Moon of Alabama
The U.S. war on Afghanistan continues to fail. Disunity of command and lack of political foresight guarantee that the U.S. will be losing it.
Throughout the last months the 'moderate rebels' in Afghanistan made great strides against the U.S. sponsored government forces.
- Last week a convoy of some 40 trucks loaded with military equipment was ambushed and destroyed (pics, vid). It was the largest such incident since the Soviets left Afghanistan.
- Also last week a large bomb hit a security compound within the fortified international quarter of Kabul. At least five people died and some hundred were injured.
- On Sunday a car bomb hit the convoy of the governor of Logar province. Eight of his body guards died in the attack.
Earlier today a raid on a military training center for the National Security Directorate, the Afghan CIA offshoot, killed some 200 forces. The attacking rebels used a U.S. made armored Humvee to drive into the compound and exploded it. A infantry unit followed and shot up the survivors.
Many successful raids on outlying security posts and police checkpoints are no longer mentioned in western media. The Afghan government has stopped providing casualty numbers.
U.S. foreign policy thinking on Afghanistan is as inept as ever. Witness the head of the Council of Foreign Relation agonizing over what not to do:
Richard N. Haass @RichardHaass – 13:36 utc – 14 Jan 2019
Neither winning the war nor negotiating a lasting peace is a real option in Afghanistan. Just leaving, though, as we are about to do in Syria, would be a mistake. What we need is an open-ended, affordable strategy for not losing.
What please is a strategy of not losing? Especially when the situation on the ground has for years been getting worse despite several large U.S. surges.
The Soviet war in Afghanistan lasted nine years. But it was largely successful in building a stable government and the Soviets left a mostly competent Afghan military behind. Three years later Russia ended its financial support for the Afghan government. Only that gave the guerrilla the chance to destroy the state.
After 18 years in Afghanistan the U.S. military seems still unable to create and train competent local forces.
The $8 billion spent on the Afghan airforce have resulted in a mostly incapable force that depends on U.S. contractors to keep its birds flying. This was the result of unreasonable decisions:
Aviation experts have criticized a decision to phase out the old workhorses of the Afghan forces — Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters — for American-made UH-60 Black Hawks.
Mr. Michel, the retired general, said the Mi-17 was “the perfect helicopter” for Afghanistan because it can carry more troops and supplies than the Black Hawk and is less complicated to fly.
“Let’s be candid,” he said of the switch. “That was largely done for political reasons.”
The U.S. military built an Afghan force in its own image:
American trainers have built an Afghan Army that relies heavily on air power that the air force might not be able to provide for years, said John F. Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghan reconstruction.
Why the U.S. military, which since Vietnam proved inept at fighting local guerrillas, believed that its ways of fighting suits an Afghan force is inexplicable. If the Taliban manages to win without an airforce why should the Afghan military need one?
The only 'effective' Afghan units are the CIA controlled brigades which are known for the very worst atrocities on the civilian population:
As Mr. Khan was driven away for questioning, he watched his home go up in flames. Within were the bodies of two of his brothers and of his sister-in-law Khanzari, who was shot three times in the head. Villagers who rushed to the home found the burned body of her 3-year-old daughter, Marina, in a corner of a torched bedroom.
The men who raided the family’s home that March night, in the district of Nader Shah Kot, were members of an Afghan strike force trained and overseen by the Central Intelligence Agency in a parallel mission to the United States military’s, but with looser rules of engagement.
A survivor of the attack carried out in Surkai village in Zurmat district, in Paktia province, described to AAN how five men in his family, including three university students, and a neighbour, were summarily executed and how he was questioned by an American in uniform accompanying the Afghan gunmen. The Paktia governor’s spokesman has also confirmed that ‘foreign troops’ were involved in the operation (and the US military spokesman has said the US military was not involved).
While the U.S. military and diplomats and the Afghan military try to make nice with the Afghan population, these CIA proxy forces continue to alienate it. It drives recruits to the Taliban:
[T]he units have also operated unconstrained by battlefield rules designed to protect civilians, conducting night raids, torture and killings with near impunity, in a covert campaign that some Afghan and American officials say is undermining the wider American effort to strengthen Afghan institutions.
Those abuses are actively pushing people toward the Taliban, the officials say.
It is likely that today's large attack on the NDS compound hits CIA controlled forces:
Many of the strike forces were officially put under the control of Afghan intelligence starting in 2012. But senior Afghan and international officials say that the two most effective and ruthless forces, in Khost and Nangarhar Provinces, are still sponsored mainly by the C.I.A.
This conflict between militarized CIA proxy forces and forces trained by the U.S. military played out in every recent war the U.S. waged. In Iraq CIA sponsored Shia units clashed with Pentagon sponsored Sunni militia. In Syria CIA trained 'rebels' ended up shooting at U.S. military trained 'rebels' and vice versa. In Afghanistan the rogue force under CIA control is some 3,000 to 10,000 strong. It largely alienates the same population the Afghan military tries to protect.
Unity of command is an important condition for successful military campaigns. As the military works in one direction while the CIA pulls in another one, the campaign in Afghanistan continues to fail.
A similar split can be seen in Afghanistan's political field. The CIA is notorious for bribing Afghan politicians, while the military launches anti-corruption campaigns. The political system installed by such competing forces is unsustainable.
The last Afghan election with the top candidates being the Pashto Ashraf Ghani and the Tajik Abdullah Abdullah, was marred by irregularities. The uncertain outcome led the U.S. to fudge the results by making Ghani president and Abudullah his 'chief executive'. Both are now again competing against each other in the elections that are to be held later this year. They will be as irregular as all elections in Afghanistan are. The disputed outcome might well lead to new clashes between ethnic groups.
This upcoming conflict will further weaken the Afghan state. Why hasn't anything been done to prevent it?