Some of you may not be aware of a report by Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis, an active duty US Army officer who has had four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan starting in 2005. His latest was a tour in Afghanistan 2010 – 2011. He created 2 reports, one classified and one unclassified. I have read only the unclassified report but he has stated that both have the same thrust, the classified one simply has more specific information. The classified version has been given to members of Congress. In the report, he makes a clear case that what the various generals have reported to the public, congress and presumably to the president, paint a much more positive picture than what the reality is on the ground.
His most recent duties involved traveling around Afghanistan to assess the needs of the troops in order to be successful in their mission and to protect their lives. To accomplish this he traveled more than 9000 miles and interviewed over 250 Army officers of various ranks as well as the enlisted troops who make up the patrols. During his time in Afghanistan, Davis went on many patrols both motorized and on foot. He is definitely not a bean counter.
It is clear that his unique perspective gives him significant insight into what is really happening. Contrary to what has been reported, Davis makes a strong case that the mission in Afghanistan is not only not doing well but is in fact going badly. Davis states that the Afghan forces are not making gains in competency, they don’t perform well particularly when left on their own. It’s common to avoid any engagement with Taliban fighters. He sights numerous examples of Afghan troops simply staying at the check points that were developed by US forces leaving the surrounding area controlled by the Taliban. Davis states that rather than being isolated incidents it is a consistent pattern.
Davis states that the main things that need to be accomplished to successfully deal with an insurgency are: have at least a minimally functioning stable government, have security forces that (while not expected to equal the US military) are able to manage the security environment, both the government and the security force has to have the support of the people, and the insurgent troops need to be substantially degraded so the local forces can handle them. Success requires that all of these factors need to be at least minimally in place simultaneously. In his DemocracyNow interview, Davis goes on to say that, “virtually none of them are the case in Afghanistan.”
When asked why he was going public with this report, Davis made it clear that without an attainable goal he felt duty bound to protect the troops from injury or death, especially if it wouldn’t further the interests of the US. His conclusion is that a continued presence in Afghanistan can result in nothing advantageous to US interests or the interests of the Afghan people.
Numerous pages detail why the Afghanistan surge of 30,000 additional troops failed even though it was modeled on the Iraq surge that was successful. The Iraq surge was proclaimed a grand success and the entire credit was taken by the generals who designed it. We heard their egotistical claims on the nightly news and in press conferences. No one made mention that prior to the surge, the Iraq insurgency to end the foreign occupation reluctantly approached the US with a proposal to join forces. They made this painful concession not because we had won their hearts and minds. Most were still completely opposed to the occupation.
The decision was made to literally save their country. Al Qaeda had been brutalizing the civilian population with horrendous and grotesque acts of terrorism, torture, and murder. The Iraqi insurgents were forced into a complicit role with their occupiers with the realization that they would need help to defeat al Qaeda. Or at least that the allied troops would stop engaging the Iraqi forces while they rid the country of al Qaeda. Basically, it could be said that they chose to align themselves with the lesser of two evils. The report explains this at length.
Of course, no such dynamic was present in Afghanistan. The surge, which we heard had some success actually had little impact. Fox “News” has reported that if Obama had only authorized 10,000 more troops it would have had a more successful outcome. Davis is clear that this is not so.
The report goes on to detail the abject failure of a proposed futuristic weapon system. This was touted to be a great advancement that would allow a smaller force to engage an enemy with the same success that would currently require a much larger troop number. Davis was directly involved in the early stages. The testing was disastrous and the system was shown to be deficient in most regards. This was allowed to be the case over many years and with tens of billions of dollars being expended on the failed system.
The computer simulations showed failures and needed to be tailored to the system in order for there to be even a modicum of success. The actual ground tests demonstrated more of the same. They put the advanced system and personnel up against what might be expected an enemy force to be comprised of. In three separate goes the advanced system team was routed by the “enemy.” In a spin-off smaller scale attempt, the system was fraught with crashing computers and faulty sensor readings.
It was reported to the public and to the Armed Services Congressional Committee as either being promising and reaching its goals or downright false claims that it had passed the tests. Lt. Colonel Davis does’t offer an opinion as to why the reports would be contrary to the actual results. However, he does tell about one officer directly involved who now works for Ratheon, one of the primary contractors. In my opinion, I can’t think of any other reason, if not to insure a lucrative position with a military contractor. Nice, sacrifice national security for personal gain. And all this against a backdrop of charging and now proceeding with the court martial of Bradley Manning, who never had even an inkling of seeking personal gain.
Davis’ bottom line point is that this failure (in honest reporting) was extremely expensive both in actual dollars but perhaps more importantly in losing nearly a decade of what could have been more promising R&D and innovation.
The most significant disclosures are the ones that show the dishonesty that the high ranking DoD personnel (both military & civilian) engaged in to maintain public and congressional support for the misadventures in Afghanistan. No doubt, they knew that if the truth was known, support by the public (& possibly congress) would turn against the war. I guess it could be argued that some people have never met a war they didn’t like, even when the pesky facts are an inconvenience to be avoided and even if it means many more maimed and dead soldiers and civilians.
You can read a pdf file of the complete unclassified report here. I have also included a downloadable pdf of the first 5 pages of The February 8th, 2012 Congressional Record as they relate to the report by Lt. Col. Davis. It is heartening to see that he appears to have been taken seriously. The 3 part video of his DemocracyNow interview is below.