Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Future of Afghanistan?

In the midst of the new offensive in Afghanistan, American officers are wondering where the Afghan National Army [ANA] might be. This is somewhat surprising to me because all I have heard during and after my trip to Afghanistan in December of 2007 was that there had been much effort and progress made in training the ANA. It was admitted at the time that the Afghan National Police were far behind, and I was skeptical of the suggestions that the second was going to have a similar trajectory (the image is of a graph with two parallel lines--similar slopes but one starting at time plus x).

But the reports today suggest that there are not enough ANA to help the US forces in discriminating between the insurgents and the populace, not to mention actually holding onto the areas that have been cleared. The good news is that it suggests that my predictions of a coup in the future (not short term, but medium term) may be wrong, but the bad news is that building local capacity and ownership is far behind. A fundamental ingredient for winning a counter-insurgency campaign is to have the local populace providing the security. This is apparently not happening. At least not enough right now.

Perhaps this is why we kept hearing on our trip that Afghanistan needed more omlettes. Actually, they need more OMLT's--40-50 person teams of soldiers/officers from NATO countries embedded in the Afghan equivalent of battaltions to Observe/Mentor/Liaison (T is for Team). One of the things I learned in my travels last month is that the French OMLTs now do move with their Afghan battalion when it leaves the French sector and that the German OMLT does not go with theirs.

Anyhow, this is definitely a story to follow, not because we want to follow the Rumsfeld-ian strategy of handing everything over too soon (I am reading The Gamble by Thomas Ricks) but that COIN requires local capacity along the way.

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