Tactical Lunacy

By: - August 23, 2021

Looking at the current situation in Kabul, one has to ask himself, “Who the hell approved this plan?”

Now I am no military genius.  I served ten years in tactical operations all over the world.  In addition, I also served four years in Afghanistan and two years in Iraq as a high-risk security contractor.  I have been attached to spec op teams, and I know a little about basic tactics.  What we are looking at could have been better planned and executed with a secret decoder pen found in a Cracker Jack box.

When I was in Afghanistan, I flew into Kandahar.  I was there for about a year—a prominent place, not great for security.  Kandahar was affectionately known as “Rocket City.” We would hear the sirens and the loudspeaker almost nightly proclaim “Rocket Attack, Rocket Attack” like we didn’t already know it. You got used to it after a while.

I then moved to Bagram.  Bagram was the most significant base the U.S. had in Afghanistan.  The base’s security was pretty solid, with a high concrete wall and a vast and functional airfield.  I flew in and out of Bagram several times a week, traversing back and forth to the smaller Forward Operations Bases (FOBs).  Eventually, I stayed at Sharana, a high-altitude FOB, and the site of an emergency hospital.  With an airfield equipped with an extremely short runway, helicopters were the primary means of transport.  But the base, Sharana, was reasonably secure.

So when the U.S. decided to drawdown, there were plenty of options to accomplish the mission without the chaos and utter haphazardness we are seeing.

As I watch the news and read the reports, I can’t help but wonder what happened?  The military commanders, hell, a junior enlisted, could have developed a better plan than this. All I can surmise is the politicians are making the decisions.  Politicians who have never fought for the country for which they are making decisions. These decision-makers are politicians who have never led troops into battle.  No service member with half a brain would have come up with the way things have been orchestrated.

Tactics

Why did we leave Bagram?  The base was huge enough to house all the refugees we promised to evacuate.  All U.S. citizens could have been moved to Bagram and transported back home long before the military pullout.  It is not like this was some decision made on a Friday night with a deadline of Monday morning.  We have known we were drawing down for over a year.  President Trump started the process and pulled all but about 2500 troops out of the country. The thing that has to be recognized is that no U.S. forces were the subject of attack during and after the drawdown to 2500 troops.

We held Bagram, a tactical and intelligence goldmine. Bagram was a place with logistical support and the means to evacuate everyone from a secure area.

But what do the powers decide?  They abandoned Bagram in the middle of the night and gave up the very tactical advantage that would be needed as the evacuation and drawdown commenced. Somehow the military command, namely the Joint Chiefs that are tasked to advise the President, let this happen.  I refuse to believe any military leader would have put this plan forward.  The advisors must have been overridden, and since the President is the Commander in Chief, that decision to go against sane tactical practice would have had to come from him.

And speaking about evacuation, that could and should have been completed months ago before we started closing the last of our bases. Maybe someone read the orders backward.  It should have been Evac first; pull troops when done.  Instead, the idiotic and shortsightedness of what happened has caused the debacle we are saddled with now.

And timing.  In the six years I was in the region, including the four in Afghanistan proper, you learn that you can’t ignore the cycle of combat.  The fighting season is now, so why are we doing this in the middle of the fighting season?  Winter does not bother our operations.  We are fully capable of operating in the cold.  The Taliban, on the other hand, is not.  During the winter, they basically hibernate.  We could have conducted evacuation operations country-wide with little real opposition.

And why did we not try to pull the thousands of citizens out as well as those Afghans we always said we would protect sooner? Why not while the Afghan security forces were still intact?  And why did we leave all the thousands of weapons behind?  It is a standard and fundamental military doctrine not to leave weapons for the enemy to use against you.  I can’t envision a military commander thinking that equipping the Taliban with the world’s most sophisticated weaponry would be a good idea.  With what we left behind, the Taliban is now one of the best-equipped military forces in the world, and we gave it to them.

Too hasty, no plan in place.  The entire withdrawal was not based on need or tactics, or objectives.  It was based on a political image—a false date.  Years ago, Biden also with Obama telegraphed the exact date we were leaving Iraq. We destroyed the infrastructure, dismantled the government, and then picked up our toys and went home. We unceremoniously pulled out, and the country, Iraq, fell into chaos.  Now Biden has set this unrealistic date of August 31.  He stated he wanted to be out before September 11. What symbolism.  What a stroke of genius but not for the U.S.  No, the Taliban will have pictures of their flag flying over the now abandoned U.S. embassy on September 11, the anniversary of the tower attacks that brought us into Afghanistan in the first place… How’s that for a symbol?

So what do we do now?  How do we recover? Someone in the administration has to explain to the President that this is a crisis never seen before.  Someone has to explain to the President that his decision and the continued lack of resolve are destroying the country’s world standing. Someone has to get the President to listen or maybe just understand that this is wrong and must be corrected. Someone must stop being a political yes-man and speak the truth. Someone has to step out of the political shell and return to good tactics.

The U.S. Army Rangers, explicitly trained to take airfields, need to be spun up and sent to reestablish that base.  Mr. President, would you please send them into Bagram and take back our base of operations?

The many Spec Ops teams are specifically trained to go into a hostile area and extract citizens.  Please send them in.

We can do this.  It doesn’t mean there are another 20 years of involvement. It simply means we go and get our people out of harm’s way. We stand by our commitment to protect those that helped us over the last 20 years.  We do this, and we do this now or face the total demise of the U.S. as a world power.  We do this, or we seed our position in the world to Russia and China. We do this because we are Americans.

We fail to do this, and we are no longer trusted. We lose standing in the world.  We lose commitments from allies. We lose whatever leverage we have in the world that the threat of U.S. military power might have because it will be apparent to our friends and those that chant “Death to America” that when push comes to shove – we fail, we retreat, we surrender. And we do this because to do anything else would be a slap to all those military members and families that suffered and died in this cause.

This glaring defeat we are all seeing on the screen will have far-reaching ramifications on our military.  Expect to see recruitment drop, mass exodus, and the rise of suicides from warriors whose honor has been stripped.

This is not my America. Not the America I fought for all those years.  Not the America that makes one’s eyes water when the national anthem is played.  Now is a turning point. We step up.  Our leaders grow a pair and step up. Our military leaders stop being politicians and remember their oath.

Now is the time to regain our footing. Now is the time to act. Or, we stay the rudderless course we are on now with our captain asleep at the wheel and watch this great ship known as America run aground.