visitors since 4 oct 2008

Rocky Road

As the summer started I was optimistic regarding the chances that we would see some indications that we are gaining ground in Afghanistan but that has not happened.  Incident rates are skyrocketing which in and of itself is not a negative thing if it is our side who are instigating the incidents but that is not the case.  While ISAF is conducting more raids and presence patrols they do not seem to have learned anything when it comes to pulling these operations off while managing the perceptions and attitudes of the population we are supposed to be protecting.  By projecting force off of FOB’s we create a vacuum after every operation.  Nature hates a vacuum so at the moment we see politicians filling that void.  Let me provide an example:

The aftermath of a brief reportedly violent demonstration on the Jalabad/Torkham road yesterday morning

The aftermath of a brief reportedly violent demonstration on the Jalabad/Torkham road yesterday morning

Earlier in the week a joint Afghan/American SF team raided a madrasa in Sarracha village which is next to the massive airfield/military base in Jalalabad.  They hit the madrasa at night and arrested five men described as mullahs or madrasa students (depends on who you ask).  The next morning a large crowd closed the main highway between Jalalabad and the border and threatened to start burning cars and throwing stones at the police and in general getting out of hand.  The police responded in great numbers but when they arrived a local candidate for Parliament was on hand calming the crowd down and swearing  ”he will not rest” (where did he get that line) until he has talked with the Governor and ISAF and the police to get the people detained released.  As it was approaching 100 degrees and this is Ramadan the crowd said OK and dispersed.  By the time I got there the police were gone and only a few men remained who were clearing the road of rocks.  My terp JD and I asked what had happened and were told the American SF had raided the Madras and taken five students and then they tore up the Koran.  I burst out laughing at that one as did JD the Terp saying that and said flat was BS and JD asked the guy how he could say something that stupid.  The man started laughing too – everyone in this country knows that neither US or Afghan troops are going to touch let alone destroy a Koran.

The fuel tanker fleet continues to use anti bording parties topside only now they are in place from the Torkham border all the way to Kabul.

The fuel tanker fleet continues to use anti boarding parties topside only now they are in place from the Torkham border all the way to Kabul.

Here’s the thing – why is an Afghan political candidate managing the perceptions of a raid we conducted on a village less than a mile from one of our regional bases?  Pashtunwali works both ways and if these people are harboring villains then who is accountable for that?  I’m not advocating rounding people up and sweating them I’m saying the elders should be called into the mosque for a shura with the district governor and both Afghan and ISAF military representation and forced to explain why they can’t keep their house in order.  If that seems a bit confrontational then both sides can explain their positions and everyone can talk for hours to reach some sort of understanding.  Allowing insurgents into a village puts the village at risk because ISAF and the Afghan Army seek insurgents out and hit them aggressively.  That is why they exist and nobody can claim that seeking out those who are against a stable and peaceful Afghanistan is an illegitimate task.  The potential for collateral damage is significant and the responsibility for that damage has to rest on those who allow targets into their midsts.  We are using all carrots or all sticks depending on geographic location.   In Kunar Province ISAF fights daily while delivering aid programs while in Nangarhar Province we swoop down in the middle of the night and take away suspected insurgents and leave allowing various actors with their own agendas to fill the vacuum we create with whatever message benefits them. Kunar gets the carrots while Nangarhar gets the stick and I’m not sure why that is.  Until ISAF wises up and starts calibrating their operations to gain the maximum effect from every offensive action we are going to continue to get played by Afghan elites.

Now the villains have switched up hitting tankers heading into Kunar as the transit Jalalabad towards the Bishood Bridge.  This was a spectacular attack as the driver hit the gas when his truck blew up in an attempt to outrun the flames shooting out of the back.  He didn't make it but did leave a trail of burning fuel for the entire length of the main downtown area.

Now the villains have switched up their tactics hitting tankers heading into Kunar as the transit Jalalabad towards the Bishood Bridge. This was a spectacular attack as the driver hit the gas when his truck blew up in an attempt to outrun the flames shooting out of the back. He didn't make it but did leave a trail of burning fuel for the entire length of the main downtown area.

In order to gain any positive result from a raid requires ISAF to be there in the morning which is one reason why I think the night time hard hits are so unproductive.  Getting your side of the story out while leaving a small detachment of guys to probe into what is going on is critical because it sends a message.  That message is we’re not stupid.  In the last 72 hours we have had 16 rockets and 6 IED attacks.  One of these IED attacks killed the sub governor of La Pur district at the gates  of the Governor’s compound.  Was it Taliban who did this?  Who knows?  The local people know that the Sub Governor had been spending time in Kabul trying to get his son released from jail. His son has been incarcerated for two months since he copped to killing one of his cousins over a family dispute which he may or may not have done himself.  Nothing here is linear or simple as it is common for the sons of powerful men to take a fall knowing their fathers will get them out soon.

Today 5 trucks were destoyed in a gas station a few miles to the east of Jalalabad by a single limpet mine attack

Today 5 trucks were destroyed in a gas station a few miles to the east of Jalalabad by a single limpet mine attack

One mine - quickly attached from a passing motorcycle was all it took

One mine quickly attached from a passing motorcycle was all it took

It appears that the intial explosion caused a massive fireball which wiped out the men siting in the station office.  Over 70% of civilian deaths in Afghanistan are caused by the various insurgent groups

The men siting in the station office were not injured but the flaming fuel destroyed the office which was downstream of the tankers. Nobody was killed this time but over 70% of civilian deaths in Afghanistan are caused by the various insurgent groups

There is another mine attached to one of the trucks parked in the background but it failed to function.  Being that Friday is a day off the Skipper is, as usual on a call in the boonies and will have to get this one when he finishes.  The Skipper is a "man of the book" and tells me "evil never takes a day off and niether do I"l

There was another mine attached to one of the trucks parked in the background which went off shortly after I took this picture. But the truck was full of water and didn't burn so the ANP immediately arrested the driver and his assistant for fuel theft.

