visitors since 4 oct 2008

The Dog Days of Summer

Many apologies for the delay on posting.  I was laid low by some sort of viral affliction which mimicked  malaria.  Like most people who get sick maybe once a decade, when I do catch a bug you would think I was on death’s door I’m such a sissy about it.  But the fever is gone and I am long overdue on bringing a little insight into the stories of the day and what the situation on the ground is like in the rapidly destabilizing Nangarhar Province.

To follow up on my last post – I did another episode of The Aloyna Show where I took a swag at who I think is responsible for the murders of Dan Terry and the other nine internationals including the fiancee of a good friend of mine and super all around human being Dr. Karen Woo:

I think it is fair to say that I did not have really that much to say because I remain stunned at what happened to that medical team.  But the bad news just keeps getting worse. The villains set up and took a shot at the Skipper last week.

They lured The Skipper and his boys across the bridge into Kunar Province with this fake bomb - it was full of sand and rocks.

They lured The Skipper and his boys across the bridge into Kunar Province with this fake bomb - it was full of sand and rocks.

Then they blew a remote controlled IED (RCIED) under his truck.  It was in a plastic jug like the fake bomb the energy from the blast when 360 degrees doing little damage to the Skippers ride.

Then they blew a remote controlled IED (RCIED) under his truck. It was in a plastic jug like the fake bomb the energy from the blast went 360 degrees doing little damage to the Skippers ride.

The local militia and ANP showed up - everyone was vbery upset that The Skipper was attacked and nobody could imagine how such a device was planted right there next to the bridge.  No idea

The local militia and ANP showed up - everyone was very upset that The Skipper was attacked and nobody could imagine how such a device was planted next to the bridge.

The Skipper wasn’t injured in this blast –  nobody was which would make one think that maybe it was a warning.  But for those of us who live with this shit daily it is impossible to figure out what is going on.  The big reason for that is a factor I have gone over many times before and that is the Taliban are as stupid as the day is long.  They could have set that bomb for The Skipper expecting it to blow him to kingdom come, they could have set it up to just make noise because he is The Skipper and nobody on any side of this conflict wants to see the only outside the wire EOD team in the country go back behind the wire and become for all intents and purposes useless.  There is no Taliban proficiency matrix with which to judge attacks because these guys suck so bad at fighting that it is hard to take them seriously.  Look at this article from The Atlantic; even the main stream media is figuring out that we are fighting a bunch of clowns. Of course that bring the real question to mind which is why aren’t we beating the snot out of them but I’m going to leave that alone for another post or two.  From the Atlantic article linked above:

“Nowhere is the gap between sinister stereotype and ridiculous reality more apparent than in Afghanistan, where its fair to say that the Taliban employ the world’s worst suicide bombers: one in two manages to kill only himself. And this success rate hasn’t improved at all in the five years they’ve been using suicide bombers, despite the experience of hundreds of attacks—or attempted attacks. In Afghanistan, as in many cultures, a manly embrace is a time-honored tradition for warriors before they go off to face death. Thus, many suicide bombers never even make it out of their training camp or safe house, as the pressure from these group hugs triggers the explosives in suicide vests. According to several sources at the United Nations, as many as six would-be suicide bombers died last July after one such embrace in Paktika.”

There was an attack on the HQ of one of the security firms in Kabul last week involving two suicide bombers.  They popped up well inside the new Kabul “Ring of Steel” checkpoint system which seems to be designed to harass internationals and opened up on the exterior guards as they walked down the street housing Hart Security.  The Hart guards returned fire for a second or two and locked themselves inside the compound as did the exterior guards outside the gates of every other compound on that street which means about 25 men jumped inside their compounds when the two attackers unmasked.  The attackers reached the gate and, according to eye witnesses, one said he’ll take the gate down and the other moved back about 20 feet. When bad guy one blew down the gate, bad guy two also perished because 20 feet of stand off is inadequate for powerful suicide vests.

