For those of you who do not know already, there has been much recent discussion in the military community in regards to a column written by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis in the Armed Forces Journal entitled “Truth, lies and Afghanistan.” But who is the man behind the words? Let’s look.
First, let’s recap his thoughts. In the column, Davis paints a picture of his time in Afghanistan describing an experience far less “rosy” or optimistic than statements made by U.S. military leaders:
“What I saw bore no resemblance to rosy official statements by U.S. military leaders about conditions on the ground.
Entering this deployment, I was sincerely hoping to learn that the claims were true: that conditions in Afghanistan were improving, that the local government and military were progressing toward self-sufficiency. I did not need to witness dramatic improvements to be reassured, but merely hoped to see evidence of positive trends, to see companies or battalions produce even minimal but sustainable progress.
Instead, I witnessed the absence of success on virtually every level.”
Davis goes on to describe a lack of competency and zeal on the part of Afghan National Police in responding to attacks by the Taliban. Davis claims local officials told him that the Afghan National Security Forces have made deals with the Taliban to not shoot at each other, and release Taliban members when they are arrested. A local adviser explained to Davis:
“When a Taliban member is arrested, he is soon released with no action taken against him. So when the Taliban returns [when the Americans leave after 2014], so too go the jobs, especially for everyone like me who has worked with the coalition.
Recently, I got a cellphone call from a Talib who had captured a friend of mine. While I could hear, he began to beat him, telling me I’d better quit working for the Americans. I could hear my friend crying out in pain. [The Talib] said the next time they would kidnap my sons and do the same to them. Because of the direct threats, I’ve had to take my children out of school just to keep them safe.”
Davis went on to lambast the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground.
“How many more men must die in support of a mission that is not succeeding and behind an array of more than seven years of optimistic statements by U.S. senior leaders in Afghanistan? No one expects our leaders to always have a successful plan. But we do expect — and the men who do the living, fighting and dying deserve — to have our leaders tell us the truth about what’s going on.”
So who is and what’s his background?
Davis, who goes by Danny, is from Dallas and the son of a high school football coach. He served two years as an Army private before returning to Texas Tech and completing the Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He served in Germany and fought in the first Iraq war before joining the Reserve and working civilian jobs, including a year as a member of the Senate staff. Davis returned to active duty following the September 11 attacks, serving a tour in Iraq as well as the two in Afghanistan and spending 15 months working on Future Combat Systems, an ambitious Army program to produce high-tech vehicles linked to drones and sensors.
Davis spent most of last year on his second deployment to Afghanistan working with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, a job he says took him ‘into every significant area where our soldiers engage the enemy.” He says he covered more than 9,000 miles and talked, traveled and patrolled with troops in Kandahar, Kunar, Ghazni, Khost, Paktika, Kunduz, Balkh, Nangarhar and other provinces over the last year. In the Rapid Equipping Force, Davis interviewed or had conversations with more than 250 soldiers in the field, “from the lowest-ranking 19-year-old private to division commanders and staff members at every echelon. I spoke at length with Afghan security officials, Afghan civilians and a few village elders.”
The New York Times reports that Davis claims to have repeatedly seen top commanders falsely dressing up a dismal situation. He decided to speak out now after consulting his pastor at McLean Bible Church in Virginia and watching his favorite film; “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The Times has more on Davis’s mission of late:
“And then, late last month, Colonel Davis, 48, began an unusual one-man campaign of military truth-telling. He wrote two reports, one unclassified and the other classified, summarizing his observations on the candor gap with respect to Afghanistan. He briefed four members of Congress and a dozen staff members, spoke with a reporter for The New York Times, sent his reports to the Defense Department’s inspector general — and only then informed his chain of command that he had done so.”
Since he began speaking out the Pentagon says it disagrees with Colonel Davis’ account, but has not suggested any disciplinary action.
“Lieutenant Colonel Davis is obviously entitled to his opinion,” The Daily Mail reports spokesman George Little said, adding that defense secretary Leon Panetta “has very strong confidence in his commanders in Afghanistan, as they provide assessments of what is happening on the ground in the war.”
The Times say a spokeswoman for CIA Director David Petraeus said that the former commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan “has demonstrated that he speaks truth to power in each of his leadership positions over the past several years. His record should stand on its own, as should LTC Davis’ analysis.”
Davis has met with three members of the House and four senators so far, including Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who told the Times he met with Davis despite “a lot of resistance from the Pentagon.”