The tanker wars continue as you can see above but to what end?  It could be the “broken windows” theory of terrorism where the bad guys seek to keep constant pressure on the civilians with nuisance attacks in highly trafficked areas creating the perception of tactical freedom of action or it could be fuel company wars.  Who knows?  I don’t and I am pretty sure ISAF doesn’t either.

This is the start of a higly charged meeting between the Rodat district sub governor, the police chief and the station owner. The topic of the meeting is easy to guess - why can't the government protect people from this sort of nonesense

This is the start of a highly charged meeting between the Rodat district sub governor, the police chief and the station owner. The topic of the meeting is easy to guess - why can't the government protect people from this sort of nonsense.

The summer is coming to a close, the surge is on, the bases around Afghanistan are packed with military and contractor personnel yet for the average Afghan things continue to go right down the toilet.  Make no mistake we are still in a shooting war and in a shooting war a commander has three forms of currency he must spend; money, blood and time.  The various insurgent groups are spending blood – we are spending tons of money and time.  The problem is that the Taliban has a vast surplus of fighters while we are running out of both money and time. ISAF is hamstrung for two reasons; the first is risk aversion and lack of initiative.  The bloated staffs which expand exponentially are completely focused on the unimportant.  If powerpoint briefs could bring the Taliban to bay  (and they could if we could inflict a few on them daily – they are worse than water torture) then we would be already be home. Anyone who has been anywhere near the ISAF HQ in Kabul speaks of a dysfunctional culture so bizarre that Hollywood could never do it justice.  The giant staffs which inflict so much pain and misery on those below them are a self inflicted wound and that is on the US military.  The second factor the military can do little about and that is the Karzai government.  Check this out:

After the corruption scandals, Karzai criticized U.S. war strategy and ordered private security companies out of Afghanistan within four months. He also signed off on the forced retirement of his official in charge of the Anti-Corruption unit.

We put pressure on the government about the corruption – they put pressure on the international community operating outside the wire and then we react to them.  That is not a recipe for success.  We are hamstrung with the Afghan government because we lack leadership, a central focus and direction.  This news about the CIA paying members of the Karzai administration who are currently under investigation is a great example.  I have no problems with doing what it takes to accomplish the mission but we have been at this for a decade and it seems to me if the information we paid for was worth a damn the ISAF J2 would not publicly complain about the complete lack of relevant intelligence and the current security stats wouldn’t look like this:

AGE is UN speak for anti government elements and as you can see they are operating at an all time high

AGE is UN speak for Anti-Government Elements and as you can see they are operating at an all time high. Hat tip to Sami the Finn at Indicium Consulting.

I correspond almost daily with American troops in Afghanistan,  They are a frustrated crew.  I hear the same thing over and over – “take the handcuffs off and let us off the FOB; we know what to do.”  I’m not the only one getting this message and hope those on high are thinking about what they’re hearing from the pointed end of the spear because we are running out of time and we are running out of money.

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    40 comments to Rocky Road

    • ken

      Thanks for the post TimSan.. was wondering whats going on lately..

      the “perception” bit is very timely.. If I were a mil cat, id set a 5 click radius for local perception management around any major base or FOB, and put a team of pacol, and shalwar kameese wearing dudes and/or scarve wearing fm’s… out in a guest house near by, to mingle and make friends with the locals…. buy local products, hire local people, stimulate the economy etc..

      And while they are at it, they could DO things for the locals, like provide internet access, or medical clinics and such…

      crazy idea, i know..

    • J Harlan

      This is the only really interesting blog on Afghanistan extant. Shabash.

      Funny how stats work. The Eastern Region looks flat but only because of the withdrawal from the Korengal Valley which could account for as much as 25% of incidents in past years.

      My perception of ISAF is that it does not have loads of good troops itching to get out and come to grips with the enemy or even do good deeds. Yes there are a few but the vast majority are just putting in time, are quite happy to sit on their base and are barely capable of guarding the front gate of their FOB. This especially applies to HQs above the “level of reality”. Most ISAF non-log activity (and much of the log supports people to do no good and some harm to the mission)outside the wire serves little or no purpose- escorting people to meetings where nothing is accomplished or the dreaded “presence patrol”- driving around with no mission other than to drive around.

      This is how we can spend tens of billions more, with far more soldiers, civilians and ANSF and have insurgent activity continue to climb. Insurgent attacks have gone up over the last four years up in near parallel with development spending, troops numbers, civilian casualties, and security force casualties.

      I expect the chart showing AGE activity does not include events where ISAF/ANSF had the initiative. Imagine if the Taliban had a state sponsor (or even the commander of a big Pakistani ammo dump who goes off the rez)willing to provide them decent mid-1980s era weapons?

    • You’re website is an incredible resource for gaining a glimpse at what the situation is on the ground. I want to thank you for putting in the effort to let your experiences educate others.

    • dennis

      I know a soldier there now,who said he is flat out tired being locket up in a MRAP on convoy escorts. and not being aloud to do what he was trained to do,so( risk aversion)from the higher up,= less civilian casualties.So the last part of Tims post is spot on. Petraeus says we are winning with the use of SF,(hmm) maybe? but not by what I’m reading,and what other contractors are saying.Then on top of all thing, they have a vote coming up that can cause some killing.Runs on bank,the recalling of the afghan ambassador.And summer not over yet. stay safe.

    • Ray

      Tim,
      As always a good well thought out post, with lots of incite into the local atmospherics. I only wish the stars up in Kabul read your posts. I was out yesterday and talked to a number of locals who are just fed up with all the corruption within the GiROA, and especially with ISAFs seeming indifference to it. We need to get a handle on this monster (GiROA) soon or you will be right and all of the last 9 years will have been for nothing. Hope you are feeling better now, it sure was good to see you the other day.

    • anan

      babatim if you don’t mind my asking, why do you use the name “babatim”? Is it because Afghans respectfully and endearingly call you “Baba” “Tim”? Or Father Tim?

      To change the topic back to the 10 provinces in 201 ANA’s battlespace. This has always been an economy of force mission on the part of ISAF, ANA and ANP. When Obama was elected, the then 11 provinces of 201 ANA Corps [Kabul, Wardak, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar, Parwan, Kapisha, Panjir, Bamiyan] had only 3 ANA Brigades to cover them [old 1-201, old 2-201, old 3-201.] Now that is expanding from 3 brigades to 7 ANA brigades. Not to mention the fact that each combat infantry battalion in the ANA is expanding from 3 combat companies to 4 combat companies.

      Looks like your region now has two ANA brigades [2-201 and forming 4-201 ANA.]

      What affect are increased ANA operations having in your neck of the woods? Do you see 201 ANA PAOs up and about [201 Corps has PAOs, but not sure if they talk to locals or merely focus on media]?

      To change the topic to a macro question. The ANA Commandos now have 9 combat commando battalions. The ANA Special Forces are also in the process of expanding from 4 A-teams to several times as many. What regions of Afghanistan would you focus the limited Commando and Special Force assets on?

      • babatim

        Baba is Dari for Grandfather and due to my white beard everyone thinks I am a granddad which is not the case. My driver started that nickname in 2006 and it has stuck.

        The 201st is headquartered in Jalalabad but focused almost entirely on Kunar Province. We do not see too many ANA operations in this part of Nangarhar Province although the Commando’s and SF teams are active in the southern triangle. I would like to see more of the 201st operating in a sustained fashion in the districts south of us but I don’t think they have the men to do that given all the activity in Kunar.

        As far as what to do with your SF assets my generic response would be to focus on the Loya Paktia area where they could have the most impact. But if ISAF is still planning to make Kandahar the main effort then I would argue that those teams support that operation. I still think Kandahar would a game changer but it is going to take a lot of infantry to win it decisively

        • anan

          Is “Baba” one of those proto Ayran words? It seems that “Baba” means father, grandfather, respected elder, in every single one of the South Asian and Central Asian languages. There seem to be many shared words like this.

          The battlespaces of ANA brigades are changing. As of now I think the battlespaces are as follows: [Render, not mentioning bn locations since you think I work for the Taliban :-) ]

          -111 ANA Division [1st and 2nd Brigades] greater Kabul. Total 111 ANA Division minus 3-111 [old 3-201] has 3,949 [the actual number is declassified Render.] Both 1-111 and 2-111 are understrength. Turkish/Italian mentored. Use to have French mentors but probably not anymore.
          -3rd Bde, 111 ANA Division serves as praetorian guard near Kabul. It is assigned Kapisha/Parwan. Possibly officially Bamiyan/Panjir too although neither province has significant ANA. Greek/French mentored.
          -Newly forming 3-201 will probably be assigned to shore up Kapisha/Parwan/Bamiyan/Panjir. French mentored.
          -2nd Bde 201 Corps use to have Laghman/Nuristan/Kunar/Nangarhar. It use to be and I think remains entirely US mentored, although 101 has replaced the Marine mentors [too bad.] It is HQed in Nangharhar although as Baba Tim said it was focused on Kunar.
          -Forming 4th Bde, 201 Corps is also based in Nangarhar and will probably slip 2-201′s battlespace
          -1st Bde, 201 ANA Corps will probably get Wardak and Logar. Some of its older units are problematic. It is Portuguese and US mentored. Maybe some left over French mentors.

          Hope 201 ANA does focus on Kunar. Kunar seems to have more kinetically capable large unit Taliban than ever before. Including many TTP, TNSM, LeT, Iyas Kashmiri’s Lashkar al Zil [maybe occasionally Brigades 313 and Brigades 055.] Maybe some Siraj fighters.

          Would imagine that ANASF and ISAF special forces organized local forces [new term for LDI, APPF, etc.] might work in some tribal parts of Kunar.

          Agree with you on sending ANASF A-teams to Loya Paktia.

          Some ANASF A-teams have been sent to Kandahar province. But are “Local Forces” suited to Kandahar?

          I also question the focus on Kandahar. Why not focus on other areas where the Taliban have less popular support? Since the sons of Helmand are joining the ANSF, the ANSF should be able to recruit sufficient southern Pashtun without recruiting Kandaharis.

          It seems to me that the solution in Afghanistan is to increase the number of ANSF being trained at any given point of time, many of them outside Afghanistan. Then the Taliban have the clock and the ANSF have the time.

    • It all rolls downhill.

      “If the CO ain’t pushing, then #2 ain’t pushing. If #2 ain’t pushing then the squads ain’t pushing. If the squads ain’t pushing, then the dogface is diggin a hole.”
      -some old guy

      From Washington DC to Jalabad is a long ways downhill…

      OSTFRONT,
      R

    • J Harlan

      Anan. If 47% of an ANA brigade desserts annually or are ghost soldiers and 85% of the remaining are on hash is it still a brigade? If the ANA has few AFVs, poor gear, bad training and crummy officers and takes less than half of the casualties that ISAF does is that an indication that it’s dogging it?

