Afghanistan: The Great Shame

It was a coordinated assault; a PR blitz meant to shame the British public into backing the continued commitment of British forces to a tragically unwinnable military campaign. Thursday, the Head of UK Armed Forces, Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup and British Army Head General, Sir David Richards, both claimed that the public’s increasingly sour view of the war in Afghanistan is undermining the morale of troops on the ground. 

     The suggestion that support for our men and women in uniform is inextricably tied to support for the Afghan campaign is disgraceful in my view.  As an ex-soldier, I have the utmost respect for the British Army. They are the best fighting force in the world.  The fact they have sustained themselves in Helmund for so long with insufficient numbers and equipment and without competent backing from their leaders at the top is testament to their incredible professionalism. Continue reading

Part II: Afghan Security Forces: The Weak Link in NATO’s Exit Strategy

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

PART I: Afghan Security Forces: The Weak Link in NATO’s Exit Strategy

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

Afghanistan: The Biggest Loser?

The Taliban must have been rubbing their hands when the White House and Downing Street congratulated Hamid Karzai on his default Presidential victory. ‘What is astonishing is two weeks ago they were arguing that the puppet President Hamid Karzai was involved in electoral fraud,’ said a Taliban statement, ‘… but now he is elected as President based on those same fraudulent votes, Washington and London immediately send their congratulations.’

            The West’s hypocrisy is nothing exceptional in Afghanistan. As a matter of necessity, Afghans always back the winning side.  Thirty-five years of civil war have taught them to value survival over political principals. I know one Afghan who jumped from the Soviet Army to the Mujahudeen in the 1980s. When the Taliban came to power, he joined them. When they were ousted, he went to work as an interpreter for the US military.  Last I heard, he was an Afghan National Policeman.  Basically, whoever has the upper hand in Afghanistan has his support. Continue reading