Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Kabul's Child Sacrifice

It wasn't supposed to end like this. If in the early fall of 2001, just as we just finished OPERATION RHINO, someone at C5F put up a picture of a 10-yr old boy standing behind a group of five newborns, three 1-yer olds, three 2-yr olds, and a 4-yr old and told us, "We will take Kabul, and after 18-months without a single casualty, we will abandon everything. We will be allowed to go home only at the pleasure of the Taliban and after we sacrifice these 13-children and abandon hundreds of American citizens behind us as we leave in darkness, tens of billions of dollars of our equipment left as tribute in addition to our children." we would have thought you insane, sick, and someone off their medications. 

But we did, and there is a price.

In a defeat of choice in a complete collapse of competence at the most senior levels of our civilian and military leadership ... we did. In our panicked retreat we had our deadliest day in 11 years. Our Marines, Sailor and Soldier filled with their bodies the gap in intelligence, planning, and leadership by - what we are all told - are the very best, most credentialed from the finest institutions and selection processes to produce competent leaders for our nation of 330+ million souls.

They physically stepped in the the real world breach created by the wholesale failure of our intelligentsia and its rent seeking nomenklatura.

They did their job; everyone who they trusted with their lives in DC and Tampa did not.

That is the first lesson here; our self-described "best" that claim to be the ruling class are not our best. They are not good at their jobs. Their ideas are garbage. Their ethics are fetid to the core. Their morality sold for a farthing's worth of power, fame, and influence.

At the tactical level, from the C-17 aircrew to the leaders on the ground, they did the best they could with the ROE, restraints, and constraints that were put on them from DC. The American military from field grade officers to the 20-yr old E3s did an exceptional job - but there was only so much that could be done inside a structure of incompetence and politicized uniformed nomenklatura that we allowed to rise to the top over two decades. 

Those left in Kabul were never given time. They were never given honesty. The enemy knew this. We had to be right all the time, the enemy only lucky once. And so they were.

The world's self-described super power selected the wrong people for the wrong reasons using the wrong selection criteria through a culture with the wrong priorities. This cannot be argued. The evidence is right there to be seen by all.

And so, for two decades the products of the "best" universities, think tanks, and political organizations in what was once the world's greatest power brought us to the point where those kids and newborns of 2001 grew in to adulthood only to be killed on the alter of their leaders' hubris and lies.

We failed these young men and women in detail; we failed our nation and our friends at large.

Like other great American before them, these men and women - the children of 2001 - decided to serve their nation as they became adults. As many of their peers complained about how COVID might interfere with their getting a Rhodes scholarship or positioning for the right fellowship in their resume ... they enlisted to serve in the war they have known their whole life, and what in the end would be their entire life.

Here are the 13 we recognized last Friday.
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas 
- Marine Corps Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, Calif. 
- Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City 
- Army Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tenn. 
- Marine Corps Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, Calif.
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyo. 
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
- Marine Corps Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Neb. 
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, Calif. 
- Marine Corps Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Mass. 
- Marine Corps Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Ind. 
- Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Mo. 
- Navy Hospitalman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio
I know I am not blameless here. I've been blogging since 2004 and on a regular basis written of the fact I helped kick this off the first few months of 2001. I spent years later that decade on active duty in Europe, Tampa, and in Afghanistan studying, staffing, writing, and then trying to implement the Operational Plan to make this a success as one off many staff weenie worker bees that infested this failed enterprise. I was part of trying to make this work. I thought for awhile we could. At one time I was proud of what I did. I thought it was important and could be successful. I was wrong. I failed too. 

I owe the fathers of these men and women, men my age with kids the same age as mine - kids they now have to bury - an apology. I am so sorry. Words are inadequate from me. I cannot imagine your personal loss joining thousands of others who fell in the last two decades. Everyone deserved to have more than this to show for it. Again, here words fail me. I'm sorry. 

If Hannity is the only place who will let them speak their peace, then so be it. Here are but two of the fathers. You can hear the words of other family members elsewhere. I encourage you to find them and add links to them in the comments. I can't right now.

A monument to two things; to the steadfastness of the Afghan culture and the utter inadequacy of the elite of the United States of America. There's your photo.
A final note; the median age in Afghanistan is 18.4 years. Everyone to the left of that mark, and a few others, grew up under American occupation. Tens of thousands of Afghans fought and died for the promise we made to them. They and their families fell for our myth. Most of the Taliban who saw us off knew nothing but American and allied occupation, and yet they too became an antibody to our presence, and they defeated us through sheer force of will.

So, as Afghanistan falls in to shadow, hundreds to thousands of American citizens, green card holders, allied civilians, and our Afghan friends who we abandoned behind us will fear the dark. Waiting for footsteps to the door. Waiting for people who will never return home from errands. Wondering why no one will return calls and texts ... and wonder how they can escape back to the civilized world.

The fault, shame and humiliation is all ours; all red, white, and blue.

Own it.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Pentagon Leaders Need to Define their Pronouns

Why do people leak?

In the national security arena, there are broadly two kinds of leaks; 

- 1) the real dangerous ones that contain information that reveal sources and methods, or worse, put people in danger; 

- 2) the ones that simply provide evidence that an official position is a lie, or that someone who claims X happened when in reality Y happened … but there is nothing really “classified” about it that would put it in #1 above.

You also need to look at who (organization/company/reporter) is reporting them. That can give you a hint as to how accurate they are (yes kiddies, some people invent leaks) and perhaps the motivation of the leaker. Also, if you have a lot of faith in the reporter, you can usually have good faith in the leak. A good reporter will do their due diligence on their source, and also do not suffer being burned with bad leaks. Good sources don’t lie, but if their information proves false and the reporter feels it was intentional, then all agreements for confidentiality etc are no longer in play. Rules of the game, etc.

