Archive for the 'Afghan National Police' Category



Here is your Afghan National Army

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

General McChrystal’s report to Secretary Gates lays the groundwork for a request for 40,000+ more U.S. troops.  The actual need for troops will be higher than that.  McChrystal’s report relies heavily on Afghan National Security Forces (Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police), closely following the strategy laid out by CNAS to ramp up the readiness of ANA.  But the left side of the isle doesn’t have the sole claim for plans to rely heavily on ANA.  Kimberly and Frederick Kagan also recommend a similar reliance on a rapid increase in the size of the ANA to provide the necessary troops for population security.

But recall the problems that we have documented concerning the ANA.

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.

There has been robust debate concerning whether these examples are typical of regular behavior, but the reports of ANA problems keep being filed.  One particularly troubling one comes from David Pugliese the Ottawa Citizen.

Army staff and National Defence headquarters officials were told in 2007 that young boys had allegedly been sexually abused by Afghan security forces at a Canadian base in Afghanistan, but the concern at the time was that the incident might be reported in the news media, according to military records obtained by the Citizen.

In addition, last year Brig.-Gen. J.C. Collin, commander of Land Force Central Area, passed on to the senior army leadership the concerns raised by military police who said they had been told by their commanders not to interfere in incidents in which Afghan forces were having sex with children.

The newly released records raise questions about a military investigation that earlier this year concluded that allegations about sexual abuse of Afghan children by members of the Afghan army and police were unfounded. The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service also stated that its thorough investigation concluded allegations of such incidents were never reported to Canadian military commanders.

The allegations first surfaced publicly in June 2008 after concerns about the incidents, originally raised by soldiers and military chaplains, were reported in the news media.

Former Cpl. Travis Schouten told military officials he had witnessed an Afghan boy being sodomized by two Afghan security personnel at Canada’s Forward Operating Base Wilson in Afghanistan in 2006. Another soldier also came forward to a Toronto newspaper to report a similar occurrence at the same base in 2006. A military chaplain talked about the abuse in a report sent up the chain of command at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. Two other chaplains have also come forward to state that soldiers came to them upset about such abuses.

The issue is sensitive for the Canadian Forces and the federal government as the Afghanistan mission has been promoted to the public as being about protecting Afghan civilians. The Afghan National Army and police are seen as key to Canada’s military withdrawal from that country in 2011.

It is the position of the Canadian Forces that its troops have no jurisdiction over the activities of Afghan military and police personnel, even those operating on Canadian bases.

The military records obtained by the Citizen through the Access to Information law note that a 90-minute meeting was held between an army public affairs staff member and a member of army commander Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie’s executive staff in the summer/fall of 2007. According to the June 2008 e-mail written by Lt.-Col. Stephane Grenier, an adviser on operational stress injuries, the meeting focused on various controversies that might be brought out in the news media, including, “ANP/ANA members having anal sex with young boys.”

ANP stands for Afghan National Police while ANA refers to Afghan National Army.

A second meeting about Afghan police and soldiers having sex with children was held later that week at National Defence headquarters involving senior members of the Defence Department’s civilian and military public affairs staff, according to the e-mail.

In addition, on June 18, 2008, Brig.-Gen. J.C. Collin, commander of Land Force Central Area, passed on to Leslie’s staff and Brig.-Gen. Ian Poulter the concerns raised by several military police officers. Collin called the e-mail from the military police commander, “rather disconcerting.”

Included were details from military police who noted it was well known among Canadian troops that ANA and ANP personnel had sex with kids. Another was upset that military police were told not to intervene in such matters, according to the e-mail.

Also queued up is a recent report by Ann Jones for the Asia Times.

In the heat of this summer, I went out to the training fields near Kabul where Afghan army recruits are put through their paces, and it was quickly evident just what’s getting lost in translation. Our trainers, soldiers from the Illinois National Guard, were masterful. Professional and highly skilled, they were dedicated to carrying out their mission – and doing the job well. They were also big, strong, camouflaged, combat-booted, supersized American men, their bodies swollen by flack jackets and lashed with knives, handguns, and god only knows what else. Any American could be proud of their commitment to tough duty.

