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Started by peter_speckhard, August 16, 2021, 08:12:33 PM

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prsauer

#30
This has been a tough week for the military community that I serve.

It is interesting to read about perceptions of our purpose in Afghanistan here and to hear them in the media. I am not certain where the mission-creep of "nation building" came from. I believe President Biden's remarks last night were consistent with the remarks of President Bush upon our entry into Afghanistan. We were there to get those responsible for the 9-11 attacks (and the USS Cole and a few other terrorist attacks that used Taliban Afghanistan as a base) and those who harbored them. We were also there to prevent Afghanistan from being a place where terrorists could freely train and carry out attacks on the US and our allies. While the "civilization" gains made, particularly for women and girls, were important, they were never the central part of the mission.

When you understand what the mission actually was, it is both possible to judge it as a success and also to question why we felt the need to pull our remaining 2500 Soldiers and civilian contractors out of Afghanistan. Our war in Afghanistan ended in 2014 under Barak Obama. From that point on we served in an advisory and support role to the Afghani national government. Our troop numbers were minimal and our casualties each year since then could be counted in the dozens, with no fatalities in the last 12 months. The Afghani national government forces, by comparison, experienced over 40,000 deaths in that same time period. Our war was over. We were assisting the Afghani national government in sustainment operations by providing advising and air and material support. In return we had air bases that could be used to target terrorist groups and had access to on the ground intel. With the withdrawal of our remaining troops and contractors we lose both of those and are now in a far weaker position to combat terrorism and find ourselves as a nation in a place far more susceptible to terrorist attack. I am not certain the ongoing cost of our minimal presence in Afghanistan since 2014 was worth more than what will ultimately be the long term cost we face from not being there. We are still in Korea, Japan, Germany following wars decades ago and Somalia, Kenya, Iraq and a host of other nations where terrorism remains a threat.

I also bristle at criticism of the Afghani national forces. As I mentioned, they lost over 40,000 Soldiers in the last half-decade while fighting on behalf of their nation. It was not as if they all of a sudden became cowards. One of the great under-reported stories of this debacle is that the US not only pulled out our troops, we pulled out our civilian contractors. The Afghans who had been fighting with us for the last 20 years and leading the fight the last 7 had relied heavily on US superior air support, as they had been trained. With the removal of our contractors, many of whom whose job it was to keep the aircraft flying, we removed both the strategic air advantage the the Afghani's had over the Taliban, and left them to fight in a way that they had not trained. Given those factors the quickness of their collapse is not terribly surprising.

In the last few days I have prayed with many Solders who are devastated by what will ultimately happen to Afghanis who served at great personal risk to themselves and their families. I don't think this is what the 70% of Americans who wanted the withdrawal of our troops from Afghanistan envisioned.

I also have prayed with family members of our now 5000+ troops who have had to go back over there (more than we pulled out) to defend a public airport because we no longer have the two secure military airports that we gave up in the withdrawal.

Randy Bosch

Ὑμεῖς ἐστε τὸ ἅλας τῆς γῆς· ἐὰν δὲ τὸ ἅλας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται; εἰς οὐδὲν ἰσχύει ἔτι εἰ μὴ βληθὲν ἔξω καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

peter_speckhard

Quote from: prsauer on August 17, 2021, 06:36:03 PM

I also bristle at criticism of the Afghani national forces. As I mentioned, they lost over 40,000 Soldiers in the last half-decade while fighting on behalf of their nation. It was not as if they all of a sudden became cowards. One of the great under-reported stories of this debacle is that the US not only pulled out our troops, we pulled out our civilian contractors. The Afghans who had been fighting with us for the last 20 years and leading the fight the last 7 had relied heavily on US superior air support, as they had been trained. With the removal of our contractors, many of whom whose job it was to keep the aircraft flying, we removed both the strategic air advantage the the Afghani's had over the Taliban, and left them to fight in a way that they had not trained. Given those factors the quickness of their collapse is not terribly surprising.

