"In every engagement between the Taliban and one front-line American Marine unit, the operation has been led in almost every significant sense by American officers and troops. They organized the forces for battle, transported them in American vehicles and helicopters from Western-run bases into Taliban-held ground, and have been the primary fighting force each day.
The Afghan National Army, or A.N.A., has participated. At the squad level it has been a source of effective, if modestly skilled, manpower. Its soldiers have shown courage and a willingness to fight.
Afghan soldiers have also proved, as they have for years, to be more proficient than Americans at searching Afghan homes and identifying potential Taliban members — two tasks difficult for outsiders to perform.
By all other important measures, though — from transporting troops, directing them in battle and coordinating fire support to arranging modern communications, logistics, aviation and medical support — the mission in Marja has been a Marine operation conducted in the presence of fledgling Afghan Army units, whose officers and soldiers follow behind the Americans and do what they are told."
The little story at the end of this article about a US Marine giving an Afghan soldier a can of Red Bull is illustrative of what the present state of the Afghan National Army really is.
Armies conform to certain basic human principles involving leadership. All armies. One of the most important is that the troops must believe that the officers are not exploiting them for their own benefit. Any force in which the troops feel exploited will not be effective.
The Afghan army has a long way to go. It takes a long time to make soldiers out of people for whom the cultural model is alien.
it would have been better to make use of them as tribal militias. pl
“Its soldiers have shown courage and a willingness to fight.”
There is a huge issue Chivers does not mention.
Were these Tajik troops or Pashto? What was their commanders ethnic?
Northern Alliance (Tajik etc.) soldiers may be willing to fight well against taliban, Pashto soldiers may be not so.
A Tajik commander may well look down on Pashto soldiers.
Without him saying who they are it is hard to judge those troops from Chivers’ report.
The British Indian Army happily recruited Pathans [Pashtuns].
(“A Matter of Honour – An Account of the Indian Army, its officers & men”, by Philip Mason). A story from there:
“Younghusband has a story of a young Afridi in the Guides whose own village was to be destroyed. He was torn by the two loyalties; he hesitatingly decided in favour of the regiment. But severe temptation suddenly assailed him. He was sentry on a dark night; his own village was near, and his companion sentry, who happened to be a Gurkha, asked him to hold his rifle while he fetched something from his tent. Two rifles! And the dark night! He was a very young soldier and it was too much. The Gurkha came back to find he had gone. Horrified, he ran to report his negligence and the Afridi’s crime. The Commanding Officer – it was after Lumsden’s time – summoned all the men in the regiment who belonged to that section of the Afridis and told them what had happened. There were seventeen; he told them to take off their uniform and not show their faces again till they brought back those two rifles. It was a bare chance; he thought they might be back in two days perhaps. But it was two whole years before they were back with the two rifles. What had happened they would not say. What blood-feuds had been started, what bones left to bleach on the hillside, no one ever knew.
“it would have been better to make use of them as tribal militias. pl ”
We are in furious agreement. It would be a lot cheaper too, in my opinion.
Yes, they did, but it took a long time to “socialize” a Pathan for that role. pl
Make use of them as tribal militias to expel invaders, worked before.
Current ANA is more than enough to maintain basic stability and hold afghanistan together with some hand holding. It is not necessary to have 100% peace everywhere.
In essence it’s creating that “synthetic tribe” (similar to the pakistan military class) combined with creation of long term counter insurgency military/civilian structure.
– career path for all military officers and personal has to be drawn from entrance to retirement. (you serve the nation, you will be taken care for life. you don’t need to join the taliban or vending for livelihood on your own. Housing, family, children, ownership of land… etc)
– military housing cluster in the middle of urban area. This cluster will provide island of stability and catalyze of nationalism idea. (this is way more effective and cheaper than “patroling”)
– military school next to engineering school. (somebody has to keep an eye on those religious militant in afghanistan universities. traditionally key players emerge from University of kabul or other engineering schools.)
– land ownership. Gift after military service. Same idea as above. except longer term. Feudalistic idea really, very effective.
– spot in government owned corporation. Usually, this work nicely for sub $1000 GDP country like afghanistan. It gives injection of leadership and aligning wealth creation organization toward government.
– Various appointed civil servant position. Basically, cloning military discipline onto civil service. Very colonial idea.
– Use ANA as a symbol of government authority, channel for aid/temporary staple, keep it shiny and develop the mystique of protector of nation.
So “government in a can” idea, should be somewhat easier to implement with functioning military as resource.
Military operation to gain entrance in tough area, initial military outpost combined with ANA base.
Then ANA office, communication, logistic, and initial “government in a can” training package.
If the town population is happy and doesn’t start shooting. I don’t see how this initial establishment of central government authority couldn’t work. It has all the missing element that previous attempt didn’t have. Overall, afghanistan now seems to move in the right direction instead of running in place.
of course the negative side, the receipt above is also the same for Fascist/military nation. … But somebody will clean up the mess 20 years down the road I guess. Not my problem….
“Use ANA as a symbol of government authority…keep it shiny and develop the mystique of protector of nation.”
Very shrewd thinking, and I would just add one thing: we should have the ANA ride into battle on unicorns.
Reading through the last part of this Chandrasekaran story, the “government in a box” issue will not turn out well:
It seems there will be two infighting “goverments”, three when one adds the local taliban.
I find your political statement that Iraq and Afghanistan are not important to the US and Germany to be naive. pl
“I find your political statement that Iraq and “Afghanistan are not important to the US and Germany to be naive. pl ”
You are of course right Pat. Those countries are important in this or that aspect.
But there are also other more important issues and our resources are limited as are our abilities.
So I see no reason to spend as many resources as we do on “fixing” those countries which we, in the end, can not do anyway.