Traffic on the Ring Road
Over the weekend I read this report from the NYT on increased EOF incidents Afghanistan at checkpoints and convoys.
At least 28 Afghans have been killed and 43 wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings this year — 42 percent of total civilian deaths and injuries and the largest overall source of casualties at the hands of American and NATO troops, according to statistics kept by the military.
In the same period last year, 8 Afghans were killed and 29 wounded in similar episodes. For all of 2009, 36 Afghan civilians were killed in the so-called escalation of force incidents by Western and Afghan troops, according to the United Nations. Over all, the Taliban and other militants account for a much larger number of civilian casualties than Western forces do, the United Nations found.
Since last summer, none of the Afghans killed or wounded in convoy and checkpoint shootings had weapons that would have posed a danger for troops who killed them, commanders said.
I set the article aside, because I didn’t really have a coherent thought about it; now LT Smiles guest posts on Kerplunk about the same topic from a boots-on-the-ground perspective:
The success of COIN in Afghanistan rests on the shoulders of Route Clearance patrols. If you’re not familiar with route clearance, it is the act of deliberately sweeping roads/routes for IEDs. Simply put, our only job is to look for and get rid of IEDs. Having done this a while I can say that there are generally only two outcomes – either you find the IED before it goes off, or you find it because it goes off.
I’m currently stationed in Southern Afghanistan patrolling a route that was averaging about 50 IEDs each week approximately 5 weeks ago. With constant patrolling, a little blood, and a lot of C-4 the route has been considered safe enough to open for civilian traffic. Route Clearance is very rarely considered the main effort in the COIN fight because our patrols are generally of the mounted variety, isolated in our up-armored vehicles from the people we patrol around. Occasionally we stop to question shady individuals, or to delete pictures being taken on cell phone cameras, but by and large we don’t build relationships with locals.
The use of escalation of force by Route Clearance patrols is pivotal in determining the outcome of Afghanistan’s COIN fight. We’re not involved with the locals, yet constantly surrounded by them.
And vote in my poll, would you please?