      • anan

        Render, Petraeus, Rodriguez, Caldwell, Karimi and Bismillah Khan Mohammadi are pushing.

        Harlan, what ANA brigade has a 47% annual attrition rate [let alone a 47% annual desertion rate]? Seriously, I would like to know.

        The ANA’s attrition rate minus casualties are low by international standards. To give you one anecdote; until recently the ANA Corps with by far the highest attrition rate was 205th ANA Corps. Today the newest ANA Corps in Helmand [215th] has an attrition rate of only 12%. [Casualties + AWOL + those who choose not to renew their contract when their term expires.]

        “85% of the remaining are on hash” What are you talking about? The entire MoI ANP was recently tested for drugs. Only 9% were found to have trace elements of drugs in their system which means that ANP are probably less likely to take drugs than Afghans not in the police. Don’t have ANA data, but suspect they are below ANP.

        The ANA consistently took substantially higher casualties than ISAF until 2009. The casualty rate [casualties/number of ANA soldiers] for the ANA in Southern Afghanistan has fallen recently. Isn’t this a good thing? From what I understand, platoon level attacks by the Taliban have become rare in Helmand, even near Sangin [to my surprise.] Plus IEDs are becoming less of a threat in Helmand.

        There has been a major surge in violence [including ISAF deaths] in 201st ANA’s battlespace [ten provinces.] The ANA are sparse in this AO. As the ANA thicken their presence in 201 ANA’s AO, I would expect ANA casualties to reflect that.

        “crummy officers” . . . the midgrade officers that were not trained post 2001 . . . absolutely. However the ANA officers that have been commissioned in the last five years are not “crummy.” Have heard good things about them.

        “poor gear” . . . could you clarify? Which specific ANA unit are you referring to? Most of the ANA seem to have decent gear.

        “bad training” . . . I would argue that officer and NCO training hasn’t been bad. There simply hasn’t been nearly enough of it.

        AFVs mean? Did you mean to say IFVs or infantry fighting vehicles? If so, yes, the ANA is short of mechanized [wheeled or tracked] vehicles. The ANA is mostly combat infantry.

    • J Harlan

      Anan. I’ll mention your ideas on drugs to the local police chief when I wade through the opium poppy plants to get to his office.

      I’ll try to explain. If any NATO combat unit had the same level of drug use, literacy, leadership, training, equipment and weapons as the ANA they would not be deployed into theater because it would be expected that they would take huge casualties. That the ANA doesn’t have substantially more casualties than ISAF means they aren’t trying. This is the crux of the problem with NATO’s “strategy” relying on ANSF. Our allies even when they can be trusted aren’t trying.

      • anan

        Harlan, some of the national contingents in ISAF aren’t exactly “quality” forces. Fortunately most Taliban units aren’t “quality” forces either.

        In many parts of Afghanistan both the Taliban and ANSF seem so lackadaisical it seems that both of them are on a type of role playing vacation rather than fighting a war. Sure you have heard comments from many on the field to this affect.

        There are enormous variations in quality and motivation between different ANSF units and different Taliban units. It is important not to over generalize. Which ANSF units are you referring to in your comments?

        Among the most troubling ANA units are 1-201 and 2-201 ANA brigades. They are older brigades but with significant leadership problems. Yes they have messed up a bit in the east. But we shouldn’t forget that there are many other ANA brigades and battalions better than they are.

        Bilbo, did you see my Lord of the Rings question for you earlier?

        On drug testing, see:
        http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4675
        “between January of this year until this past month, we conducted what we called a PAI, a personnel assets inventory, of all of the police in this country. And we literally sent teams out that did the biometric data collection on every single police person that exists in this force.

        We’ve got about 97 percent of the force done at this point. And in doing that, when we go out and collect all the biometric data, what we also did was do 100-percent drug testing, too. And what actually came back — and really was a surprise to us, too — was that the actual drug use, on average, across the force, the police force, was about 9 percent. In certain areas it was much higher, and in other areas it was much lower; but the average across the force at the time we were doing this, which was about 100,000, came out to be right about 9 percent for drug use.

        Obviously, it’s a concern of the Ministry of Interior. When Minister Atmar was still the minister, he set up one or two drug rehabilitation treatment facilities”

        On ANP attrition [casualties + AWOL + those who choose not to reenlist after their terms of service are up]:

        Total ANP =16% from the same briefing. ANP – ANCOP is signficantly below 16%.
        Total ANCOP sub-component of ANP = 47% as per Caldwell. In a later briefing by Col Clark ANCOP attrition was reported to have fallen to 40% last month. However, authorization to increase ANCOP pay was recently provided. Suspect ANCOP attrition will fall to reflect this. [Notice that many attritted ANCOP transfer to local AUP or other ANSF since it is easier on their families to avoid constant travel and because the ANCOP until now have not been better paid than other ANSF.]

        The ANP has transformed since 2009. In 2009 only about 1 thousand to 2 thousand ANP were being trained at any given time. Today there are 10,600 training seats in country and 600 training seats in Turkey [which is likely to rise to 1 thousand training seats in Turkey during the next officer cycle.] By March, 2012, 22 thousand ANP will be trained at any given time.

        This said, many ANP in Afghanistan are “useless” to use your phrase. Only about 70% of ANP in Afghanistan have had any training/vetting.

        Since you know about Kandahar, can I ask you about 1-205 ANA? Looks like they have 4 combat infantry battalion HQs + 16 combat infantry companies + 1 CS bn + 1 CSS bn. Newly forming 3-205 ANA is now assisting 1-205 in Kandahar. 3-205 looks like it has 3 combat infantry battalion HQs + 12 combat infantry companies + no CS bn + 1 CSS bn.

