Friday, February 22, 2008

Pentagon doubts Obama account of equipment problem

Reuters reports:

The Pentagon on Friday cast doubt on an account of military equipment shortages mentioned by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama during a debate with rival Hillary Clinton.

During the face-to-face encounter on Thursday evening, Obama said he had heard from an Army captain whose unit had served in Afghanistan without enough ammunition or vehicles. Obama said it was easier for the troops to capture weapons from Taliban militants than it was "to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief," President George W. Bush.

"I find that account pretty hard to imagine," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.

Obama's controversial comments during his debate with Hillary Clinton were difficult to comprehend on their face. But additional background from Jake Tapper allows us to deduce what he meant. ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper says he has spoken to the Captain himself and says (emphasis mine):

Short answer: He backs up Obama's story. The longer answer is worth telling, though.

The Army captain, a West Point graduate, did a tour in a hot area of eastern Afghanistan from the Summer of 2003 through Spring 2004.

Prior to deployment the Captain -- then a Lieutenant -- took command of a rifle platoon at Fort Drum. When he took command, the platoon had 39 members, but -- in ones and twos -- 15 members of the platoon were re-assigned to other units. He knows of 10 of those 15 for sure who went to Iraq, and he suspects the other five did as well.

The platoon was sent to Afghanistan with 24 men. "We should have deployed with 39," he told me, "we should have gotten replacements. But we didn't. And that was pretty consistent across the battalion."

The Reuters news story correctly points out that platoons are rarely commanded by Captains, but the incident cited by Obama's informant occured when he was a Lieutenant. But one other vital circumstance is being overlooked. Tapper says Obama wanted to convey the point that:

the Iraq war "diverted attention from Afghanistan where Al Qaeda, that killed 3,000 Americans, are stronger now than at any time since 2001."

At the time Obama's informant was preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq was taking place (March 18 to May 1, 2003) or was still in progress. So Obama's informant is not talking about some drain on Afghanistan consequent to the Iraqi insurgency but is citing it as evidence against the decision to go to war in Iraq at all.

There were logistical problems in Afghanistan early in the campaign as illustrated by the fact that Special Forces famously pursued the Taliban on horseback at the outset of the campaign. And the anecdote that Obama cites is understandable when it is realized they were made at a period the actual invasion of Iraq made it the priority theater. And there are still logistical problems in Afghanistan -- but mostly to do with NATO forces. But Obama's anecdote isn't proof that US troops in Afghanistan have no weapons, training or ammunition now. It may be true but the case has to be made on other grounds. Obama's anecdote from 2003 says nothing about the state of Afghanistan in 2008.

But we know the state of NATO's forces in Afghanistan today. Recently Robert Gates criticized NATO allies for welshing on its commitments to Afghanistan:

"I am not ready to let NATO off the hook in Afghanistan at this point," Gates told the House Armed Services Committee. Ticking off a list of vital requirements -- about 3,500 more military trainers, 20 helicopters, and three infantry battalions -- Gates voiced "frustration" at "our allies not being able to step up to the plate."

Michael Yon recently told an anecdote describing exactly what Gates referred to.

During my trip, I visited several bases. Steve needed to meet some Danish engineers who were to fly into Tarin Kot the next day by helicopter. When Steve asked an Australian Special Forces officer how to identify which helicopter the Danish engineers would arrive in, the Australian officer grimly answered, “It will be the only helicopter flying alone.”

Recently a British Ministry of Defence report said the British Army was out of machine guns and ammo.

British troops “desperately” need 400 of the jumbo 0.5in calibre heavy machine guns – the weapon most acutely missed. The Army has also run out of the 7.62mm GPMG and Minimis. ...

Generals asked the US to help but were snubbed by the Pentagon – who have dubbed British colleagues “The Borrowers”. The report says: “We are trying to get 400 guns transferred from the US. However, the material was provided by US DoD and they are not prepared to release them. MoD-level engagement is needed to try and get these released.” ...

