Saturday, August 30, 2008

That US Army battalion for Kandahar has arrived

From Stars and Stripes (Mideast edition), August 9:
OSMAN KHEYL, Afghanistan — American commanders are reinforcing NATO-led troops in southern Afghanistan, sending an additional U.S. Army battalion to Kandahar province to help combat an increasingly violent and lethal insurgency here.

Forward elements of the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment have been operating [emphasis added] in Maywand district, about 45 miles west of Kandahar city. The unit will deploy to the area "late this summer," said a battalion officer.

The additional U.S. forces will mean "an enduring presence to provide security for the Maywand district," said Maj. Stephen Ruth, the battalion’s operations officer.

The beefed-up U.S. presence will add about 1,000 additional foreign troops to Maywand, augmenting several small teams of Canadian and American advisers that are training and mentoring Afghan army and police units in the district.

The development comes as NATO announced Thursday that several hundred French troops had been deployed to train and mentor Afghan security forces in neighboring Uruzgan province, which has also seen a sharp increase in the Taliban-led insurgency.

Soldiers from the Fort Hood, Texas-based 2-2 Infantry Regiment are part of a brigade of 1st Infantry Division troops that were originally supposed to deploy to Nuristan and Kunar provinces in eastern Afghanistan, which has also been wracked by insurgent violence. But after Taliban fighters staged a dramatic jailbreak on a Kandahar prison in June, freeing hundreds of prisoners, many of them militants, the unit was ordered instead to Maywand [emphasis added], Ruth said.

At a meeting here guarded by several hundred U.S., Canadian and British troops, along with Afghan security forces, Mullah Masood — the government-appointed leader for Maywand — urged about 80 local elders to cooperate with foreign troops and Afghan security forces to improve life in the district...
Now our media have reported:
The United States has deployed a much-needed battalion of 800 troops to assist Canadian and Afghan Forces in Kandahar and to try to tame the province's Wild West.

While the battalion has been active in Kandahar since early July, it has only just begun its operations in the past few weeks in the Maywand district, which borders on Helmand province to the west, and will serve as its new home.

Until now, insurgents have been using Maywand as a corridor to move soldiers, money, and weapons into Kandahar from Pakistan, through the Helmand River Basin. A lack of security in Maywand has helped feed the insurgency in such hotly contested areas as Zhari and Panjwaii in Kandahar, which have been the epicentre of the fighting here this summer.

The new troops come from the 2-2 Infantry Battalion assigned to the third brigade [combat team] of the first infantry division of the U.S. army and are based in Fort Hood, Tx. The battalion is better known as the "Ramrods" or the "2-2s".

The battalion, which will now fall under the command and control of the Canadian Forces [emphasis added--"operational direction" might be a better term] will serve a vital role in disrupting the activities of insurgents in Maywand, which has lacked a permanent presence by Coalition and Afghan forces due to a lack of personnel, according to Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, Canada's top soldier in Kandahar.

"This district is a key district. It's key as a logistics hub for the movement of insurgent fighters, arms and money, and the presence of 2-2 infantry will disrupt these activities and have a real impact on the security picture here in Kandahar," Brig.-Gen. Thompson said a news conference at the Kandahar Air Field Saturday morning.

He added that the new U.S. troops will assist the Canadian and Afghan forces by "choking off" this vital lifeline for the insurgency.

In order to take control of Zhari and Panjwaii, Brig.-Gen. has already asked Kabul for 4,000 trained police officers, up from the 1,000 currently trained here, and another battalion of Afghan National Army troops, in addition to more support from Canada's NATO allies.

The new U.S. troops got their first look at Maywand in early August as part of a recent operation in the district led by Canadian and Afghan forces that yielded caches of weapons, opium, and materials for building IEDs...

The battalion's 15-month deployment [emphasis added] in Kandahar comes at a time when both Brig.-Gen. Thompson and Defence Minister Peter MacKay have been lobbying Canada's NATO allies for more support in the volatile region of Afghanistan, where the bulk of Canada's 2,500 troops here are stationed.

Brig.-Gen. Thompson called the Ramrods' presence in Kandahar an "interim measure" [emphasis added] while Ottawa decides how it will meet the recommendation contained in the Manley report, which, among other things, called for an additional 1,000 troops on the ground in Kandahar.

The Ramrods' presence in Kandahar has been one of the more poorly guarded secrets here, but was one that could not be reported earlier due to security reasons [emphasis added--what about the Stars and Stripes story--was it out of line?].

Its 800 troops will be deployed here in a combat capacity and will add to the 1,000 infantry and combat armed soldiers Canada has in the province...
Very good news. But how can a 15-month deployment be described as "interim"? Surely this deployment will be followed by a replacement, thereby satisfying the Manley panel's requirement. Moreover I wonder if more Marines may not eventually arrive in Regional Command South to replace the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, now scheduled to leave at the end of November. Note that the Marines in RC South appear be under control of ISAF HQ in Kabul (as a sort of mobile reserve), not the commander of RC South.

