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Russians invade Afghanistan

Dan Rather of CBS News appeared live (e.g. uncensored) on Larry King from Afghanistan and announced:

KING: In a little while we'll he talking with Shimon Peres, the foreign minister of Israel. We'll get Dan's thoughts on that as well, of course. Dan Rather is with us from Kabul, Afghanistan. Have you run in to any Russians?

RATHER: Yes, Larry, I'm glad you mention it. I think the Russians involvement in what's going on in Afghanistan now is a vastly underreported story. No. 1, the Russians had a full division, I think it was called the 201st, at least an armored division right on the border of Afghanistan, and units of that division and other Russian troops have been very much involved in what's been happening lately, but they have kept themselves as much as possible out of sight.

There are reports, I have not been able to confirm them, but there are reports that I do believe that what amounts to Russian special forces are, have been operating for some time now even south of Kabul in the effort to make Kandahar fall. And the Russians rushed in here with a humanitarian aid operation.

They beat the Americans in here and nearly everybody else with humanitarian aid setup. In fact just across this wall from where I'm talking, the Russians have their version of a tent city, and have started their humanitarian aid operation. This is an official Russian government operation as I understand it. So they're very much involved here. What they are doing, Larry, is the Russians are dealing themselves a hand and they want to deal themselves a very big hand in what happens in Afghanistan next.

By the way, they have already opened their embassy where our State Department is saying, well, we may have the embassy open in two weeks to a month or something like that. Now, I think part of what the United States State Department is doing is sending a signal to the Afghans, look, we're not trying to impose our will on you. And of course, there's a lot of animosity in this country with the Russians because of what happened during the 1980s.

KING: And are the Russians trying to change that? Is this a different kind of Russia in there than was there years ago?

RATHER: Yes, this is a smiling bear. That's the reason they are placing, their whole emphasis is on humanitarian aid. They are keeping --their military operations have been almost virtually secret.  I did see a sign yesterday, in fact, I saw three signs yesterday, Larry, in and around Kabul, scribbled signs, sort of graffiti, that said polar bear, go home.

The inference could not be any clearer, that this Afghans who wrote that want the Russians to go back up north. But the Russians are dealing themselves a very big hand here, they, along with the Iranians, Pakistanis, Indians, they're all going to be involved in the future of Afghanistan and that's one of the things that worries the Afghans the most just now. 

Here is the link to Rather's interview:

      Although every Afghan faction has at least one of these countries as a supporter the rest will never except their input. This is the historical tragedy of Afghanistan.  I've been informed that the 201st is not an armor division but an under strength Motor Rifle Division that's stationed in Uzbekistan and has interceded on behalf of the NA a great many times in the last five years. It was stationed first at Kunduz and then moved to Naibabad during the Soviet occupation. It was one of the last units to withdraw from Afghanistan in Feb. 89 and has remained in what is now Uzbekistan ever since. 

     This article from appeared in the 6 March 1999 issue of "The Cyber-Caravan ' under the title: Taliban - a Model for "Islamicising" Central Asia?

"The history of Afghanistan demonstrates that seizing Afghanistan is the easiest part. Retaining control is the difficult part. As the winter snows melt and the military campaign season begins anew, the fighting will again flare up. But the real challenge, to restore Afghanistan to peace and prosperity, will wait. The Taliban have demonstrated, so far, that they are not up to the challenge. To effectively rule, they must moderate their policies, broaden their base of support and participation and draw the intellectuals and professionals into their ranks."

                                                                                              Emery Nelson

Ed. Where were the Marine Cobra attack helicopters during the Kandahar fighting?  C-17s were flying into that "Fort Rhino" airbase, why not A-10s?  And why not fly in Marine M1A1 tanks aboard the C-17s and send them into the fight?  Maybe its the weather, but since the US military has reported zero combat deaths from enemy action thus far, I think its fair to call General Franks ground plan "timid".  They should have used Marines to surround Kandahar and blocked the retreat BEFORE they bombed Kandahar.  I know this is armchair quarterbacking, and no one wants GIs killed.  However, the goal should have always been to trap al Qaeda, not to scatter them with constant bombings in order to capture Afghan cities.

