War Weary in Helmund
The past week has witnessed two actions billed as possible turning points for the war in Afghanistan: the launch of Operation Moshtarak in Helmund and the capture of Mullah Baradar, the top military commander of Mullah Omar’s Taliban. Could either event be a potential game changer?
The capture of Mullah Baradar is significant, especially if it leads to the arrest of Mullah Omar and/or more of his top tier commanders. But I doubt whether taking Mullah Baradar out of action will make a drastic difference at ground level in Afghanistan. After all, Mullah Omar’s Taliban is just one insurgent group fighting the coalition. Mullah Baradar’s arrest is unlikely to curtail the operations of the Haqqani network (which many consider the most capable militant group in Afghanistan at present) or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami. Continue reading
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
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