Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Transition This!

The second wave of transitions for Afghanistan have been announced.  There are the areas of the country that will be turned over next to the Afghans, with NATO moving to a supporting role and then a reduced role and then exit in each of these areas.  I have already discussed this process here, here, and here.

Second wavers include: "Helmand in the south, Nimroz in the southwest, Ghor and Herat in the west and Day Kundi in central Afghanistan. Also on the list are Balkh, Parwan, Takhar, Badghis, Sar-e-Pul, Samangan and Badakhshan in the north; and Kabul, Ghazni, Wardak, Laghman and Nangarhar in the east."

from www.nato.isaf oct'11 placemat

The surprises include Kabul and Herat since they were on the previous lists.  Helmand would be a surprise, given that it has been the most violent province in Afghanistan for much of the conflict, except the first wave included Helmand's capital.  Still pretty shaky.  Nimroz?  NATO never had a significant presence there because it is underpopulated, but this hunk of Afghanistan borders Iran and Pakistan, so hmmmmm.

The eastern provinces are perhaps the more stable of the ones in the region, but that is like saying that Alabama (just a stylized example) is better off than Mississippi and Louisiana (please excuse me if I got the relative order wrong).  The northern provinces are less surprising both because the threat is lower and because NATO has not been doing much in many of them.  The Germans have a very narrow footprint in Feyzabad/Badakhshan for instance.  There has never been a long-term presence by anyone in Day Kundi. 

So, an interesting mixture of low-hanging fruit and places where transition is incredible--as in hard to believe Afghan forces and government could do much. 

The theory behind transition is that NATO can eventually re-deploy the troops from the transitioned places to the ones still needed significant help--Kandahar, Zabul, much of Eastern Afghanistan.  But that will not happen as the troops in the North and West will not move south--unless south means out of the country.  Those caveats become relevant again.

Anyhow, something to keep tracking.

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