December 16, 2009

On Forsberg's first draft of Kandahar history

A comprehensive review of available open-source reporting of the fight in Kandahar Province, by Carl Forsberg. It's definitely worth a war-follower's time. His summary of my own roto's achievement in 2008-09 regrettably does ring rather true:

ISAF operations in late 2008 and early 2009 did not have lasting effects on the enemy system in Kandahar. Given the short duration of ISAF operations, Taliban fighters could easily move to safe havens several kilometers from where ISAF operated and return to their original location on the same day that the operation concluded. ISAF’s failure to protect the population in these areas left local villagers under the control of Taliban intimidation and governance. Unable to establish a sufficient presence to separate the local population from Taliban intimidation, ISAF suffered from limited intelligence about insurgent activities. In addition, ISAF’s focus on Zhari, Panjwai, and Maiwand during this period targeted areas of secondary importance to the enemy campaign of taking Kandahar City.

Yep, that pretty much sums up how we're going to be remembered by the historians, I'm afraid.

I would certainly recommend it over Michael Yon's lesser effort at a Kandahar synopsis, which drops a few clunkers:

...there are indications that the enemy is today in disarray. The enemy became afraid to sleep indoors where they might be killed by an airstrike—or by U.S. soldiers, who have a tendency to burst in during periods of maximum REM sleep. The Taliban were terrorized and began sleeping in the orchards at night, rigging homes with explosives, which they arm at night.

As said previously on Captain's Journal, this isn't evidence of any new terror on the enemy's part. They do it every summer. Orchards and tall fields provide near perfect cover from UAVs and ground-based night vision, are perfectly comfortable to sleep in in summer, and they know Westerners tend to overfocus on structures in our kinetic operations: the stories of Taliban watching from the fields as the SOF guys take down the house they were supposed to be in are legion. Stringing a grenade on the entranceway if you can on your way out is only logical. Similar behaviour was noted just as much in both summer 2007 and 2008.

What's new to Michael Yon and his U.S. sources about the war is not necessarily new, I'd say. I'll leave his comments on the Canadian Forces being "militarily defeated" in Kandahar for others. But certainly Forsberg's more measured assessment -- that we have been ineffective in much of what we tried to do there -- is also the more strongly argued. (A good example is Forsberg's comments about the suboptimal placement of FOB Frontenac, which he suggests came about because of a Canadian fixation with its Dahla Dam signature development project at the expense of establishing actual provincial security. I don't know that I agree, but it's certainly at least debatable.)

Or if you've given up on attempts at serious analysis, you can always watch this. Special Forces working in Zabul appear to have created a new crime: DWA. Driving While Afghan. "Bad guys or bad stuff?" Kee-ryst.

Posted by BruceR at 10:45 PM

Canadian quarterly report on Afghanistan: security highlights

Not a lot of progress to show on the security side, this time over the last report from three months ago. (Always nice to see realism replace optimism, though.):

**A significant drop in ANA personnel numbers (or possibly more accurate reporting)... three months ago, 1/205 Brigade had 3 kandaks rated at 70% strength or higher, now that's down to one.
**No change in ANA readiness measures... still 1 kandak (battalion) rated at CM1.
**A significant drop in ANA popularity... three months ago opinion polling in 5 of 6 districts had the ANA above 85% popularity, now it's down to 1, apparently.
**No change to opinion polling on whether security is improving in general.

The one stat where there has been improvement, unsurprisingly, was the percentage of "ANSF-led" operations. As discussed previously, this is not a particularly revealing statistic, and very difficult to objectively quantify over time in the Afghan circumstances.

Link to previous report.

Posted by BruceR at 03:24 PM

Um, so, we found them, did we?

Canadian Press, yesterday:

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has denied a published report that Canada lost track of war prisoners its soldiers transferred to Afghan authorities.

Cannon says Canadian authorities can account for all detainees transferred to Afghanistan, but he admits there have been delays in tracking some of them down.

Richard Colvin, today:

As of early October, 2007, when I left Afghanistan, we had not been able to locate the remaining three [missing Canadian] detainees.* However, according to good sources, they were likely in Kabul, but at an NDS ‘black site’ to which we were not given access.

Also of note in Colvin's letter today, with regard to other alternatives his office had proposed at the time to the handover of all local detainees to the Kandahar NDS:

The second option was to transfer our detainees to Kabul. This was the Dutch solution, which they implemented from early 2006. Away from the front‐line violence and pressures of Kandahar, detainees could be monitored and kept free from harm. The Canadian embassy proposed this solution, but it was rejected on the basis that detainees would take up too much space on C‐130 flights to Kabul.

*Short story: Colvin's referring to 4 detainees in Kabul the NDS had offered to Canadian officials in June 2007 as possibly corresponding to four that had been reported to Canada as having been transferred there by the NDS. Colvin goes on to report that only one actually matched up with an existing photo of a previous Canadian detainee.

Posted by BruceR at 02:28 PM