        Is this enough ANA for Kandahar? Suspect the Mullah Omar QST will try to avoid any kinetic engagement with the ANA and ISAF in Kandahar that is platoon level or larger. This appears to be their pattern in most of the South.

        To change the topic completely, we seem to be seeing a degrading of Mullah Omar QST and an increased role by Siraj Haqqani, other semi autonomous Eastern Afghan militia leaders + TTP/TNSM + LeT + Lashkar al Zil + IMU/IJU. Some of the later are now organizing battalion level lethal attacks against ANSF.

        Is Mullah Omar becoming less influential within the broader Taliban movement and what are the implications of this?

    • Bilbo Baggins

      I love anan’s claims….”entire MoI ANP tested for drugs.” Really? From Kabul all across Aghanistan the MoI has the ability to make such a claim? They must really have their sh!t together finally!! One year ago I couldn’t get the ANP officials in Kandahar to tell me which stations had officers assigned to them and how many officers were in those that were manned across the various districts inside Kandahar. I guess in 12 months they reversed rudder and are now the well managed outfit we want them to be…or we claim them to be? I guess anan will claim the videos posted by Render are isolated incidents?!? You can find numerous UK and US soldier posted videos showing how lazy and almost useless some of these ANA and ANP really are…of course, I contend not every single Afghan in uniform is represented in these videos. I will claim and would love to see anan refute is the absolute lack of nationalism among the Afghan people. Not their fault but they truly lack a sense of national identity, but rather their identity is familial and very localized. Lastly, anan are you keeping your paychecks in the Kabul Bank?!? How much trust do you have in your country’s banking system? How confident are you that Afghan senior officials (political and security) really care about the long term collective success of Afghanistan?

      • babatim

        You know guys the problem with dumping on the ANA and ANP at this stage of the game is that if they are all not worth a shit then we are responsible for that. As early as 2005 there were stories about the DS INL police training program being a multi million dollar disaster yet to this day that program still runs and still turns out a questionable product. We provide no mentoring or supervision of police in the field which I find unbelievable given that we know it is the only way to increase performance. With the Kabul bank going tits up and all the problems with the central government we are going to be forced to start working at the regional level. If we mimic the Marines who established a local training academy and are doing the administration and pay too – duplicate that and my bet is the security forces would improve dramatically. But of course the problem is we are out of time and money …. probably going to need that bigger boat

        • Bilbo Baggins

          Tim,

          We are going to need a bigger boat…I agree our training efforts our all over the place with regards to the military and the police. I contend our military and political systems suck at nation building, especially when you mix in the allure/greed that outsourcing brings with it. Not blaming contractors wholesale and Uncle Sam does a shitty job of oversight which doesn’t help, but my complaint is too much money is wasted on “projects” across the country and the military and political powers suck at enforcing accountability. The mix of money, lack of oversight, and absence of prioritization make effective training and mentoring non-existent. I have heard story after story since 2004 of mentorship and training programs that some unit will implement during their 12 month rotation that have wonderful local results. However, cruise the halls of USFOR-A headquarters and I am sure the tune their whistling is “hand it over to the local security forces”, so the results are already determined and no one is looking at this point to find the best solution. They have GEN Patreaus’ marching orders and much like the Iraq surge in 2007 time is running out! No one cares too much about effectiveness of the training. Effectiveness can always be spun in the media perception machine however you choose. Just get ‘em “trained” and in uniform…

          I still contend the notion of nationalism is absent in the Afghan populace. I say this not as an indictment but rather a statement of fact. Sadly, there is little national-level leadership the average Afghan can relate/support so how do you build effective systems that will endure Pakistani, Chinese, Indian, Iranian, and all the other regional actors who want to influence the situation inside Afghanistan once US and coalition forces leave? This lack of nationalism coupled with a flawed training program that is more “shake and bake” vice slow cooking makes for a bad recipe.

          Civil war will comeback to Afghanistan before too long…maybe five or ten years but it is inevitable. By that time most Americans won’t care and history will be written as our political leaders see fit…

    • Anan – I never said who I thought you were working for. I don’t care if you’re working for the Talib, ISI, RAW, FSB or all of the above all at the same time.

      I merely pointed out, (repeatedly and with as much influence as I could muster up), that you were asking all the wrong questions about the wrong places at the wrong time and of the wrong people. And you had no good reason for doing so.

      You still don’t.

      ===

      Near as I can tell, nearly everything in Afghanistan should be handled on a purely local basis.

      The Soviets tried very hard to create an Afghan national military out of thin air, but not until Gorby gave a one-year ultimatum (1985) did they seek to expand that military into a full fledged, 100,000+ man national army that could cover the withdrawal of the Soviet Army (stop me if any of this sounds familiar). Which, to some extent, it did, and then it promptly collapsed and disintegrated.

      The ANA, such as it is, should never have been larger then 18 to 25 locally raised kandaks (one per province) restricted to operating as light infantry within their own local regions, and operating only under US orders and with US advisor/officers. Total US and non-Afghan allied forces in Afghanistan should never have gone above twenty to thirty thousand active trigger pullers, supplied almost entirely by air, with no fixed bases, and permission to pursue across the Durand Line at will. All construction and re-construction should be handled by armed private contractors operating under the sole authority of an American pro-consul, regardless of whomever is playing the Afghan leadership role in Kabul.

      If a bucket has a hole in the bottom of it, increasing the flow of water into the bucket so that the water level stays the same is not going to fix that hole. Pretending that the bucket with the hole does not exist, or turning the water off and running away from that bucket, will not fix it either. The bucket will still be there and it will still have a hole in it.

      The smaller and more mobile the footprint, the harder to find and hit.

