Tag Archives: NATO

In a sense, it’s what we do

ISAF has huge challenge building the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) while fighting a war, a COIN operation, navigating corruption, and a drug trade.  Complicating matters is that this is being done with a coalition of about 40 countries.  To quote an NTM-A alum:

An American Air Force Officer designs an Army unit that is trained by a British Armor Officer, validated with Canadian and Jordanian Officers, and later mentored in the field by Turkish Officers.

It could also be added that each of the people listed above change-out every six months so forget anyone knowing what the previous people were thinking!

This EDS commercial pretty much summarizes the task IJC and NTM-A have undertaken:

There are a few improvements that will make this commercial a truly authentic metaphor for NTM-A:

  1. The pilot continuously asks the workers to leave.
  2. The airline keeps requesting a different fleet of planes.
  3. The passengers extort money from the workers.
  4. The flight attendants steal tools and materials.
  5. The workers change-out every few weeks.
  6. The workers union requires the workers to come from different countries.
  7.  The designer changes the style aircraft every year in the following order:  Jet, Turboprop, Helicopter, Glider.
  8. The flight school insists on changing the aircraft from a Cessna 182T to an Airbus 380.
  9. The investors dump bags of money out the back of the plane.
  10. The only fuel available is nitrous oxide and a chase plane is constantly telling them to buy ethanol.
  11. The plane is taking anti-aircraft fire.
  12. Air Traffic Control redirects the plane every few hours to a different destination.
  13. No one knows what the final airplane will look like until 2014.
  14. The plane will be complete in 2014 whether or not it lands.
  15. In the final scene, the place crashes.

 In a sense, that’s EXACTLY what we do.

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Land Rush in Afghanistan

One of the difficult things about construction for the ANA is finding suitable land.  Much of the land has disputed ownership because, over the last 40 years, land has been given away by warlords, Russians, Afghans, and now much of it is squatted on my Americans or NATO forces.  This Christian Science Monitor article captures the problem:

What may be a bigger threat to Afghanistan than insurgency? Land disputes.

Even corrupt ANA leaders, when they aren’t shaking down construction contractors, are selling portions of their garrisons, land that isn’t their’s, to make some money on the side.  Often when we start construction, we’ll run into squatters living on the sites claiming ownership. 

While we may have the “rights” to construct and kick the squatters off the site, it is complicated.  In our counter-insurgency operation (COIN), our goal is to gain the trust of the citizenry.  Offending the locals by simply moving in with brute force will not only give the construction contractor trouble later on but also be counter-productive to engendering confidence the U.S. and the Afghan government.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Ecclesiastes 1:9, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

Nothing should be a surprise by now.  The Afghan National Police (ANP) (the other half of the Afghan National Security Forces) has appointed the warlord Mattiullah Khan as the Provincial Chief of Police for Uruzgan Province, just North of Kandahar, in the central part of the country. 

On my “Support your local warlord” post, I discussed Khan’s influence throughout the North Kandahar and Uruzgan Provinces.  As the articles above address, there is some fear of reigniting rivalries and targeting neutral tribes which could create security issues as the U.S. (and NATO) begin to draw down.

Most of our problems in Afghanistan stem from a lack of decentralized authority.  Quite literally, if a one-star general in Herat wants to replace a door-knob, he has to get about 13 signatures and approval from the Minister of Defense.  Larger purchases require President of Afghanistan approval. 

This may sound crazy but this reflects the tribal culture of Afghanistan–the Tribal Elder(s) make all the decisions.  This is how Afghanistan has operated for thousands of years and continues to operate despite our best efforts to westernize it. 

Proverbs 29:1, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

If we really want to succeed, our best route is to embrace the tribal culture.  Creating a unipolar government will make that government either powerless (due to tribal tendancies) or a constant target for overthrow.  There is disagreement by the experts whether a multipolar society can be stable.  But we aren’t willing to spend the time (generations) and money (trillions) to convert the prevalent attitudes. 

By embracing the natural multipolar culture, we don’t look like occupiers, establish truly recognized leadership throughout the country, develop relationships with more than one organization and thereby reduce the risk associated with our alignment with the often questioned validity of any one organization.

An excellent read is “One Tribe at a Time” by MAJ Jim Gant.  This is the view from a guy on the ground, working with tribal leaders who understands the personal and embedded motivations of the Afghans (as opposed to a chump that sits in air conditioned office spending billions of taxpayer dollars pontificating on the trade-offs of various forms of nation-state governance).

Proverbs 6:23, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:”