So Obama is citing a five year old anecdote to prove the 'bad judgment' of the US but doesn't really mention the real crisis of the Afghan mission today. However the problem is really larger than sending more troops and supplies to Southwest Asia. One factor rarely mentioned in describing Afghan logistical problems or considered in relation to Barack Obama's assertion that Afghanistan should have absorbed troops bound for Iraq is that the theater is landlocked and accessible to the sea only through Pakistan and Iran. There are in fact serious concerns that troops in Afghanistan can be cut off should a hostile regime emerge in Pakistan.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2007 – The U.S. military is examining different contingencies for supplying American troops in Afghanistan if supplies can no longer be shipped through Pakistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.

Morrell said at a Pentagon news conference that the supply line issue “is a very real area of concern for our commanders in Afghanistan, because 75 percent of all of our supplies for our troops in Afghanistan flow either through or over Pakistan.” This includes about 40 percent of the fuel shipped to U.S. forces, which comes directly from Pakistani refineries. No ammunition goes through Pakistan, the press secretary said.

“Supplies to our troops in Afghanistan continue to flow freely through Pakistan, and for that we are grateful,” he said. “But the U.S. is not taking the passage for granted. Planners are working on contingency supply lines to our troops if it becomes necessary to alter the way we now support our troops.”

Morrell could not say what the contingency plans are, but was confident troops would be supplied if a “Plan B” were needed. “We are a can-do operation,” he said. “They’ll figure out a way to get it done if it needs to get done.”

This context enables us to understand Obama's statements at the debate and to form some idea of their wisdom. Would he redeploy 150,000 men to Afghanistan at the end of an insecure supply line? Would he unilaterally make up for the shortfall in NATO commitments to the war? Does he still believe that US troops in Afghanistan are scrounging weapons from the Taliban? These are fair questions.




30 Comments:

Blogger newscaper said...

"There were logistical problems in Afghanistan early in the campaign as illustrated by the fact that Special Forces famously pursued the Taliban on horseback at the outset of the campaign."

I would not even grant that point. The whole purpose of the SF troops was to get in there fast, quick & dirty (which almost by definition means lightly equipped) as point men and work with the indigenous forces. So horseback was not a "problem" but a necessary condition of being extremely quick on our feet.

2/22/2008 05:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

I think he will bring Hope and Change to Afghanistan.
That's good enough for me.

2/22/2008 05:49:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

The logic of war is not the logic of peace. When a nation goes to war it steps through the looking glass. Our elites have resolutely refused to follow the nation to the other side, and continuously report on our war efforts using the logic of peace time. Destruction = bad. Death = bad. Shortage of guns and bullets (which we shouldn't be using anyways)? Now we're talking scandal -- which is good anytime.

We've had 6 million man years of military effort since 2001 and this is what they come up with? My history is a bit rusty, but whole regiments have disappeared in the Hindu Kush -- we're talking officers, men, canteens, belts, boots and camp followers. I don't mean to sound flip, but did that unit take any serious casualties?

In 2002 I thought the problem was: How do you keep AQ from going to ground and rebuilding itself slowly over five or ten years? I supported the Iraq invasion because AQ would have to fight. They couldn't let us march into Baghdad without losing so much face they would never be able to crawl out of their hidey-holes for the shame. And what a prize! Once they fought for it they would have to organize and communicate and raise money and sacrifice their best -- in short, lay the family jewels on the table for us to pick off. And they would make of the Iraqi people our ally, of that I was confident. We couldn't, but they would do it for us.

At the time of the Iraq invasion I told the guys at the coffee clutch that it would take at least five years to judge its success, even if it goes well. That five years will be up in May. I would look for a violent spike come August to November -- for obvious reasons. So I will hold my opinion until the day Bush leaves office. Short of an intervention by the Democrats, it's looking good, though.

The US struggling for a scenic pile of rocks at the end of a tenuous supply line is probably Barack's idea of a fair fight.

As for this Captain, he did seem to want in the fight, and the frustration may have got to him. I salute him for his effort.

