It’s been a bit of a rough week here in Afghanistan, punctuated by at least one good thing: the first professional boxing match in Afghanistan in over 30 years.So that was a plus. Faryab…not so much of a plus.
In my weekly “5 Things I Learned on My Really Long Afghanistan Vacation” post, I mentioned that I’d be going into more detail how ISAF needs to accept some of the blame for what happened in Faryab recently. This … is part of the reason: being disconnected from the realities of this place means that we’ll never truly know how the war is going. But I’m pretty sure it’s not going as well as Upton says it is.
In Foreign Policy recently, Lt. Col. Stewart Upton, Public Affairs Officer for the USMC in Regional Command Southwest in Helmand, made the case that we’re actually winning in Afghanistan, and the reason that some rational observers think otherwise is because the media insists on reporting the bad news, and not reporting enough of the successes here in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Taliban, despite Upton’s assertions to the contrary, isn’t as active as he’d hoped in cyberspace, and didn’t get the memo. At least not in Trek Nawa. If you’ve never heard of Trek Nawa, you’re not alone.
It’s in the heartland of the Helmand insurgency, nestled next to Marjah, one of the districts that ISAF (the US-led coalition currently “winning” the war) consistently cites as one of its success stories in this still-restive part of Afghanistan. Not surprisingly, it isn’t mentioned in LTC Upton’s article, since Trek Nawa has been “cleared” of Taliban activity at least three times since 2010.
That’s right: in the heart of Helmand, where we’re “winning,” US Marines have been sent at least three different times to clear an area the size of a small Texas county. I admire Upton for his boundless optimism, and his willingness to define “winning” with a Sheen-esque disregard for the meaning of the word. But his assessment, while making Pollyanna proud, just doesn’t add up.
Beginning (for purposes of this article) in July of 2010, the Marines headed there to “root out insurgents,” which is PAO-speak for “end the war,” or at least get some pictures:
Marine leaders in Afghanistan plan to use 1st Recon to root out insurgents in several other areas surrounding Marjah this summer, said Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commander of 1st MarDiv Fwd., during a June 1 interview with Marine Corps Times in Afghanistan. Those areas include the Sistani Desert to the west of Marjah and Trek Nawa, a sprawling area to Marjah’s east filled farm compounds controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban has coordinating repeated attacks on Marine patrols from both areas.
They were still at it a couple of months later, driving the enemy “back on its heels“:
India Company, partnering with Afghan Army Soldiers from the 215th Corps, drove the enemy back on its heels, clearing a portion of Trek Nawa during Operation Mako, Sept. 21.
If the insurgents were ever “back on their heels,” they bounced back faster than one of those punching bag clowns. Or a Weeble.
Besides being terribly resilient, if those insurgents ran, they didn’t make like a flock of seagulls and run very far, since they were still using Trek Nawa as a haven a few months later, when the Marines attempted to leverage tribal differences to effect stability. This kind of tribal work is COIN-ese for “get people to stop shooting at Marines using unproven methods guided by less-than-knowledgeable contract employees.”
Read the rest at It’s Always Sunny In Kabul >
OR, CHECK OUT: The Attack On Camp Bastion Sends An Unmistakable Signal >
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