A leak reported to a highly partisan organization may or may not be as accurate as one reported by larger/mainline outlets. For one reason or another, a mainline organization may pass on reporting a leak or try to bury it outright. As such, the person who leaks it will find someone else who they think will be interested in it, or that they trust. In that case, it may be a partisan or smaller entity that reports the leak, but that does not make it any more or less true.

Why do people leak? There are on occasion people who leak for the best of reasons. They see a wrong that for moral reasons they cannot allow to go unknown. They may or may not have exhausted official means to redress their concerns. These people usually will leak to people they trust most, not those who they think will get the greatest initial bang. They will sleep better knowing the truth as they know it is out there and others can judge or act on it accordingly.

Other people leak for the most political of reasons, for personal gain, spite, or revenge. Many times, “leaks” are quasi-official from higher positions than the leaker for similar reasons. When a leak comes out of DC, even if it is 100% accurate from a reliable source, this is usually why there is a leak. 

And so, today’s story is from a leak. Though I have issues with parts of Politico, I have confidence in Lara Seligman. As such, her exclusive today passes my first filter. Why leaked? I’ll let you ponder that, but it reads right.

This account of the internal conversations among top Pentagon leaders in the hours leading up to Thursday’s attack at the airport is based on classified notes from three separate calls provided to POLITICO and interviews with two defense officials with direct knowledge of the calls. 

Let’s dive it;

During the meeting, Gen. Mark Milley, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned of “significant” intelligence indicating that the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate, ISIS-K, was planning a “complex attack,” the notes quoted him as saying.

Commanders calling in from Kabul relayed that the Abbey Gate, where American citizens had been told to gather in order to gain entrance to the airport, was “highest risk,” and detailed their plans to protect the airport.

“I don’t believe people get the incredible amount of risk on the ground,” Austin said, according to the classified notes.

Define "people" here. Who the people Austin is referring to will point you to the critical players in this whole-of-government failure.
On a separate call at 4 that afternoon, or 12:30 a.m. on Thursday in Kabul, the commanders detailed a plan to close Abbey Gate by Thursday afternoon Kabul time. But the Americans decided to keep the gate open longer than they wanted in order to allow their British allies, who had accelerated their withdrawal timeline, to continue evacuating their personnel, based at the nearby Baron Hotel.

Define "the commanders" and "they" in the above paragraph. Again, as above, that answer will define exactly what we are looking at.

A little side note: the above pull quote and a few other parts of the leaked were picked up by some as an attempt to put some of the blame on the British.  No serious person is in any place to throw shade at the British forces with us. No one. Anyone who does is either grossly ignorant, a bad actor in the extreme, or simply a sociopath. Anyone who served with the British in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere the last few decades, I believe, feels the same. 

That smear can stop right here, right now. I won't hear it.

Rear Adm. Peter Vasely, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, and Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, called in from the Kabul airport to detail threats to three airport gates, where U.S. troops were moving in Americans and Afghans slated for evacuation. Along with Abbey Gate, the South and West Gates were also under threat, they said, according to the written notes of the call, which did not identify which of the two was speaking.

He's not wrong. When you're surrounded, the threat is everywhere.

According to the notes, Vasely and Donahue discussed how the Taliban were undertaking additional security measures and pushing back the crowds outside the airport due to the threat. Throughout the evacuation effort, the Taliban have instituted curfews and expanded the security perimeter around the airport in an effort to help the Americans increase security, the defense official said.

Underscores that we can only exist due to the mercy and good graces of the Taliban. Yes, I said it ... again. Those are simply the facts on the ground.

But the military leaders on the call expressed frustration with the Taliban’s persistent lack of cooperation, noting that militants were turning potential evacuees away at the gates.

They owe us nothing and will only do what pleases them to their benefit, just as we would in their position. 

The team had “frequent and constant communications with the Taliban” multiple times a day to try to resolve issues as they cropped up, the defense official told POLITICO. “Many times they were successful, but that doesn’t mean that in subsequent hours or days we wouldn’t have a similar problem pop up again.”

OK, the Taliban "watch floor" has a poor turnover folder that is not as well managed as ours ... or perhaps it is?

Austin once again expressed his alarm about the imminent attack.

“We probably ought to listen when you have a former [Joint Special Operations Command] and SEAL commander on the ground saying it’s high risk,” 

Who, exactly, was not listening to the hydrologist saying that water is wet? Who?

(McKenzie)  predicted the militants would be less willing to help the U.S. military effort the longer they stayed in Kabul, even as the threat from ISIS-K increased. The Taliban and ISIS-K are sworn enemies and defense officials have repeatedly said they have no reason to believe the two groups are collaborating.

I may outline this larger issue in a later post. There is a cultural history here to understand.

“The ability of [the Taliban] to protect us and assist in pursuing [American citizens] and other groups — that willingness will decay, and we’re seeing leading edge indicators of that today,” McKenzie said on the Wednesday morning call. “We do need the agreement of the [Taliban] to pursue our principal objectives of getting out [American citizens] and other priority groups.”

Yes, we are here. Read the above to see the absolute state of the US military in 2021. This is a defeat of choice and fewer paragraphs are written that better outlines our national humiliation begat by this cohort of senior leaders.

“We’re not going to get everyone out. We’ll get 90-95 percent,” McKenzie said.

So, I guess we are now a nation that intentionally leaves our people behind. Put that on a streamer to add to CENTCOM's flag.

 “History will judge us by those final images,” Kahl warned, according to the call notes.

Oh, yes. Colin Kahl. One of The Smartest People in the Room™. Just look at that CV ... and look what it brought us to. You hear me say now and then, especially on twitter, that we "need new elites." 