As the fighting season continues the good guys are losing more land and population to the various insurgent groups operating in the country.  Teams of doctors are being murdered in the remote provinces, attacks are launch inside the ANP “Ring of Steel” anytime the Taliban feels like it, and so where is the focus of the Afghan government?  On private security companies of course… yes why not?  Now is exactly the right time to make all PSC’s illegal and let the ANP and ministry of the interior (MOI) provide security to convoy’s military bases, and all the mobile security for internationals working in the reconstruction sector.  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’ll leave you with a translation of the new presidential decree on PSC’s so you too can puzzle at it’s meaning with the rest of us:

Decree Translation
President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan About dissolution of Private Security Companies
# 65
17.08.2010

Article 1:
Based on point 3,4 article 64 and 66 of Afghan constitution in order to fight the corruption, provision of security for all citizen, avoiding the public disorder and misusing the weapon, uniform and military equipment by private security companies which causes the tragic incidents. After legal and necessary assessment about dissolution of internal and external private security companies within four months I approve the following points.  

Article 2:
Individual volunteer members of private security companies, if they are qualified can be reintegrated with or without weapon, ammunition, vehicles and other on-hand equipment after registration into the police lines and ministry of interior affair is assigned to complete the reintegration of abovementioned companies and finalize it according to the timeline.  

Article 3:
The supplies and equipments of foreign private security companies which have already been registered in ministry of interior in case of transportation in initial signed protocol should not belong to government. After agreement of companies MoI, MoD and NDS should purchase the supplies and equipment and the residential visa of companies’ personnel should be cancelled.  

Article 4:
In case the companies do not agree to sale the equipment their residential visa’s should be cancelled and they can take their supplies and equipments with them out of country.

Article 5:
The internal and external private security companies that are not registered in MoI and established arbitrary, should be abort as illegal security companies and their supplies and military equipments to be confiscated in accordance to the law.

Article 6:
Embassies in Kabul, foreign consulates in provinces also international organizations, NGOs and economic organizations that are active around the country can have their self belonged private security inside their compounds, that should not be allowed to move outside the relevant compound and the size will be determined and registered by MoI.  

Article 7:
Ministry of Interior is assigned to provide external security for all embassies and International organizations, NGO in Kabul and in provinces, provide necessary facilities in registration and issuing license for weapons and equipment individuals private security organizations as mentioned in article five of this decree and provide security for all logistical transportations of international troops from province to Kabul, districts and vice-versa in cooperation with MoD and NDS.  

Article 8:
This decree is valid from the issuance date and the implementation is MoI responsibility.  

Hamid Karzai
President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

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    24 comments to The Dog Days of Summer

    • John Ryan

      I believe that your cost estimate of what is being paid to the PSCs is a tad bit low. “Millions”???

    • ken

      Great post babaT, thanks for the alyona link….

      “I cannot for the life of me imagine how this law is going to work out. ”

      when i first heard of this silly ideaof terminating all.. in 4 months..- i thought.. must be politics.. then i read the decree.. — i am still mystified. i dont see this actually going forward… and like you said, at EXACTly.. THE WRONG TIME!!

      Something doesn’t smell right. im just sayin..

      Im already see him waiver on “exceptions” but still.. WTF over?!

    • [...] Edit: 08/23/2010 – Tim wrote up a great post on the subject, and has a better translation of the decree.  Check it out  here. [...]

    • J Harlan

      Whoever translated that decree should have followed MSM procedures and had a non Dari speaker rewrite it in good English and give the impression that it was the work (written or voice over)of the translator. Now the focus will be on the goofy wording rather than the contents: no more PSD convoys and we’ll pay for your stuff if you don’t take it out of country.

      This obviously won’t work because the US Gov is not turning over the PSD function to ANP. Although ISAF units could be tasked with it which wouldn’t be ideal but it would be better than relying on the local yokels. Contractors obviously can’t order up a MRAP platoon so will either have to go NGO (very unlikely if even allowed by their contracts) or “hire” the police.