The Afghans were puny by comparison: hundreds of little Davids to the overstuffed American Goliaths training them. Keep in mind: Afghan recruits come from a world of desperate poverty. They are almost uniformly malnourished and underweight. Many are no bigger than I am (1.6 meters and thin) – and some probably not much stronger. Like me, many sag under the weight of a standard-issue flack jacket.

Their American trainers spoke of “upper body strength deficiency” and prescribed pushups because their trainees buckle under the backpacks filled with 50 pounds (110 kilograms) of equipment and ammo they are expected to carry. All this material must seem absurd to men whose fathers and brothers, wearing only the old cotton shirts and baggy pants of everyday life and carrying battered Russian Kalashnikov rifles, defeated the Red Army two decades ago. American trainers marvel that, freed from heavy equipment and uniforms, Afghan soldiers can run through the mountains all day – as the Taliban guerrillas in fact do with great effect – but the US military is determined to train them for another style of war.

Still, the new recruits turn out for training in the blistering heat in this stony desert landscape wearing, beneath their heavy uniforms, the smart red, green, and black warm-up outfits intended to encourage them to engage in off-duty exercise. American trainers recognize that recruits regularly wear all their gear at once for fear somebody will steal anything left behind in the barracks, but they take this overdressing as a sign of how much Afghans love the military.

My own reading, based on my observations of Afghan life during the years I’ve spent in that country, is this: It’s a sign of how little they trust one another, or the Americans who gave them the snazzy suits. I think it also indicates the obvious: that these impoverished men in a country without work have joined the Afghan National Army for what they can get out of it (and keep or sell) – and that doesn’t include democracy or glory.

In the current policy debate about the Afghan War in Washington, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin wants the Afghans to defend their country. Senator John McCain, the top Republican on the committee, agrees but says they need even more help from even more Americans. The common ground – the sacred territory Obama gropes for – is that, whatever else happens, the US must speed up the training of “the Afghan security forces”.

American military planners and policymakers already proceed as if, with sufficient training, Afghans can be transformed into scale-model, wind-up American Marines. That is not going to happen. Not now. Not ever. No matter how many of our leaders concur that it must happen – and ever faster …

The current projected “end strength” for the ANA, to be reached in December 2011, is 134,000 men; but Afghan officers told me they’re planning for a force of 200,000, while the Western press often cites 240,000 as the final figure.

The number 400,000 is often mentioned as the supposed end-strength quota for the combined security forces – an army of 240,000 soldiers and a police force with 160,000 men. Yet Afghan National Police officials also speak of a far more inflated figure, 250,000, and they claim that 149,000 men have already been trained. Police training has always proven problematic, however, in part because, from the start, the European allies fundamentally disagreed with the Bush administration about what the role of the Afghan police should be.

Ann goes on to document the poor training of the ANP and the disagreement within both the ISAF and Afghanistan concerning exactly what the capabilities of the ANP should be.  In either case, the ANP are widely known as corrupt and criminal people who don’t have the best interests of the Afghans at heart.  The ANP is horrible, and more horrible still.  Whether it’s the ANP who require bribes or the ANA who pluck the chickens of the locals when they enter their homes, the Afghan National Security Forces are not yet fully trusted by their own people, much less the ISAF, and for very good reason.

There is big trouble looming for those who believe that the ANSF is our strategy for a rapid exit.  This doesn’t mean that the campaign is not winnable.  It does mean, however, that there will be no rapid exit if we are to succeed.  Western armies are the greatest on earth, no only with the requisite moral and social underpinnings of the institutions but also an NCO corps that makes them unique compared to Middle Eastern armies.  Standing up an Afghanistan army will be very difficult, especially one that is large enough to assist in the campaign but also small enough to be supported by the GNP of the country.  Whatever final size obtains, it will almost certainly be too large to be supported by Afghanistan alone.

The need of the hour is ANSF that is somewhat smaller, but much more reliable, more well trained and disciplined, and more respected by the Afghans.  The need is not numbers.  The need is an ANSF that actually contributes to the campaign.  Also needed are more U.S. troops to perform counterinsurgency operations in the mean time, including killing the enemy and protecting the population from the same.  More troops to train the ANSF is a romantic idea, but the notion that we can quickly rely on them is pure myth.

