War on Terrorism

Monday, December 31, 2012

Panetta Praises Security Transition Progress in Afghanistan


American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta lauded Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s announcement that Afghanistan has entered the second to last stage of the transition of security responsibility from NATO’s International Security Assistance Force to Afghan security forces.

"It is another sign of steady progress that the Government of Afghanistan has announced the fourth tranche of the transition process,” Panetta said in a statement issued today.

Afghanistan's security transition is designed to take place in five tranches, or stages. The transition is in line with the plan set forth at the Lisbon summit, ISAF officials said in a news release issued today.

“I congratulate President Karzai, his national security team, and the Afghan National Security Forces for their commitment to taking even more of a lead role for the security of the Afghan people,” Panetta said.

As part of the fourth tranche, 12 Afghan provinces entered the security transition process, ISAF officials said. Afghanistan now has 23 of its 34 provinces entirely in the transition process. The provinces added in tranche four are primarily in the north and interior of the country, said officials, noting that one district in Helmand province is also included in the announcement.

“This step demonstrates the success of our strategy and the progress that the men and women of ISAF, working closely with our Afghan partners, are achieving every day in Afghanistan,” Panetta said.

"President Karzai's announcement of the fourth group of provinces to enter transition is another historic step for Afghanistan as it gets closer to taking full responsibility for security of the entire country," said Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

"With the addition of these 12 full provinces to the transition process, Afghan National Security Forces are now taking the security lead in areas where 87 percent of the Afghan people live," Allen said.

This is a strong indicator that Afghanistan is on the path to full self-governance, Panetta said.
“Going forward, our efforts in Afghanistan will continue to ensure that the Afghan people can secure and govern themselves, and to deny safe haven to al-Qaida. Today's announcement marks another major advance toward those goals," he said.

It is expected that all parts of Afghanistan will have begun transition by the summer of 2013, ISAF officials said, putting the Afghan forces in the lead for security nationwide.

Ambassador Maurits R. Jochems, NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, recognized that the progress made in professionalism and confidence by the Afghan National Security Forces has enabled the transition strategy to succeed.

Speaking about NATO and ISAF's commitment to Afghanistan, Jochems said, "ISAF will continue to support the Afghan National Security Forces until the end of 2014, and after that NATO and its partners remain committed to Afghanistan's future stability through a new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces."

Combined Force Arrests Taliban Leader


Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2012 – An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader and detained one other suspected insurgent during an operation in the Nad ‘Ali district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The arrested Taliban leader planned and coordinated improvised explosive device attacks and ambushes against Afghan and coalition forces, officials said.

In other Afghanistan operations today:
-- A combined force arrested a Haqqani leader in the Pul-e ‘Alam district of Logar province. The arrested Haqqani leader coordinated IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also facilitated the distribution of weapons, IEDs and suicide vests to insurgents.

-- A combined force arrested two suspected insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Andar district of Ghazni province. The sought-after Taliban leader commands a large number of insurgents and directs IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

In operations yesterday:
-- A combined force killed several armed insurgents in the Ghaziabad district of Kunar province.

-- In the Pul-e ‘Alam district of Logar province, a combined force arrested a Haqqani facilitator, detained one other suspect and seized some Afghan National Army uniforms. The arrested Haqqani facilitator supplied weapons and IED-making materials to insurgents. He is also linked to rocket, IED and direct-fire attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

And in a Dec. 29 operation, a combined force arrested two local Taliban leaders and detained one other suspect in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province. The arrested Taliban leaders provided IED-making materials to insurgents and conducted attacks in the district.