      This is the heart of the scam. Compass et al go home and the civilian contractors get to pay the governor for policemen- which when dealing with logistics convoys will be huge money especially if it’s a police monopoly.

      Karzai is probably betting that ISAF won’t hand over combat platoons for escort duties (it would make the “surge” pointless) and so his revenue stream will increase while getting rid of some of the armed non TB competition.

    • [...] be off with you. Go read what The Marine has to [...]

    • Another Chim Chim

      Karzai is grasping at water in an effort to get ‘tough on crime’. Unfortunately, he is barking up the wrong tree as we say land of rednecks where I hail. (insignificant biographical note, I know). He is doing this prior to the parliamentary elections so it ‘appears’ that he has some ability to govern even though most know better. I ‘think’ that this is an effort to allow Mr. T a.k.a the Taliban the opportunity to gain the upper hand so that the US is forced to have concessions with them in order to allow them some sort of legitimacy. Remember that prior to 9/11 that the only groups of Americans that were interested in what went on in Afghanistan were feminists due to the ill-treatment of women here and big oil who wanted to run an oil pipeline through the county to the sea port of Karachi. Back to the point at hand… It is indeed perplexing to think that a group of such yokels is still able to keep the US at bay on our COPs and FOBs while gaining a significant advantage in the competition for ideology and support amongst the locals. GIROA will change its mind on this decision once it sees the impact of the loss of US $$ that they will no longer be able to skim and divert to their bank accounts in Dubai. Oh wait, there is supposedly a crack down at KIA in order to reduce the amount of “Benjamins” that are departing there on a daily basis as well.

    • While I’m not exactly a *feminist and I’m definitely not big oil, I’m certainly not a group either…

      The classic “feminists” of the leftist persuasion have spent a great deal of time utterly ignoring or denying A-ghan and Sharia law.

      ===

      Did somebody(s) on the eastern side of the Durand give orders to make the second half of this season look as much like Tet as possible?Possibly looking to turn a series of tactical defeats into a strategic victory?

      From over here it looks like they spent the first half of the season probing, looking for response times and weakest links.

      LARGE
      PICTURE,
      R

    • E2

      As Tim has pointed out several times over the past few months, Karzai has launched a concerted effort to make life difficult for the international community in Kabul. This prohibition on private security firms just seems like another way for him to eject foreigners from the city. While I do agree that Another Chim Chim has come up with a valid theory for these actions, I tend to think the answer is a bit simpler. It’s well documented that after last year’s presidential election, Karzai felt betrayed by the U.S. specifically and the international community in general. I think Karzai is simply becoming paranoid that the internationals are “spying” on him and/or plotting to remove him from power. He’s been increasingly erratic over the past 12 months, and this latest decree is yet another example of his irrational behavior.

    • T. Ferguson

      Karzai’s temper may have reached its limits following recent pressure from the international community regarding high level GIRoA officials’ (most of whom are Karzai’s inner circle) corrupt activities, such as the recent coalition crackdown on the illicit movement of money (a mix of aid and narcotic) out of the country and the newly established anti-corruption units intended to target high level GIRoA corruption. As a result Karzai has lashed out against the international community by calling for the expulsion of all PSC’s.
      Another motive for this decree was that security contractors are utilizing allied funds to pay off the Taliban or related insurgent factions.
      I have heard a rumor that most likely only firms which have not complied with the PSC governing body, are suspected and/or investigated for illicit conduct, e.g. Taliban/Insurgency pay offs/affiliation, will be shut down. The remainder of the firms which have been “compliant” could probably be permitted to continue operations, under stricter guidelines.
      For those who have been in country for a substantial period, it would not be difficult to separate the good apples from the bad ones. There is no doubt that the fair amount of non compliant/insurgency affiliated outfits are either family or tribal affiliates of the Karzai family.

    • There is that 2011 deadline to consider as well. If Karzai is planning on sticking around after we leave (assuming we do leave that is), then he has to hedge his bets, knowing full well that the ANA/ANP is unlikely to be able to provide protection for him for any length of time past our exit.

