Tag Archives: ISAF

History of the World, Part III

Officially, the U.S. is not nation-building in Afghanistan.  But that doesn’t mean that isn’t what’s happening.  Past ISAF Commanders state and CNN acknowledges as much in a recent blog by Fareed Zakaria introducing the book Can Intervention Work by Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus (W.W. Norton & Co., Inc., August 2011).

Nation-building aside, the book’s short excerpt on the CNN blog paints a fascinating history of our intervention in Afghanistan:

Each new general in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2011 suggested that the situation he had inherited was dismal; implied that this was because his predecessor had the wrong resources or strategy; and asserted that he now had the resources, strategy, and leadership to deliver a decisive year.

In attempting to demonstrate how disjointed, dysfunctional, and, ultimately, self-contradictory our efforts are, Can Intervention Work documents each ISAF leader’s assessment of the situation inherited and the resultant predictions summarized below:

2002, General Karl Eikenberry (future Ambassador):  “The mandate was clear and it was a central task, but it is also fair to say that up until that time there had been few resources committed.”

2003, General Dan McNeill

  • Inheritance:  “We had nothing in any book.”
  • Outlook:  “Most parts of the country will soon begin to realize some reasonable degree of security and stability” and “Without question [2004 would be a] decisive year.”

2004, General David Barno:

  • Inheritance:  “There was no major planning initiated to create long-term political, social and economic stability in Afghanistan.”
  • Outlook:  “What we’re doing is moving to a more classic counterinsurgency strategy here in Afghanistan. That’s a fairly significant change in terms of our tactical approach out there on the ground.”  General John Abizaid, GEN Barno’s commander, thought 2005 would be a “decisive year.”

2005, General Eikenberry (2nd tour):

  • Inheritance:  “The institutions of the Afghan state remain relatively weak.”
  • Outlook:  “Our longer-term goal of strengthening good governance, the rule of law, reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, and economic development.”   Per Can intervention Work?, the General was confident that 2006 would be a turning point.

2006, General Sir David Richards (UK):

  • Inheritance:  “Close to anarchy.”
  • Outlook:  His “new strategy” was “establishing bases rather than chasing militants” and predicted 2007 would be the decisive year for the Taliban.

2007, General McNeill (2nd Tour):

  • Inheritance:  A position defined by “shadows cast by former power brokers or warlords . . . lack of effective governance . . . a lack of unified effort amongst the international community and lack of effective police.”  “We’re not trained, we’re not equipped, we don’t have the requisite number of helicopters, and we’re not manned to do [counter-narcotics].”
  • Outlook:  “. . . a shift to a more ‘kinetic strategy’ including aerial bombardment. ” Norwegian Foreign minister Espen Barth Eide predicted that 2007 would be “a decisive year.”

2008, General David McKiernan:

  • Inheritance:  A position in which “we are seeing an increase in violence . . . there are unacceptable levels of corruption,” and the Afghan government “is ineffective in many areas of Afghanistan.” 
  • Outlook:  More counter-insurgency–“The fact is that we are at war in Afghanistan. It’s not peace-keeping. It’s not stability operations. It’s not humanitarian assistance. It’s war.”  General Champoux (CAN) predicted 2008 would “be a decisive year.”

2009: General Stanley McChristal (following the firing of General McKiernan and more political intervention)

  • Inheritance:  A “resilient and growing insurgency . . . weakness of Afghan government institutions.”
  • Outlook:  “The new strategy will improve effectiveness through better application of existing assets, but it also requires additional resources.”  The Canadian ambassador, Ron Hoffman, predicted that 2009 would be “a decisive year.”  General David Petraeus, CENTCOM Commander, stated, “For the first time we will then have the tools and what’s required in place to carry out the kind of campaign that [is] necessary here with our Afghan partners.”
  • Assessment: McChristal stated, “The Taliban . . . no longer has the initiative. . . . We are knee-deep in the decisive year” (then he was fired for various reasons not directly related to the mission).

2010, General David Petraeus:

  • Inheritance:  a position characterized by insurgent attacks on coalition forces spiking to record levels, violence metastasizing to previously stable areas, and the country’s president undercutting anti-corruption units backed by Washington.
  • Outlook:  A new strategy, back to a more kinetic approached combined with counterinsurgency.  UK foreign secretary, David Miliband, predicted that 2010 would be “a decisive year.”
  • Assessment:  Hired as CIA Director.

2011, General John R. Allen

  • Outlook:  “I really think that for all the sacrifices [of the troops], the reality is that it is paying off and that we’re moving in the right direction. . .  We’re winning this very tough conflict here in Afghanistan,” SECDEF Leon Panetta in USA Today.
  • Assessment:  TBD. . . want to venture a guess?

Mel Brooks would be proud;  History repeats itself. . . but I repeat myself.

Laying the Groundwork for Civil War

Dec. 5, 2011 Cover Page

Wow.  

Rarely am I so dumbfounded that I cannot conjure up some cynicism to summarize another’s viewpoint on Afghanistan.   

No amount of commentary could replace reading the entire article Laying the Groundwork for Civil War written by Christoph Reuter for Der Spiegel.

Being hardheaded, I will provide a glimpse with a few interesting quotes.  Make no mistake. . . these snippets  are no substitute for reading the entire article.