By the way, the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the "Big Red One" is called "The Devil's Brigade". Hmmm.

Here's a map of Kandahar Province's districts (via Brihard) :

Update: Excerpts from a Globe and Mail story that may clarify things a bit (I was right about the command set-up I think; I suspect operational "direction" and "control" amount to the same thing):
The 2nd of the 2nd Infantry Battallion, based at Fort Hood, Tex., otherwise known as the Ramrods, “has been officially placed under my operation control,” Brig.-Gen. Thompson told a morning news conference at the Kandahar Air Field...

A report released earlier this year by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley recommended that more troops be sent to help out the Canadian forces in Kandahar. But Brig.-Gen Thompson said fulfilling the recommendations of the Manley report will be something that is decided in Ottawa, not in Kandahar...

The battalion of American that is on the ground now, he said, is “an interim measure to cover off the obvious security gap here in Kandahar province.”.

But the Canadian Commander and [battalion commander] Lt.-Col. Hurlbut agreed that the Americans would be operating under the ISAF rules of engagement [note: each nation sets the ROEs for its own troops, not ISAF] that are followed by the Canadian task Force.
Upperdate: I wonder if MND MacKay considers well-sourced stories in major
media (e.g. here, here, here, here, and here) "just anecdotal reporting":
The arrival of 800 U.S soldiers alongside Canadian forces in Kandahar is just the start of an increase in NATO's presence in the dangerous Afghan province, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said yesterday [August 31].

The top Canadian soldier in Afghanistan announced Saturday that the 800-strong U.S. battalion has officially joined his own forces, almost doubling the number of foot soldiers on the ground in the province that is under Canadian command.

"We're expecting, based on just anecdotal reporting, that there may in fact be more [U.S. troops] coming [emphasis added]," Mr. MacKay said yesterday. "In the meantime, we're requesting that all NATO countries consider sending personnel, military equipment or civilian aid workers. So this is an open and ongoing invitation to other NATO-allied countries to provide support to Kandahar."..


Blogger Dave in Pa. said...


Not only do I despair at most North American "journalists'" ignorance of things military, I'm also discouraged about their all-too-frequent lack of basic knowledge of the rules of grammar.

1. MILITARY STRUCTURE: In any Western army, a battalion is a subordinate group to a regiment or brigade. Brigades and regiments are not subordinate units of battalions.

From the Stars & Stripes article (and I've seen this error almost daily in other Canadian and American print media)"...2-2 Infantry Battalion" and otherwise screwing up military hierarchical structure. Incoherence!

That would correctly be: "the Second Battalion, Second Infantry Regiment, of the Third Brigade of the First Infantry Division". Torch writers and readers know a regiment is not part of a battalion any more than a police department is part of a precinct.

2. RULES OF GRAMMAR: When using a noun in general, it is not normally capitalized. When referring to a specific named version of the noun it IS capitalized.

For example, "...a brigade" is correct. However, "...the third brigade", as written in the Stars & Stripes article, is not. That would be "...the Third Brigade". There was only one e.e. cummings, dear journalists, and he's dead.

(And, God help us!, it's not "...The Third Brigade" any more than it's "...The New York Times" or "...The Globe and Mail" or "...The London Times"! Thou shalt not capitalize the article "the" unless it begins the sentence! IMO, such incorrect usage is narcissistic, giving the reader more unflattering information on the writer and journal than it does illuminating the subject.)

I don't mean to be pedantic here. Some of this stuff just grates on this grouchy SOB! :-) When I went to high school with Fred Flintstone in prehistoric times, we were taught that good writing is succinct and grammatically correct.

Moreover, a journalist writing on things military ought to have a basic understanding of military structure. Otherwise, the writer displays lack of clarity and degraded persuasiveness in his or her writing.


8:06 p.m., August 31, 2008  
Blogger Mark, Ottawa said...

dave in pa: "Moreover, a journalist writing on things military ought to have a basic understanding of military structure...'

Good blinking luck. I think, by the time I was about 16 and having read a lot of military history, I sort of figured those those things out.

But now, with Google? Good grief.

This is fun:

'Hans-Christian Georg Rupprecht,Commander in Chief Frankenstein Battalion
2nd Squadron: Ulanen-(Lancers) Regiment Großherzog Friedrich von Baden(Rheinisches) Nr.7(Saarbrucken)
Knecht Rupprecht Division
Hans Corps
1st Saint Nicolaas Army
Army Group “True North”'

I hope I haven't committed too many egregious errors at "The Torch".


9:41 p.m., August 31, 2008  

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