      This time next year is likely to make this year look like a scrimmage game. Unless we start playing on the other side of the line of scrimmage…

      FOOTBALL
      SEASON!,
      R

    • Aloyna reads here?

      Hi Aloyna!

      WAVES,
      R

    • dennis

      Good to hear from you tim,hope your better. Karzai must be playing a game of poker?.cutting a deal hand out to the taliban. Dumping PSC just to start with. So the taliban will have a easier time to take over control of afghanistan. I really think karzai IS taliban. He’s just the face guy for them,and for his reward he keeps his milk money.

    • PSC’s have been used as a whipping post by both the media and politicians here. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) is introduced legislation to:
      This amendment would begin to end the war by limiting funds to the safe, timely withdrawal of US troops and military contractors from Afghanistan. This is the only responsible way to end the war. “

      A coincidence? I doubt it. I think Karzai probably had loads of encouragement from our highly partisan Congress. Lee has always been against the war. Any move she makes is irrespective of what’s really going on, and most especially understanding how much small operators delivering humanitarian aid and building projects rely on PSCs.

      Anyway, just an update. I’ve posted over on my blog a list of the places people can donate in memory of the 10 international medical workers massacred. They can find it here: Kitchen Dispatch

    • Ancient Civilizations

      Good to hear from you tim,hope your better. Karzai must be playing a game of poker?.cutting a deal hand out to the taliban. Dumping PSC just to start with. So the taliban will have a easier time to take over control of afghanistan. I really think karzai IS taliban. He’s just the face guy for them,and for his reward he keeps his milk money…

    • As Tim has pointed out several times over the past few months, Karzai has launched a concerted effort to make life difficult for the international community in Kabul. This prohibition on private security firms just seems like another way for him to eject foreigners from the city. While I do agree that Another Chim Chim has come up with a valid theory for these actions, I tend to think the answer is a bit simpler. It’s well documented that after last year’s presidential election, Karzai felt betrayed by the U.S. specifically and the international community in general. I think Karzai is simply becoming paranoid that the internationals are spying on him and/or plotting to remove him from power. He’s been increasingly erratic over the past 12 months, and this latest decree is yet another example of his irrational behavior.

    • jwest

      1. Mr. Karzai isn’t paranoid -he’s a realist.
      2. Folks in the power corridors are muttering about what a bad bargain we’ve bought into and how things would have been different if Mr. Massoud hadn’t been blown to kingdom come.
      3. To them, Mr. Karzai isn’t the elected representative of a sovereign nation; he’s our tame Pashtun.
      4. As for motives, Babatim has been writing for years about Mr. Karzai’s desire to displace extra-national security people with home grown contractors.
      5. That the replacements would be incompetent and corrupt isn’t germane.
      6. We’re talking patronage here, one of the sturdiest supports in any politician’s foundation.
      7. Topic two: the incredibly inept Taliban.
      8. Anybody looks bad in comparison to our fine troops.
      9. Back in the Jurassic period, was highly disillusioned by my fellow soldiers. Second time out of the gate, got to see a lot of other foreign forces and none of them were as good as we were back in the day.
      10. And we’re much better now: higher quality troops, better training, somewhat better equipment.
      11. The Taliban lack everything: high selection standards, training and gear. To boot, they have crippling cultural imperatives.
      12. Working in their favor is our national desire to accomplish our goals with little pain and suffering -and the pols and PC figureheads probably reflect some sort of majority consensus.
      13. Also the military is still working on the issue of combating non-state opponents.
      14. In a contest of wills, being ignorant and ill-equipped isn’t a crippling disadvantage.
      15. Glad you are feeling better.
      V/R JWest

      • Bilbo Baggins

        1. Karazai not paranoid? Maybe but definitely not a sound and astute individual…maybe you’ve seen his mental health records?
        2. Power corridors? Which ones…CENTCOM HQ, White House, Pentagon, Quantico, Lewis Hall at Leavenworth…?!? Bad bargain, yes…but we’ve supported this heap of dung through some bad times all the while he is poking us in the eye. Should have dropped kicked his ass last year when he clearly cheated his way to a win.
        3. Don’t agree that he is completely in bed with the US…no bouts or public outbursts that have made the international MSM stage (lately) but he still whines and cries about how the US is carrying out its mission all the while providing him a relative safe haven inside Kabul.
        4. Home grown contractors sounds easy to “grow” but I think the reality is you’re taking big risks and possibly unnecessary ones…
        5. Disagree…if I were relying one of these “home grown” security elements it would be relevant to me. Remember Dave P says in the COIN manual we have to provide security for the people and those rebuilding it…
        6. No argument there but not sure who Karazai is seeking patronage from…local populace, he has shown he will pay for election wins regardless and the US policy is onboard to for the most part…remember all the reports of ballot stuffing last year?
        7. Incredibly inept? Careful because you’re sounding a lot like an arm chair warrior. Toe-to-toe we kick their ass from here to Kandahar, but never under estimate their abilities to influence the population and run circles around our FOB-tethered troops. They also score the ocassional ‘high payoff’ when the conditions are right, so I would be cautious and not so dismissive.
        8. Agree but what does that matter?
        9. Jurassic Period = Vietnam? Nicaragua? Greneda? Panama? Desert Storm? Somalia? Haiti? Balkans? Foreign troops fight for their government and their cause…coalition warfare sounds and reads well to the American public but in reality is much less effective then our senior leaders tout.
        10. Better off now compared to when? Vietnam? WWII? 90′s and our excursions into Somalia, Haiti, and the Balkans?
        11. Again, you’re using a western military prism to assess a local threat that has better information networks, functioning (albiet not to western standards) shadow governments, effective recruiting and training, and the benefit of sanctuary across the border in Pakistan. They’re not a 100 feet tall but they are a real threat with low tech capabilites that put our modern forces to the test. Not to mention the economic cost they place on our nation as we attempt to counter them. Same story different actors — high tech “modern” military versus low tech insurgent/guerilla/asymetric threat/fourth generation reject/hybrid threat…you can give them any label you choose but the story remains the same.
        12. Agree and the political influence in ‘wars’ will never change until something radical within our country occurs — foreign military invades mainland USA or the country collapses under social and economic disorder, which ever comes first….politics will always drive armed conflct usually dressed in “nation security threat” clothing.
        13. See comments under #11
        14. Whose will? The average joe just trying to get through his 12 month deployment or the idiots inside the Beltway who manage this war?
        15. Ditto

        This numbered list thing is sort of fun….

    • J.R.

      While a lot of good explanations have been offered, I think there’s also an other angle to it: As long as there are better paying private security companies, joining the police simply isn’t attractive. The practice of training Afghans in police and army procedures without ensuring that they actually join the ASF afterwards probably didn’t help: The good ones join a better paying private security company, many others vanish (or join the insurgents) and who actually takes this risky job probably often couldn’t make it anywhere else.
      So getting rid of the “competition” looks like the “easier” choice. Especially if compared to making the police forces more attractive, for example. (If that’s even possible – simply being police appears to be a lot more deadly than guarding foreigners.)

      Add to that the “getting tough on shootings” election motivation, and you end up with a decision any policy maker anywhere on the world might come up with.

      Actually, the concept might work for Kabul: Embassies and NGOs have their permanent employed guard staff to secure their property and the police secures the streets. Considering the Kabul-centricity of most major policy decision makers – Afghan or international – this perspective doesn’t really come as a surprise. (At least that’s my impression, might of course be wrong.)

      The major problem, pointed out already, will be the security of people travelling the countryside – especially given the rather short time frame given to adapt.

    • dennis

      I see things went boom in jalalabad again. :(

    • E2

      on the contrary, J.R., the ANP probably doesn’t lose too many recruits to private security companies because there’s actually quite a bit of money to be made in the form of bribes and flat out extortion. Your average ANP is going to sit on a static CP and collect, while dodging the occasional round from the villains. The border police are notorious for this.

