Afghan turmoil threatens NATO’s ‘mission accomplished’ plans | ADRIAN CROFT AND MIRWAIS HAROONI
(Reuters) - NATO will declare “mission accomplished” this week as it winds down more than a decade of operations in Afghanistan but departing combat troops look likely to leave behind political turmoil and an emboldened insurgency.
The embattled country is also suffering a sharp economic slowdown.
NATO had hoped its summit in Wales on Thursday and Friday would herald a smooth handover of security at the end of this year from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Afghan forces. It then plans to cut back its role to a smaller mission to train and advise Afghan troops.
The 28-nation alliance had also hoped to celebrate Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power by inviting a new president to share the spotlight with U.S. President Barack Obama and the other 27 allied leaders.
Instead, NATO diplomats privately admit that the backdrop to the summit is the “worst case scenario”.
U.S. soldiers of Able Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team secure the uppermost floor of a building during a mission rehearsal exercise (MRE) at a Bundeswehr training area in Oberviechtach, Germany. The MRE was conducted at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Commands Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas in order to prepare the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade to deploy to Afghanistan to provide medical evacuation and combat support to the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Bryan Rankin, 20 MAR 2014.)
A German soldier holds his weapon as he rides an amoured vehicle on June 3, 2010 in Shir Khan, Afghanistan. Germany has more than 4,500 military forces in Afghanistan as part of the US-led International Security Assistance Force. Amid growing public resentment towards the prolonged mission in Afghanistan, the German parliament, the Bundestag, voted in February for extension of Germany’s military mission in Afghanistan and the deployment of additional 859 troops. (Miguel Villagran/Getty Images AsiaPac)
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command personnel with 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion conduct Direct Action training Oct. 25, 2014, here, during RAVEN 15-01, a 10-day exercise to enhance readiness for worldwide deployment in support of global contingencies. During the exercise, the Marines participated in a range of training including Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Security Force Assistance, Counterterrorism, Counterinsurgency, and Foreign Internal Defense. (Official Marine Corps photo by Capt. Barry Morris/released)
Afghan children sell handicrafts to a NATO soldier
during a monthly bazaar at the International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF) headquarters in Kabul, Jan. 5, 2013. Analysts have warned the
country could plunge into another large-scale civil war after the
NATO-led force departs by 2015.
A Special Operations Forces soldier with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) provides security while a Road Maintenance Team checkpoint is being built in Tagab, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2010.
Marine Raiders conduct 10-Day training exercise: RAVEN
Marine Raiders conduct a 10-day readiness exercise referred to as RAVEN, to enhance their readiness for worldwide deployment in support of global contingencies. During the exercise, the Critical Skills Operators and Special Operations Officers trained with conventional Marine Corps forces, and participated in a range of realistic military training including Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance, Preparation of the Environment, Security Force Assistance, Counterterrorism, Counterinsurgency, and Foreign Internal Defense.
Soldiers from Oscar Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group, take a moment to rest in their established leaguer in the Panjwa’i district of Kandahar province.
In close cooperation with Afghan National Security Force, 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group provides security by conducting counter-insurgency operations throughout Panjwa’i district located south-west of Kandahar City. The Battle Group conducts partnered operations with the 2nd Kandak of the 1st Brigade, 205 Corps of the Afghan National army, Afghan National Police and the Panjwa’i district Governor in order to advance governance, reconstruction and security in the area.
Operation ATHENA is Canada’s participation in the International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan. Focused on Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan since the fall of 2005, Op ATHENA has one over-arching objective: to leave Afghanistan to Afghans, in a country that is better governed, more peaceful and more secure.
A French International Security Assistance Force Special Operations Forces Sniper in position overlooking the Tagab Valley while a Road Maintenance Team checkpoint is being built in Tagab, Afghanistan, Nov. 26, 2010.
After more than 12 years, Canada’s military in Afghanistan has come to an end. In a flag lowering ceremony on March 12 at International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul, the largest deployment of Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel since the Second World War has drawn to an end.
US Army Major Marci Hodge, second from the left, with fellow female service members at Afghanistan’s First National Women’s Shura hosted by International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in March 2012.
(Photo and article by Lieutenant Colonel Patty Brewer, 16 MAR 2012 & 20 JUN 2014, via DVIDS.)
Today, female Soldiers work and live alongside their male counterparts in combat zones. One of those Soldiers, Army Maj. Marci Hodge, proves how women join the fight and help commanders successfully meet their combat missions. Hodge, a Civil Affairs Soldier with the 450th Civil Affairs Battalion, joined the active duty Army in 2000 as a Quartermaster officer. In the first of three deployments, she participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. On her return home, she went to Airborne School and joined the Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne) as their only female Company Commander.