I agree with the assessment that an army trained to operate with air superiority cannot be expected to survive for any length of time without it. But the problem is that what you are saying here in the part I've bolded goes squarely against the word of the generals, state department personnel, and the administration, all of which have expressed being terribly surprised by how quickly the Afghan army collapsed. How do we explain all the confident assurances that this wouldn't happen and all the expressions of shock and dismay that it did?   

James_Gale

Quote from: peter_speckhard on August 18, 2021, 03:44:51 PM
Quote from: prsauer on August 17, 2021, 06:36:03 PM

I also bristle at criticism of the Afghani national forces. As I mentioned, they lost over 40,000 Soldiers in the last half-decade while fighting on behalf of their nation. It was not as if they all of a sudden became cowards. One of the great under-reported stories of this debacle is that the US not only pulled out our troops, we pulled out our civilian contractors. The Afghans who had been fighting with us for the last 20 years and leading the fight the last 7 had relied heavily on US superior air support, as they had been trained. With the removal of our contractors, many of whom whose job it was to keep the aircraft flying, we removed both the strategic air advantage the the Afghani's had over the Taliban, and left them to fight in a way that they had not trained. Given those factors the quickness of their collapse is not terribly surprising.

I agree with the assessment that an army trained to operate with air superiority cannot be expected to survive for any length of time without it. But the problem is that what you are saying here in the part I've bolded goes squarely against the word of the generals, state department personnel, and the administration, all of which have expressed being terribly surprised by how quickly the Afghan army collapsed. How do we explain all the confident assurances that this wouldn't happen and all the expressions of shock and dismay that it did?


Take a look at the front page of today's WSJ. Military and intelligence officials reportedly did warn of the possibility of a very swift collapse. They recommended maintaining a small presence to prevent this. The president instead followed his own counsel. Some senior officials for political reasons have been trying to keep their comments consistent with the president's. But DOD and State Department officials with responsibility for Afghanistan were anything but surprised.

prsauer

Quote from: peter_speckhard on August 18, 2021, 03:44:51 PM
Quote from: prsauer on August 17, 2021, 06:36:03 PM

I also bristle at criticism of the Afghani national forces. As I mentioned, they lost over 40,000 Soldiers in the last half-decade while fighting on behalf of their nation. It was not as if they all of a sudden became cowards. One of the great under-reported stories of this debacle is that the US not only pulled out our troops, we pulled out our civilian contractors. The Afghans who had been fighting with us for the last 20 years and leading the fight the last 7 had relied heavily on US superior air support, as they had been trained. With the removal of our contractors, many of whom whose job it was to keep the aircraft flying, we removed both the strategic air advantage the the Afghani's had over the Taliban, and left them to fight in a way that they had not trained. Given those factors the quickness of their collapse is not terribly surprising.

I agree with the assessment that an army trained to operate with air superiority cannot be expected to survive for any length of time without it. But the problem is that what you are saying here in the part I've bolded goes squarely against the word of the generals, state department personnel, and the administration, all of which have expressed being terribly surprised by how quickly the Afghan army collapsed. How do we explain all the confident assurances that this wouldn't happen and all the expressions of shock and dismay that it did?

One possible explanation is that General Officers in today's military not only need to lead they need to be nimble politicians as well. There were unilateral decisions made at the executive level that went against the advice of our intelligence services and some of our GO. I haven't heard of many who favored pulling out of Afghanistan in the strategic way that it was done. Their reasons for not speaking more clearly or forcefully about their concerns remain their own and charity prevents me (though not a number of my Soldiers) from assigning motive.

peter_speckhard

Quote from: prsauer on August 18, 2021, 04:41:52 PM
Quote from: peter_speckhard on August 18, 2021, 03:44:51 PM
Quote from: prsauer on August 17, 2021, 06:36:03 PM

I also bristle at criticism of the Afghani national forces. As I mentioned, they lost over 40,000 Soldiers in the last half-decade while fighting on behalf of their nation. It was not as if they all of a sudden became cowards. One of the great under-reported stories of this debacle is that the US not only pulled out our troops, we pulled out our civilian contractors. The Afghans who had been fighting with us for the last 20 years and leading the fight the last 7 had relied heavily on US superior air support, as they had been trained. With the removal of our contractors, many of whom whose job it was to keep the aircraft flying, we removed both the strategic air advantage the the Afghani's had over the Taliban, and left them to fight in a way that they had not trained. Given those factors the quickness of their collapse is not terribly surprising.