That Larry King interview was interesting because none of the networks chose to broadcast that breaking news, or maybe they consider the CBS anchorman on the scene in Afghanistan to be a "conspiracy theorist".

Are Admirals Afraid to Fight?

I read the "Streetfighter" article linked in your editorial; seems to be the PT boat for the future. Small ship, small crew, capable of taking out enemy high-value assets (HVAs) before the US Navy's HVAs can be threatened/attacked by enemy HVAs.  Seems to be the problem the Navy has had for a long while: don't get close to a brawl.

The Streetfighter is a PT boat; the Rocket Cruiser [an idea of mine for a cheap, armored fire support ship to support forced landings] or Monitor Battery Craft [another idea on a potential small fire support craft carried on an LHD/LHA (large naval landing ships that carry Marine Expeditionary Units, like those sent to Afghanistan) for landing support] is designed to support the landing force.  Wars aren't won until you stand on the territory.  If an enemy invests in cheap, numerous systems and decoys up the wazoo, all the OMFTS [Operational Maneuver From The Sea, a Navy proposal to keep the ships over the horizon while sending the Marines ashore in helicopters and new fast track amphibious craft] nonsense comes home to roost for the Marines.  And the Navy will have to risk its woefully under-armed HVAs in close, or be forced to leave the area.  That leaves the USAF and Airborne forces as the only potential saviors, but without local mobility and firepower, they get cut off and destroyed because the Navy won't risk HVAs in a forced landing.  Then the T-shirt that points out the Marines are the Men's Department of the Navy will become cruelly true.

I have been saying the Achilles heel of the US military is casualties for a decade. The Navy will plead poverty as to why it can't do the landing force mission, conveniently forgetting the money squandered on nonsense like converting Ohio SSBNs to Tomahawk missile ships and V-22 crash and burn aircraft.  They can't/won't be able to move ships to the Pacific, because the Panama Canal will be under the control of Beijing allies in Panama, and the ambush in the Suez will block that passage also.  [COSCO (China Overseas Shipping Company) has the leases on the bases at Balboa and Colon since 1999.  They have containers all over the place; suppose some have weapons to prevent the Canal from being used by US ships in a crisis?]

War is dangerous; casualties will occur. Good leaders know this, and plan to make sure the mission is accomplished with as few casualties as possible, but the mission WILL BE accomplished.  If simple measures can reduce casualties, use them.  PT boat crews knew they were in danger, but they followed their leaders.

The Navy leadership needs to get to the crypt at Annapolis more often and stand in the presence of the remains of the man who made the Navy.  "I have not yet begun to fight" seems to have become "I don't want to risk the paint job on my precious ship."  "Give me a good ship and a stout crew, because I intend to sail in harm's way" gets reduced to "We need more expensive standoff weapons because our ships are TOO expensive to think about going near nasty people."  

Better ship a full boxcar of Viagra to the Navy Department; one box isn't going to be anywhere near enough.

                                                                                  Larry A. Altersitz

Ed. My favorite part of that article was when a Navy officer expressed concern that recruiting and retention would be harmed if sailors thought they might be killed in combat.  

My September article about 21st Century battleships mentioned a 1996 article by LtCmdr Rick Denny where he proposes using 5-inch and 16-inch guns for missile defense. It has now been added to G2mil at:

Nobody Dies in a Perfect War

Here is an article which supports your suspicion that US combat deaths are covered up: Afghanistan: US Casualties Spiral.

                                                                Name Withheld

Great Anti-Armor Weapon

We're in agreement here. The LOSAT is a stupid idea.  You know what I think would be the perfect weapon for light tanks?  The 30mm GAU-8A Avenger cannon. Plenty of 'em sitting around in scrapped A-10's, they're still in production, they have excellent range, and they are equally well suited for anti-aircraft, anti-armor, anti-personnel and fortifications. A light tank could carry about 2,000 rds- enough to kill 40 tanks! Modify an up-armored M113A3 to mount a remote turret, target it with a 2nd Gen FLIR and you'd have one hell of a potent C-130 transportable tracked, armored, anti-everything vehicle!

The "Assault Boot" is an excellent idea, for the most part. The only part I don't like is the steel shell. 