UPDATE:

From the Daily Times of Pakistan.

… much of the recruitment that has brought the strength of the Afghan army to some 89,000 has come from Tajik areas, perhaps because Pashtuns have been intimidated into not joining, or perhaps because of the policies adopted by the largely Tajik-dominated bureaucracy of the Afghan defence ministry. The increase already approved to 134,000 will also come in current conditions from the Tajiks or other minority ethnic groups.

The further increase to 240,000 which has or will be proposed by Gen McChrystal will further compound the problem, of having a national army in which the largest ethnic group is underrepresented, and may give added reason for the Pashtuns to identify with the Taliban.

An internal Afghan problem, but affecting our efforts nonetheless.

Afghanistan: What is the Strategy?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

Colonel Gian Gentile continues to point out the obvious dictum that counterinsurgency is not a strategy.  It is a set of tactics rolled up into a discrete form of military operation.  But it may not be so obvious to everyone.  Beyond implementing certain kinds of tactics (tactics that by themselves, i.e., without the necessary force projection, do nothing, or worse yet, harm the campaign), what is the overarching plan for the campaign?

The populist narrative can be found at a recent Huffington Post article.

From a strategic and financial perspective, the push to bolster the numbers and quality of the Afghan forces makes clear sense. On the strategic level, the coalition simply doesn’t have enough troops to satisfy the “clear, hold and build” formula of the counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban. Earlier this year, the Director of National Intelligence, former Admiral Dennis Blair, told Congress that the Afghan forces were less than one-tenth the size necessary to defend country. And as McChrystal has noted, “The demand and the supply don’t line up, even with the new troops that are coming in.” The financial equation is equally apparent. In pure dollar terms, the U.S. can field and train 60 Afghans for the price of one deployed American soldier.

Tactics and dollars are important criterion by which to evaluate the proposal; however, the real value of increasing the strength and size of the Afghan forces is less obvious. A successful counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan will require the coalition to protect the civilian population and win their support in the fight against the Taliban. With these goals in mind, strengthening the Afghanistan National Army and Police may represent the single most important aspect of McChyrstal’s new strategy.

Why? Because bolstering the Afghan security forces will not only restore trust in coalition forces, but also build Afghans’ confidence in the future of the country.

So the overall strategic goal is to train the Afghan National Army, start them up more quickly, and make the size of the ANA larger.  It’s simple math according to the Huffington Post.  Get 60 for one – what a deal.  But like used car salesmen, when you’re told that there is a deal waiting for you, it’s a lie.  There are no deals, and how a country with the GNP of Afghanistan is going to support a professional ANA of this size of simply not yet even on the drawing board of the planners.

Recall our coverage of the ANA? We have watched 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.

But if the Huffington Post is the idiot’s narrative for the “new strategy,” there is a moderately more sophisticated version on the other side of the political isle.  It comes from Fred Kagan, who argued at the National Review Online (a link that is no longer valid) that the number of forces per non-combatant required in FM 3-24 could be filled by ANA, not U.S. or NATO forces.  So Kagan argues for the same counterinsurgency tactics as a strategy, but concurs with the notion of a rapid startup of ANA in lieu of U.S. force presence.

“The surge of forces that some (including me) are proposing is intended to bridge the gap between current Afghan capacity and their future capacity, while simultaneously reducing the insurgency’s capabilities. Whatever may happen in Afghanistan, counterinsurgency theory does not call for the deployment of hundreds of thousands of coalition forces for decades.”

The Afghan National Police are horrible, and even more horrible still.  The ANP cannot be relied upon any time soon, but is the assessment we have made of the ANA above still accurate after lo these many days (30 or so) since we opined?  Well, when Julie Jacobson isn’t wasting her time taking photos that should never have been published, she is actually doing some fairly good reporting in certain instances (but one has to wade through the trash to find it).  This kind of report is what she should have been doing all along, since it actually informs the reader.