2/22/2008 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Obambi is a fool and an idiot.

There is zilch possibility of victory in Afghanistan. At best as Yon says there will be a Special Forces Hunting Lodge(tm). That's it.

Zilch possibility of anything but Air Evac if Pakistan cuts logistics. You can't put fuel, food, ammo, water, medicine, and everything else into Afghanistan through Central Asian airbases that rely on Russia's good will to supply the men already there.

This is reality. Unless we are willing to rock and roll nuclear style on Pakistan. Which we aren't.

We can't surge in Afghanistan. It simply can't be done. Plus, Pakistan's nuclear umbrella provides a safe haven for Osama. Soon to be matched by Iran's nuclear umbrella.

2/22/2008 06:53:00 PM  
Blogger Reliapundit said...

the whole point of obama's deliberate misrepresentation of this captain's platoon story was to BAS BUSH and smear the Iraq War.

it;s the same reason obama said 10,000 died in a twister in kansas - blaming it on the claim that 40^ of the state's national guard stuff was in iraq and that the absence of this equipment and manpower meant the guv of kansas couldn't respond properly to her own crisis.

LIES.

and only 112 died.

but it did smear Bush and the Iraq War.

obama is unfit to be Commander in Chief.

2/22/2008 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

It sounds like our troops were the barefoot patriots at Vally Forge, scrounging for muskets.



"Naked and starving as they are we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery." -General George Washington at Valley Forge

Well, taking Obama's story at face value, if it's so easy for such defense-less, shoe-less cretins to take the Taliban's weapons, they must not be such a scary enemy.

Who won in Obama's story?

2/22/2008 07:41:00 PM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

It's easy to sling charges left and right if you've never been responsible for delivering anything. As far as I can see Obama has lived a life, partly due to affirmative action and partly due to how he chose to spend his time, which has been utterly devoid of consequences.

Obama acquiring real responsibilities would unfortunately result in a bitter shock for him and for the rest of us.

2/22/2008 07:52:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

He could afford pricey Punahoe High, (15k) thanks to his Grandparents, which he sometimes omits from his story, mentioning only his "single mom," who was collecting welfare at that time.
Consequences?
Algore's last minute dirty trick of mentioning W's DWI almost had the consequence of keeping him from office.
Barry's admitted use of Crack?
Not a problem.

2/22/2008 08:16:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...

I agree with Reliapundit. It’s a smear tactic.

Intellectually speaking, Obama is being duplicitous and playing the old “If I were in charge things would have been better” line (or Monday morning quarterbacking). If Obama were in charge he would have cut and run long ago.

Obama’s cherry picking of some story from 2003 and presenting it as picture of today is pure hogwash.

I disrespect Obama and his MSM buddies even more after this series of misrepresentations of the facts.

2/22/2008 08:30:00 PM  
Blogger The Anti-Jihadist said...

The news just broke on the USAF losing a $2 billion B-2 bomber. They had only 21 of them; now it's 20. The crash is reported to have happened last night (Friday 22 Feb) at or near Andersen AFB in Guam. Fortunately the two pilots were able to eject and are reported to be safe. Details are sketchy for the moment.

2/22/2008 09:04:00 PM  
Blogger deepinjuncountry said...

Obama sure knows his audience. Problem is, he also knows the ignorance of those whom he hopes to sway.

Wretchard—it was no accident that those SF guys were expert horsemen. What better way to gain respect?

2/22/2008 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Pangloss said...

On the other Obama front, Michelle Obama's supposedly embargoed thesis is available on the web.

As I wrote about it here, The future Mrs. Obama seemed unwilling to allow her beliefs to follow the results of her research. Her research demonstrated that the majority of black graduates of Princeton did not believe there was a meaningful distinction between black and white culture in the US in 1985. Rather than admitting that this supported the antithesis to her thesis, she concluded by saying she was disappointed in her survey respondents.

2/22/2008 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Sparks fly said...

If people catch on to who Obamma is, a lying (fill in your own word), too soon, then we might be looking at a revival of ol'Hitlery's chances.