There you go.

Leaders had already discussed with the Taliban additional security measures outside the gates, Vasely said, and planned to have Abbey Gate closed by Thursday afternoon, Kabul time.

But Abbey Gate was not closed on schedule. British forces had accelerated their drawdown from the Baron Hotel just a few hundred yards away, their main hub for evacuating U.K. personnel, and the Americans had to keep the gate open to allow the U.K. evacuees into the airport, Vasely said.

As we should have. It was our fault that our best and most loyal ally was in a pinch. The responsibility was ours. Any fault is ours. Any deaths are on us and our leadership. Full stop.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

The US Navy's Unmanned Programs, with CAPT Captain Pete Small, USN - on Midrats

While a lot of the attention in unmanned systems the last two decades has been in the air, significant developments on and under the surface of the oceans were happening in parallel.

From small mine hunting unmanned surface vessels and the development of the Large Unmanned Surface Vessel above the seas, to unmanned systems the size of lightweight torpedoes to midget submarines below the surface, unmanned maritime systems capabilities are growing each year.

With each incremental advance in engineering automation to autonomous operations, their utility from maritime security to war fighting increases as well.

For the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern our guest to discuss the potential of unmanned platforms will be Captain Pete Small, USN, Program Manager for Unmanned Maritime Systems (PMS 406) in PEO Unmanned and Small Combatants.

A submariner by trade, CAPT Small has led PMS 406 since 2018 after multiple tours on submarines at sea, and ashore as an instructor, and leading program management and development.

He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Virginia as well as earning a Master of Science Degree in Operations Research in 2002 from Columbia University and a Master of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Naval Engineer Degree in 2005 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here. You can find us on almost all your most popular podcast aggregators as well.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Fullbore Friday

When you read military history, you read all the time about "fighting retreats" and "rear guard actions" and with few exceptions, that is about the only mention they get, maybe a paragraph or two. That rarely does justice to the incredible sacrifice a few knowingly make to help save the many.

Those ordered to be the rear guard, or to execute a holding action, know exactly what they are being asked to do - and yet they do it willingly through good discipline or simply duty. Often they are not even ordered to do it, local commanders see the need, know commander's intent, and do it.

There are some well known events, Napoleon's Dutch engineers at Berezina is one, and for the maritime crowd Taffy-3 - but mostly they are footnotes.

I didn't know until this AM what we needed for today's FbF, and then on my commute in, it came to me clear as day.

Ten Marines and at least one Navy hospital corpsman are among the 13 U.S. troops dead following the two suicide bomb attacks on crowds struggling to get into the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday, USNI News has learned.

Eighteen U.S. service members were wounded and an unknown number of Afghans were killed and wounded in an attack believed to have been perpetrated by ISIS Khorasan. The military believes a suicide bomb was detonated near the Abbey gate at HKIA and another bomb – which it doesn’t have much information about – was detonated near the Baron Hotel by the airport, U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Frank McKenzie told reporters today at a Pentagon briefing.

Abbey Gate. This is where they were. This was their mission. Yes, “we” are doing an evacuation, but they are conducting the holding action to enable it:

This has been a numbing couple of weeks, but anything I or anyone else is feeling is nothing compared to the few thousands who are in AFG right now giving everything they can to salvage as honorable a departure as possible from this national humiliation.

To get a few ideas what they were doing before the attack, here is a series of short videos from the day prior.

We will know their names and see their faces over the next few days, but it could have been anyone on duty. Fate and luck are what they are in this line of work, but every day our nation's men and women don't ask why, they follow the orders of those appointed over them. They trust that their leaders and the nation they serve will do their best for them, as they do for us. As it was, it is, and will be. 

There will more stories to follow from our fellow Americans, friends, and allies as the best of us make efforts to do the right thing. Here's is just one of many examples we will hear of over the coming weeks and months.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Kabul 2x2 Shotgun Wargaming

Time to pull out the Salamander wargame matrix.

When I talk “wargame” I am not talking about something that is done with a board with a bunch of little pieces being moved around, that is a Tactical wargame. No, what I am talking about is a grey-matter wargame at the Operational and Strategic level.

For those who don’t follow me on twitter, I outlined how this works a couple of weeks ago, 

For those not in "the guild" - "Blue" here are the good guys, the "Red" here are the bad guys. I'm only going to do 1 combination and 1 round. I'll define that for you; "1 combo" is how you run Blue vs. Red in the matrix you see here. You simplify Blue & Red in to two Courses of Action (COA); 1) Most Likely (defined by habit, requires least initial effort or risk by the party & assumes pliability of opponent to your will), 2) Most Dangerous (unexpected weighting of risk & action within ways & means, but not habit). The "turn" is one cycle of "Action-Reaction-Response." Different wargames have different structures & like religions, there are many confessions. 

This is how I ran things usually for NATO, heavily influenced by my German & Dutch Army peers, along with a few things of my own. I am doing this by myself playing both sides when - which is not canon or habit - I would prefer two 4-person teams plus an umpire, but you get what you pay for.

Let me quote for you from my Bible;

Here we are for today’s War Game for 26AUG21. This really needs to be done at least daily, if not twice daily from here on out through the quickening. 

Let’s define our COA.

Blue Most Likely: Tuck and Go

- Blue will stick to the 2359 Kabul time departure on 31AUG21. Senior officer will be the last boot on the last aircraft out. Equipment not usable will be destroyed in place

Blue Most Dangerous: Hungnam

- Blue will refuse to stick by the 31AUG21 deadline due to incomplete evacuation. While asking for more time, Blue will posture aggressively toward, and react accordingly, to any attempt to shrink the airport perimeter by Red.

Red Most Likely: Mujahid Delight

- Red will make every effort to seem the reasonable and honorable partner. Random incidents will be condemned as “rogue elements” or the newly minted ISIS-K forces. Every effort is made to look as positive and helpful as possible inside the framework of helping foreign forces extract themselves from Kabul.

Red Most Dangerous: Gandamak Thirsty

- Red wants to maximize the humiliation of Western and specifically American forces. While maintaining a, “we are doing our best” outward appearance, the security perimeter around the Kabul airport will be allowed to deteriorate. Various direct and indirect threats will be allowed to occur in the days leading up to 31AUG21 and if they cascade, will be permitted to go forward. As of 0000:01 01SEP21, Taliban and allied forces will take control of the entire airport and disarm any other forces by any means necessary.

As I am a one man show, and we don’t have time today to spend an hour fleshing out the result of each wargame. Here are the results of the four wargames conducted in my brain bucket for discussion.

BML vs RML: Quite Humiliation

- This is the best result as seen by the Biden Administration. Everyone follows the rules like the Model UN they did when they were 16-yrs old. Norms were obeyed, and the next week can be spent discussing how awesome the numbers were and any Americans left behind, well, they were warned so that’s on them.

BML vs. RMD: Doorgunner Wave

- US forces never make it to 2359:59 31AUG21. The security environment falls apart in a collapsing series of shrinking perimeter lines demarcated by the bodies of combatants and noncombatants killed by everything from small arms to VBIED. Maybe a C-130 but perhaps a CH-47 will be the last unit out, taking fire as it leaves. American dead and wounded were probably left behind, but that is unknown.

BMD vs. RML: Inside Straight

- US bluff to stay after the deadline works. While Taliban checkpoints are holding firm, no efforts are made to take the airport by force. Isolated security incidents happen, but nothing that threatens evacuation. Further qualified evacuees continue to arrive at Kabul airport though a variety of means.

BMD vs RMD: Osama’s Pride

- Taliban calls US bluff. With a short statement, “The United States violated our agreement. They have no honor.” or something to that effect. At 0000:01 01SEP21 a pell-mell attack on the airport conducted from all sides with a last stand at the tower or other fortified building. Taliban and international press, along with untold numbers of phone video, live stream the entire event for hours on end. Most captured Americans executed live except for female civilian and military personnel who are seen loaded in to vehicles leaving the airport.

What are the odds of the four? That I don’t know. 

Tomorrow’s matrix may be different, but wargaming like this isn’t to predict the future, but to make sure you are prepared for different combination of possible futures. Hopefully you’re close.

It appears that our wargames in June and July were not close. Maybe we have a new team running them now.

UPDATE: right after this post went live, reports of the event at the Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport have come out. The odds of Gandamak Thirsty getting better odds weighting have increased.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Remember WESTPAC?

No, not your liberty stories ... but the front line nations facing China that aren't all that concerned, directly, about the crisis in Kabul.

Taiwan and Japan ... tiny step by tiny step ... are getting closer.

A few updates over at USNIBlog.

Come by and give it a read.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

For Afghans, the Clock in Kabul Just Ran Out

For all those Afghan nationals who helped us and we promised we would take care of them, if they are not already out of the country, it looks like the Kabul airlift option is off the table;

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid gave a press briefing and asked the US not to encourage Afghan people to leave the country.

He said the group is no longer allowing Afghan nationals to go to Kabul airport and called on crowds at the airport to go home.

Mujahid said "our aim is to rebuild our country."

"We are asking women to stay home at the moment," until security is guaranteed, the Taliban spokesperson said. He said Taliban fighters are not yet trained "how to deal with women." but added that women can resume working once here is "full security in place."

In regards to the Panjshir Valley region which is controlled by resistance forces, he said the Taliban would like to resolve the situation through dialogue.

Mujahid claimed media outlets are safe and free to work under Taliban rule.

He said the Taliban have not agreed to extend the August 31 evacuation deadline and said the US and allies must complete their operations by that date.

There are other ways out of the country, but it won't be easy or inexpensive, and getting to the right American officials in 3rd countries will be even more difficult.

Of course, this would all have been known in any competently run war game of the Course of Action chosen by the Biden Administration. As it is already established that we have a complete failure of the national security infrastructure in the United States, this level of incompetency is to be expected.

To our friends and our competitors, we are rightfully seen as unreliable, incompetent, and prone to overpromising and underdelivering. We are good at logistics - at least that is impressive - but that is a function of mass more than anything else.  

All that we do in Kabul now is under the good graces of the Taliban. Without them, nothing we do in  would be possible. As such, if you are willing to swallow the pill of abandoning non-Americans who put their lives on the line for us, there is some good thing here.

First, this removes some, but not all, of the problems US citizens and those of allied nations have had getting to the airport. If the masses of Afghans are told they will not be allowed to get in the airport, then that should back the World War Z human masses from the gates. 

Secondly, if masses of Afghans are not there on the final day, then if the Taliban are nice enough, we will be able to leave in state of relative composure without leaving the bodies of Afghan civilians strewn about the airfield in our wake.

Will there be US citizens and Green Card holders left behind in Afghanistan as of September 1st? Almost certainly. That will be the next phase.

Remember, this was all by choice. It did not have to end this way.

UPDATE: In today's press briefing a few numbers:

  • 63,900 Americans citizens, allied nation personnel, Green Card holders and SIV evacuated from AFG. 58,700 since 14 AUG.
  • 21,600 in the last 24 hours.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Eight Days in Kabul

One thing the USA can do better than anyone else is move a lot of people quickly even in the most hazardous environment. As mentioned by MG Taylor, USA this AM, in the last 24-hrs 25 C-17, 3 C-130 and 61 commercial aircraft carried 16,000 people out of Kabul. The US military was responsible for a little under 11,000 of those. 

As August 31st approaches, those numbers are good, but time is running out. Over the next 8 days, we need to keep a few things in mind.

1. August 31st is the Taliban’s requirement, not the Biden Administration’s desire: 

Taliban spokesman Dr Suhail Shaheen said the group will not accept an extension to the deadline and warned of retaliation if Western forces extend their 'occupation' since the group dramatically swept to power.

He told Sky News: 'It's a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.

'If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations - the answer is no. Or there would be consequences. 

'It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.'

The Taliban have zero reason to extend, and some of our leaders are foolish to think they care about what Western politicians care about;

...the Taliban will have a choice: they can either seek to engage with the international community and show that they want to be a part of the international system, they want to be engaged in international diplomacy, or they can turn around and say there is no opportunity for an extension.

... 'I think everybody has to be clear that this is not just a discussion that happens between G7 leaders tomorrow, it is a discussion which happens with the Taliban.'

2. We will leave our people behind. Afghanistan is the size of France. Even in Kabul, many we want to get out are having trouble getting to the airport. From the reports I’ve seen, those outside Kabul are having trouble getting in. In the present timeline, it is unavoidable that Americans, Green Card holders and those who worked with us will be left behind. I am sure extraordinary efforts are underway that we’ll find out about later.

No one from the White House, State Department or Pentagon has been able to give a number for how many American citizens remain in Afghanistan.  

It's unclear if or when the US will start flying Afghans out again.


President Joe Biden last night said he 'hoped not to' extend the date for pulling his 6,000 remaining US troops from Kabul. The current date is August 31.

3. At some point, we will have to transition from getting non-combatants out of Kabul to simply getting our remaining 6,000 uniformed Americans and even more allied forces out. That will be a point of the most extreme danger when the masses of civilians realize their clock is out. We will be totally at the mercy of the Taliban at that point, even more than now.

4. More will come. Be prepared for millions of Afghans who will be looking for another country to go to. The international community will have to find some construct to deal with this. Hard discussions will need to be had on what our obligations are and to whom. It can’t be everyone. 

No one knows the future, but if you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention. The possible 2nd and 3rd order effects from this disastrous end to the Afghan occupation will echo for years to come. As we reviewed on yesterday’s Midrats, good people can argue the utility of leaving or not, but that point is moot. The issue is how we’ve done it. 

I would be hard pressed to outline a greater failure of the United States national security infrastructure – all of it – than what we are seeing now. We need to accept that fact right in front of our face and decide what we need to do to make a system that better serves our nation. The one we have today does not.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

All Roads Lead to Kabul - on Midrats

I’m not sure where today’s Midrats will take us. Our co-host is getting a little underway time, so this will be just you and me.

As the initial stage of the collapse of Kabul unfolded last weekend, a lot of Midrats loyalists reached out to me to ask, “Where is this week’s Midrats?”

In hindsight, perhaps I should have brought up a show, but last Sunday was just not a good time to put a microphone in front of me,. By Monday I was ready, and my posts last week covered much of the thoughts bouncing around my head then.

Today from 5-6pm Eastern we’re going to free-form this together. The chat room is open for questions or points of order, and the studio phone line is open as well if you have a question you want to call in or if you served in Afghanistan and just wan to talk it out a bit. Call in.

Outside of that, I’ll try over the next hour or so to give you my thought on how we got here, what happened, and what we need to look at next.

Join us live if you can and roll in with your preferred topic in the chat room or call the switchboard number right here on the showpage.

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Fullbore Friday

Captain Lindsey S. McCarty, USN giving a hot wash-up to the crew after USS Newport News (CA-148) and USS Lynde McCormick (DDG-8) engage shore batteries in North Vietnam 19 December 1967.

Interesting this if you go to the YouTube page, comments from crew members and their families in the years since 2013 since I first posted it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

How Do You Recover From Humiliation?

We know that friends and competitors alike are questioning our nation's competence right now. 

If our warships pulled in to their port looking like this, would that help or hinder concerns they have - rightfully - after our horrible humiliation in Afghanistan?

Sometimes the first step in solving complex, hard challenges is to respond in a simple, straightforward way.

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog.

Come by and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

This is What a Whole of Government Epistemic Failure Looks Like

The Afghan army and government the Soviet Union left behind lasted over 3-yrs.

The Afghan army and government the USA left behind lasted barely 1 month.

This is a nugget everyone needs to hoist onboard. It is bolded and underlined for a reason. 

For those in the elder GenX cohort and older, we remember vividly all the comments made, especially after its fall, of the failures of the Soviet Union. We liked to talk about its stifling bureaucracy, oppressive government nomenklatura, busy body rules, crumbling infrastructure, military infested with political officers pushing ideology, corruption, and almost comical government officials - all so assured of their power, such believers in their own press releases, so confident they were the future.

Even those younger, they’ve seen the videos, movies, documentaries - read the books, articles and snarky posts. 

And yet, the tottering Soviet Empire in its last death rattles was able in less time to build in Afghanistan a military and civil society based on a philosophy with one foot in the grave that lasted … hell, let’s do the math here.

- Colonel General Boris Gromov, Red Army and with him the Soviet Union leaves Afghanistan over the Friendship Bridge: 15 FEB 89. The Soviets were in Afghanistan 9-years and 2-months.

- The President of Afghanistan Najibullah ousted from power & hides in UN compound after fall of Kabul: 15 APR 92

3 years and 2 months; 38 months. That is how long the Soviet trained Afghan Army and government lasted after the withdraw of the Red Army. (NB: The Soviet Union died on 26DEC91, a little under three years after the Friendship Bridge crossing. Najibullah was dragged out of his UN safe-haven - as one does - in SEP of 1996 and hung from a lamp post in Kabul, a bit over four years after the fall of Kabul. Use those benchmarks as you see fit.)

- General Scott Miller, US Army lands in DC: 14JUL21. That would be 19-years and 11-months, but as we all know, American forces are still in Afghanistan at the pleasure of the Taliban trying to hold down half of the Kabul airport so we can get our people out.

- President Ghani abandons Kabul: 15AUG21.

1-month. There is your benchmark. The Soviets were 38-times more successful in Afghanistan than we were, and they did it in half the time.

Let that soak in. Let the humiliation flow over you like a healing balm. Fear and shame - regardless of what modern minds try to tell you otherwise - are great motivators. Let this motivate you.

Almost exactly two decades after the attacks of 11SEP01, as a nation we are covered in disgrace. A global humiliation on a national scale. Accept that. Hold it close to you. Feel it. Smell it. Know it, because it will be attached to us for at least the rest of the decade - most likely longer.

Good people can agree or disagree about staying or going from Afghanistan, but no one can defend how we did it.

Everyone here who given responsibility by the American people failed.

The President failed.

The State Department failed.

The Pentagon failed.

All our intelligence agencies failed their government and the people. 

Our think tanks, the legions of foreign policy and diplomacy PhDs from all the right schools who populate the National Security State who like to tell everyone how smart they are - they all failed.

So, what do we do from here? 
"If you withdraw 2,500 troops, and then you have to send 6,000 back, that's not planned. That's on its face an example of failure." - Jake Tapper

Even the most die hard Biden partisan should be demanding the resignation of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Advisor. In another age, they would have all resigned already - but we don’t live in that age.

All the Joint Chiefs of Staff need to resign as one. Either they own their collective failure because they offered this plan as a good one, or they don’t have the confidence of the President and their recommendations not to do this were ignored. Either are sufficient for resignation as honor demands.

They are imminently replaceable. We are bloated and thick with excessively credentialed General and Flag Officers who can take their place.

We can do nothing about the past, it is done.

The present is already written.

What we can do is set the condition for the future. We can try to contain the compounding damage to our national credibility. 

A first step is to tell our remaining friends that the United States knows failure and rot when it sees it, and is confident enough to excise it and move forward.

We need accountability. The honorable thing to do is to resign. If not, the proper thing is for the President to fire those who advised him so horribly. If not the President, then Congress should have hearings with a pair of pliers in one hand and a blow torch in another and humiliate people in to resigning.

If neither happens, then bad on the American people for allowing a political system to function in such a way that people such as these are the ones who rise to the top of both parties.

Look again at that migraine inducing chart above. Failures such as this take more than one part of government to fail.

Let me end with what I know best, the US military. We like to tell ourselves that we are in some way apart, perhaps a bit more honorable, than the politicians we serve. We served the Constitution and the nation, not individuals. 

We can make that point...unless we were just telling each other another of those little white lies that we do now and then.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Senior Military Leadership in Afghanistan: a 19-Act Play

After the events of this weekend, I'm not really up to writing something to kick Monday off.

It isn't that I did not have time, it is just that I wanted to invest it in something else.

While there are a lot of entities who need some self-reflection, I think for today we need to look back at the senior in-theater leadership of the military effort in Afghanistan. 

We'll talk in more detail later.

This works best on full screen, and you only have 10 seconds a slide, so don't dilly-dally.


Friday, August 13, 2021

Fullbore Friday

There is no FbF today. 

This is no time for such things. This is a weekend to think of other things.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Diversity Thursday

So, PERS-41, the Director of Surface Officer Assignments, is coming to give everyone a brief. Great! For you career minded folks who want to see what is expected of you, there is no better source.

So, what's on the agenda?

Of course, you can almost feel the oxygen leave the room. Of course.

This is 2021, and as you have not had the Diversity Industry talking points thrown at you every 15-seconds, after the, "Why I am Interesting" introduction, PERS-41 will lead with that.

Of course.

Before we get to those slides, I want you to remember something for me. As this is 2021, at the very highest levels the mask has slipped - like we saw last week. Welcome this fact. It makes it all so clear.

Recall through the years we've discussed how you were being patronized and lied to? Remember how they tried to disguise what they were doing by telling you they were interested in "diversity" because they wanted diversity of thought, ideas, perspectives on how do complete the mission? 


Well, we were right, and the others are wrong. They are not measuring anything here remotely adjacent to something intellectual. Nope. As always it is self-identified race and ethnicity. Those are the metrics, that is all they care about.

As we've pointed out before, perhaps they think that someone's self-identified race and ethnicity is determinative on how they think? If so, then as we've come to understand, their view of race and ethnicity is really not that far removed from the KKK and the worst of the early 20th Century eugenicists. 

They lied to you then. They knew it, and except for the most gullible and self-delusional, you knew it too. At least it is out in the open now for even the last of the optimists to see.

Also notice, in line with CNO's Kendi-flavored guidance, you can see there is one thing that is identified as a problem. Something bad. Something to be avoided; white males.

Bask in the actual systemic racism in the system. 

Is that harsh? I don't think so. How else would you describe something that first looks at the qualities of a person based on something as useless as the color of their skin or what self-identified tribal identification they want them in? What else identifies a group as a collective undesirable simply because their DNA comes from a certain part of the world?

If you'd like to see the full brief, you can get it here or review the embed below.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Disrupt the Navy’s Operational Model to Counter China

For this decade, the US Navy has to be ready to match any military challenge by the People’s Republic of China with the fleet we roughly have now. Any clear-eyed look at budgets, priorities, or plans makes that clear. If so, how do we best keep an aggressive China at risk with the forces we realistically have? What can we do to best deter war, and if that fails, transition to war best positioned to win? 

