23

State of the Afghan army, police: not what you’d hope

And the deadline for bringing Canadian troops home is fast approaching


 

afghan militaryThe federal government’s seventh quarterly report to Parliament on Canadian military and development work in Afghanistan was tabled late yesterday without fanfare. These reports have become routine, but through the bland, bureaucratic prose, they still provide a glimpse—often an unsettling one—of the situation in Kandahar.

The most pressing question, as the 2011 deadline for bringing Canadian troops home approaches, is what progress is being made toward beefing up the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP). When Canada pulls out entirely next year, and the U.S. begins a planned drawdown of its forces, the Afghans will have to shoulder more of their own security burden. Yesterday’s report doesn’t inspire confidence.

The closest thing to a candid appraisal of the security landscape can be found in its “benchmarks” section, where the generalities of these quarterly updates gives way to more specifics. In the report for the Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2009 period, the good news is the claim that two ANA kandaks (a unit of about 650 soldiers) are “are fully capable of planning, executing and sustaining near-autonomous operations.” That’s up from just one kandak the previous quarter.

But that apparent progress is hard to reconcile with other information in the benchmarks section. For instance, Canada’s goal is for all kandaks and the ANA’s headquarters to have 70 per cent of their needed troops and officers by next year. None were operating at 70 per cent strength last fall, their ranks diminished by holidays and scheduled leaves. (There will, presumably, still be vacations and leaves after coalition forces exit.)

Another indicator of how thinly Afghan troops are spread: the percentage of military operations the ANA executed with Canadian troops in Kandahar declined in the quarter, as more Afghans were linked to growing U.S. forces for training. In other words, there aren’t enough Afghans in uniform to go around.

The reported state of the Afghan National Police also raises doubts. Although the quarterly report said training was completed for all of more than 2,000 police in the “key districts,” it also noted: “Due to high attrition rates, this percentage rate will fluctuate from quarter to quarter.” High attrition can’t be good. As well, only three of 17 police units were judged “capable of planning, executing and sustaining near-autonomous operations.”

How do the locals feel about the situation? Canada’s aim is for their confidence to be steadily increasing. But this flat sentence stands out in the benchmarks section of the report: “Kandaharis did not perceive security as improving in any of the six key districts.”


 

State of the Afghan army, police: not what you’d hope

  1. It was a mistake to plan this pull-out in the first place. Afghanistan is a complex, fluid problem; applying a fixed date solution is analogous to trying to fit a round peg into a square, constantly moving whole. Unfortunately, the general public is at once grossly uninformed AND opposed to keeping our troops there, which makes doing the right, logical thing politically unviable.

    Of course the Afghan army isn't ready; any reasonable person never figured they would be. These things take time – just look at how long we've been in Bosnia, for instance. The job takes as long as it takes, and the men and women on the ground understand this. Too bad you probably don't, dear reader.

    • Actually, it was a mistake to go in the first place. We were foolish to think history would be any different because we have cooler weapons now.

      • Mike, all that's needed for evil to triumph, is for one good country to do nothing …to paraphrase a famous Statesman's quote about people as individuals. Had the U.S. pulled out of Iraq too soon a struggling but hopeful democracy would have gone down the Islamists' toilet, with Iran's support. The same might happen in Afghanistan when we leave too soon. Canada was wise to go because our support of a budding democracy was needed to ensure the future safety of our children from Islamist extremism. One's always wise to root the snake out of his liar! And not stop until all its babies have been killed!

        • There is no such thing as good and evil. These are concepts humans created. Is it evil for a lion to kill and devour a zebra?

          Is it evil to stone a woman to death who had been raped? What about genital mutilation?

          Good and Evil are moving targets based on the opinions of the people you talk to.

          Same goes for Democracy, another made up concept. This one is worse than good and evil making people believe they have a choice. If democracy is true where is the vote to divert war funds to feed the starving? You'll never see that vote. You vote a person in and they do whatever the f*** they want. Pro-rogue anyone?

          Believe what you want I guess. I'm just trying to make you think outside the box instead of choking on that crap you are fed day in and day out.

    • Well said Jason. Afghanistan is the "long war", and only fools with short attention spans believe we can get results in time span convenient to their political agendas.

  2. That's to be expected when you're pissing into the wind.

  3. Yes Jason it is a fluid problem, fluid like oil eh?

    I mean these people deserve these wars for being on our oil-rich lands before we got there.

    • Afghanistan has no oil. It has little in the way of natural resource wealth whatsoever.

      We're there because we have a defensive alliance with United States, who was attacked by a terrorist group operating out of Afghanistan, who were allies and guests of the Taliban regime. We honoured that alliance by sending our soldiers to help pacify the country.

      That being said, maybe 10 years in Afghanistan is long enough for us to consider ourselves as holding up our end of the bargain. Only Britain can be said to have done as much as Canada in Afghanistan; it's time for the other NATO countries to step up as well.

    • Actually, you are confusing Iraq and Afghanistan. Afghanistan doesn't have oil, which is why Bush switched his attentions to Iraq as soon as it was feasible.

      It is not that I don't understand the problems inherent in a pull out, it's that I don't care. There isn't enough Canadian interest in Afghanistan to warrant hard to a single Canadian soldier. If you are going to send them in harm's way, it might be a good idea to have a good reason to do so.

