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American Resistance To Empire

The Pentagon Wants To Build Better Russian Machine Guns In America

Here’s Why U.S. Special Forces Want Russian Machine Guns

 

 

 

 

Why would U.S. special forces want to manufacture Russian machine guns?

Just watch any video of a conflict such as Iraq and Syria, and the answer becomes clear. Many of the combatants are using Russian or Soviet weapons, or local copies thereof, from rifles to rocket launchers to heavy machine guns mounted on pickups. Which means that when U.S. special forces provide some of these groups with weapons, they have to scrounge through the global arms market to buy Russian hardware as well as spare parts.

So U.S. Special Forces Command, which oversees America’s various commando units, has an idea: instead of buying Russian weapons, why not build their own? That’s why USSOCOM is asking U.S. companies to come up with a plan to manufacture Russian and other foreign weapons.

The goal is to “develop an innovative domestic capability to produce fully functioning facsimiles of foreign-made weapons that are equal to or better than what is currently being produced internationally,” according to the USSOCOM Small Business Innovation Research proposal.

More specifically, USSOCOM wants American companies to explore whether it is feasible to “reverse engineer or reengineer and domestically produce the following foreign-like weapons: 7.62×54R belt fed light machine gun that resembles a PKM (Pulemyot Kalashnikova Modernizirovany), and a 12.7×108mm heavy machine gun that resembles a Russian-designed NSV (Nikitin, Sokolov, Volkov).”

Applicants for the research project must produce “five fully functional prototypes, to include firing of live ammunition, of a foreign-like weapon that resembles the form, fit, and function of a Russian-designed NSV 12.7×108mm heavy machine gun.”

However, USSOCOM won’t make the process easy by providing assistance such as technical drawings. Interested companies will have to make their own drawings of foreign weapons, acquire the appropriate parts and raw materials, and create a manufacturing capability.

Companies will also have to “address the manufacture of spare parts to support fielded weapons.” In addition, they must be prepared to start up and shut down production as needed, as well as provide varying quantities of weapons.

USSOCOM also emphasizes that foreign weapons must be strictly made in America. Manufacturers “will employ only domestic labor, acquire domestically produced material and parts, and ensure weapon manufacture and assembly in domestic facilities.”

Though USSOCOM is starting with a pair of Russian machine guns, the research proposal speaks of foreign-made weapons in general. “Developing a domestic production capability for foreign-like weapons addresses these issues while being cost effective as well as strengthens the nation’s military-industrial complex, ensures a reliable and secure supply chain, and reduces acquisition lead times.”

One wonders whether there could be a copyright issue with producing Russian weapons in America without a license, though Russian and Chinese spies haven’t been reticent about helping themselves to U.S. technology. Either way, it seems like a sensible and economical idea to produce foreign weapons in America, rather than having to procure them from unreliable or unsavory international arms merchants.

Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

Image: PK machine gun. Wikimedia Commons/Creative [email protected]

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Obama Couldn’t “Win” In Afghanistan With 100,000 Soldiers…Can Trump Go Higher

.”In 2010, the Obama administration had 100,000 pairs of boots on the ground.”

 

FILE - In this April 17, 2017, file photo, a U.S. soldier patrols in Asad Khil village near the site of a U.S. bombing in the Achin district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. As the administration of President Donald Trump weighs sending more troops to Afghanistan, the 16-year war grinds on in bloody stalemate. Afghan soldiers are suffering what Pentagon auditors call “shockingly high” battlefield casualties, and prospects are narrowing for a negotiated peace settlement with the Taliban. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul, File)
A US soldier patrols in Asad Khil village near the site of a US bombing in the Achin district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.

 

 

Even in the face of a looming constitutional crisis over Russian interference in an American election, it is easy to lose sight of all the other things that matter. For instance, four times per year, a team of auditors files a report to the American people and their leaders about the progress of the country’s longest war. Few people read through all the hundreds of pages, much less parse the details they contain. The forever war in Afghanistan long ago became a forgotten fiasco.

There’s no excuse for this willful blindness. Indeed, the continued calamity that these reports meticulously document is made possible only through public inattention. As the Trump administration mulls an escalation of the war, Americans should read through the report cards of where things stand.

And a president inordinately obsessed with “winning” should consider what that means in Afghanistan, if it’s possible, and what’s it’s likely to cost.

To read the 35 reports, issued quarterly since 2008 by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, is to appreciate the vast scale of the failure. US taxpayers have allocated more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars to the fight in Afghanistan since the 9/11 attacks, including $71 billion for reconstruction and security. Adjusted for inflation, that’s more reconstruction money than the United States spent on the Marshall Plan after World War II.

The return on that investment? Staggeringly poor. “Afghanistan lacks the capacity — financial, technical, managerial, or otherwise — to maintain, support, and execute much of what has been built or established during more than 14 years of international assistance,” the SIGAR report concludes.

The decades of war that have ravished the region and its people is both a cause and effect. Right now, the war is going badly for the Afghan government. It controls only 63 percent of the country’s districts. The Taliban insurgency, aided by Pakistan’s geostrategic complicity, is growing its ranks and seizing more ground.

One economic success, such as it is, has been the creation of the world’s largest opium crop — despite $8.5 billion spent on counternarcotics efforts. The value of the drug trade, which employs 12 percent of the population and provides 60 percent of Taliban revenue, is worth $1.56 billion — meaning the global heroin habit supplies the equivalent of about 7.4 percent of Afghanistan’s GDP.

Corruption is at the root of much of this woe. US officials — stunningly — didn’t fully appreciate its corrosive effects until 2008, when efforts to eradicate it were put on par with those against the poppy. And it was just about as successful.