It was freakin’ hot. About 115 degrees. The patrol started at 11 a.m. I don’t know whose bright idea it was to start it at that time. We started walking in two columns. Not five minutes out of the post gunfire erupted from the hillside to our right. We all just started running for cover behind walls. The ANA dropped into holes to provide cover but I don’t think they ever fired a shot. They just kind of sat there staring. All the cover fire came from the Marine support vehicles.

So the ANA dropped into holes and never fired in this kinetic engagement.  How are they doing with the whole winning hearts and minds tactic?  This account gives us pause.

The U.S. military is reaching out to civilians more now that NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has made gaining popular support the crux of his counterinsurgency strategy.

While that includes doling out cash, it also means consulting villagers in a region where local councils are a normal means of decision-making — including allowing residents directly affected by operations to air their grievances.

Abdul-Hamid, his wife, and their 10 children, for instance, endured a terrifying, middle-of-the-night ordeal on the outskirts of Dahaneh, a longtime Taliban stronghold stormed last week by Marines from Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines.

The Marines arrived by helicopter in the middle of the night, shoving M-16s in the family members’ faces as multiple squads stormed through. At one point, one of the farmer’s adult sons cried softly because his plastic handcuffs were so tight his fingers turned purple.

The Marines then used explosives to burst through the wall into the compound belonging to Abdul-Hamid’s neighbor. A baby started crying after the second explosion sent shrapnel and debris flying high over Abdul-Hamid’s courtyard.

Minutes later, the Taliban in town had regrouped and begun firing rockets, mortars and missiles at the Marines resisting from Abdul-Hamid’s and his neighbor’s compounds.

Barely two days after that, Abdul-Hamid sat down with village elders, Afghan army officers and a dozen Marines, discussing how to improve relations and bring normalcy back to Dahaneh.

The elders wanted their detained clansmen freed, which Marines said would happen once they’d been fully investigated. The elders assured the troops that no Taliban were left in town and pledged to press fleeing civilians to return.

Abdul-Hamid wanted the troops to return to his house, where Afghan soldiers who’d moved in along with the Marines were already plucking chickens from his courtyard.

There you have it.  Plucking the chickens of the locals.  The reality of the situation is that the planning for ANA troops has been there all along.  There is nothing new regardless of what the Huffington Post says, and this still won’t work in the short term regardless of what Fred Kagan says.  Afghanistan is a long term commitment, and without the force projection by professional troops such as the U.S. Army and Marines, the campaign is lost.

Marines Fight Taliban With Little Aid From Afghans

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 2 months ago

The New York Times has a must-read on the state of the fight in parts of the Helmand Province.  It’s a sad tale of corruption, ineptitude, laziness and lack of governmental viability.  There are a few money quotes that will be called out below.

Governor Massoud has no body of advisers to help run the area, no doctors to provide health care, no teachers, no professionals to do much of anything. About all he says he does have are police officers who steal and a small group of Afghan soldiers who say they are here for “vacation.”

[ ... ]

Meanwhile, Afghans in Khan Neshin, the Marines’ southernmost outpost in Helmand Province, are coming to the Americans with requests for medical care, repairs of clogged irrigation canals and the reopening of schools.

“Without the Afghan government, we will not be successful,” said Capt. Korvin Kraics, the battalion’s lawyer, who is in Khan Neshin. “You need local-level bureaucracy to defeat the insurgency. Without the stability that brings, the Taliban can continue to maintain control.”

[ ... ]

The Marines, unlike units in some other regions, answer to a NATO-led command and are under orders to defer to Afghan military and civilian officials, even if there are none nearby.

For instance, Marines must release detainees after 96 hours or turn them over to Afghan forces for prosecution, even if the nearest prosecutors or judges are 80 miles away. Some detainees who the Marines say are plainly implicated in attacks using improvised explosive devices or mortars have been released.

[ ... ]

The Afghan National Army contingent appears sharper — even if only one-sixth the size that Governor Massoud said he was promised — but the soldiers have resisted some missions because they say they were sent not to fight, but to recuperate.

