Thursday, December 27, 2012

A War By Any Other Name

The war on terror isn't just a kinetic thing. Iraq and Afghanistan are the worst-case scenarios where lots of US troops were needed.

In the Horn of Africa and inside Pakistan, it is a kinetic but more low key intermittent shooting war.

Intelligence and law enforcement fight the war where it has not broken out into open warfare.

And there is a grey area we've filled with the Global Response Staff.

Another aspect is bolstering local forces to handle the jihadi threat so it doesn't become a worst-case scenario:

A U.S. Army brigade will begin sending small teams into as many as 35 African nations early next year, part of an intensifying Pentagon effort to train countries to battle extremists and give the U.S. a ready and trained force to dispatch to Africa if crises requiring the U.S. military emerge.

The teams will be limited to training and equipping efforts, and will not be permitted to conduct military operations without specific, additional approvals from the secretary of defense.

The unit tagged for AFRICOM is the 2ng brigade combat team of the 1st Infantry Division. Forces sent will range from a handful to potentially a full battalion, and for varying periods of time.

Of course, units sent to Africa will be prepared for anything and not just be there for training, as valuable as that is for us and the host country:

Gen. Odierno said the Regionally Aligned Forces concept fulfills the new defense strategy, which calls for more engagement with U.S. partners around the world. It also provides a way for seasoned soldiers to practice skills learned from a decade of war-fighting and for recruits to experience new opportunities around the world.

A key requirement is the Army’s readiness for every conceivable type of situation, such as the consulate attack in Benghazi, said British Col. James Learmont, an exchange officer working on the Army’s concept.

“Responsiveness is a pretty key component of this because everybody wants us to be more responsive — in other words, quicker,” Col. Learmont said in a separate interview.

Huh. I know we couldn't have reacted fast enough to save our Benghazi diplomatic post (usually called the consulate), but I still don't understand why our still-large forces in Europe could not have shaken loose a platoon or company to fly to Benghazi to help the annex.

I just don't buy the military excuse for inaction that they can't have forces "tethered" to every diplomatic outpost in case something happens. Of course not.

But it is not a matter of being tethered. It's a matter of being ready for every conceivable type of situation and being responsive to unexpected situations. If we expect small forces going into Africa to be prepared for that, why weren't our forces in Europe similarly prepared? Unless they were capable of reacting but it was a problem higher up on the civilian chain of command.

In any case, a long war requires approaches we can carry out over the long haul. We neither want to nor can we afford to fight the war on terror as if it is nothing but Iraq or Afghanistan campaigns. Best of luck to the Big Red One as they enter the continent of Africa again.

No more Kasserine Pass, right? Be ready for every conceivable type of situation. And be trained well enough to react to the situations you can't conceive.