“We know how to be Soldiers,” said Hodge. “My career has been a series of challenges, testing and breaking through the boundaries, showing my peers and commanders that gender is not relevant.”
Hodge left active duty to join the U.S. Army Reserve in 2005. As an Army Reservist, Hodge’s second deployment took her back to Iraq in 2007 for the “Surge” as a Sustainment Group Team Supervisor for Division Humanitarian Assistance. Hodge was awarded a Bronze Star for her exemplary service. Her final deployment was to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 where she served as Regional Command East Female Engagement Team Program Manager.
Hodge’s future plans include completing her military education, getting a Battalion Command and going to the War College. She is determined to be an influencing voice of reason for leaders, colleagues and Soldiers.
‘Female Engagement Team Leader’
Brigade Combat Teams, maneuver battalions, and Provincial Reconstruction Teams utilize Female Engagement Teams to achieve counterinsurgency objectives through their influence and interaction with local communities, primarily women. When FETs were first established, the question was how to integrate them within security missions. Because no standard operating procedures existed the plan evolved as the mission developed. FET teams were soon seamlessly incorporated into combat teams. It was a practical solution given the timing, people, and skills and it met the needs of the Army.
As the FET Leader, Hodge was responsible for teams consisting of U.S. servicewomen and foreign female Soldiers from Turkey, Britain, and Australia. Each team member received two weeks additional training in Government Development and Security Operations.
”Despite the limited security training, FET members rose to the occasion,” said Hodge.
Volunteers understood the risks and challenges and could walk away if they were uncomfortable with the mission. Some did leave, but others stayed, and Hodge ensured those that remained were set up for success.
Above all, Afghan women welcomed FETs. Disenfranchised Afghan women witnessed empowered women who were mission-critical and worked on an equal footing with male Soldiers. By networking with Afghan women, FETs supported the commander’s mission and achieved an overall improvement in security.
“The best part of FET was helping Afghan women,” said Hodge.
Military leadership learned several lessons from FET operations. First, the security mission matured more quickly if Afghan women were involved engaged sooner. Second, major personnel issues that detractors were so worried about really were non-issues. Restrooms, sleeping accommodations, and showers did not impact operations.
“Look, when you’ve got to go, you go,” explained Hodge. “No one cared if I squat outside my Humvee while we are on convoy in Iraq; we had bigger issues.”
In a deployed environment, everyone is struggling with something, Hodge added. While on mission, you are so tired, all you want is sleep, and you sleep where and when you can, regardless of the Soldier’s gender sleeping next to you.
Commanders also wanted to establish female buddy teams, which is often done in training. But in a deployment, a female buddy team is not always feasible. Hodge explained that when she was a company commander within Special Warfare Training Group, there were no other females. Were they going to reassign a female from another battalion just to be her buddy? The big issue is training. Women are an Army asset and should be trained to support the whole mission. “Give us the training and we’ll take the opportunity.”
“I am a Soldier first”
A year after the Pentagon lifted the ban on women in combat, female Soldiers from armies around the world shared their stories in Washington D.C. at a recent conference entitled “Women in Combat Units: Experiences of Partner Nations” sponsored by Women in International Security. Attendees included partner nation representatives, scholars and servicewomen and men. Representatives from nations who already have fully integrated militaries shared effective strategies for achieving gender parity in combat forces.
Hodge was a panel member in the first session, ‘Women in Combat Testimonials,’ which included female veteran voices from Canada, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Army. The countries represented on the panel, aside from the U.S., integrated women into combat roles between 1985 and 1989. The most senior female voice on the panel was Canadian Col. Jennie Carignan who commanded the Task Force Kandahar Engineer Regiment from 2009 to 2010. She was the first woman in Canadian Armed Forces history to command a combat arms unit.
Hodge was impressed by what she heard, and honored to be among history-making Soldiers discussing the importance of and challenges to integrating women into combat roles.
“The over-riding message is clear, how to make Soldiers the best that they can be?” said Hodge. “How do you make women more effective?”
There is no question that women’s bodies are different but it is possible to develop physical training that gets women as mission-ready as men. It is not a matter of lowering standards but determining what the job requires. It’s important to know that all Soldiers can do the physical part but it is time to end the debate of Soldier versus gender. The U.S. is seen as lagging far behind when it comes to women serving in combat compared to other nations’ militaries.
‘Women in Combat’
Hodge was very happy when the Pentagon announced the policy change regarding women in the combat ranks. It meant female Soldiers now had the opportunity to advance to positions that were previously out of reach.