1. You ever worn steel-tipped jumpboots in cold weather?    That tip gets frozen, and it's numb toe city.
2. Steel is very heavy
3. Steel is not very effective as ballistic protection

     Take the same idea, but use 3 layers of Kevlar. Significantly more protection, less weight, and your toes won't freeze. Then you could wear 'em all the time!  They'd cost more though.  In the 'early' days of composite materials (Kevlar is a
woven composite), flat panels were pretty much necessary. Nowadays however, it can be woven in a variety of shapes. Also, soft kevlar could be used in any areas that were unsuitable for the hard panels. I really do like your idea though, i would definitely welcome such boots. I think I can safely speak for all grunts when I say landmines (the enemy's at least) are no friend of ours.


Ed.  I wasn't sure how "workable" hard kevlar is, so I stayed with steel.  So far we have a Marine and a Soldier sent home from Afghanistan without a foot from stepping on small mines.  

Assault Boots Have Been Proven

     I like the "Assault Boot" idea and checked around the Internet.  They are already made by a company called Wellco, and have already been successfully tested by the Army at Aberdeen.  Check this link: Wellco Blast Protective Footwear.

                                                                   Mike Sparks

Ed. Great find!  So the question is why aren't these boots worn by every Soldier and Marine in Afghanistan right now?  One Soldier e-mailed that their claim of successful tests may be overrated, but thought he may be thinking of older tests with steel plates. Two others noted the Israelis tested the idea several years ago and rejected it.  The design I proposed in my article was for the entire foot to be protected to keep it from becoming detached.

Transforming the Army

     Colonel McGregor article was interesting, to say the least.  He points out the problems associated with transforming the Army into what is needed both now and in the future, rather than having new platforms that do the same thing as before.  On the C2 level, it almost sounds like Gordon Dickson's "Dorsai" concept is what we should strive to achieve.

As I watch some of the news on the Afghan situation, I am reminded that for all the firepower unleashed, the cry is still for troops on the ground.  Even if we talk about 4th Generation asymmetrical warfare by an enemy, as Emery Nelson pointed out, the reality is that the victor controls the ground, not merely denies it to the other side.  Ferhenbach's "Lessons" chapter in "This Kind Of War" gets to be more prescient and perceptive every day.  

So the Army needs to have the organization and equipment to be the decisive effect in any future situation, but is dependent on the other Services for mobility assets to get the decisive force to the battleground.  Organization can run the gamut from status quo thru Heinlein as the ultimate individual weapon, with a stop at Pournelle for a light infanrty force and Laumer for the "BOLO".  Most people with some military experience have drawn up a TO&E of a "perfect" force at one time or another. Equipment should be simple, robust, LIGHT, dependable and easy to move.  I don't want to go further, because I'm getting very close to Platitude Land.

But the focus seems to be on combat forces.  What about sustainment forces, or those used in "nation-building" like the National Guard roadbuilders in Panama?  Or MEDCAP operations? What about economic assistance/guidance?  Police functions?  Can we, as a Service, get outside the bureaucratic inertia that prevents ideas and equipment from being adopted in a timely fashion?  

As an example, if/when the Army gets seriously involved in Columbia to combat drug trafficking and/or prevent FARC/ELN from taking over, our soldiers may be seriously out-communicated by the bad guys, since they will have cell phones and computers down to a low level.  Is the Army working on a plan to equip our soldiers with machines that will allow them to feed into and from the seamless web of the Intelligence fusion?  If PFC Snuffy grabs a bad guy, will his helmet camera take the picture that can be compared against the data base of known leaders, so that the big Blue Light goes on somewhere and this individual is whisked to an Intel center ASAP?  Or will the bad guy get slowly processed back, with the possibility that his compadres will attempt to rescue/kill him before he can be used against them, because they learned of his status via a cell phone?

Mobility seems to be the key.  One is reminded of the Bedford Forrest dictum each time things happen overseas. I really like Carlton's C-747 concept for a multi-year buy to get mobility for the Army.  Mike Sparks' and the Lighter Than Air craft for moving masses of men and equipment to back up forward based forces is something else that should be examined carefully.  If the US can't get the necessary forces to a critical site in a timely fashion, is the NCA prepared to go the hard route to dig someone out, with the attendant casualties?

