Only the most diehard ostrich believes official pronouncements on Afghanistan anymore.  The latest fiction in this endless, senseless, victor-less war involves the vetting of Afghan local police recruits. Following a spate of “green on blue” incidents (NATO’s sanitized shorthand for Afghan security forces gunning down or blowing up their ISAF mentors), General Adrian Bradshaw, the British deputy commander of ISAF, announced that the training of around a thousand Afghan Local police recruits had been suspended to allow for re-vetting.

The idea that Afghan recruits can be effectively vetted is ludicrous.  Putting aside the logistical challenges of deploying NATO staff to remote, often hostile villages to perform background checks, the lack of official records, the nation’s sky-high illiteracy rate, and the basic distrust of Afghans toward westerners in general, the fact is, the central government will never top the Afghan hierarchy of loyalties.  After thirty plus years of civil war, Afghans have learned how to prioritize their allegiances in order to survive.  Family comes first, then tribe.  Beyond that, nothing matters.  

Survival almost always trumps ideology.  That’s why the overwhelming majority of men who join the Afghan army and police do so to make a living, not to make a political statement.  Nation building rhetoric is merely window dressing for NATO press releases and donor conferences.  There are undoubtedly hard boiled Taliban and Taliban sympathizers signing up, but it doesn’t take an eight-point vetting program to figure out which ones are more likely to turn their weapons on their mentors.  A simple map will do.  When western armies went into Afghanistan, they took one side in a civil war. NATO supports the Dari speaking tribes of the Northern alliance over the Pashtoon tribes of Southern and Eastern Afghanistan—the same areas that gave birth to the Taliban and continue to supply it with foot soldiers, aid and comfort.

Sadly, the British and American public are paying scant attention to the vetting lie because they believe the even bigger myth that their troops will be coming home from Afghanistan in 2014.  President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron haven’t promised to pull out of Afghanistan entirely but merely to end combat operations.  A contingent of US and British troops will remain to continue training the Afghan army and police, while Special Forces units will stay behind to take on selected targets.  It’s a scale down, not a complete withdrawal. Moreover, there’s been no mention of what will happen to the strategic assets NATO is leaving behind—namely the airfields which costs billions to construct.  Does anyone honestly think the US and Britain will stand by and let a proxy nation like China or Russia occupy airfields built with western blood and treasure?

Since launching this blog back in 2009, I’ve argued passionately for a complete and immediate withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan.  The Canadian and Dutch governments have finally acknowledged the futility of this conflict and brought their troops home.  American and British politicians and generals however, have yet to muster the same courage, preferring to whitewash their mistakes with promotions, medals and letters at the end of their names.

A lack of leadership at the top set the stage for the calamitous Afghan security training program that has claimed the lives of 45 NATO soldiers this year alone.  Until the top brass, both military and civilian are held to account, expect more soldiers to lose their lives, limbs and minds to a conflict that cannot be won.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

Categories Afghanistan, AfPak Politics, NATOTags, , , 8 Comments


  1. Good to see you back Bob, I was starting to think you blog was defunct.
    I can always count on you to provide an angle on current affairs you wont find in the main stream media.

  2. Bang on the money as always Bob. Why the hell don’t we start a ‘Bring ’em home Party’ at the next election? That’ll put the wind up the sack-of-dead rats that govern us. Vote power is the only thing that scares the crap out of those poll-watching Politicos; and they wonder why we detest those greed-head jackals. Bye the way,really enjoyed ‘The Circuit’, High octane stuff with a self-deprecating sense of humour, managing to take your writing seriously but not yourself. Great stuff, mate.

  3. Perfectly said as always Bob. We hear so much of the fear an IED brings but I guess the thought of your trainees turning on you must add to the nerves. Using our western ‘equality’ to make sure every tribal region has its fair share of recruits is asking for trouble.
    As for the general public, as long as they buy newspapers and listen to the news they will only get the headlines that sell. Thanks to people like you, some of us get a much better picture of what’s going on.

  4. Yes, good to read another post Bob. Especially relevant here in Australia: politicians on both sides are way too scared to approach our destructive commitment to the conflict in any real way.

    Got another book coming out soon Bob? Put me down for a copy.

  5. too true… When infantry military unit, supposed to fight insurgents, gets a primary task to bring all men back at all costs, it can´t really do anything kinetic. I mean, no one wants to die here, but you can´t fight a war without getting your hands dirty and some risks has to be taken. Otherwise, you evade momentary risk, but prolong war – thus gainig risks for another deployment. I am a grunt who is ALWAYS screwed when something happens, but I still prefer to go on patrols instead of chow hall-gym life on FOB which is just a waist of money and resources. Sorry for my english, I´m one of coalition nations task forces and I am ashamed when I see how much fighting is done by US and UK infantry compared to ours.

  6. Bob,
    Interested in your further thought now that the Afghan ‘parliament’ has voted for the ‘removal’ of all foreign soldiers after the drone attack on Oosim (sic) ?

    1. Hi Baz, I wasn’t aware that the Afghan Government had voted on that. I know that the Iraqi Government had, however it isn’t binding, and we’ll just have to see how it plays out over the coming days to weeks.

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