While the U.S. Army studies fitness standards for combat jobs, women are serving as military police, pilots, or in Female Engagement Teams and face the prospect of combat daily in Afghanistan. By 2016, the studies will be completed, standards established, and blueprints designed for dual-gender U.S. combat units and over 200,000 combat-related positions will be available to women.
Hodge has a bit of advice for female Soldiers with opportunities within the combat ranks. If you think you can do it, do it and embrace the challenge. Women, such as Hodge, are already blazing the trail.
The infrastructure is there and leadership wants to do the right thing, Hodge added. It’s not about gender, it’s about service. Since 1775 women have served in the U.S. military. Women’s military roles have been changing for decades, but with the Pentagon’s policy change comes formal recognition that female Soldiers are competent, prepared, and a key to success.
Trailblazers such as Hodge prove that a Soldier’s actions are not tied to gender. While the debate continues on how to integrate women into the battlefield, today’s female Soldiers are living the reality, proving that they are proficient Soldiers and capable of achieving their mission in combat.
November 9, 2014 - Prince Harry joined British troops and service personal remaining in Afghanistan and also International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel and civilians as they gathered for a Remembrance Sunday service at Kandahar Airfield in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Romanian International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Special Operations Forces soldiers demonstrate to Afghan National Police-Provincial Response Company members how to enter and clear a simulated room during a training session taught by ISAF SOF at Forward Operating Base Kutschbach, Afghanistan, Nov. 25, 2010.
A German soldier looks through the scope mounted to his G3 rifle while aboard a UH-60L Blackhawk helicopter during an aircraft familiarization demonstration at Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, June 13, 2011. The Soldier is assigned to the International Security Assistance Force. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas A. Garratt/Released)
U.S. soldiers of Bravo Company, 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment (General Support), 12th Combat Aviation Brigade conduct training drills on how to exit a downed aircraft during a mission rehearsal exercise (MRE) at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany. The MRE was conducted at the 7th Army Joint Multinational Training Commands Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels Training Areas in order to prepare subordinate battalions of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade to deploy to Afghanistan to provide medical evacuation and combat support to the NATO International Security Assistance Force mission.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Justin De Hoyos, 13 MAR 2014.)
List of our military elite who have been purged or fired under Obama
Retired Army Major General Paul Vallely: “The White House protects their own.That’s why they stalled on the investigation into fast and furious, Benghazi and Obamacare.He’s intentionally weakening and gutting our military, Pentagon and reducing us as a superpower, and anyone in the ranks who disagrees or speaks out is being purged. Absolutely every communist regime on the planet did this as soon as they got in power. I am surprised this communist traitor with his feet up on our furniture in the white house hasn’t done this until now!”
The list complied by General Paul Vllely
Commanding Generals fired:
· General John R. Allen-U.S. Marines Commander International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] (Nov 2012)
· Major General Ralph Baker (2 Star)-U.S. Army Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn in Africa (April 2013)
· Major General Michael Carey (2 Star)-U.S. Air Force Commander of the 20th US Air Force in charge of 9,600 people and 450 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (Oct 2013)
· Colonel James Christmas-U.S. Marines Commander 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit & Commander Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response Unit (July 2013)
· Major General Peter Fuller-U.S. Army Commander in Afghanistan (May 2011)
· Major General Charles M.M. Gurganus-U.S. Marine Corps Regional Commander of SW and I Marine Expeditionary Force in Afghanistan (Oct 2013)
· General Carter F. Ham-U.S. Army African Command (Oct 2013)
