Afghanistan Summary

This summary comes from Sami the Finn a.k.a Sami Kovanen, the Senior Information Analyst at Indicium Consulting. Sami has been in Afghanistan for over six years now and is one of the best informed analyst working outside of the ISAF security bubble.  He was kind enough to let me post this update and for those of you who are interested in additional analysis of this type you can reach Sami via the Indcium Consulting website at

On this week numbers of countrywide incidents decreased slightly in every category in comparison to previous reporting period, but in spite of the decrease on this week, the overall trend after the elections is still showing upwards, which is not a promising sign for this winter and expected lull in fighting what usually has started this time of the year. Even if the trend would turn in near future, still the difference between this and last year is drastic and actually been increasing from earlier months of this year (from last year TB / AGE incidents were approx 40% up during the first three months of this year, during the summer incidents were approx 80% higher than on last year and since the election TB / AGE (Taliban / Anti-Government Elements) incidents have been up approx 120%).

If the same trend will continue throughout the winter we will have total of approx 17500 – 18000 TB / AGE initiated incidents on this year, which would be approx 80% higher than last year. And if the current trend would continue throughout the next year we could be witnessing approx 34000 – 36000 TB / AGE initiated incidents during the next year. Although this is unlikely scenario and more likely the increase of attacks will not continue with the current pace, the outlook of next year is grim. This is a concern especially when considering the current situation and overstretched IMF / ANSF (International Military Forces / Afghanistan Security Forces) troops and their capacity. Even if the more conservative estimation of the next year’s attack rate is somewhere at around 30000 incidents, it still will pose a serious challenges for IMF / ANSF troops to manage the overall situation, especially if the TB / AGE elements are able to continue their infiltration into earlier calm areas like what is happening at the moment.

Kinetic operations by International Military and Afghan security forces have continued with high tempo. Militarily these operations have continued been success with significant amount of TB / AGE leaders, facilitators and fighters been killed, but the affect on the field is still unseen in many ways and TB / AGE elements have continued showing extreme capabilities to cope in spite of the significant loses. However, there are some indicators about the lower morale among fighters and especially disruptions of the supply chains, which might have an effect to ground level situation and bring some results in the future.

Total numbers of incidents on this week were 522 incidents (550 on last week); from which 393 were relatively serious incidents (420 on last week) and 482 incidents were related to TB / AGE elements (518 on last week). During the last three weeks there have been total of 1172 TB / AGE incidents in Afghanistan, which is significantly higher than 448 attacks on same weeks last year (162% increase from last year).

Route Clearance Package working outside of Kandahar
An American Route Clearance Package working outside of Kandahar

At Regional level TB / AGE incidents increased significantly in North-eastern Region (after last week’s similar drop) and slightly in Northern and Southern Region. In South-eastern, Eastern, Central Regions incidents decreased noteworthy, although still within the normal weekly fluctuation.

Breakdown of TB / AGE incidents by Regions:

  1. South-eastern Region (140 incidents – 36% of countrywide incidents)
  2. Southern Region (125 incidents – 32%)
  3. Eastern Region (36 incidents – 9%)
  4. Central Region (34 incidents – 9%)
  5. Western Region (21 incidents – 5%)
  6. North-eastern Region (21 incidents – 5%)
  7. Northern Region (16 incidents – 4%)
  8. Central Highlands (0 incidents)

Main types of attacks have remained consistent with earlier weeks; IEDs (163 previous week 164) have remained the numbers one tactic, followed by CPX (complex) attacks (82 previous week 81), SAF (Small Arms Fire) attacks (76 previous week 101) and rocket / mortar attacks (43 previous week 42). Suicide attacks have continued with average of 2.5 attacks per weekly, which is slightly lower than last year’s weekly average of 3 attacks per week. However, due to increasing usage of suicide bombers in complex attacks, the amount of used suicide bombers have continued increasing in Afghanistan.

Harassment / intimidation and direct attacks against civilian population (IEDs, rockets, SAF, assassinations, abductions, etc), or incident in which civilians are affected indirectly have continued at high level. On this week there were at least 98 incidents / attacks initiated by TB / AGE elements in which civilians were targeted directly or affected indirectly. Once again majority of these incidents occurred in Southern and South-eastern Regions.

15 Replies to “Afghanistan Summary”

  1. Observers should remember that incident reporting is a tricky thing. ANSO uses UN reports and doesn’t count a “found IED ” as an insurgent incident. When you compare ISAF generated incident reports with UN there are invariably more. ISAF units have also stopped reporting some types of contacts because they were no casualties or are so regular they’ve stopped being note worthy. We also rarely see reports of insurgent intimidation of local Afghans and ANSF reporting has always been spotty.

    Conclusion: Reports of insurgent activity are probably 1/3 of reality which is why most Afghans feel the Taliban are increasingly in control.

  2. I wonder how these figures roughly compare to Iraq in the 2007-2008 “surge” period?

    As I recall, many uninformed observers (i.e., politicians) concluded that the Iraq surge was a failure simply because the kinetic operations and casualties were so much higher. This was, of course, expected as more combat forces engaged more bad guys on a more frequent basis. Eventually, as the bad guys died and surrendered, the casualties plummeted.

    Is there anything similar going on here in A-stan? Is it more worrisome that the number of incidents initiated by the bad guys has been climbing so steadily even though the “surge” in forces started in early 2010 and is now more or less complete as of August/September? Is this Obama Surge in any way different than the Bush Surge in Iraq?

  3. “Although this is unlikely scenario and more likely the increase of attacks will not continue with the current pace, the outlook of next year is grim. ”
    So I guess that means no HAPPY NEW YEAR These Islamic fundamentalist are getting stronger not weaker, they are pushing north and will begin causing problems north of the Oxus soon. The solutions we are using today will be creating tomorrow’s problems, just as they did in the 80s

  4. The timing of the Iraq surge was lucky in that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad of Sunnis had largely been completed which led the Baathists to conclude they needed a ceasefire with the US to gain time to rearm and train. It was Shia success in Baghdad that spurred the Sunni nationalists to lay off the US. Afghanistan isn’t a three-way war so the chances of replicating the Iraq situation is zero.

    1. Harlan,

      Will discuss Afghanistan some other time.

      You miss many of the primary dynamics in Iraq. Which Iraqis are you talking too?

      The US refused to sufficiently fund, train, equip and advise the ISF between 2003 and 2006. Part of the reason for this was that Rumsfeld and Cheney consistently blocked those who favored surging Iraqi capacity. General Casey has admitted that he almost never spoke to President Bush while he was commander of MNF-I. He also admitted that he was never told that his mission was to win the war in Iraq. His understanding was that it was the responsibility of the GoI and ISF to win the war in Iraq; and that his mission was transition.

      In late 2006, several major events took place:
      1) President Bush ordered MNF-I to train, equip, fund and advise the ISF in a major way for the first time since 2003
      2) PM Maliki took over the reigns of power, and authorized a large increase in ISF funding. PM Maliki in general increasingly took over the war, governance and economic reconstruction
      3) Several Iraqi Army Divisions dramatically improved in performance in late 2006. Including 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 9th IADs; the ISOF, Babil SWAT, Karbala QRF [MoI IP], Najaf IP, Ninevah IP, At Tamin IP, Wasit IP. 6th IAD, 5th IAD, and 10th IAD fragmented and deteriorated in Baghdad, Diyala and Basrah/Maysan. But this was greatly outwayed by the improvement of the ISF elsewhere.

      The IA and IP grew at a stunning rate in numbers, quality and capacity in 2007. One affect of this was to weaken sectarian Iranian backed Shiite militias such as Badr and JAM; and the Shiite and Iraqi masses surged their support behind the IA.

      The IA was substantially more Sunni Arab than the Iraqi population as a whole. It is precisely because the IA was the least sectarian and most patriotic institution in Iraq; that the Iraqi people loved and admired the IA. By early 2007 the IA was more popular and respected than JAM among Sadrist and Badr among their base. Muqtada knew that if JAM fought the IA, his political base would abandon him and rally behind the IA and PM Maliki. This is why he [and SCIRI/Badr] tried so hard to avoid confrontations with the IA. Simultaneously the IA was more popular, respected and legitimate among Iraqi Sunni Arabs than the Baa3thists and Al Qaeda.

      In early 2007 Maliki, Petraeus and the commanding generals of the ISF devised a strategy:
      1) surge the size of the ISF by more than 15,000 a month
      2) dramatically reduce the number of MNF-I troops in Ninevah, At Tamin, Salahadin, and the South to focus on greater Baghdad.
      3) Bring 7 new US brigades to focus on greater Baghdad
      4) concentrate ISOF predominantly on greater Baghdad
      5) Bring half of 2nd IAD, half of 3rd IAD, part of 4th IAD, 4th Bde 1st IAD, part of 7th IAD, and all of 9th mech IAD into greater Baghdad in early 2007. This shaped Iraq for one of the largest offensives of modern military history.

