5 years, 10 months ago
In NATO Cannot Be Rehabilitated we discussed the fact that German forces had spent the last three years in Afghanistan without conducting a single combat mission. The Strategy Page followed this report up with their own:
Germany is pulling its commandos out of Afghanistan. The KSK commandos have been there for most of the last seven years. Many Germans, especially leftist politicians and journalists, have not been happy with that. This has resulted in several unflattering, and largely inaccurate, articles about the KSK in the German media. There was also an investigation of several KSK men, accused of kicking an Afghan prisoner. While the KSK were allowed to fight, they also operated under some restrictions. They generally could not fire at the enemy unless first fired upon. This led to at least one senior Taliban leader getting away from the KSK. The fleeing Taliban honcho was not firing at the pursuing KSK, so the commandos could not take him down.
Germany sent 120 KSK commandos to Afghanistan in late 2001. They were not given their own area of operation, but worked with American special forces and commandos as needed. The KSK commandos are the first German troops to engage in combat since 1945 (not counting some communist East German military advisers who may have had to defend themselves in places like Africa. German peacekeepers in the 1990s Balkans have not had to fight.) KSK’s achievement was celebrated in late 2001, when a supply of quality German beer was flown in for the troops.
The KSK were respected by their fellow special operations soldiers, and particularly liked because the Germans were sent beer rations (two cans a day per man). The KSK troops would often share the brew with their fellow commandos, which sometimes resulted in favors in the form of special equipment or intel data. Even with the restrictions, the KSK saw lots of action, but little of it was publicized, lest it generate more criticism back home.
So some of the troops are getting sauced on German beer in theater? (Someone might want to weight in on deployment rules for ISAF troops, but the alcohol prohibition for U.S. troops during deployment is absolute and nonnegotiable). The Strategy Page apparently obtains some of their information from Army intelligence, the same Army intelligence who fed General Rodriguez the absurdity that the Taliban wouldn’t conduct a spring offensive in 2008 (while The Captain’s Journal claimed that they would conduct not one offensive, but two, one in Afghanistan and the other in Pakistan). Rodriguez should have listened to The Captain’s Journal. The Strategy Page also routinely authors analyses that discuss how swimmingly the campaign is going. The Captain’s Journal no longer uses the Strategy page as a source of information or analysis.
The growing threat is having the effect that soldiers are sticking close to their base camps and avoiding any contact to the civilian population, which then only shows increasing animosity towards the soldiers. Clearly, such a “spiral of alienation” is no help to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The majority of Afghans in the relatively peaceful north are still amiable to the Germans, say the generals. But if even this support starts to dwindle, there will be consequences for the entire NATO mission. It may even be that the fight for a stable, peaceful Afghanistan can no longer be won (italics TCJ).
Support for the campaign is wavering in NATO countries as well.
NATO members are “wavering” in their political commitment to defeat the Taliban and the international effort in Afghanistan is disjointed, the alliance’s top military commander said.
Operations are affected by a shortfall of troops and more than 70 caveats limiting where soldiers can be deployed, U.S. Army General John Craddock, supreme allied commander in Europe, said in London yesterday.
“It is this wavering political will that impedes operational progress and brings into question the relevancy of the alliance here in the 21st century,” Craddock said in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute.
While President Asif Ali Zardari has been relatively strong thus far (at least in terms of rhetoric) regarding the Taliban, his enthusiasm for taking out the enemy apparently isn’t reciprocated in the Pakistan parliament.
An unusual parliamentary debate designed to forge a Pakistani policy on how to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda has exposed deep ambivalence about the militants, even as their reach extends to suicide attacks in the capital.
Calls for dialogue with the Taliban, peppered with opposition to fighting what is perceived as an American war, dominated the closed-door sessions, according to participants.
After seven years of military rule under General Pervez Musharraf, the new civilian government initiated the debate in an effort to convince the public and the political parties of the necessity of the war against the militants. Musharraf – who had been both head of the army and president, as well as an important ally of the Bush administration – never consulted Parliament.
The new president, Asif Ali Zardari, pledged a strong effort by Pakistan against terrorism during his visit to Washington earlier this month, and stressed the contrast between his civilian rule and that of his military predecessor.
But the tenor of the parliamentary proceedings, including criticism by politicians of a lengthy military briefing by a general on the conduct of the war, showed that members of the political elite have little stomach for the fight against the militants.
This is a very troubling sign and doesn’t bode well for the removal of Taliban safe havens in the FATA and NWFP. However, it does explain the recent stand down of military actions in Waziristan.
It appears that the U.S. will have to increase force presence and take the brunt of the campaign (along with British and Canadian troops) – and show significant progress – before Pakistan will commit itself to the campaign.