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Clearly many of them still don't based the mission rehearsal exercise I went on - lots of explaining required to make them understand that the enemy is quite difficult to find when he wants to stay hidden.

Funny about that. :)

The musket thing ... is that what's holding up the release of the module?

Yes issues with the rate of fire and flashless powder and the small matter of whether the cartridge is greased with pork or cow fat or not (I had to get that in). :)

I'll let you return to the current age and to worry if the Afghans should be modelled using US Stingers (and other western weapons given to them by "US") against "US" on our return. :)

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Apropos the "major operation" currently in progress in Helmand, with about 8,500 Marines and contingents from the ANA:

Helmand Province:

Total Area: 58,584 km² (22,619 sq mi)

Population: 745,000 (estimated)

US State of West Virginia:

Total Area: 24,230 sq mi (62,755 km²)

Total Population: 1.8 million

So by way of scale, roughly the task before the Marines is to establish peace in an area the size of West Virginia, except the mountains are about 6000 feet (2000 meters) higher, and the lowlands aren't nice wooded valleys but desert.

Further, West Virginia of course is surrounded by regions more or less friendly to US forces. Helmand abuts against Pakistan's NW territory, and yes the overwhelmingly dominant ethnicity of Helmand and the NW territory is Pathan/Pashto/Pushtu.

Now I don't want to be a wet blanket or anything, but I am old enough to remember (and indeed if I'm honest I could mention relatives) West Virginia resistance to the US attempt to enforce the dry laws were, during the 1920s and early 1930s, absolutely unsuccessful. And at times the West Virginian moonshiners resisted using what we would now call partisan/terrorist tactics.

Or less recently, consider US Army efforts to repress true partisans/terrorists like John Mosby during the US Civil War, also in the same general area. Not exactly a glittering US military success, most historians agree.

Can the modern US Marines do better in a more hostile environment, where they can't speak with the inhabitants and in the eyes of most inhabitants they are foreign invaders?

Can 10,000 or so soldiers supported by plenty of air and technical intelligence collection, even enforce security in an area the size of West Virginia, never mind get the population on the Marine side?

General McChrystal says yes. Me, I'm doubtful. Especially when you start counting the boots not on the ground (every soldier above the level of rifle company, and every soldier down to private not in a rifle company) there are probably 6,000 - 7,000 soldiers out there actually capable of doing a foot patrol. For a territory the size of West Virginian, that's not near enough, and that's before you take into account the fact the patrols can't just be out there sometimes, but 24/7.

Should be interesting to see what victories get reported, by both sides. The Pathans have themselves a US military service prisoner, I see.

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While I concede the boots on the ground are not what they should be - your figures are incorrect as they totally ignore the other nations operating in Helmand. There are approximately 8500 British troops in Helmand with the Danes stumping up the next largest contingent including Leopard 2 tanks (Battlegroup Centre). Other contributing nations are the Estonians who field at least an armoured infantry company (which considering their size is a significant contribution), the Czechs and one of the Arab nations (Jordan I think).

I think Cpl Steiner generated this thread to explore the possibilities of putting together a Helmand Campaign involving the eagerly awaited British Forces Module and possibly the USMC Module.

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Fair enough, but so what? This is a NATO operation. The tail element is huge, I would bet the tooth-to-tail ratio in Afghanistan right now is the worst in military history.

All those soldiers, they need suppport elements. All those support elements, they need bases. ll those bases, they need guards. And then there are troops going on vacation, getting sick, getting in trouble and locked up, etc. etc. However many troops are in there, only a small portion are going outside the wire, which is what counts.

Even you assume there are 15,000 combat troops in Helmand province - which to my mind is a gross overestimate - the key question is, how many foot patrols (or small vehicle patrols in the desert) can that force generate, and can that density of foot patrols secure Helmand region from the insurgents?

Again, this is a territory the size of West Virginia, with a population of maybe 250,000 - 300,000 fighting-age men. Don't forget that number, I'll come back to it.

To be effective, the patrols can't just roll through a village once a week or a day or whatever. They've got to be present long enough, and with sufficient intelligence, to get ahead of the insurgents on indimidating/getting friendly with the population.

Now let's look at the insurgents, who also aren't without cards to bring to the table. Sure, they have compared to NATO crappy weapons and even worse support arms. Still, they have

- Absolute ability to talk to the natives, in their own language

- The same ethnicity as the natives

- The same religion as the natives

- The moral advantage that the religion of the region, that the insurgents share with the population, overwhelmingly considers fighting NATO troops, a jihad.

- Financial support from the largest single poppy-growing region in the world, or more exactly, the organized crime groups making money from it.

- Financial support from whatever Islamic contributors who are willing to send cash to see a big US operation flub

- Outstanding knowledge of the terrain, as the most part, they live there

- Sanctuary in Pakistan, or indeed in other Pathan regions in Afghanistan

- NATO intentionally using tactics making ambushes of NATO troops easier - the NATO troopers are on foot more, in smaller groups, and more spread out. That's McChrystal's plan.

Now, a rule of thumb in anti-insurgency warfare is, that all other things being equal, it takes 10 regular soldiers in the field to defeat 1 insurgent. You can improve that ratio of course if you get the population behind you, or are just willing to terrorize the population.

So a good question to ask is, how many insurgent fighters are there likely to be in Helmand province? I figure, with a population of 750,000, and maybe 250,000 are men capable of bearing arms, so now the question is how many would be willing to go fight against NATO? One in 10, one in 20, one in 50? One in 100?

Let's low-ball it, and say 1 in 100 Helmand fighting age males is willing to fight NATO. That gives a potential insurgent base of 2,500 hard core combatants, plus at a guess maybe 4 - 5 times that of villagers or people who sympathize with the insurgency, and might not be actual full time combatants, but might provide intelligence or help out with the jihad.

Nor is that all. Besides the opium gangsters and valley warlords, there is the Taliban organization which can bring combatants and organizing capability to Helmand province, although how many is any one's guess.

But it doesn't really matter. This single province contains dozens of towns, hundreds and maybe thousands of villages, has no road network, no communications infrastructure, and by the standards of most nations no government. This isn't Iraq where the government can hang the old dictator and people learn about it on TV and radio, and so learn the new government is in charge. In Helmand province, for much of the population, there is no TV or radio, or even newspaper. People get information by word of mouth, and in mosques.

The Marines as I understand it have either one or two reinforced regiment wandering around Helmand province. Probably about 5 or 6 battalions. The Brits have probably a couple of battalions there as well, the Danes I think 1, and figure the other contingents aggregated are equivalent to another battalion. I'm probably skipping some forces, but then not all the forces I'm counting here really is capable of going out of the wire. But for fun, let's say that these 10 battalions are, and further, that they could all go out at once and that somehow the bases and the support guys would still be guarded and able to do their jobs.

Ten battalions is, roughly, 100 - 120 platoons. A platoon is of course about four vehicles and 30 - 35 armed guys. Those are the ones actually who you are going to have going into the sticks.

Me, I think 100 - 120 vehicle patrols that is not nearly enough to have much of any effect on a lawless territory the size of West Virginia. I don't think 100 - 120 vehicle patrols would be sufficient to prevent the citizens of real life West Virginia from speeding whenever they felt like it. Heck, I bet if say the Chinese sent 100 - 120 vehicle patrols into West Virginia, it would take a long time for most West Virginians to actually see one of the patrols. Territory is too big, number of patrols is too small.

I would say the insurgency rule of thumb (you need 10 to 1 to defeat the insurgents) makes this estimate a very safe guess. If you count the number of soldiers NATO is likely actually to put on the ground, maybe 8,000, then that force is according to the traditional rules (i.e., historical cases where insurgencies were defeated) sufficient to supress maybe 800 insurgents. The critical thing is infantrymen able to kick in doors and dig insurgents out of holes.

Things like Leopard 2 tanks I would say are a liability, they suck up tons of resources, are rarely used to figh insurgents, and whatever battle benefit you get from a Leopard 2 tank has to be weighed against the morale loss if that tank gets damaged or just breaks down in the wrong place. Tanks are big and heavy and if they stop in Indian territory the friendlies burn them, and that fire will be on YouTube.

But really the problem is numbers. Even if every single NATO soldier in Helmand right now, every cook, press attache, general's adjutant, pilot, and recruitment NCO were to go on patrol, it would still be at an absolute maximum 20,000 pairs of boots on the ground, and so at best capable of dominating say 2,000 insurgents - assuming of course all those suppport troopers were capable of actually walking in the mountains and deserts and hunting Pathan tribesmen.

The insurgency, to put into the field too many fighters for this theoretical NATO all-infantry/total tooth force, more than the 2,000; which of course the real-life insurgency can in Helmand province if it manages to attract one of every one hundred fighting age men to its cause. I think it it safe to say an insurgency legitimately calling itself a jihad, and fighting foreign and largely Christian opponents, would have a fair chance of attracting well more than one out of every one hundred fighting men to its cause.

And that prediction is just the worst case for the insurgency, it could be much better. All sorts of things could improve the draw. If the insurgency gets money from the outside, aid from the drug barons, volunteers from Pakistan, (more) support to the Taliban from Pakistan intelligence, defectors from the Jordanian contingent, or NATO bombs a really big wedding party, etc., then the insurgent force could double, triple, heck the sky's the limit.

It is of course possible that were this operation to last for several years, NATO could make some headway, reduce support for the insurgency, increase the ANA forces on hand to repress the insurgency, make some deals with the drug barons, and get some kind of peace.

But all this assumes some kind of Afghan government, even at the point of a gun, can be imposed on Helmand province, before the operation ends and the bulk of the troops leave.

The scary part about all this of course is this: We are talking about one single Afghan province. Last I heard about half of Afghanistan's 35 provinces were under Taliban control.

If the best that NATO can do is concentrate 8,000 - 16,000 troops in a single Afghan province, if that's a major operation, then the smart money must bet NATO will lose.

I'll wrap this up with a recent pic (yesterday or today) of what actual US boots on the actual ground of Helmand look like, sometimes. As we can see Marine command has made very sure the force has sufficient equipment to do the job, and then some.

capt.d847589af52344f095a7d1b61663353b.addition_afghanistan_xdg103.jpg?x=400&y=266&q=85&sig=SnuK7JW7Zdv4nKGfjjpgGQ--

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Bigduke6

I was there on Op HERRICK 5 done the tour, got the T-shirt and the medal - trust me I know how Helmand works - however a good informed post nonetheless. The intent of my post was to highlight that there are nations other than the US fighting in Helmand which your original post totally ignored and to drag us back to thinking about some Helmand-type missions/campaigns for the game.

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I'm sure you noticed the big ****ing base plate for the Mortar system on that Marine's back. Man, this forum is going to hell in a hand basket.

This thread is meant to discuss Combat Mission: Shock Force and Helmand style COIN missions/operations. If you want to get into deep discussion about COIN theory and or what US and NATO are doing right and wrong, take it to the frickin General Discussion forum.

I'll wrap this up with a recent pic (yesterday or today) of what actual US boots on the actual ground of Helmand look like, sometimes. As we can see Marine command has made very sure the force has sufficient equipment to do the job, and then some.

It is snide closing comments such as this that will continue to devalue anything relevant that you may say.

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Bigduke6 has made the perfectly valid point that there aren't really enough boots on the ground to win this war. I've heard the same thing said by analysts and even high level military officers when interviewed on the subject, so I wouldn't dispute it.

This stalemate has led to a lot of countries with troops in Afghanistan either pulling out or threatening to pull out. The new "surge" in Afghanistan is designed to end the stalemate and turn the situation around because the consensus is that the West will collectively lose the will to fight on if things don't improve. Let's face it, this thing has been going on longer than WWII now, so the politicians are getting pretty tired of it.

The question is though, can we afford to just abandon Afghanistan to the Taliban? You only have to cast your mind back to 911 to see why that might not be such a good idea.

Maybe a stalement is better than nothing?

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On whether or not Afghanistan is a smart place to commit troops, only time will tell. History would bet "no", but the question is of course how much application history has to the present campaign.

As current events' applicability to CMSF modeling, I think that troop density should have a direct impact on the kind of scenarios the one would build. The fights are not going to be companies and battalions coming down on Taliban die-hards. They're going to be platoons and squads getting ambushed.

