Nick Meo, still writing for the Sunday Telegraph, now presents himself as an expert with a new stunning prediction on Afghanistan. Except it’s not so stunning. Meo parrots the typical conclusion reached by those who are out of touch with their subject. While Meo actually begins to touch on some salient points, he misses them and winds up his article in typical Meo theatrics.
Strangely enough, Meo is a smart guy; but he’s also self-absorbed. His desire to be theatrical and, I suspect, his brooding anti-Americanism, disables his ability to analyze the pertinent ideas that he does manage to present.
Meo starts off his analysis with a disturbing image of carnage. It is designed to set the tone for his piece. Then he reveals that Taliban attacks on aid workers is part of a “new strategy of terror.” What a revelation; it’s been something that they have done for some time now. It is part of a strategy to cast fear into NGO workers and discourage them from continuing work that was bearing fruit; fruit that frustrates the Taliban. The Taliban have got to stop progress now, before any more is done.
I wonder if these aid workers are the same ones that Meo described in an earlier bit of work where he pointed out that a few years ago Kabul was a great place for an ambitious aid worker to be.
Ambitious aid worker? Ambition to do what… rise to the top of the aid ladder? The only ambition I’ve ever noted in aid workers was the ambition to make a difference. In painting the Kabul of a couple of years ago to be some sort of fun zone for foreign aid workers, Meo has again dramatized a situation that he seems to be incapable of analyzing with accuracy; at least in print.
Meo, amateur character assassin that he is, then refers to GEN Petraeus as the ‘warrior-scholar.’ Those are his apostrophes, not mine. When someone puts apostrophes around something that is not a quote, the connotation is “so-called.” Meo’s connotation is that GEN Petraeus is a so-called warrior-scholar. This indicates Meo’s approach to his analysis of GEN Petraeus.
Meo later carries the message of other, unnamed American Generals who would seek to discredit GEN Petraeus:
Indeed, some of his army rivals consider him more lucky than brilliant – he took command just as Sunnis had become sickened by the bloody excesses of al Qaeda in Iraq, and they were in a mood to strike deals with Americans. ~Nick Meo
Now Meo is not only an analyst, he is a Pentagon insider as well.
Meo then asserts;
Major military forces from Germany and France have avoided sending their troops to Taliban-dominated areas, while Holland and Canada, whose soldiers have seen ferocious fighting, will soon restrict their troops to training Afghans. It is clear from their actions that many of America’s allies increasingly believe that the war is unwinnable and not a place to put any more troops in harm’s way. ~Nick Meo
Boy, that sounds dramatic to the reader, I’m sure. To me it sounds like bovine fecal matter. The French have been serving as trainers to the Afghan National Army, in fact taking over the mentoring of entire brigades of ANA in the past year. They’ve accompanied their charges into such dangerous and unpredictable areas as the Tag Ab Valley, a place with which I am intimately familiar and concerning which I have recently posted about the French efforts.
In other words, Meo says that the French are chickens. Okay. Well, I’ve got ten dead Frenchmen who say that they aren’t. Remember August 19th? Surobi is just outside the southern end of the Tag Ab Valley. The French roll outside the wire frequently. Let me be clear; we learned that the French government may be chicken; French soldiers are not.
So, by personal knowledge we’ve established that Meo has cast another aspersion that isn’t completely accurate. Read completely inaccurate.
The Germans are restricted by national caveats on the use of force by German forces. These caveats are due to German aggression in WW_II, which the Germans themselves do not wish to repeat. There is a conversation inside Germany at this moment (I know because I’ve actually been participating in an international forum, hearing from actual Germans what their thoughts are) discussing whether to adjust those caveats or seek a role in mentoring government ministries to assist in ridding them of corruption. These efforts would keep Germans within their national caveats while still making major contributions to progress in Afghanistan. Meo, being so knowledgeable that he can inform us of the opinions of three and four-star US Generals at will, is unaware of what is going on in Europe.
Meo then provides several exclusive-to-the-Sunday Telegraph unattributed quotes and ‘understandings’ that allow the reader insights into a special world where Meo operates.
“What will eventually win this war is American military power,” a senior Nato source in Kabul told the Sunday Telegraph. “There is no question of America withdrawing from Afghanistan. They are simply not prepared to let the people responsible for September 11th move back in.
“If the Europeans decided to go they wouldn’t that much missed, frankly. Some of them are in the way.” ~Nick Meo
Instead, the Sunday Telegraph understands that American commanders will soon be presenting the new president in Washington, whoever he is, with plans to fight an intense five-year war against the guerrillas, a war that commanders think looks winnable unlike the morass troops are in now. ~Nick Meo
Wow. Insightful. My question is; are these unattributed quote and ‘understanding’ along the same lines of the Post-it note on the desk of 1LT Bonanno, so heralded as to set the headline of his recent article? Yes, that would be the Post-it note that 1LT Bonanno says never graced her desk; a lie.
Is Meo once again making things up to make himself look bigger? Possibly. Meo is not highly regarded in Afghanistan, not amongst the military and apparently not among his own fellow journalists.
Meo even clues us in to what President Karzai will be told. What prescience. Meo is clearly well-connected inside the Pentagon, NATO/ISAF HQ, and the US Embassy. I’m in awe. I wonder if all of those unattributed bits of information flew off of his fingertips in some dingy hotel room in Kabul after failing to get actual, attributable quotes from anyone of consequence.
