Showing posts with label districts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label districts. Show all posts

Sunday, March 11, 2018

SIGAR Report - District Control

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) January 2018 Quarterly Report to the United States Congress was heavily edited by Resolute Support Headquarters which resulted in key data relating to security in Afghanistan being deleted from the report. Resolute Support and the U.S. Department of Defense took a considerable amount of 'heat' over the omission and this was quickly reversed.

A new 17-page addendum to the latest quarterly report has now been published that includes data originally missing. For the most part this addendum includes information on territorial and population control. One of the metrics used in assessing the success or failure of the Resolute Support Mission and that of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) is to measure that percentage of population under the control of the government and the amount of territory under the control of the government.

It is a little bit more complicated than that - as different criteria are used. For instance a district can be under insurgent control or influence. A district can be contested. Or a district can be under government control or influence. And it matters on whether you are measuring population or territory. Much of the Afghan population lives in district capitals, provincial capitals, major cities, and Kabul. Most of these major towns and cities are firmly under the control of the Afghan security forces. So using a percentage of the population as a measurement is probably (from the Afghan government or RS viewpoint) better than the number of districts (as many districts are in rural areas). USFOR-A and RS use a RS District  Assessment Methodology that is described in the SIGAR report.

The RS methodology has some built in faults. For instance for a district to be under insurgent influence there has to be no government or security presence in the district center. A district center is usually a walled compound with 3 to 8 buildings where the district governor (DGov), district chief of police (DCoP), and other government representatives (MRRD, MAIL, etc.) have offices. By this criteria, even if the security forces cannot venture out of the gates of the compound, the DGov (and other government ministry representatives are not present - and who determines whether they report to work or not), and the district center is resupplied by helicopter with fuel, food, ammunition, and more; the district is considered not under insurgent influence. The insurgents may roam freely throughout the district with firm control of the roads, market, and outlying areas but they still do not have district influence. A more accurate picture of district control is provided by the Long War Journal.

Learn more about district control.

Read the SIGAR addendum.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

District Control in Afghanistan

One way of measuring success or failure in Afghanistan is to label how many of the 399 districts are 'controlled' or 'contested' by the Taliban. There are four or five organizations that periodically release the stats on this topic. (Note: there are varying figures for the number of districts; 399 seems to be the most consistent).

The most important organization to follow is Resolute Support HQs based in Kabul. RS figures tend to be on the optimistic side; usually its figures are stated in the bi-annual DoD 1225 report or in SIGAR's Quarterly Report to Congress. The latest SIGAR report (Jan 30, 2018) did not have these figures because RS HQs (or DoD) classified (for the 1st time) the information. Under pressure from the media RS HQs quickly released new figures. Last November 2018 the Afghan government controlled 64% of the population and now (Jan 2018) it controls 60% of the population.

The Long War Journal also tracks district control in Afghanistan. It's figures are more reliable than Resolute Support's figures as it takes a more realistic view of what 'district control' is. The Long War Journal blog periodically releases an updated map on what districts are controlled or contested.

The Afghan government also will provide stats on district control on a periodic basis. However, take it with a grain of salt. It is a very optimistic and unrealistic portrayal for sure. Currently, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) says that only 11 districts are under Taliban control. Hmmm. There are about 13 districts in Helmand province alone; of which probably 11 districts are under the control of the Taliban. What about the other 33 provinces?

BBC News has published an article with a small video segment on how much area the Taliban control - with the alarming headline of "Taliban threaten 70% of Afghanistan, BBC finds" (January 30, 2018).

Want to learn more about district control in Afghanistan?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Districts Changing Hands

Taliban Advances in Kunduz. The Taliban have been ruling several villages in northern Kunduz province for four years. Ten days ago the villages were cleared of Taliban fighters by Afghan security forces in a 'clearing operation'. However, once the government troops left the area the Taliban moved back in. Read "Taliban recapture Kunduz villages as forces retreat"Pajhwok Afghan News, July 27, 2017.

