Photo: Dereliction of Duty II
Unlike government whisteblowers who have received hostile treatment from the Obama Administration — Peter Van Buren, Jesselyn Radack, John Kiriakou, Sibel Edmonds and Bradley Manning (to name a few) — a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army has written a damning indictment of America’s highest military officers and the Afghan war without losing his job or rank.Lt. Col. Daniel Davis published a candid 84-page report (via Rolling Stone) that is highly critical of the 2009 Afghan surge and the distortion of truth by senior ranking officials about the conditions on the ground in Afghanistan.
What distinguishes Davis’s account from those of most other whistleblowers is that it compellingly presents malfeasance without divulging any classified information (he did give a classified version of the report to members of Congress).
Davis has completed four combat deployments (Desert Storm, Afghanistan in 2005-06, Iraq in 2008-09 and Afghanistan in 2010-11) — placing him “in arguably the most significant Army programs of the past 15 years” — and is currently serving as a Regular Army officer in the armour Branch.
During his most recent Afghan deployment (November 2010 to October 2011), Davis covered 9,178 miles while conducting mounted and dismounted combat patrols with both conventional forces and Special Forces troops. He spoke with over 250 soldiers from the lowest ranking 19-year old private to brigade and division commanders as well as Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and a few village elders while participating in operations in almost every significant region of Afghanistan.
The report, titled “Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort,” explains how messages made by top U.S. military brass in public “have little to no correlation with actual events on the ground.”
From the report:
The general [themes that International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)] and US military leaders stress are: the Afghan government will be at least minimally capable by 2014 and is trending in that direction; the violence is waning in AFG specifically as a result of the surge; and the people recognise the way of the Taliban is a dead-end… None of those characterizations are accurate.
Davis cites a 2010 Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) report that examined the security situation in Afghanistan and stated their findings as “indisputable evidence that conditions are deteriorating.”
The NGO report — as well as a report by Anthony Cordesman on behalf of the centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) — noted that since four-star general and current CIA director David Petraeus became commander of the ISAF in June 2010, the ISAF denied the scale of the insurgency and the seriousness of its rise while issuing intelligence and other reports claiming success that did not exist.
Consequently, the NGO report advised personnel to ignore official accounts (“no matter how authoritative the source”) because “messages of the nature are solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal, and are not intended to offer an accurate portrayal of the situation for those who live and work here.”
Davis establishes the three key factors to success in the Afghan war — 1) Degrading the insurgency to the point where Afghan security forces to handle them alone; 2) Training the [Afghan National Security Forces ] to the point that they can handle the weakened insurgency; and 3) Ensuring that the Afghan government is minimally corrupt and sufficiently able to govern — and subsequently contrasts what our leaders have said in the media with numerous unclassified reports and personal observations that portray the brutal reality on the ground.
Regarding the state of the insurgency, Davis states that one only has to notice that U.S. casualties have increased with each successive increase of troops since violence began to rise in 2005.
The number of total U.S. casualties rose to its highest rate of the war in October 2011 — despite the infusion of 30,000 additional soldiers 18 months earlier — and only began to drop once 10,000 troops were withdrawn by the end of December 2011.
From the report:
Meaning, the issue wasn’t that the Taliban got stronger, the ANSF got weaker, or the Afghan government became even more corrupt – it was that as we inserted more US troops into Afghanistan we unwittingly provided the Taliban more targets to shoot at … more forward operating bases to fire rockets into; more dismounted patrols to ambush. When the number of troops increased, we saw a concurrent rise in the number of US casualties, insurgent attacks, and IED attacks to virtually the same percentage, in each and every case.
Even if the insurgency has been getting weaker over time (which Davis denies), Davis observed that “the Afghan forces were completely incapable of handling the job without U.S. presence.”
From the report:
What I saw first-hand, in virtually every circumstance, was a barely functioning organisation — often cooperating with the insurgent enemy – that was dramatically different than the progressing organisation depicted by the [Undersecretary of defence for Policy Michele Flournoy] in the March 2011 hearing.
He then offers two examples — the Pech Valley and the Tangi Valley — of situations in which U.S. troops would fight (and die) for a position only to be sent back because the ANSF either ran away or were totally unable to secure the positions without U.S. help.
As for the Afghan government, Davis notes that it continues to prove itself incapable of rising above corruption and has lost the trust of its own people.
He cites the newspaper Hasht-e Sobh, which reported that “the government which was created with America’s support has turned into the most corrupt government in Afghan history” and quoted former Deputy Minister of Interior Abdul Hadi Khaled as saying that his government was “sunk in corruption and taken over by mafia networks that is (sic) mainly held responsible for the dire situation in Afghanistan.”
Thus, when the main “issues are examined — particularly over a number of years — it becomes very difficult indeed to maintain that anything short of a continual deterioration of our mission has occurred, and continues to deteriorate through today. “
Davis ended the report by stating that it “is time – beyond time – for the evidence and facts to be considered in their comprehensive whole in a candid and honest public forum before we spend another man or woman’s life or limbs in Afghanistan.”
Here is Lt. Col. Davis on Democracy Now! explaining why he felt compelled to make the reports: