The Senate has cut funding for 20 Light Air Support aircraft meant to backfill the precision fire support role for the Afghan Army once we have pulled the vast majority of manned airpower out of the Afghan theater.
This is a passionate topic for me. It shows just how poor America’s plans are for exiting the never ending war in Afghanistan when the most powerful nation in the world, and the occupying force of that sad country, cannot even field few dozen or so turboprop light attack aircraft, and indigenous pilots to fly them, over a 12 year timespan. How can we leave a country that was originally invaded sucessfully using rudimentary indigenous forces and high end precision fire support from the air when the military we leave behind has no such luxury? The whole thing is just a political farce. If I had a kid who was being shipped over there right now I would be irate. What is the point?
Once again, we originally accessed that country and kicked the Taliban out of power using local militias and cutting edge air combat assets, yet we leave those forces, now developed into the fledging Afghan National Army, without the game changing capability that proved effective against the Taliban in the first place. I mean really, how much worse of a strategy can we come up with?
The LAS issue was supposed to be settled after years of industry haggling and xenophobic propagandizing of one of the competitors outstanding products, and protest lawsuits over who deserved to win TWICE, only to have the Senate attempt pull a large portion of the funding for this indispensable program. We do not deserve to “win” this war, or even retreat amicably from this theater by allowing everything but winning to get in the way of actually winning. Young American men and women gave their lives and limbs for this cause, and this is how we “wrap it up.” A squandered opportunity and an American disgrace in progress for the world to see. Spend a trillion dollars in national treasure there but do not, under any circumstances, leave any insurance policy in place so that this investment will have a lasting effect. How much are 20 Tucanos? Maybe $350M? The cost of TWO F-35Bs.
If you were a Taliban fighter would you even pick up a rifle right now knowing full well that your adversary is exiting the war in months while leaving a hodgepodge local force, much of which is motivated more by a paycheck for the time being than their own tribal, ancestral, or nationalistic values, with just a shadow air combat force to back them? What the hell are we doing, and even more importantly, what the hell have we done????
Sure, we may still have multiple Predator orbits over the country at any given time, but the Predator’s soda straw field of view and limited engagement capabilities are no replacement for manned close air support assets. Especially when the forces they are supporting on the ground are nowhere near as disciplined or well-trained than the NATO forces they replace. Once again, those in power, and their misunderstanding of drone technology and their application, think that a 5,000lb powered glider with a couple of anti-tank sized missiles can replace a ground force and an actual air force. “Screw it, just throw up some Predators” seems to be the easy political foreign policy crutch of this young millennia. It may be the easy way out but it will come back to haunt us. What will we do when the FLIR tapes start leaking of Afghan units being overran by Taliban forces, or even worse, throwing down their arms and joining their aggressors as engagement is just futile? What then? Maybe we will “put more pressure on the Karzai Government?” Laughable.
I could care less if reports say that the Afghan Air Force is not yet up to the task of widespread employment of such a machine. We have built nation’s air forces from the ground up before, we can do it again. There should be no time-table for our withdrawal of manned air support assets and the message should be that the Afghans WILL have an air arm capable of consistently putting bombs on the enemy’s forehead PERIOD.
We went from putting a man in space for the first time to landing on the moon within a smaller timeframe than that of our activities in Afghanistan. The fact that we are openly admitting that we cannot train a few dozen air crew how to make a Tucano the bane of the enemy is outrageous and is clearly yet another symptom of the cancer that resides in Washington and in the Pentagon. Shameful and sad.
Even if Afghanistan ended up with 20 Tucanos, how is this even near enough airframes to fight an enemy that has kept NATO busy for a decade? Wake up Congress, fund an excess of precision air support capabilities for the Afghans so that we can one day be done with this war. If not, and the war has actually been lost before every battle has ended, than just bring our troops home immediately. Why allow one more American to lose a limb or their life over what has become a debatable, bordering on disgusting, political-military adventure.
I have said it for years, the best we can wish for in that dismal land is a feudal narco-state, ruled by a weak but fat central authority. Anything else seems impossible, especially when you look at the Senate’s asinine decision today.