“We came here to rest, then we are going somewhere else,” said Lt. Javed Jabar Khail, commander of the 31-man unit. The Marines say they hope the next batch of Afghan soldiers will not be expecting a holiday.

First, concerning the issue of the attitude of the Afghan National Army (ANA), this is a depressing account of lazy and cowardly troops who are relying on the Marines to do the heavy lifting in the Province.  Furthermore, they are liars.  No ANA soldier really believes that he has been sent to the worst Province in Afghanistan to take a vacation.  This is one more in our stable of accounts of the poor training, inept personnel, untrustworthiness, lazy attitude and lack of professionalism that plagues the ANA.  As for ANP stealing, this corruption is one more in a large number of accounts that confirm that they cannot be trusted in any circumstance or with any authority whatsoever.

Second, the attitude the Marines are taking to the fight is dissimilar to the fight in Anbar, and relies too heavily on Afghan help.  The government is not strong enough, the ANA not professional enough, and the courts too corrupt and distant to make a difference in Afghanistan right now.  As for the complaint from the Battalion lawyer (why is a Battalion lawyer telling us what it takes to win a counterinsurgency?), he apparently never spent time in the Anbar Province.  It relied heavily on Marines doing exactly what is being done now in Helmand.  To be sure, the governmental institutions need to be brought along, but relying on them before it is time leads to things like releasing IED makers and emplacers who then go back to blowing the legs off of Marines.  It’s worse than stupid.  It’s immoral when it can be done differently.

Third, the problem we just described sounds like we are already operating under an effective status of forces agreement with Afghanistan, whether formal or not.  This is a mistake that will lead irrevocably to loss of the campaign.  Our deference to the Afghan government won’t convince any Afghan to show or have the same respect.  Respect is earned, not granted.

Finally, if the Marines are indeed actually operating as ISAF forces rather than under the purview of CENTCOM (can someone confirm or dispute this?), then this is an error of staggering proportions, and Commandant Conway has lost his bearings if he agreed to such an arrangement for the U.S. Marines.  This error should be immediately undone and the Marines untethered to operate independently from ISAF / NATO.

Prior on ANA: Afghan National Army Category

Prior on ANP: Afghan National Police

Doubling the Size of the Afghan Security Force

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 2 months ago

From Bloomberg:

President Barack Obama and top U.S. military commanders are being pressed by senators and civilian advisers to more than double the size of Afghan security forces, a move that would cost billions of dollars.

In letters and face-to-face meetings, the lawmakers and the advisers have urged Obama, National Security Advisor Jim Jones and the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan to boost the Afghan National Army and police from current levels of 175,000 to at least 400,000.

“Any further postponement” of a decision to support a surge in Afghan forces will hamper U.S. efforts to quell an insurgency in its eighth year, Senators Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, and Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, wrote to the White House in a July 21 letter obtained by Bloomberg News.

General Stanley McChrystal, the new U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, will recommend a speedier expansion of Afghan forces beyond current targets in an assessment he will give within a month to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, according to a senior military official familiar with the review.

McChrystal’s report won’t propose how many additional U.S. or NATO troops may be needed to train those Afghan forces or to boost the U.S. fighting effort, the official said, adding that any discussion of U.S. and NATO troop strength will come later.

U.S. intelligence agencies, in a document submitted to the Senate Intelligence Committee April 24, estimated the Afghan Army alone would need to grow to 325,000 — more than triple its current strength — to mount an effective counterinsurgency.

We’ve seen all of this before.  In Iraq instead of targeting the insurgency the way it should have been in 2004 and 2005, we increased the size of the ISF and stated that we would “stand down when they stood up” (excepting the Marines in Anbar who were in a bloody counterinsurgency operation beginning in 2004).  It wouldn’t have mattered if we had increased the size of the ISF to a million troops.    With incompetence, sectarianism and desertion, it would be (and will continue to be) a long time before the ISF is a legitimate armed forces on par with the balance of the nations of the world.