Army Casualty



The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Pfc. Markie T. Sims, 20, of Citra, Fla., died Dec. 29 in Panjwal, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.  He was assigned to the 38th Engineer Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, under control of the 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

For more information, media may contact I Corps Public Affairs, Joint Base Lewis-McChord at 253-208-0576.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Face of Defense: Military Brothers Meet for Christmas


By Air Force Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney
455th Air Expeditionary Wing

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Dec. 27, 2012 – Up until a few days ago, Air Force Staff Sgt. Derek Allen hadn't seen his brother, Army Cpl. Greg Allen, in more than three years. However, a twist of fate brought them together here for the Christmas holidays.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Staff Sgt. Derek Allen, right, and his brother, Army Cpl. Greg Allen, compare unit patches at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 23, 2012. The brothers spent the holidays together for the first time since 2009 after the A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft Derek maintains provided vital combat support for Greg and his fellow soldiers. U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jun Kim
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

"Both of us being here in [Afghanistan] is the closest we have ever been to each other since Thanksgiving 2009," said Derek, a 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron tactical aircraft maintenance craftsman, deployed from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.

As a teenager in Akron, Ohio, Derek said, he was driven to join the Air Force following 9/11.

"We took the path less traveled," Derek said of the choices he and his brother made to join the armed services.

Their parents, Charles and Melissa, said their eldest son's decision to join the Air Force was long planned.

"[Derek] knew well into his senior year," Melissa said. "He signed even before he graduated."

But while Derek chose the Air Force, his brother opted for the Army.

"He didn't want to be like his older brother," Derek said with a grin. "He wanted to blaze his own path."

Greg said his brother was one of the biggest supporters of his decision to join the Army.

Despite some good-natured ribbing about each other's chosen service, the Allen brothers say they have found the military has only strengthened their relationship despite their physical distance.

Recently, that special relationship was strengthened even further. Derek was able to look out for his younger brother without even realizing it at the time.

As a member of the A-10 Thunderbolt II phase inspection team here, Derek ensures that the A-10 aircraft are ready to execute their close-air support mission for troops in the field. One December day, two A-10s were providing air support when they received a call that a unit was under fire and needed overhead assistance. One aircraft made a pass over the area and got the call from the joint terminal attack controller that they needed some heavy fire. The aircraft dropped two 500-pound bombs, hitting the target; the hostile fire subsided.

Derek later found out the unit that needed assistance was part of the 101st Airborne Division and his brother was among the troops whose lives were safeguarded that day.

"When it comes to close-air support, the A-10 is the first thing you think of," Greg said. It was a tremendous confidence boost to watch the A-10 do its work, he added.

"That was a moment where I knew everyone was going to make it back," he said.

Soon afterward, Greg contacted his brother via Facebook asking him to thank the A-10 pilot. Derek said he has always taken pride in his work, but hearing the news of how the type of aircraft he prepares for flight helped to protect his brother increased that pride.

"It's not every day that an older brother truly gets to make sure that the skies over his little brother are safe,” he said. "To know my brother gets to come home to my niece and his wife is a great feeling.”

When the brothers’ respective leaders heard the story, they launched a successful effort to get them together for the holidays. When Greg arrived here, the time they’d spent apart seemed to disappear, the Allens said.

"It was literally like having seen him just yesterday," Derek said of his brother's arrival.

That came as good news to their parents.

"They don't want us to worry," Melissa said. "When we finally got the gist of what happened, we were like 'Oh, wow, those types of things really are going on.'"

Charles echoed his wife's feelings.

“Like any other parent you're always thinking about it but at the same time you aren't thinking about it,” he said.

For the time being, however, Melissa and her husband said they were thrilled at the thought of their boys spending Christmas together for the first time in years.

"It really is an awesome Christmas gift," she said. "They may not be with us and we're not with them, but at least they can be with each other."

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Airman Gets Presidential Christmas Call


By Air Force Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
451st Air Expeditionary Wing

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Dec. 26, 2012 – "Hello, President Obama? ... I'm great, how are you?"


Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Senior Airman Keshia Shutts receives a Christmas morning phone call from President Barack Obama while deployed at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2012. Obama called Shutts to wish her a Merry Christmas and thank her for her service. They talked about her 3-year-old daughter and her upcoming wedding. U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Tristan Hinderliter
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
So began the most memorable phone call of a six-month deployment for Air Force Senior Airman Keshia Shutts with the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron here, who received a Christmas morning phone call from President Barack Obama.

