Afghanistan Things

by Joshua Foust on 9/20/2012 · 9 comments

Some links, because it’s all too exhausting to cover in any detail.

  • Gulab Mangal, the governor of Helmand, is out, part of an anti-graft move by Hamid Karzai. Mangal is beloved by the US and UK because he was seen as better than the former government of Helmand, Sher Muhammad Akhunzada, who was found with several tons of opium on his compound and then forced out by the Brits over Karzai’s objection. In his wake, the insurgency in Helmand flowered. Mangal has mangled the mission there, and made life worse off for Helmandis without the connections to petition his office for favors, handouts, and land deeds. He will not be missed.
  • General David Rodriguez, the US general who led day-to-day operations in Afghanistan under Generals Petraeus and McChrystal, and helped to design, advocate, and implement the second surge of 30,000 troops to the country in 2009 that didn’t work and made the country worse off, is in line to replace General Carter Hamm as the commander of AFRICOM.
  • Arif Rafiq basically says what everyone is thinking. My own column about this will be out eventually, once it’s edited and gone through its publication process.
  • Not directly related to Afghanistan, but this New York Times debate about the tension between human rights and debate is worth reading.

That is all.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1849 posts on Registan.net.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. 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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{ 9 comments }

anan September 20, 2012 at 9:44 pm

10 Governors forced out. Karzai is taking over everything.

I would not agree that Mangal was a bad governor. Most of Helmand transitioned to to the Afghans (except for a strip in the North). The Marines have pulled back to 5 thousand. Violence in Helmand is down from 2010 levels, although up from 2008 levels. ISAF casualties in Helmand are way down. ANSF casualties are higher, but who didn’t expect that?

The surge would have worked if the McChrystal/Caldwell/Petraeus/Allen ANSF build plan had not been over-ruled. The massive reduction is the proposed ANSF end state, budget and training commands has changed everything.

Don Bacon September 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm

The Marine withdrawal was planned long ago and had nothing to do with conditions, except that the withdrawal causes the decline in violence. It’s merely the flip side of: Violence is up because we’re taking on the Taliban, said the general.

Now comes the Taliban surge — look for it. The untrained, illiterate, Taliban-infiltrated ANA is expected to fold. But as Petraeus frequently said, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, progress is ‘fragile and reversible.’

anan September 22, 2012 at 12:55 am

Don Bacon, do you have any questions you would like to ask of 215th ANA Corps?

The transfer to the ANSF of most of Helmand was according to plan and because the ANSF could assume this battlespace.

In many places ISAF withdraws from violence has actually gone up as the ANA and Taliban go at each other. This is also happening in some parts of Helmand. 215th ANA Corps is seeing more casualties, violence, aggressive patrols than ever before. It is still early, but 215th seems to be holding up for now.

Taliban infiltrated means what by your definition?
–that some in 215th Corps are corrupt and will sell information for money without necessarily being pro Taliban. True. They aren’t a large percentage, but they don’t have to be a large percentage to leak sensitive info to the Taliban
–that some in 215th Corps back the Taliban. This is probably a small percentage. They keep their views about the Taliban secret from their fellow ANA because otherwise their fellow ANA would kill them. It is enough to disrupt some operations and cause green on green and green and blue incidents. But based on advisor accounts the large majority of 215th ANA Corps hate the Taliban. Many of them are former Northern Alliance. Many came from 201st ANA Corps.

Several embedded journalists and soldiers give surprisingly glowing accounts of 215th ANA Corps. The 2nd and 3rd brigades are widely regarded as more or less independent minus Corps and Army level enablers and have been praised by Marines, which is rare. They haven’t yet met any Taliban in Helmand that can match them kinetically. But I would agree with you that they can expect fierce company and battalion sized firefights with elite Pakistani Taliban in the future.

As long as 4 brigades stay in Helmand, do you see the Taliban being able to win a company level engagement with 215th ANA Corps? Or by folding do you mean that there will be an indefinite and very bloody stalemate between the Taliban and 215th ANA Corps? As long as 4 brigades stay in Helmand, and as long as the ANP and NDS in Helmand remain at their current strength, I see an indefinite and very costly stalemate.

The problem in Afghanistan is less Helmand than outside Helmand. If other provinces deteriorate, Karzai will have to redeploy parts of his elite 215th ANA Corps elsewhere in the country. And this could cause Helmand to deteriorate.

Don Bacon September 25, 2012 at 8:19 pm

I attempted to reply but my comment was blocked.

Don Bacon September 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Let’s run the numbers on the Nobel peace laureate.

US troop level
Jan 2009 32,000
Sep 2012 68,000
(peak: 100,000+ in 2011)

budgeted for OEF
FY 2009 $59.5bn
FY 2012 $107.3
(peak: $113.5bn in FY2011)

US military fatalities
2001-2008 630
2009 to date 1491

What a waste, except for the war profiteers, of course.

Don Bacon September 21, 2012 at 1:58 pm

stop presses – add to new article.

Sep 17, 2012
‘A Whole New Era’
In an exclusive interview with FP, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta sounds off on the U.S. embassy attacks, al Qaeda, and what Americans need to prepare for.
Panetta says toughest fighting in Afghanistan yet to come
LEON PANETTA: Let me just say a few things. As I’ve said before, I think we’re at a turning point, certainly after 10 years of war, but I also think that the world to some extent is at a turning point in terms of, you know, transitioning in many ways to a whole new era out there.
http://e-ring.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/09/17/panetta_says_toughest_fighting_in_afghanistan_yet_to_come
This is on top of all the other “turning points” since 2001. That Uncle Leon — he’s priceless. He never disappoints for ridiculous soundbites.

Johnny Matrix September 22, 2012 at 2:52 pm

On a more positive note, there was not an insider attack today.

Don Bacon September 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Don Bacon, do you have any questions you would like to ask of 215th ANA Corps?

Yes. General Malouk, please respond–
* How was the recent devastating attack on Camp Bastion allowed to happen? Where was the 2/1/207th which recently reinforced the 2d Brigade in Washir? Doesn’t this event reinforce the idea that the Taliban still dominates in Helmand? And in August an ANA outpost was over-run, what about that?
* The Taliban are active in Musa Qala, where 3d battalion, 2d brigade is located, with atrocities being committed there, what’s up with that?
* Insurgents are active in Now Zad district, Helmand province, do you have anybody there?
* Recently seventeen people were beheaded in Kajaki, an area which has been a priority for the Marines. Helmand’s governor said the killings followed a long-standing feud between two Taliban commanders. Does the 215th have any control in Kajaki? How about dam security?
* General Malouk, you have taken a curious position regarding this war, like you want no part of it. What kind of military leader are you? Quote: “This (war) is something that’s been imposed by other people from beyond this country; and the Afghan (insurgents) who have been fighting against the ANSF, they themselves have been victims of this war. They have been encouraged by those others. . .Everyone wishes for peace to come, development and progress to happen, and war to go away so everyone can live a peaceful life and take part in rebuilding this country.”
* And your deputy, BG Ghulam Farooq, has said: “We’ve had continuous war in this country, we’re tired of war and we wish for peace.”
* Helmand Governor Mohammad Gulab Mangal, along with nine other governors, has just been sacked. How will this effect your effort to build support for the government?
* At your new logistics depot at Camp Shorabak, where are you going to find the educated and trained people to handle supply replenishment and maintenance of weapons and vehicles?
* Where will your combat support come from when the Marines leave? Signals, artillery, air support – -who will do it?

Elric October 1, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Perhaps I’m quibbling, but shouldn’t that be the 205th Corps, not the 215th?

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