Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Monday, December 29, 2014
A ceremony was held at ISAF Headquarters ending the NATO commitment to Afghanistan under the ISAF mission. Beginning in January 2015 NATO will continue to provide support and assistance to Afghanistan under the Resolute Support Mission. Read more in "NATO flag lowered in Afghanistan as combat mission ends", The Washington Post, December 28, 2014. See also "US, NATO mark end of mission to Afghanistan", Yahoo! News, December 28, 2014.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Our counter-insurgency doctrine states that for COIN forces to win the insurgents have to be defeated; for the insurgents to win, they have to survive. It is quite evident, based on the high level of insurgent activity in the 2014 fighting season, that Hekmatyar's Hizbi-Islami, the Haqqani Network, and the Taliban have survived the long 13-year long counterinsurgency effort mounted by NATO / ISAF in Afghanistan. Some observers believe that NATO is more suited for strategic level interventions and a cold war environment than a counterinsurgency environment. They believe the NATO organization (ISAF) is not structured for and does not do counterinsurgency well. Read more in "In Afghanistan the west suffered from institutional failure. Let's learn from it", by Afzal Amin, The Guardian, October 28, 2014.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
The Pentagon will be shutting down a critical task force that has the responsibility to combat corruption in Afghanistan. The Combined Inter-Agency Task Force - Afghanistan (CIATF-A) was established in 2010 to ensure that U.S. money was going to the intended purpose - and not to Karzai's bank account in Dubai or into the coffers of the Taliban as a result of protection schemes. Many observers feel that the biggest problem in Afghanistan is not the Taliban but corruption at every level of Afghan society. Read more in "Afghanistan anti-corruption task force shuttered amid U.S. troop drawdown", The Washington Times, October 20, 2014.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Transition, when referring to Afghanistan, is used to describe " . . . the process by which the lead responsibility for security in Afghanistan is gradually being transitioned from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to the Afghan National Security Forces". Transition is said to have been fully achieved by mid-summer 2013. ISAF has published an interactive timeline to explain transition - an informative tool to learn more about transition. You can also learn more about transition in Afghanistan here.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014
A couple of O-6 level Marine Corps officers assigned to ISAF have been nominated for promotion for their first star. Colonel William Jurney has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general. He is currently serving as the executive officer for General Dunford, commander of ISAF. COL Micheal Langley has been nominated for appointment to the rank of brigadier general. Langley is currently serving as the senior advisor to the 215th Corps in Regional Command Southwest Afghanistan. Read the DoD news release dated February 19, 2014 here.
Saturday, February 1, 2014
However, there was a lot going right in the Vietnam War but folks heard mostly bad news. The Nixon administration was able to conduct "Vietnamization" of the war by increasing the professionalism of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN), providing modern equipment, and providing the logistics and supplies needed. By 1974 the South Vietnamese were doing the vast majority of the fighting and the U.S. military was helping out with advisers and support efforts. The South Vietnamese government had a decent chance of surviving. Where the war was lost is when the U.S. Congress voted to cut off funding for the South Vietnamese government. Morale plummeted in South Vietnam and the ARVN lost the ability to fight because funding for fuel, food, ammunition, spare parts, etc. dried up. Those who could afford it fled Saigon for the U.S., Paris, and other destinations taking their money with them. The lack of funds for the Army and lower morale resulted in an inability of the South Vietnamese to fight a prolonged war. The North Vietnamese and its allies recognized victory served up by the U.S. Congress and quickly exploited it in early 1975.
Today's conflict in Afghanistan has some similar characteristics at play. We have turned over security to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). According to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) the ANSF did a fair job in holding their own during the 2013 fighting season despite suffering horrendous casualties. While the ANSF didn't gain much territory it didn't loose much either. The ANSF is much more professional and capable. It is large enough to hold the major cities and main lines of communication (being able to conduct counterinsurgency is a different story, let's not go there). With continued advice and enabling assistance (and more money) the ANSF should be able to hold its own into the coming years (the results of the elections have a lot to do with this).
However . . . separate from the tactical successes on the battlefield is the fight in the "Information Operations" arena sometimes abbreviated to IO. IO is now referred to as Inform and Influence Activities. This is where the biggest danger lurks. The winning or loosing of Afghanistan may well pivot on who wins the info war. Since General Dunford took over he has been very attuned to this facet of the conflict. He wants to see the ANSF perceived as coming out of the 2013 fighting season as "holding their own". He wants the ANSF to be recognized as being "in the lead for the security of Afghanistan". He wants to see the Afghan ministries able to "sustain the ANSF" over the long-term and beyond post-2014. There are a lot of "wants" there. The "wants" have to have more than just good IO working for them to become reality; in some cases the facts on the ground have to back up the ISAF IO message.
General Dunfords' adversaries in the IO world are numerous.