    • Bilbo Baggins

      E2 — correct again! ANP like most underpaid security personnel across the globe will gladly sit on their behinds taking bribes from the drug element/corrupt government officials/insurgents/terrorists/whoever…apply label as appropriate. Plus, don’t forget the occassional “road tax” and other forms of extortion rackets they run against their own people. Why wouldn’t they…their compensation is miserably low and sporadic in arriving, plus don’t forget the corrupt district chief who takes his cut for the police officers paycheck. Personally, I would pack-up and go home if I was saddled with some shady security element I didn’t or couldn’t trust while I am risking life and limb to help the needy. Not worth dying for some corrupt local security element to sell me over to the Taliban as a guest star in one of their propoganda videos… All Hail the Chief…Karazai with his foreign passports, overseas homes, and bug-out bags packed and in the car. Don’t fool yourselves after he fleeces the country for all he can get he will be the first to exit as Kabul falls (again)…

    • jwest

      1. Feel like I just got worked over by one of my Jesuit instructors.
      2. Brevity and clarity are the soul of logic?
      3. The power corridors I refer to are in DOD, State and the West Wing. Don’t know anyone at Centcom, at the moment.
      4. The notion that Mr. Karzai is his own man is a polite and PC fiction publicly maintained by the inhabitants of #3.
      5. When Mr. Karzai attempts to nationalize potential sources of income, he could care less about the quality of service provided by the Afghan follow-ons.
      6. Jurassic=Vietnam.
      7. “Incredibly inept” was a rephrase of some of your descriptors. A lot of what I know about their capabilities comes from reading your commentary.
      8. Do not underestimate the capabilities of the local belligerents. Recall talking to an Army Captain, just back from Iraq in 2004 -when the insurgency was taking off there. He said the typical bad guy in Dish-dasha, plastic sandals, with an AK, one magazine and a cell phone was successfully fighting the best trained and equipped army in the world.
      9. We won that one (at least temporarily) by standing up the Sons of Iraq -i.e. buying off most of the bad guys.
      10. One Operation Cyclone participant described the Afghans he met as “teachable and willing to take casualties to lay a hurt on the Sovs.” Not sure how many survivors of that era are still around. Their sons are.
      11. Anyway, it all comes down to the matter of will. No Lack of that in the mountains.
      12. Our troops will follow their orders. It’s the 27 year old SES’er in the West Wing or their soul mate in Foggy Bottom that will be irresolute.
      13. Our strategery in Afghanistan seems to have two irreconcilable elements: (1) establish some form of Democracy and (2) GTFO.
      14. The numbering format helps with clarity and staying on message. Going back to SOJ approved paragraph format probably would be worse.
      V/R JWest

      • Bilbo Baggins

        Sorry jwest but not taking personal aim at you but rather frustrated with a lot of “stuff” associated with this so-called war. I invested numerous months which have become years trying to serve the military “mission” in that place. From 2004-2008 you couldn’t get most Americans to remember we were fighting a war in Afghanistan. Then viola 2008-2009 rolls around and you would think we just discovered Afghanistan anew. A lot of bad military and political decisions made in this conflict but one sad result is many companies and individuals are making a lot of money from this conflict. I am out of uniform now and for the most part I try to move on but it takes some effort to focus on something else as old habits die hard…

        • anan

          jwest, how did we win in Iraq? The ISF killed a lot of people, brutally. This is an important reason why the sons of Iraq were so eager to sign up. They feared the ISF would kill them and their families without all the political niceties. All the regional powers feared that they would have to deal with the GoI and ISF long term and that the GoI/ISF could engage in painful retribution over the long run. [All the countries in the middle east have disgruntled people that could be turned into terrorism and resistance movements with foreign patrons.]

          Why can’t building up the ANSF [and firing the dead weight mid grade officers] work in Afghanistan? In 1945 often very young people lead battalions. No reason very young aggresive motivated Afghan officers can’t do the same in Afghanistan.