The commander in chief thanked Shutts for her service and asked if she had been able to talk to her 3-year old daughter, Sienna, back home in Angola, Ind. He also asked if Shutts, who is engaged, had set a date for her wedding ceremony.

"September 1, 2013," she replied. "You're more than welcome to attend our wedding."

Shutts, originally from Montpelier, Ohio, is deployed from the Ohio Air National Guard’s 121st Logistics Readiness Squadron, based at Rickenbacker International Airport in Columbus, Ohio.

She is nearing the end of a six-month deployment to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, where she has worked as an administrative assistant in the 451st ELRS command section for the last five months. She was nominated by her command to receive the call from the president in recognition of her outstanding performance.

"Airman Shutts conducts herself as a true quality airman," said Air Force Lt. Col. Manuel Perez, the 451st ELRS commander. "She demands perfection and professionalism and she really sets the example."

In addition to her official duties, Shutts volunteered at the Role 3 hospital, at the USO and as a victim advocate in the wing's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program. She also mentored 30 Afghan children at the Kandahar Bazaar School.

Volunteering at the hospital and working with the Afghan children have been two highlights of her deployment, Shutts said.

Since Shutts has been at KAF, she has also completed Airman Leadership School and is pursuing her second bachelor's degree, in nursing.

"For me, nominating her was a no-brainer," Perez said. "If I had to pick my No. 1 airman in the squadron it would be her."

Shutts, who has been selected for staff sergeant and will sew on her new chevrons next month, said it was an honor to be selected to receive the phone call from the president.

"It was awesome," she said of the call. "Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

New training facility opens in Guernsey

by Staff Sgt. Torri Savarese
90th Missile Wing Public Affairs


12/21/2012 - F. E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Almost ten years of joint effort and cooperation culminated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Nuclear Security Tactics Training Center in Guernsey, Wyo., Dec. 13.

The $4.2 million facility boasts 14,500 square feet of functional space for training classrooms and cadre offices, and has been something the leadership of the 20th Air Force has been hoping for since 2004.

"This facility has been a vision of Air Force nuclear leaders, as well as Wyoming state leaders, for years," said Maj. Gen. Michael J. Carey, 20th AF commander. "It was truly a joint effort between the town of Guernsey, the state of Wyoming and the Air Force to make that vision come to fruition."

Carey was the keynote speaker for the ceremony, and shared the honor of cutting the ribbon with Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, The Adjutant General of Wyoming, and Maj. Jay Parsons, 620th Ground Combat Training Squadron commander.

"The Air Force has always had a requirement to secure nuclear weapons, to ensure the safe and secure transport of these weapons and to deny any unauthorized access to secure areas," Carey said. "Camp Guernsey (Wyo.) is the only place in the world where this type of specialized training, to prepare security forces Airmen for that mission, takes place. This facility gives us the necessary infrastructure for both cadre and students to participate in professional training for nuclear security."

Carey expressed the importance of the 620th GCTS mission, both in training nuclear security forces Airmen, and Airmen who are preparing to deploy overseas for contingency operations.

"This allows more fielded forces to benefit from structured, focused training and further develop in-home squadron advanced training," Carey said.

The new facility increases the training capability by four times what it was before, Carey added. Instead of only 100 students able to receive training at one time, now 400 are able to train at Guernsey.

"We work hand-in-hand with Guernsey and the surrounding communities," Parsons said. "We do a lot for each other and having that relationship helps us all get a lot of things done."

He explained how the members of the 620th GCTS participate in everything local from parades to clean up to cattle branding.

"It really makes us a tighter group," he said.

Mr. Dave Lycan, 620th GCTS deputy commander, who has been involved in the project since the beginning, cited how beneficial the increased space will be for the 620th GCTS, as well as incoming students.

"We're not limited in class size, so we can have 150 students per classroom, allowing students to get all their classroom training before going out for the application piece," he explained. "This increases throughput, as well as gives us more room for staff and cadre."