District Falls to Taliban in Ghor. The Taliban took a district center in Ghor province. There were reports of heavy casualties. In addition, 35 people were reported killed in an attack on a hospital in Ghor province. Iran has been accused of aiding the insurgents in the fall of Taywara district which fell to the Taliban on July 23rd. The Afghan government says that the district center was recaptured on Thursday, July 27th. Resolute Support HQs says the Afghan Air Force used its A-29 Super Tucanos to assist in the combat operations to recapture the district center. See "Iran Accused of Helping Taliban Capture a District in Afghanistan"Radio Free Afghanistan, July 26, 2017.

Faryab District Captured by Taliban. A contested district in Fayab province has been captured by the Taliban.

Jani Khel District in Paktia Province Now Owned by Taliban. After several days of heavy fighting a district in Paktia fell to the Taliban.

Khakrez District? The Taliban claim to have taken control of a district center in Kandahar province. Some reports say at least 30 government troops were killed. See "Taliban rout Afghan troops near Kandahar"BBC News, July 26, 2017. See also "Dozens Killed in Taliban Attack on Afghan Military Base", Radio Free Europe, July 26, 2017.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Nawa District, Helmand Province Now Under Government Control

One of the districts that continues to change hands over time in Helmand province has . . . once again . . . been 'retaken' by Afghan security forces. Operation Maiwand Four conducted by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) - assisted by Marine advisors and coalition air support - cleared the Nawa district of enemy presence and expanded the security belt around the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah).

The district, located very close to the provincial capital has been under the control of the Taliban for the past nine months. The district center was captured by the Taliban in October 2016. To assist the Afghan security forces the Marines launched an expeditionary advising package or EAP. This EAP from the Marines' Task Force Southwest provided advisory, air, battle tracking, intelligence, and fires integration assistance.

Of course, the term 'district control' is a very vague term. From a government (and Resolute Support) viewpoint if an element of the ANP or ANA occupies the administrative center of the district (usually a small number of one-story buildings enclosed within a concrete wall) then the district is under government control. From the Taliban perspective, the district is controlled if the Taliban can roam freely day or night throughout the entire district (except for those four or five buildings where 30 ANP are hunkered down). Learn more about the different interpretations of district control in Afghanistan.


Speculative reports indicate that the ANDSF have already started the planning process for Operation Maiwand Five to take place in the summer of 2018 which will recapture the district center, clear the Nawa district center of enemy presence, and expand the security belt around the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah).

The early planning process has outlined future coordination with various Afghan government ministries for the future government occupation of Nawa district governmental buildings in 2018. Coalition air support is being coordinated to move Nawa district government officials by C-130 transport and then by helicopter from their Kabul villas to the district center for a press conference proclaiming victory and a return of Afghan governance to the troubled district. The district government representatives will then immediately return to Kabul for extended talks with senior officials of various Afghan ministries about establishing funding mechanisms that are not hampered by the 'red tape' associated with bureaucratic and restrictive regulations meant to diminish corruption.

The Afghan Government Media & Information Center (GMIC) has their 16 July 2018 press release already scripted and posted on their website. Essentially it will say that the Afghan governmental ministries will soon resume public services, open schools, and that the ANDSF will restore freedom of movement on the roads and the confidence of the Afghan people in their government and security forces.

Not to be outdone the PAO for Task Force Southwest has already crafted the press release for Operation Maiwand Five's successful outcome projected for mid-July 2018. He has posted it in his 'Continuity Book' for his replacements' replacement to utilize in mid-summer 2018. It will read sometime like this:
"We have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police. The ability of the ANDSF to conduct cross-pillar operations of battalion-size and larger provides proof of the abilities of the ANDSF to defend their nation. Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand." 

(Okay, a little satire there in the last five paragraphs, couldn't help myself).

Additional Reading:

"Marines aid Afghan forces in recapture of strategic district", Military Times, July 17, 2017.

"Afghan forces liberate district in central Helmand", Long War Journal, July 17, 2017.

