March 14, 2014

How SOF got Screwed by the Conventional Force–A Lesson from Jim Gant

For years, I have known how bad conventional military leadership ruined any hope for Afghanistan. During the initial invasion, our special operations force did an exceptional job in removing the Taliban from power and forcing Al Qaeda’s Afghanistan base to shatter like a broken vase. But in time, to be more precise, within approximately one year after the initial invasion, conventional military leadership and their wisdom screwed the pooch in country.

For whatever reason, conventional military leaders took over the mission in Afghanistan which was once controlled by the special operations community. I have spoken to some former high ranking DoD officials who have stated that the special operations force was merely meant to shape the battlespace prior to the conventional boots on the ground mission. Sadly, I continue to scratch my head as I had when I first heard this and find myself asking, “And what mission was that?”

In the game of asymmetric warfare (note I do not use the term COIN here as I feel it has become an abysmal failure of a concept), conventional wisdom will not win. You must think unconventionally, or should I say asymmetrically. But to think unconventionally is not what Big Army/Big Department of Defense likes to do.

Jim Gant

Major Jim Gant, US Army Special Forces (Ret.) whom some have claimed to be a Section-8, did think unconventionally. He wrote the paper One Tribe at a Time, which then-General Petreaus ensured all top military leadership read as he and many of his entourage fully respected and understood its value. Unfortunately, many conventional military leaders along with persons a select group within the Special Operations community looked down on Gant and his ideas to win the war in Afghanistan.


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About the Author

is an internationally recognized security, terrorism, and intelligence professional. He has taught domestic and international organizations in counter-terrorism, intelligence, and physical security related issues. He has briefed some of the highest government officials ranging from ambassadors to members of Congress and Pentagon staff. He is author of the book Contracted: America's Secret Warriors and Contracted II: America's Terror Trackers, and Going Rogue: The Compilation.

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  • Allwet

    It fucking sucks that you are correct. Well put, what a waste of good blood.... I always revert to "We have met the enemy , and is us" , how I wish I would be proven wrong here , even just once.

  • JamesFranklinMorris

    An army that would rather lose than change has made its choice.

  • YankeePapa

    Pitbu1107 , . ...The military can, at best, only accomplish the possible...the militarily possible and the politically possible.  In 1950 we sent ground troops into Korea to drive the North Koreans out of the South.  We accomplished that and decided that it was possible to drive the North Korean regime out of the country and reunify it.  Then the Chinese started pouring hundreds of thousands of troops into the North... an area where American firepower, while critical... was not decisive. . ...Once the lines stabilized (South of the Korean capital) the U.S. had to decide what its goals, objectives, and conditions of victory would be.  We could strip Europe of remaining American divisions and fight our way at great cost back to the Chinese border... and then what?  We still don't have all of our troops out 60 years after the armistice... on a vastly shorter and more defensible border.   How many divisions would we still have up there... and how much later would the fighting have stopped... and how long would the American people have put up with the casualty lists? . ...MacArthur wanted to bomb the Chinese mainland into submission.  Short of nukes we could not have made that work... and ultimately he knew it.  He indicated that if that did not work, then he wanted authority to use nukes.  The Soviets had them by then...  The stinking rockpile of North Korea was not worth it. . ...It was decided that we would give our forces a goal that the military could achieve... and that the American public would support.  We would drive the North Koreans and Chinese back... but not just to the 38th Parallel (the original border... which was indefensible...) but North of that to a line that someday the South Korean government could hold by itself.  In most areas the Korean war ended well into Communist territory... and that area is now part of South Korea.   . ...The Communists were foiled in their attempt to take the South.  Whoever holds the South holds a dagger at Japan.  Instead (after decades) the South is an economic "tiger" and (for that part of the world) relatively democratic.  South Korea is capable of defending its own borders from the North (our remaining force is largely in the nature of a tripwire... if the North has to kill Americans from day one, it is pretty hard to miscalculate...)   . ...In Korea we did not confuse slogans like "Preserve democracy..." (in what was then a very undemocratic country) with actual goals and objectives.  We figured out what we could actually accomplish... paid what it took... and accomplished it.  We did not turn mother's picture to the wall and abandon the South Koreans.  The American public supported the cost... and still supports our presence...  The Communists certainly saw it as a defeat of their goals and objectives as set on June 25, 1950. . -YP-

  • dboi73

    Pitbu1107 Well said, that man.

  • Loren Schofield

    Just letting you know I quoted you in the Tom Heben comment section. Hope you don't mind.