The new facility adds to the existing 23,000 square-foot building the squadron inhabits on Camp Guernsey.

Carey, Parsons and Lycan all stated how good it was to see the project all come together, and how it could not have been completed without the joint efforts of local, state and Air Force leadership.

Along with his appreciation for the local community, Carey concluded his visit with a thank-you to the men and women who serve at Camp Guernsey every day.

"Thank you. I salute you, and I'm proud of you," he said.

Combined Force Arrests Taliban Leader

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Releases

WASHINGTON, Dec. 26, 2012 – An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a Taliban leader and detained one other suspected insurgent during an operation in the Now Zad district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The arrested Taliban leader coordinated and executed direct-fire and improvised explosive device attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the province.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- In the Dzadran district of Paktiya province, a combined force arrested a local Haqqani leader who was responsible for planning attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the district. The arrested Haqqani leader commanded a number of insurgents who constructed, transported and emplaced IEDs. The security force also detained one other suspect.

In Dec. 25 operations:
-- An Afghan-led security force of more than 1,000 soldiers and police killed multiple insurgents and detained dozens of suspects at the conclusion of a five-day coalition-supported operation in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province. The operation was conducted by the Provincial Response Company Laghman, along with elements of the Afghan Local Police, the Afghan Uniformed Police, and the Afghan National Army. The security force also seized IED-making materials, suicide vests, weapons, ammunition, and some illicit drugs.

-- In the Panjwa’i district of Kandahar province, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader who coordinated the distribution of weapons, ammunition and explosives for insurgents’ use in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also detained one other suspect.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban leader and detained one other suspect in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand province. The arrested Taliban leader coordinated direct-fire and IED attacks against Afghan government officials and Afghan and coalition forces.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban leader and a Taliban facilitator in the Rodat district of Nangarhar province. Both men were involved in planning the Dec. 2 attack on Jalalabad Airfield. They also organized and executed other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and were involved in the acquisition of vehicle-borne IEDs. The security force also detained several other suspects and seized weapons and ammunition.

-- A combined force arrested a Haqqani leader, detained three other suspects, and seized more than 1,300 pounds of illicit drugs, weapons and ammunition in the Jaji district of Paktiya province. The Haqqani leader directed multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also emplaced IEDs and organized the storage of insurgent weapons.

-- In the Andar district of Ghazni province, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader who commanded more than a dozen fighters in the district and planned and executed ambushes and IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also detained three other suspects.
In Dec. 24 operations:

-- A combined force killed the Taliban leader, Qadir, and three other insurgents in the Baghlan-e Jadid district of Baghlan province. Qadir commanded a group of insurgents who conducted IED attacks in the district. He was also responsible for the movement of weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials for insurgents in the province.

-- A combined force detained a Taliban leader in the Khanabad district of Kunduz province. The detained Taliban leader was involved in the planning of IED attacks on Afghanistan government officials and Afghan and coalition security forces. He was also a financial facilitator who coordinated funding to support the insurgency.

-- A combined force detained a Taliban leader and two other suspects in the Nad ‘Ali district of Helmand province. The detained Taliban leader commanded a direct-action cell within the Nad ‘Ali district. He also directed IED and other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban leader and detained one other suspect in the Jalalabad district of Nangarhar province. The arrested Taliban leader was directly involved in planning attacks on the Afghan government.

-- A combined force detained four insurgents seized firearms during a search for a Haqqani leader in the Musa Khel district of Khost province. The sought-after Haqqani leader is responsible for distributing, planning and conducting attacks against Afghan and coalition forces within the district.

In Dec. 23 operations:

-- A combined force killed Taliban leader, Obaidullah, in the Sherzad district of Nangarhar province. Obaidullah, also known as Saifullah, directed the Oct. 12 indirect-fire attack on Forward Operating Base Fenty. He was also responsible for laundering money to fund Taliban attacks against Afghan and coalition forces and facilitated the movement of weapons, ammunition and bomb-making materials throughout Nangarhar province.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban leader and seized weapons and ammunition in the Nad ‘Ali district of Helmand province. The arrested Taliban leader was in contact with senior Taliban leaders in the province and coordinated and conducted IED and other attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- In the Khanabad district of Kunduz province, a combined force arrested a Taliban leader and detained several other suspects. The arrested Taliban leader planned and executed IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also distributed IEDs to insurgents in the Khanabad and Kunduz districts.

