Counterinsurgency at a Sprint

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 9 months ago

Analysts and pundits were quick to dismiss Mr. Obama’s intention for beginning troop level drawdown in Afghanistan in 2011 as mere pressure on Hamid Karzai and the balance of the corrupt Afghan administration.  But Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson has no illusions about the task ahead.

“I can’t tell you where we’re going to be in July of 2011, but I can tell you that we understand what the commander-in-chief has said, and that’s when he wants to draw down, and we are sprinting,” Nicholson says. “The message to our Marines every day is that the clock is running and the world is watching.”

In the coming assault on the town of Marja in the Helmand Province – current stronghold of the Taliban – the U.S. Marines want the ANA (Afghan National Army) to take the lead.

Nicholson said Afghan security forces would hopefully head the Marja operation, with extensive training planned for the next few months.

“We’re going to come in together. We’re going to take Marja back,” Nicholson said, adding that a district governor had already been selected for the town.

“We’re building a team around him of Afghans and US and UK representatives to go in and … try to take care of people quickly.”

A centrepiece of Obama’s Afghanistan strategy is the training of Afghan security forces to a point where Nato forces can withdraw. Obama has said that a US troop withdrawal would begin in 18 months, raising alarm bells among some in the Afghan political and military leadership, who fear being abandoned.

But can the ANA perform this function as quickly as we might like?  Recall that I have observed that:

We have watched the ANA engage in drug abuse, smoke hashish before patrols, collude with Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops, themselves claim that they cannot hold Helmand without Marines and fear being killed if they even go out into the streets, be relatively ineffective against Taliban fighters, sleep on their watch, and claim to be on vacation in the Helmand Province.

Now, via Bruce Rolston, here is a report on the current state of the ANA that is of immeasurable value.

Creating an Army isn’t about teaching them to shoot straight.  It’s about having the cultural, religious, familial and historical underpinnings that will support the personal sacrifice for something greater than oneself.  This cannot possibly be created in two years.

Counterinsurgency at a sprint sounds nice, but sooner or later we must face reality.  If we are going to rely on the ANA to do the heavy lifting for us, it’s going to be a very long time before they will be ready.

Postscript: For proponents of population-centric counterinsurgency, it should be pointed out that there is an alternative.



  • Warbucks

    Lt. Col West (linked above as “alternative” is really worth watching a couple of times). I believe there is another ethos taking root in the West. I could be wrong of course because it’s only intuitive and not well supported with data points. Bear with me as I confess my ignorance: I post sometimes as the “MORNING MYSTIC”. Let me explain.

    There are some important developing studies on this question, around the thesis that the West will have no problem with integrating Muslim society that can emerge with elements that support (a) democracy and (b) constitution law and (c) the rule of western law and justice, (d) equal rights and freedom of religion…. but, given that, at what point is the greater Islamic society morally accountable for the continued acts of terrorism and its own failure to control its own.

    We in the West are one captured nuclear weapon base away from a tipping point of holding “all Islam accountable.”… meaning total war and willingness to use our heavy arsenal to irradiate the problem. I’ve posted a couple of my “Morning Mystic” observations on this matter:

    The idea of the Morning Mystic is that at 3:00am to 5:30am following a night’s sleep, our brain wave activity is from time to calmed and open to deep collective consciousness experiences and feelings which often contain accurate predictive qualities of the larger society or collective. This is a recent such experience and the thoughts derived therefrom. These thoughts represent collective fears and help identify road blocks around which we might plan and work to avoid worse-case scenarios:

    “The weakness and failure after nearly 10 years now of war, of the moderate Islamic mainstream to deal internally with their own, screams of complicity wrought by systemic political corruption and contributes to the end game of war… which we men of war know well how to augment.

    “Do not test us further of our resolve. This is a war that must not be lost. It’s energy may fade in this President but know that we are not in a war for profit, we are in a war for our souls and the soul of our country and if it takes down this President and several Presidents more, we will prevail.

    “If not this current President, then bring him, his cabinet, his lack of ability to lead, fight, and protect us in war, the aura of his personal search for world power above our own national interest, bring them all to their quick and deserved political end.”

  • Pingback: Jules Crittenden » Empire’s Burial Unearthed


You are currently reading "Counterinsurgency at a Sprint", entry #4357 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghan National Army,Afghanistan,Counterinsurgency and was published December 30th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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