The KG Road

by Sekundar on 5/20/2011 · 13 comments

Operation Badr, the Taliban offensive this spring, is causing mayhem all over the country. One of the key areas, though, for both insurgents and ISAF/GIRoA, is the Khost-Gardez Road. Riddled with cost-overruns, corruption, and delays, the road was at one time the centerpiece of reconstruction efforts by the U.S. government in Southeastern Afghanistan. The New York Times ran a piece by Alissa Rubin and James Risen earlier this month that spoke to the corruption endemic in such a large, and ill-planned, development effort. And the insurgents have taken note as well, doing what they can to halt progress on the road (BBC), killing 35 roadworkers and injuring a score. ISAF will probably finish the road, but at what cost? And how long will it be before average Afghans and government officials can no longer travel the road in safety? With the war changing as much as it has, and a withdrawal in view, it seems almost niave to pursue such a project.

The end of the war is in sight, whether it be in 2014 or sooner. Large infrastructure projects funded by ISAF, I expect, will go the way of the dodo, and the focus will be on creating a stable security framework to take over when ISAF leaves. Sadly, the cost of projects like the KG Road in lives and money has grown exponentially, and at the end of the day (2014), it’s unclear who will be around to enjoy the road. The KG Road project, in the current context, seems like a relic of a more hopeful era. It’s a depressing thought.

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Sekundar works in national security, and has worked and studied in Central and South Asia.

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Theo May 20, 2011 at 1:55 am

I think Badr has been pretty underwhelming so far, with a couple exceptions

Dishonesty? May 20, 2011 at 2:59 pm

for example,
Military officials in Afghanistan have declined to comment on the incident, saying an investigation is ongoing. In a statement, they acknowledged two coalition service members were killed May 12 at a police compound in Helmand province.
The attack underscores the continued unpredictability and danger associated with partnering with Afghan forces. Since 2009, there have been at least 16 other incidents in which Afghan troops or insurgents wearing Afghan military uniforms have killed coalition forces.
The latest incident was particularly surprising to Marines at the training center because the ANCOP are considered to be among Afghanistan’s premier security forces.
The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police have been plagued with discipline, attrition and cooperation problems, but the ANCOP is typically considered a cut above, with better training and additional capabilities, including SWAT teams. They prevent rioting and civil unrest in Afghanistan’s largest cities, but also fill in manpower gaps in other locations when there are not enough national police.

The second was a little more worrisome: A group of about 40 Taliban fighters were reported to be inciting people in Charikar
, a big town along the route. Intelligence said they were armed with the usual array — RPGs, rifles, machine guns.

anan May 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm

A majority of all ANSF attacks against fellow ANSF and ISAF are personally motivated or the equivalents of bar fights with weapons. Some other incidents are related to organized crime.

Overall, ANA, ANCOP and NDS attacks against pro GIRoA forces are rare and are far from being one of the ANSF’s priority challenges.

Some AUP and Afghan Local Police are unreliable. Some ABP have historically been unreliable as well although could this be changing?

As some ANSF observers have notice, AUP, ABP and ANCOP attrition have fallen to record lows. In my view it is important to increase ANP attrition to healthier higher levels through targeted firing of ANP; who while possibly brave are less than stellar performers.

ANA attrition remains significantly higher than ANP attrition. 2.0% in March and 1.85% in April.

Dishonesty, haven’t inquired about the Lashkar Gah incident. Do you have any thoughts or questions regarding it?

Don’t think Charikar is ripe territory for the Taliban. So many in Charikar derive their livelihood from ISAF contracts and the city has boomed. At present to my knowledge no ANA and ANCOP have AOs in Parwan. Although some ANA occasionally visit Parwan for community outreach. Parwan is de facto provincial AUP lead.

I would be more concerned about Taliban operations in Baghlan, Wardak, Logar, Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar.

Much of Laghman formally transitions to ANSF lead in weeks. Does anyone else share my concern about how successful the security transition in Laghman will be? More worried about Laghman than Parwan. Not sure which ANSF units will be tasked with Laghman.

Dishonesty? May 27, 2011 at 3:41 pm

A test of insurgent strength

The Taliban announced that a spring offensive would start May 1, but senior Taliban leaders are remaining behind in their sanctuaries in Pakistan. Marine Maj. Gen. John Toolan, commander of Regional Command Southwest, says the leaders are urging their followers to mount attacks on coalition and Afghan forces.

It is sapping Taliban morale, Toolan says. “They’re saying to themselves: ‘Is this really worth it? Where are my leaders?'”
The number of attacks in the province recently increased to 80 per day from about 20 to 25. But commanders say the insurgents won’t be able to retake the initiative in the south.

“I don’t think there’s any question they will try, but they are going to find a different Helmand province,” Amos says

Joshua Foust May 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I don’t think ISAF will ever finish the road. They’ve been six months away from completing the damned thing since 2006 or so.

Faisal May 22, 2011 at 3:40 am

Underwhelming only because what gets reported in the news are “major” events and not everything that happens gets reported in the modern media. More so its spotty at best.

