Tag Archives: ANA

Shock & Awe: Afghan literacy program fails

Hundreds of billions were spent on an Afghan Army, Air Force, and Police that will disintegrate without U.S. support.  Renewable energy was another money pit.  And still there were all those wasted driving lessons.  Yet someone thought that spending hundreds of millions on literacy would teach grown men to read in a country that doesn’t have a unified language or culture.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported the failure of the literacy program in their most recent report.  Since 2008, SIGAR has been swooping in like a vulture to investigate the use of “relief funding” in Afghanistan and recording their findings in reports that had less readership than the Dari version of Bill Press’s last book.

For anyone with half a brain, it is no surprise that After $200 Million, Afghan Soldiers Still Can’t Read.  Given that success in Afghanistan has been linked to literacy (see pp. 54-55 of DoD’s 2012 Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan) this does not bode well.

But there is hope.  On the eve of our surrender, SIGAR recommends:

  1. Establishing program goals that are reasonable given the time frames involved and ensure that progress toward achieving these goals is measurable.
  2. Revising the acquisition approach to include requirements for verification of students’ language capabilities and tracking of literacy levels.
  3. Limiting, to the extent practicable, the number of classes offered at training locations that cannot be inspected.
  4. Enhancing oversight of the new quality assurance contractor’s performance.
  5. Modifying the contracts to better define requirements for classes.
  6. Developing and implementing—by April 30, 2014—a formal transition and sustainment strategy for the literacy training program.

What couldn’t be done in several years will surely be completed now that SIGAR has identified the problem.  If only someone  would (or could) read the report.

Hat tip: Bob Roughsedge

Picture of Afghanistan post-2014 not pretty

In August 2012, Vanda Felbab-Brown of the liberal Brookings Institution gave testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, documented in Afghan National Security Forces: Afghan Corruption and the Development of an Effective Fighting Force

Even though this may be the current regime’s think-tank, Felbab-Brown gives quite an indictment of the Obama policy and her expert opinion painted a bleak picture for the future.  Some excerpts follow:

Despite the substantial improvements of Afghan security forces, few Afghans believe that a better future is on the horizon after 2014.

[Afghans] are profoundly dissatisfied with Kabul’s inability and unwillingness to provide basic public services and with the widespread corruption of the power elites. Afghan citizens intensely resent the abuse of power, impunity, and lack of justice that have become entrenched over the past decade. During that period of the initial post-Taliban hope and promise, governance in Afghanistan became defined by weakly functioning state institutions unable and unwilling to uniformly enforce laws and policies. Official and unofficial powerbrokers have issued exceptions from law enforcement to their networks of clients, who have thus been able to reap high economic benefits, and can get away even with major crimes. Murder, extortion, and land theft have gone unpunished, often perpetrated by those in the government. At the same time, access to jobs, promotions, and economic rents has depended on being on good terms with the local strongman, instead of merit and hard work.

Yet as the decade comes to a close, the political patronage networks too have been shrinking and becoming more exclusionary. Local government officials have had only a limited capacity and motivation to redress the broader governance deficiencies. The level of inter-elite infighting, much of it along ethnic and regional lines, is at a peak. The result is pervasive hedging on the part of key powerbrokers, including their resurrection of semi-clandestine or officially-sanctioned militias. Hedging against a precariously uncertain future is equally pervasive on the part of ordinary Afghans. Especially in the Pashtun areas that constitute the Taliban heartland, they will often send one son to join the ANA, and another to join the Taliban, and possibly a third son to join the local strongman’s militia, to maximize the chances of being on the winning side, whoever will control the area where they live after 2014.

The ANA appears to be increasingly weakened by corruption. This development is not new, but it may be intensifying. In some of the best kandaks, excellent soldiers are not being promoted because they do not have influential friends. Conversely, many extra positions, at the level of colonel, for example, are being created so that commanders can give payoffs to their loyal supporters. Soldiers from marginalized groups, without powerful patrons, or simply those who cannot afford to pay a bribe, are being repeatedly posted to tough environments whereas their better-positioned compatriots get cushier postings. Clamping down on such corruption is as important as increasing the ANA numbers.

The ANP has of course been notorious both for such intense ethnic factionalization, as well as for corruption. It is important that the international community continue to demand credible progress against both vices and carefully assesses whether personnel shifts are indeed motivated by efforts to reduce corruption or mask further ethnic rifts and the firing of one’s ethnic rivals.

But the ANP critically continues to lack an anti-crime capacity, and the anti-crime training it receives is minimal. Instead, the ANP is being configured as a light counterinsurgency and SWAT-like counterterrorism force. Yet, crime — murders, robberies, and extortion — are the bane of many Afghans’ daily existence. The inability of the Afghan government to respond to such crimes allows the Taliban to impose its own brutal forms of order and justice and to develop a foothold in Afghan communities. Worse yet, the ANP remains notorious for being the perpetrator of many crimes. 

The political and governance system in Afghanistan is, in fact, so pervasively corrupt and so deeply and intricately linked to key structures of power and networks of influence, that some prioritization of anti-corruption focus is required.

This all appears to be very much in line with the military thinking and there are no real surprises.  That it is public

Corruption, corruption, corruption. . .  In 2014 after 6 years of President Obama fighting the “right war,” it will still be George W. Bush’s fault.

