Afghanistan War- Operational deception or political hoodwink?
“I suggest the White House spokesman Jay Carney join the military and see what it’s like himself before he condemns our troops,” Last week, The Los Angeles Times posted graphic pictures taken by service members two years ago in an effort to disparage the troops. Predictably, the liberal politicos went bananas. White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, demonstrated his naiveté regarding the ugliness of war, and daily threats U.S. soldiers on patrol in Afghanistan (many are on third or fourth deployment) encounter each day by making the following comment.
“[The] conduct depicted in those photographs is reprehensible and does not in any way represent the high standards of the US military,” Carney woefully said aboard Air Force One. “The president certainly shares in the defense secretary’s opinion (Leon Panetta) that this should be investigated and those held responsible will be held accountable.
”Wow, military enlistees must feel completely appreciated by those in DC who travel first class, react with distain to a Los Angeles Times story that showed U.S. service members posing with body parts of a terrorist who just blew himself up trying to kill Americans two years ago, and gauge foreign policy by the political winds in the nation’s Capitol.Army LTC Ralph Peters (ret) angrily responded on Fox News. “I’m especially appalled that those in uniform, General [John R.] Allen, our commander in Afghanistan, just jumped to trash our troops.”
Here’s a news flash for those drinking martinis and smoking cigars in Washington DC, “War is hell.”
Far to often coverage of the Afghanistan War by U.S. journalists is strictly packaged by military leaders to propagandize the message “they” want ordinary Americans to read with their morning “cup of Joe.” The real stories are generally left in the “classified” reports. In other words, if the media wants continued access to military leaders in DC and Afghanistan, they must “sell” the story officials are feeding them.
Lucky for Americans there’s a new political wind blowing in the Pentagon and it’s in the form of bucking the military brass.
After a year stint in Afghanistan compiling the details, observing the successes and failures, Army Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Daniel Davis, discovered a stark difference in the news being reported to Americans and the reality on the ground. The Army Colonel did something few military leaders do—he broke his silence.
LTC Davis paints a different picture
LTC Davis is a 17-year Army veteran who served multiple tours in the Middle East and was tasked with information gathering on his most recent (and most likely final) tour to Afghanistan. He saw the troops on the ground achieving extraordinarily compassionate feats with the Afghan tribes, but acknowledged that most of the good work would be unraveled by the time with the next military unit that rotated into the region arrived.
After a year, 9,000 zigzagging miles in the tribal nation, LTC Davis began to assemble the puzzle pieces and what he learned was shocking. Once he arrived home to Washington, LTC Davis agonized about his sworn duties as a military officer and his compelling need to set the record straight. He decided to write two reports, one document archived “classified” details for Pentagon leadership, and the other included “unclassified” information detailing the conditions service members described to the colonel during his year long observations.
Up first, misinformation fed to Congress
LTC Davis highlighted four years of noteworthy statements made by General Petraeus that the fighting was “going to get worse before it gets better.” However, LTC Davis demonstrates the war “has only gotten worse, each and every year.”
Davis questioned the Afghanistan War military strategy and wondered when someone in a senior leadership position would demand an explanation as to why the casualties and violence have continue on the same arc of destruction and death that began in 2005. The annual deployment of thousands more troops, despite Petraeus’ claim made every year since 2008, things aren’t getting better. By using news stories and testimony from those in charge Davis compiled a litany of falsehoods fed to members of the media as well as Congress.
From The New York Times, October 1, 2008, U.S. General urges troop surge in Afghanistan. “After quoting General McKiernan as saying he needed another 10,000 troops, the article said, “McKiernan’s comments came after General David Petraeus, who is preparing to take up his new post to; head of the U.S. Central Command, said in an interview in London this week that he also expected the fight against the insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan to get worse before it gets better.”
The Boston Globe, April 22, 2009,Military Situation in Afghanistan will get worse, Petraeus says. Cambridge: “General David Petraeus, architect of the US military surge credited with dramatically reducing violence in Iraq, told a forum at the John F. Kennedy School of Government yesterday that the military situation in Afghanistan will probably deteriorate in the near term. ‘We do believe we can achieve progress, but it’s going to get worse before it gets better,’ said Petraeus, the leader of the US Central Command, which oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘When you got into the enemy’s sanctuaries, they will fight you for it. There will be tough months ahead, without question’ he said.”