I agree with the assessment that an army trained to operate with air superiority cannot be expected to survive for any length of time without it. But the problem is that what you are saying here in the part I've bolded goes squarely against the word of the generals, state department personnel, and the administration, all of which have expressed being terribly surprised by how quickly the Afghan army collapsed. How do we explain all the confident assurances that this wouldn't happen and all the expressions of shock and dismay that it did?

One possible explanation is that General Officers in today's military not only need to lead they need to be nimble politicians as well. There were unilateral decisions made at the executive level that went against the advice of our intelligence services and some of our GO. I haven't heard of many who favored pulling out of Afghanistan in the strategic way that it was done. Their reasons for not speaking more clearly or forcefully about their concerns remain their own and charity prevents me (though not a number of my Soldiers) from assigning motive.
Fair enough. But it remains true that most Americans really only have access to information by which to form an opinion based on media accounts. And as recently as few weeks ago experts were saying this wouldn't happen. The expert class might have their reasons for being disingenuous, but the general populace is rational, sane, and responsible to assume they're listening to propaganda. Yet many persist in seeing such people as crackpots, loonies, and dangerous extremists.

prsauer

#36
Quote from: peter_speckhard on August 18, 2021, 04:53:40 PM
Fair enough. But it remains true that most Americans really only have access to information by which to form an opinion based on media accounts. And as recently as few weeks ago experts were saying this wouldn't happen. The expert class might have their reasons for being disingenuous, but the general populace is rational, sane, and responsible to assume they're listening to propaganda. Yet many persist in seeing such people as crackpots, loonies, and dangerous extremists.

I don't disagree that most Americans form opinions based on the information they have. That is understandable.  What I was trying to express was frustration at the narrative that the Afghanis gave up on their own country, and the horrible implication (one that I know you did not make) that they somehow deserve the Taliban or wanted the Taliban.

Many of my Soldiers are now angry at our government because they appear to have abandoned the Afghanis who fought along side of them to what will likely be death for them and death or abuse for their families. It cuts to the core of Soldier identity that comrades are never left behind. Maybe our state department and the troops that are back on the ground will yet find a way to evacuate the 10s of thousands of our partners and their families that remain, but right now in my circles I am not hearing a lot of optimism. How we treat them impacts not only the confidence that our present and future allies have with us, but impacts the confidence that our own troops have in our government to do the right thing when things go wrong. It is hard to overstate how poor Soldier morale is right now among those who served in Afghanistan, and it is only partly about the question of "what did I go over there for".

James_Gale

Quote from: peter_speckhard on August 18, 2021, 04:53:40 PM
Quote from: prsauer on August 18, 2021, 04:41:52 PM
Quote from: peter_speckhard on August 18, 2021, 03:44:51 PM
Quote from: prsauer on August 17, 2021, 06:36:03 PM

I also bristle at criticism of the Afghani national forces. As I mentioned, they lost over 40,000 Soldiers in the last half-decade while fighting on behalf of their nation. It was not as if they all of a sudden became cowards. One of the great under-reported stories of this debacle is that the US not only pulled out our troops, we pulled out our civilian contractors. The Afghans who had been fighting with us for the last 20 years and leading the fight the last 7 had relied heavily on US superior air support, as they had been trained. With the removal of our contractors, many of whom whose job it was to keep the aircraft flying, we removed both the strategic air advantage the the Afghani's had over the Taliban, and left them to fight in a way that they had not trained. Given those factors the quickness of their collapse is not terribly surprising.

