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May 13

Written by: Diana West
Friday, May 13, 2011 5:09 AM 

The poppy harvest in A-stan is  in; is it time for Thanksgiving? Nah. It's IED-increase-time. As USA Today reports: "Pentagon expexts IED hits to rise"

From the story:

"We're at the front edge of the fighting season," said Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, who leads the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO). "The poppy harvest has been a little delayed this year. … The overall number of IED incidents will increase. As we know, we can safely say that."

Ironic adverb. We can "safely" say "IED incidents" will increase -- "incidents" that occur mainly because troops are under orders to walk the IED-laced roads and by-ways of Afghanistan. As the story reports:

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are the No.1 cause of fatalities and injuries to U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The devices have killed 657 U.S. troops and wounded 6,330 since the war began in 2001 through March of this year. Warmer weather and the end of the poppy harvest have generally heralded the beginning of the toughest combat in Afghanistan.

Foot patrols are a basic COIN tactic, a specfically stated point of "guidance" (order?) in Gen. Petraeues August 1, 2010 Counterinsurgency Guidance, as noted here. As Petraeus wrote:

Walk. Stop by, don't drive by. Patrol on foot whenever possible and engage the population. Take off your sunglasses. Situational awareness can be gained only by interacting face to face, not separated by ballistic glass or Oakleys.

COIN doctrine assumes that putting US forces out on the road, like walking, not sitting, ducks, is a means to "earn their [Afghan] trust." And "earning their trust" is the linchpin of COIN, and, thus, the linchpin of all US war and nation-building policy in Afghanistan.

It is a cracked linchpin, and it cries out Congressional attention. It is incumbent upon our US Representatives and Senators to investigate whether this tactic of IED-foot patrols -- and other COIN tactics including restrictive ROEs, payola, and reverence for the Koran -- are working. Even more important, it is incumbent upon Congress to investigate whether this strategy of "earning their trust" is working. It is time to bring in the generals and the secretary of defense to ask them some real questions for a big, fat change.    

Back to the USA Today story. Remember, we have learned to expect "IED incidents" to increase. Now, the general in charge of what is called the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) -- catchy acronym, that -- explains his mission:

Protecting troops from stepping on bombs has become the top priority, he said.

One quick way to protect them is to curtail if not cancel foot patrols while Congress investigates 1) their effectiveness as a tactic in the strategy of earning  Afghan trust; 2) the strategy of earning Afghan trust; 3)  what (the hell) "Afghan trust" actually means and 4) whether Uncle Sam should be spending $350 million every single day of the year to "earn" it.

But no.

The story continues:

Commanders favor foot patrols because of their effectiveness in building trust with locals while rooting out the Taliban.

Does the phrase "circular argument" come to mind? Certainly, the overriding issue -- the Western sickness of nation-building on the backs of the COIN-indoctrinated military-- is never confronted and we are left twirling around with palliatives: the "handheld mine detectors," "small drones," and "bomb-sniffing dogs" that are being "rushed to the front lines."

Dogs have become so vital to foot patrols that battalion commanders must sign off on operations that do not include them in their plans, he said. ...

Just wait until some village elder tells a US commander that, sorry, but dogs are "najis" (or regional equivalent) or "unclean" to Muslims: Bye-bye pooches.

The vast majority of IEDs in Afghanistan (84%) are powered by homemade explosives whose main ingredient is fertilizer, Barbero said. Virtually all of that comes from Pakistan, and it is "ubiquitous" in Afghanistan, he said.

The Pentagon, State Department and intelligence agencies have formed a task force to reduce the amounts entering Afghanistan, he said. The fertilizer ammonium nitrate already has been banned in Afghanistan.

Reducing the fertilizer supply is a worthwhile effort, said John Pike, director of Globalsecurity, a public policy organization focused on defense issues.

Because it takes a relatively small amount to make a bomb, the effort probably won't reduce the threat substantially, Pike said.

Good thing thing Uncle Sucker formed an Af-Pak-Pak-Af-Fertilizer-Reduction Joint Task Force (APPAFRJTF).

Instead, he said, establishing "persistent surveillance" of insurgents and areas where they might plant bombs shows the most promise....

Persistent surveillance of insurgents? How about establishing some oversight over our Pentagon?

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