The Relevance of Technology in Afghanistan

The Relevance of Technology in Afghanistan

by Colonel Victor M. Rosello, Colonel Dave Shunk and Colonel Michael D. Winstead

Download the full article: The Relevance of Technology in Afghanistan

With the US Army's renewed focus on Afghanistan, it looks at creating conditions to more effectively bring stability to a country that historically has had little stability. Conventional wisdom posits that to have any chance of success, a "surge" similar to the one in Iraq is needed in Afghanistan. After all, quantity has a certain innate quality all its own, particularly when numbers are essential to securing vast areas under insurgent control. To its credit, quantity can also be accompanied by innovative technological advances that enhance the existing quality of the deployed force. But, can technologically lethal advancements profoundly influence success? As the US Army fields new and more advanced technologies in the application of lethal force in Afghanistan, this question is at the center of much debate. But perhaps, the answer is staring directly at us in the form of previous lessons and the cold, stark reality of the Afghan strategic landscape. Success may hinge on the ability to learn from the past and to properly address the effects of this landscape.

Download the full article: The Relevance of Technology in Afghanistan

Victor M. Rosello is a retired Army colonel, military intelligence officer, Latin America Foreign Area Officer, and Desert Storm/Just Cause combat veteran currently serving as a military writer for MPRI with the Army Capabilities Integration Center (ARCIC), TRADOC, Fort Monroe, Virginia. He has a Latin American Area Studies MA from the University of Chicago.

Dave Shunk is a retired USAF colonel, B-52G pilot, and Desert Storm combat veteran whose last military assignment was as the B-2 Vice Wing Commander of the 509th Bomb Wing, Whitman AFB, MO. Currently, he is a historical researcher and DA civilian working in the ARCIC, Fort Monroe, Virginia. He has a National Security Strategy MS from the National War College.

Michael D. Winstead is an active duty colonel, West Point graduate, infantry officer, and Desert Storm combat veteran currently serving on his second tour in Afghanistan. His awards include the Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star (2 OLC), and Purple Heart. He has an MMAS from the School of Advanced Military Studies, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

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In 2000 I used to weight train in 90 plus temperature and 90 percent plus humidity. Loved it. My Russian is limited but translate written Military Chinese almost daily.

Since you have seen my smaller bio, I swear I was the worst clerk the air force ever had. Couldn't even fill out a leave application form correctly before I was retired. Head shots at 25m all day with a Browning HP-35 pistol but awful at paperwork.

I only do the Chinese land equipment and up to corps level air defence and ballistic missile stuff with the Air Power Australia think tank. The people who run it are a US Navy trained engineer test pilot and an electronics/computer engineer with a PhD in AESA radars and data links; and recently won and award from the Old Crows for his work on EW. I leave the aircraft stuff to them.

Sinai you say- email me your details - we may know the same people.

Well as long as the paper isn't for Air Power Australia...;)

Your 120 degree workouts down under are probably like the non-humid Sinai, which was the last time I was in shape until recently...a gap of some 20 years.

How in the world did you find time to learn Russian AND Chinese? Just one would make you a superbrain, Doctor. Now all you gotta do is use that brainpower to convince your brothers that there is nothing wrong with the F-35.

Thanks Cole. I am writing a presenation and paper on the influence of US COIN operations in Afghanistan on the PLA. It is for a conference at the US Army War College and my lack of US jargon is causing difficulties.

90+ humid workouts - My aged brain seems to recollect something like that but my aged joints remind me everyday.

have I sent you a copy of my book on PLA tactics and Weapons. It is TRADOC endorsed. if you want one send me your email address.

Cheers and beers from civilisation.

Thanks Cole. I am writing a presenation and paper on the influence of US COIN operations in Afghanistan on the PLA. It is for a conference at the US Army War College and my lack of US jargon is causing difficulties.

90+ humid workouts - My aged brain seems to recollect something like that but my aged joints remind me everyday.

have I sent you a copy of my book on PLA tactics and Weapons. It is TRADOC endorsed. if you want one send me your email address.

Cheers and beers from civilisation.

My bad for using so many acronyms. Thanks, for sparing me my normal 90+ humid workout and can of nuked soup...came home to air conditioning and a sandwich.