I agree with the assessment that an army trained to operate with air superiority cannot be expected to survive for any length of time without it. But the problem is that what you are saying here in the part I've bolded goes squarely against the word of the generals, state department personnel, and the administration, all of which have expressed being terribly surprised by how quickly the Afghan army collapsed. How do we explain all the confident assurances that this wouldn't happen and all the expressions of shock and dismay that it did?

One possible explanation is that General Officers in today's military not only need to lead they need to be nimble politicians as well. There were unilateral decisions made at the executive level that went against the advice of our intelligence services and some of our GO. I haven't heard of many who favored pulling out of Afghanistan in the strategic way that it was done. Their reasons for not speaking more clearly or forcefully about their concerns remain their own and charity prevents me (though not a number of my Soldiers) from assigning motive.
Fair enough. But it remains true that most Americans really only have access to information by which to form an opinion based on media accounts. And as recently as few weeks ago experts were saying this wouldn't happen. The expert class might have their reasons for being disingenuous, but the general populace is rational, sane, and responsible to assume they're listening to propaganda. Yet many persist in seeing such people as crackpots, loonies, and dangerous extremists.


I can assure you that the true expert class was terrified that precisely this kind of thing would happen.  Even those at the top of the various bureaucracies reportedly were telling the president that his approach was extremely risky.  Their public statements were much more guarded.  That, however, is because these "experts" have graduated to the political class, where a little varnish often goes on top of the truth. 

peter_speckhard

Quote from: prsauer on August 18, 2021, 05:32:51 PM
Quote from: peter_speckhard on August 18, 2021, 04:53:40 PM
Fair enough. But it remains true that most Americans really only have access to information by which to form an opinion based on media accounts. And as recently as few weeks ago experts were saying this wouldn't happen. The expert class might have their reasons for being disingenuous, but the general populace is rational, sane, and responsible to assume they're listening to propaganda. Yet many persist in seeing such people as crackpots, loonies, and dangerous extremists.

I don't disagree that most Americans form opinions based on the information they have. That is understandable.  What I was trying to express was frustration at the narrative that the Afghanis gave up on their own country, and the horrible implication (one that I know you did not make) that they somehow deserve the Taliban or wanted the Taliban.

Many of my Soldiers are now angry at our government because they appear to have abandoned Afghanis, who fought along side of them, to what will likely be death for them and death or abuse for their families. It cuts to the core of Soldier identity that comrades are never left behind. Maybe our state department and the troops that are back on the ground will yet find a way to evacuate the 10s of thousands of our partners and their families that remain, but right now in my circles I am not hearing a lot of optimism. How we treat them impacts not only the confidence that our present and future allies have with us, but impacts the confidence that our own troops have in our government to do the right thing when things go wrong. It is hard to overstate how poor Soldier morale is right now among those who served in Afghanistan, and it is only partly about the question of "what did I go over there for".
Agreed. I don't doubt you and amy others did not find what happened surprising. I wouldn't have known enough in advance any but the most general prediction, but the idea that the U.S. trained Afghan army failed because it was trained with our tactics, which rely on air support, and then we withdrew air support makes perfect sense to me. Like the point upstream about the Afghan president being corrupt and so forth-- these are known facets of such things, and there is no way our experts were really surprised. But they all say they were shocked, shocked at the collapse of the Afghan army.

My nephew served two tours as a Marine in Afghanistan and saw combat. I know his parents dealt with a lot of heartache when he was over there and the bullets were flying. I think he probably feels much like you do. It isn't the failure of the larger geopolitical goals but the betrayal/abandonment of allies that amounts to dishonor and is difficult to take. And, for conservatives, the almost complete loss of trust in once respected American institutions is tough to take. Ten or twenty years ago most conservatives would have nothing but respect for generals and would think the FBI and CIA were trustworthy and "the good guys." The complete betrayal of that trust by nearly every facet our government has left most conservatives feeling nothing but disgust for the institutions they once championed. It really is just a swamp.       