And, as an aside, where does the Army fit into Homeland Defense?  Sounds sort of silly, but we don't seem to be in the business of DEFENDING this country by keeping the borders unbreached.  And if we are the decisive strategic effort and hold the ground, why aren't we involved in holding our borders?

                                                                                  Larry A. Altersitz

Light Tanks Can Fire 120mm Guns

     In your article in the December issue of G2mil you wrote: "Light tanks cannot fire 120mm guns, and even 105mm guns pose problems."  I do not know what you understand as a "light tank" but do you know our 120mm compact gun (CTG) which can fire standard tank ammunition from a light vehicle - as a LAV-25?  The 120 mm CTG has a L50 barrel. The velocities are between the L44 and the L55 from Rheinmetall.  The version for light vehicles like the CV90120 has a pepper box style muzzle brake and a longer recoil length than the standard L44 (Leopard 2, M1)
Details see

Juerg Hoelzle

Ed. I think a 120mm gun would make a wheeled LAV far too top-heavy, which is already a problem with the 105mm gun.  I guess the Russians/Ukrainians were impressed with my "Tank Roof" concept in the November issue; it was reposted on an armor website in Kiev.

Tactical Surprise in Afghanistan

      Last month you wrote about the Delta/Ranger raid:  "The airfield selected for the raid was the only one which had not been attacked by American aircraft.  It seems the Taliban determined that this was not an oversight, and prepared accordingly."

     That's one I hadn't heard before and because it's so obvious I wouldn't believe it, but after doing some checking, sure enough!  However the fact that Mullah Omar left three hours before the raid after spending several weeks there  tells me that they probably had some pretty good info on the time of attack. Taken all together, even a CIA "anal-ist" would say it's a "preponderance of evidence.

     No operation goes as smoothly as the one described here: but it's still a good overall article.  I'm convinced that there was an airlift at Kunduz and that OBL/al Qaeda/Taliban did escape across the border by using diversions like the White Mountains wild goose chase.

                                                                         Emery  Nelson

Ed. The US military had announced the airfields it would use in Pakistan.  I think there was a Taliban local near each airfield with a cell phone, and if a large number of helicopters arrived to refuel, he made a call.  Remember that a Marine CH-53E even took fire refueling at one Paki airfield.

The Marines occupied this airfield in early December "Camp Rhino" which can accommodate C-17s.  This was an ideal choice since it has miles of barren desert between the nearest village or road.  No Afghan had any business near the place, making it easy to defend.  For reasons I fail to understand, they decided to move the Marines to Kandahar Airport, next to a city with busy roads running by the place.  This is far, far less secure, especially for aircraft.  Now the base will attract refugees, Afghan tourists, snipers, and truck bombers.  They've even hired locals to work on base to help out their economy, which is extra stupid from a security standpoint.  Doesn't anyone remember the 1983 Beirut bombing?

Army Secretary in Trouble

        I was hoping that our new Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White would uncover the LAV scam.  This paragraph is an excerpt from White's official bio taken from a DOD website,

"...Prior to his appointment as Secretary of the Army, Secretary White served as Vice Chairman of Enron Energy Services, the Enron Corporation subsidiary responsible for providing energy outsource solutions to commercial and industrial customers throughout the United States. Mr. White was responsible for the delivery component of energy management services, which included commodity management; purchasing, maintaining, and operating energy assets; developing and implementing energy information services; capital management; and facilities management. Secretary White also served as a member of Enron's Executive Committee and was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Enron Operations Corporation. He was also responsible for the Enron Engineering and Construction Company, which managed an extensive construction portfolio with domestic and international projects.

       His bio makes it clear that White was no minor functionary at Enron, which collapsed last month after questionable accounting was uncovered.  He became SecArmy only on May 31, 2001.  Enron has been a major contributor to the Republican party and to the Bush (II) campaign.   It would be most interesting to know "what White knew and when did he know it" about the Enron collapse, about stock transfers upon leaving Enron, and what did Bush Admin'n officials know about the coming Enron collapse when White was given the SecArmy position.  I suspect he will be afraid to rock any boats in the Pentagon since his is already flooded.

Don Loughlin

Ed. Mr. White can claim one of two things:

1. He was part of one of the largest criminal scams in US history.

2. He was grossly incompetent and failed to notice anything unusual at Enron, which makes him a poor choice to lead any organization, much less the US Army.