      MNF-I and ISF jointly launched a massive nationwide offensive on June 16th, 2007. Within days of the June 16th, 2007, surge offensive; it was clear that GoI/ISF/MNF-I had captured positive momentum across Iraq.

      The real surge in Iraq was the ISF surge. Fact is that LTG Uthman’s 8th IAD, Najaf IP, Babil SWAT, Karbala IP were ready to take the lead and inflict severe pain on the enemies of Iraq in the upper south. ISF took over security in Ninevah and At Tamin and much of Salahadin in late 2006 and early 2007. ISF took over most security in Al Anbar in early 2007. This is what freed up US forces for operations in Baghdad and Diyala and win there.

      Harlan, dude, you need to free yourself from the Saudi propaganda you have allowed to colonize your mind.

      If you want to understand what happened in Iraq, examine the Diyala offensive that began June 16th, 2007 [as one part and not even the biggest part of the nationwide offensive.] Maliki and IGFC commanding Gaidan fired 5th IAD commanding BG Shakar [a complete lunatic] and replaced him with Staff Major General Abdul Kareem al Robai. They brought it part of 4th and 3rd IAD to help with the offensive. Within days of Shakar getting fired, 5th IAD improved dramatically in quality, especially 19-5 bde.

      You cannot have a serious discussion about Iraq without discussing the ISF. The reason violence in October 2010 was 95% below October 2006 is because of the ISF. The victory in Iraq was won by the GoI and their ISF.

  5. So why is the violence in Iraq on the increase again? Nevermind, that’s not the subject of the thread…


    The first and most crucial difference between the two different surge operations is the logistics. Fuel was never an issue for Coalition forces operating in Iraq. Iraq has a seaport, Afghanistan does not.

    The second crucial difference is the national infrastructure. Iraq has an extensive (for a third world nation) and well developed paved road system. Afghanistan does not.

    Iraq’s road system and seaport allow the use of heavy tracked armor in large numbers. Afghanistan does not.

    A third crucial difference is inside of Pakistan, where al-Q and the Taliban maintain hundreds of training camps in a relatively safe haven. Although both Syria and Iran allowed various anti-Coalition forces to transit their borders with Iraq, neither maintained so many large training camps, and those in Syria were not out of US reach.


    I could go on, but I’m on a borrowed laptop…that sux.


    1. “So why is the violence in Iraq on the increase again?” It isn’t. LTG Cone two days ago confirmed that Iraqi violence in September and October, 2010 hit the lowest level since March, 2003. Violence is down 95% from four years ago as of right now.

      Iraq has a terrorism problem, not an insurgency problem. Actual violent incidents per day is the lowest since March, 2003.

      On logistics:
      1) A majority of logistics now flow through the Northern route. Russia is trying to surge supplies through the Northern route in return for ISAF continuing to fight Russia’s war against the Taliban and in return for ISAF pressure on Pakistan and the Pakistani Taliban. Russia has again offered to train ANSF. Karzai is shooting his mouth off at Russia again, like the last few times Russia offered to train ANSF; so the Russian offer might not be accepted, again. It does seem likely that Russia will donate some more equipment, including Mi17s.
      2) India and Russia are both pushing Obama to reach a detente with Iran to allow an ISAF supply route through Iran and to bring Iran into the Afghan coalition. As you know, India’s and Russia’s policy in Afghanistan is to fight the Taliban to the last Marine.
      3)National infrastructure can be built at a reasonable cost. Don’t doubt that Baba Tim and other contractors are competing aggressively for construction contracts.

  6. Anan: The ISF were responsible for most civilian deaths in Iraq pre surge. The idea that any part of the ISF were some sort of non-sectarian force dedicated to protecting all Iraqis is preposterous. The INP were the main threat to Sunni civilians in Baghdad and effectivelky ethnically cleansed the city.

    Training has nothing to do with the level of violence in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Training criminals to shoot better is counter-productive. The key in both countries is the desire of local power brokers to discipline their forces and send educated people to command them. Once that happens the hapless US/ NATO training missions will become even more obviously irrelevant.

    1. Harlan, Harlan. Please, there are over 650 thousand ISF. They differed greatly by unit. There were sectarian units. I can ID many of them and how they changed over time as different officers were appointed to senior positions inside of them.

      “The ISF were responsible for most civilian deaths in Iraq pre surge” Most Iraqis would regard that as declaration of war kind of libel by an enemy of Iraq.

