Friday, January 20, 2012

With Allies Like These

Lots of tweets this morning about two events and a story (WSJ had similar story last summer):  the two events are yet another shooting of NATO troops by Afghan National Army [ANA] personnel and the mass poisoning of ANA by someone in the ANA, and the story is in the NYT that talks about the first and puts it into context of something like 58 NATO folks killed by ANA over four years from 2007 to May 2011.  The end date here is significant because we know of more attacks since then. 

People are disturbed and have every right to be so, especially since NATO has recently started trying to restrict the information about ANA attacks on NATO forces.  There are at least three major issues here:
  • There is tremendous distrust between the NATO forces and the people they are trying to mentor.  This makes the entire transition process very difficult since getting out depends critically on developing the Afghan forces.
  • This may cause allies to flee faster, as 58+ does not sound like a lot, but losing four French soldiers in one attack increases the KIA for France by five percent and is one of the worst days the French have had in Afghanistan.  President Sarkozy has suspended operations.  
  • This raises huge questions about the credibility of NATO, as the happy face that the alliance has been putting on the training of the Afghans is clearly, well, a lie.  Yes, there are more folks trained, and there are more capable units, but the report cited in the NYT piece makes it abundantly clear that there is far more friction and far less progress than advertised.  Indeed, the "need" to restrict information on these kinds of attacks is telling--that there is not enough substantive progress to offset the bad news.  
NATO should be freaking out about this story and about the events of the past day--they raise big questions about the timeline, about the trends, and about trust not only between the outsiders and the Afghans but between the alliance and the publics back home.  But restricting information is probably not the way to go--information does get out, and the cover up usually does as much or more damage than the crime.

The really bad news is that it is not clear what can be done in the short time left.   Other than immediately pulling out (which has its own problems), the only other choice is not to partner with the ANA.  But that raises dangers as well.  I have no recommendations: do you?

No comments: