We used to own the night

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

We used to own the night, but so many night-vision devices have fallen into enemy hands that we no longer do:

Taliban fighters, many now outfitted with night vision goggles and infrared lasers, have more than doubled nighttime attacks on Afghan and U.S. troops between 2014 and 2017, according to a new report from The New York Times.

This has presented U.S. military officials with quite the conundrum: Do we give more night vision to our Afghan allies to protect themselves, even if that gear has a good chance of ending up in Taliban hands?


The Pentagon sent 210 night vision devices to the Afghan National Army 215th Corps in Helmand Province, for example, but only 161 of them were returned. While the 215th Corps attributed the discrepancy to “battle losses,” according to the Times, it’s also quite common for Afghan troops themselves to dump their own gear on the black market to make a quick buck.

“Free reminder: almost every item issued to Afghan soldiers ends up in Taliban hands,” C.J. Chivers, a Times journalist and Marine vet, wrote on Twitter. “If U.S. opts for wide issue of night-vision equipment, within months the Taliban will have even more.”

This was entirely predictable.


  1. Kirk says:

    Anyone familiar with the issues of arming colonial troops during the Raj could have predicted this, and taken measures like building in self-destruct timers that require constant check-ins to maintain serviceability, but, nooooo… Our leadership is a tad too unimaginative for such things. Or, they could have built in tracking devices, but yet again, the thought never occurred to them.

    We have probably the worst leadership class in both civil and military affairs since… Well, probably some of the Romans would rise to this level of incompetence and outright overconfident complacency.

    The idea that this gear might have been turned against us simply didn’t occur to them. We should have at least stuck in proprietary batteries in the gear we sold/gave the allies in Afghanistan, but nobody thought to take even that basic precaution.

  2. Whyaxye says:

    I like Kirk’s idea of tracking devices. Especially if they could be tracked by a missile. Issue a couple of dozen “special” bits of kit that would be highly prized by the enemy, make sure they all go missing, and then have a few days of fun.

  3. Kirk says:

    And, given the enemy’s proclivity for belief in the supernatural…? Yeah, you could have a lot of fun with it.

    Unfortunately, precisely none of our leaders on either the military or civilian side of things have ‘effing clue one about how to fight one of these wars. We need men whose imaginations are like the stories of Meinertzhagen, but we’ve got jobsworthies at all levels.

    Example? If I’d been running the show, every one of the released terrorists from Guantanamo would have been taken into surgery before release, left with a few scars, and then told nothing. Following release, they’d have been “rumored” to have been kitted out with tracking devices and bugs, which would actually have been non-existent. Subsequent intel would have been “released” through something like Wikileaks to describe a successful program of tracking down leadership through this program, and then killing them with drones–Which would have adequately explained the way we’ve been finding them through SIGINT, and left those released jihadis in the situation of being either pariahs, or having their buddies go digging through them for the non-existent devices. Either way, those released terrorists would have been rendered useless to the movement, and we could later deny having done exactly nothing to them, and prove it.

    Meanwhile, of course, the paranoid superstitious lot of them would be running around in circles, looking for the “magic”. Personally, I love the image of some half-witted type with a smattering of medical knowledge digging around in the abdominal cavities of the released jihadis, looking for those “bugs”…

  4. Jim says:

    Truman’s decision in 1948, against the wise advice of his Secretary of State George Marshall, in involving the US in the interminable conflicts of the Middle East has been extraordinarily costly for the US. If only we had had the sense like Japan to stay out.

  5. Kirk says:

    Yeah, I imagine that would have worked out about as well as abandoning Afghanistan to the tender mercies of the Pakistanis did for us…

    All you geniuses who keep claiming that “all we need to do is not get involved…” need to remember that we really can’t, and still have the world we live in. You like it? You pay for it with treasure and blood; you don’t like it? Be ready to recapitulate North Africa of the 18th Century, world-wide. Not so good for trade, or much of anything else…

    And, oh-by-the-way, there’s the little issue of how the increasing growth rate on technology is making easier and easier every day to create world-ending weapons of mass destruction. End state of that little set of problems is likely going to be some high-school lab creating that Aussie version of mouse-pox that had that obscene projected death rate, and ending the world as we know it. You can’t go back to autarky, or isolationism, and that’s likely been the case since the mid-1930s. You want to build a wall around yourself, and remain uninvolved? That’s a complete non-starter in this day and age. Unfortunate, but true–What you want probably won’t be available until we’re planting colonies on some distant earth-like planet, and even then? The universe is going to be sticking its nose into your business.

  6. Sam J. says:

    We should pack up and leave. Load everything up and go. The whole war is based on a false flag attack on the WTC anyways. All the fighting we are doing in the ME is all a war for Israel. The war in Afghanistan is for…well I don’t even want to guess what that is for, maybe get the heroin traffic up because the Taliban banned the growing of poppies. Maybe some Jew somewhere lost out and thinks it’s good idea we guard his poppy plants.

    The idea that hoards of savages are going to cross the Pacific and Atlantic and storm the beaches of the US is…farcical at the least.

    We have oil from fracking, we could use the time til it runs out to make a lot of molten salt reactors which can burn Thorium which is more prevalent than lead. We can even burn all the nuclear waste in molten salt reactosr. By the time the oil runs out we have fleets of electric cars and the little left could be used at drag strips for entertainment.

  7. Bob Sykes says:

    Whatever we think of the Taliban, and they were useful to us against the Soviets, the Afghan people see them as freedom fighters. They are a popular resistance movement.

    Even the Soviets couldn’t control Afghanistan despite the brutality of their methods. We couldn’t control the situation there when we had 100,000 troops in country. We have no chance.

    But then, we have the worst political and military leadership in our history: utterly incompetent, utterly corrupt (both fiscally and sexually), and utterly delusional.

  8. Kirk says:

    Bob Sykes,

    Your assertion that the Taliban “…were useful against the Soviets…” is so much bullshit and historical revisionism that I can’t take anything else you say seriously. In plain words, you don’t know shit about shit. Either you’re intentionally obfuscating reality, or you’re an ignoramus who slept through the last thirty years of history without paying attention to even the nightly propaganda broadcasts from the legions of half-wit liars on network television.

    Why do I term you a dolt? Here’s why: The Taliban never fought the Soviets. They were a post-war creation of the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence agency, which is virtually an independent and ungovernable part of the Pakistani government. De facto, the ISI is an independent government-within-a-government, and we should have declared war on them instead of Afghanistan in the aftermath of 9/11. 9/11 could not have happened without their knowledge, and the operation was planned and launched from territory under their control.

    The Taliban-controlled part of Afghanistan as it existed in 2001 was a literal subsidiary of the Pakistani government. That fact is irrefutable, and a matter of historical record. The remaining parts of Afghanistan which were as yet unconquered by the Taliban made up the Northern Alliance in the northeast of Afghanistan, and were the actual remnants of our Afghan war allies against the Soviets. We should not forget Ahmed Shah Massoud, who was assassinated as a pre-condition to the Taliban approving the al Qaeda plan for 9/11, nor should we ignore the fact that the Taliban had been trying to eliminate him for years at the behest of the ISI. Massoud would have been a candidate for the job that Karzai screwed up, and his elimination probably doomed any effort to “save Afghanistan” for this generation.

    You think you’re making an argument against the Afghan effort; what you’re actually doing is self-refuting your ideas as you write, and the really darkly humorous thing about it all is that you’re either too dense or too ignorant of actual facts in the matter to realize it. We got to where we are with Afghanistan and creating the conditions that allowed bin Laden and his merry band of thugs to base their attack on us from there by allowing a vacuum to form after the Soviets left, and not continuing to support and aid our allies in the fight against the Soviets after the conflict was over. Massoud was warning us for years about what was going on, and we did nothing to support him, allowing the Pakistani thugs to play their games in Afghanistan to their heart’s content, killing a huge number of Afghanis in the name of their twisted version of Islam. The fact that we stood by and let that happen? 9/11 was almost Karmic payback. Massoud is likely still laughing his ass off in the afterlife, because he warned people with your identical attitude that something like 9/11 was coming. And, of course, he was blithely ignored by all and sundry in what few bits and pieces of our “intelligence community” were still paying attention to Afghanistan.