A brief rundown of the problems include a culture of entitlement, culture of dishonesty, mistrust and corruption that seems to dominate the Middle East and Central Asia.  This manifests itself in an officer corps that lords it over the enlisted ranks and the lack of a viable NCO corps (see Norvelle B. De Atkine, Why Arabs Lose Wars and Concerning the Importance of NCOs).  In Afghanistan the problems appear to be even worse, with lack of a nationalistic infrastructure or culture, drug addiction, and corruption so bad that it makes the population prefer Taliban rule to the Afghan National Police.

Dr. John Nagl, no more than about six months ago, advocated approximately 600,000 troops for Afghanistan.  When CNAS (which is advising the Obama administration) released its study on Afghanistan, it became obvious that they had dropped their advocacy for large additions of U.S. troops to Afghanistan.  Instead, it now appears that the plan is to increase the total force to around 600,000 by rapidly increasing the size of the ANA and ANP.

For the record, while we have advocated larger U.S. troop additions for Afghanistan (and also did so before it was popular for Iraq), The Captain’s Journal has never believed that defeat of the insurgency in Afghanistan would require 600,000 troops, and certainly won’t require 400,000 Afghan Security Forces.  We’re pushing numbers when we should be pushing quality.  There is even question whether Afghanistan can support a national security force which requires half of its GDP.

As troop strength gradually decreases in Iraq, it will need to be increased in Afghanistan, perhaps as high as 125,000 troops or even more (at least twice the current U.S. force size), and certainly better supplied with logistics and helicopters.  But the goal should be a smaller Afghan Security Force than 400,000 troops, vetted, free of drug addiction, well trained, and disciplined to fight rather than run away from the Taliban.  Such a force would make quick work of the Taliban.  But developing this force is long term work, requiring taking and holding terrain, both physical and human.  As General Petraeus said, Afghanistan will be the longest campaign of the long war, and in order to bring it to an acceptable conclusion, the Obama administration must begin to see it that way rather than searching for a rapid exit strategy.

Prior on the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police:

The Contribution of the Afghan National Army in the Battle of Wanat

Concerning that Robust Afghan National Security Force

The Marines Must Hold Helmand

The Sorry State of the Afghan National Police

Where is the Afghan National Army?

Afghan National Army in Operation Khanjar – Or Not

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Concerning that Robust Afghan National Security Force

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 3 months ago

Joshua Foust has given us a rundown of what he sees as contradictions in Andrew Exum’s prose concerning Afghanistan.  Particularly salient is one specific paragraph that Andrew uttered.

Nowhere that I went was I able to get a really coherent definition of what it means to hold and what it means to build, and how you do that. And I don’t think we’ve cracked the nut operationally on how we do those things. So first off, I think there’s some confusion as far as what that means. Second off, without question, we do not have the resources to hold much terrain in Afghanistan. We’ve got very limited international forces in Afghanistan, and we’re actually not using them to their best effect if we’ve got them “holding.” So if the Marines in Helmand are holding terrain right now, that’s a waste of resources. The “hold” function should be executed by a robust Afghan national security force.

Oh Good Lord! After admitting that the campaign is under-resourced, he claims that the Marines are wasting resources by holding Helmand.  The Marines, according to Andrew, should turn over to a “robust Afghan national security force.”

Do tell?  So which robust Afghan National Security Force are we discussing, Andrew?  Would it be those Afghan National Police?

Afghan villagers had complained to the U.S. Marines for days: The police are the problem, not the Taliban. They steal from villagers and beat them. Days later, the Marines learned firsthand what the villagers meant.

As about 150 Marines and Afghan soldiers approached the police headquarters in the Helmand River town of Aynak, the police fired four gunshots at the combined force. No larger fight broke out, but once inside the headquarters the Marines found a raggedy force in a decrepit mud-brick compound that the police used as an open-pit toilet.

The meeting was tense. Some police were smoking pot. Others loaded their guns in a threatening manner near the Marines.  The U.S. troops ousted the police two days later and installed a better trained force they had brought with them on their recently launched operation into southern Helmand. The original force was sent away for several weeks of training the U.S. is conducting across Afghanistan to professionalize the country’s police.

And more data:

“The police are just worthless,” fumed Fulat Khan, 20, when Haight said his troops were backing up the local cops. “Anytime there is a fight in the community, the police just laugh and watch it. We need an organization or a number we can call so somebody can come here and help us.”

