3 years, 11 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.