"ANDSF retakes Nawa district center during operation Maiwand Four", DVIDS, July 17, 2017.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

District Control Explained

The U.S. military (and Resolute Support) continues to be vague on the topic of district control in Afghanistan. The latest Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report (October 2016) uses data from the Resolute Support mission that low-balls the amount of districts that the Taliban have control of. One of the key factors in determining district control used by the Afghan government and Resolute Support is who occupies the district center. The district center is typically a walled compound that contains several buildings. The district center usually houses the offices of the district governor, district chief of police, members of the Afghan National Police, and other district government officials. In dangerous districts these government officials (to include the district governor) are seldom present. In many areas of Afghanistan (for instance Helmand province) the district centers are under siege and the police (and Army if present) are resupplied sporadically by helicopter because the Taliban control the roads and countryside. Learn more about district control in "Analysis: US military assessment of Taliban control of Afghan districts is flawed", The Long War Journal, November 2, 2016.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Fight for Khas Uruzgan District

Most observers of the Afghan conflict are focused on the security situation in Kabul and the press releases from Resolute Support HQs on "multi-corps operations" to "clear and hold" contested areas. RS HQs would have you believe that the Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) are capable of defending key terrain, lines of communication, urban areas and the population based on their ability to conduct "cross-pillar operations". However, in a rural-based insurgency the fight is away from key terrain, LOCs, the large towns and cities, and where large concentrations of the ANDSF are located. It takes place in more isolated remote areas at the district level (there are about 400) in places like Khas Uruzgan.

In Afghanistan the insurgency fight is won or lost at the district level. There are many aspects to the fighting at district level. One is the inability of the Afghan National Army to operate out of all of the districts - there are just too many of them. Another is the dependence on the Afghan National Police for security within the district - however, the ANP are (currently) understaffed, ill-trained, and not resourced for a counterinsurgent fight. In addition, there is the ethnic makeup of the district, strength of the Taliban, presence of warlords, militias, Afghan Local Police, effectiveness of governance, and many other factors. Of course, when discussing the districts, one has to define security within a district. Does the government control the district or just the district center compound where the governmental offices are located? Martine van Bijlert, a long-time observer of the Afghan conflict, provides us a glimpse of the fight at the district level with all the varied factors accounted for. Read "Trouble in Khas Uruzgan: Insults, assaults, a siege and an airlift", Afghanistan Analysts Network, September 2, 2015.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

ANP in Baraki Barak District - Logar Province

A very interesting and revealing news article about the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Baraki Barak district, Logar province. The author is Azam Ahmed, the Kabul bureau chief for The New York Times. He spent some time in the district hosted by the District Chief of Police (DCoP). This district is one where the Taliban control over 50% of the terrain depending on the time of day. At one time, as late as 2012, there was a U.S. infantry company, U.S. Special Forces detachment, many enablers (Intel, interpreters, LEPs, SFAAT, etc.), an ANA company, an ANASF detachment, the district police and an Afghan Local Police unit. Since that time the SF dudes, U.S. infantry company, SFAAT, enablers, and ANA company have departed. The Afghan police are on their own. As many observers of insurgencies realize the police are in the forefront in a counterinsurgency effort. This article provides us a glimpse of how the counterinsurgency fight in Afghanistan is going.
The " . . . war, by most accounts, has been lost. the nation is not pacified, the political future remains deeply uncertain and the death toll has never been higher. For the central government in Kabul, the real fight is to persuade the population, not to kill insurgents. And the police, local and national, are the only ones who can win it."
Read the article in "The Hardest Job in Afghanistan", The New York Times Magazine, March 4, 2015.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Khamyab District Now Controlled by Taliban

Afghanistan's Khamyab district in Jowzjan province is now controlled by the Taliban. Attempts by government forces to re-take the district with the assistance of local militias have failed. High-ranking police officers of the district have been killed. The population of the district now lives under 'Taliban rules'. Read more in "Taliban Takes District on Turkmen Border", Qishloq Ovozi Blog (Radio Free Europe), December 11, 2014.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gizab District - 80% Owned by Taliban

A few years back Gizab district in Uruzgan province was the showcase of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) as an example of a local uprising against the Taliban. The Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command - Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A) introduced the Village Stability Operations (VSO) program and Afghan Local Police (ALP) to Gizab district to capitalize on the revolt against Taliban rule. The VSO program and associated ALP spread throughout the country. Since then, along with the withdrawal of conventional U.S. forces, Special Operations Forces teams have been scaled back and they do not advise and assist ALP units at the district level. In fact, the program has been taken over by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) as the ALP is now part of the MoI. A recent news report indicates that Gizab district is now 80% controlled by the Taliban and the ALP is but a shell of its former self in this district. Read more in "Taliban return to Afghan town that rose up and drove out its leaders", The Guardian, October 27, 2014.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Sangin District of Helmand Province Lost to Taliban?

Is it possible that the most recent district to fall to the Taliban could be a permanent loss? The district of Sangin in Helmand province, a Pashtun ethnic group area, has been a battleground for years. British and American forces have fought long and hard over the past several years and suffered many casualties. The district is in the heart of the poppy growing region of Afghanistan.

The Taliban opened up the 2013 fighting season targeting the Sangin district. Initially the Taliban were very successful in overrunning several ANSF checkpoints; however, the Afghans (backed by the Coalition) managed to counterattack and take some of these checkpoints back. ISAF painted a glowing picture of a triumphant ANSF taking the fight to the Taliban (see "Commander: Taliban Defeat Imminent in Helmand's Sangin District", American Forces Press Service, May 29, 2013).

However, the ANSF have taken severe casualties this past fighting season in Sangin; and in addition, this district has suffered a high desertion rate. The Afghans have an 'addiction to bases' in this region and do not actively patrol. As a result the Taliban have free reign over the district and can attack the ANSF outposts at will.

Now that the Coalition is no longer able to exercise operational reach into some of the remote and highly contested areas we may now be faced with the prospect of the ANA and ANP reaching an accommodation with the insurgents at the local level and controlling entire districts. Recent reports indicate that Sangin district may well be one of those places. Read more news reports about Sangin district the link below:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

District Stability Operations (DSO) In Afghanistan

The concept of Village Stability Operations or VSO has been around for a year or two. VSO is a very successful program run by the Special Operations Joint Task Force - Afghanistan (SOJTF-A) - with the lead agency being the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A). VSO integrates the parallel and complimentary efforts of security, development, and governance to further the reach of the Afghan government and security organizations at the district level. The implementation involves committing a special operations team (SFODA, MARSOC, or SEAL) against a village to first establish security (primarily through the ALP) and then governance and development.

To assist the ODA (or Marines or Seals) SOJTF-A usually assigns one or two individuals to work as a District Augmentation Team (DAT) or Provincial Augmentation Team (PAT) to help coordinate and facilitate the governance and development lines of operations. The DAT or PAT works within the framework of the district or province headquarters coordinating with Afghan governmental, ministry, and security officials as well as other enablers present such as the State Department, DEA, NGOs, and others.

One Special Forces Warrant Officer presents the case that Special Forces should transition from Village Stability Operations (VSO) to District Stability Operations (DSO). His suggests that in certain regions of Afghanistan (RC East) DSO would be more effective. Read his online article in "VSO versus DSO", Small Wars Journal, March 19, 2013.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

District Development Plans - USAID in Afghanistan

In an attempt to prioritize and coordinate infrastructure repairs at the district level in Afghanistan the Afghan government prepares District Development Plans (DDP).  Unfortunately, the Afghan government does not have the money or the capacity to implement these plans.  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), using implementing partners such as the Central Asia Development Group (CADG), collaborates with district and provincial leaders to identify and fill gaps in the DDP. Typical projects might include drainage ditches, road construction or improvement, or erosion protection.  Read more about how USAID's support of District Development Plans support governance and development in Afghanistan in "Bringing Government Plans to Life", USAID, February 9, 2012.