…gave us a window into what will come down as one of the worst-managed military conflicts in American history.
No, scratch that. This is far and away the worst-managed conflict this country has ever had.
But before we get to that, here’s something to set the scene. From the Facebook of a friend with military connections…
This, from an Hawg pilot involved in the conflict:
The squadron is doing fine. Everybody is happy to be here and we are doing some good work. The A-10s are holding up well and the technology we have have on the jets now (targeting pods, GPS guided bombs, Laser Guided bombs, Laser guided missiles, tactical data link, satellite comms), and of course the gun, make the A-10 ideal for this conflict. We are killing off as many ISIS as we can, mostly in ones and twos, working with the hand we are dealt. I’ve never been more convicted in my career that we facing an enemy that needs to be eradicated.
With that being said…I’ve never been more frustrated in my career. After 13 years of the mind-numbing low intensity conflict in Afghanistan, I’ve never seen the knife more dull. All the hard lessons learned in Vietnam, and fixed during the first Gulf War, have been unlearned again. The level of centralized execution, bureaucracy, and politics is staggering. I basically do not have any decision making authority in my cockpit. It sucks. In most cases, unless a general officer can look at a video picture from a UAV, over a satellite link, I cannot get authority to engage. I’ve spent many hours, staring through a targeting pod screen in my own cockpit, watching ISIS shitheads perpetrate their acts until my eyes bleed, without being able to do anything about it. The institutional fear of making a mistake, that has crept into the central mindset of the military leadership, is endemic. We have not taken the fight to these guys. We haven’t targeted their centers of gravity in Raqqa. All the roads between Syria and Iraq are still intact with trucks flowing freely. The other night I watched a couple hundred small tanker trucks lined up at an oilfield in ISIS-held northeast Syria, presumably filling up with oil traded on the black market, go unfettered. It’s not uncommon to wait several hours overhead a suspected target for someone to make a decision to engage or not. It feels like we are simply using the constructs build up in Afghanistan, which was a very limited fight, in the same way here against ISIS, which is a much more sophisticated and numerically greater foe. It’s embarrassing.
Be assured that the Hawg drivers are doing their best.
Interesting that it’s a pilot of the A-10, a brilliant, iconic weapons system that has never found its equal on the battlefield over decades of service and is nevertheless being phased out of duty by Obama even as it proves itself effective once again, commenting on the fight against ISIS.
Meanwhile, the strike decisions are being micromanaged from the top. And thanks to the aforementioned Daily Beast article, now we know what else is happening at the top where the ISIS fight is concerned…
More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.
The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.
“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official said.
Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed a written complaint sent to the Defense Department inspector general in July alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.
That complaint was supported by 50 other analysts, some of whom have complained about politicizing of intelligence reports for months. That’s according to 11 individuals who are knowledgeable about the details of the report and who spoke to The Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.
The accusations suggest that a large number of people tracking the inner workings of the terror groups think that their reports are being manipulated to fit a public narrative. The allegations echoed charges that political appointees and senior officials cherry-picked intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons program in 2002 and 2003.
The two signatories to the complaint were described as the ones formally lodging it, and the additional analysts are willing and able to back up the substance of the allegations with concrete examples.
Things are so bad that one of the signatories to the inspector general’s complaint characterized the coordination of analysis as “Stalinist” in the atmosphere being created, meaning that either you report the party line that everything’s going swimmingly well or else you’re punished for your opinion. The piece also alleges that a number of the refuseniks at CENTCOM have been encouraged to retire.
Fair to say this is no way to run a war. What it’s reminiscent of is the original scene from Downfall that you’ve seen parodied ad nauseam on YouTube; the one where Hitler asks his generals about all the phantom armies he thinks he has available to crush the Soviet advance into Berlin, only to find that all help is gone. When leaders in a military conflict make decisions according to fantasies they demand their subordinates pay homage to, rather than real life, it rarely works out well.
And an incompetently-run war against ISIS will create the first openly Sunni jihadist state in the Middle East – a caliphate that will ultimately dominate the Muslim world, but in the immediate sense it’s already responsible for touching off an invasion of Europe by Muslim migrants who will destabilize an entire continent and lay the groundwork for the Islamization of its most successful states; something that Muslims have been incapable of doing over 1400 years of conflict.
All of this is on Obama’s head. All of it. ISIS did not exist when he took office; it was Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and it had been run out of that country. And he’s consistently refused to recognize this problem; so much so that it’s clear the people actually charged with fighting the conflict are unable to do their jobs.