The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

War in Afghanistan 2010, Week 18

After too many months on hiatus from The Black Rod's weekly War in Afghanistan feature, we were still playing catch-up last week, but already we were shocked and dismayed by what we found.

The only sign of a real war is the drone war in Pakistan.

Unmanned U.S. aircraft delivered a rain of missiles Tuesday on insurgents in North Waziristan, a section of Pakistan's tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The single attack saw 18 missiles launched on a car or truck and into tents containing armed men. At least 14 insurgents were killed. It was the second strike in 3 days.

More than 30 drone attacks have been recorded this year, almost all in North Waziristan, the stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban. The intense air attacks have killed many of the Taliban leadership and cast a pall of terror over the insugents.

They have stopped using cell phones, because they fear their location can be pinpointed, which has disrupted communication between members who have to use messengers to keep in touch. They travel only by night for fear of being blown up on the road. And they've been forced to move frequently, living in tents and gathering in small numbers to keep casulties down in the event of a drone attack.

The knowledge that informants are everywhere providing tips for the drone attacks has made the Taliban leadership paranoid, not to mention the almost constant sight and sound of airborne drones overhead. One witness to Tuesday's attack told reporters that six drones had been seen before the missile strikes, and at least four were still hovering over the area.

In Afghanistan, its the exact opposite picture. Generals have been turned into social workers and soldiers into recreation councillors. Allied commanders have kneecapped their own forces by choking off airstrikes, emboldening Taliban fighters who used to break off engagments when the jets arrived, but who now know the limits on Allied airpower has removed it from the combat equation.

Air traffic controllers have heard intercepted radio messages from enemy leaders ordering their fighters to “Keep fighting; they won’t shoot”. A-10 aircraft, built for close-air support with heavy armour and a nose-mounted 30mm, seven-barrel Gatling gun, are being used on surveillance and reconnaissance sorties instead.

The new aversion to violence is so great that NATO is contemplating a new medal for soldiers who DON'T kill on the battlefield. Honest....we're not making this up.

“The idea is being reviewed at Headquarters [International Security Force Afghanistan],” said Lt. Col. Edward Sholtis, the spokesman for NATO Commander General Stanley McChrystal. “The idea is consistent with our approach. Our young men and women display remarkable courage every day, including situations where they refrain from using lethal force, even at risk to themselves, in order to prevent possible harm to civilians. ... That restraint is an act of discipline and courage not much different than those seen in combat actions.”

And it keeps getting more stomach-turning.

Even if we don't want to kill the enemy, do we have to make it easier for them to kill our soldiers?

In boning up what we missed, we came across a story in the Globe and Mail from January 29, 2010, headlined "Canada's new battle plan; Push beyond the city to 'break the back' of the Taliban."
Reporter Sonia Verma wrote:

"Brigadier-General Daniel Menard, the country's top commander in Afghanistan, is poised to launch a new offensive ahead of this spring's fighting season that will see Canadian and American combat troops under his command push out from platoon houses around Kandahar city to "break the back" of the Taliban in the surrounding countryside."

"Brig-Gen. Menard warned the renewed fight in Kandahar province would be bloody, with the death toll of NATO forces likely to spuike as they seek to extend their reach before the situation improves."
"...this is where I'm going to fight the insurgency, Brig.-Gen. Menard said, tracing his battle plan on a map marked "May 10" during a wide-ranging interview in his office on Kandahar Airfield..."

What? The general was not only showing a reporter a map of a planned offensive, but revealing the exact date it will start?

Last weekend, the Taliban announced a new offensive against U.S.and NATO troops using IEDs, blockades, assassinations, abductions and suicide bombers. The start date: May 10. Coincidence?

Meanwhile, allied forces are thumping the war drums for what is being billed as the biggest military offensive of the war in Afghanistan----next to the last biggest, Operation Moshtarak, a couple of months ago in Helmand province. In that one about 15,000 troops stormed the insurgent-held town of Marjah and the district of Nad Ali, if you call giving the enemy a couple of months warning that you're coming "storming" the town.

The "kinder, gentler" war being waged in Afghanistan courtesy of Barack Obama hates even violent language. The mililtary doesn't even like to use words like "operation" or "military offensive" when describing the coming....uh....thing.

"We would like to call it a 'process' that is encompassing military and non-military instruments," Brigadier General Josef Blotz, the spokesman for NATO forces, told reporters this week. Take that you Taliban killers!

The "process" will essentially consist of about 23,000 ground troops, including 8,500 Americans and 12,000 Afghan soldiers and police. The emphasis will be on avoiding urban warfare. The soldiers will stay out of Kandahar city while the police and Afghan forces set up roadblocks and security checkpoints.

Hmmm. Do you think the advance warning will give the Taliban time to prepare exactly what the allies want to avoid?

"...the Taliban may try to undermine them by provoking the pitched battle that NATO wants to avoid in the city. Fighters are said to be storing weapons around Kandahar, including in market stalls, wrote one British correspondent this week. Ya think?
To quote one internet commenter:

Guy Guy wrote:
So along with the horiffic Rules of Engagement that our military is saddled with we give the enemy the battle plan. Unfrigginbelivable. Our military policy is brought to you by the same crowd that outlawed dodgeball on the playground because it hurt someone's feelings.

Hear. Hear.

It is to weep.

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