General David H. Petraeus, Commander ISAF, Senate Armed Services Committee, June 29, 2010.During his confirmation hearing, General Petraeus said, “Recent months in Afghanistan have, as you noted, Mr. Chairman, seen tough fighting and tough casualties. This was expected. Indeed, as I noted in testimony last year and again earlier this year, the going inevitably gets tougher before it gets easier when a counterinsurgency operations tries to reverse insurgent momentum. My sense is that the tough fighting will continue; indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months. As we take away the enemy’s safe havens and reduce the enemy’s freedom of action, the insurgents will fight back.”
The Associated Press, March 9, 2011, with General David Petraeus, Petraeus Says Tough Summer Ahead. “Explaining that he has made progress since last year, the progress was ‘fragile and reversible.’ But in terms of expectations in the near term: As Taliban fighters start trying to take back southern strongholds during the traditional spring and summer fighting season, violence may spike considerably, he said. Many intelligence estimates say that it will be as violent or perhaps with even more violence than 2010, Petraeus said in an interview at his office in Kabul. They will come back in force. There is some concern that there will be sensational attacks that could be indiscriminate in nature,” he warned.
Further, during this year in command of ISAF General Petraeus frequently cited a number of Taliban senior leaders killed, sanctuaries taken away, capturing “birth places” of certain Taliban leaders, huge caches of weapons seized and its untold numbers of insurgent foot soldiers tiring of the fight, putting aside their weapons and reentering Afghan society. This was allegedly done during the same time when ISAF troops increased by almost 40,000 and Afghan troops and police increased by a reported 70,000.
Shortly before taking American’s top spy job, General David H. Petraeus testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on 15 March 2011 providing Congress with his update on the Afghanistan surge.
His opening statement read in part, “While the security progress achieved over the past year is significant, it is also fragile and reversible. Moreover, it is clear that much difficult work lies ahead with our Afghan partners to solidify and expand our gains in the face of the expected Taliban spring offensive. Nonetheless, the hard-fought achievements in 2010 and early in 2011 have enabled the Joint Afghan-NATO Transition Board to recommend initiation this spring of transition to Afghanistan lead in several provinces. The achievements of the past year are also very important as I prepare to provide options and a recommendation to President Obama for commencement of the drawdown of the U.S. surge forces in July. Of note, as well, the progress achieved has put us on the right azimuth to accomplish the objective agreed upon at last November’s Lisbon Summit, that of Afghan forces in the lead throughout the country by the end of 2014.”
After researching the U.S. military propaganda inside the beltway, Davis offered some theories of his own. “How is it, then, that with the addition of over 100,000 troops allied with the ISAF team and apparently significant reductions in the Taliban fighters, was there not a massive reduction in enemy attacks as we saw in 2007 Iraq? By any rational accounting, there ought to have been a significant drop of enemy capabilities. Instead they continued to increase their capability throughout the tenure of General Petraeus and have only started to slightly drop at the same time the number of American and Allied troops have begun to drop. If that hard-to-follow logic weren’t enough, there’s this; even though this massive infusion of troops has been proven incapable of bring the Taliban neither to its knees nor to the negotiating table with hat in hand? We now project we’re going to accomplish our objectives over the next three years as we remove all these combat troops who have been incapable of succeeding.”
Davis challenges the military leadership’s logic as optimistic at best and asinine at worst.
“You are being told to believe that the best of the combined armies of the Western World have proven incapable of beating the Taliban, that even the surge of almost 40,000 of them, equipped with the most modern arms and technology known to man will succeed after drawing down the troops?”
The next senior leadership assessment came in April 2011 from the DoD. “Since the last Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and its Afghan partners have made tangible progress, arresting the insurgents’ momentum in much of the country and reversing it in a number of important areas. The coalition’s efforts have wrested major safe havens from the insurgents’ control, disrupted their leadership networks, and removed many of the weapons caches and tactical supplies they left behind at the end of the previous fighting season. The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) continued to increase in quantity, quality, and capability, and have taken an ever-increasing role in security operations. Progress in governance and development was slower than security gains in this reporting period, but there were notable improvements nonetheless, particularly in the south and southwest. Over all, the progress across Afghanistan remains fragile and reversible, but the momentum generated over the last six months has established the necessary conditions for the commencement of the transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces in seven areas this summer.”