J. Thomas Shelley

https://anglicanchurch.net/a-call-to-prayer-from-archbishop-foley-beach-regarding-the-situation-in-afghanistan-haiti-and-the-ongoing-covid-19-pandemic/

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Like many of you, I have been soberly watching the situation unfolding in Afghanistan.   I know it has surfaced many emotions for people across the world, especially those who have personal connections with Afghanistan and the Afghan people.  Whether justified or unjustified, war is always a tragic consequence of the Fall.  While in war we can witness the greatness of human courage and selflessness, we also realize the depths of human sinfulness, as poet Robert Burns wrote, "man's inhumanity to man."

Please join me in prayer for the people of Afghanistan, those Afghans and Americans seeking safe passage out of the country, and those on the ground continuing to help.  Pray for wisdom for leaders at all levels who face very difficult decisions.  Pray for the ever-growing underground Church in Afghanistan.  Even more, pray that all Afghanis, especially those in power, are met by the Holy Spirit and come to personally know the risen Christ.  Please join me in prayer and fasting with special prayers in our worship services this coming Sunday.

I want to send a personal message to all the military, foreign service, civil service, contractors, missionaries, and aid workers, and their families, who have given so much of their blood, sweat, and tears in service to their nations and for the welfare of the Afghan people.  Know that your efforts are not in vain.  You selflessly answered the call to service, sacrificing many things, and risking your own life for others.   Many of you bear the scars, visible and invisible.  Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)  These words may resonate so deeply in your souls in a way that many will never understand because they are words that you have lived by.  However, our Lord knows.  He also bears the scars.  It is through His indescribable love for us that He gave His own life on the cross.  The things of this fallen world will disappoint us, but our God never will.  For those who are feeling burdened, please don't go through this alone.  Please contact your clergy or one of the many veterans' groups.  We love you and we thank you for all the things you have done.

Additionally, please offer up prayers for all those affected by the recent earthquake and tropical storms, especially those in Haiti, as well as the ongoing COVID pandemic.  The depth of suffering, loss, and heartache so many are experiencing at this time can only be met by the supernatural Presence of the Lord.

As the world seemingly darkens, remember that the Church is to be a light to the world, pointing to the One who is the Light of life.  Let us remain united together in Christ, as citizens of heaven, opposing the powers of darkness, and remembering what Saint Paul wrote: "For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

The Anglican Relief and Development Fund has begun raising funds for support for Afghan refugees and the people of Haiti. Donations for Afghan refugees can be made via this link: https://ardf.org/joseph-fund. Those who want to give towards Haiti should give via this link: https://ardf.org/relief-haiti-2021.

In Christ Jesus,





The Most Rev. Dr. Foley Beach
Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church in North America
Greek Orthodox Deacon - Ecumenical Patriarchate
Ordained to the Holy Diaconate Mary of Egypt Sunday A.D. 2022

Baptized, Confirmed, and Ordained United Methodist.
Served as a Lutheran Pastor October 31, 1989 - October 31, 2014.
Charter member of the first chapter of the Society of the Holy Trinity.

peter_speckhard

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/milley-denies-intel-warned-of-rapid-collapse-says-nobody-predicted-afghan-secuirty-would-evaporate

Case in point. Our own top military man, the highest ranking general, is basically reduced to playing Baghdad Bob and publicly shilling for an incompetent and failing regime with explanations that everyone can see in real time are not true. It doesn't pass the smell test. It is pathetic and frankly degrading to have the elite class we have. 

Daniel Lee Gard

Quote from: prsauer on August 18, 2021, 04:41:52 PM

One possible explanation is that General Officers in today's military not only need to lead they need to be nimble politicians as well. There were unilateral decisions made at the executive level that went against the advice of our intelligence services and some of our GO. I haven't heard of many who favored pulling out of Afghanistan in the strategic way that it was done. Their reasons for not speaking more clearly or forcefully about their concerns remain their own and charity prevents me (though not a number of my Soldiers) from assigning motive.

Having served as a Flag Officer I have seen the pressure that is placed on senior military leadership. They will give honest advice to the civilian authorities behind closed doors. But because the President is the Commander-in-Chief and the Pentagon civilians appointed by him represent the President, they cannot and will not be insubordinate privately or publicly. Do not expect the GOs and FOs to speak contrary to the elected President. You will not hear their own thoughts and opinions that they may have told the President.