It is interesting to see the left who follow the Clintons doing their dirty tricks on Obambi. They can manufacture a verbal vomit within days all across the media. It's amazing. They sure know the power of words and grunts and innuendos and timing and tone and winks and blinks and nods. They sure knoe how to manipulate emotions. It affects me.

The Obammarites aren't as good at it as the Clintoons are. Ol' slick Willy is busting a gut walking the line between destroying Obammer on the one hand and maintaining the support of those apparently very racist blacks on the other.

Obammer is a through and through opportunist socialist. Socialism doesn't work. More of it doesn't work even more.

McCain's chances are looking better and better. Some real harm seems to have been done recently to the Dem. party coalition.

I liked Thompson. Duhhh.

2/22/2008 10:59:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Several things could break at once.

Pakistan's new Democratic Government could simply close down US logistics and enable the Taliban and AQ to launch attacks at will in complete safety against the US looking for an Alamo "last stand" defeat on the US.

Iran could explode a nuke and make an "or-else" threat to Israel, the US (in the Gulf and elsewhere) or both. They could possibly give a nuke to Hezbollah and destroy Copenhagen.

AQ could use the failure of NSA coverage to launch a mass-casualty attack on the US.

Any of these could have unseen effects. It might well tip the balance to Obama, or to McCain. There is a huge surrender consensus among the Elites and various minority groups who understand completely that the grievance and Welfare State will certainly not grow under true wartime conditions.

How much concern was given Welfare payments during WWII? Or allegations of racism at home (even though the actual racism was substantial)?

2/22/2008 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin said...

Of course a surge in Afghanistan is just code for an invasion of Pakistan, which is just more code for an invasion of Saudi Arabia. Much treason will be revealed and much blood will spill. Of course this will be much more blood than would have spilt if America had dealt with the 9/11 attacks properly. But continuing the surrender will only compound with time the eventual bill in blood that we must pay for George Bush’s callous capitulation to the House of Saud in response to 9/11. In pushing for a surge in Afghanistan Obama is crossing the Rubicon towards eventual conflict with Saudi Arabia

The fear of some is of course that an eventual President Obama will immediately declassify all evidence of Saudi involvement in 9/11 that the Bush Administration has been so desperate to hide from public view. The floodgates of emotion will open and a judgement day will be upon us. Why exactly are our troops imposing Sharia law on formerly secular Iraq? Why exactly has the Afghanistan operation been de-balled from the start? Why exactly are we allowing Saudi-backed Pakistan to shelter terrorists? And why are we allowing Saudi Arabia to leverage terrorist attacks by threatening democratic governments into submission?

Of course the supporters of the Iraqi war will say they were duped. That spilling some Arab blood was better than spilling none. But it is George Bush’s corruption of the lust for blood Americans justifiably felt after 9/11 that will most damn him to a fate worse than Neville Chamberlain’s in the global Hall of Fame of cowards. Bloodlust contains the same duality as all desires, including its close cousin, sexual lust. On the one hand sexual lust is necessary to ensure the continuation of the species. On the other hand it must be contained within appropriate channels; namely one’s spouse, in order to ensure the proper family unit and the best chance for one’s offspring to thrive. Savages (and some politicians) know no limits to their desires; if they see something that looks good they hit it, regardless of what happens to any eventual offspring or what whoring they have to do before government agencies to assist the clients of the object of their lust. Bloodlust is similar. When a Nation is attacked, a very healthy desire rises for the blood of the backers of the attackers so as to ensure that the attack is never repeated, even if this means much more blood will flow responding to the insult than was actually spilt in the original attack, as we saw in the Pacific War against Japan, but where the justified blood lust was kept within appropriate channels. After the Saudis attacked us on 9/11, and the war in Afghanistan was emasculated; many Americans realized that we were never going to attack the Saudis. But instead, just as a savage (or politician) will try to mate with any attractive target in sight if denied by his spouse, an inappropriate target of blood letting was offered to America – Iraq. But this was a disaster on two fronts. We have now spent most (if not all) of the justifiable desire for blood on the wrong target (a secular tyrant instead of the House of Saud) while the danger (Saudi Arabia) is still clear and present. Worse, we have shown the world what an easy mark we are; that the way to destroy America is through bribing our iniquitous ruling class. China and Russia are most definitely taking notes.

