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Entries in US Army (3)

Monday
Oct102011

Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan: Is It Working?

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released(WASHINGTON) -- Counterinsurgency may not be the buzzword it was in 2009, when President Obama was deliberating strategy for the war in Afghanistan -- but it is still the Army's prevailing strategy in the war that passed the 10-year mark this weekend, a military official said.

So how are we doing with our latest strategy?

It's not so easy to tell, according to the official -- Lt. Col. John Paganini, the director of the U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Center -- because there's no easy way to measure its success and no specific end date on the books, though officials are aware U.S. war resources may be limited.

Part of the problem with measuring success, Paganini said, is that a central point of the strategy is to be nimble and willing to change methods as needs change.

"Every day is a challenge to be adaptive," Paganini said.  "So we can't say, 'Well, today we're doing really well,' because everything is adaptive."

The goal of the counterinsurgency strategy is to defeat Taliban and affiliated insurgents by helping to bolster the Afghan government and its security forces, winning the hearts and minds of Afghans, reintegrating and reconciling former insurgents into society and helping to kick-start a functioning national economy.

President Obama ordered a surge of U.S. military forces and government officials into Afghanistan in 2009 to accomplish the strategy's early objectives.

Paganini said that the strategy has changed since the beginning of the war.  In the last three or four years, the Army has shifted from focusing on the enemy to building sustainable, long-lasting programs run by Afghans at every government level.

"We are becoming adaptive to overcome the insurgency," Paganini said, "not just those who are out to kill us or apply military force against us, or the protectors of the society of the host nation, but it really also gets after, 'Why does the insurgency exist?  What are the conditions that allow the population to either passively or actively support an external entity that wants to degrade the ability of the host nation government's security force?'"

For example, he said, the biggest thing the Army eliminated was "the idea in the minds of the Afghan citizenry and the Afghan leaders that this is an external problem with external solutions."

"Reinforce the notion that they already have that this is their problem, and their solutions are going to fix this problem," he said.  "And I think what you've seen -- from the initial stages of an awareness of [the idea that Afghans hold the key to their fate], to an acceptance of that, to a practice of it -- that's where you've seen significant gains."

Paganini said changing the minds of Afghans could take generations.

"Is victory inevitable?" he asked.  "No, because there are so many conditions that are out there.  But we are clearly on the path for it. ... It could take generations.  It could take, you know, the people of Afghanistan one or two iterations with some semblance of an election and feedback mechanisms that let them see that this is good."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Nov182010

US Army Testing New 'Smart' Weapons in Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy - US Army(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Nine years into the war in Afghanistan, a handful of U.S. soldiers have a new weapon in hand, a lethal combination of technology and explosives that the Army has called a "game changer."

Looking like it came straight out of a sci-fi movie, the XM-25 fires highly specialized rounds that can be programmed to explode at the precise location where the enemy is hiding behind cover.

Five of the high-tech, semi-automatic weapons arrived in the war-torn country this month and soon will be tested in combat.

"This weapon makes our forces more lethal, it makes them more effective and it keeps them safer," said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, the project manager for individual weapons at Program Executive Office Soldier, which developed the XM-25.  "This is the first time that we've put smart technology in the weapons system for the individual soldier."

Though the XM-25 has tested well in the United States, military brass will be watching the weapon's performance in real-life combat to assess not only how well it performs, but also what weapons it might end up replacing.

Soldiers currently up against insurgents ducking for cover behind fortified walls have little choice but either to fire highly explosive 40mm grenades or mortar rounds, which are effective, but often inaccurate, or to leave their own cover and maneuver to fire direct shots, which puts American lives at risk.

Enter the XM-25.  "We're talking about seconds to neutralize the enemy, versus minutes," Lehner said.

Crouching behind his own cover, a U.S. soldier armed with the XM-25 can point his weapon at the wall behind which the enemy is hiding to get the precise distance.  The rounds, which come four to a magazine plus one in the chamber, can then be programmed to travel just a short distance behind that to explode precisely where the insurgent is believed to be hiding.

With the scope aimed at the top of the wall, the round will fire and explode before impact, at the precise location programmed by the soldier, raining a hail of explosives and fragments on to the enemy.  It all takes mere seconds -- five to program and fire, two for travel.  The rounds also take into account air pressure and temperature to accurately hit their marks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov092010

Judge Allows Lawsuit Against US Army Translator Provider to Continue

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(RICHMOND, Va.) -- A federal judge in Virginia will allow a whistleblower to move ahead with a lawsuit that accuses the largest U.S. Army supplier of foreign language interpreters of deploying unqualified translators to Afghanistan.

Judge Leonie M. Brinkema ruled Friday in favor of Paul Funk, a former employee who once oversaw the screening of linguists for the company, Mission Essential Personnel (MEP).  Funk alleged in his lawsuit that the company allowed unqualified translators to be sent to the battlefield to work alongside American troops.  He alleged that some translators cheated on oral exams, while others fell short of proficiency requirements but were sent to Afghanistan anyway.

In holding that the case could move forward, the judge said it raised issues that are "so critical, when you think about how our soldiers rely upon the interpreters in Afghanistan."

"Let the light be shone upon the situation, and at the end of the day…it will be resolved," she said.

MEP spokesman Sean Rushton said the company is "confident in the judicial system and looks forward to presenting our position more fully, which we believe will lead to a ruling in our favor."

"Our view is that the plaintiff's lawsuit lacks key information, which deprives it of a legal basis to proceed further," he said.

In a court hearing last week, lawyers for MEP argued the case should be dismissed.  They said that Funk's allegations were unsubstantiated and false.  "Mr. Funk would like you to skip across the wave tops and look at the broad sea," attorney Anthony H. Anikeeff told the judge, according to an official transcript of Friday's court proceedings.

"The point is that, while he alleges this grand scheme," said Anikeeff, "I call it like a cotton candy fraud case, where there's lots of ethereal wrapping around a core, but what's missing is just dig down a little bit…there isn't a single allegation of any kind of fraud."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio