Posted without comment

by Joshua Foust on 7/31/2009 · 15 comments

Perhaps people who advocate the immediate expansion of the ANSF could think about this before advocating more Afghan security forces to do all our dirty work for us.

The strategy of the major U.S. and British military offensive in Afghanistan’s Helmand province aimed at wresting it from the Taliban is based on bringing back Afghan army and police to maintain permanent control of the population, so the foreign forces can move on to another insurgent stronghold.

But that strategy poses an acute problem: The police in the province, who are linked to the local warlord, have committed systematic abuses against the population, including the abduction and rape of pre-teen boys, according to village elders who met with British officers.

Anger over those police abuses runs so high that the elders in Babaji just north of Laskgar Gah warned the British that they would support the Taliban to get rid of them if the national police were allowed to return to the area, according to a Jul. 12 report by Reuters correspondent Peter Graff.

Associated Press reporters Jason Straziuso and David Guttenfelder, who accompanied U.S. troops in Northern Helmand, reported Jul. 13 that villagers in Aynak were equally angry about police depredations. Within hours of the arrival of U.S. troops in the village, they wrote, bands of villagers began complaining the local police force was “a bigger problem than the Taliban”.

The brutality of the Afghan police toward the civilian population in Helmand was no surprise to Ambassador Ron Neumann, who was the U.S. envoy in Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007. Such abuses, including rape of pre-teen boys, “are part of the larger problem of repression and oppression” in Afghanistan, Neumann told IPS.

And yet people keep reacting to it like it’s a surprise. Herschel Smith has some more thoughts on why relying only on an unsustainable (physically and, it seems, politically and socially) domestic security force will probably make us worse off in the long run.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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BruceR July 31, 2009 at 9:59 am

Looks like a comment to me…

Toryalay Shirzay July 31, 2009 at 10:54 am

The statements by Ambassador Neumann indicate that the US and NATO countries understand most of the problems prevailing in Afghanistan.What is missing is how to go about solving these problems.In Afghanistan,the problem of corruption is on par with the existence of Taleban,Alqaeda,Islamic fascism and other Islamic terrorist groups.If the corruption problem is properly addressed,this will go along way in gaining the trust of the people which in turn will greatly contribute to the defeat of Taleban and other Islamic thugs.The US and NATO have empowered the wrong people to govern and police the Afghan society.They must undo this blunder now if they ever wish to proclaim success in Afghanistan .I know how this problem can be tackled in the most effective way.Anyone interested in the details,leave a credible contact info here.

anand July 31, 2009 at 11:53 am

I wouldn’t exaggerate the loyalty problems in the ANA, as your link does.

Are there any reports of problems regarding the ANCOP?

Cynic July 31, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Joshua, seriously, you need to dial it down a notch. Exum wants indigenous forces to “do all our dirty work for us”? Really? How is that consistent with a call for bolstering US troop levels in-country?

Look, there’s a lot to critique in Ex’s recent statements. And I think it’s fairly clear that neither Ex nor any other member of the civilian advisory group has a silver-bullet solution – that, invited in to lend a degree of clarity to the strategic picture, most of them walked away with a greater appreciation for its complexity. Your recent post on that topic made a number of valuable points, and I hope that Ex and his colleagues will take it to heart, and work to clarify their positions and advice.

This post amounts to bomb-lobbing. Are the ANA and Police often corrupt? Sure. Are they sometimes drawn from ethnic groups that are historical antagonists of the people they are supposed to police? Yes. Do they represent a perfect solution to the problem of security and control? By no means.

But everyone agrees that we don’t have sufficient international forces to effectively police the country, or even a substantial portion of it. And even if we did, it’s unclear whether that would constitute any sort of solution – a nation controlled by NATO is not a nation, but a province. We’re going to need local partners, and we’re going to need many more than we presently have. The Herschel Smith post to which you approvingly link is typically bellicose and inane- it’s his stated position that no outside analyst can possibly no more than the USMC forces on the ground, and so those like Ex ought not critique their decisions. That’s not analysis.

You have it within you to be constructive in your critiques. I hope you’ll return to that in the future.

Bart July 31, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Agree with Cynic. Don’t really understand your posts about Exum. You don’t have serious solutions to Afghanistan likely unsolveable problems any more than he does.

Joshua Foust July 31, 2009 at 7:21 pm

You’re both right. In this post, I was wrong to single him out. Exum is not the problem when it comes to this, and it was unfair of me to mention him.

Transitionland July 31, 2009 at 8:03 pm

This blog and Aid Watch have become way meaner than they need to be. That said, you did just apologize, and Bill Easterly asked his readers to tell him if he was being overzealous. In future posts, please save your harsh words for people who actually deserve them, people like Ralph Peters and Ann Marlowe.

anand July 31, 2009 at 9:27 pm

It is unfair and not meaningful to say the ANSF aren’t working. Rather you can say that this specific unit is working and this specific unit isn’t.

My view is that you build on success. From the perspective of the ANA, this means:
-identify the best ANA battalions. Assign 150% of their authorized strength to them. Let the good experienced cadre train the new cadre. There are many good quality battalions in the ANA.
-identify the best ANA brigades. Assign fourth and fifth combat line battalions to them. Assign quality cadre from the first three combat line battalions, the Bde HQs, and the combat support battalion to the new ones.
-delay standing up new bde HQs

This strategy has historically worked. It worked in Iraq. Why would it not work in Afghanistan? There are good quality units to build on. Some of the commando battalions are good; as is 1st Bde, 203rd ANA Corps. Overall the 203rd ANA Corps seems to be the best quality ANA Corps.

On the ANP; any perspectives on how the ANCOP are doing? {The ANCOP are the MoI QRF forces. They have 20 combat battalions and 4 brigade HQs.}

On the ANP, no one is surprised. At the beginning of 2008, The entire ANP only had 3,000 trained police people for a country of 31 million and much of the toughest terrain in the world. In May, 2009, Of the 559 Afghan districts, only 51 have decent ANP (CM-1 or CM-2.) Only 122 have partially functioning ANP (CM-1. CM-2, CM-3.) Let us keep in mind that both these numbers are up dramatically from October, 2008.

Joel Hafvenstein August 1, 2009 at 9:32 am

I’ve heard nothing but good things about the ANCOP so far — like anand, I’d be interested in seeing more detail if anyone’s got an article or review on the ANCOP out there.

vimothy August 1, 2009 at 1:54 pm

What is the anual cost of the Afghan security forces (police and army) relative to GDP?

anand August 1, 2009 at 6:50 pm

vimothy, annual Afghan GDP excluding poppies might be $10 billion.
Annual intermediate run steady state ANSF costs:
-ANA excluding ANAAC (between $2 billion and $3 billion per year)
-ANAAC (between $1 billion and $2.5 billion per year)
ANP (between $0.5 billion and $1.5 billion per year)
Total ANSF = $3.5 billion to $7 billion per year

There are more detailed assumptions behind these numbers. I think that the ANSF need $130 billion in foreign funding over the next 20 years to win the war, establish security inside Afghanistan, allow ISAF to return home. This assumes that parts of the Pakistani establishment continue to back the Taliban and their allies and allow them sanctuaries. I think that Afghanistan as a whole will need $250 billion in foreign grants over 20 years, with the balance being economic.

vimothy August 5, 2009 at 5:06 am

Thanks Anand. So that’s 35–70% of GDP on the ANSF. Wow. Do you have a good feel for projected growth rates and, especially, for government revenue streams? I mean, how is this plausible?

Ivan Denisovich August 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm


Sorry, but if NATO’s plan is to win this fight by using the ANSF as their cannon fodder they’re in for a big surprise. The ARVN for the most part didn’t have the stomach to fight, nor does or will the ANSF.

The ANSF is riddled with Taliban supporters. With the UK’s declaration that it will take decades to win this fight it appear all was not what they told us about the Taliban.

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