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A U.S. report casts a pall over conditions in Kandahar - Globe & Mail


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A U.S. report casts a pall over conditions in Kandahar



E-mail Jeffrey Simpson | Read Bio | Latest Columns
June 24, 2008 at 7:43 AM EDT

Canadians are in Afghanistan, yes, but, more important, they are in Kandahar city and province.

Kandahar was and, to some extent remains, the heartland of the Taliban and its allies. It was there that the Taliban movement began, politically and intellectually; it is to there the Taliban wishes to return. It was to there that the Taliban invited al-Qaeda and other "foreign fighters"; it is there that "foreign fighters" were discovered in the battle north of the city last week.

Saturday, another roadside bomb struck a convoy west of Kandahar, killing four unidentified soldiers and wounding two others. In Kandahar city last week, militants successfully stormed a prison, freeing all who had been incarcerated there. Taliban from Pakistan and Afghanistan, and "foreign fighters," were then pushed from villages north of the city. Perhaps a hundred or so were killed; the rest melted away.

Canada and its NATO allies hope the Afghan National Army can do more of the fighting. Certainly, this has been the strategy propounded by the Canadian government.

The task force chaired by former deputy prime minister John Manley supported this strategy. Said the task force members: "The Afghan National Army has shown measurable improvements." The army had reached 47,000 troops and planned to deploy at least 70,000 by 2010.

Alas, that optimism was not reflected by the General Accountability Office of the U.S. Congress. It reported last week that, despite a U.S. investment of more than $10-billion since 2002, only two of 105 ANA units are capable of operating effectively.

The report says the ANA lacks equipment, leaders, recruits, trainers and weapons. Part of the shortfall in trainers and weapons is tied to U.S. deployments in Iraq, the conflict that still dominates U.S. spending, strategy and deployment of personnel.

The ANA, despite this assessment, remains far ahead of the Afghan National Police that is undermanned, underpaid, deeply corrupt and generally ineffective. The GAO found that none of the ANP's 433 units were "fully capable," and 12 per cent were "capable" only with coalition support. Put another way, of the 433 units, 381 were "not capable."

From weekly reports of ANP detachments, the GAO found that 94 per cent reported problems with pay and 87 per cent with corruption, and that 85 per cent were attacked or working in dangerous places that led to high rates of desertion.

It would be reassuring to believe that the conflict has turned a corner, but it has not in Kandahar and other troubled provinces of the country's south and east. The Taliban indigenous to Afghanistan and the Taliban in Pakistan have changed tactics, relying much more on suicide bombings and ambushes than pitched battles.

They are using an asymmetrical military strategy that they believe, if sustained, will exceed the willingness of foreigners to remain. The best antidote to their strategy would be a robust Afghan military and police, but as last week's GAO report demonstrated, Afghanistan is a long way from having either.

In Pakistan, an entire structure of institutions produces young men (and women) ready to blow themselves up, with payments paid to families of the bombers from profits extorted or made from the opium trade NATO has been incapable of halting. As long as the Pakistani government is powerless or unwilling to combat these institutions, a constant stream of recruits will cross the border into Kandahar.

The result has been that in the first three months of 2008, there were 704 Taliban attacks from suicide bombings, ambushes and other kinds of assaults, compared to 424 in a similar period last year. The incidence of violence is increasing, especially in and around the epicentre of the Afghanistan fighting: Kandahar.

This year, there has been an average of 18 suicide attacks a month, twice the average in 2006 and 2007. Remember that in the entire Afghan war against the Soviets, there is no record of a suicide bombing. Suicide attacks have arrived courtesy of imported but now ingrained al-Qaeda ideology, the example of Iraq and the teachings of various religious communities.

Conventional military deployments are next to useless against suicide bombings, which cannot win a war but can terrorize indigenous populations and demoralize others whose troops have been sent to faraway places.

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And if you want to check out the primary sources - highlights mine.....

"Afghanistan Security: Further Congressional Action May Be Needed to Ensure Completion of a Detailed Plan to Develop and Sustain Capable Afghan National Security Forces"
Government Accountability Office (GAO) report GAO-08-661, 18 Jun 08
Summary (HTML)  Highlights Page (PDF)  Full Report (PDF, 71 pages)  Accessible Text