Cod’s on the menu (finally)

Nine months ago, it resulted in a two-star getting fired.  After the media learned we’re spending nearly $100 million on an Afghan National Army Headquarters in Kabul, it’s a battle cry: 

“Cod’s on the menu.”

It was a good idea then and it is a good idea now–you just can’t keep a good idea down.

Perhaps it was just MGen Fuller’s politically incorrect way of saying “Afghan Good Enough” (we are indeed a more sensitive military now).  While still yet unable to employ the impactful brevity of a two-star, COL Andrew Backus, Director of Engineering for NTM-A, was able to construct the right combination of words to sell the concept to the Washingon Post:

“What we’re going to do is finish the project with strict change control and turn it over to the Afghans. And if they want to change it, then they can change it.”

While it may not change the “19 true things generals can’t say in public about the Afghan war,” it does provide hope that a good idea has a chance in Afghanistan–even if the Afghans don’t like it.

Breaking news: Afghan plan incoherent!

Our entire policy in Afghanistan has been inconsistent since the first troops were relieved.  Each replacement unit has attempted to recreate established plans and objectives to satisfy what they thought was the “right” way.  For starters, sample here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, herehereherehere, and here.  

“The last guy’s great idea wasn’t as good as my new great idea.”  That’s been the only consistent policy every year for the past 11 years.  As other’s have said, “We haven’t been in Afghanistan for 11 years, we’ve just completed 11 one-year deployments.”

So, over the coming years, expect to see a plethora of news articles, like the Wall Street Journal’s “Parting Gift for Afghans: A Military McMansion,” exposing waste in the wasteland of Afghanistan (check-out Firewood grows on trees if you think the “Afghan-right” solution is a panacea).

Whenever the killing of terrorists in Afghanistan was abandoned as the primary (and only objective), the waste began.  Make no mistake, any so-called “investment” in Afghanistan is a waste.  Building any modern security force, government, or infrastructure is doomed to failure for all of the reasons stated in the WSJ article–and then some.

But the ignorance of those commenting on the article is disarming.  While the overall total spent on the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is significantly higher, thinking the +/-$12 Billion spent on facilities would somehow alleviate our domestic spending problem is insane. 

REALITY  CHECK:  If we never spent a dime on infrastructure for the ANSF, it would pay-off 25.9 HOURS’ worth of the 2012 year-to-date U.S. budget deficit ($845 Billion as reported by The Hill)!

While we should leave Afghanistan lock, stock, and barrel (except for perhaps some special forces), leaving is hardly a panacea for our spending problem and it will hardly be a cure for the politically-driven agenda that has become the United States’ Afghanistan policy.

Well, at least we’ll get an “A” for effort.  That and another $16 Trillion will pay-off our spending problem.

Afghan Air Force growing financially independent

ISAF probably didn’t have this in mind when they established the goal to make the Afghan National Army, or Afghan Air Force, independent and self-sustaining: Afghan Air Force Probed in Drug RunningA complete story (if you don’t have a WSJ account) is at ABC News and elsewhere.

In addition to the donkey-borne IEDs, we now have flying drug mules–who said Afghans weren’t able to adapt and modernize?  It’s good to see that taxpayer dollars are finally going to something that will be endure in Afghanistan.

This puts Joint Ceremonies and operations in a whole new light.

ANDU, ADU, NMAA, ANSU. . . Let’s call the whole thing off

The following is an NTM-A version of a “snuff film” since the British Advisors prohibited its filming due to security concerns surrounding the upcoming grand opening of the “West Point” of Afghanistan (don’t worry, the film is completely G-Rated although the millions spent on British pet-projects is unfit for any audience).

Keeping a $200 million dollar project on the “down-low” is tough enough with the neighbors stealing building supplies (allah providentially providing, of course), but for the Engineers to publicly proclaim the project via YouTube is over-the-top.

Western building materials are in great supply near ANSU (or pink EIFS buildings and double-pane windows have become de rigueur)

Since the Brits refer to the site as the Afghan National Defense University (ANDU), others refer to it as Afghan Defense University (ADU), the Engineers refer to it as Afghan National Security University (ANSU), and the site will be the home of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan (NMAA), Religious and Cultural Affairs (RCA) Branch School, Legal School, and numerous other schools, the operational deception is sure to confuse anyone looking to cause trouble. . .

. . . Until now.

Lessons Ignored, Part II: Who needs doctrine?

Maybe I’ve overreached concerning the importance of doctrine.  Apparently the success of the United States’ military is not because of a well understood core of doctrine but because of our disregard for it:

One of the serious problems in planning the fight against American doctrine, is that the Americans do not read their manuals, nor do they feel any obligation to follow their doctrine.

–From a Soviet Junior Officer’s Notebook

NTM-A is following this doctrinal anarchy to the letter.  Some years ago, doctrine was written for the ANSF.  Since that time, hoards of Americans, Europeans, and other supporters have flooded the country (6-12 months at a time) and not only disregarded that doctrine but layered their own view of how an Army (or Police) ought to run.  Given the disdain the average soldier has for doctrine, their view of how things run is unlikely to be anything similar to anyone else, even if from the same background!

So instead of following any doctrine (good, bad, or indifferent), we train them from the beginning to disregard it and “fight on the fly.”  This probably works satisfactorily for the Taliban, Mujahideen, Hakkani Network, and warlords. 

Given the precedent  for new militaries, the entire U.S. effort will collapse under its own weight without a well established and understood doctrine forming the principles and common language from which all forces can operate (see FM 3.0, Appendix D).