No?  Or maybe Andrew is referring to that 85% of the Afghan National Army that would be lost if they implemented drug testing.  No?  Maybe he is referring to that ANA that actually colluded with the Taliban to kill U.S. troops at the Battle of Bari Alai?

No?  Pray tell, Exum.  Where do we get these robust Afghan National Security Forces?  Do we wave a magic wand of strategic words from CNAS and make them appear out of thin air?  If Mr. Obama wants them to exist badly enough, does it make it so?

Exum embarrasses himself by presuming to tell the Marine Corps that they are wasting resources or anything else (as if the USMC cannot figure out how to spend their time).  He is not nearly as smart as he thinks he is, and despite Exum’s stolid miscalculations, the Marines must hold Helmand.

The Marines Must Hold Helmand

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 3 months ago

Spencer Ackerman points to a Washington Post article on the paucity of Afghan National Army troops and lack of viable Afghan National Police in recent Marine Corps operations in the Helmand Province.

“Six, you’ve got six,” Marine 1st Lt. Justin Grieco told his military police training team, counting the handful of Afghan police officers present for a patrol in this volatile region of southern Afghanistan.

The men filed out of the dusty compound gate into the baking afternoon sun. On the patrol, U.S. military police officers outnumbered the Afghans two to one — a reflection of the severe shortfall in Afghan security forces working with Marines in Helmand province.

President Obama’s strategy for Afghanistan is heavily dependent upon raising more capable local security forces, but the myriad challenges faced by mentors such as Grieco underscore just how limiting a factor that is — especially in the Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan.

The extent of the push by 4,500 Marines into Taliban strongholds of southern Helmand will be determined, to a degree, by whether there are enough qualified Afghan forces to partner with and eventually leave behind to protect Afghan civilians. Brig. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, commander of the Marine forces here, said urgent efforts are underway to dispatch additional Afghan forces to Helmand.

But here in Helmand’s Garmsir district — as in much of the south — Afghan forces remain few in number, as well as short of training, equipment and basic supplies such as fuel and ammunition. Some Afghans quit because they are reluctant to work in the violent south; others are expelled because of drug use. The Afghan troops here, heavily dependent on Western forces, are hesitating to take on greater responsibilities — and, in some cases, are simply refusing to do so.

The Afghan National Police officers mentored by Grieco’s team, for example, are resisting a U.S. military effort to have them expand to checkpoints in villages outside the town center of Garmsir as the Marines push farther south, taking with them the Afghan Border Police officers, who currently man some of those stations.

Without the Marines, we cannot secure the stations,” said Mohammed Agha, deputy commander of the roughly 80 Garmsir police officers. “We can’t go to other villages because of the mines, and some people have weapons hidden in their houses. We can’t go out of Garmsir, or we will be killed.”

Spencer goes on to observe that:

So the operation was planned months ago and yet the Afghan security forces and civilian officials needed to follow on the Marines’ gains nevertheless appear to be absent or incompetent …

Now perhaps there’s furious behind-the-scenes negotiation to enlist more Afghan support. Indeed, if part of the point of the Helmand operation is to demonstrate to the Afghans — civilians and insurgents alike — that there’s a capable counterinsurgency strategy in place, it would hardly make sense to focus just on the clearing aspect of the strategy.

Spencer is knowledgeable on Afghanistan, so his surprise at the lack of viable ANA and ANP is surprising.  The statements in bold above should be considered in the context of the previous data we have gathered:

Afghan villagers had complained to the U.S. Marines for days: The police are the problem, not the Taliban. They steal from villagers and beat them. Days later, the Marines learned firsthand what the villagers meant.

As about 150 Marines and Afghan soldiers approached the police headquarters in the Helmand River town of Aynak, the police fired four gunshots at the combined force. No larger fight broke out, but once inside the headquarters the Marines found a raggedy force in a decrepit mud-brick compound that the police used as an open-pit toilet.