.....In 2005, GAO recommended that Defense and State develop detailed plans for completing and sustaining the ANSF. In 2007, Defense provided a document in response to this recommendation. This 5-page document lacks sufficient detail for effective interagency planning and oversight. For example, while the document includes some broad objectives and performance measures, it identifies few long-term milestones and no intermediate milestones for assessing progress, and it lacks a sustainability strategy. Although Defense and State are partners in police training, the document does not include State's input or describe State's role. Further, State has not completed a plan of its own. In January 2008, CSTC-A completed a field-level plan to develop the ANSF that includes force goals, objectives, and performance measures. While this is an improvement over prior field-level planning, it is not a substitute for a coordinated, detailed Defense and State plan with near- and long-term resource requirements. In 2008, Congress mandated that the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, provide a long-term strategy and budget for strengthening the ANSF, and a long-term detailed plan for sustaining the ANSF. These have not been provided. Without a detailed plan, it is difficult to assess progress and conduct oversight of the cost of developing the ANSF. This is particularly important given the limited capacity of the Afghan government to fund the estimated $2 billion per year ANSF sustainment costs for years into the future. The United States has invested over $10 billion to develop the ANA since 2002. However, only 2 of 105 army units are assessed as being fully capable of conducting their primary mission and efforts to develop the army continue to face challenges. First, while the army has grown to approximately 58,000 of an authorized force structure of 80,000, it has experienced difficulties finding qualified candidates for leadership positions and retaining personnel. Second, while trainers or mentors are present in every ANA combat unit, shortfalls exist in the number deployed to the field. Finally, ANA combat units report significant shortages in about 40 percent of equipment items Defense defines as critical, including vehicles, weapons, and radios. Some of these challenges are due in part to competing U.S. global priorities. Without resolving these challenges, the ability of the ANA to reach full capability may be delayed. Although the ANP has reportedly grown in number since 2005, after an investment of over $6 billion, no police unit is fully capable and several challenges impede U.S. efforts to develop the police. First, less than one-quarter of the police have mentors present to provide training in the field and verify that police are on duty. Second, police units continue to face shortages in equipment items that Defense considers critical, such as vehicles, radios, and body armor. In addition, Afghanistan's weak judicial system hinders effective policing and rule of law, and the ANP consistently experiences problems with pay, corruption, and attacks from insurgents. Defense began a new effort in November 2007 to address these challenges, but the continuing shortfall in police mentors may put this effort at risk.

"Afghanistan Security: U.S. Efforts to Develop Capable Afghan Police Forces Face Challenges and Need a Coordinated, Detailed Plan to Help Ensure Accountability"
Government Accountability Office report GAO-08-883T, 18 Jun 08
Summary (HTML)  Highlights Page (PDF)  Full Report (PDF, 19 pages)  Accessible Text

Since 2005, the Department of Defense (Defense), with support from the Department of State (State), has directed U.S. efforts to develop the Afghan National Police (ANP) into a force capable of enforcing the rule of law and supporting actions to defeat insurgency, among other activities. This testimony discusses (1) U.S. efforts to develop a capable ANP; (2) challenges that affect the development of a capable ANP; and (3) GAO analysis of U.S. efforts to develop a coordinated, detailed plan for completing and sustaining the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), which comprise the ANP and the Afghan National Army (ANA). This statement is based on a concurrently issued GAO report titled Afghanistan Security: Further Congressional Action May Be Needed to Ensure Completion of a Detailed Plan to Develop and Sustain Capable Afghan National Security Forces, GAO-08-661 (Washington, D.C.: June 18, 2008).

Although the ANP has reportedly grown in number since 2005, after an investment of more than $6 billion, no Afghan police unit (0 of 433) is assessed by Defense as fully capable of performing its mission and over three-fourths of units (334 of 433) are assessed at the lowest capability rating. In addition, while the ANP has reportedly grown in number to nearly 80,000 personnel, concerns exist about the reliability of this number. Several challenges impede U.S. efforts to develop capable ANP forces. First, the shortage of police mentors has been a key impediment to U.S. efforts to conduct training and evaluation and verify that police are on duty. Second, the ANP continues to encounter difficulties with equipment shortages and quality. Third, the ANP faces a difficult working environment, including a weak Afghan judicial sector and consistent problems with police pay, corruption, and attacks by insurgents. Defense has recognized challenges to ANP development and, in November 2007, began a new initiative called Focused District Development--an effort to train the police as units--to address them. This effort is too new to fully assess, but the continuing shortfall in police mentors may put the effort at risk. Despite a 2005 GAO recommendation calling for a detailed plan and a 2008 congressional mandate requiring similar information, Defense and State have not developed a coordinated, detailed plan with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, milestones for completing and sustaining the ANSF, and a sustainment strategy. In 2007, Defense produced a 5-page document intended to address GAO's 2005 recommendation. However, the document does not identify the role or involve the participation of State--Defense's partner in training the ANP. Further, State has not completed a plan of its own. In the absence of a coordinated, detailed plan that clearly defines agency roles and responsibilities, a dual chain of command exists between Defense and State that has complicated the efforts of mentors training the police. Defense's 5-page document also contains few milestones, including no interim milestones that would help assess progress made in developing the ANP. Without interim milestones, it is difficult to know if current ANP status represents what the United States intended to achieve by 2008. In addition, Defense's 5-page document lacks a sustainment strategy. Without a detailed strategy for sustaining the ANSF, it is difficult to determine how long the United States may need to continue providing funding and other resources for this important mission.