      None of the units I mentioned were sectarian by Arab standards as you put it. The sectarian IA units [5th IAD in Diyala under “I am in love with Hakim and Mookie and making long run on sentences that don’t tie in together or make sense and love to party a lot” BG Shakar] the criminal units [British mentored 10th IAD in Basrah/Maysan] needed to be fixed. Obviously.

      Every Arab government and every Arab army is highly sectarian and racist. The Iraqi Army is the least sectarian and racist of these. It is less sectarian and less racist than the Saddam death squad Iraqi Army. You need to grade the Iraqi Army by the Arab curve and the Iraqi curve. The Iraqi Army was also popular and respected by Iraqi Sunni Arabs. Iraqi Sunni Arabs warmly greeted non 5th IAD Iraqi army units that came to liberate Diyala on June 16th, 2007. Diyala Sunni Arabs gave out sweets and drinks to Iraqi Army as they came in and pointed out Al Qaeda and land mines at great risk to themselves to guide them [and their embedded partnered MNF-I] into Diyala. Would they have done this if the IA was sectarian as you falsely allege?

      Do you have any idea how many Al Anbari Sunni Arabs joined the Iraqi Army [this is in addition to the Iraqi police which many Al Anbaris joined] in 2006, knowing they would probably be deployed outside Al Anbar?

      You have a point on the INP. They were not created by MNF-I or MNSTC-I. Rather they were created by the GoI wholesale from militias to defeat the resistance in the dark days of early 2005 when the GoI felt that America was abandoning them.

      Each INP battalion, bde HQs and division HQs was re-blued and reformed from the ground up by the Italian Carabinieri in 2006 and 2007. Every Division, Brigade and almost every battalion commander was fired. This happened in three stages. Quicklook 1, Quicklook2 and Quicklook 3. This process worked. PM Maliki deserves a lot of credit for this.

      Harlan, I don’t think you understand the degree to which Iraqis love, respect and admire their army. Far more than Europeans do for example.

      The reason the various neighbors that were backing anti GoI militias stopped; the reason various anti GoI militias negotiated with the GoI was because they were militarily defeated by the ISF and because they feared what the ISF would do to them long term [When American moral suasion would no longer restrain them]. How anyone can claim that the reason violence in Iraq in September and October, 2010 hit a post March 2003 low has nothing to do with the ISF is beyond me. But I guess it doesn’t matter anymore now that Iraqi oil production is increasing and Iraq will be able to fund its own ISF out of its own dime within a few years. Then none of Iraq’s external enemies and ill wishers will be able to deny Iraq’s and the GoI’s victory.

      On Afghanistan, again you misunderstand. If Pakistanis and Arabs believe that long term victory by the ANSF is inevitable then this war will peter out. Otherwise it won’t be. It isn’t that complicated.

      Strengthening the ANSF isn’t hard. ISAF deliberately kept the ANSF weak before November, 2009; perhaps to placate Pakistani paranoia. This is the central problem in Afghanistan today.

      Harlan, the ANA only accepts a minuscule fraction of all the applicants who want to join the NMAA. But you already know that:

      Notice that the ANA only lets a small fraction of 12th grade graduates take the admission test for NMAA who want to. Only the top 3% of all Afghan High School Students automatically get permission to take the entrance exam. Every applicant has to travel to Kabul on their own dime and making arrangements for their own security. The ANA only bothers to administer the test in Kabul once a year.

      Despite this, 4560 took the entrance exam for 650 slots. Almost all of them were the top of their high school graduating classes.

      Pres Karzai would love to accept 6,500 applicants into the ANA instead of 650 but the international community refuses to give him the money to pay for the the Afghan Defense University [ADU] and National Military Academy of Afghanistan [NMAA.]

      Anyone who argues that ISAF or the international community have made a serious credible effort to train the ANSF at the aggregate level is intentionally lying. Ditto with anyone who argues that the best educated Afghans don’t want to join the ANA. [On the ANP, they have a point.]

      Is it any wonder that the biggest PR problem ISAF has in Afghanistan today is the widely held conspiracy theory that ISAF secretly backs the Taliban/AQ against the GoI/ANSF/Afghans. Many educated mid grade officers in the ANA say this.

      To be clear many specific ISAF advisors and trainers have tried to increase ANSF capacity, but they are few in number.

      NTM-A has only 3500 people from 29 countries [49 countries if you include non NTM-A countries helping ANSF] out of the 5200 that Caldwell has requested. That is it. That is the whole extent of the international effort to train the ANSF. Indian and Russian offers to train the ANSF this year have been rejected. Which means that aside from possibly 750 more Canadians [which would get Caldwell up to 5200], Caldwell is getting nothing else.

