Monday, January 27, 2020
May 14

Written by: Diana West
Monday, May 14, 2012 4:06 AM 

From today's New York Times, a story about Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the lone American POW in Afghanistan. We still don't know the circumstances under which he was captured in 2009, but we do know something about his outlook on the counterinsurgency (COIN) disaster as conceived and executed by Gens. Petraues and McChrystal under Presidents Bush and Obama.

From the story:

Sergeant Bergdahl was assigned to the First Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fourth Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, based at Fort Richardson, Alaska. He deployed as a machine gunner in early May 2009 to a small combat outpost in Paktika Province, at a time when American forces were extremely sparse in the area.

At first his e-mails home were effusive. “He was happy as a clam,” Mr. Bergdahl said. He wrote of “how beautiful it was, how wonderful the people were.”

But the tone of his son’s e-mails soon darkened, Mr. Bergdahl said, although he declined to say specifically what set off the change.

Mr. Bergdahl would say only that he himself had become disillusioned by the military’s doctrine of counterinsurgency, aimed at winning over the Afghan population by building roads, schools and good governance while protecting them from insurgents. As part of the strategy, American troops often travel on roads planted with homemade bombs, or improvised explosive devices, to meet with villagers during the day to collect information about their needs — and to ask the whereabouts of insurgents so they can target them in night raids.

Direct consequences of this COIN strategy here. This "strategy" is a scandal the House and Senate Armed Services Committee should/must investigate. There are many questions our commanders and strategists should be required to answer, beginning with how and why they call themselves professionals when they formulated war plans in the Islamic world without taking Islam into account? 

“The doctrine is fallacious,” Mr. Bergdahl said. “It doesn’t achieve what they say it’s going to achieve. It’s a biometric data-gathering device — send the rabbits out there to get I.E.D.-ed so you can figure out who to kill at night. How ethical.” His son, Mr. Bergdahl contended, was frustrated by what he saw.

Once upon a time, I would have advised against a Taliban/Gitmo prisoner swap for Bowe as a doctrinal compromise that undermined our position of "not negotiating with terrorists," and, more tangibly, also endangered the lives of other US and other NATO troops. There are no principles in operation in the Afghanistan fiasco; we negotiate with (and release) terrorists all the time. Nor are the lives of our troops anything but COIN fodder in the eyes of our generals desperately seeking vindication for their bankrupt strategy while our elected officials turn away from the terrible sight. In other words, soldiers such as Bowe Bergdahl are already in jeopardy from their own leaders, whether from being ordered to live and sleep alongside pre-murderous Afghan troops, or from being sent out like "rabbits" every day along the IED-seeded roads.

Bring Bowe home now -- and every one of his fellow soldiers in arms.

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Copyright 2012 by Diana West