As an example, if you take the Western Region, South Western Region and the Southern Region, each area has seen a 200% increase in incidents in the Month of May compared to last year. They have been going after secure locations in Kabul and else where. They have basically shown they can get to any location if they wish too.

Thank Allah there have not been a lot of deaths, but assessing success on how many body-bags are filled is a military frame of mind. Not a civilian. And what matters the most is how the average Afghan feels. Not how the Internationals who stay for less than a year feel about their security.

anan May 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

“if you take the Western Region, South Western Region and the Southern Region, each area has seen a 200% increase in incidents in the Month of May compared to last year. They have been going after secure locations in Kabul and else where.”

Sources? Kabul attacks fell to the lowest rate on record this winter [although Kabul cannot be said to be safe until all its belts are safe, which is far from the case.]

I thought violent incidents in the 205th ANA Corps/RC-South were below last year’s levels. What are you hearing about Zabul and Uruzgan? Might QST focus there in lieu of Kandahar’s less permissive environment.

Ghazni has seen a large increase in violence over the past two years.

Be interested in seeing more detailed attack data on the Western Region. It has been trending upwards after dropping in 2010.

“South Western Region” means what? 215th ANA Corps/RC-Southwest? If so, hasn’t there been a major year over year drop in enemy initiated attacks in Nimruz/Helmand?

Nationwide, ANA violent deaths are trending higher. Does anyone have ANP casualties for April and May, 2011?

Faisal May 22, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I referring to the month of may vis a vis last year. And the sources are UNDSS and NDS reports mainly. A lot of the security incidents are seen as too small to mention on International media.

anan May 23, 2011 at 12:38 am

Faisal, how can I see these reports? Maybe you can e-mail these to Josh?

The reports I have seen from Helmand/Nimruz in May 2011 show attacks significantly below May 2010 levels.

There has been an increase in attacks in Farah/Ghor/Baghdis/Herat this year.

Thanks again for your info. Would love to touch base offline.

Don Bacon May 23, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Afghanistan construction continues apace (a favorite Rumsfeld word).
news report:
Afghanistan Engineer District AED-South expects to award projects that total nearly $2 billion in fiscal year 2011 and projects estimated at $1.5 billion in fiscal 2012. The preponderance of this work is for Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). In fiscal 2011, just over half the program value is for ANSF projects; in 2012, that percentage rises to two-thirds of the program value.

One road used by Afghans had to be destroyed.
news report–
The [US Army] company spent five days, from May 14 to 18, marching into the mountains of the Gayan district [Paktika Province], carrying tons of weapons and equipment, aided by Afghan army and border police partners and a small Army engineer detachment. Their mission: slow the flow of enemy fighters from the border region into the rest of Afghanistan.

Local Afghans use the road to cross into Pakistan, where the nearest bazaar is located. But the road also provides a route for insurgents to move men and equipment into Afghanistan without passing through a checkpoint, Churchill said.

“We’ve been hitting that area hard, and it’s created quite a fight from [the enemy.] They very dearly want to hold on to that crossing point,” he said. A primary objective of the operation was to disable that road, he added.

Engineers accomplished that Monday morning, setting off a series of explosive charges that left two craters in the road. One is 22 feet long by 8 feet deep, and the explosion rolled a 1,000-pound boulder into the pit, he said. The second crater is 15 feet wide and 6 feet deep.

Don Bacon May 23, 2011 at 1:30 pm

US military morale is down.

May 19, 2011
Report: U.S. troops’ morale in Afghanistan down
Study says American GIs suffering with highest rates of mental health problems since 2005; 70 to 80 percent have seen a friend killed or wounded

WASHINGTON — American troops in Afghanistan are suffering the highest rates of mental health problems since 2005 and morale has deteriorated, the Pentagon said Thursday.

Only 46.5 percent of soldiers said their morale was medium, high or very high last year, compared to 65.7 percent in 2005. For Marines, it was only 58.6 percent last year compared to 70.4 percent when they were surveyed in 2006 in Iraq. (The report compares numbers of the Marine to their time in Iraq because they were not in Afghanistan in significant numbers before the surge)

Dishonesty? May 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm

to ISAF road construction&support GIROA
Helmand,Route 611 Gereshk-Sangin,Squadron B,2nd RTR

2 Troop has completed its mission on Route 611. The Warthogs had been screening the build and fighting the insurgents for around 2 months. The work was accomplished at a much greater rate than before the armour came to assist: while BADGER was on station, a further 3.4km of road was completed. The final task for the Tankies was to push north and drive the insurgents off a spur line dominating the northern end of the route. Offensive action by BADGER cleared the area to allow the contracted militia to establish Check Points on this key terrain. BADGER then withdrew to provide a quick reaction force. The predictable insurgent response to the new Check Points was a series of attacks – these were defeated by BADGER striking, from depth, in support of the militia. 2 Troop withdrew to Camp Bastion in time for Christmas and has now deployed out in support of CF NES (N) on Operation OMID PANJ which is heavily-partnered mission focussed on expanding security to the north west of Gereshk

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