-- In the Pul-e ‘Alam district of Logar province, a combined force arrested a Haqqani leader who coordinated attacks in the district. One other suspect was also detained.

-- A combined force detained a suspected insurgent during a search for a Taliban leader in the Hisarak district of Nangarhar province. The detained suspect allegedly laundered money used to fund attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- A combined force arrested a Haqqani leader and detained one other suspect in the Khost district of Khost province. The arrested Haqqani leader planned, facilitated and executed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the Pul-e ‘Alam district of Logar province. He also emplaced IEDs and directed the movement of Haqqani fighters.

-- A combined force detained two suspects during a search for a Haqqani leader in the Sharan district of Paktika province.

In Dec. 22 operations:

-- The Kabul Crisis Response Unit discovered a weapons and explosives cache during a coalition-supported operation in the Surobi district of Kabul province. This was the first mission planned and led by the CRU. The cache included 772 pounds of homemade explosives, other weapons and ammunition.

-- A combined force arrested a Taliban facilitator and detained one other suspect in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province. The arrested Taliban facilitator procured and transported homemade explosives, IEDs and other weapons for use in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

-- A combined force arrested a Haqqani leader, detained three other suspects and seized weapons and some Afghan National Security Force uniforms in the Jaji district of Paktiya province. The arrested Haqqani leader directed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the province.

In Dec. 21 operations:

-- A Taliban leader was arrested in the Tarnek wa Jaldak district, Zabul province. The arrested Taliban leader transported and delivered weapons and ammunition to insurgents operating in the Tarnek wa Jaldak and Qalat districts.

-- A combined force detained three suspects during a search for a Taliban leader in the Tarnek wa Jaldak district of Zabul province. The sought-after Taliban leader is responsible for planning and conducting IED and other attacks against Afghan government leaders and Afghan and coalition forces.

-- In the Achin district of Nangahar province, an Afghan-led, coalition-supported force detained two suspects and discovered a drug cache containing 882 pounds of opium and drug-processing equipment. The security force destroyed the drugs and equipment.

-- In the Sabari district of Khost province, a combined force arrested a Haqqani facilitator who procured and transported weapons, homemade explosives and IEDs for insurgents. The security force also detained three other suspects and seized weapons.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Real Benghazi Tragedy



       
Commentary by Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook, USA (ret.)

For weeks now, the Benghazi tragedy has been a major story in Washington.    It’s safe to say that now, most Americans are aware of what happened to our consulate there back in September.  Some points are no longer in dispute.  Four Americans died over a number of hours when the consulate was attacked multiple  times.  No rescue effort was launched in a timely matter that could have possibly saved them.  If this were a criminal trial, both the prosecution and defense would stipulate to these facts and move forward.  

However, this is Washington, where the favorite game is the blood sport of raw politics, where each side fires on the other with whatever ammunition is available, hoping to inflict serious casualties.  The Republicans accuse the administration of deliberately mischaracterizing the attack as spontaneous out of fear this would destroy President Obama’s carefully built narrative that it wasn’t terrorism.  As a result, the counterterrorism brain trust was not convened.  Neither was a rescue attempted.  The Democrats fired back quickly, accusing the Republicans of playing politics with national security and engaging in vicious, personal attacks against senior administration officials.  And so it goes, with each side firing volley after volley, not so much searching for the truth as the desire to cause damage.  Yet, somewhere between these polarized positions lies the real explanation of this tragedy since neither side has prevailed in this slugfest. 

