Spot the Rogue Soldier
The government was scrambling to save face this morning after getting blindsided by ISAF’s decision to severely restrict joint operations between NATO forces and Afghan Army and Police. By the time Defence Secretary Philip Hammond appeared before Parliament to explain himself, he had donned his denial armour, claiming that Britain’s military operations in Afghanistan would be “substantially unchanged” by ISAF’s new policy. He even went so far as to say he has “every confidence” in Britain’s strategy to train Afghan security forces to take over when Britain ends major combat operations in 2014.
How is that possible when this year alone more than 50 NATO soldiers including 9 Brits have been killed by Afghans they were tasked with training and mentoring? And those are the deaths we’ve heard about. So called “rogue Afghan” security forces (AKA Taliban infiltrators) are also turning their weapons on well-intentioned Afghan Army and Police recruits as well as private security contractors working for the coalition—deaths that are all swept under the rug.
So why is Hammond refusing to acknowledge reality? I can only conclude that the Government is placing its ego above the lives of our brave troops serving in Afghanistan. It’s despicable. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Thankfully, there was an MP in the Commons today who had the guts to call Hammond out. Labour MP Paul Flynn accused the Defence Secretary of being a liar and blasted the Government for using our soldiers as “human shields” to protect ministers’ reputations. I couldn’t agree more.
Paul Flynn was expelled for his trouble, but that won’t silence the truth. The Government’s Afghan policy has been thoroughly discredited in the eyes of the public. Few people buy the excuse anymore that we’re there to protect Britain against terrorism or that the mission will produce a more stable country. Afghanistan was in civil war long before we committed troops to the conflict and it will continue long after we’ve withdrawn them. There is no justification for forcing our soldiers to pick up the tab for a policy that is doomed to failure. Bring our troops home now. Ministers’ reputations be damned.
ANP Checkpoint Outside Kabul
Coalition commanders were full of praise for Afghanistan’s security forces after Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers assaulted buildings in the heart of Kabul Monday. General Stanley McChrystal, the head of NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, said the Afghan national forces should be ‘commended’ for dealing ‘effectively’ with the attack. US Brigadier General Anne Macdonald claimed the Afghan forces responded ‘very well’ while an ISAF spokesperson gushed that they had ‘rapidly’ seized the initiative.
Don’t be blinded by the spin. Effective security is not about responding to an attack; it’s about being proactive and preventing one from happening in the first place. Continue reading
NATO's Road to Nowhere
When President Obama announced this week that he intends to ‘finish the job’ in Afghanistan, I wondered exactly what job he was referring to; finding Osama bin Laden? Denying al-Qaeda a safe haven? Democratization? Promoting women’s rights? Curtailing the opium trade? All have been cited over the past eight years as reasons for staying in Afghanistan.
With public support eroding by the day, fighting al-Qaeda now tops the list of excuses. In Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown is telling us we must stay the course in Afghanistan to keep our streets safe. Tenuous connections between Afghanistan and home grown terrorists aside, it is clear that from Washington to Whitehall there is a concerted effort afoot to buy time for the coalition to achieve an honorable exit.
When NATO military officials meet in Brussels later this month, they will be asked to contribute more resources to step up the training and expansion of Afghanistan’s security forces. In the second instalment of this two part series, I’ll examine how politically motivated recruitment and training schedules compromise the safety of coalition soldiers and threaten to undermine the justification for the war in Afghanistan; containing the threat from al-Qaeda.
Rapidly accelerating the expansion of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police is understandably attractive to western military and political leaders sick fed up with explaining mounting war causalities to an increasingly sceptical public. But what looks good on paper has already proved tragically short-sighted in practice. Continue reading
ANA Recruits: Does the Instructor Have Everyone’s Attention?
When NATO military officials meet in Brussels later this month, they will be asked to contribute more resources to accelerate the training and expansion of Afghan security forces. In the first of this two part series, I’ll give my thoughts on the efficacy of NATO’s mentoring programs and what it means for western exit strategies.
Since 2004, I’ve had occasion to see Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police training programs in action. I’ve shared live fire ranges and training areas with ANA and ANP recruits and accompanied journalists doing stories on security sector reform. What I’ve witnessed has convinced me that in its present form, NATO’s mentoring of Afghanistan’s security forces is at best woefully inadequate and at worst, dangerously short-sighted. Continue reading