      Counter-insurgency was never going to work in Afghanistan, long term or otherwise, because we’re not facing insurgents based within Afghanistan. We’re facing an army of terrorists based in Pakistan.

      ===

      Kandahar…

      Until somebody figures out how to sit on the Khojak Pass (on the eastern side of the Durand), the Chaman Crossing will remain open for business.

      As long as the over-bloated example of mission creep gone beserk that we call the Coalition requires that ground based MSR running through Pakistan, the Chaman Crossing will remain open for business.

      As long as the Chaman Crossing remains open for Talib business, we could put ten front-line US divisions (if we still had that many) into Kandahar, and the Talib would still be crossing the border. They’d just be dying a lot faster…

      If we put just one reinforced USMC regiment into Quetta, then the Talib stop crossing the border into Afghanistan…and start dying a lot faster around Quetta.

      MAKING
      A
      DIFFERENCE,
      R

    • J Harlan

      Anan. 61% attrition for recruits.

      What drugs were tested for? How long did you have to be off hash for it, if tested, to clear your system? How much notice was given of the tests?
      I don’t believe the 9% figure is correct and I’d be surprised if Caldwell does either.

      • anan

        “61% attrition for recruits.” Care to clarify what ANSF unit or training center you are referring too? The ANP alone has at least 36 training centers inside Afghanistan. Anecdotes can be misleading.

        Caldwell apparently does believe the drug tests.

        Render: “Talib, ISI, RAW, FSB or all of the above all at the same time.” Awwwh. I am hurt. :-( How come you didn’t suggest I work for Mossad? Mossad is clearly the coolest agency to mention for Takfiri conspiracy theorists. :LOL:

        “The Soviets tried very hard to create an Afghan national military out of thin air, but not until Gorby gave a one-year ultimatum (1985) did they seek to expand that military into a full fledged, 100,000+ man national army that could cover the withdrawal of the Soviet Army (stop me if any of this sounds familiar). Which, to some extent, it did, and then it promptly collapsed and disintegrated.”

        In 1973 when the Afghan king was overthrown the ANA had over 200 thousand troops with a 250 thousand troop target. This was during a time of peace and prosperity. Adjusted for population growth, the 1973 ANA was the equivalent of a half million strength ANA today. Afghanistan was able to finance this huge military because of the draft and massive international grants from all sides of the Cold War.

        The Soviets use to give Afghanistan something like $8 billion in grants per year or more. The Soviets successfully strengthened the ANA throughout the 1980s giving them a decent AAF [Afghan Air Force] and some wheeled and tracked vehicle heavy forces.

        Maybe Gorby said something, but did it appreciably affect the Afghan Security Force capacity building effort by the Soviets?

        The communist ANA did not collapse. It fought pretty well as long as the Soviet grants lasted. It only fell in 1992, years after the Soviet grants ran out.

        Nor will the current ANSF “collapse” as you put it as long as they have sufficient funding, even if the ANSF chooses to focus on a smaller ink stain [which is what I think ANSF/ISAF should do now.]

        The real solution to defeating the Taliban is to sharply increase the number of ANSF officers and NCOs getting long term training at any given time. Ideally, much of this training should take place abroad since Afghans love to be trained abroad and because the performance of Afghan students is dependent on the ambiance of their training program and their fellow students.

        I question the focus on Kandahar. 7 ANA combat infantry battalion HQs and 28 combat infantry companies [not to mention 1 CS bn and 2 CSS bns] is a large commitment. Other parts of Afghanistan need ANSF more.

        Baba Tim, a theme of several NTM-A briefings has been the lack of coordination between different countries involved in training ANP. At least 11 countries train ANP through NTM-A while 20 other countries train ANP that are not part of NTM-A. It is only now that NTM-A is starting to organize and coordinate ANP training. MoI is starting to empower the ANP Training Command under Major General Pattang to coordinate all ANP training in cooperation with NTM-A. His chief NTM-A advisor is Colonel Clark.

        Am I completely off base, or is it offensive to the Afghans to have the chief ISAF advisor for the general responsible for all MoI training be only a Colonel?

        Baba Tim, we aren’t close to out of money as long as the political will exists. As far as time, maybe for a fight in all of Afghanistan simultaneously strategy. However, if we were willing to pull back to a smaller ink stain, why would we be out of time?

        • Anan – Talib, ISI, RAW, FSB or all of the above all at the same time. Awwwh. I am hurt. How come you didn’t suggest I work for Mossad? Mossad is clearly the coolest agency to mention for Takfiri conspiracy theorists. :LOL:

          R You have yet to demonstrate the intelligence, comprehension of logic, or ability to differentiate fact from fiction that are all necessary to qualify for a second look by Mossad. Debka maybe…

          Anan – In 1973 when the Afghan king was overthrown the ANA had over 200 thousand troops with a 250 thousand troop target. This was during a time of peace and prosperity. Adjusted for population growth, the 1973 ANA was the equivalent of a half million strength ANA today. Afghanistan was able to finance this huge military because of the draft and massive international grants from all sides of the Cold War.

          R And just six years later (1979) that 200 thousand man army failed to prevent 700 Soviet Special Forces from taking over every major government building in Kabul in just one day. It took the Soviet 40th Army just one week to drive from Termez to Kabul. 1973 to 1979 in Afghanistan was not exactly peaceful (bloody coups in ’73, ’78, and ’79), although I suppose between the already massive Soviet aid and the hippie tourist trade there was some prosperity, of a sort.

          Anan – The Soviets use to give Afghanistan something like $8 billion in grants per year or more. The Soviets successfully strengthened the ANA throughout the 1980s giving them a decent AAF [Afghan Air Force] and some wheeled and tracked vehicle heavy forces.