The meeting was tense. Some police were smoking pot. Others loaded their guns in a threatening manner near the Marines.  The U.S. troops ousted the police two days later and installed a better trained force they had brought with them on their recently launched operation into southern Helmand. The original force was sent away for several weeks of training the U.S. is conducting across Afghanistan to professionalize the country’s police.

And more data:

“The police are just worthless,” fumed Fulat Khan, 20, when Haight said his troops were backing up the local cops. “Anytime there is a fight in the community, the police just laugh and watch it. We need an organization or a number we can call so somebody can come here and help us.”

Add to this the problem that the ANA are drug-addicted and incompetent (it has been estimated that the ANA would lose as much as 85% of their force if drug testing was implemented), and the problem is that no matter how furiously we negotiate or gather qualified and competent ANA or ANP, there are none to be had.  Obama’s exit strategy which relies on very rapid functional turnover to Afghan forces is doomed to failure if pressed without any modifications.  The ANA won’t be ready until years down the road (2014), if then.

There is no tactical or logistical failure in the Helmand operations.  It’s not that we simply failed to deploy the ready-made ANA and ANP to Helmand along with the Marines so that they could hold terrain that the Marines take.  This meme is getting tiresome, and it’s time that CENTCOM acquiesce to the truth.  It is that the Marines are in it for the long haul, just as it was with Anbar.  There are no ANA or ANP to whom we can turn over.  The Marines must hold Helmand.

The Sorry State of the Afghan National Police

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 3 months ago

Tim Lynch gives us this update on the state of the Afghan Police from his perspective.

There is not much good to report from Afghanistan at the moment. With armed criminality reaching epidemic proportions there is a flood of stories about the dismal state of the Afghan National Police (ANP). The Afghan police are not just ineffective – they are despised by rural people who will take the hard tyranny of the Taliban over being preyed upon by the police. This article puts the blame for Afghanistan’s dysfunctional police force on the Germans but that is BS. The Department of State has spent over 10 BILLION on their cookie cutter law enforcement training program which I have written about before. There is only one way to get the police to perform and that is to live with them, mentor them daily, and make them perform. Mentor teams who live on FOB’s and commute to the job become targets because their routine is fixed and predictable. The civilian contractors who work out of the gigantic regional training centers are essential worthless inflicting death by PowerPoint on their students.  What can they teach an Afghan cop about being an Afghan cop? Afghanistan cops are functioning as a paramilitary organization and are trained, armed and deployed as such. But some, perhaps a great many have retained the thuggish ways of warlord sponsored foot soldiers and that is obviously not too good.

The Marines continue to hold all the area they claimed in their massive operation and they too are finding the Afghan security forces to be their biggest problem.

Examining the Azcentral.com article a little more.

Afghan villagers had complained to the U.S. Marines for days: The police are the problem, not the Taliban. They steal from villagers and beat them. Days later, the Marines learned firsthand what the villagers meant.

As about 150 Marines and Afghan soldiers approached the police headquarters in the Helmand River town of Aynak, the police fired four gunshots at the combined force. No larger fight broke out, but once inside the headquarters the Marines found a raggedy force in a decrepit mud-brick compound that the police used as an open-pit toilet.

The meeting was tense. Some police were smoking pot. Others loaded their guns in a threatening manner near the Marines.  The U.S. troops ousted the police two days later and installed a better trained force they had brought with them on their recently launched operation into southern Helmand. The original force was sent away for several weeks of training the U.S. is conducting across Afghanistan to professionalize the country’s police.

What were these men thinking?  The worst thing a man can do in this situation is make U.S. Marines believe that they are under threat, and that you are the cause of it.  Yet … sending them away for training?  Really?

We have detailed the Institutional Problems with the Afghan National Police.  “The police are just worthless,” fumed Fulat Khan, 20, when Haight said his troops were backing up the local cops. “Anytime there is a fight in the community, the police just laugh and watch it. We need an organization or a number we can call so somebody can come here and help us.”

Obama is searching for an exit strategy from Afghanistan, the cornerstone apparently being the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.  Given the pitiful state of the ANA and the problems with the Afghan National Police we have seen here, his exit strategy is worse than mere wishful thinking.  It’s deceptive.  Afghanistan will be the longest campaign of the long war.


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