The Collected Wisdom of Fools: Defense Department and ANA Infiltration

BY Glen Tschirgi
11 years, 9 months ago

I keep telling myself to forswear any more posts about Afghanistan.  It is beyond merely beating a dead horse.  It is akin to saddling the horse up.

Still, this article in The Hill (hat tip to Instapundit), while dealing with the problem of enemy infiltration of the ANA, is really about the complete and utter cluelessness of the Department of Defense, its leadership and the lack of direction in U.S. policy in general.

Here is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff– the highest ranking member of the military, the one responsible for advising the President on military matters:

U.S. and coalition commanders are no closer to knowing how deep the Taliban has penetrated Afghanistan’s security forces despite increased efforts to flush out infiltrators who are carrying out attacks against Americans.

“As for what percentage of the insider threat is related to infiltration or radicalization, I mean, it’s really difficult to determine,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said Thursday.

“I’m sure a certain percentage of it is. And we’re treating it … as a threat,” he told reporters during a briefing at the Pentagon.

Taliban double agents, posing as members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), are responsible for executing some of the deadly “insider” attacks that have killed 51 coalition troops, mostly from the United States.

Really, General Dempsey?  It is “really difficult to determine” what percentage of the ANA is infiltrated by the Taliban?   But you are sure that “a certain percentage of it is.”   That’s just swell.  From purely a public relations perspective, you need to fire whomever is advising you, General.   There is absolutely no need to have the JCS Chairman get up in front of a bunch of reporters and say idiotic things like this.   Isn’t White House spokesman Jay Carney available for this kind of thing?  At least he gets lots of practice.

I am not interested here in examining the problems and solutions to infiltration of government forces by an insurgency.   There were certainly comparable problems with this in the Iraq Campaign.  But notice that in Iraq the approach of U.S. forces to the problem was commonsense:  don’t trust any of the Iraqis units being mentored.   There was not the same air of desperation in Iraq to train up security forces by a date certain as there clearly is in Afghanistan.   This is just one of the many evils unleashed by El Presidente’s foolish 2014 withdrawal date.   My interest here, however, is in the depths of inanity to which otherwise sane and presumably rational men will sink in obedience to the political dictates of the Child President.

Continuing on in this same article, lest anyone think that General Dempsey has a monopoly on foolishness, here is Leon Panetta, the Secretary of Defense, no less:

But as Washington continues to eye the finish line in Afghanistan, the spate of insider attacks — no matter who is carrying them out — will likely continue all the way through the final withdrawal in 2014.

“I expect that there will be more of these high-profile attacks,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters Thursday. “The enemy will do whatever they can to try and break our will using this kind of tactic. That will not happen.”

Oh.  I see, Leon.  So you’re not scared of those big, bad Taliban.   Let them keep infiltrating the ANA in order to kill more U.S. service members.   No matter how high the toll, the United States is determined to stand by its commitment to the Afghan people and to fight the forces of evil to the bitter end.   All the way up to, er….2014.   That would be another 15 months or so.  The Taliban can be forgiven if they are not as intimidated as Leon would like.   The bad guys may not be taking window measurements at the presidential residence in Kabul just yet, but is there anyone who cannot see the utter chaos in the Pentagon that has left our most senior leaders grasping at rhetorical fig leaves like this?

Let there be no mistake about the source of this folly.  The Pentagon has been given a completely untenable mission in Afghanistan– beat down a home-grown insurgency using less than half the necessary forces with half their collective arms tied in R.O.E. red tape behind their backs; training an Afghan national army heavily infiltrated by the enemy and on a timeline for surrender known to everyone.   El Presidente Obama is squarely to blame for the bloody and expensive failure unfolding in Afghanistan.  (There’s that dead horse).

Nonetheless, in more heroic and patriotic times, I would hope that there would be military officers who would rather resign than play the Fool.

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  1. On September 30, 2012 at 10:36 am, JB said:

    Glen, the reality is there is zero vetting. The political need to show progress in numbers of ANSF outweighs the reality of who is being brought onboard. Add to that, the reintegration program which brings known insurgents back into the fold and often puts them in charge of local militias or ANP and you have a recipe for continued attacks. The Taliban and others don’t have to infiltrate they are recruited by us.

    We will continue to promote this farce until we finally leave.

  2. On September 30, 2012 at 1:12 pm, Burk said:

    Hi, all- I’ll pass over the childish name calling, which is unworthy.

    The real problem has nothing to do with the current president. He is just playing out a hand that was dealt long ago, when a prior president failed to set up a legitimate Afghan system of governance. The insider attacks are an indictment of the poor allegiance the Afghans themselves, including their ANA and ANP recruits, have for their state. Vetting isn’t possible in any case by Americans who know nothing about the locals. It is a function of local knowledge and the dedication of the majority of those who are on our side … or lack thereof.

    So if the Karzai government is a nest of unending corruption, and has been undermined by the US from the start, and is viewed by many afghans as a puppet of the US, then we reap the harvest from what we sow. Perhaps tactical leadership can improve things, but the main issue is political at the highest level. The only thing Obama could really have done here would have been to remove Karzai early in his term and set up some better / more accountable government. But on the whole, that would have opened up a whole other can of worms that may have made things worse, turning the entire population against us, rather than just half of it. It is just one of the many stinking messes Obama was handed upon entering office.

  3. On September 30, 2012 at 1:34 pm, JB said:

    Leadership requires responsibility. The meme of blaming Bush is used up. If O can’t handle the job then he needs to give it up. Which it appears he’s done long ago as far as foreign policy is concerned.

    While I don’t agree with how AFG was handled after 2003, the 2014 pull out announcement and the subsequent surge made no strategic or tactical sense. Transition was decided not based on ground truth but wishing and fake numbers with military leaders falling in line.

    If we are to leave, let’s leave today not some arbitrary date in the future.

    As to reaping the harvest, I agree.

    We completed the mission in 2003.

  4. On September 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    Don’t entirely agree that the mission was over. Still enemy there, and we will be back. The failure is in having adopted population-centric COIN and state building as a viable model. It is not, and the mission is failing.

    It could have been different, and even in 2008 when the 24th MEU was there, there was hope when they went into Garmsir and showed how it should be done.

    We decided differently, and so as they say, that’s that. It’s done. Stick a fork in it. Bring them home.

    Continued sacrifice of men’s lives to the false god of pop-centric COIN is immoral. But that’s the only model that O could ever have followed given his world view.

    My differences with Bush on Iraq are well documented here at TCJ. Bush has nothing to do with this conversation, and invoking him is a misdirect and smoke screen.

    Burk, I don’t really care what you pass over and what you don’t. Happy shooting. Oh, never mind. Happy … um, whatever it is that progressives do.

  5. On September 30, 2012 at 10:00 pm, Glen Tschirgi said:

    Burk, let’s take this one at a time.

    “The real problem has nothing to do with the current president. He is just playing out a hand that was dealt long ago, when a prior president failed to set up a legitimate Afghan system of governance.”

    It is completely disingenuous to say that the real problem has “nothing” to do with the current president but is the fault of Bush who, you say, failed to set up a legitimate Afghan government. Obama had every opportunity to make his own choices and make a clean break from whatever he thought Bush did wrong. In nearly 4 years, Obama owns the current, sorry state of affairs.

    If anything, Bush’s major mistake in A-stan, in my view, was his naive and needless insistence on a “legitimate” Afghan government which meant early elections destined to put Karzai in power. A-stan lacks too many basic foundations of a civil society to set up hasty elections in order to imbue some elected figurehead to get legitimacy for U.S. occupation. (Same thing happened in Iraq, unfortunately). The U.S. needs to decide before it ever takes action to topple a government what victory looks like, at least in the short and medium term. For A-stan, “victory” meant in the short term, removing the Taliban and all Al Qaeda bases. In the medium term it meant ensuring that AQAM would not quickly re-establish bases in A-stan. Neither goal required imposing Western-styled electoral republics. That leaves either a colonial-style occupation of sorts (not too realistic given modern politics) or the balkanization of A-stan into semi-autonomous ethnic regions that can be managed through local, native forces and minimal U.S. involvement.

    Second: “The only thing Obama could really have done here would have been to remove Karzai early in his term and set up some better / more accountable government.”

