July 23, 2010

Today's essential Afghan reading: Tim Lynch again

Baba Tim encapsulates the key problem with any kind of "arm the tribes/auxiliary police" approach.

Reconstruction is not hard, establishing credibility is and that takes time in countries like Afghanistan. It also takes people who can operate on their own on the economy and not just survive but continue to function if attacked. That kind of thinking is not found inside the closed loop of the classified crowd. They do not know what they do not know. They canít leave the FOBís so they donít have an accurate read on anything except what comes through the classified loop. Anyone who has dealt with that sort of information understands how limited it is.

Which bring us back to the Local Security Forces. This ďinspiredĒ idea of using locals to provide security will fail because nobody responsible for it will get off the FOB to provide daily detailed supervision. I canít stress enough the importance of daily, full time, supervision. The Skipperís EOD program works because he provides daily, detailed supervision, while EOD programs elsewhere in the country languish.

This is the real problem with these sorts of approach. If you don't have at least as much Western mentoring and liaison (I don't think we'll ever achieve "supervision" of security forces) as you do with the police now (and mentoring of police even a year ago in Afghanistan was in many parts of the country essentially drive-by already) then any effort and money will be wasted. But if you do have that kind of partnering of Western and Afghan forces, then why not give them the added imprimatur that comes with a formal place in, and paying them as if they were, in the "national" security forces?

Supporters see the auxiliary police or "arm the tribes" approaches as a new form of force augmentation where Western support and awareness can be limited, Afghan government and ISAF deniability can be preserved, and the newly armed locals can assert they don't have to take other people's orders. But any force you establish that carries those limitations is highly unlikely to contribute to anyone's security, ever.

(The Karzai family and other Afghans support new "arm the tribes" plans because they figure, rightly, that their militias and their supporters can skim off a lot of the proceeds. But it's hard to see what ISAF gets out of it strategically, other than possibly to drive up the price that the insurgents would have to pay to neutralize or coopt local would-be warlords.)

Posted by BruceR at 02:13 PM

Howz-e hasn't changed much, I see

Just another day on Ring Road South, courtesy of CBS News.

Howz-e Madad was always a hardship post. What you had during our tour was significant unappreciated population movement, as people vacated the green belt south of the highway, between the road and the river, to avoid the fighting, establishing themselves in temporary dwellings in the desert north of the road. It had the tendency of making our aerial photographs and maps of this area a little outdated. Attacks on Western and ANA facilities in this area were regular, and the displaced population and those still living in the green belt both entirely unconvinced of the merits of a Western/ANA presence. In the video, you can see the Afghans are firing south from the strong point across the road, towards the green belt, which is likely where the attack came from, and where it withdrew into. One imagines it was more blowing off steam on the ANA's part than anything else. Getting hit and doing IED sweeps daily without any way to strike back can do that to you.

Indiscriminate firing by Compass Security personnel is also a standard feature of life in Kandahar Province. I suspect those RPG rounds the reporter finds are theirs, as well. The military and police have no monopoly on heavy weapons.

(Impressive (or lucky) attack by the insurgents, btw. Assuming it was an RPG, they either managed to make a difficult shot from distance (you'd normally want to be within 50 m to be sure of hitting an SUV) or they exposed themselves in daylight in broad open, flat, terrain only 400m from a "rapidly expanding U.S. military compound" and then managed to leg it back to cover without incurring casualties, apparently. Almost makes me wonder if a recoilless rifle, man-portable and more accurate at range, was used, instead. But the area around Howz-e, where several canals parallel and south of the road allow close approaches to the road with easy exfiltration back into the green belt, has been a historic location for direct-fire ambushes on highway traffic since the Soviet days.)

Posted by BruceR at 01:58 PM