When you live behind walls everything on the other side of those walls is a threat. When you isolate your forces from the population you are supposed to “protect,” then your forces have no ability to distinguish friend from foe, threat from normal routine, the good from the bad. Gen McChrystal can gob on all he wants about the importance of “COIN” and getting to know the people blah blah blah …. it doesn’t matter because he sets the operational rules here, and under his rules no conventional American troops can leave a FOB unless they have at least four MRAPS and 16 riflemen. How are you supposed to “protect the people” if you can only roll around in large road-bound convoys? How can you “protect the people,” if every night all your people have to be back on the big box FOB’s eating ice cream and pecan pie?
These SF guys are supposed to be the ones who know how to operate outside the big bases with the local population, but did you notice where they live? On a big box FOB, isolated and removed from their Afghan charges which is obvious, because none of them spoke a word of Dari or Pashto. ... They will never be able to gain the situational awareness required to do real COIN if they remain confined to the Big Box FOBs. That is the real story and as usual the MSM missed it.
(Links added for the military-acronym-impaired.)
Shades of another conflict I have read about. The author of the post is a military contractor and former regular U.S. Army infantryman, so animosity toward Special Forces is to be expected. But the point is: You can't win "hearts and minds" if you're safe and secure on your heavily-guarded base every night, but walking out among the population also means you will take a lot of casualties. The American public doesn't tolerate such losses as part of long conflicts with nebulous objectives and no clear-cut end. So, if you want to maintain political support for the war, then you can't actually use the strategy you have ordered.
This disconnect plays itself out at the small unit level, where in direct contradiction of COIN policy individual soldiers express contempt for the people, fail to acquire any local knowledge or language skills, and do things like shoot at vehicles carrying kids that don't represent any kind of threat. At best, you spend a hellish amount of money just treading water while you pray something happens that will allow you to leave without admitting you failed. At worst, what happens if that the situation deteriorates, the opposition kicks the ass of the indigenous force you just trained, your failure is obvious to everyone, and you're back to square one.