The Actions of One

Posted: March 11, 2012 in GWOT
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Our war in Afghanistan has reached the most contentious of levels in the 10 year history of the conflict.  Until recently actions there had taken a backseat to our war in Iraq.  Over the last two years, as we have increased troop levels and reinvigorated the initiative to achieve success, we have also found ourselves on the receiving end of criticism we had hoped would not affect the efforts.  The initial success, followed by negative publicity and constant conflict between military operations and the sovereignty of Afghan political leadership, is regularly undermined. A combination of our inability to capitalize on our successes in today’s media savvy world and the ability of the enemy to do exactly what we cannot when it comes to positive spin of the successes has helped foment against our forces by the Afghan people and Americans and allies who wonder what the end-state is and when it will be achieved.

The good efforts of coalition soldiers seem to fall by the wayside along with gains made in human rights and relative equality.  The improvements made seem futile.  Gains made by soldiers who risk their lives to provide them are undermined over and over again by the actions of individuals, either intentional or through circumstance.  For weeks now we have been dealing with the deadly fallout from the burning of some Quarans which were confiscated from prisoners because they were believed to contain hidden messages to other prisoners.  A situation which was probably less intended as an affront to the religion as a it was a miscommunication between the confiscators and the people charged with the burning of not only the books, but other material as well.

The most recent issue that will need to be dealt with is the rampage perpetrated by one U.S. soldier, conducted in the dead of night.  It would appear this soldier snuck off of his base, fully armed and began a shooting spree through a village just south of Khandahar.

The reporting is still new, just breaking news this morning.  The soldier nor his unit have been named yet, only reporting that he is a special operations soldier who was tasked with training Afghan soldiers.  The number of dead is unconfirmed with reports between 12 and 18 as of this writing.  What has been confirmed is the dead did include men, women and children.

The reason behind writing this is not to sensationalize this unfortunate situation, nor is it to condemn the actions of the soldier.  It is simply to demonstrate how the actions of one can and do have consequences, affecting the works of the many.  No matter what the reasons behind the attack or that it was not sanctioned and definitely not condoned by NATO, it does nothing but lend credence to the rhetoric of an enemy.  Our enemy, the Taliban and the groups who work in concert with them, in all their simplicity and apparent backwardness, have done a much better job of exploiting our deficiencies than we have of exploiting our success.  As we grow closer to the 11 mark of occupation we begin to expose individual acts of negativity to further scrutiny than they would have ever warranted before.  The strides made in some areas are non-existent in others.  The headway we would have made in trying to placate both the ineffective Afghan government and the Taliban, will at best become status quo at the negotiation table.  More than likely what will happen is the U.S. will be negotiating from a position of weakness, if we can still get them to the table.

We have garnered much criticism for our most effective means of destroying our enemy; night raids.  No matter how much evidence is gathered about the enemy, to face them during daylight will increase the number of casualties.  Denying them their safe havens has resulted in both more captures and the destruction of those who would have tried to use daylight as a means to kill more of our fighting men and women.   By hitting them when they think they are safe, we expose them not as a professional fighting force, but as the gang of thugs they truly are.  That is all in danger now.  The enemy, lacking in military discipline and always willing to perpetrate their own atrocities, will garner more support, from both the populace and the sympathizers they already have in their government.

The sad state of affairs is all the work and sacrifices made over the last decade are at jeopardy.  This soldier who more than likely was a stellar soldier right up until his rampage.  I do not condemn him, there have probably been worse acts that have happened and we will probably never know what the circumstances honestly are that led up to this.  The actions already are having consequences and demonstrate even further the need of good leadership to know their subordinates and recognize when they are reaching the limits of their capabilities.

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