    Bluntly put, you have no earthly idea of what you’re talking about, and should either do the basic research to understand this issue, or shut the hell up. Your ignorance is offensive to me, personally, because of my dead comrades that we’ve left behind in that God-forsaken country, mostly due to half-wittery like your own. The abysmal state of ignorance you personify is obscene, and a desecration of their memory.

    Like it or not, the US got on a tiger in the aftermath of WWII, and getting off of it ain’t going to happen without a lot of broken shit and dead people here in this country. You can try to deny that reality, but denial of the facts will avail you and the rest of us exactly nothing. I really hope you live to see the world where the US is not the major power, and someone like the Chinese are. I suspect you’ll be looking back at the conditions of today and our current set of poorly understood or accepted responsibilities with a sense of nostalgia, and likely blaming other people for the shit state of that future world, entirely oblivious to how your fanciful desires of today led to its manifestation.

  9. Sam J. says:

    Kirk says,”…Bob Sykes,

    Your assertion that the Taliban “…were useful against the Soviets…” is so much bullshit and historical revisionism…The Taliban never fought the Soviets. They were a post-war creation of the Pakistani Inter-Service Intelligence agency,…”

    What a bunch of silly assed wordism. What mindless babble. The “Taliban” is just a new name for the same tribal peoples. It doesn’t matter what you call them and to insinuate that they are some completely different,”new and improved” foe is farcical.

    Same with ISIS and all the other made up names the CIA and the Jews keep coming with. Nothing but propaganda.

    “…The fact that we stood by and let that happen? 9/11 was almost Karmic payback.,,”

    Since the Jews did 9-11 tell me what “Karmic payback” needs to be foisted on the Jews?

    It’s one thing to support a another tribe against your enemy it’s far worse to attack those you continuously call an ally.

  10. Sam J. says:

    Bob Sykes is correct. Let’s put 100K troops in perspective. Most of these are in support and of the ones that are left some will be in training, some in retrofit and rest and what’s left actually fighting. So if the US has 1 million soldiers only about 10% or a 100K are actually fighters and since the 1/3 split noted above you only have 33K that could be in the field blazing away at people.

    What we need to to radically increase the firepower of infantry. One way is to lower the weight of ammo. L. James Sullivan who worked on the M-16 and lots and lots of other gun systems said we could easily get a ammunition that weighs 30% less and that has a huge reduction in heat into the barrel so that it would not overheat like present rifles. This means you could fire continuously without stopping as long as you had ammo.

    Great interview of James Sullivan. If you have any interest in guns it’s worth reading.

    I think a combat pack is 300 rounds. We could carry three times more with light ammo.

    Using the new assisted walking frames a soldier could carry a huge amount of ammo, food and water with less strain than he does now with his way over loaded packs. How are you going to walk around with 100 lbs. on your back and then if you do find something you only have 300 rounds to hit them. They need to carry more like 50 thousand rounds in a very fast firing gun.

    Another problem is armored personal carriers are not all that useful. A RPG can take them out easily and you have to get out of them to fight mostly. We should make a mechanical horse but like an ostrich that carries around a thousand pounds max that troops can fight from like a horse. It would be very efficient as it needs no wheels. It needs to be battery powered or even better flywheel. If it had a Stirling motor in it it could use scrape wood, paper or whatever would burn to refuel the batteries.

    An ostrich goes 45 mph. I bet we could get it faster. I think you could get 100 mph on a road and 45 mph off road on a robot ostrich. It would be difficult to hit. You could put a severe dent in an insurgency with something like this.

  11. Sam J. says:

    “…we could easily get a ammunition that weighs 30% less..”

    Mistake. Should read 30% of the present weight of ammo. So if a battle pack is 300 rounds you could carry 900 for the same weight.

  12. Isegoria says:

    A modern 5.56-mm cartridge weighs 190 gr, and the bullet itself weighs 62 gr, or 32 percent of the total weight. So, even if we discarded the primer, powder, and brass case, we couldn’t get down to 30 percent of our current ammo weight, without going to an even smaller, lighter projectile.

  13. Sam J. says:

    I must have had it right the first time and mixed it up the second.

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