… From Ken
In some of the return e-mails, several have asked I not include or discuss the “un-pleasantries of war” in my “Dispatches”. To those kind souls, my advice is to simply delete all future e-mails from me.
Unfortunately, I am not in a pleasant place to accommodate such a request. The truth often is not pretty. It matters not how eloquently words are strung together, daily death and destruction is difficult to mask. I will try harder, but there is little in the few local Afghan merchants, third world mess hall workers, the barren landscape with its’
oppressive heat, the three separate species of birds [(1) mourning dove;
(2) black and white winged starling; (3) small body sparrow], the mice and rats, that are available to write nice things about. I promised myself to record what I have seen and not made-up fiction. I have
always believed, “to thy own self be true”.
Your’ Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force, and Coast Guard, our coalition partners, and the civilians, both DoD and contractors are doing a terrific job with their tasks. Never have I seen any of them appear weary in doing their duty. They are the doers of good and doers of the right thing. I have never seen them afraid or discouraged, only strong and courageous. Sure they bitch, but I remember the same grumbling heard during any deployment or any place I have ever worked or traveled. It would worry me more if I heard nothing. They all have and draw from an inner strength securely put in place before their arrival.
To each, it is different; as it should be. A life lived is determined by circumstance, luck, timing and your beliefs. Surely there are other qualifiers, but without the benefit of a glass or two of a fine ancient single malt whisky to stimulate the senses, those are enough. For me my inner strength comes from my absolute belief in God and His Son Jesus.
I believe in Them as much as I believe there is a United States Marine Corps. I make a sorry Christian but I learned early in life, “once you trust in the Lord, fear not what others can do unto you”. I was also taught that “a man’s true worth is what he has done to help others”.
Every day is a gift and you only are given so many. How you consume each daily gift is totally up to you. I promise you, a day does not pass without reflection on just how lucky I am to live in the day and time I do and to be blessed with the people I know and have known.
Sadly, I am confident my enemy believes in Allah as much as he believes in the Taliban. That is why I have to help and do all that I can to kill him. Negotiations, peaceful resolutions, let’s meet and sing “kume bye aye” are for the diplomats and politicians. God bless their work. A warrior’s work requires a more direct solution. I never liked it years back when I first read it, but now fully understand, “From the ashes of the vanquished, the victor is able to build unencumbered”.
Unfortunately, we will not see victory in Afghanistan. Also, the last I checked, we are not here to make Afghanistan the 51st state.
Counterinsurgency warfare or “COIN” operations is our current strategy.
Winning the hearts and minds of the people is a good thing. I am from the old school and new techniques come hard to me, especially when a “time line” is put in place and when reached; you declare “success” and leave. COIN will indeed work as long as the people you have “won over” feel protected and free from retribution of evil. I simply do not believe the Afghanistan military and police will be able to maintain good order and discipline throughout this miserable country once we and our coalition partners depart. My opinion and my opinion alone, their success will be short lived and “good order and discipline” is not going to happen. The evil that awaits the Afghan military, police and peoples still exists and patiently waits. My advice if asked by the Afghan military or their government would be simply what I was taught as a young Marine officer; successful warfare requires the identification of the enemy, massing all available weapons and firepower and then close with and destroy them. I would also recommend they concentrate their remaining time and efforts on mastering all fire support weapons and the ability to deliver accurate artillery and mortar fires whenever and wherever needed. I would include close air support (CAS) but Afghan air force does not exist.
You cannot blame the Taliban for their tactics. Even our forefathers shot from behind trees and harassed the British and with deadly accuracy. When combined with determination, luck and tenacity they overcame the odds of winning against the mightiest military of that time. The IED is the Taliban’s tree. And yes there are volumes written on what really caused the Colonial victory. However, I bet you, not facing a superior force on the grounds of their choosing, army against army, will be mentioned as a factor.
Daily routine has settled. I am up at 0330 and complete the causality report by 0700. If there are no US KIA’s, I decree that day as a good day. The report covers from midnight to midnight the day prior.
Unfortunately, someone has died every day for 41 days since I started this task. Whether US, Coalition, Afghan military, police, innocent civilians; someone has been killed due to this war. Compared to the bombing of London, Dresden, Tokyo of wars past, civilian causalities are very small. But to the family of the one killed, it is as tragic as it was back during any time period. The enemy also pays a toll. I read and write those reports too. I hate to say it, with each EKIA, the same glee that comes from catching, rolling and then crushing a Tsetse fly stirs within the black chamber of my heart. May the Lord forgive me.
For those who have never hunted in Africa: The Tsetse fly has a harden exoskeleton that when he bites you and you slap him as you would a mosquito; once your hand is removed, it flies away to bite again.
The rest of my day 2200+ is crunching data sent in from the outlying US and coalition commanders concerning their assessment of the Afghanistan military’s and police’s ability to maintain good order and discipline.
Make no mistake; it was 46 partner nations who took from the Taliban their position and influence in this country. Those nations are the same ones who trained and supplied the Afghan security forces. These newly trained units are holding their own in the “cat and mouse” campaign being conducted by the insurgents. I have observed, as soon as the “mouse” is recognized as a “rat”, the “cat” extends its lethal claws and calls in coalition fire support to neutralize the threat. The “rat” is quickly terminated but most often sent back into its hole. For those times, congratulations abound and medals issued. Once close air support and effective artillery have been taken out of the equation, it is easy to predict the future as well as outcome. The Afghan military and police may now own the nice shiny watch given to them by the coalition partners. Unfortunately, we all know, it is the Taliban who owns the time.
Oh look!!! There goes a little mouse scampering across the floor with a bit of cracker! Isn’t he cute? I will name him Marroof. What else do you want to know about that mouse?
CJTF-1, ID, CJ5 Assessments
Task Force Defender
Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan
APO, AE 09354