          R Or more. That “decent” air force was rolling loose bombs out of the back of AN-2′s and doing its best to stay out of range of Stingers after the Soviets left. When the Soviets cut off the fuel supply in 1992 that entire air force was grounded, never to fly again.

          Anan – Maybe Gorby said something, but did it appreciably affect the Afghan Security Force capacity building effort by the Soviets?

          R There is no maybe, Gorbachev said it.

          http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB57/r17.pdf

          R – The number of Soviet troops within Afghanistan tripled within weeks. There was a dramatic increase in the numbers of Afghan recruited for the Soviet backed Afghan Army. Most of the Afghan Army increases between ’85-’89 were accomplished through the time honored expedient of buying off the local militia with cash and weapons to take orders from Kabul.

          Anan – The communist ANA did not collapse. It fought pretty well as long as the Soviet grants lasted. It only fell in 1992, years after the Soviet grants ran out.

          R Yes it did collapse. Almost immediately several regions were abandoned. By the end of 1989 the only Soviet-backed Afghan military capable of offensive action was the 53rd Infantry Division, AKA Abdul Rashid Dostum’s Jozjani militia of 40,000 or so Uzbek’s. The Soviet backed Afghan Army only held its positions at Jalabad in ’89 due to the disorganization of the Muj forces involved against them and the liberal use of over 400 SCUD missiles fired by Soviet troops in support of the Afghan Communists. Of course the terminal stupidity of Hamid Gul and the ISI contributed to that Muj failure as well. The Soviet grants ran out in 1992. That’s when the fuel and ammo were cut off.

          Anan – Nor will the current ANSF collapse as you put it as long as they have sufficient funding, even if the ANSF chooses to focus on a smaller ink stain [which is what I think ANSF/ISAF should do now.]

          R The second we leave, the funding leaves with us. Given the state of our current economy do you really think the US taxpayers are going to have the will to fund a third world civil war? That smaller ink stain plan is exactly what the Soviet backed Afghan army attempted between 1989 and 1992. It failed, because no matter how small it got, it could not overcome a complete lack of fuel and ammo. It failed because it could not withstand the defection of militias like Dostum’s Uzbek’s. The Soviets were forced to negotiate seperate truces with the militias operating along their exit routes.

          Anan – The real solution to defeating the Taliban is to sharply increase the number of ANSF officers and NCOs getting long term training at any given time. Ideally, much of this training should take place abroad since Afghans love to be trained abroad and because the performance of Afghan students is dependent on the ambiance of their training program and their fellow students.

          R Yes, by all means, pour more water into the bucket with the hole in it.

          Anan – I question the focus on Kandahar. 7 ANA combat infantry battalion HQs and 28 combat infantry companies [not to mention 1 CS bn and 2 CSS bns] is a large commitment. Other parts of Afghanistan need ANSF more.

          R I question the military focus on Afghanistan at all. The Taliban bases and training camps are in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

          SHINY
          STUFF,
          R

    • dennis

      Good thoughts guys! (better stuff than what i post)@anan look up “Kandahar diary” blog, he’s a PSC working there.Read his last post, the last part gives food for thought. Tim well done.

    • J Harlan

      Anan: The 61% recruit attrition is across the entire ANSF. Do the math, it’s from Caldwell’s comments. A US general saying something or passing on a report doesn’t mean he believes it or should believe it. See Taliban/AQ/JAM/VC/NVA body counts for good examples.

      Just a question. From your questions to Tim I’m getting the impression that you’ve never been to Afghanistan and you base your comments on MOD and DOD press releases and web sites. Is this correct?

      • anan

        “61% recruit attrition is across the entire ANSF. Do the math, it’s from Caldwell’s comments.” You completely lost me. Could you clarify?

        “See Taliban/AQ/JAM/VC/NVA body counts for good examples.” Again please clarify.

        What is there to believe or not believe in a drug test results? They are what they are. If you want to know more about these drug tests, e-mail NTM-A. Have MoD e-mail addresses as well, but they aren’t good at responding to e-mails.

        “What drugs were tested for?” Don’t know. But imagine several types of drugs.

        “How long did you have to be off hash for it, if tested, to clear your system?” Don’t know. Would you like me to ask some doctor friends?

        “How much notice was given of the tests?” Don’t know.

        All new ANSF recruits are subject to drug tests.

        Why are you so sure the 9% figure is wrong?

      • babatim

        Not the case brother – I am on my way out the door to get lunch at the 201st HQ because the DFAC on that base has the best guacamole cheeseburgers in theater and one of my good friends leads the mentor team there. I don’t read much in the way of talking points and can only call them as I see them. What I see is some (not much) progress and the reason for that is exactly why I am heading to their FOB now. The embedded trainers have their own FOB with all the headaches and work which comes from running busy FOB supporting all sorts of cats and dogs (because there is extra room in which to stash people) while accomplishing what should be a simple mission. If my friends had their way there would be no separate FOB and no tenant commands using that FOB – they would live with the ANA conducting missions generated by the ANA chain of command. They don’t do that – they must submit a separate CONOPs when they leave base to a parallel chain of command which is slow, cumbersome, and focused exclusively on risk aversion for the troops assigned to mentor ANA. The ANA has good units and bad ones too like any military. Their “good units” are not that good compared to the American military baseline and there are many reasons for that. The biggest reason is that we have not conducted the mentoring part of the job in the way we did successfully in past because our “mentors” do not live and work with their charges. Ask some Marines who have recently been here about the ANA. They seem to be working very well with them in Helmand and that is due to the Marines taking in their ANA charges and treating them like members of the same team.