2/23/2008 04:12:00 AM  
Blogger fred said...

ory but you are wrong.CNN fact checked what Obama has said he had been told by an officer serving in Iraq and what Obama had said was said by the officer to be essentially what he had said. Now what the Pentagon later implies is what of course they would say, no? Unless you are willing to believe everything you are told by
the Pentagon.

Now this does NOT mean the officer was right in what he said but Obama was right in what he told the audience he had been told.

2/23/2008 06:10:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Obama's account sounds plausible to me, given the context. 10th Mountain is heavily deployed because they are light, and therefore easily deployed and re-deployed. At the time, we were in control of Afghanistan and the greater need was in Iraq. The Army does shift people and resources around, to the frustration of its leaders. Logistics is normally a nightmare and Afghanistan is famous for its difficult terrain. Even in peace-time, shortages are common and soldiers will adapt to overcome them - it makes sense to me that captured enemy weapons and ammunition were used instead of let gone to waste. I'm sure that this now-CPT was frustrated because his PLT's job was made tougher.

BUT ... a tougher job doesn't necessarily mean the then-LT and his PLT didn't accomplish their mission in the conditions on the ground at the time. It sounds like the same number of units was maintained in OEF, just at a minus condition. The real question is, did the shift away of resources actually hurt the OEF mission? More specifically, was the then-LT rendered unable to do his missions? My understanding is that the problem in Afghanistan is less our forces in-country than that Taliban and AQ can base out of Waziristan. As well, from reading Robert Kaplan's Imperial Grunts, it would seem that the opposite contributed to our problem in Afghanistan - when it was SF-led, we had the mission under control, but the influx of too many conventional forces with accompanying growth of bureaucracy SNAFU stifled our forces' previously dynamic ability to manage Afghanistan.

I know what Obama is implying fits a soundbite narrative, but from his account alone, I'm not convinced that stripped out PLTs, at that time in OEF, would have made a difference to where we are now in the OEF mission.

2/23/2008 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

... I'll add another point. Given how at least one of my drill sergeants praised the AK-series compared to the M-16 during my Basic Training (more robust and easier to maintain, bigger round and better stopping power), I wonder how many soldiers don't mind getting their hands on enemy weaponry.

That said, it's hard for me to imagine a shortage of M-16s or M-4s because it is the basic weapon for the Army. I can easily imagine a shortage for M-2 parts, or even for M-60s and 240s.

2/23/2008 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger Fen said...

I'd be interested in seeing the SORTs data for those afgan units. Shouldn't be classified any longer.

2/23/2008 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger Fen said...

one of my drill sergeants praised the AK-series compared to the M-16 during my Basic Training (more robust and easier to maintain, bigger round and better stopping power), I wonder how many soldiers don't mind getting their hands on enemy weaponry.


Echo. AKs are very durable, perfect weapon for those with little training. Pull it from the mud after a week and it will still fire. The M16 was designed with less tolerance - its much more accurate at longer range than the AKs.

Any grunts here miss the weight of their M16?

2/23/2008 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger gdude said...

Isn't this more silly campaign rhetoric? So in '03 we were supposed to already have totally rebuilt our whole Army after so much downsizing in the 90's as a benefit of the Peace Dividend Reagan provided to Clinton, and stockpiled oodles of conventional equipment (to the benefit, you know, of the very Military-Industrial complex the Left loves so much and votes to expand at every turn...) Aren't these people funny? First Bush is too militaristic, but then (in their minds) if he had only carried a bigger stick and was even more violent and ruthless with our army, we wouldn't have all these problems. It's ironic that Bush's tack was engagement, and the Left's answer is "Beat the crap out of them and leave." Shows the Left doesn't even believe their own rhetoric. Not that anyone believed they do...

