Losing the Peace in Paktya

by Sekundar on 7/21/2011 · 5 comments

Emilie Jelinek has a good piece up at FP about the decreasing sense of security in Gardez, Paktya. While the province itself has not been terribly peaceful, Gardez, besides the odd shelling/wanton murder by a disgruntled warlord, was relatively calm until this last year, when attacks, especially the spectacular kind, picked up dramatically. Since then, things have only gotten worse. Jelinek writes:

Mohammad Naeem, a man in his late thirties wearing a beige shalwar kameez and white skullcap pauses to sip his tea and looks up out of the window… Last month, five armed men turned up at his house in the middle of the night demanding shelter. “For God’s sake please don’t bother us, we don’t need any trouble,” his younger brother told them at the door. One of the men hit him with his rifle butt and the gang barged their way in… Soon came the sound of American gunships circling overhead, and through a loudspeaker the order to surrender and a warning that the house was surrounded. Then the shooting started. “My kids were terrified, they began screaming and ran to the room where my parents were, huddling in a corner together,” Mohammad said. “Then the Americans dropped some kind of bomb and the roof collapsed. As my brother ran out to speak to the Americans, he was shot in the back. He was losing blood rapidly and screamed at them ‘my whole family is injured and some are dead! Please let me rescue my other relatives, please stop shooting!’ He was shot in the head, killed instantly. We don’t know from where, it was dark.”

“My father died of his injuries,” he continues. “His arm was blown off and his legs were broken because the ceiling fell on him. When I saw his body, he had a lot of injuries to his head. My niece was also killed. Both my mother’s arms were shot and she had bad burns and shrapnel in her head, but thanks be to God she is still alive. My wife was also injured – she has shrapnel in her chest and head injuries, her whole face is burned – but the American doctors have helped her and she has survived.”

Coupled with the recent rash of high-profile killings in the larger cities, it is difficult to say that this is an isolated case. These incidents, and the decline in security in previously secure areas (for normal residents, not coalition outposts) don’t seem to be a rear guard action on anyone’s part so much as opening salvos of a chaos to come. While I hope I’m wrong, I think levels of Afghan-on-Afghan violence will only increase in the next few years if the coalition pullout and Afghan politics continue on their current courses.

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

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Ben July 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm

My buddy is with a SF team in Paktya. Shit is real, he said they got 6 languages in the comms chatter they intercept. It’s only going to get worst.

anan July 23, 2011 at 12:21 am

Ben, you aren’t kidding. Wish your buddy’s experience was an abberation. 🙁 Would love to touch base some more on what you heard.

Paktia [and not just Paktia] seems to be seeing more foreign language speakers than ever before. The villains have stepped up their game. They fight increasingly joint [to the point it isn’t always clear where foreign fighter starts and local insurgent ends], and they are getting better. At least in Loya Paktia, what is the difference between pro ISI Taliban, anti ISI Taliban, Siraj, former Ilyas Kashmiri [some combination of LeT, Sipah e Sahaba, Bdes 55, Bde 313], TTP, TNSM, LeT, JeM, and QST?

Perhaps one of the biggest trends has been alluded to by Boris Sizemore on this blog. The breakdown of the various formal organizations and the degree to which the anti Taliban coalition and peudo independent actor warlords are resisting different Taliban factions outside the formal GIRoA, ANSF and ISAF structures. Much of the intra factional violence in Paktia isn’t easily explained by GIRoA versus Sirajuddin.

What is the role of the different parts of the deep state in what is happening in Paktia? Some retired Pak army generals are publicly urging kinetics against Siraj (and they seem to mean it), while PM Singh in an interview 3 weeks ago publicly said he is no longer sure about the connections of Siraj to the Pakistani state [while again emphasizing how threatened India feels by Siraj.]

Is anyone that surprised by what is happening in Paktia? Paktia and Khost have been starved of ANSF for many years to resource other parts of Afghanistan. Paktia seems to only have 2 ANA bn HQs and 8 ANA combat infantry companies assigned to it, and they have often been deployed out of area since they are among the best in the ANA. The creation of 4th Bde, 203rd ANA Corps was delayed for many years, and when it was finally created, was sent to Logar to relieve 201st Corps (and save ISAF/Czech/Jordanian/US army/Logar ANP) rather than to Paktia. [Thereby letting all 16 of 1-203 ANA bde’s combat infantry companies focus on Khost while 4-203 focused on Paktia.]

The last planned ANA combat infantry battalion is forming as we speak. No others are planned because of a funding shortage. Petraes/Caldwell/McChrystal/COIN advocates have lost the ANSF funding fight for now. MoI isn’t assigning Paktia enough new AUP to resource “priority provinces”, nor does it looks like many new ANCOPs and ABPs are headed Paktia’s way. Long way of saying that no significant new assets are planned for Pakia.

Obviously Helmand was and is far more strategic than Paktia. Heavy sarcasm intended.

Ben, it appears that the Rakkasans’ replacements [Task Force Duke, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division] aren’t living up to their predessesors. Any thoughts?

Johnny Matrix July 24, 2011 at 2:56 am

3-1 is the same unit we replaced in Kunar / Nuristan…I think you probably know (we’ve actually discussed this) their history in terms of partnering motivation.

From what I understand and for the purpose of simplifying, Paktia “enjoys” the same relationship with Khost (specifically Spera District) as Kunar enjoys with Nuristan. Not to make the point that Khost is a safe-haven (which it is), but I do have a feeling that this area is not just local insurgency but a combination of the “professional” AFG Tal agencies, locals, and a great deal of foreigners looking for war stories. Not just Pakistanis, but Arabs as well.

I’m not making a case against realignment here, but also related to N2KL, due to the shutdown of many outposts in Khowst (as they were in Nuristan), Paktia and Gardez are feeling the heat much like Nangahar did immediately after the Nuristani / Kunar base pullout. Again not saying we should still have US soldiers there, but there are others who can pull their weight.

Osman July 26, 2011 at 4:28 am

Here’s an idea. Leave.

Randy Hampton August 6, 2011 at 7:11 am


Paktia is the gateway to Khost via the Gardez-Khost “Hiway”. Gardez is also was the launch point for Operation Anaconda, 04 March 2002.

Without the stability in this province, access via the road network will be increasingly sealed, if not already.

It is regretful that not more sustained peace has come to Paktia/Grdez based on the infrastructure development done since I left November of 2003.

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