      Oh, just to be clear, most ANA are not criminals, whatever ISI propaganda you might have heard.

  7. Anan: Violence goes down when wars or phases of wars end. The Shia won the Battle for Baghdad and the ethnc cleansing greatly diminished. It’s quite simple.

    Your notions about both the Iraqi and Afghan security forces are delusional. They are rubbish and filled with criminals and delinquents.

    Luckily for us that’s good enough as long as the resource disparity continues and they kill or capture any AQ they come across. That was happening in Iraq although it now seems that more Sunnis are going off the reservation.

    We’ll have to see what happens but I can’t wait to see what happens when the last US troops leave. Maybe if we’re lucky we can see a couple of your beloved INA dvisions fight over the Green Zone in a proper conventional battle.

  8. Well you can add this to the list.Karzai shuts down 150 aid organizations.PSC,Aid workers,NGOs. won’t be much left there to do.
    Iran should be there soon, to pickup the slack.

  9. Killing AQ is a good thing. 🙂

    Harlan, you know something about Afghanistan. You seem to even care about some Afghans.

    You don’t know that much about the ISF. 😉 Some friends and I tracked the ISF OOB and TO/E down to the battalion and company level. Keeping track of how each subunit performed over time and how their senior officers changed over time. If you want to discuss sectarianism, I could e-mail you a list of hundreds ISF officers I thought might be sectarian along with a description of what ISF units they served in. Some of what you say is true for some specific units. But the ISF also had many good nonsectarian units. Information is in the details.

    Sunni Arabs are not going off the reservation in Iraq. Violent incidents per day in September and October 2010 were the lowest two month average since the beginning of 2003. Iraqis might yet achieve heights that no Arab nation ever has. And I hope you would join me in praying that Iraqis reach those heights.

    The Iraqis will ask the US airforce to stay in Iraq a while longer. I don’t think the US airforce leaves Iraq until the IqAF or Iraqi Air Force is ready. After that, the neighbors won’t mess with Iraq. Why do you think the ISF will fight each other? So far the ISF has remained loyal to their chain of command to the National Operations Center and PM Maliki.

    I don’t think you are a bad guy, so I am trying to respond to you in a
    way that doesn’t offend you. You are the first American I have met that so strongly bashed the ISF who wasn’t a leftist imperialistic hegemonic pretentious condescending racist sectarian. I don’t understand the pleasure the American left gets in bashing “darkies” or why they have to embody all the worst aspects of America . . . bringing to life the “ugly American” caricature that so offends non Americans around the world. Why do they hate Iraqis, the GoI and ISF so much? I think maybe it is partly because of jealousy, mental illness, inferiority complexes; but am not sure.

    Again, I don’t think this applies to you. So why did you bash the IA? You must know that most Iraqis would want to tear your hair out for insulting the IA the way you did. Were you trying to provoke me? What could possibly motivate you to write that a majority of all civilian Iraqi casualties since 2003 were caused by the ISF? You have to know that this assertion is inaccurate, so why say it?

    I e-mailed your comments about the ANSF to a friend who knows more about the ANSF than either of us. This was his response:
    “The ANSF is absolutely the most vital cog in this war. ISAF was
    delinquent in a serious fashion in waiting so long to do put this
    Force on the right track. The ANSF must perform and you and I
    are dedicated to this proposition.

    I love Afghanistan as an independent Neutral and free country
    some day, and this cannot happen without the ANSF. Lose
    Afghanistan you will lose Pakistan and Tajikistan and Uzbekistan
    and only God knows what else. It is that important.

    For the critics, they I will tell you neither understand the fighting spirit
    of all Afghans nor their potential. Some is hubris, some is racist, but
    most is ignorant because they have forgotten that Afghans just defeated
    the USSR and basically make life impossible for those who are not
    their friends. I have seen them fight, lived with them, and learned from
    them, there is no limit to what they can do.

    In my life I have been fortunate to work with some martial people in
    . . . [deleting the list of countries this friend has worked in] etc. Afghans are the toughest of the tough.

    United they are unstoppable…and our only hope. The Taliban know
    what the ANSF can do if united and that is what they fear not ISAF.

    So few understand, that is their problem.

    We need to get them all on one page and united. Hard not impossible.

    We are their friends, which is the only place to be”

    Harlan, you were in Nangarhar. The ANA Corps you interacted with was the most problematic in the ANA. And the brigade you interacted with was the most problematic in 201st ANA Corps. Please don’t assume the rest of the ANA is as bad as 201st. The ANA have enough real problems without you making up more problems than they really have.

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