Afghan National Security Forces: Promise or Problem?

BY Herschel Smith
6 years, 4 months ago

Jim Foley gives us a little room for hope in the Afghan National Army.

… this was the first time the Afghans attached to HHT 1-75 had decided they were going after a bad guy.  It shows the importance of getting native soldiers who can speak the language and know the culture, off the Forward Operating Bases and out into the problem towns etc.  Captain Krayer said it was the first patrol the ANA had gone on without the U.S.  Also the first one they’d acted on their own intelligence gathering.

I’ve seen U.S. forces try to place Afghans in critical areas in Kunar and down in Kandhar after larger offensive operations.  In most cases the ANA/ or Afghan Police failed to hold the area- following Eagle Strike in Kunar the ANP supposedly abandoned their positions after a few weeks.  And in one of the most contested clearing operations in a heavily IED-ed strip called Macwan here in Kandahar, where two U.S. have been killed and many more wounded, the ANP are still dragging their feet on putting up an outpost.

Still, I can’t forget the speed and control the ANA were able to use in apprehending the suspects.  Some U.S. guys later joked they still would be out there trying to blow through grape walls if it had been done jointly.  The U.S. would surely have done it safer, but probably wouldn’t have been able to identify the suspects, much less nab them.

Read Jim’s entire writeup.  In this case the ANA showed some promise.  In other areas, the ANP is showing how bad things are in parts of the Afghan National Security Force.

An Afghan police unit cut a deal with insurgents to torch their own police station and defect, government officials said yesterday, in a bitter parody of the Government-led effort to bring rebel fighters in from the cold.

The incident triggered hours of pillaging as insurgents swept into a remote district south-west of Kabul, burnt government buildings, stole weapons, food and pick-up trucks, and escaped along with 16 policemen who were in on the plot. Nato and Afghan forces re-took the district in the volatile province of Ghazni the same morning.

The reintegration programme, one of the main planks in the Government’s efforts to make peace with the Taliban, offers low-level fighters amnesty and vocational training if they switch sides-or rejoin the “national mainstream”, in President Hamid Karzai’s words.

The programme has met with some success: yesterday 15 insurgents in western Afghanistan handed over their weapons and promised to lobby other insurgents to do the same.

But despite pledges from the international community of millions of dollars to the programme, there have been consistent reports of promises of training and support being broken. And many potential defectors are thought to be too scared of Taliban retribution, and doubtful of the Government’s ability to protect them, to make the change.

In Ghazni, provincial governor Musa Khan Akbarzada said that police stationed in Khogyani had handed over the district to the militants without a shot being fired, contradicting some earlier reports that the rebels had seized the area by force. When coalition forces arrived three hours later the attackers simply melted away.

A Taliban spokesman claimed that the police had switched sides after “learning the facts about the Taliban,” according to The New York Times.

“We never force people to join us,” he said. “The police joined us voluntarily and are happy to work with us and to start the holy war shoulder to shoulder with their Taliban brothers.”

Some news articles are focusing on astoundingly stupid things like whether ANP stations are being constructed according to seismic design criteria (yes, seriously).  Still short of answering the all-important question of whether the stations are able to withstand earthquakes, there is the question of whether the ANP should even be there.  If they are loyal to the Taliban (or only to themselves), then they have no business being employed.

And that’s the root of at least one problem.  The U.S. has made it clear that we want more ANP, even more than doubling the current size.  I advocate exactly the opposite approach.  We need a smaller Afghan National Security Force, both ANA and ANP.  Since the U.S. controls the purse strings, it doesn’t work to say that we don’t have authority over this process.  That “dog won’t hunt.”

We need a smaller, more reliable, well trained, force that will do the things that Jim Foley observed, and even more efficiently.  U.S. troops should be working hard to ferret out those who will and those who won’t, send home those who won’t, and give the extra pay to those who will.  Incentive is a common motivator for all mankind.

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4 Comments on "Afghan National Security Forces: Promise or Problem?"

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dennis
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will that’s just great. And I agree with you in part, But remember karzai wants his beloved ANP to take over guard duty’s for the contractors and aid workers when he removes the PSC. turning there guns on us will be easy now.

BruceR
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Herschel, the dog hunts just fine: the U.S. has controlled the purse strings of the ANSF for nine years, and not a single Afghan soldier has ever been jailed, fined, or even “sent home” because an American felt he deserved it, in all that time. If you asked any American soldier from Petraeus on down how that could even possibly happen, they’d look at you blankly. You’re not going to start now. Sorry, but it’s true. If it was ever anyone significant, Karzai’s office or the defense ministry would reinstate within hours. I’ve seen it done. If Karzai was ever kicked out his successor would have the same policy. So what else have you got?

BruceR
Member
Herschel, you’re right that there’s no need to be testy. If I came across as such I apologize. If we can mix animal metaphors, it’s not that the dog wouldn’t ever hunt, it’s that what you’re advocating is a case closing the barn house door after the dog has left. You talk in the Iraq context about the lack of a good SOFA now. Well, I’m saying there is a very strong SOFA-type understanding between ISAF and the Afghan government that would be almost impossible to alter now in the ways you’re advocating. I think you make a very strong case that the political and military autonomy undertakings that we have given to the Afghans in this case years ago were not well thought out. I tend to agree that a smaller force, with more limited goals, building incrementally on and rewarding success, would seem in hindsight to have been a more sustainable approach. Growing big and fast in a shooting war in the absence of any Afghan accountability for results achieved is not optimal. I’ve been writing posts to that effect for the last 18 months (starting here: http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/archives/2009_05_08.html#006410). But any approach like that would have required a very… Read more »
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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghan National Army,Afghan National Police,Afghanistan and was published November 4th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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