October 05, 2009

On ANA pay

Some people objected to Ann Jones' statement, which I referenced here, saying ANA soldiers were deserting and re-enlisting, bumping up their numbers. I see the current Canadian OMLT commander's saying the same thing:

[Col.] Burt, who is wrapping up his tour to Afghanistan, said he started looking into the matter a couple of months ago when he noticed many of the Afghan soldiers were either not renewing their military contracts or choosing instead to go AWOL -- absent without leave.

Or so he thought at first.

"They've gone AWOL from here, but they're signing up in the north and getting in again, and are getting the same (pay)," said an exasperated Burt.

"Or, there are guys finishing the three-year contract who go up to the north and get back in."

Many departing soldiers don't even turn in their uniforms, because they plan on wearing them up north, he added.

Posted by BruceR at 09:15 PM

Today's essential Afghan reading

Peter Galbraith on why he was fired by the UN.

In July, I learned that at least 1,500 polling centers (out of 7,000) were to be located in places so insecure that no one from the IEC, the Afghan National Army or the Afghan National Police had ever visited them. Clearly, these polling centers would not open on Election Day. At a minimum, their existence on the books would create large-scale confusion, but I was more concerned about the risk of fraud.

Which leaves only one question in my mind. That being... July? Seriously? What country were you living in before that? Dude, the IEC supervised the election registration process the previous December and it had all the same problems. Imaginary registration stations that were unlocatable on any map, or deep in enemy-controlled areas... this was all reported by my colleagues up the chain at the time. If the UN's chief officials only learned of this prospect in July, they really weren't paying attention. Galbraith's complaints might be strengthened if he would, as Andrew Exum says, "sack up" and admit his own negligence there.

UPDATE: For the record, I think Galbraith did the right thing in objecting to electoral fraud, by all accounts. But there's a lot of blame to go around here. And sure, the UN organizations bear some of it. But remember also, the elections, and the election-registration, were ANSF-led operations. Senior ANA officers (not just ANSF; ANA specifically) in every insurgent-contested province would have known there were election stations on the IEC's books that didn't exist, couldn't be found, or they weren't expected to guard. We know now it was these "ghost stations" where much of the fraud originated. Despite all the claims that have been made for the ANA, there was apparently no way for the ANA high command, in supervising the security for the key counterinsurgency activity for several years in either direction, to look the Karzai-appointees on the IEC straight in the eye and say, "hey, what exactly are you trying to pull?" Or Karzai for that matter. Or if that didn't work, to blow the whistle to senior Western officials on what was happening. Despite meeting with their mentors, etc., every single working day.

None of that happened. I think we can all assess for ourselves why it wouldn't.

Mentors bear some of the blame here, too. I think all of us, military men by definition, faced with another series of grandiose, apparently-out-of-touch claims of their own capability from our Afghan colleagues responsible for election security (one among many) just said, "go ahead, fill your boots." I don't think we really correctly assessed the harm of a list of polling stations that no one could find on a map, or that wouldn't open because they couldn't provide security for it. We were much more worried about polling stations opening under questionable security circumstances, and dead Afghans. We were focussed on the insurgent threat, not the "Karzai camp stealing the election" threat, in other words. It was the stations that DID have police or ANA outside them that we were focussed on: the Taliban couldn't shoot up non-existent polling booths after all. Greater interaction with concerned Western election monitors like Galbraith nine months ago or so might have put the deeper problem on our radar. (I absolutely include myself and my colleagues in this: I knew of imaginary or security-compromised stations during the registration phase, but I never connected the dots and briefed "massive electoral fraud" to anyone as a "most dangerous course of action" from that, nor ever heard it briefed that way by others.)

But ultimately, the IEC executed a plan that allowed if not encouraged massive electoral fraud. The ANA providing their security didn't see it as part of their mandate to object, or even to point that out. And ISAF was too busy fighting the Taliban war to focus. Galbraith and the UN's documenting fraud after the fact was a case of barn door and horse.

UPDATE, Oct. 12: I'm informed by one of Galbraith's colleagues that Galbraith himself didn't arrive in country until June. Which sort of nullifies the way I started off this post somewhat, I suppose. I'm appreciative of the info.

Posted by BruceR at 09:56 AM

Oh. Em. Gee.

No recent post has brought back quite as many mentoring memories as K's "A Few Memorable Words:"

"Ok, two phone cards, a cow, and well find you a new wife. Plus Ill throw in a summer house in Nuristan."

The ANA at stand-to exchange is another classic. Take those two together and add in chai and you basically had my morning routine.

Posted by BruceR at 09:37 AM