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WASHINGTON – A G2 Bulletin source this week confirmed the current relevance of a report from a command-level officer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan asserting that the once-unbeatable U.S. military is unwilling to defeat a “disorganized illiterate adversary,” according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The morale of U.S. troops and the tone set by command-level decisions is critical, said the report, which was addressed to Army Secretary John McHugh. It was written in 2010 by Col. Harry D. Tunnell IV, but a G2 Bulletin source said this week that the issues and questions raised are exactly the same today as they were two years ago.
“Leaders are willing to conduct operations at the tactical and operational levels of war to decisively defeat the enemy or they are not,” said the report.
“Soldiers join the military today to protect the United States, yet they are told once in Afghanistan that we are fighting for the Afghan people – this is a rather mercenary outlook and ignores the fact that the United States was attacked September 11, 2001,” the report said. “If we have an Army led by people unwilling to defeat a disorganized illiterate adversary such as we face today, even after a despicable surprise attack on our nation, there is little hope that we can defeat a modern sophisticated enemy that we may face in the future.”
The blistering, eight-page, single-spaced memorandum to McHugh, who still is the Army secretary, provides disturbing insight into an approach that has not proved to be successful in curbing Taliban advances. The strategy is complicated further by the lack of experienced military leadership and misplaced priorities, such as providing American resources “to NATO allies above the needs of American troops.”
The report contends U.S. counter-insurgency efforts in Afghanistan are contributing to “needless” American casualties because of a restrictive dogma that cannot be questioned. Any discussion about its strengths and weaknesses is discouraged, the memorandum made available to G2 explained.
“The main problem that we are having in the war today is not one of enemy capability,” the memo said. “It is a lack of professional competence” that is exposing American troops “needlessly” to increased enemy attack. In addition, Americans “suffer from unnecessary casualties, cannot secure or control the indigenous population and are not allowed to deny freedom of movement or maneuver to the Taliban.”
Counter-insurgency is action taken by a nation to either contain or stop an insurgency such as the Taliban is undertaking against the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzi, who is backed by troops of the United States and NATO.
While it is unknown if there was a response to Tunnell’s memo to McHugh, an intelligence source said that “when something like that gets made public, the response is to submit your retirement package – they’re not going to admit COIN is a loser.”
In fact, the Army released an “investigation” report months later that severely criticized Tunnell for being responsible for “lapses of discipline, misdirection and mixed signals.”
The opinions came in a “scathing 532-page report” that included a statement from Brig. Gen. Stephen Twitty: “Col. Tunnell is no longer in command. If still in command, I would recommend that Col. Tunnell be relieved of his responsibilities as brigade commander.”
The report admitted such opinion was not uniform, as one lieutenant colonel wrote, “I want to go on the record having said that Col. Tunnell is the finest leader with whom I have served in my career.”
Tunnell wrote the memorandum as he prepared to change command after having served three and a half years as commander of an intelligence group and with Task Force Stryker in southern Afghanistan.
“It is with great regret that I write this letter to you but I feel compelled as a matter of the open door policy to describe my perspective about the conduct of tactical operations in southern Afghanistan,” Tunnell wrote. “I have spoken formally and informally about many of the problems expressed herein to various members of the chain of command but there is little many of them can do to improve the situation.”
Tunnell said the COIN doctrine has become a “restrictive dogma” that cannot be questioned, and any discussion about its strengths and weaknesses “is discouraged.”
“It has reached such a crisis that those who employ other Army doctrinal concepts do so at their own professional peril because they will be subject to censure for not adhering to COIN,” Tunnell said. “This has created a dysfunctional and toxic leadership environment throughout our Army which has resulted in poor organization, unrealistic training and indecisive battlefield performance.”
Tunnell made it clear that the report is his personal assessment as a tactical commander of battalion-size or larger U.S. forces.
He attributed much of the Taliban’s freedom of movement and maneuver to what he described as “consistently poor military performance” by the head of the British contingent whom Tunnell referred to only as “MajGen Carter” and his “inadequately trained staff.”
Major General Nicholas Patrick “Nick” Carter today is deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, comprised of U.S. and other NATO troops. He was appointed to the position last month by U.S. Marine General John R. Allen, the ISAF commander.
At the time the memo was written, Carter was commander of ISAF Regional Command South, which took in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
Allen recently was appointed as NATO’s supreme allied commander, Europe, and will assume the position next year following U.S. Senate confirmation.
It could not be determined whether Allen was made aware of this memorandum before appointing Carter to be ISAF deputy commander. However, it could become an issue when Allen appears at his Senate confirmation hearing early next year.
In his memo, Tunnell said Carter and his team did not have the ability to plan, coordinate or execute “rudimentary tasks at the division level.”
“They issue orders with nonsense tactical tasks to ‘discombobulate’ the enemy or place them ‘on the horns of a dilemma,'” Tunnell wrote. “They display a dangerous insouciance toward operation.”
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