In the present RL operation, as I understand it the Marines have hit some resistance and killed something like 10 - 30 insurgents. Here's the linkie on that:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090705/wl_asia_afp/afghanistanunrestusbattle_20090705030416

I love the Marine telling the reporter that a Marine company is "the most feared thing in the world".

Anyway, moving right along, the Taliban for their part appear to be thinking, I read they hit some kind of fire base way the heck out of Helmand, in Paktia province, and they started off the attack with a suicide truck aimed at the base gate, and then shooting up the base for an hour or two. Killed a couple of Allied personnel.

Within Helmand a suicide bomber hit a 4-vehicle security contractor convoy, 1 Allied dead, 4 wounded. Also a bomb got two ANA in a village.

And outside Helmand 7 ANA police killed and 2 injured, roadside bomb.

So there seems to be some evidence that if one wants to model an operation in Helmand, the actual combat it produces, and so we would want to model, is just as likely to take place outside of Helmand.

Here's a linkie to a wrap-up from yesterday:

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia/2009/07/200974184336848756.html

So scenario-wise, maybe the way to build a campaign is not a single unit going through a series of connected actions, but rather a series of actions all over the map. Battle 1 is the Marines clearing some ville of local yokels most of whom will run, but maybe a couple will shoot. Then your next battle is the Taliban reaction, a raid of some kind way the heck somewhere else, kicked off with a suicide bomber. Depending on how that battle goes the tree takes the player to say a roadside ambush scenario, with previous battles influencing the force ratios. Then depending on how that battle goes, you start a tree, where if the Marines are winning their have missions of "clear this place and take control without trashing everything", within increasing difficult terrain. And if the insurgents are winning then it's first they get to hit the Marines during a village clearing operation, then graduate maybe to an organized ambush of transport columns, and maybe finish up with a grand assault on some provincial headquarters where the mission is kill all the ANA and the unlucky Marine element stuck out there with them.

It would be a huge amount of work to build a campaign like that, besides all the differing battle maps you'd have to work out the victory conditions so that the campaign could see-saw, for instance the insurgents do well the first few battles and they start moving down the branch leading to insurgent victory, but then they screw up a battle and the Marines get the initiative. To do it right it would take a month or two of work eight hours a day, plus the play-testing. But man it would be great to play.

Oh yeah, on the "magic number" to win, as noted the standard answer is 10 - 1, so it all comes down to how many insurgents are out there. If Helmand province has about 250,000 military age men, and 1 in 100 decide to fight, that means 2,500 active insurgents, and to defeat them according to the forumula you need 250,000 NATO soldiers and allies. You beat up on the insurgents and get the population behind the central government, maybe you can shift the insurgent from population ratio to 1 in 1000. By the formula, that produces an insurgent force of 250 fighters, who by the forumula should be defeated by 25,000 NATO-type soldiers and their allies.

I think this numerical exercise is useful, because people talk "boots on the ground" all the time, but discussion of what sufficient boots on the ground is, is really rare. And the bottom line here is that 15,000 or so NATO forces and allies, by the classic rules of insurgency warfare, are sufficient in numbers to defeat an insurgent force of 150 fighters.

Which leaves only two more questions:

- Maybe the classic ratio forumula is wrong for Helmand province?

- Maybe out of the 250,000 fighting-age men in Helmand province, there is a way to convince them not to fight NATO to such an extent, that no more than 1 in about 1,500 or 1 in 2,000 actually joins the insurgency.

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BD, there's a fairly substantial maths problem there.

2,500 insurgents at 10:1 means you need 25,000 Good Guys. Not 250,000. Arguably, the USMC/US Army/British Army, et al, are within coo-ee of that number, and 'other factors' could easily - or not - make up the difference. 'Other Factors' being things like "feck it, we've been fighting for more than 3 decades. I just want to raise a family" or unprecedented imagery-based recon assets, etc.

250 insurgents at 10:1 means you 'only' need 2,500 Good Guys. Not 25,000. The Good Guys already have more than 2,500 in Helmand.

Either you need to revisit your assumptions or conclusions, or the Magic Formula is 100:1, not 10:1.

Otherwise, interesting post, as ever :)

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Where does this magic number come from? I've never heard of it before.