Desertion and corruption are rife in the security forces. More than 1,300 army personnel, including a few generals, were fired for corruption just last year. Members of the security forces have been caught selling supplies to the Taliban, extorting their own men, and inflating the number of people under their command and keeping the extra paychecks. Last year, “Afghans paid more in bribes than the government is expected to generate in revenue from taxes, customs tariffs and other sources of income,” SIGAR found.

“The ultimate point of failure for our efforts . . . wasn’t an insurgency. It was the weight of endemic corruption,” Ambassador Ryan Crocker concluded.

Whatever its root cause — or the secondary cause, for that matter — the human suffering has struggled for description. There have been 111,000 Afghans killed since 2001, and more than 116,000 injured, including 31,000 civilians. Millions have been displaced, fueling the global refugee crisis.

Since the 9/11 attacks, 2,396 US soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan, and more than 20,000 have been wounded. That’s a bill that will not fully come due for generations: “The single largest accrued liability of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the cost of providing medical care and disability benefits to war veterans,” researchers from Harvard concluded.

A new surge of forces is a familiar tactic in a conflict plagued by failed strategy.

In 2010, the Obama administration had 100,000 pairs of boots on the ground and tried to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table through aggressive bombardment and increased fighting. It didn’t work.

Today, there are about 8,400 US soldiers and Marines deployed — along with 25,000 contractors and others. There are 4,900 NATO troops there too, though their official combat operations ended in 2014.

That’s a “few thousand” short of what’s needed to break the stalemate, the top US commander in the country recently told the Senate. “Breaking a stalemate” sounds an awful lot like “unwinnable.” That’s something to keep in mind for a president who has rarely spoken about Afghanistan.

Trump’s fickle definition of “winning” may be just what the war in Afghanistan needs. He’ll have the perfect chance to articulate it at a NATO summit in Brussels on May 25. More than 1,130 people from NATO nations have died in the fighting.

Americans and our alliance partners deserve a full accounting of what soldiers will risk their lives to achieve, what their tax dollars will buy, and what the metrics for success are.

Those who’ve lost their lives in the conduct of America’s longest war deserve from us vigilant attention to this conflict, the details of which we’ve ignored for too long. Whatever fresh firefight erupts in Washington tomorrow, remember that there are still many Americans in actual gun battles.

A Vietnam Strategy For Afghanistan

A Vietnam Strategy For Afghanistan

 

 

Photo of Lawrence Sellin

Lawrence Sellin, Retired Colonel, U.S. Army Reserve

According to Bloomberg, the Trump Administration’s soon-to-be-unveiled Afghanistan strategy

would tie the U.S. to the success of President Ashraf Ghani’s ambitious plan to build up an inclusive government and regain territory from the Taliban. While the strategy envisions eventually forging a peace deal with the Taliban, in the meantime it would increase the pace of strikes — to encourage the Taliban to negotiate.

The new strategy, according to these officials, is not cheap. There would be a baseline of at least $23 billion a year to support a variety of initiatives in Afghanistan, not only subsidizing Afghan police and military forces but also funding anti-corruption programs and other priorities.

Like Afghanistan, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Vietnam was predicated on a single proposition:

 The American ground forces in Vietnam would be reduced through the policy of Vietnamization and the war turned over to an improved ARVN [Army of the Republic of Vietnam] and government capable of defending its territory and its people.

As we know, that never happened.

We have been trying to do the same thing in Afghanistan for over 15 years, longer than we failed to do in Vietnam. As recently as Autumn 2009, the U.S. government announced that after eight years and $27 billion, the results of the Afghan Army and Police training program were so bad that it was declared a failure.

For anyone interested in the cost-ineffectiveness of our investments in Afghanistan, the reports of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) make for depressing reading; billions of dollars have been disbursed, but no one knows what that money has bought and there remains no clear way to track the spending.

The website despair.com defines “incompetence” as “When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there’s no end to what you can’t do.”

Similar to the proposed Trump Administration policy, President Richard Nixon’s Vietnam strategy included bombing as a means to encourage North Vietnam to negotiate. Yet, it was clear 50 years ago that “withdrawing American forces unilaterally while attempting to negotiate mutual withdrawal of forces was not a strong negotiating position for the United States.”

The Trump Administration, unlike the Nixon Administration in Vietnam, may propose programs to make the Afghan government more competent, effective and corruption free, but that may not be enough.

As in Vietnam, the U.S. in Afghanistan does not now control the pace of the war.

Similar to the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Vietnam War, the free flow of insurgents and supplies, particularly from Pakistan, will doom any U.S. strategy in Afghanistan to have a Vietnam ending.

There are also limits to the utility of strengthening the Afghan central government and fighting a top-down, conventional-based war in a tribal, bottom-up insurgency.

Perhaps, a personal anecdote would be illustrative.

In 2004, I was senior officer at a joint U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and German Bundeswehr camp and an advisor to the Afghan Army Central Corps, the country’s first.

At every Afghan battalion (“kandak”) formation that I attended, when the order to “fall out” was given, the approximately 600 soldiers congregated according to their Pashtun, Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara ethnic groups.

It is possible that, unlike Vietnam, a combination of military action and negotiation could work in Afghanistan, as long as the Trump Administration, which will now own the war, does not run out of time and public support.

In the end, it is less about absolute troop levels than how an agreed-upon strategy is being executed. More precisely, is there a realistic probability that the expected results will fulfill that strategy within a reasonable time frame?

I wrote that about Afghanistan 7 years ago when there were 100,000 troops there. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that Vietnam-era Secretary of State Henry Kissinger just visited the White House.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired US Army Reserve colonel, an IT command and control subject matter expert, trained in Arabic and Kurdish, and a veteran of Afghanistan, northern Iraq and a humanitarian mission to West Africa.

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