Tuesday, August 25

America's Bay of Pigs moment in Syria and the U.S. Ministry of Silly Walks in Afghanistan

The United States’ botched effort last month to support a Syrian moderate rebel group known as Division 30 was a chain of errors that recalls, in a small way, the 1961 Bay of Pigs fiasco.
The Division 30 debacle has some clear and disturbing lessons: The rebels weren’t well prepared for their mission, and they had poor intelligence about potential adversaries inside Syria. The United States was too dependent on Turkey, and it didn’t have clear plans about how to respond if the rebels were attacked; although the United States eventually provided air support, it was too late to do much good.
Division 30 was the first contingent of Syrian rebels deployed under a $500 million “train and equip” plan authorized last year by Congress.
Given the United States’ history of mismanaging military support for rebel groups over many decades, it’s a wonder that people like Abu Iskandar still want to enlist. When the CIA landed a Cuban rebel force at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, the U.S. failed to provide adequate planning, intelligence, air cover or political support.
According to Evan Thomas’s 1995 book “The Very Best Men,” a Cuban operative abandoned on the beach cursed his American handler in a last radio transmission: “And you, sir, are a son of a bitch.”
From David Ignatius'  August 20 Washington Post opinion columnLessons from the Bay of Pigs in the Syrian ‘Division 30’ debacle.  Undaunted or perhaps stung by the debacle, the U.S. is soon launching "comprehensive" operations with Turkey' military to "flush Islamic State fighters from a zone in northern Syria bordering Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Reuters on Monday."

It seems to be a very complicated comprehensive operation, from the FM's outline, and doesn't seem to have anything to do with flushing the route that Islamic State uses to deliver Iraqi oil to Turkey.

But I certainly wish these two wonderful NATO allies well in their endeavor, although frankly I think the U.S. arming a contingent of female Kurdish guerrilla fighters would do a better job flushing IS routes in the region.


But there are the protocols and traditions of the military to be observed and these are more important than uncouthly obtained victories, to more or less summarize General Robert E. Lee's views on war fighting.     

Moving on to Afghanistan:  

Defense Dept. Inspector General Criticized as Worse than Useless
August 17, 2015

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has done his job well. John Sopko and his group have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, referred companies and individuals that have committed contracting violations and pointed out many examples of government waste.

No wonder then that the federal government would attempt to supplant SIGAR with an authority that doesn’t work nearly as well.

The Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations, which comprises the inspectors general for the Department of Defense(DOD), the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), became the primary agency for investigating fraud and waste in Afghanistan thanks to a provision in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, inserted by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and Jim Webb (D-Virginia).

This group, led by DOD Inspector General Jon Rymer, put together a report (pdf) for Congress that has many attractive photos and facts about the mission in Afghanistan, but information on only eight issues that require attention, and even those are provided with a notation that the “October 2015 Lead IG biannual report will provide details of these and other reports.”

In contrast, SIGAR’s quarterly report (pdf) details 21 audits, inspections, alert letters, and other reports, and savings of $214.7 million for U.S. taxpayers.

The Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations’ reports are so lacking in content that Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies compares the group to Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks.”

“As for the military content, the report serves no known purpose and has almost no meaningful content,” Cordesman wrote. “The Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations does not come close to dealing with any of the issues and problems raised in the Department of Defense’s semi-annual report on the war—the Report on Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan.” The inaugural version of this report was released to Congress on June 16.

Cordesman drew a scathing comparison between that report and SIGAR’s. “It will take you no more than 15 minutes of comparing the Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operation’s Quarterly Report to the report by SIGAR to see just how empty and totally vacuous the work by the Lead Inspector General for Overseas Contingency Operations really is.”

He added that the Lead IG report “reads more like a public relations exercise than anything else. It also follows a pattern within the Executive Branch of steadily reducing reporting that has any negative content…”

There is hope that SIGAR will once again become the lead agency for investigating where U.S. tax dollars are going in Afghanistan. The Project on Government Oversight has supported an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 that would ensure SIGAR isn’t crowded out.

This isn’t the first time the executive branch has tried to mess with SIGAR. Earlier this year, the State Department ordered SIGAR to cut its staff by 40%. When word reached the media, the State Department backed down.



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