The key to winning a counter insurgency is to take ground and stay there rather than just abandon it once won. That's why the "surge" in Iraq was so successful. The locals usually don't care who's in control as long as they have some security. Of course, there is some pride involved too. Nobody likes seeing foreign troops on their soil. But there's a big difference between having your pride hurt and taking up arms.

By holding ground once taken, the locals are reassured that they can help Coalition forces without endangering themselves. If Coalition forces move through an area and then just abandon it to the Taliban again, what sort of trust is that going to engender in the local population? I think this has always been the problem in Afghanistan up until now - insufficient forces to have enough of a permanent presence in the towns and villages to gain the trust of the locals.

Returning to CM:SF, I like the idea of a kind of disjointed campaign, but I think it would be better as a couple of parallel campaigns. If anyone has ever played the single-player campaign of Call of Duty 4, you will know what I mean. That campaign followed a US Marine "Force Recon" soldier and a British "SAS" soldier, alternating between the two. You could do something similar with CM:SF - Two core units, one American and one British, with scenarios alternating between them. In fact, the current joint-offensive taking place in Helmand would be ideal for this approach.

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Returning to CM:SF, I like the idea of a kind of disjointed campaign, but I think it would be better as a couple of parallel campaigns. If anyone has ever played the single-player campaign of Call of Duty 4, you will know what I mean. That campaign followed a US Marine "Force Recon" soldier and a British "SAS" soldier, alternating between the two. You could do something similar with CM:SF - Two core units, one American and one British, with scenarios alternating between them. In fact, the current joint-offensive taking place in Helmand would be ideal for this approach.

It's a great idea, especially if the two seemingly separate lines of scenarios influence each other. Handling all of those branches and the multitude of scenario copies entailed would get rather daunting though.

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Hi,

Good luck with the project… :).

I have long been an advocate of combining CM with an operational style game. the Normandy based CMMC of eight odd years ago was the best wargaming I have come across. CM is wasted just being used for one off game/scenarios or even machine driven/pre-scripted campaigns… good as both are.

BTW… there is no reason why NATO should lose in Afghanistan. Casualty rates are easily low enough to be indefinitely sustainable. No matter how appallingly tragic for the individual and their families and friends.

Militaries are there too fight… we have militaries to fight in wars. The goal in Afghanistan should simply be to be one of the players… one of the tribes if you wish.. who’s aim is to prevent a takeover by a group who would be violently hostile, that is launch terrorist attacks.. against the west.

I can see small number for Brits and Yanks being there for decades. It’s what we have militaries for and it is what most who join the military join for.

As long as the long term numbers are low and tours therefore not too frequent NATO could be there indefinitely.

All the best,

Kip.

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JohnS,

Mea culpa. Could be NATO forces are getting close to the magic 10:1 ratio.

Assuming of course the insurgents are drawing one or less of every hundred potential fighters, and the NATO troops stay in the province.

We'll see how it goes.

BD, there's a fairly substantial maths problem there.

2,500 insurgents at 10:1 means you need 25,000 Good Guys. Not 250,000. Arguably, the USMC/US Army/British Army, et al, are within coo-ee of that number, and 'other factors' could easily - or not - make up the difference. 'Other Factors' being things like "feck it, we've been fighting for more than 3 decades. I just want to raise a family" or unprecedented imagery-based recon assets, etc.

250 insurgents at 10:1 means you 'only' need 2,500 Good Guys. Not 25,000. The Good Guys already have more than 2,500 in Helmand.

Either you need to revisit your assumptions or conclusions, or the Magic Formula is 100:1, not 10:1.

Otherwise, interesting post, as ever :)

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The math glitch doesn't defeat the basic logic of what BD6 saying. It's going to be very difficult to win out there, without being able to draw the insurgents into open battle. And unlike Iraq, or Kabul, or the non-Pashto regions, the ordinary people aren't so far from the Taliban in terms of their values. There are few hearts and minds to be won out there, at least among the local men who carry guns.

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Sometimes I wonder if just paying farmers not to grow poppies would be the solution. The cost of deploying alll those NATO soldiers into the province and running operations has got to be outrageous, like in the millions of dollars a day range.

