Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Confused by Transition

Today is apparently the day that the transition of Afghanistan's security is, um, complete.   I did not realize what transition means apparently in practice--that NATO troops are only backing up the Afghan National Army if they are in super-serious trouble.  Ambushes?  Nah, that's ok.  Why?  Because we don't want to build up dependency.  We are kind of late on that, aren't we?  I get weaning these guys off, but there are a few questions this raises.

How much bleeding is the ANA prepared for, given that they are not even getting medevac?  I get the idea of reducing support, but this seems to be a bit much.  Given that we want this to go well, that we don't want the ANA to be gun-shy or to have more of an "attrition" problem--folks going AWOL, we might want to ease the transition just a bit.

How much of NATO is required to stick around?  If the status quo right now is that the ANA is doing all of the fighting with no partners fighting along side, it is not clear why NATO needs 97k troops on the ground.  Most of these folks are not training anybody, and these numbers are pretty close to those that existed for quite some time when NATO was doing all of the combat (well, those within NATO that engaged in combat). 

So, the funny thing is that on the rush to the exits, NATO seems to have stopped its mission significantly before it gets out the door.  So, what will the NATO troops be doing?  The funny thing about being the "in extremis" relief force is that "in extremis" can be read in a variety of ways--to do very, very little or to be actively engaged whenever any trouble appears or in between.  The NYT piece suggests that it is on the "do nothing" end of the "in extremis" help spectrum.

Given that much of the "information ops" about transition over the past few years has been less than accurate, we have to take this story with a grain of salt.

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