The Taliban. First of all there is the Taliban who have simply out-matched the Afghan IO machine and the ISAF Public Affairs Office (PAO). While the Afghan government (and in some cases ISAF) has access to the Afghan media (print, TV, and radio) in the major cities, the Taliban have access to the rural areas where insurgencies historically thrive and where their support base happens to live. If you are a villager in a remote rural area of Afghanistan are you going to listen to a "voice" over the radio talking about government services and development that never arrives (unless it is in the form of corrupt payments to the District Governor and his cronies) or to the Taliban who comes to your local village armed with weapons and demands for food, shelter, and information about the ANSF? Night letters carry more impact than radio messages in rural Afghanistan.
Media. The press (all methods of TV, radio, Internet, and newspapers) carry a lot of weight. Historically the press looks for bad news. Reporters are always suspected by the military (as they should be). They are not the military's friend. The media is not hurting ISAF too badly as of late because Afghanistan is so rarely in the news these days. However the damage has been done. U.S. public support for the Afghan war is at the lowest ever.
International Community. There are some agencies and organizations out there that don't help the cause very much - and this is specifically true of some of the Non-Governmental Organizations or NGOs. Human Rights Watch comes to mind. While the NGOs provide a tremendous service to the Afghan people many of them will constantly deplore the military for civilian casualties or mismanagement of situations. This is not to disparage the bulk of the international community that is helpful to ISAF (EUPOL, European Community, NATO, NGOs, etc.). But organizations like Human Rights Watch (that slant the news) or Transparency International (that report the facts) hurt the ISAF IO effort.
Karzai. This guy needs to go. As one informed ISAF general once said when discussing the possible results of the Afghan election - "It can only get better". Karzai's info ops campaign is hurting ISAF's efforts. In addition, Karzai is hurting Afghanistan. The number one opponent to ISAF in the IO world is Karzai (not the Taliban, IC, or media). In addition, the number one source of support to the insurgents is corruption - and guess where that starts from (helpful clue: PoA)?
There are other IO opponents that ISAF has to contend with out there - too numerous to mention. Of late, one such organization has emerged to cause considerable damage to ISAF.
SIGAR. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction has provided numerous (and very accurate reports) about some of the failures of the reconstruction effort. SIGAR has highlighted month after month cases of Afghan corruption or U.S. mismanagement of funds and programs that has cost the United States taxpayers billions of dollars. The reports by SIGAR are so accurate and damaging that ISAF decided to fight back against SIGAR with an IO effort to combat SIGAR. (You can read more about this in a USA Today news article).
For every report that SIGAR issues highlighting an ISAF failure - the ISAF PR folks issue a report saying how well ISAF is doing in that particular endeavor highlighting its successes. For example SIGAR recently reported on the mismanagement of the $200 million Afghan literacy program and ISAF sent out its "feel good" message on how the literacy program has seen improved oversight procedures implemented. So you can read the discouraging facts provided by SIGAR or "feel good" reading ISAF's press releases.
The ISAF effort to counter SIGAR probably came from an initiative called the "Audit Plan of Action" - which recommends ISAF releasing news of how the military has addressed problems cited by SIGAR before SIGAR releases its report to Congress and the media. The initiative was probably cooked up by the Commander's Action Group (CAG) or the ISAF IO (DCoS Communications) folks. SIGAR's position is that ISAF should spend less time writing miss-leading press releases and more time fixing the problems cited in the reports and audits. (see the USA Today article linked to above for more).
Unfortunately, armed with the facts, SIGAR has the ISAF IO machine outclassed and over-matched. ISAF would be better off taking the very detailed and astute recommendations in the SIGAR reports and implementing them. ISAF could then fix some of the problems instead of applying decorative window dressing and attacking the messenger. Congress, in the humongous budget bill recently passed, cut reconstruction and military aid funds for Afghanistan by a huge amount. Does 1975 come to mind?
I wonder who Congress was listening to? ISAF or SIGAR?
Learn more about SIGAR here at www.sigar.mil.
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Leaving Afghanistan: MG James Richardson departs USFOR-A to command U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command. BG Christopher Ballard, DCoSINT ISAF departs to an Intel assignment in Korea. BG James Blackburn departs ISAF Joint Command (IJC) for 3rd ID.
Arriving Afghanistan: MG Jeff Smith departs Fort Knox to be deputy chief of staff for operations ISAF. BG Mark Schwartz departs USASOC Fort Bragg to be deputy commander, Special Operations Joint Task Force - Afghanistan (SOJTF-A).
Press release here: www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=16500
Monday, February 11, 2013
General Joseph Dunford took command of ISAF from General John Allen on February 10, 2013. He will likely be the last ISAF commander (COMISAF). He will oversee the draw down from 100,000 ISAF members to less than 10,000 over the year or more. Read more in "With New Control, General to Focus on Withdrawal in Afghanistan", The New York Times, February 10, 2013.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
During a Pentagon briefing on February 8, 2012 LTG Scarparrotti of ISAF explained his (DoD and ISAF's view) of the recent news article printed in the Armed Forces Journal by LTC Daniel Davis entitled "Truth, lies and Afghanistan". The article by Davis painted a poor picture of the progress of the war in Afghanistan. Read more on LTG Scarparrotti's response in "Pentagon Counters Dim Assessment of Afghan War", At War, The New York Times, February 8, 2012.