August 23, 2010

Today's essential Afghan reading: Tim Lynch, once again

FRI, on the new Afghan anti-contractor law:

Ignoring that there are not enough Afghan security forces to go around as it is and also that their proficiency in preforming these tasks is suspect (to put it politely) what about the money? We already pay for the ANP and ANA if they are going to provide mobile and static security then I guess the millions of dollars being paid to private companies will no longer be needed right? Right. The problem is one can predict with 100% certainty what will happen if President Karzai goes through with this crazy scheme. The logistics pipeline will start to rapidly dry up , internationals will be unable to move without their (mandated by contract) expat security teams and their projects will ground to a halt. Military operations will have to be suspended because there will not be enough Afghan Security Forces to both fight and provide theater wide static and mobile security support. And of course there are yet more millions of dollars to add another chapter in the long saga of wasted OPM (other peoples money) by our respective governments.

I cannot for the life of me imagine how this law is going to work out. There are (in my opinion) more international PSD teams then needed why do EuPol police officers need PSD teams to drive them around Kabul? They have guns and armored vehicles already and should be capable of taking care of themselves. Why do the contract police trainers needs a whole section of dedicated PSD specialists? It is a crazy waste of money to have armed international PSD teams guarding armed ISAF personnel but it is also currently a contractual requirement. For companies working outside the wire in the reconstruction sector the absence of international PSD teams will also have a huge impact on the ability to get insurance for their internationals at reasonable rates. At exactly the time that internationals operating outside the wire need to be armed the laws are changing to make it illegal for internationals who are not ISAF military members to be armed. How are we supposed to operate now?

I'm really surprised this has gotten as little coverage as it has so far. It really seems quite unwise. One can only assume this is an attempt to:

**First, satisfy Afghan public opinion by reducing the number of non-uniformed Westerners with guns driving around the cities (not in and of itself, necessarily a bad thing, particularly in the EuPol case Tim cites, above);
**Second, formally deputize the much larger numbers of Afghan security companies and militias, many of which are being bribed to support Karzai already, imbedding them more deeply in the security structure;
**Third, thereby conduit the money that is going directly from Western agencies to them now in many cases through the Ministry of the Interior so that everyone can get a bigger cut.

Tim gets at the big potential problem at this, that giving an ANP or ANA escort to every convoy currently would essentially shut down ANSF operations, and by extension (because you need that Afghan door-kicker) ISAF's, as well. That is, of course, why it's not going to happen, and why the Afghan highway and FOB security companies can be counted on to continue to operate pretty much as before, albeit somewhat more extensively and possibly even in a slightly more coordinated way with their local ANSF. The withdrawal of the undeputizable Western operatives (using the term Western broadly; most of the best PSC guards are Nepalese) will, as Tim says, fall hardest on the development sector, who may find their options limited to relying more on those same Afghan militias for their gunslingers, meaning more money for less value for them.

That the Afghan president doesn't seem to mind those niceties getting in the way of his ongoing power consolidation is a known fact, but it's hard to see how ISAF or the West can stand for it in the long-term without pushing back, even if that risks delegitimizing him. The whole issue really does underscore the fact that there isn't a lot of unity of purpose between the Afghan national government and either ISAF or even the ANSF at this stage in the war.

Posted by BruceR at 11:11 AM