Current body count stands at four, all from the Department of State.  Susan Rice is no longer a candidate for Secretary of State and three bureaucrats from Foggy Bottom were thrown under the bus.  All this was on the diplomatic side since the State Department was responsible for the consulate security and clearly, security was not up to standards. That will, no doubt, be addressed and corrected.   However, once the attack began, the situation quickly turned into a military issue if a rescue attempt was in the cards, and, at this point, the State Department was no longer a player.  Diplomats  are of little value in a fire fight under any circumstances.  In any event, these two issues must be separated and dealt with individually. 

The most troubling part of the Benghazi story was not that the consulate  was under protected. Rather,  it was the rescue attempt that never happened.  Why not? Aside from all the hype,  this has to be carefully examined in an objective manner, free of recrimination and personal attacks. This is where the postmortem should focus now, not the lack of security.   So why was no rescue mounted immediately?  I think Secretary of Defense Panetta gave an unwittingly  strong indicator back in late October when he told reporters, “The basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on, without having some real-time information about what’s taking place.”  He went on to explain that, under these conditions, forces simply could not be put at risk in this confused situation.  On it’s face, this explanation seemed quite reasonable and the reporters dutifully reported it.  And why not?  After all, this doctrine is practiced daily in official Washington.  No senior bureaucrat would dream of walking into a meeting or conference without knowing what’s on the agenda.  More importantly, is there a hidden agenda that could blow up in his face?  These people are very risk-adverse and they did not work their into the highest levels of government by being easily ambushed or blindsided.   This explains why important meetings are often cancelled on short notice and why some officials suddenly become ill.  We are all a product of our experience and, unfortunately, Mr. Panetta is no exception.  

Let’s give Mr. Panetta the benefit of the doubt and agree that he honestly believes this.  If he does believe it, then it exposes a serious misunderstanding of the military’s most basic reason to exist.  If we carried this  view to its logical conclusion, we would never deploy military forces anywhere because real-time information and ground truth are rarely available to the men leading the charge and what is available is usually wrong.  The men on the ground understand this reality and they accept it.  That’s why they are very good at adapting to rapid changes in a hostile environment.  They practice various scenarios and contingencies all the time because they know, whatever they are told, the situation they encounter will usually be different.  Of course, they have no political ambitions so they can focus on what they do best.  This is a cautionary tale that official Washington should take to heart.  This brutal fact is what separates line units in combat from bureaucrats in Washington. They are from two different cultures and this is what divides them.  Neither culture fully understands the other.

If this is truly what happened, then Mr. Panetta does deserve credit for thinking he was doing the right thing, but he is wrong this time.  It appears that he is taking responsibility for not responding to the frantic pleas for help once the attack started and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has provided him some cover.  However, both of these men were in Washington and they are the senior leaders of the Department of Defense, not the Department of State. We have every right to expect sterner stuff from these guys.  Had local ground commanders been given the mission, a rescue effort would have been launched immediately.  That’s how the system works.  It’s called the chain of command and, when used, it works with incredible efficiency.  However, in this case, it was obviously not even initiated because the Secretary of Defense was not convinced it would succeed. The truth is, no military operation has the luxury of guaranteed success, no matter how carefully planned or how critical.  There was no guarantee on May 6th, 1944 that we would be successful, yet no one called it off for fear of failure.   However, without making the effort, we can guarantee failure.  This is what leadership is about, what it has always been about. 

If we learn anything from Benghazi, it is this.  Even the Secretary of Defense must leave operational decisions to those commanders closest to the operation, not thousands of miles away and trust them, not second guess them.  Tell them what needs to be done, give them what they need. and leave them alone.  They can perform quite well without interference from Washington. In the meantime, Washington will, no doubt, continue to conduct its own kind of political warfare.  That will not change.  However, the military should be left out of these purely partisan food fights and not get chewed up in the process.  

About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, United States Army (Retired), “served as the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan, with responsibility for developing the force structure for the entire Afghan National Police.  As of 2012, this force totals 157,000.  From March 2008 until August 2012, his access and intimate associations with all levels of the Afghan government and coalition forces have provided him with an unprecedented insight into the policies which will determine the outcome of the war.  It is this insight, coupled with his contacts and associations throughout Afghanistan that form the basis of Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure.