At the grand council, or loya jirga, held in mid-November, the delegates argued less passionately over a strategic agreement with the United States than over who was to be appointed to the 39th of 40 committees — until they decided to simply skip the number. “In Afghanistan, the number 39 has a very strange meaning which it is not fair for me to tell you,” said jirga spokeswoman Safia Sediqi.

The Afghan government troops do go into combat, but only when the soldiers haven’t just gone AWOL for weeks, or when their officers haven’t been selling gasoline on the black market. On several occasions, the Bundeswehr soldiers in Kunduz have used cameras and night-vision devices to observe their Afghan allies siphoning off gasoline from their own vehicles at night. General Fazil, who was the commander of an army unit in Kunduz until last year, was notorious for stealing and selling tens of thousands of liters of the army’s diesel fuel every month. His nickname among the Germans was “Diesel Fazil.” He had even got the gasoline-stealing expeditions organized for a period when he was attending training for senior staff in Germany.

“The [Americans] are all assholes. Assholes!” It isn’t that they are bad people, Nadir says, toning his rhetoric down a notch, but because they have spent billions to train an army of corrupt opportunists whose loyalty, if they have any at all, is reserved for their own ethnic group. “Without the Americans,” Nadir predicts, “our army will break up into Pashtun, Tajik and Hazara units.”

. . . the Taliban, who, according to NATO, must be defeated if stability is to be restored . . .

The Americans are not repeating the mistakes of the Russians, as they are often accused of doing, but are in fact making their own. Just as they armed warlords and war criminals in the 1980s to fight the Soviet occupation and again in 2002, merely because they were the enemies of their enemies, they are now turning gangsters into allies.

“What we are now seeing,” explains Ruttig, “is an uncontrolled proliferation of competing militias, as well as oversized armed forces whose loyalties tend to lie with their former commanders rather than the Kabul government — and with nothing that could hold them together, especially not after a withdrawal of the Western troops. This is a recipe for civil war.”

So much for the guarded optimism:  Laying the Groundwork for Civil War.

The Fog of War, Part II

Apparently, the slide below is not a joke about Afghanistan. 

According to the UK Daily Mail and the New York Times, when General Stanley McChrystal, the former ISAF commander, saw the slide he stated, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.” 

When I first saw it, I thought it was the organizational chart for ISAF.

With news reports indicating the U.S. is financially committing to Afghanistan until at least 2024, we’ll have time not only to figure it out but to fully implement it.

The emperor has no clothes

. . . but does where a Karakul hat. 

Peter Fuller Fired:  Senior U.S. Officer in Afghanistan Relieved of Duty

According to the HuffPo, “[GEN] Allen said the ‘unfortunate comments’ don’t represent the solid U.S. relationship with the Afghan government.  ‘The Afghan people are an honorable people, and comments such as these will not keep us from accomplishing our most critical and shared mission – bringing about a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan,’ Allen said.”

According to FoxNews.com and many other sites, “Fuller called Karzai’s statements ‘erratic.'”  A Google search of “Karzai” reveals on the first page these two headlines:

  • “Hamid Karzai: Afghanistan would back Pakistan in U.S. War”
  • “Karzai accuses Pakistan of supporting Terrorists.” 

Perhaps not clinically sufficient to call the man crazy, but sufficient enough to characterize him as ‘erratic.’

Note to troops:  Honesty will get you nowhere (except, maybe, sent home–hopefully with some clothes).

Afghan Automobile Association

RTE Red is BLACK from RTE Maroon to RTE Green until further notice.

With instructions like these, no wonder we keep the insurgents confused.  It also has the added benefit of keeping the officers busy. . .

Shakespeare On Demand In Afghanistan

Last night unequivocally qualifies as my most memorable evening in Afghanistan.  Granted, there isn’t much competition, but I would have made time for Shakespeare On Demand anywhere.

A few weeks ago, I was eating lunch at the ISAF DFAC and met Ty Lemerande, the brother of a long time shipmate (and good friend–not always the same thing), Toby Lemerande.  Ty is a reservist serving in Afghanistan and brought his love for Shakespeare to Kabul.  He extended an invitation to his “one-man showcase,” known as Shakespearean Jukebox or, to the younger crowd, Shakespeare On Demand, which turned into an incredible evening of entertainment and education.  The show was absolutely fantastic and unforgettable.

Even better, you can see Shakespeare On Demand.  Ty and his wife, Amy, created Knighthorse Theatre Company in 2003 to make Shakespeare alive and relevant for today’s generations.  Travelling around the country, they are fulfilling their dream of teaching and performing what they love.  Even if you hate theater, you will love this!

Toby — you no longer have to explain where all the talent went.

Reducing waste in wartime

The Commission on Wartime Contracting has published “Transforming Wartime Contracting:  Controling Costs, Reducing Risks” in which the bi-partisan legislative panel reports that there is waste during wartime. 

This profundity is all over the news and therefore gets attention of the stars at ISAF and, in particular, NTM-A, the organization responsible for building the ANSF.  Here is a sampling of the scandal from  CNN, Fox News, and Washington Post, if you are curious.

Given that the U.S. Congress can’t seem to find waste within its own ranks, you know the waste here in Afghanistan must be bad.