“I quantitatively demonstrate that much of the two public statements above are either misleading, significantly skewed or completely inaccurate,” LTC Davis asserts. “Also, I’ll demonstrate how this pattern of overt and substantive deception has become a hallmark of many of America’s most senior military leaders in Afghanistan.”
In his opening statement, General Stanley McChrystal, Commander ISAF told the Senate Armed Services Committee on December 8, 2009, the benefits of the new surge of troops: “We also have greater clarity on the way forward. Additional forces will begin to deploy shortly and by this time next year new specific indicators will illuminate security gains, and it will be clear to us that the insurgency has lost the momentum. By the summer of 2011 it will be clear to the Afghan people that the insurgency will not win, giving them the chance to side with their government.”
However, LTC Davis’ contends General McChrystal cited the rising violence statistics in the summer of 2009 as evidence that ISAF was in of danger losing the Afghanistan War. “ He suggests by the summer of 2011 – which has now passed – it would ‘be clear’ the insurgency had lost momentum. But in July 2009 when his assessment was made there were attacks, which represented an increase from 2008 – but a year later (July 2010) the violence had increased to (redacted) attacks. General Petraeus is warning now that July 2011 will be even higher. By any assessment, our situation has not improved.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael C. Mullen, also explained to the Senate Armed Services Committee in December 2, 2009 explaining why we needed to surge 30,000 troops: “Their (Taliban) fighters are better organized and better equipped than they were just 1 year ago. In fact, coalition forces experienced record-high violence this past summer, with insurgent attacks more than 60 percent above 2008 levels.”
However, Davis proves otherwise. “Interestingly, when Admiral Mullen made this statement, the violence in 2009 had increased 53 percent over 2008 levels. But one year later – a full year after surge forces went in – the violence in 2010 had increased over 2009 levels. Doubly important to point out is the very increase he cited was precisely in response to the previous troop increase, just as every year since 2005 the level of violence and troop casualties mirrors the increase in the number of troops. Yet when this exact same cycle continued on after this 2009 surge decision, it was claimed by all these same leaders that it was not an indication of increased insurgent capability, but merely the expected result of the surge troops, moving into areas where we hadn’t been before to ‘take away’ their safe havens.”
To put it even more simply, the more soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan equated to more targets for the insurgents.
92 percent of Afghans never heard of know 9/11
September of last year, the International Council on Security and Development (ICSD) reported some astonishing numbers concerning Afghanis on the ground in the tribal nation- 92 percent had no idea what the war was about and never heard of 9/11.
The ICSD study of 1,000 Afghan men was taken by the International Council on Security and Development in the Southern districts of Kandahar and Helmand to find out if Afghanis knew why they were fighting a war. A brief summary found that an overwhelming majority of respondents had no clue what 9/11 represented.
“The survey showed that nobody has bothered to actually explain to Afghans why British and U.S. soldiers are there,” said Norine MacDonald, president of the International Council on Security and Development. “There is a vacuum, and it’s being filled by Al Qaeda and Taliban propaganda claiming that we are here to destroy Islam.”
Another poll was conducted by the Department of Defense publication “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” on 28 April 2010. The executive summary (p.7) concluded that the Afghan population that supports its government is only 24 percent.
That sentiment is echoed in the United States.A recent CNN poll also reflects 75 percent of the American people do not support a sustained war effort in Afghanistan. “We cannot fight wars by polls,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta implored. “If we do that we’re in deep trouble. We have to operate based on what we believe is the best strategy to achieve the mission that we are embarked on. And the mission here is to safeguard our country by ensuring that the Taliban and al Qaeda never again find a safe haven in Afghanistan.”
This argument is markedly harder to defend with only 25 percent of Americans supporting the decade-long wars. However, the commitment to further military action takes more twisted turns since the recent Quran burnings and the alleged Afghan massacre by a U.S. soldier. Now, U.S. appointed Afghan President Hamid Karzai called American warriors murderers, demons, and demanded American soldiers return to their bases. (Reported in previous story)
In all probability, Davis says military leaders do not consider what they are saying, “to be lying,” but an effective part of military “Information Operations (IO)” is designed to protect the support of the American people for our troops.
An example of this is General Petraeus’ comments regarding iCasualties.org. “U.S. casualties from January to September 2010 were 4,155 killed and wounded, while the same frame in 2011 saw 4,662 U.S. troops killed or wounded; an increase of over 500. General Petraeus had claimed in his 10 July 2011 interview with Carlotta Gall that casualty rates were falling and that the insurgency had been ‘degraded somewhat.’ But my cursory examination of the publicly available casualty data reveals total US casualties were up, not down.”
