Gates Stays

It’s all but official now that Robert Gates will be staying on as secretary of defense after Obama takes office.:

[Senior adviser David] Axelrod said Obama enjoys and invites strong opinions and there will be no “potted plants” in his Cabinet. 

Gates has been negotiating with Obama emissaries over his deputies — some will be retained, and some new — and how the Pentagon will be run.

It’s obvious that Richard Danzig will be getting an understudy’s job somewhere in the mix.

I like the move because Gates hasn’t hesitated to crack down on incompetence, particularly in the Air Force. As for those lefties saying that the new national security team looks too hawkish for their taste, they must not have been paying attention. Obama told anyone who would listen that he intends to pivot attention to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Supply Issues

The US is trying to find new supply routes into Afghanistan because the Taliban and their friends are causing trouble for convoys on both sides of the Khyber Pass:

A week ago, a bold Taliban raid on a NATO supply convoy on the Pakistani side of the pass forced authorities to temporarily close traffic through Torkham [the first Afghan border town]. For days after the attack on the 23-truck convoy, many of the hundreds of truckers who regularly traverse this treacherous route were stranded, forced to watch their profits dwindle. Pakistani authorities reopened the NATO supply route through Torkham on Monday after assigning extra security to the convoys.

But on Tuesday, a day after the reopening, dozens of truck drivers seemed far from certain that their troubles were over. The attack in the Khyber tribal area on the Pakistani side of the border last week was one in a series in recent months that has cost NATO suppliers millions in losses this year. In March, insurgents set fire to 40 to 50 NATO oil tankers near Torkham. A month later, Taliban raiders made off with military helicopter engines valued at about $13 million.

The solution in part lies in running supplies through Russia, which illustrates why getting into a pissing match over Georgia or missile defense is not such a hot idea at the moment.

Brainwashed

American Prospect offers a look at the development of counterinsurgency doctrine. Some of the analysis is highly debatable. One particularly interesting tidbit is that defense guru Edward Luttwak favors junking the Afghan war for reasons and in favor of a strategy I agree with:

“What the fuck are we doing there?” he asks. “Much better to abandon it and do occasional punitive expeditions as opposed to counterinsurgency and its enormous costs. I’ve been to Afghanistan. Basically, you’d have to kill every single Afghan and take all the children and put them in boarding school, preferably in England.”

Fighting Through

Michael Yon tells the tale of the British dam-construction convoy in Afghanistan. The stakes were pretty high:

This mission was one of the largest logistics operations during the entire war and certainly one of the most important civil affairs efforts.  Although it was top secret at the time, news of mission failure would quickly spread.  In terms of propaganda value, failure would be a major victory for the enemy.

Afghan Mission Doubts

The Times of London smells a rat in regard to the timing of the recent convoy battle:

[British commanders] understood that the plan was fraught with political and military problems at the highest levels. The knowledge left many Nato commanders wondering whether the lives of their men were being risked for the sake of little more than American political expediency.

UPDATE: The British defence minister responds:

We cannot afford to wait for complete security to be established before development begins. The need to combine the two is one of the challenges of Afghanistan, which both we and NGOs are grappling with to support the Afghan government.

Rule, Britannia

The Telegraph reports that UK forces won a major battle in Afghanistan to deliver material to a hydro project. Interesting sidelight:

The Chinese-made turbine will be installed as part of a project funded by the American development agency USAID to increase the output of the Kajaki power plant.

Chinese engineers already on the ground will install the equipment, which will boost the capacity of the plant, built in 1975, to three turbines with an output of 51 MegaWatts. Around 1.8 million Afghans are expected to benefit from the project.

French Foreign Legion: Let the Afghans Do It

A French lieutenant colonel says Americans are shouldering too much of the counterinsurgency burden in Afghanistan and stunting the development of the Afghan army;

[US forces] generally make operational decision which, without the vigilance of the [Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams] can sideline the ANA from the decision-making process; these then risk being turned into auxiliaries to the US army. The OMLTs must ensure that the ANA maintains its role and progressively is weaned from its  dependence.

Hat tip: Aviation Week.