Tag Archives: ISAF

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.

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Latest intel: Insider attacks a threat to ISAF

Note to ISAF Commander:  Read the news (or fire your intelligence staff). 

After more than a year on the job and countless “insider” or green-on-blue attacks before and during his tenure, GEN Allen has realized that Afghans within the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) may be a significant threat.  In the CBS News interview Insider attacks kill U.S troops in Afghanistan, he states, “Here, I think the signature attack that we’re beginning to see the– is going to be the insider attack.”

Excuse me?  Excusez-moi (for those reading in Gulfe Juan)?  “. . . Beginning to see. . . ?”  Our military have been getting killed by uniformed Afghans for years!  I’m dumbfounded by the ignorance of recent events, the General’s epiphany, and desperately wrestling with some respectful way to call our military leaders idiots at best and political stooges at worst.  

Over a year ago, everyone in ISAF (well, at least NTM-A) was being trained how to draw a holstered weapon while seated at a conference room table, required to have at least one ‘look-out’ with a round chambered when meeting with Afghan counterparts, and be ready at any time for an insider attack.  What was that all about if the recent observation is something new?

Most generals state at the beginning of their tours that everything was messed-up by their predecessor while stating that they have the solution by which, at the end of their tour, they are able to declare victory.  I’m thankful that GEN Allen seems to have flipped this history on its head but wonder what he has been doing for 14+ months.

Let’s finally declare that the emperor has no clothes–that would hardly be a new trend.

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.

Questioning the reliability of Afghans

President Obama issued an apology and is amazed that the violence in Afghanistan against U.S. and the coalition didn’t suddenly stop (By the way, why are we apologizing for destroying something the enemy is using to pass inflammatory, if not coordinating, information against us?). 

The GIRoA Ministry of Interior is conducting an investigation into the most recent killings perpetrated by ANSF personnel against coalition forces.  No doubt that’ll shed light on the situation.

ISAF leadership repeatedly asserts that infiltration and/or impersonations of Afghan Security Forces is not a problem even while “Green on Blue” violence increases. 

Now Fox News has stumbled onto something “new:” New violence stokes questions about reliability of Afghan partners in war.  For NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A), it is no big stretch to say that ANSF forces are the number one cause of death yet only now we are beginning to wonder if the Afghans are reliable.

Last year, an Afghan airman opened up an killed nine–and the Afghan Air Force is supposed to be among the most affluent groups in the ANSF.  Recently, the French suffered several dead due to the Afghans security forces. Short of an exhaustive search, it is safe to say these are fairly regular events.  Unfortunately, they have been treated as isolated and unrelated events and regarded as irregular which, coincidently, helps to preserve the illusion of progress.

Can there be any conclusion other than to question the reliability of the forces we’ve poured billions into over the last decade?  Maybe the solution is just to spill more blood and treasure.

AAF re-writing the laws of physics

All those years studying weight, lift, drag, and thrust and only now do I learn that what is needed to fly I knew all along.  According to a recent NTM-A blog, English makes flying possible.  So the stick-and-rudder skills aren’t as important after all.

The Soviets just taught the Afghans to fly using their native language as opposed to the international language of flying.  Not only was it easier, faster, and more cost-effective, it undoubtedly cut down on the number of defectors.

Back in the world constrained by gravity, Afghan ground crews are being trained how to repair and maintain the aircraft before they become lawn-darts:  Kandahar Airfield begins teaching its first maintenance fundamentals course

Lesson Number One:  Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey.

Truth, lies and Afghanistan

Armed Forces Journal publishes another reality-check for the war (or whatever we are doing) in Afghanistan.  LTC Daniel L. Davis writes the latest feature, “Truth, lies and Afghanistan: How military leaders have let us down.”

There are plenty of good news stories in Afghanistan but even the PAO’s best efforts can’t keep up with the bad-news stories.  LTC Davis sobers up the most optimistic American by reviewing conditions on the ground 10 years after our war in Afghanistan started.  First hand accounts demonstrate that the Afghans are far from taking over security in any meaningful way but one wouldn’t know any better from the open-source reporting.

Anthony Cordesman from the Center for Strategic and International Studies is quoted by Davis with the following: 

Since June 2010, the unclassified reporting the U.S. does provide has steadily shrunk in content, effectively ‘spinning’ the road to victory by eliminating content that illustrates the full-scale of the challenges ahead. They also, however, were driven by political decisions to ignore or understate Taliban and insurgent gains from 2002 to 2009, to ignore the problems caused by weak and corrupt Afghan governance, to understate the risks posed by sanctuaries in Pakistan, and to ‘spin’ the value of tactical ISAF victories while ignoring the steady growth of Taliban influence and control.

Politics theoretically stop at the water’s edge.  Clearly politics is driving how and why we continue in Afghanistan.  Certainly there are other factors at play such as our ability to keep Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan long after we “leave.”  But, as asked by Davis, at what price?  Is the full price even recognized?  Put yourself in the shoes of this officer’s shoes:  “How do I look [my soldier’s] wife in the eye when I get back and tell her that her husband died for something meaningful? How do I do that?”

The Afghans recognize the price that will be paid and are taking action.  From one advisor, “Already all across this region [many elements of] the security forces have made deals with the Taliban.  [The ANSF] won’t shoot at the Taliban, and the Taliban won’t shoot them.”  For those that can’t flee the country, survival takes on many different forms.  Is anyone surprised by the self-preservation? 

Davis completes his essay with the following:

When it comes to deciding what matters are worth plunging our nation into war and which are not, our senior leaders owe it to the nation and to the uniformed members to be candid — graphically, if necessary — in telling them what’s at stake and how expensive potential success is likely to be.  U.S. citizens and their elected representatives can decide if the risk to blood and treasure is worth it.

Likewise when having to decide whether to continue a war, alter its aims or to close off a campaign that cannot be won at an acceptable price, our senior leaders have an obligation to tell Congress and American people the unvarnished truth and let the people decide what course of action to choose.  That is the very essence of civilian control of the military.  The American people deserve better than what they’ve gotten from their senior uniformed leaders over the last number of years.  Simply telling the truth would be a good start.

Generals will be quick to point out, “Hope is not a plan.”  If so, why is it the only logical thing that explains the current conditions?