Click to read more about Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook

New Milestone in the Afghan War



Commentary by Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook, USA (ret.)

The war in Afghanistan reached a new, and historic, milestone on Monday, the 24th of December, 2012.  It is ironic that this event happened on Christmas Eve, the holiest night in the Christian faith.  We may never know what possessed Sergeant Nargis, a female veteran of the Afghan National Police, to pick the day before Christmas to launch herself into the history of this tragic war, but there is no denying this is the day she became a historic figure.  

It was on this day that Sergeant Nargis pulled out her 9mm standard issue pistol and murdered an American advisor to the National Police in a police station in downtown Kabul at point blank range.  At that point, the mother of four became the first female member of the Afghan Security Forces to kill a coalition member in an insider attack, an all too common occurrence in Afghanistan today.  So far this year, sixty-one Americans have been killed in such attacks.  In 2011, the total killed was thirty-five. This trend is clearly going in the wrong direction.

Sergeant Nargis is not just an average female policeman; she belongs to the elite Gender Affairs Department within the National Police Headquarters, the single most important department fighting for the rights of women across Afghanistan.  This is the department the coalition likes to point to when discussing the progress we’re making there concerning women’s rights.  And this is the department that is at the forefront of recruiting more women into the National Police and breaking down the barriers that a male dominated society has put in place for centuries in an attempt to keep women in Afghanistan is a second class status. 
Since the growing alarm over insider attacks can no longer be ignored, the U.S. Army is developing a new handbook for the troops addressing this issue.  Being careful not to offend the Afghan government and President Karzai, this handbook will attempt to lay the blame for most insider attacks at the feet of the troops for not being sufficiently sensitive to the Afghan culture.  It will list a number of topics that the troops cannot discuss with their Afghan counterparts.  The list includes the treatment of women, homosexuality, bestiality, and pedophilia. Any discussion that could be considered offensive to Islam is to be avoided. 

This was the approach the coalition planned on pursuing, taking a politically correct stance and wrapping it in cultural sensitivity.  Of course, it required throwing Western cultures and values under the bus but the coalition was willing to pay that price. It also required the coalition to admit that practices not tolerated in the West were okay in Afghanistan as long as the “culture and tradition” blanket could be stretched to cover them. 

All of that changed on Christmas Eve and Sergeant Nargis has forced the coalition to develop a new paradigm to excuse what is happening there. No doubt, the coalition spin machine in Kabul is busy right now trying to mitigate this serious body blow to one of the key objectives we claim we are trying to achieve there, which is improving the deplorable state of the treatment of women.  However, the usual excuses of insider attacks will not wash in this case.  This attack did not occur in some remote outpost down range where a clash of cultures is often used to excuse such attacks.  This happened in the heart of Kabul, with no connection between the killer and the victim.  The only requirement was the victim had to be from the West. Any Westerner would do in this circumstance.  This incident will, no doubt, be investigated and a report will be written.  The National Police, the organization Sergeant Nargis belongs to, is changed with doing this.  However, a report is not necessary to know what happened. It’s fairly obvious that she was recruited by the Taliban who reminded her of her duty to conduct a jihad, or Holy War, against the West.  When one of the women we went there to help build a better life for her self and other women murders one of our advisors with a weapon we issued to her, and trained her to use, it’s over. At this point, it’s time to finally realize we have failed.  No more excuses, simply turn the lights out and come home.   We need no more milestones to understand this and, God knows, we have an abundance of tombstones. 

About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, United States Army (Retired), “served as the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan, with responsibility for developing the force structure for the entire Afghan National Police.  As of 2012, this force totals 157,000.  From March 2008 until August 2012, his access and intimate associations with all levels of the Afghan government and coalition forces have provided him with an unprecedented insight into the policies which will determine the outcome of the war.  It is this insight, coupled with his contacts and associations throughout Afghanistan that form the basis of Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure.

Click to read more about Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook