Monday, September 30, 2002
['I Yelled at Them to Stop' ]
Before last September, various Special Warfare units were often called overstaffed and underused, or redundant. On September 12th, it turned out we didn't have enough. Delta operators were being deployed all over the world, as well as at home, and every other special warfare unit in the United States was preparing to go war.
Now the effort in Afghanistan is stuck in the mud. Why? Quite a few reasons. Because of the secrecy surround some specwar units and their capabilities, military leadership is often out of touch with what they can offer. Until very recently, specwar units have been tasked primarily with supporting regional commanders directly, rather than operating on their own. A good example is from the Gulf War- General Schwartzkopf was openly hostile to the use of Special Forces troops on the ground in Kuwait and Iraq. Probably because of some of his experiences in Vietnam, he didn't trust SF to not scrrew up his operations and embarass him. During Desert Storm SF troops ended up doing everything from hunting scuds, running deep recon missions inside Iraq, to using their language skills to liason and train Arabic speaking troops that were part of the coalition. After the war Schwartzkopf praised SF, saying they "kept Israel out of the war".
So now in Afghanistan, which is of more immediate strategic value to the United States than Iraq, Iran, or Georgia, we have line-army people calling the shots. They've told SF soldiers to [shave their beards], grown to fit in with the locals (Afghan cultural norms dictate men have beards). They're basically being told not to do their jobs anymore, and that the Army doesn't care much about succeeding. Human intelligence sources in Afghanistan are drying up because actions like these, and the regular army's disrespect for Afghan customs, have destroyed the trust in the US that SF soldiers have built in Afghanistan. Special Forces soldiers were so well liked and respected that in one community, [locals tried to get an SF soldier elected as a tribal leader.]
During the 1990s, after such adventures as Operation Restore Hope and other "peacekeeping" missions, the US military bled it's career Non Commissioned Officers - the people who actually get things done. In any workplace, you'll find that most people just get in the way, or are just punching their ticket before moving on to a higher position - but there are always those few people who care about their jobs, provide leadership, guidance, and experience. Those people left the military during the 1990s, many of them after serving their country for 10 years or more. Now we have troops on the ground in Afghanistan, patrolling the skies of Iraq, almost all of whom have never served in combat before. That lack of experience could easily sabotage an effort to effect a "regime change" in Iraq, and is defintely a factor in the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.
[ 9/30/2002 02:38:00 PM ] [