Challenges from Deployment

by Joshua Foust on 9/22/2009 · 7 comments

In this mixed bag edition of Room for Debate (seriously, from “train more police” to “it’s immoral for the President to question his generals”), Vanda Felbab-Brown—a Brookings scholar who’s done some outstanding work on narcotics in counterinsurgency—pokes a hole in the “Nangarhar is a model to be followed” meme I tracked earlier this year:

As a result of the opium poppy ban, Nangarhar province in the east has also become destabilized. Not only have the strategic Khogyani, Shinwar, and Achin districts become essentially no-go zones for the government and non-governmental organizations, but Jalalabad has also become far less secure, with a resulting cascade of economic problems and a rapid rise in crime.

I’m glad to finally see someone else saying this. Of course, her explication of where insecurity lies leads her to imply the same thing I do, which is that security is sufficiently bad everywhere, so focusing only on one area doesn’t make sense unless we dramatically change how we perceive and fight the war. That’s an uncomfortable stance, since it leads one to wish for far more resources than what are available (as well as significant enough changes in how we operate to be less than realistic).

Even so, it’s a good read.

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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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anan September 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Joshua, another problem with Nangarhar province is the quality of ANA in the area? Any perspectives on the quality of the provincial ANP?

Is Haqqani active in Khogyani, Shinwar, and Achin districts? Heqmatyur? I don’t think the Quetta Shura Taliban is influential in that area, unless the situation has changed.

anan September 22, 2009 at 1:40 pm

From Shannon’s account, security in Jalalabad does not seem to have changed much over the past year. Violence in the province on aggregate is similar to 2008 levels. However, I didn’t know about Khogyani, Shinwar, and Achin districts.

IntelTrooper September 22, 2009 at 1:52 pm

anan, the problem with Jalalabad isn’t outright violence. The problem is that the entire city acts as a safehouse for high-level Afghan Taliban.

IntelTrooper September 22, 2009 at 1:47 pm

My team literally watched Achin, Shinwar and Khogyani/Chaparhar shift into Taliban control last year. Part of the responsibility lies (in my opinion) with Col. John Spiszer. The other part lies with Governor Sherzai and the Karzai government in general. Interestingly, both of these personalities seem to have had the same mindset — that is, if we can simply deny anything is going wrong, the problem will go away. Spiszer prohibited his most important “manuever element,” the ABP with their contract mentor/trainers, from carrying out operations, and refused to allow anyone to conduct operations at night (because it made some people angry, and he didn’t have enough of an IO campaign to compensate for it).

I feel for the 4/4 and 10th Mountain guys who are having to make up for the instability left in the wake of 3/1. Most of all, I feel for the innocent Afghans and “accidental guerillas” forced to choose sides in the total absence of any credible government presence.

anan September 22, 2009 at 2:18 pm

IntelTrooper, thanks for your input. Why is 2nd Brigade, 201st ANA (operates near Jalalabad) one of the worst brigades in the ANA (excluding the CM1 first combat battalion of the brigade)? I heard that the brigade commander is good, but that some his subordinates are suboptimal to put it mildly.

The Brigade HQs was formed in July 2003 and was CM-4 last year (upgraded to CM-3 last November.)

What was your perception of the ANP in Nangarhar province.

IntelTrooper September 22, 2009 at 2:50 pm

I can’t speak to the Brigade, but I worked with 6th Kandak in Khogyani. I think the problem with ANA in Nangarhar (which 6th Kandak has now moved to Konar with mixed results) is that they get soft and there isn’t the refining of leaders through actual combat leadership. Their mentors were excellent but they just didn’t seem to catch on.

The ANP leadership around Jalalabad seems strong to me, especially the Counter-Terrorism Police. The problem is that leadership doesn’t seem to filter down very far. At the district level I know that they are up to all the usual ANP corruption at best. I have suspicions about their collusion with the local Taliban.

One of my favorite Nangarhar ANP stories was told to me by a PSYOPS guy. He said that he visited the 1-1-1 call center (their version of 9-1-1) and asked about the most recent calls. The ANP manning the phone dutifully recounted that someone had called in that there was an IED at such-and-such place in such-and-such village. The PSYOPS guy asked what the ANP did in response, and the ANP guy said that he called one of the elders in that village, who denied that there was an IED there. Case closed.

So yeah, I can’t figure out why people don’t trust the ANP…

David M September 23, 2009 at 9:58 am

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/23/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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