The numbers seem to vary, but from what I gather a generic opium poppy farmer can make between 2,000 and 10,000 dollars a year depending on the size of his field, how much work he puts into collecting poppy syrup, and what kind of cut the local authorities extort from him.

At the risk of another math error, but just for fun, I wonder, how effective would a strategy of paying farmers to raise nothing be? You know, like the subsidies farmers sometimes get in the US and EU.

If NATO forces are burning through rough guess 5 to 10 million dollars a day stomping around Helmand province, and a tempting offer to a farmer has to double his yearly income on poppies, then the way I count it - and I'm not double-checking the math, so you're warned - it looks like you could buy off maybe 500 to 1,000 opium farmers every day you took the money you were spending on military operations, and pumped it into farmer payments.

So if of the 1.5 million Helmand residents say 1 in 20 is an opium farmer, that's 75,000 opium farmers you need to buy off total, and so (again, if my WAG calculator is working right) in minimum 3 months maximum 1 year you will have bought off every single farmer in the province, if you take the money out of military operations and pump it into agricultural subsidies/farmer bribes.

This is from a perfect solution, most obviously because if you dump a whole bunch of cash in the economy the first thing you get is massive inflation which will anger the people, and the second thing is even more government corruption as the bureaucrats depend on it will figure out how to take their cut. But on the other hand you aren't killing people, you have next to zero troop footprint, you aren't trying to hunt down bad guys, you remove the main pretext for jihad, and oh by the way if you are concerned about NATO soldier lives, you have your soldiers out of harm's way.

I think the powers that be are well aware of all this, and I suspect they have something like this in mind, but honestly the problem is there are all sorts of big government organizations wanting to be involved in a place like Afghanistan, more than they are interested in solving Afghanistan's problems. The military wants to do combat operations, the AID folks need top-down investment programs, and the Afghan government bureaucracy wants to grow its own police power and control of money sent by the Christian governments. A program just to pay off Helmand farmers works against the interests of all these groups, it takes money from the big organizations and just gives it to the farmers. Since the first priority for a big organization is to justify its existence, the big organizations are not going to be enthusiastic about a plan that reduces their influence.

The news reports I think give a good example of the upshot of all this. The Marines rolled into this town, decided to set up shop, and after a bit of terrain analysis decided a particular house on the outskirts of the village would be the best site for the temporary Marine HQ. Since the rules are to be touchy-feely, this meant the Marine local CO, I think it was a Captain, had to convince the owner of the house to clear out for the duration of the Marine's stay.

The offer according to the stories was one hundred bucks, or roughly, 1 - 2 week's income for your average Afghan opium poppy farmer; or maybe 1 month's income for a poor Afghan family head.

Which to my mind is crazy. If I was living in my house and some foreign soldiers showed up and told me if I moved out and let them move in, they would give me a month's salary, I would tell them to get lost. This is my home we're talking about, who's going to uproot his family for a month's salary?

If the offer was a year's salary, or even better 2 or 3 times the value of the house, that's another conversation. But the Marine Captain - I am sure because the Civilian Affairs people advised him not to overpay so as to keep the neighbors happy - was offering chump change.

The result? Well, according to the story first the house owner says he's not sure, then he says the village headman has to decide, then it turns out no one can find the headman (yeah right, in a provincial Afghan village in the middle of a US Marine invasion/visit no one knows where the headman is), then the house owner says "yes", and then he changes his mind because the Taliban will probably kill him when the Marines leave. And meanwhile the Marines are standing around getting angry and wondering why they have to screw with these Afghan civilians who can't make up their mind, Marines are supposed to kill, not haggle over real estate.

It's just a shame I think that with all the resources the US has to deal with this region, somehow it works out that when it comes time to talk cash actually in the hands of a person whose heart and mind has a direct impact on the insurgency, the US is offering peanuts. System's broke, it ought to be fixed.

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kipanderson wrote:

BTW… there is no reason why NATO should lose in Afghanistan. Casualty rates are easily low enough to be indefinitely sustainable. No matter how appallingly tragic for the individual and their families and friends.

What end-state constitutes a win for NATO? Serious question here. Spending treasure and lives on foreign nations and nationals is not a sustainable political policy position. If the voting populace doesn't understand what the sacrifice is about, or understands that the reasoning behind it's implementation is, at best, doublethink, their votes will go to the first bloke to stand up and say "This is crap."

