Special Operations

Target: Bin Laden

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One of the most wanted men in the history of the world is dead.  And America killed him.  Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s terror-master, reportedly died within the last 24 hours, in Islamabad, Pakistan.  Bin Laden was not found in some remote cave.  He apparently lived quite comfortably in Pakistan’s capital.
The Pakistani government immediately declared that it’s shadowy intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, assisted the American government in finding bin Laden.   But in truth, the duplicitous  actions of the ISI hindered America’s efforts, cost American lives, and depleted the the will of the nation.  The ISI has direct ties to almost all strata of the insurgency in Afghanistan.  After bin Laden’s death was the declared, the Pakistani government scrambled to cover its crime of hiding bin Laden for a decade. When the CIA stopped sharing intelligence with the ISI, senior Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership started dying. In 2009, many terrorist leaders escaped because the ISI gave them forewarning of an impending CIA missile attack.   
A highly trained and competent covert special operations team located bin Laden’s residence, fought their way past his elite “Black Guard”, and finally killed bin Laden himself. 
Cynics will repeat the tired lines about making bin Laden a martyr.  These people do not understand the true nature of the insurgency in Afghanistan, nor the nature of war itself.  The truth is, the threat of martyrdom is part of the enemy’s propaganda, in hopes that we will be reluctant to kill important terrorist leaders.  The insurgents and terrorists are not fearless, all-knowing fighters, and their religious motivations for fighting are not as strong as sometimes reported.  Most of them fear death every day but are pushed into battle by leaders far from the frontlines.  Moreover, other al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders know that they can no longer depend on the Pakistani government for protection.  The game is up.  The message to other terrorists in Pakistan is: You are next.

Afghanistan is not Iraq, but let’s fight to win anyway

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The Taliban is indeed a threat to the human rights of the people of Afghanistan. But let’s be honest and clear: It is not to be a Neo-Caliphate.

Upon the invasion of Iraq al-Qaeda committed itself to a type of war that America was ill prepared to wage: A public, full-scale insurgency designed to leach the will from each of our citizens who saw the body counts scroll-daily- across the bottom of 24 hour news channels. Everyday, America lost hope. With each deadly IED blast, our soldiers left earthly confines, civilians shook their heads and questioned if the fight was worth our blood.

Al-Qaeda almost won.

We almost quit. Politicians scurried to the media cameras as quickly as a long-lost relative emerges from anonymity to claim his part of a dead cousin’s will. Shameless populism became the order of the day. The country almost collapsed into civil war. Some say it did. The semantics matter little.What matters is the destruction wrought. The Left gained the impetus it needed to ensure victories in the House, Senate and Oval Office. The Uber-Left blamed Bush and the cliche’ Military Industrial Complex for millions of deaths. In reality, it was Al-Qaeda’s terror regime and resultant disruption of Law and Order that killed so many Iraqis. America’s armed forces scurried to be strong everywhere and got strength nowhere. We needed more war fighters. Patraeus stepped to the front with a plan, which to this day many Democrats  deny determined the outcome of the war. It was the Sunni Awakening they claimed. The people had seen enough violence from Al-Qaeda and dropped the dime on Terror Inc.  they said. It’s senseless though to claim that more of our men on the ground could have not had an impact.

In Iraq, defeat  was never an option. Had America–at the urgings of the Democrats and now-President Obama–retreated, the American global colossus would have collapsed.  Al-Qaeda would have gained a firm, oil-rich foothold in the heart of the Middle East. That’s bad.

Republicans and Democrats have Afghanistan both right and wrong. The Republicans want more troops, but deceive themselves into thinking that Afghanistan is of global importance. More troops will help in warding off the Taliban, but more soldiers on the ground will not make Afghanistan an important place to fight a major war. Wasting the lives of soldiers on marginal strategic endeavors is stupid. And we don’t even have the excuse of “you broke it, you fix it” like in Iraq. Afghanistan has always been broken.

The Democrats, too have an incomplete vision of the war. Many oppose more troops, while supporting counter-insurgency. Counter-insurgency will not work, even with 40,000 more troops. It’ll be that much worse with current troop levels. To support McChrystal’s brand of war without massive amounts of troops is an impossibility, especially give the fact that Afghan President Maliki’s government is terminally corrupt–just as one would expect from an Afghan government. No rule of law equals no counterinsurgency equals no democracy.

Positivism moves the world. Pessimists sit in dark rooms wondering, angry at God for not existing. I appreciate Oliver North, General Patraeus and others who, given a mission, set about to make it happen regardless of the odds. Giving up always means failing.

But shouldn’t unbridled positivism be tempered with realistic expectations and cost-efficient strategy? The question is not always Can I? but Should I? There are better ways to do things than what we’re doing now.

An American retreat from Afghanistan would inevitably lead to a declaration of victory by the Taliban. Were it not for the media, their cries of triumph would mean nothing; they would still exist in a country where held-held radios are state of the art technology, possessing little education, and unable to threaten America. And now we do have a responsibility to the people of Afghanistan who we’ve promised American protection. America should not break her promises.  But the Taliban is a  far cry from the well-funded and educated al-Qaeda network. Hydra-like and possessed of a fervor alien to comfortable, agnostic Westerners, al-Qaeda presented a formidable post-modern foe.

So, stay in Afghanistan but attack known Taliban strongholds with full military operations. Special Operations cannot win this war anymore than airpower can win it. It’s a full-spectrum operation, and that involves moving in Tanks and Strykers that are resistant to IEDs and small arms fire.  We have once again committed to war on an unproven premise, but it’s better to win than lose, regardless of the reason for being in the fight in the first place.

America’s military has never failed when their chains were removed. There is no political reason, as in Korea or Vietnam, to hold our men back. Only wrong perceptions by our politicians who fear CNN’s cameras more than our enemies fear M-16 assault rifles keep us from ending this quickly.

Foster tolerance, friendship and cooperation amongst those who desire it. Punish and relentlessly pursue those who refuse peace. It’s a simple formula that Rome practiced for 700 years with unmatched historical success. Should we find a leader with courage, America would have little difficulty in convincing the Taliban that peace is better than war.

Special Forces Assessment and Selection

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Tomorrow, I will be promoted to the rank of Specialist. I received a “time in service” waiver, which means I’m getting an accelerated promotion, cutting the time to E4 down by 6 months.

This makes me eligible to attend SFAS–Special Forces Assessment and Selection. 18 days of hell at Ft. Bragg, intended to assess a candidates physical capabilities as well as problem solving and leadership abilities.

There are no guarantees, regardless of how I perform. Of course, it’s not even a guarantee that I will pass the initial physicial screening given my past injuries. I’m sure I can perform physically, it’s just a matter of convincing others that I can.

Green Berets at Firebase Cobra, Afghanistan

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America’s Special Forces fight a semi-covert war inside Afghanistan. National Geographic follows them.