Permissible Arms

A Tin-Plated Anniversary

Posted in afghanistan, isaf, united states by Karaka on 21 October 2010

Another unpleasant, unplanned absence. Sigh. To everyone that I owe email: apologies for being out of contact. I’m trying to wade through everything now. Shoot me another one if you don’t hear from me by this weekend. Mea maxima culpa.

Say what you will about the ANA–and there’s a lot to be said–but there’s something compelling about this collection of photos of an ANA graduation. (From thruafghaneyes.)

Newly trained female officers of the Afghan National Army (ANA) attended their graduation ceremony at the National Army training center in Kabul on Thursday, 23 September 2010.

There are real problems with a transition from ISAF to ANSF in 2011. In the US, the President has a real political problem if he doesn’t stay the course of at least semi-withdrawal by that date. In Afghanistan, there are competency issues, numbers issues, readiness issues, and that whole pesky desertion/retention problem. Not that this is news to anyone who’s been paying attention for the last (gulp) ten years.

Petraeus, speaking from London, is trying his best to make hay from hash by citing progress in literacy and health programs. But who really thinks the ANSF will grow big enough in such little time–at the very least, not without cutting some corners in training, recruiting, and over all quality.

We’re coming close to the exact two choices that have been present since this plan for Afghanistan came out last year: either find a way to keep this 2011 deadline soft enough that ISAF can keep trying to make the ANSF work; or accept that after ten years ISAF only started the real work a year and a half ago, and the political time on this war has run out. Sucks to be in the Afghan Army or Police Force, here’s the keys to the car, try not to wreck it too badly.

Not to be too pessimistic or anything. I think I’m just going to go look at those pictures some more and think about the counter-factual world that might have been if real ANSF training had started in 2003.


Warning: May Require Holistic Thought

Posted in counterinsurgency, isaf by Karaka on 28 August 2009

Further to the post on the new ISAF COIN ROE (hello acronyms, how are you doing?), the Small Wars Journal has some insightful comments regarding the document. To wit:

In some ways it is easier to think of this as force development of a foreign security force (FSF). This is important because the capabilities (ability to do a task) the element conducting SFA puts forward need to be considered in light of the capabilities to be developed in the FSF…By identifying what tasks the FSF must perform, we can derive what capabilities they require and then understand what SFA developmental tasks (Organize, Train, Equip, Build/Rebuild, Advise or OTERA) the element conducting SFA will have to accomplish.

That’s from Rob, who didn’t leave a name-relevant link, otherwise I’d link back to him. What’s interesting to me is that this is a good breakdown of one aspect of this new ROE, namely, the drive to develop the relationship between ISAF and ANSF companies. From the doc:

Our job is to hold them accountable for performance in serving the Afghan people and protecting them from harm. Build their capacity to secure their own country. Foster ownership–their success is our success. Live and train together, plan and operate together. Share the same battle-rhythm and information. Integrate your command and control structures. Put them in the lead and support them, even before they think they are ready.

This is a bit different from previous training programs, no? This calls instead for a level of integration training that says, essentially, “lead by example.” There have been many reported problems with the ANSF in the past, and I wonder if this effort to hold the ANSF accountable through daily, consistent interaction will work in the long-term. I suspect it will have as much to do with what enlisted ISAF personnel are willing to do to further this goal as with the myriad of inherent problems within the ANSF itself. It’s most certainly a clear shift in strategy from high-value target skirmishing to community-based policing, and I can’t say I disapprove.

I doubt there was any scenario in which our movement into Afghanistan in the early part of this decade could ever have been successful–by any measure of the term–without a massive influx of soceity-changing tactics. It was never simply about militarism, and anyone who claims it was is being grossly naive. As I said previously, my concern is that after more than seven years, if this is what we are articulating, finally–the need to implement local policing strategies to the extend that ISAF moves more away from missions specifically targeting and engaging the enemy–if this is what we articulating, what took us so long to get here?

I’m not sitting around thinking, man, I bet what American military personnel will just love doing is making nice with the locals and stirring ANSF out of their apparent stupor instead of contracting missions to eliminate insurgency targets, and I’d be the first to suggest that this isn’t a de facto part of their job or training. But that doesn’t change the evident point that policing in this fashion is a necessity, not a luxury, and ISAF is what we’ve got there to do it.

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