Maybe Meo did get his information from creditable sources. Maybe. Then again, we’ve caught him lying before; red-handed. Meo now brings juicy little (nothing earth-shattering, except the somewhat inflammatory statement made by ‘a senior NATO source’) tidbits that support him in his analysis and make him look like he’s cluing the reader in to some kind of secret.
Meo then goes on to clue us in to the level of irritation that the US has with “corrupt and inefficient Afghan police and army forces” and reveals that as the driving factor in considering arming local militias. Let’s take a look at that.
First, the Afghan National Army; the ANA has made leaps and bounds in minimizing corruption. NATO mentors persistently root out corruption within the ANA and have made huge progress. I’m not saying that it doesn’t exist. I am saying that corruption in the ANA has absolutely nothing to do with arming Arbakai.
While the ineffectiveness of the ANP in local areas may have something to do with the idea, Meo’s flawed analysis renders his point moot. I’ve addressed the problem of corruption in Afghan government. Meo was touching on a salient point, but deftly fouls it with his drama and poor analysis. Corruption is only one aspect of the need for reform, training, and mentorship for the ANP. Meo misses what could have been a valuable point. This also brings into question his information gathering. If he’s really clued-in, how can he miss by such a wide margin?
Meo’s analysis of American troop strength and the ability to provide more forces is also as weak as water. Where are the troops going to come from? Hmmmm… well, some units that were forecast to go to Iraq are not going to be needed to maintain a level of force that may no longer be needed. I wonder how many units are currently in that pipeline?
One thing is for sure; Nick Meo doesn’t know. That’s okay; I’m sure he can make something up.
Most of the other information provided can be easily gleaned from the internet, some of which I have contended with before as being intellectually lazy analysis.
Meo winds up with a trite reference to the Soviets and their troubles, even with a troop strength over twice the current coalition strength. I’ve got a news flash for ‘Scoop’ Meo; the Soviets lost because they pissed off nearly everyone in Afghanistan. They brought a godless political philosophy, and economic strategy anathema to the supremely capitalist Afghans, and a brutality that seemed almost calculated to alienate and anger nearly every single Afghan enough to cause them to pick up arms.
The Russians are the world’s worst counterinsurgents.
More imagery from the ‘Mind of Meo’ concludes this extremely flawed and quite possibly concocted ‘analysis’ from Meo;
As fresh American troops drive between their heavily-fortified bases next year, past ambush points and along roads where the ground can erupt at any moment in a minestrike, they will often see the carcasses of Soviet tanks. And they may reflect that every other army that has tried to win Afghanistan by sending in more troops has left the same way; in humiliation and defeat. ~Nick Meo
Yeah, I saw the rusting hulls of Soviet armor laying about the countryside. I also talked to the Mujaheddin in nearby villages who told me why they weren’t fighting us. “You are here to help. You build schools, you dig wells, you bring medicine. You don’t kill everyone. You do not bomb a whole village because of a few Taliban. You are not like the Russians, so I do not feel the need to fight you. If you start to act like the Russians, I will fight you; but so far you are not like them. Because of this, I will not fight you.”
Meo starts his article with “carnage” and ends it with the words, “humiliation and defeat.” So now he’s an analyst. Not. That’s not analysis, it’s drama.
Now, if you want to read something enlightening, try this article from Free Range International. This guy gets in the dirt with the Maliks and tells it like it is. He’s got great pictures of his National Geographic experiences, too. He’s not a cheerleader, but he’s not a sensationalist at all. He’s getting a great grasp on local politics. All politics are local.
These two pieces of writing point up exactly the type of thing that I’m constantly talking about on here; the failure of the MSM to paint a realistic picture for people at home of what the situation is on the ground. Having been on the ground, I can tell you that the picture that FRI is painting is excellent. I can also tell you that the MSM, for instance this piece by Meo and Sunday Telegraph, is just flat irresponsible in their reporting. Read them both and look at the contrast. They are worlds apart. FRI makes Meo look like he’s not even in Afghanistan.
The journalists out-reported by a blogger for whom writing isn’t even his full time job. Is there something wrong with this picture?
My Meo mea culpa
One might read this post and say, “Man, this guy’s got an axe to grind with Meo.” As one of my cohorts in Afghanistan used to say, “You damn skippy” (translation: “I strongly believe that your statement is accurate.”)
My axe to grind with Meo will not be blunted unless and until the day that I read “Meo’s mea culpa” in the Sunday Telegraph. Unless and until they print that mea culpa, my axe to grind with Sunday Telegraph will not end until they fire Meo or reassign him to domestic chores in the UK. Nothing that I have read from him before or since his assassination of Easyrider has in any way indicated to me that this guy is anything more than a self-centered dramatic hack; a drama queen. I’m going to dog him and Sunday Telegraph until they withdraw him from Afghanistan or until I am tired. Call me The Antimeo.
You know, if he wrote something truly wonderful, I would acknowledge it. So far, I just don’t see that happening. Meo is a pariah with American military officials, there is credible information that the British Army has no love or trust for him, and he will never again embed with a combat unit. He is tainted goods. Anyone who would talk to him is probably not very well connected anyway and desperate to be an unattributed ‘NATO source.’ That’s assuming he didn’t make that up like the Post-it note proclaiming him KIA. Meo is lamed by his previous behavior and this bit of tripe meets his usual standards.