· Lieutenant General David H. Huntoon (3 Star), Jr.-U.S. Army 58th Superintendent of the US Military Academy at West Point, NY (2013)
· Command Sergeant Major Don B Jordan-U.S. Army 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command (suspended Oct 2013)
· General James Mattis-U.S. Marines Chief of CentCom (May 2013)
· Colonel Daren Margolin-U.S. Marine in charge of Quantico’s Security Battalion (Oct 2013)
· General Stanley McChrystal-U.S. Army Commander Afghanistan (June 2010)
· General David D. McKiernan-U.S. Army Commander Afghanistan (2009)
· General David Petraeus-Director of CIA from September 2011 to November 2012 & U.S. Army Commander International Security Assistance Force [ISAF] and Commander U.S. Forces Afghanistan [USFOR-A] (Nov 2012)
· Brigadier General Bryan Roberts-U.S. Army Commander 2nd Brigade (May 2013)
· Major General Gregg A. Sturdevant-U.S. Marine Corps Director of Strategic Planning and Policy for the U.S. Pacific Command & Commander of Aviation Wing at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan (Sept 2013)
· Colonel Eric Tilley-U.S. Army Commander of Garrison Japan (Nov 2013)
· Brigadier General Bryan Wampler-U.S. Army Commanding General of 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command [TSC] (suspended Oct 2013)
Commanding Admirals fired:
· Rear Admiral Charles Gaouette-U.S. Navy Commander John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group Three (Oct 2012)
· Vice Admiral Tim Giardina(3 Star, demoted to 2 Star)-U.S. Navy Deputy Commander of the US Strategic Command, Commander of the Submarine Group Trident, Submarine Group 9 and Submarine Group 10 (Oct 2013)
Naval Officers fired: (All in 2011)
· Captain David Geisler-U.S. Navy Commander Task Force 53 in Bahrain (Oct 2011)
· Commander Laredo Bell-U.S. Navy Commander Naval Support Activity Saratoga Springs, NY (Aug 2011)
· Lieutenant Commander Kurt Boenisch-Executive Officer amphibious transport dock Ponce (Apr 2011)
· Commander Nathan Borchers-U.S. Navy Commander destroyer Stout (Mar 2011)
· Commander Robert Brown-U.S. Navy Commander Beachmaster Unit 2 Fort Story, VA (Aug 2011)
· Commander Andrew Crowe-Executive Officer Navy Region Center Singapore (Apr 2011)
· Captain Robert Gamberg-Executive Officer carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower (Jun 2011)
· Captain Rex Guinn-U.S. Navy Commander Navy Legal Service office Japan (Feb 2011)
· Commander Kevin Harms- U.S. Navy Commander Strike Fighter Squadron 137 aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln (Mar 2011)
· Lieutenant Commander Martin Holguin-U.S. Navy Commander mine countermeasures Fearless (Oct 2011)
· Captain Owen Honors-U.S. Navy Commander aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (Jan 2011)
· Captain Donald Hornbeck-U.S. Navy Commander Destroyer Squadron 1 San Diego
· Rear Admiral Ron Horton-U.S. Navy Commander Logistics Group, Western Pacific
· Commander Etta Jones-U.S. Navy Commander amphibious transport dock Ponce (Apr 2011)
· Commander Ralph Jones-Executive Officer amphibious transport dock Green Bay (Jul 2011)
· Commander Jonathan Jackson-U.S. Navy Commander Electronic Attack Squadron 134, deployed aboard carrier Carl Vinson (Dec 2011)
· Captain Eric Merrill-U.S. Navy Commander submarine Emory S. Land (Jul 2011)
· Captain William Mosk-U.S. Navy Commander Naval Station Rota, U.S. Navy Commander Naval Activities Spain (Apr 2011)
· Commander Timothy Murphy-U.S. Navy Commander Electronic Attack Squadron 129 at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, WA (Apr 2011)
· Commander Joseph Nosse-U.S. Navy Commander ballistic-missile submarine Kentucky (Oct 2011)
· Commander Mark Olson-U.S. Navy Commander destroyer The Sullivans FL (Sep 2011)
· Commander John Pethel-Executive Officer amphibious transport dock New York (Dec 2011)
· Commander Karl Pugh-U.S. Navy Commander Electronic Attack Squadron 141 Whidbey Island, WA (Jul 2011)
· Commander Jason Strength-U.S. Navy Commander of Navy Recruiting District Nashville, TN (Jul 2011)
· Captain Greg Thomas-U.S. Navy Commander Norfolk Naval Shipyard (May 2011)
· Commander Mike Varney-U.S. Navy Commander attack submarine Connecticut (Jun 2011)
· Commander Jay Wylie-U.S. Navy Commander destroyer Momsen (Apr 2011)
Naval Officers fired: (All in 2012):
· Commander Alan C. Aber-Executive Officer Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 71 (July 2012)
· Commander Derick Armstrong- U.S. Navy Commander missile destroyer USS The Sullivans (May 2012)
· Commander Martin Arriola- U.S. Navy Commander destroyer USS Porter (Aug 2012)
· Captain Antonio Cardoso- U.S. Navy Commander Training Support Center San Diego (Sep 2012)