I'm actually seeing more and more the wisdom of taking Iraq as perhaps the most defensible position for U.S. forces in the region (assuming you intend to have one). Afghanistan is not the place for any not-contiguous outsiders to base themselves. The history of that is clear as a bell.

2/23/2008 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger davod said...

gdude:

You forget. Bush was not supposed to do anything until we built up the Army to WWII proportions. Some will never forgive him for not having hot Cocoa in every foxhole.

The bigger issue is why the captain chose to go to Obamma and not some of the tried and true Democratic hard line senators.

2/24/2008 04:35:00 AM  
Blogger fred said...

the real issue is simply this: Obama had been accused of lying about an officer's statement. CNN fact checked proved that the officer in question had indeed told that stuff to Obama...Now you canargue about what the officer said and why he said it but Obama did not lie and to say so is simply wrong.

2/24/2008 06:58:00 AM  
Blogger Fen said...

CNN fact checked proved that -

Simply not good enough. Mapes and Rather and CBS staff also "fact checked", and they are cut from the same cloth. Get independent confirmation from something other than a propaganda organ.

2/24/2008 07:20:00 AM  
Blogger Gary Rosen said...

"The bigger issue is why the captain chose to go to Obamma and not some of the tried and true Democratic hard line senators."

I guess he knows which way the wind is blowing.

2/24/2008 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger davod said...

CNN fact checked proved that -

Not true. CNN and Ap showed that the ain clam of no ammo and parts related to trining inthe USA.

A big difference to this happening in theatre.

This rubbish will help The Lord Obamma with his followers, but it will not help him with the voters needed to clinch the deal in November. Only th MSM can solve that problem.

2/25/2008 02:37:00 AM  
Blogger fred said...

stay with the issue and not with your feelings about Obama.The charge is that Obama lied.This has not been shown.The Capt may be wrong. But Obama said he was staing what he was told. Mainly,that is what he was told. Did he lie? NO.Now govote for McAin if you will.

2/25/2008 04:18:00 AM  
Blogger twc said...

Do you think your sources, and instincts, on this are better than those of the current Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George Casey? He said today under oath that he has no reason to doubt Obama's story about the Captain. This is from the A.P. story on General Casey's testimony today:

Army Official Says No Reason to Doubt Obama Story of Ill-Equipped Troops

ANNE FLAHERTY
AP News

Feb 26, 2008 12:39 EST

Gen. George Casey, the Army's chief of staff, said Tuesday he has no reason to doubt Barack Obama's recent account by an Army captain that a rifle platoon in Afghanistan didn't have enough soldiers or weapons... Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Casey said the incident would have occurred in 2003 and 2004 following the Iraq invasion. He said he remembers it as a "difficult time" trying to rush armor and other equipment to the troops. "I have no reason to doubt what it is the captain said," Casey said.

2/26/2008 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger twc said...

Do you think your sources, and instincts, on this are better than those of the current Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. George Casey? He said today under oath that he has no reason to doubt Obama's story about the Captain. This is from the A.P. story on General Casey's testimony today:

Army Official Says No Reason to Doubt Obama Story of Ill-Equipped Troops

ANNE FLAHERTY
AP News

Feb 26, 2008 12:39 EST

Gen. George Casey, the Army's chief of staff, said Tuesday he has no reason to doubt Barack Obama's recent account by an Army captain that a rifle platoon in Afghanistan didn't have enough soldiers or weapons... Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Casey said the incident would have occurred in 2003 and 2004 following the Iraq invasion. He said he remembers it as a "difficult time" trying to rush armor and other equipment to the troops. "I have no reason to doubt what it is the captain said," Casey said.

2/26/2008 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger fred said...

why claim Obama has privileged background and then ignore our current leader?

The charge was that Obama lied. He did not. All else is a diversion from the claim that Obama lied. He did not. Live with it and move on.

2/27/2008 07:46:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home


Powered by Blogger