Today we turn over the conversation to Bryan Clark and Bryan McGrath. Gentlemen, over to you.

Naval leaders, civilian and military, face difficult choices when confronting the threat posed by China. The fleet must be kept in readiness for combat, it must be modernized and upgraded, and new ships and technologies must be planned, designed, and acquired. Each of these requirements is resourced in the budget, and the resulting balance among the near, mid, and long term objectives is the goal of every Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations. Unbalance the budget, and some part of the portfolio suffers. 

This balance became harder in recent months after outgoing Indo-Pacific Commander ADM Phil Davidson warned that China’s military could seek to forcibly unify Taiwan with the mainland within the next six years. Now known as the “Davidson Window,” the INDOPACOM assessment caused influential members of Congress to characterize the Navy’s recent budget submission as unresponsive to the growing near-term threat. Some argued the Navy should consider alternative fleet employment schemes to shore up its overseas presence. 

There is a growing concern among Congressmembers and analysts that the Navy’s force generation model, the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (ORFP), is insufficient to meet the requirements of day-to-day competition with China in the Indo-Pacific. This is fair criticism, as to the extent that OFRP is “optimized”, it is focused on affordably producing full-up aircraft carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups on a regular, but infrequent, schedule. And while OFRP accomplishes what it is designed for, this predictable model of force generation eases China’s operational planning while reducing the Navy’s overseas posture. 

The Navy has been extracting more presence from OFRP during the last few years by deploying carriers and surface combatants multiple times during each 3-year cycle. OFRP was designed to provide this flexibility—but not for every cycle. Without more maintenance between deployments, the fleet incurs a readiness debt that needs to be repaid with longer overhauls down the road. The money to pay for a more operations and maintenance could come from the Navy’s procurement or research and development accounts, unbalancing the Navy’s approach in favor of more near-term investment. It appears this choice will be unnecessary, as the Senate Armed Services Committee recently proposed adding $8 billion to Navy accounts in the defense authorization bill.  

While we agree with the need for additional resources, continuing to wring a more robust posture from the OFRP is unsustainable, as evidenced by the Navy’s ongoing readiness shortfalls. The Navy should make a more fundamental change in the way the Pacific Fleet is employed and postured to achieve a more effective near-term conventional deterrent, while protecting investments in mid and long-range priorities. To that end, we recommend that the Pacific Fleet and the Navy Staff resurrect the 2017 CSBA Fleet Architecture Study “Restoring American Seapower: A New Fleet Architecture for the United States Navy” and begin to implement its hybrid fleet employment scheme that features a “Deterrence Force” and a “Maneuver Force”.

The animating principle of the CSBA fleet architecture was to support a posture of conventional deterrence by denial, in which proximate naval forces could dissuade Chinese aggression by creating uncertainty regarding the likelihood of Chinese success. This emphasis on conventional deterrence by denial anticipated the Trump Administration’s National Security Strategy of 2017 which made this approach a central tenet. 

To enable a posture that can create uncertainty for Chinese leaders, the CSBA architecture breaks deployed naval units into two separate forces, each relying on a different existing force generation model. The first is the Deterrence Force, in this instance comprised of most Pacific Fleet surface combatants and amphibious ships, as well as Guam-based submarines. The Deterrence Force would adopt the higher-tempo readiness cycle currently employed by Forward Deployed Naval Forces based in Guam, Japan, and Spain, consisting of about 4 months per year of maintenance and training and 8 months of operational time. 

Because they operate more frequently and are focused on the Indo-Pacific theater, Deterrence Force units would better understand the threats, opportunities, and geography of the region, improving their ability to cooperate with partners and allies in peacetime. When armed confrontations arise, everyday power projection needs would be provided by airpower resident in the Navy’s amphibious assault ships (LHD, LHA). Submarines and surface forces would operate independently or in task-oriented groups to support strike, anti-surface warfare, and anti-submarine warfare.  

Deterrence Forces would not be tied to CVN readiness and maintenance cycles, nor would they be required to achieve the same level of integrated certification as Carrier Strike Groups. Freeing most surface combatants from the rigid timetables imposed by OFRP would create a larger force of available ships to be employed forward, resulting in a more powerful conventional deterrence posture.

What then, is to become of the large, nuclear powered aircraft carriers the Navy currently builds its force around?  They would be lynchpins of the Maneuver Force and would remain in something like an OFRP cycle due to the requirements of carrier maintenance. West Coast carriers and an appropriate number of surface combatants would be removed from the everyday business of forward deployed presence and deterrence to create a large formation of two CVNs plus their escorts operating across the Indo-Pacific. The Maneuver Force would perfect truly integrated multi-carrier operations and conduct large scale exercises with allied navies. Operating within 48 hours of aircraft launch points reaching the East and South China Seas, the Maneuver Force would focus on high-end military operations, including the peacetime demonstrations and battle problems needed to deter aggression and reassure allies. 

The fleet architecture in Restoring American Seapower and a subsequent 2020 Hudson Institute study suggested a force structure for the Navy aligned to its objectives. Both efforts clearly influenced the DoD’s 2020 Future Naval Force Study, and we believe much of their analysis remains valid. That said, the critical requirements of deterring Chinese aggression demand revised thinking about how the Navy’s existing force structure might be more effectively and efficiently employed, and we believe the new deployment schemes proposed by this architecture provide a reasonable and testable option. Such a revision would not be easy, and further analysis would be necessary to determine the benefits of the approach and the difficult challenges to implementing it.

