22 July 2008

The Butter-Cutter On The Afghanistan Surge

  Major, United States Marine Corps, Retired

“Have you heard that the United States is considering an Afghanistan surge; that is, considering sending more American troops to Afghanistan?” I asked The Butter-Cutter as I approached the Chow Line.

“Why?” he responded.

“There has been a resurgence of Taliban activity and, reportedly, al Qaeda is expected to transfer assets to Afghanistan. So, a surge in U.S. Forces is needed to counter that increased threat,” I explained.

 “Oh.” The Butter-Cutter answered. He then asked, “Who did we beat in '01 that got us inta there?”

“It was largely the Taliban with some troops trained and provided by al Qaeda.” I explained further.

The Butter-Cutter answered, “If I remember right, our input was air support, weapons, 'n' other equipment all coordinated by U.S. Special Forces on the ground with the good guys. It was that Northern Alliance that did the ground fightin' 'n' they were mostly Afghans. Is that about right?” he asked. 

“Yes,” I said after a short pause to think. “No. No. In late November of 2001, the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit established itself at Camp Rhino. I think that was the first U.S. ground combat unit into Afghanistan and others followed,” I added.

“If the Northern Alliance was kickin' Tallymen butt back in '01 with just a few of our guys on the ground, why did we send in those Marines 'n' the ones that followed?” he asked.

“I don't know. We just did!” I answered with some irritation.

“Ya mean them freakin' Spear Chuckers just had ta chuck some of our guys inta that shit-sandwich is what ya mean ta say! Now were supposed ta surge more. Why?” The Butter-Cutter asked. 

“I told you: There has been a resurgence of Taliban activity and, reportedly, al Qaeda is expected to transfer assets to Afghanistan,” I repeated.

“How many are in the Afghan Army?” he came back.

“Ah, I've heard there are 75,000 plus or minus in the Afghan Army and there is approximately 50,000 NATO troops also there,” I said.

“The 75,000-man Afghan Army's backed-up by 50,000 NATO troops! How many Tallymen are there?” the Butter-Cutter shot back. 

“Careful! Those figures are approximations? And, I don't know the strength of the Taliban,” I said.

“OK! But, somebody's sayin' that the Afghan Army 'n' NATO need a surge of Americans ta do the job. Somethin' don't compute here: The Afghan Northern Alliance-a bunch guys collected from Afghan tribes--wupt the Tallymen pretty much by themselves in '01 when the Tallymen were organized 'n' in control o' the country. Now, an Afghan Army trained, equipped, and organized over five ta six years by us 'n' reinforced with NATO troops can't beat 'em. Waddabout that?” he asked.

“I don't have a good explanation other than to say that the Taliban, and it's Taliban NOT Tallymen, are moving in and out of Pakistan making pursuing them difficult,” I haltingly suggested. 

“Whaaaaaaaat! The problem is that these guys are goin' in 'n' out o' Pakistan 'n' American troops can do better chasin' 'em there? Is that what yer sayin'? 'Cause, if it is, that's BULL SHIT! Them Afghan Rag Heads know that ground, the people, 'n' the language. They been there all their freakin' life 'n' us new-be foreigners er supposed ta be better able at that then them? MORE BULL SHIT! Also, I hear, them border Pakistanis don't much like us either. No, man, yer makin' excuses!” he accused me.

“OK! I DON'T KNOW! I DON'T KNOW!” I said almost shouting.

“Does ANYONE know why, after six years of our trainin' 'n' support, the Afghan Army can't handle them Tallymen when a rag-tag bunch o' their brothers did so well in '01? Is it our training?” The Butter-Cutter asked and I had no answer.

Semper Asking,

Anthony F. Milavic

Major USMC (Ret.)