8 years ago
In Command Structure Changes for Afghanistan, using a Voice of America report, we discussed the talks going on within the Pentagon and even openly by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates indicating that there may be command structure changes coming for Operation Enduring Freedom. These hints come right after the announcement that General Petraeus will take over CENTCOM in the coming months, and the intention seems to be fairly clear that the U.S. wants a more independent role in the Afghanistan campaign.
Rumsfeld left us with [at least] three artifacts of his command over OEF. First, a small footprint model for COIN. Second, a rapid drawdown of forces, and third, turnover of the campaign to NATO. All three decisions have proven to be wrong with consequences bordering on disastrous. Gates is attempting to reverse the final remaining impediment to success of the effort in Afghanistan – NATO.
Another alternative is discussed by Kip at Abu Muqawama, NATO’s Counterinsurgency Doctrine could stand some overhaul.
Doctrine, as Colin Gray once wrote, is the skeleton upon which the sinew and flesh of armies are built. Perhaps then, with no NATO doctrine for the conduct of a war among the people, it should be no surprise that the NATO-led ISAF in Afghanistan has often appeared spineless.
NATO has recognized this problem and has commissioned the Dutch who have been operating in Uruzgan province alongside the Australians to write NATO’s counterinsurgency doctrine.
This past month, a smattering of counterinsurgency thinkers to include the Counterinsurgency Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth met with the doctrine’s lead writers to provide inputs. That said, the “A-team” for developing US counterinsurgency doctrine has not been called out to facilitate and assist. Kip hopes this is not indicative of the amount of emphasis that NATO is placing on the doctrine itself.
Kip goes on to describe several changes that need to occur to the COIN doctrine in OEF, all of which are good. Kip is wasting time and brain power on a hopeless cause. If the Dutch are in charge it doesn’t bode well since they have no counterinsurgency experience. They also recently deployed troops to the campaign who were surprised that the Taliban were engaged in armed resistance to NATO forces. The British want to pull back on the violence, reminiscent of their irrelevant recollections of Northern Ireland.
Quite simply, the U.S. doesn’t have the time to teach counterinsurgency to nations which have never engaged in such. But the problem runs deeper than COIN. The various international armies represented in Afghanistan have different perceptions at home along with varying levels of support for their engagement. This fact causes the retreat to FOBs in spite of and regardless of COIN doctrine. This, combined with troublesome and arrogant resistance among senior leadership in Afghanistan causes bureaucratic red tape to continue to undermine the efforts.
Gates knows that the promotion of Petraeus to command CENTCOM might be an irrelevant move unless U.S. forces are free to conduct counterinsurgency as they need to. Further attempts to rehabilitate NATO will only waste more time – time that is not available in the campaign. Rather than rehabilitate something that is incorrigible by nature, Gates is trying to recast the problem as counterinsurgency rather than NATO intransigence.