      • Sorry I should have been more specific. I know Af has no oil but like you implied it was the gateway to oil. When I said these poeple I meant the middle-east.

        Any way the latest scientific research suggests that we have bigger problems to deal with than shortsighted political BS (http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/

  4. I wonder if the reviewers of the report had the following thought:

    "If we say they're ready now, the line will be that we should pull out now, while we're ahead.

    "If we say they've made absolutely no progress, the line will be that we're wasting our time.

    "Therefore, we have to have made some progress, but not enough to convincingly say that they are ready to take over their own policing and security."

  5. If our military stayed there 50 years it would not change anything there except more of our people would be killed, and by not burning all the poppy crops for the last 4 years they will still have billions of dollars to supply there yellow bellied killers with arms as there is nothing done about the countrys that are selling the arms to them. And there is most likely a lot of there cops and military that we are training that belong to them.

  6. It's pretty hard to be taken seriously when we're on a definitive departure schedule, and the Taliban is still waiting in the wings to take over. Ordinarily one leaves after a war, when the enemy has either surrendered or been killed. Leaving when the enemy has merely been pushed into the mountains is a recipe for disaster.

    • So, if I accept your premise that the war's not over, so we need to stay until it is (fair enough I suppose) would you also argue, regarding time lines, that it's inappropriate eight and a half years in for Canadians to ask "Roughly how much longer is it going to take us to defeat the Taliban?" I understand that hard time lines can be unhelpful, but at a certain point people start to ask "If we haven't defeated them by now, can we ever?".

      I would probably actually personally support a lengthening of our engagement in Afghanistan, but when our current commitment expires it will be just over a decade since we went there to kick out the Taliban. That the Taliban are still waiting in the wings to take over the moment we leave may be used as an argument for why we need to stay, but it is unfortunately also a compelling argument for why we should cut our loses after ten years and get out (and even an argument that we never should have tried this in the first place).

      "We need to keep trying, because so far we're no succeeding" only goes so far as a convincing argument. At a certain point, people start to question whether any amount of time is going to be sufficient to achieve our stated goals. I don't know at what point the government would actually lose the Canadian people on this issue entirely, but I do know that ten years is a long time to fight a counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan. "Eventually, we'll prevail" is a fine argument, but it loses some of it's luster a decade in to a war, in a part of the world where no one else has ever prevailed.

      • "…would you also argue, regarding time lines, that it's inappropriate eight and a half years in for Canadians to ask "Roughly how much longer is it going to take us to defeat the Taliban?"

        Of course it's not inappropriate. I'd hesitate to call any critically honest question about a war "inappropriate", and in this case the question is not only appropriate but perfectly reasonable.

        I think the issue is actually somewhat outside our control – we went into Afghanistan on the behalf of the US, and we assumed that they were in it to win – which at the time seemed reasonable. We have neither the motive nor the means to fight this war on our own.

        They're still pushing hard (credit to Obama here – he's actually doing a decent job on Afghanistan in my opinion) but they simply don't have the drive to see it through no matter the cost. The American Left is not going to tolerate it for much longer, particularly if Obama ramps it to the level that Bush did with Iraq (or higher as necessary) and thousands of soldiers get killed. That might be what is required, though.

        So the problem, really, was an initial misjudgment of the US. Absent that kind of commitment from them it doesn't make much sense for us to be committed either. If they took the attitude "we're going to pour men and material into this until the Taliban are either in prison or wiped off the face of the earth" (as they did in 2001) then I'd be all for staying alongside to the end. But if they're just going to putz around and not do what it takes then it's a waste of our resources and our soldiers' lives as well. We, unfortunately, do not control the outcome.

        • Thanks for the reply!

          I'd say we're pretty much of one mind on this issue.

        • Likely the only way a victory of sorts could be achieved in Afghanistan would be to ulilize the American nuclear arsenal, and that kind of defeats the purpose I think. You want to get rid of the Taliban, not the entire country.

          • Yes, that would be a case of trashing the entire neighborhood to kill an ant.

            I think they're doing the right things now, actually: working with Pakistan, surging the troop levels, etc. I would not be at all surprised if they get Bin Laden within the next year or two. Obama is handling it quite well.
            The problem is that pressure from the Left is growing to pull out. If they start to take casualties that pressure is going to grow exponentially, and Obama doesn't strike me as a guy who is very good at standing up to the Left (and in any case, his hands would be tied if the Dems still control Congress at that point).

  7. ..a complete pull out was not a good Idea, as most forces on the ground think so!

  8. Our presence in Afganistan is a cluster screw-up of the first order. Time to get out and leave the field to the silly buggers to sort out for themselves.

  9. Well of course there is high attrition by the police and army trainees. Fliting with their weapons, mostly. Talk about a sucker play.

  10. I very much agree with Peter K "Afghanistan has no oil. It has little in the way of natural resource wealth whatsoever."

  11. The greater part I have enjoyed the article is "The closest thing to a candid appraisal of the security landscape can be found in its “benchmarks” section, where the generalities of these quarterly updates gives way to more specifics. In the report for the Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 2009 period, the good news is the claim that two ANA kandaks (a unit of about 650 soldiers) are “are fully capable of planning, executing and sustaining near-autonomous operations.” That's up from just one kandak the previous quarter."

Sign in to comment.