· Captain James CoBell- U.S. Navy Commander Oceana Naval Air Station’s Fleet Readiness Center Mid-Atlantic (Sep 2012)
· Captain Joseph E. Darlak- U.S. Navy Commander frigate USS Vandegrift (Nov 2012)
· Captain Daniel Dusek-U.S. Navy Commander USS Bonhomme
· Commander David Faught-Executive Officer destroyer Chung-Hoon (Sep 2012)
· Commander Franklin Fernandez- U.S. Navy Commander Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24 (Aug 2012)
· Commander Ray Hartman- U.S. Navy Commander Amphibious dock-landing ship Fort McHenry (Nov 2012)
· Commander Shelly Hakspiel-Executive Officer Navy Drug Screening Lab San Diego (May 2012)
· Commander Jon Haydel- U.S. Navy Commander USS San Diego (Mar 2012)
· Commander Diego Hernandez- U.S. Navy Commander ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming (Feb 2012)
· Commander Lee Hoey- U.S. Navy Commander Drug Screening Laboratory, San Diego (May 2012)
· Commander Ivan Jimenez-Executive Officer frigate Vandegrift (Nov 2012)
· Commander Dennis Klein- U.S. Navy Commander submarine USS Columbia (May 2012)
· Captain Chuck Litchfield- U.S. Navy Commander assault ship USS Essex (Jun 2012)
· Captain Marcia Kim Lyons- U.S. Navy Commander Naval Health Clinic New England (Apr 2012)
· Captain Robert Marin- U.S. Navy Commander cruiser USS Cowpens (Feb 2012)
· Captain Sean McDonell- U.S. Navy Commander Seabee reserve unit Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 14 FL (Nov 2012)
· Commander Corrine Parker- U.S. Navy Commander Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 1 (Apr 2012)
· Captain Liza Raimondo- U.S. Navy Commander Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River, MD (Jun 2012)
· Captain Jeffrey Riedel- Program manager, Littoral Combat Ship program (Jan 2012)
· Commander Sara Santoski- U.S. Navy Commander Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (Sep 2012)
· Commander Kyle G. Strudthoff-Executive Officer Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 25 (Sep 2012)
· Commander Sheryl Tannahill- U.S. Navy Commander Navy Operational Support Center [NOSC] Nashville, TN (Sep 2012)
· Commander Michael Ward- U.S. Navy Commander submarine USS Pittsburgh (Aug 2012)
· Captain Michael Wiegand- U.S. Navy Commander Southwest Regional Maintenance Center (Nov 2012)
· Captain Ted Williams- U.S. Navy Commander amphibious command ship Mount Whitney (Nov 2012)
· Commander Jeffrey Wissel- U.S. Navy Commander of Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron 1 (Feb 2012)
Naval Officers fired: (All in 2013):
· Lieutenant Commander Lauren Allen-Executive Officer submarine Jacksonville (Feb 2013)
· Reserve Captain Jay Bowman-U.S. Navy Commander Navy Operational Support Center [NOSC] Fort Dix, NJ (Mar 2013)
· Captain William Cogar-U.S. Navy Commander hospital ship Mercy’s medical treatment facility (Sept 2013)
· Commander Steve Fuller-Executive Officer frigate Kauffman (Mar 2013)
· Captain Shawn Hendricks-Program Manager for naval enterprise IT networks (June 2013)
· Captain David Hunter-U.S. Navy Commander of Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 12 & Coastal Riverine Group 2 (Feb 2013)
· Captain Eric Johnson-U.S. Navy Chief of Military Entrance Processing Command at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, IL (2013)
· Captain Devon Jones-U.S. Navy Commander Naval Air Facility El Centro, CA (July 2013)
· Captain Kevin Knoop-U.S. Navy Commander hospital ship Comfort’s medical treatment facility (Aug 2013)
· Lieutenant Commander Jack O’Neill-U.S. Navy Commander Operational Support Center Rock Island, IL (Mar 2013)
· Commander Allen Maestas-Executive Officer Beachmaster Unit 1 (May 2013)
· Commander Luis Molina-U.S. Navy Commander submarine Pasadena (Jan 2013)
· Commander James Pickens-Executive Officer frigate Gary (Feb 2013)
· Lieutenant Commander Mark Rice-U.S. Navy Commander Mine Countermeasures ship Guardian (Apr 2013)
· Commander Michael Runkle-U.S. Navy Commander of Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2 (May 2013)
· Commander Jason Stapleton-Executive Office Patrol Squadron 4 in Hawaii (Mar 2013)
· Commander Nathan Sukols-U.S. Navy Commander submarine Jacksonville (Feb 2013)
· Lieutenant Daniel Tyler-Executive Officer Mine Countermeasures ship Guardian (Apr 2013)
· Commander Edward White-U.S. Navy Commander Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (Aug 2013)
· Captain Jeffrey Winter-U.S. Navy Commander of Carrier Air Wing 17 (Sept 2013)
· Commander Thomas Winter-U.S. Navy Commander submarine Montpelier (Jan 2013)
· Commander Corey Wofford- U.S. Navy Commander frigate Kauffman (Feb 2013)