        • anan

          “Ask some Marines who have recently been here about the ANA.” The problem is they don’t know what is up with 201 ANA anymore. A damn shame. Seems to me that 201 ANA Corps has been hurt by losing their Marine mentors. The Marine advisors while nominally reporting to RC-East [flips between CJTF101 and CJTF82] looked out for the ANA. US Army wasn’t that relevant to their careers. The Marines were willing to say no to crapshoot joint missions that misused ANA.

          Baba Tim, thanks for the info. Presume you are talking about the 201 ANA Corps HQs specifically? Does the advisor FOB/HQs attached to 201 ANA Corps HQs coordinate/command all ISAF assets in 201 ANA Corps’ AO?

          One of the best sources of info on 201 ANA Corps is their weekly magazine:
          http://www.dvidshub.net/publication/266/the-flood

          215 in Helmand is improving rapidly. But it is still very green, and far behind 203 Corps. 215 ANA Corps hasn’t been tested in a real fight for some time.

    • J Harlan

      Anan: Why would 9% be low? How about since some US Congressmen have expressed their concern with wasting tax dollars in Afghanistan it would be in the interest of many people here ISAF and Afghan to clean up the image of ANSF. You do realize that information operations are a key component of US operations and the primary targets are US voters don’t you? You must because you linked to a rarely viewed “ANA” newsletter in English.

      This Afghan war is a scam from top to bottom so the wise thing to do is take the positive stories coming out of any government agency with a grain of salt. As they say in Missouri “Show me”.

      • anan

        Harlan, the targets of information operations are all 60 contributing countries and in particular Pakistan. Pakistan has to be persuaded to stop backing Sirajuddin Haqqani and Lashkar e Toiba for Afghanistan to stabilize. Few things persuade Pakistan like a strong ANSF that Pakistan will have to deal with long term.

        The Flood newsletter has been published for many years. 201 ANA Corps is the only one that bothers to publish a newsletter. The PAOs from 201 ANA Corps who put it together are mentioned by name and title on every issue. It isn’t a matter of tilt or no tilt. You can discount the tilt. The reason to read these is for information.

        “This Afghan war is a scam from top to bottom” Not for Afghans. If the US betrays the Afghans, the Afghan civil war will likely intensify with hundreds of thousands or millions of dead Afghans. If the ISI backs Al Qaeda/Taliban substantially they are likely to overrun most of the country but with large insurgencies in much of their AO.

      • anan

        “Why would 9% be low?” I don’t follow. Is it really that easy for a drug addict ANP to fool a drug test? Keep in mind that most ANP are illiterate villagers. How would they have the technical knowledge necessary to know about how to fool drug tests? To emphasize they are smart illiterates who want to be educated. Not questioning their intelligence but their technical knowledge.

    • ISAF also claims that the Taliban are suffering from “low morale.”

      The Talib think they’re on a suicide mission from their god. Their morale isn’t going to be effected all that much by worldly events.

      VACUUMING
      IN AN
      OPERATION,
      R

    • [...] an article on the 3rd covering Jalabad. He offers some insights as well. It is worth a gander.      more… Posted in: Battle ← What is responsible for crashing economies? Be the first [...]

    • Barely literate liberals have been fooling drug tests for as long as there have been drug tests. Some tests are considerably easier to fool then others.

      The ability to fool a drug test does not require literacy or technical knowledge. It just requires a good word of mouth system, something that is very common in low literacy areas. Almost required you might say…

      NO
      FURTHER
      COMMENT,
      R

    • E2

      I believe they tested for THC (hash, marijuana, etc), opiates, amphetamines, and cocaine during that last ANP PAI, but that may not be an exhaustive list. My experience with the ANP was that the hash usage really depends on location and leadership. I visited an ANP station in a district outside jbad where they proudly showed us their pot plant…I’ve got the pictures to prove it…not surprisingly, they were some of the worst cops in the province. I found their hash use to be outside the norm for eastern Afghanistan, though. When I was there the first time in 06, I heard many stories about how bad the drug use was down in Kandahar among the ANSF, ANP in particular. That 9% number is an average for the whole country right? I would be curious to see how each region compares. Also, I don’t know who does the actual testing, but if it’s being left to MoI personnel to do it, you can bet that cops, prospective cops, and officers are bribing their way out of participation in Operation Golden Flow, which obviously distorts the picture.

    • J Harlan

      I wonder how many ANSF just miss drug testing day. If you have a 47% overall attrition rate and people seem to be able to come and go you’d think a bunch would just take a pass on the piss test.

      Eight years and the very best ANA unit is worse than the worst US unit. That’s no surprise. I’m not overly impressed with the US military (other than the bits that destroy stuff from the air)so this should make everyone who thinks training the ANSF is the answer to have second thoughts about the entire NATO strategy. Many of the problems with ANSF are NATO’s fault but the greatest problems are poor morale and poor recruit quality and those are the fault of “our” Afghans. Where have we seen this before?

    • Lee in Kabul

      Good article Tim and a good interview…although there’s a lot more grey in that goatee then I remember. Stay safe brother!

    • John Ryan

      looks like at least some are now ready to admit that their views of “progress” were in error. Things are getting worse and time is running out. The social conservatives i.e. THE TALIBAN are going to have a place in the government o in Kabul

    • dennis

      ?? Guys awhile back it was said that Mullah Omar was in the hands of pakistan,and yet he sends out statement of encouragement to his followers? Is there more than one Mullah Omar out there.??

    • There’s a difference between being in custody and being a guest.

      NATIONAL
      GUN
      CLEANING
      DAY,
      R

    • dennis

      The title would seem to sums it up for the Muslims here in the states.

    • The question is, will the US defend it?