    Nonsense. I have long advocated (and I am sure this cannot be completely original to me) that Obama (and Bush for that matter) could have chosen to isolate Karzai in Kabul by channeling the vast majority of U.S. aid directly through U.S. commanders in their AO’s. Tim Lynch had ample experience with the enormous progress possible if minimal funding was given to local contractors with expertise at working outside the FOB’s. Obama could have limited Karzai’s reach to the Kabul city limits for all practical purposes by giving local U.S. commanders de facto autonomy in their areas. As Robert Kagan observed in “Imperial Grunts,” the U.S. has shown itself to be incredibly adept at forging solutions to complex problems on a local level. American soldiers and Marines are innately well-suited to working with Locals and adapting as the situation evolves. But U.S. leaders, Bush and Obama included, elected to bring the Big Army to A-stan and FUBAR it completely, dictating tactics and local strategy from on high.

    As for “name calling,” as you put it, the title “El Presidente” is an apt description for how Obama has conducted himself in office– like a cheap, Latin American strong man bent on self-aggrandizement and the thug Chicago politics. In my opinion, he has broken his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution and does not merit any respect at this point. He is undermining our republic, plain and simple. He should be impeached on half a dozen counts of high crimes and misdemeanors if the Statist Media would show half the righteous indignation they displayed over the Watergate scandal of the Nixon presidency. Fast and Furious. Solyndra. Non-enforcement of U.S. laws that he disagrees with. The GM bailout that included over-riding clear U.S. bankruptcy laws so that his union pals could benefit. Taking millions of dollars in contributions from foreign donors. Recess appointments when the Senate isn’t even in recess. Overriding Congressional prerogatives by executive agency directives.

    Say what you want about Bush, but he did not subsume the well-being of U.S. forces to political ends. Obama, by contrast, has been more than willing to literally sacrifice the lives of U.S. service members in order to serve his re-election needs by, to use just one example, announcing a withdrawal date of 2014 from the outset of the so-called “surge,” an announcement that had *no* military purpose and gave every comfort to the enemy. But it did serve Obama’s political end to show he was “ending” the war. Obama did the same thing with pulling out troops from Iraq without any satisfactory, long-term SOFA.

    In the end, the point of my post was to highlight just how far U.S. government leaders have fallen under this Administration. The tone is set by Obama and the crap runs downhill until you have people like Dempsey and Panetta saying ridiculous things as quoted in the article. It’s not really about Afghanistan as much as it is about the widespread rot that has taken hold at the highest levels.

  6. On October 1, 2012 at 9:55 am, jean said:

    Just a few comments about vetting: We had tribal militias in Kunar that we tried to convert to ANP. Some Blackwater type company ran a police academy in JBAD. We would get nominations from who knows who and send these guys off to JBAD for training. In theory, they would return to their area or village and be the local policeman. The vetting process consisted of forwarding the name to someone in Kabul, there was some type of crazy paper form that was submitted. I had one of our terps submit a form with an HVT name on it. It came back approved. Our Brigade MP in chief was not amused by our antics-REMFs have no sense of humor.
    Vetting sounds like a great idea on this side of the pond, but it doesn’t work it in a medieval tribal society. We have been in this country 11 years and still don’t grasp their society. You have to hold them accountable for their actions, if you don’t, they think you are weak and don’t respect you.
    One last thought about training ANA/ANP/BP, We have trained thousands of these guys that have just melted away, it doesn’t work. There are some successes, but they are small.

  7. On October 2, 2012 at 7:40 am, TS Alfabet said:

    To tag onto what Jean said above:

    The only realistic plan I have heard about for trusting security to Afghans is the one that involves the use of tribal militias and warlords (where the tribes are not strong enough), backed by QRF’s. The Locals know the good guys and bad guys and have been screaming since Day One for us to just back them up with adequate support if and when they come across Taliban forces that they can’t handle with the AK’s they are born with. U.S. forces then spend their days out hunting the enemy and disrupting *them* rather than being bogged down in FOB’s and doing presence patrols that just give the T-ban target practice. This just about eliminates the need for huge numbers of Fobbits and State Dept hacks (which is way, I suppose, it will never be implemented).

    Afghanistan simply isn’t ready for a national army or a strong central government. We are pissing into the wind trying to train up the ANA and trying to make Afghans side with a corrupt central government.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghan National Army,Afghanistan,Department of Defense,Obama Administration,Taliban and was published September 30th, 2012 by Glen Tschirgi.

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