Afghan National Army in Operation Khanjar – Or Not

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

lbn Muqawama cites the latest report by Chandrasekaran at the Washington Post, lamenting the following quote:

The Marines have also been vexed by a lack of Afghan security forces and a near-total absence of additional U.S. civilian reconstruction personnel. Nicholson had hoped that his brigade, which has about 11,000 Marines and sailors, would be able to conduct operations with a similar number of Afghan soldiers. But thus far, the Marines have been allotted only about 500 Afghan soldiers, which he deems “a critical vulnerability.”…Despite commitments from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development that they would send additional personnel to help the new forces in southern Afghanistan with reconstruction and governance development, State has added only two officers in Helmand since the Marines arrived. State has promised to have a dozen more diplomats and reconstruction experts working with the Marines, but only by the end of the summer.

The comments to this post are interesting, many wondering who is responsible and how we botched the attempt to get more ANA troops, as if we can flip a switch and make reliable ANA troops magically appear.  Then the following important conclusion appears in the post: “The lack of Afghan government forces and civilian reconstruction experts doesn’t bode particularly well for any lasting effect from this operation …”

Regular readers of TCJ know all about the drug addiction problems and incompetence of the ANA, and general unreliability of their operations given the current state of the ANA.  But the summary statement at Abu Muqawama gives insight into the supposed strategy (since CNAS is advising the Obama administration).

Concerning lasting effects from the operation, this is only a problem if the cornerstone of the strategy is a rapid turnover of operations to the ANA, or at least, keeping U.S. troop levels down while relying on the ANA to be a replacement for U.S. troops in operations in Afghanistan.

We have seen this before in Iraq where the goal was training and turnover to the Iraqi Security Forces.  Note however, that Marine operations in the Anbar Province didn’t start with ISF assistance, or even end with it.  Given national patience and the fortitude to see the campaign through, there is no reason that the Marines need anyone else to perform counterinsurgency operations in Helmand – at least, not right now.  It’s no different from the campaign in Anbar.

Eventually the Marines will leave, just as they left Anbar.  But we are at the beginning stages of true COIN operations, and The Captain’s Journal is no more surprised at the lack of functional, reliable ANA troops to accompany and be mentored by the Marines than we are dismayed by the lack of ANA support for the Marine Corps operations.  Surprise and dismay at this development underscores a basic naivety concerning where we stand in Afghanistan.  If the administration, or CNAS, or anyone else, is relying on the ANA to be part of the force that currently can and will fight the Taliban and provide security for the population, then the strategy is in deep trouble.  They wouldn’t last a month against the Taliban.



  • TSAlfabet

    Good points, Captain.

    If there is any hope in this COIN Trick– the illusion that the Admin wants to foist on the public that it is truly committed to COIN in A-stan when it refuses to authorize the necessary forces– it is the Marines themselves.

    They are not whiners. They have been told by NSA Jones that they will not get any further reinforcements, so the Marines are busy figuring out how to get the mission done with what they do have. Once the Marines have established a dominating presence in Helmand with the latest operation, enough locals will be inspired to step forward and start providing some local security against a re-infestation by the takhfirs. Similar to what the Marines accomplished in Anbar. Afterall, A-stan is a tribal society (as Steven Pressfield so ably demonstrates). If the Marines can figure out a way to keep enough forces in place to keep the T-ban from overrunning the place, they might be able to convince the tribal leaders to provide local auxiliaries. But the local Marine commanders must be given plenty of money to use at their discretion for local projects for the people, just as they did in Iraq. Give the people security and a stake in their future with tangible improvements to their lives— wells, sewage, roads, schools, clinics. But security comes first.

    Preaching to the choir, I know.

    If anyone can make it work, the Marines in Helmand can. If they can’t do it, it simply cannot be done.

  • Pingback: The Captain’s Journal » Where is the Afghan National Army?


You are currently reading "Afghan National Army in Operation Khanjar – Or Not", entry #3306 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Abu Muqawama,Afghan National Army,Afghanistan and was published July 6th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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