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July 3, 2009
Civilians grow weary as U.S. ramps up battle against Taliban

The U.S. remains on the offensive against the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

On Friday, U.S. Marines pushed deeper into southern Afghanistan in the biggest offensive of the war. But many people there have already had enough of western attempts to rid the region of the Taliban, because so many of civilians have suffered the deadly consequences of the war.

In Pakistan, officials said two suspected U.S. missiles struck a training base and a hideout run by the head of the Taliban in South Waziristan. Officials said at least 15 people were killed 27 were wounded.

Marvin Weinbaum, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and former State Department analyst on Afghanistan and Pakistan, joins Martin Savidge to discuss┬áthe Pakistani and American campaigns against the Taliban and the battle for civilians’ hearts and minds.

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3 comments

#3

Nicely written Richard Pawloski.

I agree to the aspects of the fighting force you describe. I would be more willing to increase the death ratio of the enemy while potentially losing some small aircraft in the process. I hope we could make those losses UAV’s not pilots but that leads me to a point I hope you can provide more information on.

When the small, offensive fighting force with aerial support suddenly becomes a rescue mission for a pilot (Somalia) what do we do next? Politicians instantly get involved and the nature of things change fast.

What controls or policies does the military/government put in place, in advance, to minimize the risk of political interference getting in the way of a smart military decision. That may be the biggest worry, not actually getting the fighting force you describe. The UAV’s most certainly will be in the role you envision, we’re getting better at it every day, so it may not be an issue about losing or rescuing pilots.

Looking forward to your response.

#2

[…] discuss the U.S. offensive in Afghanistan, the American pullback in Iraq and unrest in Honduras following a military […]

#1

Professor Weinbaum is speaking from the common retoric of the times but he is not demonstrating any competence on counter-insurgency warfare. Suggesting that more forces on the ground is the solution for mis-matched air power is unfortunate and suggests to me that he has been drinking the bathwater of the whole legacy of the US military performance since the start of hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan over five years ago.

The battlespace (the grid) of Afghanistan (and prior in Iraq) is characterized by hundreds of small military unit activities that would signal the kinds of operations one must execute in a counterinsurgency. The take, hold, and build is the re-learned way to go and it does require the proper numbers of troops who are equipped with the kit and organization structure that makes small unit operations (Company and below as Gen Mattis now endorses)survivable and functional. But we do not have the proper close support air power that is now necessary to support these kinds of foot and vehicle patrols, outposts, road security, perimeter control, etc. These hundreds of actions undertaken by Squads and Platoons rarely if ever have the priority to have their own flight of attack helicopters or even a dedicated Predator so for the most part all of these actions go out on their own and at best they can “call in” artillery or “scramble” a flight of tactical fighters to counter any contact with the enemy. But that usually means they have already been attacked and taken casualties. Then when the tactical response arrives it usually finds that the enemy has drifted back into the civilian environment and use of large bombs or heavy weapons causes the dreaded collateral casualties that when manipulated by the enemy check-mates the very use of the fire support that these small units hoe for – net result – as seen on MSNBC the other night, units engage, generally become defensive (pinned down), forget fire discipline and essentially act as if we have learned nothing since Vietnam in small unit operations and why – because these key units – the ones directly engaged with the enemy on all kinds of “fronts” do not have their own dedicated fire support that remains with them in the third dimension for the duration of their mission. The manned platforms are their with the units and act as the FAC’s did from WWI to Vietnam, the become the eyes of the small unit and the difference to day is, this tyoe of “mudfighter” would also be a “shooter” to provide fire support right there in the scale required, that is small caliber guns with “spit-bursts” (small number of rds per trigger pull), very precise laser-dot sighting, and other very accurate weapons like non-kinetic rockets (metal spikes not explosives)and all the proper handheld communications and night vision aids (NVG’s/FLIR if necessary).

The point is the military, especially the Army, remains in a vertical organization dominated in action by the intelligence directorates and not the operational side because of all the high priced ISR and a top-down doctrine that all but ignores the needs from the real bottom-up. We have struggled with this for the past five years but the Army still resists the enabling of small units with the full-spectrum of capability to fight an insurgency in an offensive manner having the real-time fire support right with them. The enemy OODA loop (John Boyd) is in minutes and the typical US or NATO command decision cycle remains in hours, plus the precedence of what is done is based on intelligence priorities not the actual needs of the units engaged, hence everything that shoots has to go through a prioritization process and when it is delivered it is too much and too late – with that how can you win a fight.

The concept is called MAS (maneuver air support) and it differs from the traditional Close Air Support (CAS) by having a cheap durable manned platform with +light very precise weapons and sighting systems that leave with the ground units and stay with them as the FAC aircraft did in past wars. Older FAC’s were unarmed in most cases so the call-in time delays to get tactical fire support was not efficient until the armed OV-10 was tried. During Desert Storm the traditional FAC’s, including the OV-10’s, suffered from the massive ground fire put up but the organized Iraqi units and the result was that the idea was shelved as not survivable any more. This may be the case in traditional warfare but in counter-insurgency fighting the vertical presence of a trained aviator who can watch and coach the small unit commander directly without going through long delays of vertical command and then change in a second to a shooter under the control of the small unit commander is the way to go and has been non-existent from the services for so long now that the average soldiers and officers have no clue that this capability could be. We have lost thousands of troops and spent billions of treasure on so much of the wrong equipment that would help this new combat situation of small units dispersed amongst the area of operations within the collections or villages and tribes. The MAS aircraft include the tyes of light strong platforms know as agriculture spray or fire fighting aircraft, strong with quick acceleration at low altitude and a turn radius like a sport plane, well inside that of a tactical Apache helicopter that would allow a formation to always have one or more pointing at the enemy support the movement of the small units. Survivability at low altitude is based on low noise, low IR, incredible maneuverability, and rapid stop start acceleration with the ability to work below 500 feet with the small unit for hours at a clip and relieved by replacements coming from near by.

This is what is only now being considered which in itself demonstrates that the legions of Beltway “experts” were just playing to the failed doctrine and cuddling the high-tech marketing world for the ultimate of high-cost and irrelevant kit designed to serve the generals and then allocated to the troops in contact and not the other way around.

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