Among these challenges would be the degree to which required maintenance could be accommodated by the Pacific shipyard repair base, as the reduced cycle applied to the Deterrence Force would likely create shorter, and more frequent, maintenance windows. Also, additional forces may need to be transferred from the Atlantic Fleet to the Pacific Fleet to comprise the Maneuver Force.  The blow here could be softened by working closely with our UK and French allies to coordinate carrier deployments and ensure coverage of the North Atlantic and Mediterranean. Additional strain would be placed on the surface combatant training force, as it would have to accommodate the requirements of both Deterrence Force and Maneuver Force readiness.  

The development of the 2017 architecture was a six-month undertaking employing the talents of several dedicated thinkers and was briefed to the senior leadership of the Navy at the time to significant interest and praise. Current Pacific Fleet and Navy leadership should apply an analytical “Tiger Team” to an excursion from that plan using today’s fleet. We believe the opportunity exists to improve the combat power and flexibility of the force facing the Chinese daily, while husbanding and refining the war-fighting combat punch of the carrier force for high-end conflict. 

Bryan Clark is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute and leads its Center for Defense Concepts and Technologies.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of the FerryBridge Group LLC. No client views are represented here. 

What if the Future Can't be Unmanned?

Do you get a little worried when people seem to be a bit overexcited at the prospects of such a large percentage of our fleet being unmanned in the near future?

Are you worried that too few hard questions are being asked and answered?

Me too.

Head on over to USNIBlog and help ask more hard questions.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

So, the Military Has a Vaccine Mandate Coming Up?

Yesterday, SECDEF Austin put out the memo we all knew was coming.

General Mark A. Milley, USA, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, followed up with his own memo that had a handwritten note at the bottom. (NB: old trick knowing that most military eyes will glaze over the typed word, but if in a hurry, will read what is written by hand by the author).

His note is, really, all you need to know.

“Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is a key force protection and readiness issue.”

The military has a long history of over compensating when it comes to vaccinations. I have been vaccinated against everything from chicken pox to small pox and everything in between. When wandering through refuge camps, hospitals, and orphanages in Afghanistan, we’d joke that we had nothing to worry about as we had enough vaccines and mercury in our bodies that we were pretty much immortal.

Why is the military like this? We know our history. 

For most of military history at sea and ashore, even at war it isn’t the waging of war that kills most of your people and makes unite combat ineffective, it is disease and the environment. Only in modern times has that changed, and it has changed because of advances in the understanding, technology, and practice of medicine and public health. Vaccines are part of that. We don’t need to review biological warfare – Mother Nature is scary enough on her own.

This is nothing new. Here is what is new; usually the military is ahead of the civilian population when it comes to vaccines. We are society’s guinea pigs. That isn’t the case here. 

In 2021, hundreds of millions of people in and out of the military have taken the vaccines. We roughly know the dangers of it and COVID-19. We know the risks; we know the rewards. We also know that we need ships to go to sea, aircrew to fly, and armies need to take the field. They can’t do that with a force crippled by disease outbreaks. They will happen anyway, but they need to be mitigated and blunted. That is what vaccines are for.

We need people who get sick to get back as soon as practical and with as little long-term impact on their health as possible. That is what vaccines do.

COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere, but the US military is.

We will have a few personnel who have medical reasons not to get the vaccine – but they are incredibly small and known. Unless you are one of those who can trip in to anaphylactic shock or are pregnant (I am in favor of that exemption) then something like MILPERSMAN 1900-120 comes in to play.

General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions.

Do it quickly and get it done.

We have work to do.

Monday, August 09, 2021

Forget Your Peacetime Battle Networks

What the Spanish Civil War was to WWII armor and air tactics, the extended conflict in Ukraine and to a lesser extent Syria is to electronic warfare.

There isn't so much "new" that is being developed, but hard lessons forgotten since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The closer you get to Ukraine, the more clear it becomes. Poland gets it.
Polish firm WB Group harnesses low-power radios and quasi-satellites in a scalable and adaptive communication system.
A Polish company has developed a tactical communication system called Cicha Sieć (Silent Network) with a low electromagnetic signature that leverages lessons learned from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

WB Group launched Silent Network last month with battalion-level deployments in mind, although it claims the solution can be scaled up for larger formations.

Company VP Adam Bartosiewicz explained that Silent Network originated with two parallel developments in 2013: the Perad personal radio and the deployment of the FlyEye UAS in Ukraine.

What does Sal what to know? What does the USA have in this area?

Also a reminder; what happens in EW ashore also applies to at sea. How do we fight in a contested and hostile EW environment? Are we leaning too much on peacetime capabilities and habits that simply won't be there at war?

I hope we are asking and acting on such questions. 

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Shipping in the time of COVID with Sal Mercogliano - on Midrats

Shipping rates, supply bottlenecks, and some nightmare abandonment stories for some mariners, like everything else on our water plant, COVID-19 impacted our shipping industry hard at sea and ashore. The impacts of which rippled in to everything.

As economies, nations, and corporations adjust to the new reality, what trends can the consumer and maritime professional expect?

It’s time to catch up with returning guest, Salvatore Mercogliano this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern.

Sal sailed with MSC from 1989 to 1992, and worked MSC HQ as Operations Officer for the Afloat Prepositioning Force 1992-1996. He has a BS Marine Transportation from SUNY Maritime College, a MA Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology from East Carolina University, and received his Ph.D. in Military and Naval History from University of Alabama. He is the chair of the Department of History, Criminal Justice & Political Science at Campbell University. He was awarded 2nd place in the 2019 CNO History Essay Contest with his submission, "Suppose There Was a War and the Merchant Marine Didn't Come."

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here. You can find us on almost all your most popular podcast aggregators as well.