time; but we must and will succeed.  I expect that everyone under my command, operational and tactical, will not only adhere to the letter of this directive, but – more importantly – to its intent.

Strategic and operational commanders cannot anticipate every engagement.  We have no desire to undermine the judgment of tactical commanders.  However, that judgment should always be guided by my intent.  Take the fight to the enemy.  And protect the Afghan people and help our Afghan partners defeat the insurgency.”

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