This week: So Andar’s a puzzler, the ANA are hosed, we’re still killing giant Afghan kids, the Taliban hates cops, and ISAF loves them some ALP.
Lt. Hauk knew…in his heart…that he was funny. NATO…in its heart…knows that this Andar thing is going to work out.
Either ISAF just doesn’t get it, or they’re desperately staying “on message” with this, and refuse to believe. But what they’re saying publicly makes little or no sense.
The effort in Ghazni Province looks like a long shot. The villagers don’t readily embrace any outside authority, be it the Taliban, the U.S. or the Afghan government.
American officials nonetheless are quietly nurturing the trend, hoping it might become a game changer, or at least a new roadblock for the Taliban. At the same time, they are adamant that if anyone can convince the villagers to side with the Afghan government, it’s the Afghans — not the Americans.
“If we went out there and talked to them we would taint these groups and it would backfire,” said Army Brig. Gen. John Charlton, the senior American adviser to the Afghan military in provinces along the southern approaches to Kabul.
Yes. Since we’re not completely clear on what’s happening in Andar and elsewhere, by all means let’s nurture their efforts and well, cross our fingers. Since that’s worked so well for us in the past.
But since we don’t fully understand it, and they’re not at all a fan of anyone, then what we need is a plan that leverages a government the villages don’t want to try and make this thing work.
It is with that possibility in mind — and an awareness that U.S. influence here is likely to shrink as its forces continue to withdraw — that the Americans are encouraging the Afghan military to complete a plan dubbed Operation Solidarity to make what it can of this unexpected new opening in Ghazni province. Charlton, the American adviser to the commander of the main Afghan army group in this region, said this should be a major focus for the Afghans over the winter, when harsh weather tends to lessen the pace of combat operations.
The three-stage plan, designed with U.S. assistance and launched by the Afghan 203rd Corps in September, begins with an assessment of individual village uprisings and their potential for success. Those deemed worthy of pursuing are then approached by the Afghan military, in some cases to provide weaponry. Charlton described the third stage as a networking effort “to stitch these groups together into something larger.”
Because what Afghanistan really truly needs is another US-designed plan.
The “Andar Awakening” is (as others have said before much more effectively than I ever could) not something that’s necessarily in the best interests of NATO. Or even the government in Kabul. And I’m not just talking about the current Karzai regime. I’m talking about Kabul as a concept — efforts like the Andar rebellion, whoever’s behind it, only serve to destabilize Afghanistan furthergoing into 2014.
And speaking of destabilization…
In yet another solid piece of reporting that is levels above the usual editorial voice of the Times, Rod Nordland details how the high turnover in the ANSF (particularly in the army) is bad for the future of Afghanistan.
Now at its biggest size yet, 195,000 soldiers, the Afghan Army is so plagued with desertions and low re-enlistment rates that it has to replace a third of its entire force every year, officials say.
The attrition strikes at the core of America’s exit strategy in Afghanistan: to build an Afghan National Army that can take over the war and allow the United States and NATO forces to withdraw by the end of 2014. The urgency of that deadline has only grown as the pace of the troop pullout has become an issue in the American presidential campaign.
The Afghan deserters complain of corruption among their officers, poor food and equipment, indifferent medical care, Taliban intimidation of their families and, probably most troublingly, a lack of belief in the army’s ability to fight the insurgents after the American military withdraws.
Fortunately, ISAF had an amazing response to this:
Attrition stands at 27% this year, as compared to 31% last year. The goal is to keep attrition below 16.8% annually.
Good on them, with the facts and all , but really? 1/3 of your force just disappears…every year? And yet we’re still sure everything is going to be fine here? Of course, ISAF does like to make the numbers dance, especially when it comes to recruiting figures.
So this happened.
The international military coalition in Afghanistan has confirmed that three children were killed in a coalition artillery strike in Helmand Province, expressing regret over the deaths and calling them “tragic,” but also raising the possibility that the Taliban had been using the children to place roadside bombs for them.
Oh. Well, then that’s not as bad, right? I mean, technically, they were digging holes. For…some reason. So it’s the Taliban that’s to blame.
A guided rocket strike was approved against those digging the holes after ensuring that no civilian homes were in the immediate area, according to the ISAF official. A few minutes later, Afghans from the area arrived at the scene and loaded the bodies onto their truck, and minutes later the coalition forces stopped the vehicle as police officers and others arrived.
“All three diggers were identified as coming from the same family and were 12, 10 and 8 years old,” the ISAF official said.
It’s the fog of war. I get that. I truly do. Bt an 8 year old? Either that’s the biggest Afghan kid like ever, or your positive identification process, to use a doctrinal term, sucks.
I’m going to steer clear of any thoughts on an incident like the shooting of a cop’s kids in Ghazni — how this might be a personal dispute, whatever. Or whether it was Taliban at all.
Zalmai claims that the Taliban had told him several times to leave his job as a police officer, but he refused. After several warnings, Taliban insurgents killed his two children on October 6 while they were at home playing in their father’s car.
“Taliban came by motorbike and with Kalashnikovs. There were four people, and they killed my four-year-old girl and my 18-year-old son who was a Year 11 student in high school,” he said.
Facts are these: a member of the Afghan Uniformed Police had his kids shot by someone. Probably because he was a cop. Whichever group did this, they are not people we can reason with on any level that’s going to make sense in a civilized brain. This is not an act of jihad, or Muslim rage, or anything of the kind: this is the useless, intentional slaughter of innocents.
This illustrates the likely future of anyone seen as supporting the government in Kabul in some areas: for all those that have taken corruption to an elite level, there are those who put the uniform on every day because a) it’s their job, and b) they think they can make a difference here. Oh, and a lot of those people are actual Afghans.
Why I heart the PAO:
Not all insurgents choose to leave the Taliban and reconcile with their Afghan brothers, but one man, Zai Nuddin, decided fighting alongside his brothers is more important than fighting against them Oct. 9.
For three years, Nuddin lived his life under the Taliban regime. He unquestioningly followed the orders of those appointed over him, many of which were not Afghans.
“They were telling us to fight inside of Afghanistan,” said Nuddin. “They would give us money. They were coming from other countries, using propaganda to talk bad about the people of Afghanistan to the people who were uneducated.”
Since those dark days when he just believed anything the Taliban told him, Nuddin now completely understands the way to peace leads through Kabul.
“When we were aware of this government and that the government wanted to help us out and improve Afghanistan, we decided to quit the Taliban and join with the government,” Nuddin added.
This amazing transformation happened just eight short months ago.
Given the complexities of the relationships of local actors, particularly at the local level, one would have to suffer from blunt force trauma to the skull in order to believe that someone who yesterday was “Taliban” and today is ALP is acting in the best interests of the government.
“My Taliban training helps me know where they are burying IEDs, how they plan to use them, where they will conduct an ambush and what they are planning,” said Nuddin.
Yes. Your…training. And not the connections you’ve maintained with local insurgent groups, who keep you informed so you can continue to act our your role of Taliban convert and ALP hero.
This week on the blog, we’ll be looking at the process of reconciliation and reintegration. Spoiler alert: not much shiny happy this week.
Until next time, stay on the sunny side, Kabul!
- US sees potential for wider anti-Taliban uprising (kansascity.com)
- Afghanistan War: U.S. Hope For DIY Insurgency Against Taliban (huffingtonpost.com)