BD6 - money isn't the root of the problem, it is hard to see how money can solve it. Paying farmers to not grow poppy is a waste of time - to balance the equation and prevent the behaviours associated with drug production you have to pay the drug overlords and their thuggish minions their share of the processing and supply profits and you have to supply the end user of the drug with the means of satisfying whatever it is that they manage to satisfy with drugs. Better to legalise the drug and collect the taxes with which to fund the infrastructure development of the growing nation - provide them with the cash to pay members of their police force something like a real salary. Genuine interest by traders needing to satisfy supply contracts would further push the development and investment in a legitimate business. (Interestingly, a large proportion of the worlds legally grown opium comes from Tasmania - or so it has been reported in the BBC recently.)

On the home politics front - how do you get a (largely) law abiding populace that votes for its leaders to agree to spending "their" money on foreign nationals of dubious character? And how, if you decide to go ahead and do it anyway, do you get returned at the next vote?

I see your point about the dollars being spent in Afghanistan and the possibility of a better way to do it - I don't see the point of any of it (the idea that I need to be afraid of wild Afghanis wielding weapons of mass destruction in my city is the construct of a bunch of stupid and greedy political advisers in my own hemisphere - where the **** do they get off telling me what to think or fear?) so I can't agree.

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JohnS,

Mea culpa. Could be NATO forces are getting close to the magic 10:1 ratio.

Assuming of course the insurgents are drawing one or less of every hundred potential fighters, and the NATO troops stay in the province.

We'll see how it goes.

It's JonS, there is no h.

Sorry, just a reflex. I also go by Jon in RL and constantly have to tell people to omit the h.

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It's JonS, there is no h.

Sorry, just a reflex. I also go by Jon in RL and constantly have to tell people to omit the h.

:) I get a steady stream of queries from people at work who can't find me in the internal directory for exactly that reason. I long ago stopped fretting about it.

By the by, BD: I wasn't having a dig at you. Your posts are always well thought out and expressed. In this case, though, the error significantly affects the conclusions you argue. I think. :)

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Costard,

I agree with you, if the powers that be were really sensible they would be attacking the Helmand drug problem on two fronts, first by making it worth while for the Helmand poppy farmers not to raise poppies, and second by legalising opium and herion. I'm way out on the left wing on that, I would make pretty much every drug legal and make only the really nasty ones - heroin and coke maybe - prescription drugs. I know it wouldn't fix the War on Drugs problem completely, but at least it would make narcotics a local business rather than an international one; the main trade would be domestically-manufactured narcotics stolen somehow from pharmacies or dispensed by dishonest doctors, to those people who for whatever reason must get their drugs illegally even though most of it was legally available.

But since that's nut job POV with no chance of becoming reality, we have to think about dealing with the narcotics industry in Helmand province, which brings us directly to CMSF.

If the goal is to build scenarios based on NATO ops in Helmand province, and one wants to try and match the probable real engagements rather than pretend ones, I think it is logical that a good portion of them be drug-related. Not: "NATO base is attacked by insurgents," or "Cool elite NATO infantry backed by air go after bad guy insurgent leader in his mountain lair." Realistically, operations like that are going to be few and far between.

You want to model the likely reality, you need to be thinking more about missions like this:

- NATO platoon moves into village, attempts to find head man, crappy insurgent teenagers attempt to kill a NATO soldier or two without getting blown away themselves.

- Insurgents are more organized in village, assume they are outsiders, and their victory goal is getting NATO to level the village.

- NATO troops have to burn a poppy field/poppy bulb processing buildings, owners resist.

- NATO troops are en route to meeting with local elders in some village to discuss drug policy, get ambushed along way.

- Insurgents attempt to raid local police station/village mayor's house for weapons/hostages/money/confiscated product, NATO quick response force attempts to deal with situation.

Etc. The idea would be that the two sides would move through the battle tree based on success/failure in the drug war, which would translate into CMSF into the NATO side trying to kill insurgents w/o destroying too much civilian life and property, and the insurgent side trying to up the NATO casualty count.

JonS,

No worries, thanks for the check.

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