The military of the United States has been and will be under the control of those elected by the people of the United States.

John_Hannah

#42
As far as I can tell, General Milley has said nothing that can be construed as deceit. He stated clearly that a rapid collapse was one scenario considered and planned against. He did specify that eleven days was a surprise to all. I don't know why that would be considered untrue.

Chaplain Gard is absolutely correct. The military from top to bottom will always be subservient to elected civilian officials.

Peace, JOHN
Pr. JOHN HANNAH, STS

peter_speckhard

Quote from: Daniel Lee Gard on August 18, 2021, 06:31:07 PM
Quote from: prsauer on August 18, 2021, 04:41:52 PM

One possible explanation is that General Officers in today's military not only need to lead they need to be nimble politicians as well. There were unilateral decisions made at the executive level that went against the advice of our intelligence services and some of our GO. I haven't heard of many who favored pulling out of Afghanistan in the strategic way that it was done. Their reasons for not speaking more clearly or forcefully about their concerns remain their own and charity prevents me (though not a number of my Soldiers) from assigning motive.

Having served as a Flag Officer I have seen the pressure that is placed on senior military leadership. They will give honest advice to the civilian authorities behind closed doors. But because the President is the Commander-in-Chief and the Pentagon civilians appointed by him represent the President, they cannot and will not be insubordinate privately or publicly. Do not expect the GOs and FOs to speak contrary to the elected President. You will not hear their own thoughts and opinions that they may have told the President.

The military of the United States has been and will be under the control of those elected by the people of the United States.
Except that I believe we've had officials brag that they misled the previous president about our troop levels in Syria, deliberately giving him the impression they were implementing his orders when in fact they were not. That couldn't happen without the cooperation of military leaders who presumably know how many troops are in their command and how many the president has told them should be in their command. To me, that is high treason. As you say, elected civilian control of our military is a bedrock principle. One can say this Afghanistan debacle is on Biden and the generals have to do what they're told, but the POTUS has built-in accountability in the form of elections. The voters can punish him if they want. Our military-industrial complex and bureaucratic state seems answerable to nobody, at least not in practical terms.

Maybe this is all on Biden, who disregarded all the input from advisors. But I have a really hard time believing that. Biden is visibly clueless, but no president would overrule everyone in the room on something like this. Any general worth his salt would resign rather than carry out his horrifyingly bad orders if indeed the general suspected this was what was going to happen. That would be a way of recognising the bedrock principle of civilian control and also retain honor. And it probably would have made the president change his mind. But that isn't what happened. Nobody said they'd rather resign than be responsible for this impending travesty. That tells me they didn't see it coming and are now saying they did or else they did it anyway to keep their jobs.

prsauer

Quote from: Daniel Lee Gard on August 18, 2021, 06:31:07 PM
Quote from: prsauer on August 18, 2021, 04:41:52 PM

One possible explanation is that General Officers in today's military not only need to lead they need to be nimble politicians as well. There were unilateral decisions made at the executive level that went against the advice of our intelligence services and some of our GO. I haven't heard of many who favored pulling out of Afghanistan in the strategic way that it was done. Their reasons for not speaking more clearly or forcefully about their concerns remain their own and charity prevents me (though not a number of my Soldiers) from assigning motive.

Having served as a Flag Officer I have seen the pressure that is placed on senior military leadership. They will give honest advice to the civilian authorities behind closed doors. But because the President is the Commander-in-Chief and the Pentagon civilians appointed by him represent the President, they cannot and will not be insubordinate privately or publicly. Do not expect the GOs and FOs to speak contrary to the elected President. You will not hear their own thoughts and opinions that they may have told the President.

The military of the United States has been and will be under the control of those elected by the people of the United States.

Thank you. You articulated more clearly the sentiment I was trying to provide. Of course, those who are at the lower echelons often don't place the best construction on that silence.

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