Category Archives: NATO


GEN PetraeusWall Street Journal does a little chicken-egg on what Petraeus has managed in the last few weeks and what was McChrystal’s work. Basically counterinsurgency vs. counterterrorism, though it appears to be a fine, and disputed line. The upshot is WSJ reports a re-tooling is underway with greater emphasis on counterinsurgency, while the White House still wants to hold to its … cough ( political) hawk ptooie, excuse me … troop withdrawal deadline. WSJ figures Petraeus may manage to slow that a little, but not substantially delay halt or reverse. I thought this part was interesting:

Some in the White House advocate a pared-down approach that requires fewer troops and greater emphasis on drone attacks on insurgent leaders. These officials would like to see an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“Who’s that?” That is, sounds like that’s who that is.

During the Iraq surge, Gen. Petraeus proved adept at parrying suggestions for a rapid withdrawal and won time to show his strategy could work.

Since then, of course, the surrender enthusiasts got voted into the White House. Makes it more challenging. Especially when they see their political interest, which is to say their primary strategic goal, lying mainly in exit, not success.

People close to Gen. Petraeus said he is unlikely to try to persuade the Obama administration to back off its promise to begin drawing down troops in July 2011. But they do expect him to privately push for troops to be removed slowly, along a timetable that keeps a large force in Afghanistan.
“I think Gen. Petraeus will talk again about putting more time on the Washington clock,” said Peter Mansoor, who served as Gen. Petraeus’s executive officer in Iraq and is now a professor at the Ohio State University. “I think we have more time than we think in Afghanistan.”
An effective counterinsurgency strategy can take years, and it remains unclear whether Gen. Petraeus’ approach will work in Afghanistan, where volatile tribal politics, a lack of infrastructure and rudimentary local security forces pose significant challenges.

I don’t know. The first challenge is to make it work in a Democratic White House, where volatile partisan politics, a lack of experience and an at-best rudimentary grasp of security issues …. If anyone can, it’s Petraeus. Obama’s default choice to squelch military insubrdination, a sort of military bigfoot who may have the ability to prevent him and the rest of the current civilian leadership from losing this thing.

NYT, meanwhile, notes that the deadline strategy is a bit of a “double-edged sword.” Goes on to note that confidence is failing, pols and allies shuffling for the door, but fails to connect the dots. A deadline strategy is less of a double edged-sword than a self-fulfilling prophecy. When the leader of the free world has indicated he doesn’t particularly give a damn whether we win this thing or not, why should anyone else?

In other Afghan news:

NYT: Six Afghan police officers beheaded.

AFP: Women in northern Afghanistan retreat behind the veil in fear of Taliban revival.

Guardian: International aid conference underwhelms a jaded Afghan blogosphere.

This one’s interesting. AP:

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban denounced this week’s international conference on Afghanistan’s future, saying the “vague and terrible agenda” shows that the U.S. and its allies intend to abandon the country and blame their ultimate defeat on the Afghan government.

In a statement posted in English on their website, the Taliban said the conference showed that the U.S. “has lost the initiatives and is unable to resolve Afghanistan issue.” The statement was distributed to news organizations by the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors extremist communications.
“Whatever actions are taken in this regard have already been doomed to a failure,” the statement said. “It is evident from the vague and terrible agenda of the conference … that America and the international community intend to pull out of Afghanistan” and blame “all the coming destruction’s, humiliation and defeat on Kabul puppet regime,” meaning the Karzai administration.

Hate to agree with the Taliban on anything, but they might have a point. It almost looks like remarkable clarity of thought on the part of the AP, but rather than any re-tooling to question the Obama admin’s commitment to Afghanistan, they’re just parroting the Islamic extremist line, per normal. (Notable lack of any references to the Taliban’s “deeply unpopular” insurgency, its rising death toll, or its responsibility for thousands of civilian deaths, the kind of boilerplate usually bolted onto any war-related statements the AP takes issue with. After noting a Taliban success in divierting some flights, the article does get around to a BTW mention of some deaths, attributing some beheadings to non-specific insurgents, and the rest of the violence to NATO actions.)

Posted on 24 Jul 2010
Crossposted on

Photo: flickr/soldiermediacenter

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More on the Courageous Restraint Award

Jules Crittenden has more to say about the Courageous Restraint Award on his blog at In particular, he notes:

Given that there is nothing to bar higher command from recognizing truly heroic acts in defense of civilians, it raises the question of why they would want to expand that as a philosophy, to the point, the underlying discussions indicate, of commending soldiers who ignored dire threats and died.

Looking at the criteria for U.S. combat awards, honorees must distinguish themselves conspicuously with acts of courage and gallantry in action against the enemy, but there is no requirement that those acts result in piles of enemy bodies or a even single shot fired. Case in point, Wikipedia notes the first female recipients were four nurses for their actions evacuating a field hospital at Anzio in 1944.

While acts of courageous restraint may indeed be heroic or valorous, there are already a sizable number of military awards that could likely fit the bill, whether it is a Bronze Star or the Soldiers Medal, which under the guidelines set forth in AR 600-8-22 is “awarded to any person of the Armed Forces of the United States or of a friendly foreign nation who, while serving in any capacity with the Army of the United States, distinguished himself or herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy.”

Why the Courageous Restraint Award is a Bad Idea

Provincial Reconstruction Team NCOMy initial reaction in hearing that the Army is in the process of creating a “courageous restraint” award, an award given to soldiers who restrain from using force that could endanger innocent lives, was worry. By incentivizing soldiers to not defend themselves with force where it’s warranted increases the chances of them being killed themselves.

In these conflicts the enemy lives amongst the people making it incredibly difficult to discern them easily. The enemy already has and will inevitably continue to increasingly push soldiers’ limits, proving their knowledge of the inner-workings of our military, a fact that we too often underestimate.

It is my belief that the creation of an award for or using current awards for “courageous restraint” is entirely unnecessary and, moreover, that it will ultimately prove to be detrimental to our troops.

I see no harm in commanders unofficially recognizing soldiers within their command for restraining themselves from using brute force as a first course of action. I believe, in fact, that this would help boost morale.  However, solidifying these incentives within the official award system counters many of the ethos necessary for soldiers to have in order to effectively fight armed combatants.

One way to address the issue of using lethal versus non-lethal force is revising the rules of engagement (ROE) when the situation on the ground changes. It has been enormously effective in addressing soldiers’ actions and responses to non-combatants in the combat zone.

I know from personal experience that changes to the ROE are quickly disseminated to all units to ensure immediate compliance. Any changes that have been made recently and changes that still need to be made to the ROE should be taught and re-taught to all soldiers, emphasizing its importance as well as incorporating much more of these ‘restraint’ scenarios, where soldiers are faced with decisions between lethal and non-lethal force, into training.

While I would not argue that American lives are more important than any other, I would argue that it is our duty to do whatever we can to protect the American soldiers who are voluntarily putting themselves in harms way.  Incentivizing them to not protect themselves is not the answer.

photo: flickr/soldiermediacenter

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