- TTP is tactics, techniques and procedures
- ROVER, believe is remotely operated video enhanced receiver used by the JTAC
- OSRVT is One System Remote Video Terminal
- ODA is Operational Detachment Alpha (SF A-Team)
- JTAC is Joint Terminal Attack Controller, the highly-trained USAF enlisted CAS controller
- UAS is Unmanned Aircraft System, vs. the old UAV. USAF prefers remotely piloted aircraft.

For context, this is a good article:

http://www.defensesystems.com/Articles/2010/04/06/Cover-story-Sensor-Ove...

Also check out this article from today discussing one vertical UAS...although most Army UAS are still fixed wing (Raven, Shadow, MQ-1C). Another promising VTOL one is the A-160T Hummingbird, and the Navy is still using the FireScout.

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/awst/2010/06/14... Tackles Limitations Of T-Hawk MAV&channel=defense

The whole concept of manned-unmanned teaming is promising whether in the air or on the ground.

Could someone kindly please translate the following acronyms used in the article:

a. TTP;
b. ROVER;
c. OSRVT;
d. ODA;
e. JTAC; and
f. UAS.

I am off to the US Army War College for a conference and then the Annual AUSA Conference and Exhibition and I am lost with all the new acronyms.

Thank you

Extremely well written. Nodded my head in agreement nearly continuously, and was only mildly annoyed by their use of the term "occupying." Also, was amazed how three highly-experienced former and current officers were able to put this together so seamlessly in style and substance. Its hard to write by committee.

However, not sure anyone has ever claimed technology was THE sole answer in Afghanistan or any other specific theater. Their basic premise that technology will not beat the Taliban is utterly valid. However, no other azimuth is presented in lieu of technology or COIN attempts.

When a recent Sean Naylor DefenseNews.com article states that an ODA team could not find the Taliban after 4 months in country, its difficult to imagine regular Army forces conducting offensives against enemies we cannot find. Mountainous terrain is unfavorable to attackers, as is urban terrain where Taliban pose as civilians until forces are out of sight.

http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=4668459&c=FEA&s=SPE

In the above article the ODA did appear to be having greater success in their tea-drinking and government-building activities. Therefore, it's unclear that late-night door-kicking would have been any more successful if they could find the Taliban, because collateral damage is bound to occur when neighbors try to defend neighbors/relatives.

In terms of COIN-related tech, couldnt automated translator technology lead to more troops talking to more Afghans, and Tajik ANA talking to Pashtuns? Wouldnt wall and foliage-penetrating radars and dismount-capable moving target indicator radar help an ANA and ODA team find the Taliban or avoid kicking down the wrong doors?

I see contracts have been awarded for new airships able to continously surveil large areas for many days. 90% of the Army's million unmanned aircraft hours have occurred in Iraq. With more UAS shifting now to Afghanistan to join the USAF, it will be easier to secure U.S. forces, monitor the pattern of daily life, and deter/attack IED diggers and their networks.

There is also much more technology left unmentioned. Im struck by our ability to precisely airdrop supplies so effectively and move so many sensitive payloads and regular supplies using C-17s/C-130. An entire Stryker BCT got into landlocked Afghanistan which could never have occurred prior to the C-17 and C-5. Now the Marines and Army are exploring supply-delivery unmanned aircraft, as well.

Its also surprising that with a B-52 driver in the group, that more was not mentioned about the contributions of joint air to precisely target and limit collateral damage and fratricide. Add the relatively new capabilities of lethal UAS and JTACs equipped with ROVER and ground troops with OSRVT, and the full spectrum of joint capability reaches levels never realized by the Soviets in the 1980s.

The MRAP and M-ATV are additional game-changing tech products. While LTC (Ret) Grau mentioned we left our armor behind, it appears understandable given the logistics and terrain challenges so aptly described elsewhere in the article. Did agree with his assessment that more night operations might be helpful given our night vision advantages. Is that due to fears of not seeing telltale signs of IEDs in the dark, or worries we might kill children gathering firewood in the dark? When he mentions 500+ meter firefights, couldn't XM-25 and precision mortars be an answer?

While MEDEVAC helicopters have been around for decades, only now have medical technology, body-and-vehicle armor, and the golden hour merged so effectively to reduce lethal casualties to unprecedented levels.

But the major reason technology cannot prevail in Afghanistan, is that so little of it will be left behind for ANA use. We can train them in basic infantry and other supporting TTP, but given the defection of 17 Afghan pilots in Texas, it seems unlikely we are going to be converting ANA into Starship Troopers anytime soon. However, that should not deter us from continuing to explore tech opportunities for use by our own forces.