Defense Secretary Panetta also publically told the troops in Afghanistan “that all the sacrifices made by those in uniform “were paying off and that we are moving in the right direction. We’re winning this very tough conflict.”
Where’s the moral outrage?
As the U.S. winds down its 10-year war, TV military pundits are using fiery rhetoric to describe leadership’s failure to lead American soldiers forward. Last week, Army Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters (ret) unleashed his fury on Fox News. “I’m furious. Not at the troops that did something dumb. But I’m furious at the moral cowardice of military leaders who never stick up for our troops but protect their own careers. The reflex action of our generals is always to leap out and say, oh ‘my gosh,’ our troops are so awful. They’re so wicked. This isn’t us. This isn’t us.The real scandal is that the establishment media leaps on another chance to trash our troops. The worst of the scandal is that our leaders in and out of uniform rush to condemn our troops. No explanation. No context.”
“The Greatest Generation sent Japanese skulls home to their girlfriends,” said Peters. “I’m not condoning it, but I’m trying to make the point that our soldiers out on the front line and our marines are under tremendous stresses. War is not a ladies auxiliary tea party, and it’s all too easy for people comfortable in Los Angeles, or New York or the White House to condemn the troops without context.”
Anytime a member of the uniformed American military makes a mistake, President Obama, Pentagon officials and the liberal media, condemns it. Where’s the outrage for America’s brave men and women who are brutally attacked by suicide bombers or IED attacks? Where’s the outrage for former Marine Iraq War veteran and Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder by drug smuggler ‘rip crews’ in Arizona?
“If our strategy and doctrine is so pathetically weak that it can be derailed, destroyed, shattered, by a few burning Koreans or a few photographs – the dead body parts of terrorists – well that’s not much of a strategy or doctrine,” Peters finished. (Link here)
The Middle East is mired in death, uncertainty, corruption and specifically no verifiable foreign policy mission moving forward. Considering the substantial blood and treasure expended by Americans would suggest that safety on U.S. soil could be guaranteed. Atlas, it doesn’t appear to be the case. An upcoming NATO summit in Chicago is forecasting violence and strongly advising residents to leave their homes (apartments located near the summit location).
Combine homeland security with an increasing international hostility from “so-called” partner in Afghanistan (President Karzai has renewed pressure for U.S. Allied troops to leave earlier than the planned 2014 withdrawal) and it’s no wonder an overwhelming number of Americans want American troops home.
At the end of the day however, the final military action will lie with the battlefield commander. It’s a grueling task, but great leaders weigh the risks against the objectives and rely on the conscience of his/her leadership and not yield to vainglorious impulses and political pressures.
The percolating tribal hostilities in Afghanistan and the politicization of military leaders in Washington DC are set to collide in the form of an angry U.S. citizenry in November. While politicians may worry about their livelihood, strong military leaders must not follow the path of least resistance. Extraordinary leaders encourage open discussion while thoughtfully weighing all wartime contingencies.
The last American General who became president, Dwight Eisenhower summed it up this way;
“Leadership cannot be exercised by the weak. It demands strength—the strength of this great nation when its people are united in purpose, united in a common fundamental faith, united in their readiness to work for human freedom and peace: this spiritual and economic strength, in turn, must be reinforced in a still armed world by the physical strength necessary for the defense of ourselves and our friends.”––GEN Dwight Eisenhower, Department of the Army PAMPHLET 360–50, August 1982.
Update: Army Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis will receive the Ridenhour Prize, which honors acts of truth telling that protect the public interest and illuminate a more just vision of society. The prize memorializes Ron Ridenhour, who blew the whistle on the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and went on to become an award-winning investigative journalist. He died in 1998 at the age of 52. LTC Davis will receive $10,000, and will be honored at the National Press Club in Washington DC on April 25th.
To read more about Afghanistan:
Afghanistan War lingers- military deception for political expediency (Link here)
Afghan War ain’t about hearts and minds- ‘just win baby’ (http://www.examiner.com/article/afghan-war-ain-t-about-hearts-and-minds-just-win-baby-1
Part five -http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/obama-begins-to-wind-down-the-costly-war-afghanistan-final-a-series
For more stories; http://www.examiner.com/homeland-security-in-national/kimberly-dvorak
© Copyright 2012 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.