Tag Archives: Washington Post

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.


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.

Karzai the jailer

HamKar wants to run his own prisons:  Karzai Demands Transfer of US Military Prison to Afghan Control.

He couldn’t have forgotten his own government’s incompetence in running prisons.  Over 500 prisoners escaped an Afghan-run Kandahar prison in 2011 by digging a 300-meter tunnel!  And that was when his brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, was running the province.  Maybe Ahmad’s death was partial payment for the ineptitude.

Karzai is now insisting upon the transfer of the Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP)  since “his government had evidence that Afghan law and prisoners’ human rights were being violated at the prison” according to the New York Times.  The New York Times documents the problems Afghan prisons have as compared to the American run ones:

The coalition has longstanding plans to turn over the prison to Afghan authorities, along with control over all detainees, but the timing has remained uncertain because of delays in training Afghan guards to run the facility and because of concerns about widespread torture and other abuses in Afghan-run prisons.

In contrast, independent Afghan and Western human rights advocates have documented relatively humane conditions at the American prison since it opened in late 2009, replacing an older facility that was plagued by abuses. Even so, there have been persistent complaints about arbitrary detentions and a lack of due process at the new prison — problems that are pervasive in the Afghan prison system as well.

Abuses, torture, escapes–what’s the big deal?  Since HamKar is seeking a “creative solution to staying in office” (although ineligible for re-election) such capabilities might prove beneficial. 

Even in Afghanistan, there are other, non-mutually exclusive, alternatives.  Clinton advisor Paul Begala expressed the simplicity with which American Presidents side-step the U.S. Constitution with the comment, “Stroke of the pen, law of the land.  Pretty cool.”  Would we expect the Afghan Constitution to be any more difficult to push aside?  The Afghan right equivalent would be, “Call a loya Jirga, receive a blessing.” 

Controlling the torture chambers, er–prisons, wouldn’t hurt though.

Then again, if human rights violations are true at the American-run prisons, maybe Karzai is just upset that he isn’t the perpetrator.

An Afghan good enough peace treaty

An “Afghan good enough” solution with the Taliban? 

That’s what the United States is negotiating.  According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Obama Administration is attempting to trade five Afghans at Guantanamo Bay for a “public renunciation of international terrorism” by the Taliban.

“We’re not looking for nirvana,” said a second [Obama] administration official. “We’re pretty sanguine about Afghan ‘good enough.’ That’s the framework” for current strategy discussions, this official said. “That’s why we’re working so hard on reconciliation.”

The Vice President doesn’t think the Taliban is an enemy; there is no “Global War on Terror.”  Apparently an ‘Afghan good enough’ peace treaty is appropriate in this situation.

Does the Afghan good enough strategy include poor air quality, car bombs, and culturally-accepted pedophilia?  Since when did a third-world country ever become the U.S. standard for anything? 

Welcome to the new “normal.”

Building an “Afghan Right” ANSF

A Washigton Post article from several months ago highlights some of the lessons learned in building infrastructure for the Afghan National Security Forces: In helping Afghanistan build up its security forces, U.S. is trimming the frills.  Then NTM-A Commanding General, LTG Caldwell, saw construction that made him cringe — but this construction was likely started 2 or 3 years ago before any lessons learned could be applied.

That raises an interesting dichotomy:  We can’t trust the ANSF with pedestal porcelain sinks and air conditioning but we can trust them with helicopters, a pilot school, up-armored humvees, a mobile strike force, and computers.  Maybe working more on the basics such as reading, weapons safety, and training them to drive would reduce the demand for flight medicsvehicle recovery techniques, and doctors.

Next time we rebuild a country, many more lessons will be available but we’ll probably reinvent the wheel anyway.

Slaughterhouse Five

What is a war without a slaughterhouse?  There happens to be an active Afghan National Army (ANA) slaughterhouse in Kabul (and a new one planned) in contrast to the slaughterhouse that sets the stage for the Kurt Vonnegut novel.  The stories do, however, converge around the out-of-this-world plots and characters. 

The Washington Post highlights the need for improving ANA logistics with a focus on the ANA slaughterhouse in the article ‘Slaughterhouse dude’ Chris Hart reflects changing U.S. role in Afghanistan.   A couple questions:

  1. Since the ANA is mostly fielded, why is demand growing?
  2. With “dudes” like this in the war-zone, who needs troops?
  3. Why are we doing this now?

The WaPo article cites this as a necessary step in making the ANA self-sufficient: “[T]he ability of these forces to master the logistics of supplying and sustaining themselves — to keep, for example, the water buffaloes flowing — is perhaps their biggest obstacle to self-sufficiency.”  But the ANA doesn’t raise the livestock, they buy it off the street like the countless other butcher shops in Kabul and everywhere else in Afghanistan.  And are plastic-handled boning knives and band saws more sustainable than hatchets and tree-trunk chopping blocks (or even dwarves climbing into water buffalo cavities)?

According to GEN Petraeus’ own FM 3-24, Counterinsurgency Field Manual, logistics should be among the first things established.  We’ve now established an army (and a police for that matter) that has minimal logistics capability, relies nearly completely on U.S. support, and we are now pulling out of the country. 

 Sounds like novels filled with lessons to re-learn.

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.